011.07.2017 by Dante Penman

Not unlike every other blog I've ever had, this one has been cast aside and forgotten of late. Partly due to an eventful year so far, partly due to adopting a sphynx cat that will not abide by my sculpting and partly due to inspiration coming in waves and troughs.

There is, however, some excellent news! In one month I will have my very first private studio. It's a home studio and with a door between myself and my cats, I can finally start working on my projects unhindered. Having to put tools and sculptures away every time I'm finished associates the creative act as something that isn't spontaneous. It also means that I previously couldn't work on anything bigger than what I could fit in a cupboard ie. set design and large sculpts, because it would be destroyed before sunrise. Enough about my personal chaos.

I've been working on facial musculature, finding a grey area between anatomically correct and what I think looks interesting. As a side-project I'd definitely like to work towards some more academic, classical style sculpture but my current work does not warrant the need just yet. The head needs some cleaning up as some of the clay dried enough to prevent fine detail, once that's done I want to add a layer of silicone skin.

010.04.2017 by Dante Penman

In The Oubliette, the lines between life, death, waking and dreaming are unclear and with this in mind, the human body is not subject to all rules of nature and order.

The prologue primarily features this puppet, so I'm switching back and forth between two different forms of the same character to speed things up a bit. So far I have finished/cured the skull but the pelvis needs some tidying and shaping before it's done. Today I will also be starting the process of musculature and skin over the skull. This is going to be tricky but if it works out I will be very happy - The idea is to build a framework for the head that can be transferred between puppets depending on the story progress, but have removable parts such as the skin to signify a state of decay and change. I'm not concerned about being medically accurate, the important part is having fun!

Once this puppet is fully completed, I will focus all of my attention on set building so that I can start filming the prologue as soon as possible.

009.03.2017 by Dante Penman

Puppet fabrication continued...

The main character for the stop-motion piece now has a body! Or rather, something that is 90% complete but looks significantly better than a metal skeleton. There is still some shaping to do while possibly adding more bulk to some areas, but the time-consuming work of fitting the foam to the metal is done so adjustments will be swift.

I didn't have a body shape in mind when I started trimming the foam down so it's very generic, but I have considered a few ways to give the character more personality such as tapered limbs or a top-heavy approach. Despite the foam being fairly dense to begin with, I have a suspicion that when the puppet is clothed I would be dealing with compressed areas where a real body would not. Working outside of silicone molding I have to be prepared for imperfections so even if I have an ugly (naked) puppet, I should be able to hide my shortcomings with clothing.

Hands have been a source of great frustration for me, as well as feet, but I haven't the patience to even approach feet yet. Luckily, my 'hand-made' hands are easier to work with that hands made with the armature components (attached to the puppet in the pictures) but I am keeping my options open. I have never worked with SFX latex before so my first attempt at building skin on the hands failed quickly. I was applying the latex conservatively and with a sponge, as opposed to dipping the wire armature or layering sheets of latex and spot painting in the knuckles and other details.

 

008.12.2016 by Dante Penman

I have made some progress on building up the body in all its fleshy glory. The head is temporary, it was originally meant for another piece that ended up on the scrap heap. Either I will re-work this one because I like the enlarged scale of it, or I'll build another from scratch before finishing the neck.

The final stage will be tricky as I have to detach the armature from the temporary base that it's bolted to, onto a permanent fixture. What makes this more difficult than it should be is the fact that this began as a semi-articulated 'puppet' and two of the joints aren't reinforced, so moving it could cause both the arm and the leg to tear away.

I'm not sure how much of a chance I am taking, but I wont be curing the clay when the piece is finished. I'll let it air dry to harden up as much as possible and cover it until a plexi-case can be made for it.

007.10.2016 by Dante Penman

Although the primary function of this sculpture and animation blog is to document my own progress, I will occasionally share media that has inspired my creativity. I am always fascinated to learn about the creative processes and influences of other artists, particularly when it explains the provenance of a piece that I like or gives clarity to the process.

First up, Takahide Hori's Junk Head.

This short movie is fairly new to me, but was pivotal in reviving my interests in animation and sculpture. The characters behaviour and some aspects of the style remind me a lot of Nick Park's Wallace & Gromit animations that I grew up watching on television, although the visual element is vastly different. Junk Head took four years to make on a small budget and was mostly a solo project which is inspiring in itself, with my situation being firmly within that realm of limitations such as time commitment, budget and so on.

I highly recommend visiting YAMIKEN to see some incredible set design for Junk Head as well as other projects.

Next, a long-time inspiration that goes beyond the world of stop-motion, The Quay Brother's 1986 adaption of Street of Crocodiles (Bruno Schulz, 1934).

I first saw Street of Crocodiles while studying Photography at University and it had a profound influence on my interest in studio lighting and set design. It taught me about controlling the environment of a photograph and that controlled approach led me back into wanting to animate. As a newcomer to animation it has been daunting to watch contemporary animation that has large teams dedicated to facial movements and so forth, while the Quay Brothers have given permission to build a static puppets head that relies on light and shadow to convey emotions. They have also widened the parameters of puppet-making for me, allowing me to look at unconventional mechanisms as potential body parts and seeing beauty in the grotesque.

006.09.2016 by Dante Penman

This is a mock-up of an idea I had for the first scene of my stop-motion film. The interior is inspired by Kurt Schwitters' Merzbau and sets the scene for the oubliette, the cyclical setting at the beginning and ending of the story. The original idea for the oubliette was an empty reality, a setting that occurs frequently in my dreams but also a chance to tell a story just by the movements and reactions of the puppet, without distraction from where, when and how.

I'm really excited to be restricted to a single, continuous light source. I'm looking forward to seeing how it collides with the puppet and what emotions and tension will come from this pairing.

005.09.2016 by Dante Penman

The face is starting to become recognizable and I'm happy with the direction that things are going. After the ears are re-worked, I have texturing to look forward to and I may add a little bit of flesh to the top of the head to increase the angle of the forehead.

I've been working on the body quite a bit but not shown here in great detail unfortunately. The open pelvis was covered and the base shape for an abdomen is in its place. I've also mapped out the muscles of the upper arm and thigh, two prominent areas for sculpting where I will make some decisions about the function of the piece as a puppet, or a study. My next update will have some body progress images and shed some light on the background of this little fellow.

004.09.2016 by Dante Penman

Once the eyeballs were in place, I made some light adjustments to the nose before curing the entire head as one piece. For this head I wanted some emphasis on the mouth area, so I started there to set the tone for the rest of the fleshy areas that would follow. In retrospect I might have made the nose smaller in the grey clay so that I'd have more options with the second layer.

003.09.2016 by Dante Penman

The stage where I start to decide what parts will be skin, muscle and bone. A stage that is in a constant state of change as some ideas work and others get rejected. This is the second figurative head that I've sculpted and I've learned a thing or two from working on the face..

  • Use less foil and wire to build the head for easier reduction.
  • Cure the eyes separately and use them to create the sockets, rather than digging with a tool.
  • Figurative form is not necessarily realist form.

002.09.2016 by Dante Penman

My armature-building chops leave something to be desired, but I was quite pleased with how this piece worked out. The armature stands at approximately 15" tall when it's upright but the final pose hasn't been decided yet.

001.09.2016 by Dante Penman

Back in 2014, I started to weave together fragments from a dream diary into a flexible narrative, looking for re-occurring themes and places and attempting to communicate with the 'figures' that lurk in the shadows. Themes started to bubble to the surface the more I investigated this world, anatomy and architecture becoming more prominent while others gradually became clear over the next couple of years.

Anatomy has been an educational theme to explore so far, from an artistic perspective as well as how deep the theme runs underneath dreams and nightmares. Prior to this project, my history with sculpture was limited to highly-abstracted work, architectural and conceptual for the most part, so anatomy and figurative work in three-dimensions is still very new to me. It's been a unique experience to go from the idea of a person or creature to being able to touch it and see the musculature and features create shadows under lamplight.

All of the bigger sculptures up to this point are non-moving, but I am simultaneously working on removable parts to go onto jointed armatures in preparation for the stop-motion portion of the project.

The base 'skull' is sculpted around a wire and tinfoil armature, then it is cured before the facial topography is mapped out over it.