Sunday, March 12, 2017

Guinness(esque) Bottle and Shamrock Shake(esque) Garland

For St. Patrick's Day, I wanted decor that went beyond just shamrocks and leprechauns.

What truly evokes the meaning of the holiday, at least here in the U.S.?

The answer lies typically in getting shit-faced and - as with practically every holiday - looking for an item that screams, 'Yes, this is the all-encompassing, immediately recognizable symbol of (fill-in-the-blank holiday)!'

So, I came to the conclusion that Guinness(esque) bottles and Shamrock Shake(esque) cups would make a fine garland.

What follows is my process:

I started out by making templates on graph-ruled index cards.

(c) 2017 Richard Buran
Before I go full in on something like this, I'll produce some prototypes. This gives me a good idea of what the end product will look like, tell me where I need to make shape / proportion corrections and tell me whether I really want to make a dozen more of these things.

(c) 2017 Richard Buran
From the prototype phase, I'll use the templates to cut all the necessary pieces from felt squares.

(c) 2017 Richard Buran
(c) 2017 Richard Buran

Then I do just about the worst hand-stitching anyone has ever seen. However, it does the job.

(c) 2017 Richard Buran

(c) 2017 Richard Buran

Moving on, I stuff all the sewn bottle and cups with fiber fill.

(c) 2017 Richard Buran

(c) 2017 Richard Buran
After hand-stitching all the bases closed, I add the embellishments - gold stickers, plastic drinking straws and felt shamrocks.

(c) 2017 Richard Buran

(c) 2017 Richard Buran
Finally, I thread a green twine through the backs of the bottles and cups to form the completed garland. Both the bottle and the cup (including the straw) measure 5" in height.

(c) 2017 Richard Buran

One more thing: Should the two items depicted in the garland be consumed in tandem, they are sure to 'drive the snakes out of Ireland,' if you know what I mean.

A Happy St. Patrick's Day to all.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Cel Wall Art (as in animation cel, not prison cell)

After hanging a few framed pieces of poster art in my apartment last year, I stood back and realized that I still had a really bare patch of wall space in a corner. I started to think about ideas to fill this space which at floor level is occupied by a set of three nesting end tables. Since space is limited and I like to plant my tree in that corner annually in December, I decided against a tall floor lamp. Yet at the same time, I didn't want more posters.

I'm of the mind-set that the right idea/solution to something will come along eventually if you just kind of marinate on it. In this case, inspiration arrived months later in the form of a visit to IKEA. I came across a huge pallet of two-pack, 8 1/2" x 6 1/2" frames and thought I can do something with these. I also thought about something a friend of mine once suggested: he said, 'you have so much of everyone else's work, why not display something of your own?'

Taking what was already in place as a basis for my decor - namely a reflection of my love of early-American animation and film as well as the contemporary stuff - I decided to create an homage to all of that using characters from my comic strip, Five & Tension. I would use a personal favorite from my existing strips as the subject, remove the dialogue from the panels to create the cel compositions and re-purpose the dialogue as silent film title cards.

What follows is the process:

I hand-inked the characters onto acetate sheets using a Rapidograph.

I next flipped the inked acetate sheets over and began to paint the cels using a black and white/greyscale acrylic paint palette.

Then I created the title cards in Photoshop using the font Hypatia Sans Pro and printed them on inkjet transparency sheets. I debated going truly period-authentic by adding the ornate curlicue frames around the text. I ultimately decided against it feeling that the 3" x 5" working space [after the addition of the mat] would feel cramped and busy or render the font too small.

Moving very carefully and deliberately, I hand-cut my own mats using a mat-cutting tool.

The cels were then attached to the mats using drafting dots. Canvas paper would act as a simple, yet textured background.

Finally, the completed cels and mats were framed.

The entire composition in close-up looks like this:

The featured gag is anachronistic to the period it's paying tribute to, which I guess also makes it a little tongue-in-cheek, too.

And this is how it looks mounted:

Now I just need to come up with an idea for the space to the left of it.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

A Weekday Morning in Photographs

Do I take the car or not?

With gas prices the way they are, I opt for the train. I depart from the Bronx via the 6 train.

I arrive in Long Island City about one hour later.

Breakfast consists of a buttered Blueberry Bagel and Orange Juice from Panera Bread.

After breakfast, I begin my walk to work down 35th Avenue. What's this? Looks like I can definitively tell you how to get to Sesame Street. It's one of many current television shows and films produced at the Kaufman Astoria Studios. The studio has an interesting and storied history; It was the east coast home of Paramount Pictures in the 1920's, the Marx Brothers made The Cocoanuts (1929) and Animal Crackers (1930) here and The Cosby Show was taped here, as well. 

Exiting: Traffic Safety Zone. Entering: Highway to the Danger Zone (It's what I think of every time I see this sign just before making the turn onto 31st Street).

This sad, condemned structure on 31st Street....
...reminds me of the house from Foster's Home For Imaginary Friends. I don't know why. Other than pitched roofs and haunted appearances, they share little else in common. 

Moments later, I make another turn onto 38th Avenue and descend the hill where I'm greeted by this view every morning.

Detail (l. to r.): Empire State BuildingTrump World Tower and a portion of the Queensboro (59th Street) Bridge.

More Detail (foreground and center): Queensboro (59th Street) Bridge and Citigroup Center.

Finally, I arrive for another day of work at Holiday Image Inc.

BONUS: I work about three blocks north of another major New York City film studio Silvercup Studios. While this studio has a much briefer history than Kaufman (it was originally the Silvercup Bakery factory), it's productions are no less notable. They include the HBO series The Sopranos and Sex in the City. Currently in production there are NBC's 30 Rock (an amazing show, by the way) and ABC's Ugly Betty.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Go, Summer Blockbuster Cereal Premiums, Go!

According to the cereal aisle, the summer blockbuster season is upon us. 
For those keeping tally, so far General Mills has the Speed Racer movie tie-in - offering premiums such as the "Turbo Racers" pictured above (actually in the box!) and a Speed Racer Cereal Bowl mail-in offer - while Kellogg's has the Indiana Jones tie-in and is offering a "free" Indiana Jones and The Raiders of the Lost Ark DVD for the absurd asking price of twelve tokens (for what it will cost for twelve boxes of cereal, you're better off just buying the DVD outright). 

Anyway, my first two Turbo Racers came from Cheerios and Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Each car comes bare with a tiny sheet of decals that you apply yourself. This probably has something to do with China hosting the Olympics this summer. Not only are they busy manufacturing everything sold in Wal-Mart, they're also producing the official and knock-off Olympic merchandise. It's been conveniently glossed-over on the box as "...customize them with cool stickers included in the box." At least we're getting back some of those manufacturing jobs lost overseas with the added bonus of underage labor handling it before the a.m. bus to school.

I'm just happy that they're still offering premiums of any kind. With food corporations skittish about the potential of frivolous lawsuits from gluttonous, sue-happy Americans, anything remotely resembling sugar-and-fat-fueled advertising aimed at impressionable kids is being nixed left and right.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Ringling Bros. Elephant March

Ringling Bros.' arrival in New York City was marked early Wednesday morning with its annual march of its elephants (and - to much less fanfare - its horses) across 34th street to Madison Square Garden.  

I claimed a spot around 11:30pm Tuesday night - the time the 'no parking' signs stated this was scheduled to happen - and I proceeded to wait. A small scattering of spectators lined the sidewalks mid-block, with slightly larger crowds at the intersections, making earlier years' TV coverage of the event a little deceptive. Twelve am came and went with no sign of the elephants. Helicopters began to circle and I figured we were getting closer. Twelve-thirty comes and:

Twelve-forty am: The police close Broadway and Sixth Avenue. Cheers erupt from down the block. And shortly after snapping this photo, my camera battery dies, a result of the freezing temperatures:

I quickly remove the battery from it's case and revive it with the warmth of my hand. I reinstall it just in time to take one of the worst photos I've ever taken. Those are the elephants - albeit almost completely obscured in silhouette - on the left:

Apparently, the elephants' train arrived late, because these guys didn't so much march as they ran down 34th street. The images captured after this are mostly of the end of an elephant usually followed by a shovel and not an obstinate digital camera. Earlier I alluded to the fact that this event appeared to draw a more voluminous crowd on television:

An elephant stampede equals spectator stampede as the thin crowds condensed at the intersection of 34th Street and Seventh Avenue. I managed to get this final shot by slipping past some barricades on 33rd Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues, before being asked by a cop to leave because I lacked press credentials:

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Everything Old Is New Again...Or Something Like That

I've been watching a lot of Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies Cartoons lately. One in particular sparked a weird parallel in my mind between the cartoon shorts of the 1920's/1930's and today's feature-length computer animated films. The short in question is the Hugh Harmon-Rudolph Ising produced It's Got Me Again (1932 - on Disc 2 of Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume 3).

As the short begins, a mouse emerges from the now stereotypical arch hole in the baseboard to the metronome rhythm of a grandfather clock. The mouse bears a striking resemblance to Mickey Mouse, which was not unusual at this time. Isadore 'Friz' Freleng - according to the limited credits - handled half of the animation and was previously a Disney employee. So were Hugh Harmon and Rudolph Ising. As a result, in this and other non-Disney cartoons during this period, redundancy in character design was common. [Also interesting to note is, one-minute and twenty-three seconds into the short, the Mickey clone even speaks in a Mickey-like falsetto.]

Those were the early days of animation when everybody was either learning (and in some cases, inventing) the art form or looking to make a quick buck (Leon Schlesinger being a famous example) or both.

But what's the excuse of today's media-conglomerate-owned, studio-subsidiary, computer animation filmmakers? Why are the CG films currently being made almost indistinguishable from one another at quick glance?

If you use Toy Story as the marker of the dawn of the feature-length, computer animated film, more questions arise. Like why is it, that thirteen years later we still essentially have a single "house style," consisting largely of oversized taxidermy eyes and shared by practically all major studios? Is this really part of some long learning curve? Perhaps a bizarre limitation of the medium? Or are the filmmakers simply victims of their corporate parent asking for 'another (fill-in-the-blank with a known film property)'? Or could it be a heavy cross-pollination of animation professionals throughout the industry bringing with them established design sensibilities?

I guess it could be said that characters like Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny, et al all shared/share some similar design features (again, largely eyes - vertical ovals - and gloves) even after their personalities had evolved. But that's exactly what separated them in the end: personality; And often in spite of the fact that many were voiced by individual, elastically-talented voice-over artists (especially in Warner cartoons). Today, if a celebrity like Robin Williams gets voice-over work it's Robin Williams doing the voice. There's no distinction between FernGully's Batty Koda, Aladdin's Genie and Happy Feet's Ramon and Lovelace. It should be noted that Pixar did try to draw a distinction between their product and some of the current CG saturation (especially motion capture) during Ratatouille's credits:

In the end though, maybe everything in life really is cyclical.