“I aim to make my work a counterweight to destructive forces operating in the world. Since the surest way to predict my own future is to try to create it myself, I look for inspiration in light and color. As a painter of landscape and still life, I choose to create images inspired by nature’s energies. Giving visible shape to my internal vision fosters healing in myself and others, moving artist and viewer alike from where we are toward some better place.”
Annie Shaver-Crandell sits across from me on a wide bench seat with floral pillows. Green fronds from potted plants grow unruly, crawling to the window by her corner. She wears jeans and a paint-stained dress shirt. The late afternoon light trickles through the window, painting her face with a soft glow. I fumble with the camera and the tripod, forgetting the questions I meant to ask. I think I arrived right after she woke up. She watches me patiently, stoically. We have met twice before, under the pretenses of a family affairs. I know little of her, except that she is distantly related too my boyfriend, and is an artist. She’s sort of intimidating, despite her relaxed posture. I stumble over words and say “Umm” a lot. She says, “I’m putty in your hands. ” Then we begin.
Originally from Oberlin Ohio, Annie Shaver-Crandell moved to New York City to pursue a graduate education in Art History, specializing as a Renaissance and Medievalist art historian. She taught at City College of New York, and is now a semi-retired painter. For the last 50 years, she has resided in NYC in her NoHo loft, where she also teaches art classes in the sunny, spacious back studio. She reminds me not to take pictures of her students work, which litters some of the easels. “I don’t even make a mark on my students work without their permission,” she says. “I hate when teachers do that.”
Within her apartment, the walls are a gallery of oil or watercolor Still Life paintings and Monotype prints. Much of her work is based on nature: flowers, animals, or scenery. Her paintings have spontaneous brushwork, energetic colors, and soft edges. Its easy to see the influence of impressionist painters. Because much of her work is done “Plein Air” style, the images must be captured in the moment. Light and subject matter are impermanent, so quick brushwork is the only way to ensure that she can capture the essence of what she sees. She also has a sort of “so what” attitude to painting: Make one and go on to the next.
One can observe many types of opposition in her work: spontaneity and control, light and dark, color and contrast, and even in her own life of city living and nature escapes. She says she’s attracted to “boundaries,” something particularly apparent in her Plein Air paintings. The boundaries in her paintings feel expansive though. They offer serenity without redundancy, and vibrate with color. There is an emphasis on the separation of land by water or sky, and afterwards, from a colorful painting and a white gallery wall.
The basic Idea for the cat cafe was to create something that would be collapsible (thus more easily stored in a NYC apartment). By using interlocking pieces and support beams I was able to create 2 story puppet theater.
The Concept Sketches:
The Laser cutting:
The Finger Cats:
The Yeti HEad:
Snacks from FrancesAlbatross on Vimeo.
Continuous line drawing/ color transitions in 5 steps. Colored in Photoshop.
Color Theory Assignment: Experimenting with color families
Linework done with ink. Colored Digitally using photoshop
This is really what happens when Ben is out of town and I’m left to my own devices.
My initial idea for the project was to create something artsy and moody (as most of my work turns into that), but I found myself put off by the pretentiousness of it all. I shot some preliminary videos and didn’t like how they turned out. But, because my boyfriend was out of town all week, I binged on junk food, knowing that he would not be around to save me from myself (ie. eat my snacks before i get to them.).
I had the idea to record something mundane, but to make it strange and silly. Because food is so often a theme in my work, I thought it would be interesting (or rather, obnoxious) to create a video of myself eating increasingly strange things. This video was intended, in part, to be a funny and vaguely passive aggressive thing to send to my boyfriend. It is my way of saying, “This is what happens when you leave town for a week!” It would also serve to explain why food in the fridge had teeth marks in them. I used some spooky sounds from freesound.org as the background music to add to the overall strangeness of the video. I also wanted to fully acknowledge how horrifying it is to hear chewing and see closeups of eating.
For editing, I chose to create lots of cut scenes with Medium shots to extreme closeups. I also took out some frames from each clip to create jump cuts and jerky movements. I am mostly happy with how it turned out. I wish that many of the closeup shots were in better focus though. I’ll know for next time.
Video Shot with a Canon EOS D70, sound recorded with a shotgun mic attachment, all ambient music from Freesound.org.
I’m often inspired by mythology, lore, and the monsters within these stories. I think that all mythology has some root in reality, even if it’s just an abstract embodiment of human fears. I still grapple with the ghosts of childhood. My attraction to stories is fueled by my escapist tendencies. Perhaps this is why so many of my projects take on a sinister or absurd tone.
Creating texture on a hand puppet is my main inspiration for the project. I sketched out many variations of possible hand puppets to create, but struggled between creating The Tooth Fairy, Krampus, and the Yeti. In a perfect world I could make them all, but for now, I onluy have time for one. I was really attracted to the idea of creating long fur out or yarn and fabric, as well as possible playing around with felting. The Yeti won.
In researching Yeti’s, I came across some really great Conspiracy videos “proving” the existence of these creatures via footage of a lumbering white figure.. I came across many more articles that link Yeti DNA samples to various bear species. Using reference photos from monkeys, bears, and Wampas (thanks Star Wars!), I was able to come up with a design that incorporated apelike features, big hands, and floppy fur. I hope to find a balance between sinister and silly.
When asked about where he gets his ideas for stories, Neil Gaiman said, “
What if….a Yeti were at a cat cafe in Brooklyn? Is he a tourist? Is he looking to adopt? Did he get put there by mistake? Are the other customers frightened or intrigued? How to the cats interact with him? Who knows. This has the makings to become a major sitcom though.
The hands, feet, and face will all be made of epoxy clay. The outer covering will be plain fabric covered in many layers of whitish yarn, twine, and other fabric. The interior of the puppet will be a mateless glove.
I plan on using the laser cutter for much of the background. I want all elements to be collapsible (much like an Ikea furniture set). I don’t have room to store things in my apartment, so this is always the constraint. By using the laser cutter, I can cut thin`gs to interlock with one another. The cats must be felted though. And there needs to be A LOT of them.
In the end, the backdrop will be a floor, 2 side panel walls, and a back wall with a hinged door. Lighting will likely be an LED lamp. I want to capture video footage of the Yeti in the cat cafe too, because the world needs this right now.
DVP Group Assignment
Our initial idea for the video was a pre-finals nightmare, solidly based on a reality where everything at school is broken when it’s most needed. We wanted to channel the anxiety of needing to print and submit files, running from one room to another, and dropping papers along the way. Getting various shots of Elena running was critical, as well as close ups of her hands and face. I was inspired by the film analyses of Pans Labrynth and Dark Night. I noted how little the camera stayed still. It was constantly in motion, even if just a slow sweep in one direction or the other. I wanted to create something dynamic, with smooth cut scenes and fluid movements.
Lauren, Elena, and I all had very similar storyboards. The story: Elena during finals, with everything going wrong (the computer freezing, the printers down, the paper cutter not working), and ending as she wakes up from the finals nightmare.
Filming was easy. Lauren, Elena, and I all took turns shooting footage, and were able to agree on the most important scenes. Lauren’s background in film was a trememdous help when it came to dynamic camera movement and abstract shots. The snorri-cam and tracking shots were lots of fun to shoot as well. The only challenges that arose came about from the other people in the room. We had to film around them, and migrate to multiple areas within the 8th floor if our previous spot was taken over.
When it came to editing, I realized that I didn’t have all of the shots i wanted, but I also didn’t want to create a straightforward narrative. I almost completely threw out the storyboard and had to start from scratch. In the beginning, editing was difficult, only because I wasn’t sure what direction to take with the story. I started looking for “spooky music” and created the movie based on what I found. In the background, there is ambient electronic buzzing music and Tibetan singing bowls. To my surprise, much of the raw audio we captured from the camera was usable as well. The use of sound and music allowed me the flexibility to have blacked out areas of the screen, while still progressing the story.
One things that surprised me the most was how different each of the videos turned out. Elena’s video was humorous, while Laurens was moody. Much of the footage I omitted, they used. It was also interesting to see how sound could transform the same footage in such different ways: the use of ambient noise versus dramatic Vivaldi concertos, or sound effects versus the absence of.
There’s no particular reason that a Jackelope was the first idea to come to mind when given the puppet assignment. I suspect, there were two possible reasons for inspiration: a recent podcast I listened to or an Autumn homesickness from bunny-laden Michigan.
Initially, I wanted to create a skeletal creature which would closely resemble an anatomical rabbit. Creating the vertebrae out of epoxy turned into more of an ordeal than I had thought it would be. Lack of clear reference photos or access to an actual skeleton made it extremely difficult to create anything passably realistic. However, the Sculpey teeth I made were quite nice.
Next was the head. I used foil and masking tape to build the bulk of the head. I then used armature wire and masking tape to build up the antlers and ears. When the basic form was complete, I used an awl to puncture holes in the jaw for teeth, and secure everything in place with epoxy. The ears and antlers were reinforced with epoxy clay as well.
The body was a challenge. I had to compromise between making a form that was more rabbit-like or more human like. I opted for the latter. I wanted the Jackelope to be able to stand on two legs, but with the joint configuration in the hind legs that would allow it to also sit on all fours. Youtube was an invaluable source for figuring out ways to make the joints of the skeleton. I created loops from heavy gauge armature wire to use to latch the joints together. The skeleton frame was then covered in foil and masking tape. I had to pay careful attention to the way the joints would bend. To ensure that the limbs would not move in every direction, I had to build in “stops.” This meant adding layers of foil to ensure that joints only had clearance to move in one direction or the other.
I made the choice to only make the paws and head of the Jackelope detailed, because everything else would be covered with some sort of fabric. I used epoxy clay to cover the surface of the paws, and scored the surface to give the appearance of fur. I used acrylic paint to cover the surfaces that would be visible.
When faced with the problem of covering the frame I quickly remembered that sewing is awful and I hate it. 3 garments were destroyed in the process of experimentation. After collapsing in a pile of frustration and fabric scraps, I decided that gutting a stuffed animal would be the easiest option to maintain some amount of my sanity. The sacrificial stuffed sloth i found was imperfect but usable. The skin and Jackelope frame both required modifications though: the frame was too wide, and the limbs of the skin were too short. I used a hammer to compress the foil layers in the pelvis and thighs. For the skin, I extended both the arms and legs using leftover fabric (and minimal sewing). Fuzzy fabric is very forgiving, and I was able to Frankenstein a suit together, plu8s re-use some of the stuffing to make the Jackelpoe pleasantly squeezable.
I was unsure what to do for eyes. Again, I was torn between a realistic or an obviously fabricated solution. I thought about using clay, beads, or just leaving the sockets empty, and then decided to repurpose the eyes of the Sloth. I used Epoxy clay to build up the eye sockets a little more and then put the cloth eyes in place.
The headless Jackelope was quite fun to play with. I attached some throwaway string to the body, just to see how the puppet would move. Paul Andrejco mentioned during his lecture that puppet creations sort of have a mind of their own. My headless Jackelope was floppy and grotesque like a raw chicken. I loved him.
The last issue was attaching the stings to the controller. The string I was originally using kept tangling or breaking. I ended up getting super thick fishing wire, which once attached, looked like overkill. I’m not sure what professional puppeteers do to keep their strings from tangling, but I definitely see the fishing wire as a temporary solution for now.
I am very happy with how my puppet turned out. My favorite aspect of creating 3D work is how tactile it is, and how it invites the viewer to play and explore. I plan to use more 3d elements in my work in the future, but for now, I have a Jackelope to hang out with.