The Little World – Just Popping Down To The ( Aardman ) Shops…

It’s hard to convey the sense of wonder that a Little World enthusiast gets when they first see a master model. The museum-quality ships at Greenwich, the scratchbuilt aircraft at Duxford, the railway models in the Science Museum or York…they all have an authority and an educational value that can go far beyond even the full-size original objects on display. The great thing about these artifacts is that, unlike the famous works of art in galleries, the popular knowledge of them is limited – you do not have to breast rooms full of tourists to see the tiny little painting – you don’t have to queue for hours to file past some renaissance daub because it is the ‘ famed ‘ daub.

And yet…there can be the same artistry exhibited by modern model makers, and the impact of it can be far greater for the familiarity of it. The fact that it is in 3 dimensions just adds to the charm. Witness the corner greengrocer’s shop set from ” The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit ”

The set is about a metre and a half long on each side – roughly 1/6 to 1/8 size. Correct internal lighting – the Fujifilm X-T10 was set on the 3200 ISO and the white balance was left on auto to sort itself out. What you see is what you saw in the film, albeit in motion and for a brief periods of time. The detail that you can see bears witness to the integrity and sense of dedication for the modellers. It was impossible to look at any corner of the set – even the doorstep with the milk bottle in front of the hairdresser’s shop – without getting the feeling that you were looking at a full-size scene.

The two display cases – tools and kitchen items – are actually mouth-watering to a miniatures worker. But they, and the detail pictures, can induce a terrible feeling of inadequacy in we amateurs – particularly if we are working in smaller scales with bigger fingers – fingers that are frequently covered in glue and/or stuck to the parts that we are actually working on.

Still…If the Aardman people would like a tasty little earner, they might consider compiling  How-To-Do-It videos and discs or making a book about their techniques. I would be first in line at the bookstore for them.

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Yo Ho Ho In The Little World

It’s a little hard to ignore a pirate ship when it literally towers over you. That’s the main working model ship for the Aardman pirate movie seen at the recent exhibition. No half-made device – not a rough adaptation of a Revell kit. That is solid shipbuilding…I think when it has done with the world travels of the art galleries that it should have a place in Greenwich Maritime Museum in London. It might be a parody, but it is more authentic than most display vessels.

The exhibition was glorious in that it led the viewer through the entire working procedure that Aardman use for ideas – from rough pencil sketchs through story boards to rather large scene drawings made with as much care as any artist’s finished canvas. Then on to the benches and the model makers. Surprisingly, some characters and concepts carry through perfectly from the initial pencil sketches – and some are trimmed ruthlessly…but not until they have been worked up a long way. I can only imagine that their creators fight each other in staff meetings to have their creations live and breathe.

The main actors in any of these productions need to be made and remade to change position thousands of times – changed and distorted would be more accurate. The armature upon which clay, plastic, and fabric is posed seems to be modifications of standard devices available in the industry with flexible but lockable joints places pretty much where real creatures also bend. ” Standard ” hardly applies to the were-rabbit, but nothing fazes Aardman. I should think they are the darlings and saviours of small engineering supply houses in their town.

The Little World – Aardman

N0te: last week was grim here on HAW. This week is not  – this week is fun.

This post and several others will be springboarding on the back of real artists – the Aardman animation studios. I’ve been to see an exhibition devoted to their work and methods and I cannot praise them too much.

The exhibition was going on in the ACMI section of the Federation Square Gallery  connected to the NGV in Melbourne. It may venture to your country or your city, and if it does, it is well worth the price of a ticket. I spent a good two hours going back and forth seeing the exhibits.

Aardman are the authors of the Wallace And Gromit series of clay animations as well a numerous advertisements in Great Britain and the Creature Comfort series. As well, they have done Chicken Run, The Pirates, and Shaun The Sheep. All well worth seeing again and again.

The amazing part of this is the scale of the planning, artistry, and props needed to do this sort of animation. It is not tabletop stuff by any means, unless you consider the sets as individual scenes. The scale of most of the models seems to be about 1:6 to 1:4 and the artistic vision and attention to detail is staggering. I don’t think there is a true Little Worlder who would not be delighted to kick over the traces and build Aardman sets for a living.

Bless them, in addition to getting a look at their artistry, the exhibition had a working animation table and lighting setup that showed me clearly how to solve one of my lighting dilemmas in the Little Studio! I could not have been more pleased.

But here is a taster for the week. All Aardman, all the time.

The Eco-Friendly Claymore Mine

Every time I turn to the social media pages, there seems to be something that is eco-friendly – whether it is eye makeup or a motor car. And oddly enough, each mention of this wonderful property seems to be connected with an offer to sell me that product. I am starting to see a pattern.

I wonder if it would be a good thing to extend this to items – like the standard claymore mine or phosgene artillery shells – that are normally looked upon with horror. They need a better press and perhaps the idea of making them green is a good one.

Of course pedants will point out that claymores and gas shells are already green in colour, but this is merely playing with words. We want to make them desirable on an environmental basis. Given the fact that they are designed to kill, this may be a hard thing to do, but spin doctoring is a skilled profession – just ask the practitioners who attend the American president.

Let’s start with the phosgene gas shells. Okay, they have been estimated to have caused 65,000 casualties in WWI, but that was 100 years ago and surely no-one would remember that now…In any case, it was used by the French and we could always show pictures of a girl in a french maid’s uniform to make it seem a lot nicer. And remember that it is a valued industrial compound for other chemical manufacture. The fact that it is sitting in artillery shell…in some cases very old artillery shells…is just incidental. If we paint them pink we can probably sell them as sex toys.

The claymore mines are another thing entirely. They’re pretty new and much more likely to find their way into the hands of school children and people at senior citizen centers. Indeed, there are few better ways of clearing pesky teenagers off your lawn if yelling at them from the porch doesn’t work. They also keep your walkway free of religious callers and pizza delivery people.

What the manufacturers want to do is develop a claymore that does not spit out steel balls when fired – just a humongous blast of flame. These could be supplied in packs of ten at the local Home Depot store for use as snow clearing devices in northern cities. You open the front door on a snow day when a drift has buried your walkway, place the mine on the doormat, and squeeze the clicker. WHOOMP! Clean sidewalk. Think of the number of heart attacks this would prevent in middle-aged people.

Also on the cards would be a festive claymore for the Latin countries. Brightly decorated  and filled with Jaffas and Skittles instead of the steel balls, they could be hung in the trees and detonated during the fiesta instead of a pinata, No more danger of blindfolded little children swinging bats. Might be a good idea to reduce the charge in the candy ones to prevent melting the chocolate…Olé!

 

 

Enter The Clear Plastic Car

I’m sure it must be possible to make a car with a plastic body now. A clear plastic body that is flexible and bouncy. One that springs away from bumps and does not rust. We’ve got plastic bumpers front and back for most cars now – time to extend the material to the rest of the vehicle.

I don’t say that a clear plastic body has to be perfect – it’s not going to look like Diana Prince’s Invisible Airplane in the Wonder Woman comics – and there are going to have to be some metal supports in there to hold up the sides and enclose the passengers.  But heck, we had polycarbonate bodies for our slot racing cars when I was a kid and the mechanic’s magazines were promising them for full-sized cars 50 years ago.

I’m not too fussed about the rust aspect – most cars are kept for a smaller period of time these days and we live in a land that has no snow – hence no ice on the roads. My cars have never rusted out – though that ’75 VW Passat probably would have tried to do so just to add to its flaws.

And the flexi-bump part is not all that necessary – I drive so as to not run into people. But I do want everyone who drives an SUV, tray top ute, or van to have clear plastic back sections to their vehicles…so that I can see to back out when the sods park next to me at shopping centres.

Are You Trying To Be Funny?

This is one of those phrases that you will hear from time to time when you are trying to be funny. It is a put-down designed as bait for a further put-down. As with all bait, though, it can be used to snag the fisherman as well as the fish.

When someone says this to you, you must take it as a question, rather than just a sneer. And a serious question, too. You must instantly look quite studious and concerned – it helps if you have horn-rimmed glasses. Then you must say ” No ” in a steady, measured tone. Then say no more, but keep looking steadily at the other person. If you are wearing those spectacles, either take them off, or look over them at the questioner. Do not break eye contact. Earnestly project the impression that you consider this to be the pivotal question of Western philosophy in the current century, and that you are waiting for them to justify it.

The effect of this will be to shift the burden of further belligerence, complaint, or virtuous protest to the other person. They may find themselves in deep water trying to remember what it was that you said in the first place and they will discover how your serious demeanour makes them look. With any luck, it will make them look foolish.

Once they realise this you can be kindly and comforting to them – it will increase their rage. With a bit of luck they will stalk off screaming imprecations and you can return to the rest of the audience with a gentle smile.

A Thank You Goes Out To…

a. The people who subscribe their time to read this column. I do read yours as well, but I am so confused about replying that I wonder if anything I send back ever gets to you. Some of you are quite the writers and photographers.

b. My research assistant Warren. He finds things on the internet and in the newsagencies that I miss.  It is invaluable to have a pair of eyes that know what they are looking for and light up when they see it.

c. The local hobby shop for shifting closer to my home. When I am out of Tamiya XF37 it means I do not have to go over half the city to get a bottle of it.

d. The WordPress organisation for making a device that lets me publish daily with so little trouble. I do not make as much use of the features that they provide as I might, but there are little advances all the time. Just today I learned how to edit spam followers from the email list – a recent problem for many WordPressists.

The format of this column is one of the free ones – I initially set out to do this as an experiment. I am slowly filling the storage cache for images – up to 42% of capacity in the years I’ve been writing. I’ll eventually fill the basket and then consider taking up a paid theme that will allow more storage capacity.

If you are used to seeing this column with the current settings, do not fear. It will be years before I need to change the appearance. And when it does go over, it will be as simple as possible – there is enough other confusion in graphic design.

e. The people who do things. The model makers, hot rod builders, re-enactors, dancers and all the rest that I follow and report. And a thank you in anticipation for all those who will capture my imagination in the future.

I value your enthusiasms and skills. You are the people who operate the levers and wheels of the world. You do not sit and watch petrol explosions and murders on television and imagine it to be real life – you go out there and actually live something.

f. The people who serve me in their jobs. The girls at the post office and chemist. The workers at the local hardware store. The hobby shop owners. The checkout people at the supermarket – I always use the human checkout procedure because those humans need a job and a wage.

g. The people who assist me in extraordinary ways – the bookshop owner who finds a lost book. The camera shop expert who helps me with my computer. The bank assistant who clears up a worrisome situation.

h. My family and friends, who indulge me in my little enthusiasms and occasionally applaud them.

i. People who write me letters – either on paper or the screen. A letter is a real effort at connection that the social media page can never be.