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.

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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.

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.

The Little World – The Yellow Pups

I have had to make a New Year resolution for my Little World – to only do one project at a time. It will be a serious brake upon my personality as I can be to sort of hound who goes howling off in all directions after different game…and sometimes ends up catching nothing.

The project for this year will be airfields. I think I have accumulated enough die-cast and plastic aircraft in my collection to provide suitable models for photography. They just need a setting and a story.

The first is to be RCAF Wet Dog…out on the Alberta prairies in 1943. The field is concerned with training as well as ferrying aircraft, so I will get to make quite a few different models. I say ” make ” though in some cases it will be just buying die-casts that fit into the scene perfectly. Otherwise, I must turn to the kit shelf and the airbrush.

Fortunately, the first trainers I am embarking upon are well represented in the model kit trade – the Harvard and the Tiger Moth. And as I am just regaining modelling skills in this small scale, I have opted for the simplest of paint schemes – Trainer Yellow. Also, fortunately there were few markings –  so a judicious use of decal sheets should make things look good.

Dedicated aircraft modellers will pick holes in what I do – so will diorama makers and award winners. No matter – it is my Little World and I will appreciate it.  My other readers may be sickened by the flood of tabletop photography, but that is fine too.

Note: I hope to use a trick to model time as well – you’ll see it if it succeeds.

Heading Image: it’s 40º out in the shed and I’m not there…but the paint dries a treat.

The Little World – The Layout Vs The Play Set

Dedicated readers to The Little World segments of this column are generally pretty sympathetic people. They are model builders, painters, or collectors themselves and are tolerant of the interests of others. But tolerance, like the little tubs of tartare sauce they give out at the fish and chip shop, only goes so far. You usually run out of sauce before you run out of snapper.

I am not suggesting that Little World citizens are going to throw other people’s hobbies out the window entirely – at least not if they are wise – but there may be a certain amount of sniffing and pooh-poohing. And a tendency to see the cracks in the paint jobs rather than celebrating glorious workmanship.

Some of it can be rivalry – some jealousy. Some of it can be meanness, and some of it can be ignorance. None of it is necessary – The Little World is large enough to hold everybody.

A prime example of this is the play set. The Marx Toys tinplate Fort Apache with the moulded plastic cavalry and indians, plus a few cardboard pine trees and a corral fence. Or Cape Canaveral with the horrible out-of-scale rockets and the plastic buildings. Plus the spring-loaded launcher that was surprisingly powerful. I have the scars to prove that.

These play sets were the meat and drink for kids in the 50’s – the big item under a Christmas tree and the main focus of a play session when your friends came over. You were lucky if you knew kids with these sets and a basement to play in when winter snowed you all in. A rec room and a tabletop were all you needed to enter the Little World, and you only had to come back out of it when supper was called.

But there were detractors – and most of them were kids who had the next step up in the toy structure – an electric train. If the train set had a siding, and some structures, it trumped the play set. And it was very rare that the kids realised that you could combine both aspects to make an even bigger Little World. We wouldn’t have worried about scale or appearance, and the perennial problem of figuring out which pieces belonged to whom at the end of the day would have been easier to solve.

Fortunately, in the grown-up Little World, all this can be rectified. We can own the basement or studio, the tabletop ( and it can be a good big one too ) and the trains, planes, cars, figurines, and buildings and we don’t even have to pick up all the toys when supper-time comes. We can leave them out to play with another day. Adult Little Worlders are generally more attuned to scale equivalencies and actual distances than their childhood counterparts, but even so, when a good compromise presents itself, they can invent an excuse for it.

Let’s play…

They Went Datto Way

A few year’s back I attended a pin-up car show day at the Ascot racecourse here in Perth. The pin-up girls were intriguing and the retro stalls obviously had their devotees…I resisted the temptation to take home a number of items. But the best part for me was the unusual line of cars that attended.

You’ve seen some of them before in this column – the shoebox Ford sedan and the two-tone Jaguar saloon come to mind. The three-toned Valiant Safari with the hessian door liners was a highpoint for me – but I also got a thrill from this Datsun 240 GL. I suspect it is mid-70’s…not old enough to be antique but still with the design characteristics of another era.

I can’t say if the interior is a cleaner and leaner one than today’s designs, but it looks more spacious  to me. Less wrap-around light show about it. Dear old cassette tape deck and a AM radio – it was all we needed in the day and I suspect it is all we need now…but don’t try to argue that one out with the Bluetooth boys. Those of you who have never seen car seats before may wish to pay special attention to these – they are styled to make anything you wear look good.

Likewise the vinyl top. I hope that it stays in good condition – some vinyls were prone to leakage and rusting underneath or cracking under harsh Western Australian conditions – the grey looks good with the green bodywork.

Notice the painted wheels – there was a period of time there between the hubcap era and the alloy spoke era that saw a transition with small centre caps . They could look lonely inside a big wheel and the really cheap ones made of black plastic were a real stylistic turn-off.

On final thing to observe – the side spear is actually useful for defending the doors – unlike many modern sedans that have heavy moulding on the side contours but leave the panels open to every careless parker in a shopping centre. Full marks to this Datsun for just enough to do the job.

 

It’s Art If I Say It Is

You need not go to the State Art Gallery to get your fill of interesting sights – if you go to car shows they are laid out for you all over the floor.

Art? I don’t mean the tattooist’s stand or the airbrush stand or the tin sign stand. I mean the actual devices that the enthusiasts have made throughout the year and brought for exhibition. The 3-D actual hardware that has more to it than just function.

Two cases in point are the Sailor Jerry truck and the bike rods at the 2017 NSW Hot Rod Show. Plenty on plenty of the classic rods and customs there, and the occasional little gem just parked quietly.

Why are these art? Because they are something that some did to please themselves – things that need not be the way they are but for the inner expression that they provide. Practical? Not really – but deeply pleasing to all who see them

a. The rod bikes. I’m sure you can ride them, and I’m sure you don’t want to. The angles, curves, mechanisms.and finish are all so different from the average run of treadlie that they have gone from being transports of people to transports of joy.

I have no idea how long they took to make, but I’ll bet they took a fair length of time to think up.

 

 

 

b. The Sailor Jerry truck. Now this is purely a commercial enterprise, and a striking one at that, but someone in the agency was clever enough to link the distressed paint scheme rod to the spiced rum and the whole thing just swings. Presumably the advertising truck has been carefully treated so that it does not actually hole out or fall apart before they get all the rum sold.