Works in Progress

Cowboys Invaded – Update (11-12/8/18)


After a much-needed rest up last weekend I came back to the studio ready to make a start on the next test-pieces. First of all I had to look over my much expanded collection of Cowboy and Indian figures that I have been buying up over the last week or so. I still have a few more to arrive. I spent a good portion of 11th going through everything, making sure I had some decent figures and spent some time re-organising them too. I think I have too many now. At least I can stage some good scenes. Some of the figures were cleaned up, removing excess plastic that remained from the molds.

The rest of the day was spent making a good start on the first slaughterhouse test piece. I only had time for the rooftop. Sped up by making use of an unused flying saucer test, adding another half, making three which I then organised as the control centres. I moved onto raise them up and then fix them to the lower level of the rooftop.

Today I made far more progress than I expected as I began to flesh out the piece properly. Beginning by raising it up creating a box below before the curved edges. At this point I decided to leave out the shortened paper cups, wanting to get it up first before complicating it. Those cups at the back determined the overall height of the piece. At the front I added a false entrance allowing toy cows to be animated moving into the structure.

Finishing the piece off for the day I turned my attention to the detail, with some trim at the rear. This was not before having to extended the rear. During the day I had tested the width to check the train could pass through, but not the refrigerated wagon, which was very tight. Forcing me to look at two options, reworking the main walls so that they were pushed in at the back. Or extend the rooftop slighting, which I found to be easier to achieve. I finished the day with a slope being fitted to the entrance at an angle to further allow the cows to be animated.

I thought that the piece was complete at this stage, ready to move onto the next one, then I thought, what if I added the cups at the base at the sides, the main box remains untouched. This would be more true to the sketch and also look far more interesting. I’m surprised how fast it’s all come together, a little more work and it’s done. It has a real presence and works with the flying saucer I’ve selected.

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Cowboys Invaded – Update (5/8/18)


Another much-needed chilled out day resting in the sun. I’ve caught up with some reading and made some time to write up a list of requirements, both pieces to be built and the special effects I need to work on.

I have around 27 scenes to work on, with 31 set pieces to make. Of course some will be easier than other to construct. The burned out wrecks of some will take less time as I will be making less of the originals they are replacing. I’m going to re-use the Reservation from Playing with Plastic (2016) which can be found in part five. I’ll be amending with my new additions that I’ve sourced. Other pieces will simply be more of what I already have. I want to also amend the trains so that the wheels move under the carriage to a bogie, these are frames that allow the wheels to move with the track, which will allow the carriage to move far smoother. I have an idea of how to achieve this without too much damage being caused. With the arrival of the 1/72 scale pieces I’ll be making a smaller version of the entrance of the gold-mine which will allow for shots that match up in terms of scale.

This list will definitely see me through the next few months and into next year. Of course some piece will be easier to make, taking a production line approach at times. On my return to the studio my first task is to build and decide on two slaughter house designs, which themselves should last the rest of the month.


Cowboys Invaded – Update (4/8/18)


I’ve been working from home, more out of necessity for my health, so I can really relax, pushing myself to keep working without having a proper switch off. So for the day, maybe the whole weekend I’ve been only working on a third draft of the work. literally taking the second draft and refining it. I’m happy with the basic structure of the piece but always feel that things can be improved. What I have to do next is make a list of what needs to be made and how many of them – the shopping/making list which should keep me busy for the rest of the year. Not forgetting any test shots that need to be made.

Also during the week I’ve been starting to source extra Cowboy and Indian figures. I’m having mixed results which I can fix.  I currently have two big issues to resolve. Looking at the image below I have so far received pieces at two scales – 1/32 and 1/76. Ideally and usually I would be working with 1/32, which I’ve learned over the past few days. However these horses don’t tend to stay up. Made worse by the fact that positioning a rider can be make or break again once you’ve stabilised the piece. I have come up with a solution that I’ll carry out on all the horses that I have and will receive, by constructing a base with thin plastic with a plastic rod that will be glued under the horses. I’ve learned that they are flat underneath so I don’t need to worry about angling, just a simple straight cut.

Whilst the much smaller 1/76 or OO/OH gauge piece I have decided that instead of throwing them away I have worked them into the plot. Using them for long shots for dramatic effect. I’ll be able to work with more at a time. I will sadly have to make smaller versions of some pieces to make up for that too.

My only real struggle at the moment is getting hold of cavalry soldiers, which as I am learning are hot items to buy. I’ll have my long list next time (from the studio or home) allowing me to move forward into pre-production and test shots that will then allow me to put together a shooting schedule that I will split between home and the studio for logistical reasons.


Cowboys Invaded Update (29/7/18)


Today I’ve made some real progress in the studio. Coming back after not really making anything I was happy with. A few sketches later and I came back to make a further two versions of a conceal oil drill.

The first was pretty much a compact car with a huge black wheel, which really wasn’t what I was going for. I needed to try something different. I wanted something more streamlined that was interesting to look at and otherworldly. I believe that this final model is the one. They say the best is saved to last, well it’s true. I began the piece by returning to a smoother shape that I then wrapped a piece over the top that I began to bring into shape before it was fixed over the middle of the first piece. I then worked with two more pieces that were drawn to the right shape and fixed on either side. It was pretty easy after making a few pieces with some variation I achieved something I am happy to make multiple times.

I moved onto another piece that I know I want to make. This is before I make up my shopping list of new pieces that I have to make. Next up is a slaughter house complete with train stop. It’s going to be one of the bigger pieces I need to make. I spent the rest of the day sketching a few ideas, I have two that I want to make. These two pieces will both take a few weeks to make before I decide which one I’ll take forward. Finally I’ll  paint them all silver, then I will see how these new pieces from the alien world. I know it’s simplistic and cheap but aesthetically I need to have them the same and have that retro feel to them.


Cowboys Invaded Update (28/7/18)


Today I’ve been focusing on the concealed oil drill piece. The first piece I knew needed some revisions to be getting close to something I could work with. I’ve made two today. The first saw the general shape change to allow the potential drilling pump move more freely. I can’t really consider another method of bringing up oil, so I have to work with what technology exists or has been revised. So the area above the paper plates has been leveled before dropping down towards the paper cups.

I made a slight mistake with this one when I joined both sides together – the measurements, which I looked at in the next piece I made. Producing one where the paper cup section was far narrower and I paid closer attention to the measurements. It was an easy make that I’m still not happy with, It needs to be refined so it doesn’t look like a toaster to become something other-worldly. I have to remember that the cowboy in the scene doesn’t know what he’s looking at. He wont know what oil is. So next time I’ve decided to now to make two more piece, one where the two elements are looking more like a 1950’s caravan and a tow. Whilst I had an idea for a more streamlined piece, that will take sometime to achieve as it means working with more curvature.

What I have found is that the basic making process has become easier. I could potentially make a good number of these – materials permitting in a few days. The next piece on my list to consider is the stock yard, which will be really exciting as it’s a far bigger model and I can get some good sketches of how it will look. A real combination of 19th century Wild West with fun retro sci-fi.


Cowboys Invaded Update – (22/7/18)


It’s been a day of writing and making, which is always going to be a good day. That way I’m really making progress.

First the writing, the first draft has been superseded by a slightly restructured 2nd draft that pulls together a few of the scenes so they make more sense and flow better. I expanded my ending with a silent epilogue, with a sad ending secure. The attempts by the cowboys/soldiers/Native Americans to over throw the alien invaders is futile at every turn. Maybe I’m being too harsh at the moment? I could extended it to see everyone living quietly under occupation in a futuristic revisionist past.

Next up I need to look at what tests are required and read through what I have and see if I can improve or add anything. Then I go into the experimental stage of trying out special effects and any tests to see what works. I will also need to draw up a list of pieces that need to be made. Where there are explosions I’ll be making multiples of a few buildings in different states. Also a frontier town will be constructed that will be fixed to a base so I can move about without disrupting anything. I’m starting to take this more seriously. I wish I had the space to build sets on stages and leave up for a while before being packed away. It’s something I want to work towards. I’m thinking I’ll be splitting the work between my home and the studio to accomplish everything, some pieces will need more space, whilst others will not. It’s all up in the air for now but decisions will have to be made during this time as the making process begins.

Talking of making I’ve been working on the piece that will be in the epilogue – a concealed oil drill. That’s all I’m letting slip at this stage as it may not even be there come the end of production. This is the first version as I can already see from my research that it doesn’t allow a drill/pump to work (even when concealed from view). I need to look again at the design. Again I’m using both the paper cups and plates, I want them to see carried through all of the aliens pieces so that there’s a clear language. Whilst I’ll be trying to combine a new design with my Wild West pieces, combining fine liner pens and acrylic painted surfaces.

My thinking is very much is leaning towards animation again, which is something I really enjoyed working on last time. This will be bigger in scope for sure. It will definitely keep me busy for the next year or so.


Cowboys Invaded Update – (21/7/18)


The writing process is going rather well. I took a day off from all that as I ‘m now into the second draft, starting to see whats working and even rearranging elements and dropping others. In places they’ve been some small additions which make more sense. The first draft of any writing is always going for it without thinking sometimes, every idea you have goes in there. It’s very immediate until you have to look back and think what have I got here. I’ll be picking that up next time though when I can complete the 2nd draft and start to work out what’s needed.

I decided to get back to what I wanted to do – make and make I have. I came into the studio thinking about how to make larger rocks. Now for a few years I’ve been trying to make the egg-box cardboard packaging work. I recently received a car-load of boxes that came with them for me to use. Now I’ve the chance to see if they work. Well I think I can safely say I can get them to work. After cutting up a few into different pieces I began to play about with them before fixing in place. One piece i have left bare, whilst a smaller piece has been covered in brown paper which I found to be a very cumbersome to achieve. I might try another idea next time but I need to by a thimble to stop myself getting too many more burns which are starting to get annoying.

Moving on to more fun making, I decided to look at the ranch, more so the processing structure that sees the Aliens take over a ranch for reasons I won’t disclose just yet. There’s going to be a fueling point for the flying saucers so I decided to see how that might look. With two test-pieces produced. both using paper cups again and the good old trimming, combined with cardboard tubes which I’ve been cutting at 45 degree angles to create a funnel network for the flying saucers to meet. One piece had two of these cup pieces, whilst another has one, which I found to be top heavy. I need to balance this out so I added another tube, wider this time directly into one of the cups. In the first instance it resets the balance and secondly starts me thinking about the rest of the structure that I’ll have to potentially make.

I want this piece to be fun, using some recognisable elements, I don’t want to get bogged down in design too much, allowing the concept come through. Just making today with bits from around my studio, seeing what works. I know I need to ultimately have to rough designs/sketches to work from. I could have a long list of pieces to make. I certainly have the cardboard to achieve this. That’s along with practicing animation and special effects and any kit that I need. It’s a big piece for sure.


Cowboys Invaded – Update (14/7/18)


Today has seen this work move a few more steps forward. I left the studio last weekend after trying to figure out a fridge on wheels – or to put it more eloquently a refrigerated freight wagon, which would become part of the reason why the aliens have invaded and are staying put. After spending more than half my time today focusing on a new design I can safely say that I have combined the best of two designs for this element of the work.

I began by fixing 4 cups (end to end) before I began to work around this structure. I’m glad I did the other one last week as it really informed the construction of what turned out to be taking the best bits and combining with with a freight wagon. I’m really pleased with the outcome and decided to return to the writing process.

I forgot for a time that this piece would not have a happy ending, which I am slowly drawing to. With a finale of sorts being written by the time I left. I am thinking about other attempts to try and over-throw the invading force. I must remember American history though which tells me the more technologically advanced race won sadly so I should reflect that. Maybe more skirmishes are needed using the language of the Western to fight against the alien invaders. It could go on forever, until I reach a decision I need to carry on writing. Today has seen what could possibly push my abilities both animation and software. It’s something I need to experiment with a lot before I plunge into anything. I’m not put off by that either, I see this all as a challenge to be met.


Cowboys Invaded – Update (8/7/18)


After yesterdays day off to watch England’s quarter-final match I have returned to the studio. I hoped to have been writing more today, well I didn’t really, except I have expanded it slightly more, it’s a natural process that I think will often be interrupted with the odd making session which will help inform the writing process.

I picked up where left off, the big reveal which will require a rather complex model miniature set-up which needs some work. I wanted to see how a retro-futuristic fridge on wheels would look. It took me some time to get started really, the heat in the studio was just a few degrees less than outside which had highs of 34 degree’s Celsius. I needed a break before I finally got started on the making process.

I made two test pieces, both using paper cups as starting points. The first was a struggle as I got used to the heat, something I’m not really used to, (or much of the UK). Trying to combine both a cardboard tube and two paper cups, which wasn’t really successful. The base is probable the best part of this one as I had to work on a way connect it to the base and wheels. I’ll probably use that technique for a future pieces.

I was ready to pack up and go, thinking I need to get out for some fresh air. Instead I found myself playing with more cups, 4 this time which I quickly fixed together at alternate points to create a wavy line, now I had to work out a frame-work of how best to connect this one (even more complex than the first) to the base. Strangely I started in the middle, fixing a strip that reaches across the middle, before adding other strips that were connected to a base.

What I noticed from looking at previous train pieces at this scale, was that I could easily remember how to construct the wheels and how much I rely on trimming to hide any joins. I used the trimming also to really add form to the second one which on reflection looks more like a tanker. However on reflecting at the end of the day I like the look of the silhouette that it creates, like a sunken wagon top. I want to keep that whilst also looking at the more traditional freight carriages that would’ve been used to carry life-stock. Also I need to do a few sketches and see what comes out of those, see where the combination of both models meets. I also need to lose the obviousness of the cups which hold it back, whilst maintaining the shape I’ve discovered.


Cowboys Invaded – Update (30/6 – 1/7/18)


It’s another double update this weekend, due to a family party, which I attended I was unable to post yesterday. I did however make some really interesting progress in the studio. The writing process became somewhat sidetracked this time as I got further into what was happening that I had included the flying saucers, the alien presence into the plot visually, not just a few laser beams and shadows which I was looking to do. Ultimately that effect wouldn’t hold up for long.

I decided that after lunch I would go out shopping to pick up a few bits to see if I could construct a flying saucer or two. My initial thought was to use paper bowels, basically the shape I would be going for, that I could work with cheaply and effectively. Coming back with some cups and silver paint too I got to work.

I knew the basic shape would be two bowls, one upside down on-top of another, it just how they became joined in between was my concern. Wanting to go for the classic 1950’s look of the silver flying saucer that fills the skies above. I thought by the end of the first day with two pieces I was getting somewhere when I came up with a protruding rim to define the two halves of the saucer. For a while I liked the idea until I had extended it too far the pieces had begun to look like food or nothing resembling a sleek space ship.

I did some quick research into 1950s flying saucers I knew straight away what I had to do, simply fix two bowls end to end and go from there. Cutting a circle the diameter of the first bowl. With the second bowl I cut the edge off before fixing together. I also wanted to have a base for them to stand on without being too imposing – I cut a thickness of a paper cup that I them filled at the base with a circle of cardboard before fixing in place. I knew there and then that I had achieved the look of my flying saucer. The simplicity of it’s design, little messing about with circles before it came together. Also I can stand it up (maybe raise with a full cup.

I had some time left to write a little more, but I know that this piece is going to be far bigger in scope than my earlier piece. The more I look at it, I can see it’s going to be an animation of possible feature length and will take a long time to both create the set-pieces, animate and pull together in post-production. If this is the direction of the piece I’m currently in development and writing it far from complete. I have a rough idea of why the aliens arrive and their intent, I just need to see this first draft through and see what I have to work with.