Painting the Town… Update (7/8/17)

Today has marked a turning point in my practice, I am expanding what I can make. Pushing myself to work with interiors has forced me to make the furniture that goes with these settings. They can’t just be bear a shells of a model miniature, they need to be populated with loose pieces which I thought would be a challenge for me, which is why I left them for so long. It’s only due to the material I am working with and the concept in its current position that I am adapting my language to a whole other world of pieces and ultimately expanding what I am capable of.

I began the day by finishing off the pieces that sit against the wall, a few shelves and another tall shelf unit, which I thought was a small wall fixed pieces. Just shows the importance of referring back to your research when your making.

Moving on I made a start on two of the larger pieces – the beds. Something I decided to tackle as they are large pieces which would help determine how much space will be left in the model miniature. Beds being beds, they aren’t exactly angular. I decided to use some brown paper to wrap around a closed box that I made, to create a more believable mattress form with some weight to it. The bed frame took some time to work out. Once I reinforced the legs it could take it’s own weight. Looking at the sides the mattress does look at little high, I may alter that next time I’m working in the studio.

Moving on from the two beds, one double, another single, I turned to pieces I’d been thinking about in terms of construction. I thought that the chairs could all be made around cardboard tubes, which I could work with. So far I have only used one for an armchair, which works well for the form. The one that mirrors it is far more angular, again working from the visual research. I completed the odd set of armchairs with a mini table to sit in the middle of them, which was the easiest piece of the day. I’m find that the chairs will be the hardest to make.

I finished the day by looking forward to the rest of the chairs and furniture, it terms of how much space I have to play with when making the remaining pieces. I have already made use of two tables that I made previously for the other internal model miniature. I realised though that I needn’t worry too much as in the set there’s a collection of odd piece that don’t match so I am taking this idea forward when making to an extent, allowing me more creative freedom.

Painting the Town… Update (6/8/17)

I’ve had a busy few days so I decided today I would dedicate a good portion of the day to my work. A decision I am very happy with. The aim was to make a solid start on the furniture that sits against the walls. I feel that all but a few pieces have indeed been completed today.

Using my visual research I started on one side and began to work my way around the model miniature. Using the drawings on the walls as a basic frame for the model too, I began with a few pieces, most have 3 sides as they would be sit against the wall. It’s only in the case of shelving where I needed to reinforce a few to ensure they are as straight as possible. One of the shelves just gets by. However I like how it looks so I’m going to leave it as is.

Moving onto the kitchen section of Minnie’s haberdashery I realised early on into just considering what had to be made that they would be really hard to paint around, with shelving on the walls. it’s the only section which has proved problematic for me. So far I have made 2 false walls, which allows me during the making and painting process have everything in place and ensure even paint coverage. They will more than likely be painted with a mix of primer and acrylic paint.

I’ve made furniture as loose as I can and strongly linked to The Hateful Eight, it’s really detailed for me too, its only going to get more as I add tables and chairs, and two beds. The only issue I have is scale and representation compared to the full scale set in the film.

Painting the Town… Update (2/8/17)

I’ve made a good start on Minnie’s Haberdashery today, with the main structure up in only an hour. Giving me plenty of time to get on with adding a few of the features. Being a more detailed set I have decided to take note of the larger pieces, such as the shelves and tables. Te chairs I am thinking of a design that can be easily replicated on a mass scale.

So today with the main piece up, I have added the raised step for the entrance first, before moving onto the most complicated part of the day, the fireplace, with the curved middle section which took me sometime to figure out how I was actually going to cover and create the shape in cardboard. Once the main body was in place I began to add the curvature, before fleshing it out. I didn’t want it to be a lot of folded/wrinkled card that was cut and glue into place creating the shape. I wanted something more fluid. I had to reach a creative resolution. So once I had the bottom in place – the easy part. with a curved support at the back I turn to added wrinkled/folded strips of card to bring the shape together. I wasn’t happy. Yet this was in the back, giving me room to play in the from. Using a spare strip I decided to see what it would look like if it was cut to size. It worked – the best I could hope for really, 5 strips later I and a trim on the top and base when it was fitted in I’m a lot happier.

I’m not going to add gum-tape to this model miniature as it feels a lot more secure, it could be down to the size I am working out, a bit smaller. Or it could be the cardboard I am using that is essentially a piece for each wall. It’s all down to what I have to hand at the time in my studio.

I finished the day drawing on roughly where I wanted the furniture, I what I needed. These drawings will act as a visual reminder of what I need to make and where they fit. Some will be fixed to the walls, others will be loose as in the previous model miniature. This will take a lot longer to make purely because of what there is to produce for it. I’m just happy it’s taking shape.

Painting the Town… Update (31/7/17)

A quick update today. I’ve been making a slow start on Minnie’s Haberdashery. Using the scene that I’ll be projected as the main point of visual reference. In terms of size I’ve decided to return to a smaller scale, allowing me to get an understanding of this new model miniature and the challenges that I will bring to.

Firstly there is a lot of furniture that needs to be made, about six tables with chairs for each. That’s not including the bench. All of these will have to be figured out and simplified into some form that is recognisable. As much as I want to show the whole set, which would be great to make. I need to consider the projector and how its going to work with it. So I’ve take out a corner of the piece, so it will come in at an angle for this one. Also working well as there is little information for that corner, maybe this was where the camera’s were mainly positioned during filming.

I can’t wait to add the walls and the beams that run throughout the model. I won’t be adding a ceiling as the beams will be enough to suggest that. There is only a base at the moment which will be added to as soon as possible. I’m looking forward to seeing how things progress. It’s going to push my making, the presentation of the model as ultimately the projected image will be affected in some way, which at this stage I don’t know which is very exciting.

Cardboard Town – Workshop

During the Festival Art Show at Spring Bank Arts Centre throughout The Big Weekend at New Mills Festival 2017 I will be running a drop-in workshop for all ages. You can build your own section of a Wild West street with cardboard and lollipop sticks. Please come and join us and make your own contribution to the street, such as a saloon, hotel, livery stable, whatever you wish. All sections will be added to a new unique street for the weekend. It would be great to see you all there.

Painting the Town… Update (30/7/17)

It’s been an interesting day, one where I have made progress in terms of how this piece should be presented. After setting the work up on the floor (where I usually work for tests) ready to test I felt that as much as the image had greater impact at this new scale, the angle the projector was at was letting it down. I had to raise it up. Finding a bench I sat the saloon model miniature on top and switched to a different tripod that allowed me to see how it looked from a more conventional position. This worked to a point as I was still having positioning difficulties. I considered a possible extension or a trimming around the edges of the piece, however I found the idea could lead to distracting features, the piece is not sitting in a wall. I want it to be bare, revealing how the model was constructed. This lead me to adjust the tripod further and re-positioning the projector so that it projected down into the piece.

Looking at how the video projects, it sits more comfortably into the model miniature, than straight on. It does bleed slightly, however its not that noticeable when the action is going on. The video documentation gives me indications that I am starting to work out how to present the work. The work – the video content could be edited so it’s mixed up more. The model. I want to see how Minnie Haberdashery will work now. Leaving this piece behind to see how a larger setting would work. I’ll be going back to the drawing board to see what the Haberdashery looks like and how I can make it in my simple style.

Painting the Town… Update (29/7/17)

I’ve come into a period where I have a lot of time on my hands so I decided to start as I mean to carry on, spend as much time in the studio as I can. Not that I did much with the model miniature. I did however prime and add 3 coats of paint to the posts which I fixed in place last time. This time using acrylic paint for this small section.

I also edited together the preferred timing of the previous test videos together, allowing me to make a start on the tests and document them. I can’t wait to see how these projected footage looks again on this larger model miniature. I am relishing making a start on another more complex piece and with new material, see if the effect carries over.

Cafe Society (2016)

Admittedly I am very late to the Woody Allen films. I only started earlier this year, picking up Annie Hall (1977) which blew me away in terms of comedy, writing and just pure originality. For it’s time quite and could easily knock some contemporary comedies out of the water. My next Allen was far more recent with Irrational Man (2015) which was another kind of Allen, a murder mystery – of sorts, A lite comical murder planned and committed by Joaquin Phoenix whilst having a fling with one of his students. The soundtrack stuck in my head, a clever use of Northern Soul. In short I was hooked on the director and wanted more, more than I could find. I bought a box set which I am eager to make my way through. With the re-release and remastering of Manhattan (1979), which quite honestly not just blew me away but took me to another place that I had not seen in film. A romantic comedy with an affair and the neurotics of Allen paired with Diane Keaton could work in a perverted where having an affair was kind of OK. The dynamics constantly changing, such a dark part of adult of life treated with a light touch. It was note perfect, and visually spellbinding – even on a small TV I was in awe of it all.

Moving onto my next film Cafe Society (2016) didn’t take me long to see the similarities between this Hollywood period romance and Manhattan. Yes it’s another compare review, which’s going to be a challenge – bring it on. What begins as a period piece, once again in the golden age of Hollywood, we are at a party and introduced, not to one of the leads but the uncle and agent Phil Stern (Steve Carell) who can;t help but name drop, actually all them in L.A. can’t help but name drop. The aim to immerse us into the classic world of the big names that we associate with that era. You can see which ones that Allen grew up with, thankfully none of them make an appearance, it’s an exercise in nostalgia for the writer director who has nothing to prove now really. Stern takes a phone call from his sister back in New York advising him that her son, his nephew Bobby (Jesse Eisenberg) is coming out to live there, or as we find out to escape his old dull life.

We go into the classic routine of exploring Hollywood, Beverley Hills, the Walk of Fame – all the touristy things, except this is all happening, histories being made whilst Bobby is finding his feet in the city of dreams. In between doing jobs for his uncle he’s being shown around by Stern’s secretary Vonnie (Kristen Stewart). Things are starting to look very familiar as we replace Keaton with Stewart and Allen with Eisenberg. It first hit me when he talked himself  in and out of having sex in 2 minutes, it’s just typical of Allen’s own on-screen roles (that I have seen so far, limited I know), transferring from older to younger, the emotions and persona of a vulnerable yet confident man remain, minus the intelligence of the older that would make Eisenberg look arrogant in this role. Stewart doesn’t even come close to the free-spiritedness and independence of Keaton, yet the younger pair do have chemistry and that matters in any romantic film.

The next really strong connection to Manhattan was the reveal of the man who Vonnie said she was going out with – Sterns, yes it’s an affair. This is the journalist boyfriend whose always traveling to be seen. The affair dynamic really shows up how strong the plots are similar, yet the way this relationship works it’s not as polite and open between the two men who shared Keaton’s Mary between Isaac (Allen) and Yale (Michael Murphy), obviously at the same time or an audience just wouldn’t accept the film, one relationship ends before another. In the Hollywood of Society we see the woman being shared, yet torn between the two men. One experienced and able to provide a good and stable life and on the other hand you have a dreamer who is full of passion – which would you go for. Well this crazy lady goes for the guy who couldn’t make his mind up for a year. Just h=shows how imperfect we humans can be. That;s one of the rare sentiments you can take away from this film, more so in Manhattan when the realisation of what you had been so much better you’ll do anything to get it back.

I next noticed when the action moved and stayed in New York we have the horse and carriage ride in Central Park. It feels like Allen’s just going back to old imagery – as much as he tells us he doesn’t hold Mahattan in the same regards as everyone else, he knows what works and reuses it. I was reminded of the gorgeous black and white cinematography, that conjured up nostalgia for the older scene that has cultural resonance not the newer film that merely recycles a cliché.

Yes I am only four films into Allen’s overe and may find this repeated over, it maybe just that being in central Park invites you to use this cliché time and again, I just hope I’m proved wrong. I don’t think it helped that it feels like a reworking of the classic in bright colour which doesn’t help my viewing.

Away from the comparisons, it relies heavily on narration, by Allen to progress the plot, it feels like we’re being insulted, as it pushes it along faster than we need it to be. Again Allen narrated the earlier film, well he introduced chapter one, which showed a vulnerability of the writer whose about to open up. Except here the ego of the director creeps in here, nearing Quentin Tarantino territory when he takes ownership of the film, not only did he write it, but he has to read aloud too. That point aside we have see Bobby’s gangster brother getting into trouble and finally caught. For a while I was wondering why were spending so much time go back and forth between New York and Hollywood. It does build up what is going to happen as a Jewish family is somehow unaware of what he’s been up to. Which really sums up how naive Bobby really is to life and those around him. He has experienced to worlds, one of excess and glamour, another of corruption and crime, all of which don’t really effect him. He’s more than happy to live in them as long as he’s not really affected by it. When Vonnie and Stern are in New York we can see how far the characters have come and what they have achieved. Leaving me disappointed really as the two could have got back together but we are left cruelly and frustratingly in the dark. It does set the two films apart, that there is no satisfying conclusion – both the guys get the girl, well the girl they started out with.

On balance Cafe Society takes the same basic story and attempts to reinvigorate it, with a tonne of film nostalgia which is absorbing. With an ensemble cast where you get to see enough of everyone to make it worth them being there. However the basic plot smells of Manhattan which really disappoints me, maybe it’s just my lack of knowledge on the director, does he recycle plots or was he just taking one that works and twisting it for a new film. Please tell me he was just having a bad day.

A Song is Born (1948)

As soon as I saw the description for A Song is Born (1948) I knew it sounded very familiar, so familiar that I saw the original only a few months ago – Ball of Fire (1941). Both directed by Howard Hawks and written by Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett. I saw the original more for the smart writing than the direction. However I needed to see A Song is Born purely for comparison, what else I get is a massive bonus from a winning formula. I know that Hawks later remade Red River (1948) a few times as Rio Bravo (1959), El Dorado (1967) and Rio Lobo (1970) of course after the first two the returns on entertainment were diminishing, but that’s a different conversation to be had. I considered talking about Ball of Fire back in June however, the writing, the comedy and the chance to see two of the golden ages finest on-screen together Barbara Stanwyck and Gary Cooper; both versatile actors having fun.

My feeling on remakes or reboots is very mixed, first its not original to go back to the same plot and simply re-produce it with different actors. However it was just not long after the war and audience taste had changed, new actors were entertaining them. Could an old favorite be dusted off for a new audience to enjoy? That’s a risk that Hawks was willing to make. Ball of Fire one of the latter Screwball comedies, everything thrown at you, high-concept ideas and fast gags. Ball of Fire sure fits the bill, with out-of-touch professors who have lived together for too long now. Writing an encyclopedia, the professors each taking a few specialist subjects – Prof. Bertram Potts (Cooper) the linguist specialists and the youngest of the men, who were all born in the 19th century. It’s only when he hears slang that is fresh to his ears is is mind opened to a new world that he had ignored up until now. Going into the outside world for research, handing out his card to those he ear-wigs on, new words and phrases that he wants to understand more about – inviting them for group research. Its really quaint when you look at it now. All this before he ends his day at the nightclub where he discovered club singer Sugarpuss O’Shea (Stanwyck) who delivers line after line of slang that makes little sense, but livens up the whole film from just being a ‘got to save the day’ film to something far more exciting. I’ll leave the synopsis there for now.

Now turning to the remake A Song is Born in more detail, you have a tried and tested duo in Danny Kaye and Virginia Mayo much like Cooper and Stanwyck, both couples having chemistry. The similarities between the two films are quite striking from the beginning. I could list them all but that would be tiresome. Instead I’ll focus on a few. The first being the setting of the research institution is the same in terms of the set-design a quick recycle and change of plaque on the front before the daughter Miss Toten (Mary Field) who played the same role in both films. Now does this show clever thinking or laziness in not recasting and refreshing the role. The re-use of the set is easily explained as cost-cutting, unless we are seeing into Hawks thinking, is he trying to perfect a film the film that is in his head, based on “From A to Z”. The threat of funding being withdrawn is exactly the same too, leading to Toten being charmed by Professor Hobart Frisbee (Kaye) who she’s secretly attracted to, but exploited here so much. I’m starting to see the differences, the book they are working on, has a greater focus on music, an encyclopedia of all knowledge which only as out of touch as those writing it. Both groups of men are so wrapped up in the past they have forgotten the world outside.

Music is a stronger focus for the characters than just EVERYTHING, still very niche and rich, it allows the Kaye return to a world he is very much associated with, the musical. All courtesy of musicians such as Louis Armstrong and Tommy Dorsey. Of all of the musicians I’ve only heard of Armstrong, all of who though assume the roles of working club musicians, playing Jazz, swing, doo-wop etc, all exciting Frisbee, inviting them back to the institution, not for a Q & A but a performative exploration of music. Taking away the old blackboard and chalk and replacing them with a recording system.

All this before I’ve reached Virginia Mayo’s role of the club singer and gangsters girlfriend. On reflection I feel she was mis-cast in the role that is too dark for her. She does her best by playing up the comedy and musical numbers to compensate. More there as part of a package deal, you want Kaye, you get Mayo, it’s a partnership that’s proven, so why change it? What really lets her and Kaye down though is the recycling of script that is hardly altered really. On the surface it may sound different yet it leads to the same conclusions and jokes. There is a wonderful breakfast scene when Kaye comes down stairs to completely mess up his meal, unaware of what he’s doing, wrapped up in his new experience of love.

The film has it’s positives but I feel it’s weighed down by deja-vu to really be an original and fresh film. I feel that Hawks was either trying to work out a bad part of a film, ironing out the faults to deliver something better. Is that just for his ego though, or was he told by those higher up, your making a film with these two, think of something fast. And here’s the result. A film that has a good formula, with plenty of jokes, I did actually laugh and in the right places. However I was constantly comparing it with whats ultimately a far superior film which sparkles and crackles. An interesting early Wilder picture, who had to wait until 1942 to direct. His original script is merely re-used and reworked, which shows how fast the remake was put into production.

Like I wrote earlier I could go into detail on every scene but that would serve little purpose and I wouldn’t enjoy doing it, finding fault in a minor film that forms a body of work in a director – Hawks who could produce some classic films that stand the test of time, lets call this a mis-fire and move on.

Painting the Town… Update (23/7/17)

I thought the gap between updates at this stage would be longer. Even with an unplanned week off I have completed the main body of painting. All completed with primer paint which I learned it a form of acrylic paint so I carried on after the initial priming coat to just do 2 more coats. Turning out to be a faster process.

It’s one of the bigger model miniatures I’ve made and admittedly the ceiling it at angle, purely down to the posts which I have fitted, however I don’t want to alter them too much. Now all I need to do is waiting to paint the posts which I can do paint them next time. I might even get to test the videos again, I just need to edit the desired speeds of both tests into one video. Its something I have been thinking about, the relationship between the two films I have been working with.

If this next test goes well I might take the plunge I start to look at building Minnies Haberdashery from The Hateful Eight (2015) which is a far bigger set. Which would be far bigger in scale, but the detail I would have to balance out by making it on the smaller scale. Also violence takes place all over the setting, I could really play with the projection, by moving the action to be projected in the area in took place in. Its still an idea at this stage and I need to see how this turns out first. I am still relishing the chance to push the idea further.