This Bank Holiday I set out to do what I thought would take far longer than a day. That was to see how the two test-pieces look. OK that’s the easier part, before moving onto the trains that I wanted to modify or adapt. So far I’ve been excelling in the studio.
I began by getting out all the pieces for the first test-piece with all the additional pieces that I’ve been making to accompany them both – the track and train pieces. Also I introduced new fence pieces that I’ve bought recently which held some toy cows. It’s an impressive piece to look at, with a sense of organisation about it, with the track at the back and the fueling station at the side with a flying saucer ready to go. It feels like a factory with purpose.
Whilst the second one feels like an sub-station that serves the same function but on a less demanding scale. I want to show that the aliens mean business not just their presence on the ground. Maybe I’m nearing a decision. I like the extra detail on this second piece. However I found that this one could be hard to animate at the side as the refrigerated wagons pass through, making it a very cumbersome and longer process than stop-frame already is.
Moving on I had decided to adapted the bases of all the train stock so they could move on any curved track that I’ll be building in the future. I only learned of the bogie – basically the axle unit below train carriages a few months ago. Knowing this it would make for better model miniatures that could be more effectively be animated on the track, instead of looking awkward as they pass over some sections. So the plan was to create my own bogies . Carefully removing the wheels that were fixed to the base on the carriages. I then cut out pieces of cardboard and worked out a method so they could rotate tightly around a small piece of cardboard tubing. Measuring up was pretty straight forward before cutting everything out and beginning to fit into place. The rotating worked, it sat nicely when straight too. All I had to do was re-attach the wheels which was pretty straight forward.
The process was smooth sailing really. Having previously thought about how best to achieve this effect I now have made a few pieces functional, something I’ve not done before. A few simple changes that allow it to better mimic a full scale train I have reached another level in my making skills if only by accident. I wonder where I’ll go next.
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.
I’ve not actually done as much making as I have done in previous weeks. Having reached the end of the making process for this test piece. I might be adding more detail later on however.
Focusing on the base, constructing a cave at the bottom of the shaft where cowboys and possibly Native Americans might go into hiding. I’m starting to think about how possible events may play out in the event that the aliens had succeeded in taking over America. I began the day by drawing out and then shaping out cave ends that were soon fixed to the structure, adding even more stability to this piece. After a break for lunch I began to cover up the base that created the cave.
It built up quite quickly allowing me time to pause and begin to think about the concept more, leading to some research to begin. Part of that led to me finding a painting that really celebrates the term and idea – Manifest Destiny. American Progress by John Gast (1872). Today its not so much prophetic as disturbing, you have a woman in the middle of the piece – Progress making her way West moving the savage Native Americans, Buffalo out of the way as progress in the form of trains and stagecoaches follow in her way. Farmers waiting to move out and settle on newly claimed land. Ironically it’s a woman bringing civilisation West and not a man, maybe it’s the aesthetic of a woman treading over the land being more pleasing on the eye than a farmer or prospector, traditionally a male role men leading the way and women following quietly behind, keeping the new homes ready for their return from a days work in the wilderness. A woman here suggest also the virgin land yet to be touched by the American dream, ready to be tamed to be worked by the American Anglo-Saxon’s that believed it was their god-given destiny to reshape the land. This is where the research took over for me. It was an editors article – John O’Sullivan article that first mentions the term Manifest Destiny that’s adopted by some, but not all politicians. Also the term was only really used between 1812 and 1860, just before the Civil War broke out. It was the fear that the spread of slavery across America which was becoming difficult to accept. So it’s more about the spreading of American ideals initially, spreading and sharing the right ones as the expansion process was rolling out. The image of the woman could be easily replaced with a spaceship or a flying saucer firing lasers into the ground as all life escapes to the East. This is definitely an image that will inform my current work.
The Louisiana Purchase (1803) allowed this expansion into territory that was to American knowledge undiscovered, the French declined to share any details about the huge swathes of land they have just sold, probably to help fund/resolve the unrest back home under Napoleon. The extra land was also a worry to politicians not wanting the spread of slavery again.
I also came across part of a speech/reason behind the resolution to the 1812 War between British British Canada, which was over Indian Raids into the Midwest. I learned the original reason behind the acquisition of Native American land.
“The United States, while intending never to acquire lands from the Indians otherwise than peaceably, and with their free consent, are fully determined, in that manner, progressively, and in proportion as their growing population may require, to reclaim from the state of nature, and to bring into cultivation every portion of the territory contained within their acknowledged boundaries. In thus providing for the support of millions of civilized beings, they will not violate any dictate of justice or of humanity; for they will not only give to the few thousand savages scattered over that territory an ample equivalent for any right they may surrender, but will always leave them the possession of lands more than they can cultivate, and more than adequate to their subsistence, comfort, and enjoyment, by cultivation. If this be a spirit of aggrandizement, the undersigned are prepared to admit, in that sense, its existence; but they must deny that it affords the slightest proof of an intention not to respect the boundaries between them and European nations, or of a desire to encroach upon the territories of Great Britain. . . . They will not suppose that that Government will avow, as the basis of their policy towards the United States a system of arresting their natural growth within their own territories, for the sake of preserving a perpetual desert for savages”
It took a few reads to understand what was really being said beyond the old pleasantries of political speak. So my understanding is…
- They would rather take land with a little fuss as possible, that would allow farmers to work the land.
- They don’t want to tell the Native American’s how to lead their lives.
- They will be exchanged like for like land in terms of quality, not so much scale, as I have ready previously.
- The new boundaries will be respected – in reality they will become reservations that no white American would want to go near.
As I made more sense of all this research, manifest destiny still exist, just in a different form, the land grabbing has been done. The land has been reshaped pretty much for the use of the American Ango-Saxon’s who along with other European settlers have made their own. The political ideal of democracy is the only thing they can still promote beyond their borders. It’s what has lead to America’s entry into WWI, WWII (that and Pearl Harbour) among other more modern American wars, wanting to bring democracy where it doesn’t exist, or not in the form they want. Now currently isolationism is very much foreign policy of the Trump administration – “America First”. There have been interventions just more subtle, in hopes that democracy – American style will one day take route.
Away from all the research which is starting to inform my thinking I needed to take a break from all of this to just play, see how the cowboy and Indian toys would work if they were all in this cross-section piece. It was really fun to do, I can see where the camera would potentially go and any difficulties that may arise (there are a few) which I would need to amend. Maybe a bigger cave for example, or building separate larger sections for more in-depth work. I’m already thinking it will be an animation.
When I consider the aliens I’m drawn to the H.G. Wells saucers from War of the Worlds, it’s like I’m moving the action back a century before technology would have allowed us to understand the visitors before it worked out in our favor. I could simply suggest their presence through special effects or other methods. That’s one for another day though.
I’ve had an unwanted break from the studio, it’s really being bothering me. When I had other things that needed to do, pulling me away from the studio where I’d rather work full time (if only I could). Enough moaning and I’ve had a really good day, doing more than I had expected again. Beginning the day wrapping the largest element that would later form the cross-section of a gold mine.
Once that was wrapped in brown paper I was ready to fix them all into position. Taking into consideration the difficulty of blending in each section, leading me to work on the 2nd element sooner than I thought. During this long process I ran out of the brown paper I was using, switching to a much lighter stone colour, which thankfully works OK at this stage as it suggests extra work has been carried out by the miners digging into different rock.
I finished the day making a start on the cave at the bottom, which became to arches (of sorts) which acts as legs that support the entire piece. I’ll be wrapping them up next time and working on the other ends to create the cave effect to. So far It looks far more defined, it’s taken more work to bring it to this level. This piece shows that a lot of progress has been made. I’m considering buying more balsa to work on buttresses for another test (or to add to this piece) which will hopefully show more progress. This piece whatever form it may take is using a lot of material, both recycled and new. I’m leaning towards an animation, which potentially will have more advanced sets since Playing with Plastic (2016) which was more floor based. This relies on more sculptural pieces to explore the work.
I wanted to post an update yesterday, however I felt and needed a break from most activity to just switch off as much as possible. Plus I didn’t really achieve much either so I decided to leave things for the day. That was then, today I’m actually pleased with the progress I’ve made. A far larger scale piece that really has come along quite well during the day.
Yesterday I had drawn up a new cross-section with another level and a cave at the bottom, which I am looking forward to seeing come together. The spaces around the tunnels I had drawn up were then raised up into 4 separate elements which I have them begun to wrap. The process of constructing them was pretty straight forward. I’ve got a nice method for the curved edges which I break up into multiple pieces. I spent the rest of the day wrapping each of the pieces, starting with the smaller one’s which I knew I could complete in the day. I knew the larger element would take far longer due to it’s size. When I was reflecting on the days work I could see that I had constructed 4 objects over the weekend in their own right. It feels a shame to have them just fixed to the board and joined up with more wrapping. I feel that they should be explored, or at least acknowledged before this realisation is lost to the progress of making this piece.
I’ll continue to wrap up the remaining piece and sadly fix the elements to the board and start more fun work of making the piece stand. I am also considering bringing in balsa on this piece, which would be used for buttresses at intervals. I think that maybe held back until I know whats going on.
The aim of the day was to construct two layers of a tunnel, one, the entrance and a level below. I didn’t quite meet that but I have still made some progress as I can share below. I had a bit of a false start, even after I made a solid start on a new test piece. I got so carried away with making the walls I forgot to add the roof above that forced me to unwrap what I had already done to add that structure. On the wrapping front I decided to buy a roll of brown parcel paper which I’ll now continue to use and distress before fixing into place. My reasoning is that I have used fresh unused boxes in the past for piece so why not here, The paper’s distressed before being used, taking it away from its desired function.
As I began to wrap the new improved piece I had tried out the folded edge method which looked good to a point. The point being that after a few more pieces were added in places, it looked too neat. I was given some advice during the day to added ripped pieces, which I adapted to fix on top to appear more natural too, which it does.
I tried this method out on the next piece, the base and potential ceiling of the next layer, It worked really well, so I decided to return to the top half which really changed the who look of the piece. I felt it would be patchwork, but honestly it adds more authenticity than I imagined.
Reflecting at the finished work for the day I have come further forward, However much I have the aesthetic down, the overall construction is not quite there, I need to build it up more like a tunnel, even with a ridge on the base was not enough. It needs to be more rounded above. Yes it’s narrower but it’s not looking like a tunnel really, it’s getting there slowly which is what I am taking away from this weekend in the studio. Next time I’ll take my decisions from the end of today and apply then to the next layer, building under this base with a more rounded tunnel and an improved base for that too.
A shorter than usual trip, with only a handful of shows this time. Starting off with a bit of fun at the London Film Museum – Bond in Motion. Billed as the largest collection of Bond cars ever, which wasn’t my main draw, it was to see everything else on top of the cars/vehicles. Once I was there I was like a kid in a candy store, looking at the cars, especially those which the guns and rockets on show. Definitely one for the boys. The icing on the cake being a model miniature from Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), that was built to allow the production team prepare how to film the finale, complete with cylindrical saws.
My next stop stayed with the filmic theme at The Photographer’s Gallery, for a show I really wanted to see. Instant Stories. Wim Wenders’ Polariods. Exhibiting some of the remaining polaroids the German took on location and for inspiration. Out of the thousands he has said to have taken only a fraction remain which allow you to get an insight to his thinking. I see them like sketches, see it, capture it and move on. Taken in the 70’s and 80’s, you get to see him working and exploring America and Germany. I really could have stayed longer than I did, going around the two floors of the show a few times, taking in each carefully framed polaroid, given a new precious status, this ones throw away images are given something far greater than was ever intended for them.
Installation in The Festival Art Show at Spring Bank Arts part of New Mills Festival (2017) . Cardboard model miniatures and video installation of Iron Horse of the Studio (2015)