Works in Progress

Cowboys Invaded – Update (11/12/18)


It’s been a really good day in the studio. One that has seen the base of the gold mine explode into an exciting new piece. Still very much under construction. It’s a quick build and a big build.

I began by adding more detail to the rock effect created with the brown paper, switching to grey paper to give the impression of the surface being worn away. Part of me wants to insert some low-relief into the centre where the lift sits so that it’s really worn away at the ground, maybe that’s too much detail? I also took out the bulky corner to have a more shapely form that wraps tunnels.

I then moved onto adding the frames around the tunnel entrances, something that I’ve done before with the external entrance to the mine. So it was quick and easy to replicate 5 times below the earths surface (of cardboard) to give a stronger impression of a past life in this set.

My intention is to add a ring of balsa beam above and around the entrances, however the masking tape is currently preventing that. So I moved onto make a start on the alternative lift, which If I’m honest I think I’ll be going with. Made purely from balsa, no cardboard frame to build around. So far I’ve made up two sides, which I will be then joining together. Once they are in places I can start to deck out the floor and roof of the piece.

Moving on and back to the base of the gold mine I made a start on the roof, which saw me collapse another box and regain some space. I wanted the roof to be separate, yet looks seamlessly connected to the set, which is partly why I want the beams around the side. Once I had cut a piece to shape over the top, I wanted it to sit smoothly with no/little light getting in, a trim was fixed to the sides, with minor cuts so it sits over the tunnels below. I had earlier decided how the lift should sit would determine the positioning of the shaft, which informed the grey paper detail, this was partly for space reasons. In terms of working out the overall layout of the mine, this would mean the gold mine entrances facing straight on would/possibly directly under the entrance. This means the view of the base is not straight on as you would consider it to be. Looking upwards I constructed the base of the shaft with an angled view in so I can get the camera in for some nice shot. I ended the day by wrapping up this section of the shaft. I was very tempted to carry on and add the balsa that would hold the shaft in place. I thought that I should tackle all of that when I return once more.

I’m really, really, really pleased with how fast this one is coming along. It’s a proper little set that has popped up in a matter of days really. As well as the balsa detail I also need to block out the light in the shaft with another piece that will box it in. Also a bar needs to be fitted so I can tether the lift in place at times.\

I can’t wait to see how the piece finished looks. Whilst I have picked up another piece during this time.

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Cowboys Invaded – Update (9/12/18)


It’s amazing what you can do in a short space of time, with only a few ideas to see you through. Today I’ve been busy bringing the last two days in the studio together. I began the day by reducing the length tunnels if only by a few centimetres to help reduce the overall size of the piece, if only by a small amount, which it has helped. This came without effecting the forced perspective effect, so I’m happy with that result.

Moving on I was concerned about the light getting into the piece so I’ve added some trimming around each piece which has also been quite successful. There maybe a little light but I could go on forever when I’ve got such a good result.

Lastly I got the brown paper out again and spent a good few hours covering the who space, from the ground in the tunnels to the open space at the base of the shaft of the gold mine where we find the entrances. I also took the decision fix the tunnels to the base as I knew that the walls had to naturally flow from one space to another. Otherwise I would have them free for storage purposes.

Looking forward I’ve been thinking more about the production process, there are some pretty big pieces that are starting to consume my studio space right now. I maybe rethinking at least one of them and remaking others on a smaller scale and fixed to a surface for long-shots, getting everything in without taking up too much space. So far I’m thinking of reworking the rock formation, at least removing the excess that’s out of view. I might look at a smaller scale to go with the 1:72 scale figures. Also two versions of the town, or a town base where I can interchange the buildings to again change space. There really is a lot to thinking about in terms of logistics, even how to shoot, I want to stay in the studio to animate on a table, however I would need to reconfigure the space to accommodate that. Still that’s a long way off. I’m about halfway through the pre-production (making process) I’ve not even done any special effects tests. For now I need to focus on the one piece, maybe bring in the second version of the lift soon too before looking at something else.


Cowboys Invaded – Update (8/12/18)


Today has seen me produce potentially one of the largest pieces I’ve made for this work in progress. Having had an idea last night concerning the tunnels I had forgotten one important element – forced perspective, which creates the effect of distance.

Returning to the studio to make a start on the modification which that would take a few hours to complete. Making up 5 new pieces that narrowed at one end, allowing the balsa frame work to be reduced and angled, then the pieces were attached (with the help of card straps) to the older pieces. The wrapping had to be carefully worked on, to ensure (if only for my own piece of mind) looked as a seamless as possible.  Turning to the balsa, every piece had to be cut at an angle to ensure the effect was achieved. The pieces at the very end were reduced in depth to help more so with the effect.

With a few hours left I turned my attention to the base where the tunnels will eventually be attached. Due to the extensions I had to extended the base far more than I had predicted. The piece is currently sitting on one of the longest sides in my space. Once the base had been extended I wanted to put in place the wall that will hide the structure of the tunnels, leaving only the entrances in view. Carefully working out where the entrances a piece was fixed to the base.

Looking at the work so far it’s come a long way after to days work, next I want to deck out the man space that has now been defined with brown and grey paper. I’ll then be able to work on the ceiling and deciding if and were extra beams are required. Also I want to see another version of the lift being made for comparison and choice before going into production. I’m also thinking of reducing the length of the tunnels to stop just after the last beams, this could potentially reduce the size of the piece considerably. Otherwise this gold mine base is turning out to be a unique environment, I’ve never attempted before. Again I’m pushing my making skills further, which is always something to celebrate.


Cowboys Invaded – Update (6/12/18)


Today feels much better in terms of making. I now have a single large piece to make that is now the focus of my time in the studio. Not multiple quick makes which for a time was becoming tiresome. I need the break to focus on a single large piece.

I began the day as I have a number of times the past month, adding more detail to the final pieces of the ruined pieces for the town. I can finally say they are complete, ready to look at again to add paint and remove the smooth cuts I’ve made.

Moving on, that sounds nice just typing it sounds good. Moving on then I made a start on the base of the gold mine. Having made a solid sketch last time in the studio I started work, beginning with the false tunnels which need to be complete first before going onto the base of the model. Each of the tunnels have been wrapped in brown paper, with the balsa beams added to.

The next stage will be to prepare the base for fixing into place, with some walls being erected to connect them up. Also the wrapping needs to be completed. I also need to extend the base at the sides to holds the tunnels as they all overflow right now. I think I’ll raise the base to help with animating, I’ve not decided on the height, that’s something to consider at the later date. It’s just great to be focusing my energy on one piece not switching to a number at one time.


Cowboys Invaded – Update (1/12/18)


I’m finally reaching the end of what I feel has been going on longer than it actually has. If I’m honest I’m glad it’s coming to an end. It’s the repetition of the process, combined with life outside the studio at the moment. This is my escape from the world into something that is truly my own. Today it was something that I felt had to be done to get it out of the way. That’s not what I want to bring to my time there. I now have the final three under construction, which I know can be finished in a few more visits for sure.

The first being the general store which has hopefully the final pieces of detail now. I can see a few more pieces that are needed but they are minor now.

The next piece really slowed me down. I noticed on the blacksmiths my work from the previous visit had to be redone. One of the door frames had to be completely remade, two new pieces cut to size and re-positioned. Not what I wanted to happen, still it ensures that the piece works in the long one. I then went onto apply the majority of the detail. I still have a way to go before I can leave this piece now.

Finally the stage depot was underway, similar shape to the land office so I knew what I was working with in terms of the internal structure that I was working with. There are some of the longest lengths of balsa used for these pieces here. Again I have a way to go with this one, possibly one of two more visits.

With the end in sight for these (Yay) I have begun to really think about the base of the gold mine. My initial idea was to have camera access all around the base, which wont help in terms of creating darkness. So I started again, thinking about having a number of entrances to other tunnels that can be constructed. With that in mind I made a few sketches, which lead to a design being finalised and ready to begin construction next time. Currently I’ll have 5 false entrances to tunnels, some I’ll block off (using the false pieces I made) with the lift being roughly in the middle. I’ll add a roof piece and a section of shaft to complete the illusion. So I’ll be able to shoot from the from with a decent range to maneuver the camera. I’m looking forward to making a one off piece that will take sometime yet wont be as repetitive. I’ll be employing techniques from the tunnel entrances (internal) for this piece. I’ll also use two tones of brown paper, one being a grey tone. I’m also seriously considering making a second lift (same dimensions) with a different design, to give me a different option to work with. With the new piece ready to begin next time I know that I can start to enjoy the making process more, breaking the routine I’ve had for the past few weeks.


Cowboys Invaded – Update (27/11/18)


The end is in sight for these pieces, in terms of the construction of the ruined versions of the cardboard town, making a start on the penultimate piece before I left for the day, one that began by finding I had completed another 3 pieces which have now been shelved ready for the next stage. That wasn’t before adding a few more cracks to a few pieces. I’m really getting into the aesthetic now. I just forget to add the detail before moving on.

Moving onto the jail, which has had minor detail added to the jail cell extension. Bringing this piece to a close. I then moved onto piece I began last time, adding the remains of the stairway and balcony. Balsa detail was added next, which I feel is all that this piece needs.

Moving onto make a start on two new pieces, the general store and the blacksmiths. The general store was then covered in balsa detail, most of which is now complete. Another round and then I feel it will be finished. The Blacksmiths being a completely different shape took slightly longer. First I made the mistake of drawing the line (where the laser hits) over the two doorways, meaning that the piece was essentially falling apart. I had to construct what I could and come up with a solution. I’d been holding the front door together with a piece of tape, the side I hadn’t completely cut into. Not wanting to leave it for another visit I constructed two door frames which will sit over the cracks, revealing the door frame, adding to the wooden frame that would be on show. It’s not something I’m going to retrofit to other pieces, this is a one off adaptation due to a mistake which I have embraced.

Next time I can concentrate on finishing the few pieces I have left and turn my attention to the gold mine base. I’ve been considering having false tunnels leading off and sections of the wall that can be removed. It’s still very much all in my head and needs to be sketched out to understand the idea more clearly.


Cowboys Invaded – Update (24-25/11/18)


Admittedly a day late than I would have wanted to share with you all. I had a busy weekend outside of the studio, resulting in events inside being put to one side.

Saturday began by working on 5 that had already been started. First up was the barbers which had some finishing touches. The sign really didn’t look distressed enough, too angular, so I cut in a more torn up line, which I’m happier with. Before adding a little more balsa to the roof at the back. The stores also had some minor additions, not as much as I was thinking. I’m finding that I’m adding more detailing on the first round at the moment, considering more where I place the balsa, how that would effect where pieces of balsa are added and when. The third piece again had very little detail to be added, I think that’s down to the design of the piece, restricting how much more I can physically add to it.

I moved onto the hotel/saloon and jail which both have external stairways (before the aliens attacked). Again not much more to add. I’m finding that the more consideration that goes into the application of the balsa determines what I have/can do on the next round.

Lastly for Saturday I made a solid start on a new piece – the Land Office which has a first floor that reaches over the porch, meaning construction with the balsa would change slightly to reflect the shape of the building. Again I could only do so much, which was still making a lot of progress. I finished the day by adding more distress cracks to some of the pieces, wanting to push them further aesthetically.

Moving onto Sunday, with less than 3 hours in the studio, I wanted to make the most of my time wisely before leaving. I came back to find that 3 pieces had now been completed, I knew I couldn’t really get 2 more pieces underway. Instead I chose to focus on what I could do.

The Land Office and Jail now have slightly more detail than before, hopefully next time they can be stored away for the next phase of the work. Before making a start on the shell of a new piece another saloon/hotel, so far the main body has been fleshed out, with the stairway and balcony (what remains of them) to be added next time.

I’m building up quite the collection now, they are sitting on the top of a set of shelves right now, ready to be seen to for more distressing. Also I have been considering another item on my list to construct, the base of the gold mine. So far I’ve made a few sketches, taking cues from one of earlier test pieces. So far I know that a section of shaft will be needed as the lift reaches the bottom. However for more it’s maintaining the darkness, whilst still being able to animate, get the camera in there with ease. I know false walls will be needed to shoot at different angles. The roof will supported with some kind of pillars/posts in places. I’m also looking at adding the buttresses where the network of tunnels are. It’s going to be a complex build that needs some serious consideration.


Cowboys Invaded – Update (18/11/18)


As I finished in the studio earlier today, I did a quick count, 5 pieces completed, with another 5 now under construction, I’m probably half way through the whole collection for the town, which is faster than I expected. It come down to where I draw those guidelines on the complete pieces, ready to be remade.

Today I place 3 more on the shelve before making a start on adding more detail the 3rd round for the barbers and the 2nd for the stores. I’ve made the decision to add more detail to the signage with the barbers as it was looking a little flimsy, so I needed to strengthen it before moving forward, whilst trying to make it looked ruined still, that still needs some work on it. Whilst the stores just received more detailing and some cracks/tears in the walls.

The next piece was the bank, which I know that the more detail that’s added it’s going to be harder to keep reaching in to work on it, so I’m having to add detail strategically before my hands are trapped.

The next two are new pieces, the jail and saloon, which both have external stairs. I really went to town with how much was burnt away, leaving elements on all sides show. It was really fun to plan and construct these pieces. With the saloon I’ve had to add the posts under the balcony (that’s still intact). There’s a pattern with the balsa detail to suggest two floors. I want to replicate that with the jail to a certain extent. I got so carried away with the saloon, that I ran out of time to add any balsa to the jail, meaning that it will potentially take 4 rounds/days to completed. It’s not a big deal but shows that if you get carried away with yourself in the design that you can lose time.

I’m surprised with how many I’ve done to date, the system works, I know that where I plan determines how much balsa will be added. It’s an enjoyable process. I should be starting 2 more next time, that’s after making a start on the jail.


Cowboys Invaded – Update (17/11/18)


It’s been well over a week since I was last in the studio. After my output over the past month I needed to switch off and relax. Batteries recharged it was time to return. Making good progress on the models of the ruined town.

The first set of pieces came out of the masking tape to become completed, allowing to make a start on more pieces during the day. Now I know that it takes about 3 days (in the studio) to make one of these pieces. It felt good to have something finished and an idea of how these piece will look.

Allowing me to add slightly more detail to the next set (I’ve forgotten which buildings they are at present). Hopefully the last pieces of balsa are going in place for this pair now too. I’ve begun to add more detail around the roof, a few angled pieces for the structure that holds the roof in place.

Moving onto the next set including the train station, which I believe is all but finished after this round of detail being added. There’s definitely some work to do on the other piece. I’m only held back where the masking tape restricts me.

Lastly I made a start on two more pieces. The first was a challenge I set myself. A building that has been attacked on the left and right, leaving the roof still very much intact. Making it difficult to add the beams of the roof underneath. So far I’ve made good progress, my main concern is having an even distance between them when it comes around to adding more. The final piece was the stores, which is much the same as the train station, taking off the roof completely, with more height in the walls to play with.

It looks like I’m beginning the next batch of these now…slowly but surely, which is the way this is going. I’m OK with that too. Next time I’ll be making sure I add some jagged gaps in the walls of the new pieces before moving on. I’ll hopefully be starting two more pieces next time too. I’m enjoying the process as each piece slowly but surely develops in a matter of a few days in the studio. I’m looking forward to distressing and painting them all too.


Cowboys Invaded – Update (6/11/18)


I think I’ve reached a point with these pieces that I can’t really start anymore until I know at least one is complete. I’m now at maximum workload before the days over.

I began with adding what I believe are the final bits of balsa to the first two pieces (I’ll be losing count soon), hopefully (in the best possible way) they’ll be at the next stage of distressing next time.

I then moved onto the next two pairs, adding the respective levels of detail to them, slowly becoming more like a ripped frame of a building. This process is going to be very repetitive for me, but as pieces are completed I know the second half of my days in the studio can be dedicated to making more pieces. To get anymore into production now would be crazy, I have to just make and wait.

I finished the day off with a new piece (the last for now) the train station which is almost obliterated by the aliens, leaving very little left for me to work with. In that respect it should be a quicker build so I can move onto the other pieces.

I’m glad I’ve reached this point knowing my limits and working within them. Next time it will be more of the same, which isn’t a bad thing, where cardboard and balsa are concerned.