Wednesday, September 29, 2010

out the window

The sound for my short film is 90% finished, and the animation is completely finished except for the last shot. I still have to do the fine cut (final edit).

This is a scary time, where I have to show the film to a lot of people and see what they think. I've looked at the damned thing so much that I don't even know if it
will make sense to people, let alone hold their attention and affect them in some way.

I've had two test screenings so far. Most of the watchers have been artist-types, which (I'm sorry to say), I don't trust, because they're trained to appreciate unconventional work, and
tend to make concessions for films if they works on some level (i.e. "It's beautiful!" which means nothing.)

I don't make my films for artists, I make 'em for everyone.

The screenings have been attended by four children as well - deadly honest, creatures with low attention spans, and desensitized by video games, violence, youtube diarrhea, fast cuts, cocks and balls
and tits and everything else.

I sat at the back and watched the kids closely. Even without the sound finished, the kids watched the screen without losing attention for the entire film.
They smiled, laughed, fell silent at the harsh parts, and even understood the parts that I was worried about being too complicated.
That is such a compliment it brings tears to my eyes, even as I type this.

I'm not saying it's a great film, but so far people react to it and understand its meanings, and that's all that matters to me.

Thank the gods.

Monday, September 27, 2010

dead salmon

Hot day in Armstrong

Bathed twice under "the waterfall" - a water tank at the top of a cliff with a pipe coming out the bottom. Stand at the bottom of the cliff, pull the cord and get a nice rainwater shower. Hoo-aa.

Swam in a nice meandering river amidst corn fields and the stink of fertilizer (i.e. cow shit). Looks like spawning season has just finished - dead salmon are floating downstream and bobbing around in the shallows, belly-up. Climbed a tree and got a huge scratch on my arm, which feels good. It's nice to feel my body hurting instead of my brain. Too much sitting around and art-ing with people, not enough solo time with plants and water and animals.

Night-time walk with a horse last night. Moonlight casting shadows through dark trees, coyotes howling nearby, the horse nudging my neck with his soft muzzle, and my hand on his flank.

My skin reeks like dead fish and I don't want to wash it off.

Missing alone time, glad to have some now. Dinner bell rings, back to the party...

Sunday, September 26, 2010

there will be blood

Five days ago, this was the top floor of a barn. Now it's a multimedia crazy zone. Loud music and creepy sounds are pumping at high volume, 12-16 hours a day - sometimes created on-the-spot, sometimes from various playlists. We've had late-night art discussions, Romeo Castalucci / Lady Ga Ga screenings, fake gynecology exams, nude dancing with bleeding vegetables, animated children's drawings interacting with puppets and flashlight silhouettes, bleeding feet video shoots...

Inspiration levels are at a maximum. We're playing, laughing, riffing off each other, making a mess and pushing our limits. This is what collaboration is all about.

Friday, September 24, 2010

night sounds

Two nights in the trees with the coyotes whimpering and cackling in the fields below me. A cow is nervous tonight, he's lowing quietly to himself.

When you listen close, there's a complex language in those coyote sounds. Long ululations die down into moans, a sharp yap, a baby crying, all over top of each other. It's hard to remember they're just wild dogs and not four-legged demon children with woman heads and snake eyes, like something out of the Dungeons and Dragons Monster Manual.

I seem to recall that a coyote pack usually sounds larger than it actually is. When i was a kid, coyotes used to hang out on my street under the street lamps, trying to lure Subdivision Dogs in for meat.

Now Farmhouse Dogs are barking back, angry and afraid. Moths thump against the lampshade of my shack, an unseen squirrel scratches a loud path through the rafters, coming to rest in the roof directly above me.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Thar's me shack for the next ten days - it's called "The Treehouse". I picked the most remote shack on the farm - mostly because it's the only one with no electric / oil heater. I gotta use the woodstove.

No work today- feels good! I read about chess, fed horses, talked about building guitars. I drove around the farm with the farm manager, shared a beer, talked about trickle chargers, inverters, and solar panel / generator setups. Tried to figure out how many amp-hours in a six-battery setup, where four batteries are in series in parallel with another two batteries in series. I haven't done that shit since I was 21, and the other guy had no idea either, so it boiled down to a mutual cuss-session while fingering wires and flicking switches.

Discussed composting methods, pine beetles, gettin' firewood, dogs, and the weather.

There's a double-header roller derby in Armstrong this weekend. Lumby vs. Enderby, and the Raggedy Rollers: Pink vs. Black. I will be there even if I have to hitch a ride. Earlier in the day is a ploughing competition down the road, but I might be working then.

Great phone conversation with my collaborator / composer / sound designer on Perfect Detonator (my film). We're getting close to the end! Also good Skype conversation with a post-production house, who will be doing the final mix, putting things into Dolby Surround.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


Detail of a painting I finished, that I will now turn into a CD cover.

Today I'm packing for a 10-day creation workshop at an art-farm in the interior of British Columbia. I'm getting good at shipping my studio out - I can do in one large rubbermaid container. Right now I'm defragmenting my laptop, backing up old files, putting on software and files I'll need, rolling up watercolour paper, packing my scanner, and bringing way too many sketchbooks.

I don't know what to expect in the next ten days, but I am hoping to:

(1) Bathe in a waterfall (apparently you're allowed to do this in the summer.)
(2) Sip beer and sit around a campfire with good people, and listen to the wolves howling.
(3) Impregnate my clothes with the smell of woodsmoke. Love that smell!
(4) Have my own shack to sleep in. (There's a lot of different shacks and houses.)
(5) Finish the last shot of my film, and the credits.
(6) Finish the CD Cover.
(7) Come up with some exciting ideas for the dance piece (the reason I'm going).
(8) Get some big belly laughs in.
(9) Sit in the quiet and watch the sky / trees / hills / mountains / grasses, and whatever else happens out there.

It would be great if I could help out on the farm, splitting wood or doing some other physical work, but I think they already have farm hands for that, and I think the people bringing me up there might get pissed if I'm out brushing the horses instead of animating.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

the underbelly of purple things

Three artists get together over wine, salmon stew, and a little somethin' somethin' else. Combine our welding / design / engineering / plumbing / mosaic experience with another interested buddy with shipbuilding / woodworking skills, and here's what happens over dinner - ridiculous sketches for a 15' tall, way-too-phallic, stump sculpture that may go in the front yard sometime this winter.

These kinds of ideas come and go all the time. What makes the difference is actually getting down and dirty and starting the work. Then continuing to work. And getting it finished, even through the end phases when you hate it and think it sucks.

But the magic of art is that it never sucks if you actually work hard and finish it. It always works out. (You also have to listen to your instincts and follow your own style and process... I've seen projects not turn out because the artist is trying to do something that's not within them. I've done that fer sure.)

We'll see if this project goes. There's more sketches than this one, and some pretty neat ideas, but the concept and design needs significant fleshing-out and refinement.

Early fall is big-jellyfish-season, and let me tell ya, those jellyfish are BIG. No more evening swims, I need to be able to spot those sumbitches. Last night an 18" diameter purple bastard bumped against my chin while I was swimming. If my mouth was open, I would have been suckin' gelatinous guck.

I got a few jellyfish zaps on my arms and shoulders while swimming last night, so these ones sting - unlike the hand-sized jellyfish that I've been swimming through all summer. None of the stings were bad enough to leave a welt, but I bet it would suck if I stuck my hand right into the underbelly of one of those purple dudes.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

eye twitch

Two more goddamned tree paintings for the second last shot of the film. When I finish this sumbitch, I'm going to have an art show with a bunch of the paintings I did. I've done this for a previous short film - it's really fun to arrange the paintings in interesting and pleasing ways.

Finally got two cords of good dry wood today. Getting up at 7:00 am tomorrow to start stacking it, then at 9:00 am I'm harvesting 12 garbage pails worth of seaweed / beach sand for the old man's garden, then back again to work on the film and paintings. I probably won't go to bed until 1:00 or 2:00 am tonight as well. My eyes have been twitching for a couple days now, but I'm managing to avoid getting headaches and feeling stressed, for some reason.

Swam in the ocean after sunset tonight. The horizon was deep red, the sky overhead was black with clouds, and the water was sprinkled with constellations of phosphorescent algae. The water is definitely warmer. An old local fellow tells me it's because the weather has been calm - apparently the wind kicks up colder water from below. So all the surface water is slowly warming up to the temperature of the air - and as it warms, it tends to stay up high, because it's less dense than the cold water. Something like that.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

granting done

Back to art! This painting is coming along.

I'm learning a lot about gardening these days. Helping a very old man (at least ninety) maintain his gardens. Every morning now I'm hard at work rejuvenating the soil for next year... layering in sand, mulch, lime, gypsum and seaweed.

My favorite part is using a big gas-powered rototiller to mulch this stuff into a homogeneous earth-smoothie. The machine must be from the seventies, or maybe even older. It burps and chugs loudly, and the exhaust pipe is right on the gear shifter, so I burn my hand every time I shift gears. The exhaust also spews directly into my face. I like it.

Too busy to swim in the ocean consistently, but I love it every time I go. I'm in the water for about ten or fifteen minutes at a time, but I think I can do more once I get swimming every day again. I'm looking for a thermometer that I can link onto my shorts so I can tell how much the temperature of the ocean is changing. I swear it's warming up again, but maybe I'm just getting used to it.

cramming day X

Here's the workspace after ten days of cramming (five to go!)

"Where is all the art?" you might ask yourself. "It doesn't look very crazy."

The reason - today is September 15th. All the art gets put away and Microsoft Word is working like mad.

This is one of the two big deadline days for Canada Council of the Arts grants. CCA is a federal department that gives amazing monetary support for film, painting, dance, new media - any kind of art, as long as you're doing something interesting, and your work is good enough to stand out. The cultural landscape in Canada would be very different without it.

On this day, artists are frenetically filling out forms, touching up proposals, editing and re-editing, compiling DVD's with support material, and rushing to get it to the post office before they close at 5:30 pm. All across Canada artists are doing this. We are bleary-eyed, sleep-deprived and edgy on this day.

I have three hours of gardening to do before I get back to the grant. I'm pissed at the distraction right now, but once I'm out tilling the soil, I'm sure I'll stop and take a deep breath, smell the earth and the dew, and think, "Fuck, I needed this."

Monday, September 13, 2010

you're killing yourself!

Back from two days in the city. It was a slaughterhouse of meetings, restaurant food and how-do-you-do's. Every interstitial moment was occupied by writing a big grant proposal that's due in two days.

I saw two pieces of theater - one was work-related, one not. The work one was great - directed and written by a guy in Vancouver. It was fresh and funny, risky, and filled with insight about sexuality, relationships, and love. Two sex scenes, double-handed anal fisting, witches, vials full of semen... how can you go wrong?

The second play was called "A Life in the Theatre", by David Mamet. The acting was fantastic, and there were some very funny scenes. However, the subject matter of the piece made me understand why the average Joe does not watch theatre.

The first thing I noticed was the audience. The place was packed, but I felt like I was in a church. There was a certain deathly reverence and snobbery afoot. Not a place to say the wrong things aloud! Grey-haired folks in sweaters and slacks. The other third of the crowd was young - they were obviously actors and theatre-school students, who will grow up to wear slacks and sweaters and go see theatre. A recycling audience that is not growing - possibly shrinking.

I wonder why?

Apparently David Mamet is a brilliant playwright - he's best known for writing Glengarry Glen Ross. If you are in theatre, you know this, so you go see it, and you will love it, because (apparently) David Mamet is AMAZING. If you're not in theatre, you don't give a damn. This is the first big problem - don't re-mount a fucking play just because it's a famous playwright. This was written in 1977, for god's sake! Do people recreate movies that have already been done? (Sometimes, but they always suck). Do you find a script written in 1977 and make a movie out of it in 2010? No you don't! Why? Because it's NO LONGER RELEVANT. This is why Shakespeare is not fun for most of us. If you need a literature degree to understand the subtleties of the story, then you enter the vile realm of elitism, and risk isolating 99% of your potential audience.

Also, the play made too many "inside jokes" about theatre as an art form. Actors missing their queues, overacted scenes, and other things which I'm not sure about, but people laughed at. Interludes between scenes were filled by an audio recording of some old theatre guy talking about embarassing theatre things that happened to him. "Old Johnny fell in LOVE with this novel, so he would carry it with him everywhere - even onto the stage during the performance." The audience thought this was hilarious, and guffawed appropriately. Gag.

Why would you perform work that only theatre people will fully enjoy? It seems self-centred, and inconsiderate of the audience. It makes me want to throw chairs and grenades.

Re-creating work is safe because you're not to blame if no one likes the story. The writer is to blame, and if the writer is famous, you're going to look like an uneducated savage if you critique it. It feels a bit like watching a rerun of M*A*S*H on TV. It's been done before, it was good in its time, you know some people will watch it. It passes the time. But it ain't nothing special.

If you want your fucking medium to stay alive, by the gods, PLEASE take some risks and PLEASE talk about things that the world cares about. Create new work. Speak your mind! If you're going to re-mount old work, make it relevant! Do something new with it!

Theatre-goers who enjoy these shows have no right to complain that no one appreciates theatre. The rest of us are taken up by art and stories that are relevant to ourselves, and to the world today. The problem isn't the medium, its the stories you're telling. This is more of an issue in theatre than any other artform I can think of.

But I do have hope. There is some mindblowing theatre out there - and a good live performance is more powerful than anything you will ever see.


Friday, September 10, 2010

cramming day IV

Goodbye, robot. You were fun to design, model, texture and animate. I like the spew that comes out of your smokestacks. I might cut and fold the watercolour paintings of your textures and rebuild you as a little paper robot someday. But until then, rest in peace.

(Note the glitches in the toon shading on his leg-bits. Note that I don't give a damn at this point. They're going to be mostly concealed by foreground elements anyways.)

Thursday, September 9, 2010


Still from the film. The weird smoke cutline in the center of the frame isn't noticeable in the film, because the camera is shaking. This is POV (point-of-view) shot. Four shots left to finish... only one needs animation, the rest just need painting, rendering, and compositing.

While biking home last weekend, I was stunned at the masses of flying ants in the air. They were beautifully backlit in the sunset, and looked like clouds of little faeries - but I was pretty grossed out at the idea of one flying into my mouth.

I've been unstacking and chopping firewood this week, and noticed hundreds of wings in amongst the logs. I only stacked the wood a couple weeks ago, so I knew they only appeared recently. Today I pieced it together - all those flying ants landed and shed their wings!

Then I chopped open a log and all these fucking white termites started crawling out of a hole. Shhee-it! I didn't believe it at first, thinking termites only exist in Africa and Australia. Not so - they also live in Southern British Columbia (and nowhere else in Canada).

Termite colonies have a really complex social structure - the most complex of the insects, with different castes and biologies for different termite roles. Most termites are sterile, but in the spring and fall, the queen breeds a tonne of winged reproductive termites, which fly out en masse and get all horny and do each other and make more termite nests. Kinda cool. Glad I'm renting, though, because that wooden shed near my firewood is going to be toast in a few years.

Second insect observation: As I've been splitting wood, wasps have been gathering with increasing frequency around the chopping block and wood pile. By the end of the day today, there were about thirty or forty wasps buzzing around me. I finally realized that they could detect all the bugs that I was exposing in the split wood. They were picking up bits of squished earwigs, wood lice, termites and ants, and having a heyday. Some were in the woodpile crawling in and out of termite / ant holes and hunting for live ones. How they could detect the insects is a cool little mystery to me. They appeared almost immediately after I first started chopping the wood.

In the city, we've taken over the ecosystem, so 99% of insects / mammals / birds are seen as pests, and removed. It's nice to be back in the middle of it all, watching life thrive around me and eat my house.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

cramming day II

Another watercolour painting I'm working on. Just putting down base colors now, then I'll darken / brighten by adding more washes. A wash of cadmium yellow over the green will really make it glow. My main way to make colours vibrant is by putting them alongside contrasting colours. I love the challenge of placing colours. It puts my mind in a good place.

Swimming in deep, cold water is downright scary at the moment. I'm only staying in for 4-5 minutes now, which isn't long enough to swim any distance or tire myself out. I think fear is making me think I'm less capable than I actually am.

It's a whole new ballgame, because it's harder to breathe at first, my skin tingles and my fingers go numb after only a few minutes. Is that safe? A friend sent me a great article on hyprothermia that says you have at least 2 hours before you go hypothermic, which eased my mind somewhat... but, like I said before, I've saved three people who suddenly "couldn't swim" any more, and all three times the swimmers said they stopped swimming because they got too cold. I can't get that out of my head.

I usually jump in the ocean a few times every winter, and this already feels close to winter temperatures.

I keep telling myself that next time I'll use a wetsuit, but I still can't bring myself to do it. What's the fun in separating yourself and that beautiful water by a thick layer of stinky plastic? That would be like listening to an IPod while praying at a church. The wilderness is my temple, and when I'm givin' my respect I want to be right in there, feeling it as fully as I can, dealing with it using my animal-body and nothing else.

Monday, September 6, 2010


Another watercolor background for the film. It looks chopped-up because I can't fit the whole thing on my scanner, so I scan bits and stitch it back together on the 'puter.

This painting looked terrible for a while. I've come to believe that no painting / drawing is ever a writeoff.. if you keep at it enough, it will turn into something that looks okay, even if it's way different than you first imagined. But if it looks good and you continue to work on it, you can wreck it as well. It's tough to know when to stop, especially on big acrylic / oil paintings, because it's so easy to work and rework.

I have so many projects on the go that it's a little overwhelming. I'm cramming to finish three projects at once, including my film. There's going to be a lot of late nights in the next two weeks. I want to get everything finished by Sept 21st - that's when I start cabin-ing at an Art-Farm in the interior for 10 days, to workshop a Vancouver-based project with a dancer, another animator, a composer and a puppeteer.

The weather is cooling down and I only have 2/3rds of a cord of firewood. I hate it when I don't have enough firewood. It's like having an empty bank account, or no food in the fridge. Probably how a bear would feel if he didn't fatten up enough before winter. I'm supposed to get 2 cords in the next week or two, but I'm having a hard time getting a hold of the people who promised me the wood.

It's harder to swim these days because the water is cooling off so much. Tomorrow I'm going to put on the ol' wetsuit. It's a sleeveless wetsuit, so I'm not confident that it's going to feel much better. We'll see.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

seaweed and theatre and the unspeakable horrors of the city

I was in Vancouver this week for some project-getting-ready-meetings. That's all I have to say about that.

I feel very privileged to be working with a couple performances this fall. One is a dance piece, the other is a play, which might turn into a graphic novel / PhD thesis. Most people think theater is an old / boring / uncomfortable art form, but let me tell ya - it is the most fun creative work I will ever do! Theater people are usually fantastic collaborators, and I always feel like a rockstar when I work with them.

I also feel very privileged to be gardening / farming a fair bit lately. There's an old man on this island - maybe in his 90's - who can't bend over any more, so I'm helping with his garden 2-3 times a week. Today was the big harvest, because tomorrow is the last farm market of the season. Taking down the corn, pulling out spuds, carrots and beets. Cutting out the cabbage and cauliflower and trimming them nice n pretty for the market.

It feels really good to pull these amazing colorful balloons of energy out of the ground - products of love and labour and experience, straight from the earth into someone's kitchen the next day.

I love learning from our elders - there is so much experience and wisdom, you gotta just listen and suck that up. On these islands, they use seaweed to help fertilize the ground. I think we'll be out raking up seaweed into his truck in a week or two.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

shake that body

I'm sorting through old files tonight, in preparation for a meeting on Friday. this is a still from an film project I worked on last year. It's a 3D animated character with watercolour painted textures - one of my most successful merges of the two mediums so far. I can't wait to experiment more with this process in future collaborations and films.

The ocean temperature dropped significantly over the last two days. I don't know if it'll come back up this year. In northern lakes, there's a cold layer of water that kinda "flips over" in the fall, and the lakes suddenly get cold until next spring. I think it would be different in oceans, because of the huge volume and the constant current. I'm hoping the temperature rises again so I can do some swim-challenges I've planned before it's too late.

Tonight, after about 15 minutes of swimming, it was cold enough that my arms started to tingle. My legs were okay, probably because they're thicker, more blood flows through them, and they're hairier. It took me about 20 minutes to cross the cove, and I was cold enough that I got out of the water on the other shore to warm up for a couple minutes, then swam back.

On the way back my arms were tingling a little sooner, then they got numb in the last few minutes before shore. They weren't performing well, and it took more shoulder-work to throw them forward. I could see how people suddenly stop swimming when they get too cold. If my legs got as numb as my arms, it would have been a scary couple of minutes swimming back to shore. I don't know if I would have made it.

Thirty minutes later, I have my wool hat and two sweaters on, trying to warm up - my core temperature obviously dropped as well.

It's really fun pushing my body like this and observing how it reacts.

I'll be damned if I stop swimming this winter. I don't want to use a wetsuit - I'm hoping I can get used to it somehow. I'm definitely going to stick closer to shore for a while though.