Friday, November 7, 2008

Estepa Steps

On this week's agenda was a field trip with Don and José Maria from the video production crew. Our goal was to gather shots of the towns in the area for the new intro, which I had been one of my tasks here. So we packed up the cameras and after a few false starts due to inclement weather, we finally were on our way Thursday afternoon.

Our first stop was Aguadulce, just a few kms down the highway. We drove through the streets of this tiny town looking for the centro urbano - the cernter of town where there was likely to be some sort of landmark to photograph. Eventually, we found a tiny plaza mayor with an ayunamiénto (town hall) and a pretty fountain. That's it. We asked some locals - no nothing else in town. And they didn't even know why it was called Aguadulce! At least they could have made something up!

Next stop - Estepa. If I was moving to this area, I would live in Estepa. It is huddled part way up two rocky hills that promise some great sunset views. And below, spread out to the north is a buena vista de campania. There is a crubling torre on a hill with a lovely park, and a nice bustle of people climbing steep, narrow streets. But really, the reason I want to live there is that every year, from October to January, the town is permeated with the sweet, smell of browning sugar and cinnamon. Polvorones y Mantecados are the traditional dulces of Estepa and they are so famous they are shipped all over the world. Several factories are scattered throughout the town and there is a sweets shop on every corner. Don't ask what they put in these crumbly treats. (Really, you don't want to know!) But I tried one in the museo and well... just had to buy a whole bag!

After a lengthy lunch in the upper floor of El Morocho, watching businessmen wheel and deal as we waited and waited for our food, we quickly headed to Herrera. Again, on plaza, and one fountain. Not much else.

El Rubio was a bit more promising, but there was a funeral at the church so we couldn't really stop and take pictures. I tried to find out who this Blonde Guy was that had such a quaint little town named after him, but to no avail. I guess there are lots of blondes roaming around getting things named afer them.

The final stop was La Antiquela, José Maria's hometown. The light was fading fast, so we snapped some pictures and headed back to Osuna just in time to catch the dusk on the cathedral.

It was a long day! But well worth it. The intro is done and with only a few more weeks left, I have many things on my list of hope-to-finish!

Más fotos de España



Monday, October 13, 2008

The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plains

The temperamental nature of autumn is truly evidenced in Andalusia. We have had rain showers followed by near summer days of warm southern sun and then rain showers again for the past few weeks. I am still finding my rhythm within the Spanish schedule and artist’s temperament. For one more week before the clocks turn back, the town is enjoying the evening paseo before the sun sets at 7:45. The fact that it is still dark at 8am makes lingering in bed quite appealing after my late nights, but the time change might help me to shift back to a slightly more average schedule.

For the first time in months I have a kitchen to play in again and I am indeed playing. My first weekend, I attempted the famed tortilla espana, not to be confused with the tortilla mexicana – which seem to have no influence here whatsoever. A tortilla, in Spain is more like an Italian frittata or an open omelet. Anything can go in one, but usually potatoes and onions are the classic version. I tried my hand, managing to flip the thing (there is a secret!) without sending the contents all over the stove. Aaron, the son of my hosts, who grew up in Spain and was back home for a weekend from Sevilla, gave my resulting tortilla a B- It tasted great but looked a little on the thin side. Next time I will have to fill the whole pan (they have special tortilla pans here!) to the top and see what happens.Osuna is in the heart of farm country. The olive harvest is beginning. Trucks of green olives for canning are carted from the groves each day. Soon the black ones will be hauled to the presses just down the road to make the delicious local brand of oils Santa Theresa 1881 that I find in the stores all over here. I think the reason my tortilla tasted so good to me what because I could taste the subtle flavors of oil holding all the tastes together.

Osuna is not on the tourist highways of Spain. It is industrial farm country, the gritty back-country that feeds much of Europe. Walking around town there were times when I would turn a corner and feel I was in Mexico. Buildings crumble behind fences made from old bedsprings and chicken wire. Stray dogs dig through piles of trash as they roam the streets. The occasional look on the face of an elder person I pass on an evening walk hints that this is not the happy pastoral peasant life that is so often painted in our minds when we think of the Old World. But neither is it a worn and weary existence. The town hums to its own rhythm. At 2pm the streets liven up from a quiet morning and children stop for dulce on their way home from school. By 3pm, silence has settled over the town as people eat, rest, and pause in the middle of the day to recollect themselves. Around 430pm things begin to stir again, reaching a crescendo of soccer matches, street games, paseos and housewives dashing out for pan caliente before everything shuts down after sunset. On a Friday night, the main drag, Calle Alfonso XII, plays host to the local youth popping wheelies on motorcycles and enjoying the 85cent tapas at El Ejido and other bars around town.

Next week we start talking about the TV program, which I am here to improve, or at least add an outside perspective and creative breath of fresh air. Luckily Don will be translating for me, so there is another opportunity for improvement. Nothing like hearing the words you wanted to say in Spanish immediately after saying them in English! I have mostly been learning through osmosis, with a little bit of daily study with the dictionary. Already, I have noticed an improvement. I can actually put together whole phrases when I walk into a shop, rather than just blurting out the occasional word. Hopefully by the time I leave I will be speaking in sentences!

Friday, October 10, 2008

osuna espana

After a very busy summer, I have the great fortune to be transported to a place of rest and inspiration. Some friends have kindly let me stay in their empty house in the small town of Osuna, one of the white towns of Andalucía, in the south of Spain. My purpose for being here is to shake the dust of daily life off my soul and excavate the new animated short that is underneath. As I step out of my social and professional worlds into this town of cobbeled streets, siestas and aceitunas, I find the autumn overcast and language barrier provide the right environment for creative work.

Yesterday evening, my first in Osuna, I took a stroll up to the plaza mayor to check out the scene. At 7:30pm the town square is bustling with children, old men on park benches, old ladies strolling. The sounds of sport spilling from the local bars and the bass from the university student's cars are drowned out by a saturation of swallows in the trees. They perch there, like an overabundance of ripe fruit chattering and squabbling away. Truely the social hour before la cena. As dusk falls, people begin to head to their casas for the evening and I wander down quiet streets to my own place of rest.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Yonder, Yonder, Yonder

There seems to have been a lot going on for me this summer. I have been moving in multiple directions, if that is possible for a 3 dimensional being. Opportunities have come pounding at my door leaving me in 'analysis paralysis', to borrow a friend's well-coined term, wondering where this grand vision will lead me and if I have the strength of mind and heart to follow it.

The other morning, I came across a poem that pin-pointed exactly how I felt - poetry does that so well! Indeed, I had been asking myself Hopkin's own question: how, with all these blessings, can I feel "so haggard at the heart, so care-coiled, care-killed, so fagged, so fashed, so cogged, so cumbered" by my grander vision. What beauty do I hold in my hands that must be freely forfeit to a fonder care?

The entire poem, for the poetically minded, is here.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Sugar Pine Point State Park

It has been a long time since the last post, but not an unproductive time! Amongst other things, I recently spent a day at Sugar Pine Point introducing the masses to the wonders of plein air animation. It was part of the Living History Day at the park, an annual event that introduces visitors to the unique history of the lakeside mansions and Tahoe basin. As a local artist, I was invited to share my talents with the visitors. Click on the pine cone to see the results of our 6 hours of collaboration.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


A month of bloggimating actually served its purpose of getting me started on the new film. I'm storyboarding at the moment, so no new animation to post for a while. In between times, however, I am moving down a new tangent, a poetical one. So many of the images in my head are birthed from poetry and now I am occasionally scribbling them down as they come. Here is one worth sharing.


The sky puts on the darkening blue coat
held for it by a row of ancient trees;
you watch: and the lands grow distant in your sight,
one journeying to heaven, one that falls;

and leave you, not at home in either one,
not quite so still and dark as the darkened houses,
not calling to eternity with the passion
of what becomes a star each night, and rises;

and leave you (inexpressibly to unravel)
your life, with its immensity and fear,
so that, now bounded, now immeasurable,
it is alternatively stone in you and star.
~ Rainer Maria Rilke ~

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Someone recently pointed out to me that I seem to be obsessed with birds. They seem to find their way into most of my animations at some point. There are lots of birds around Tahoe and they are all crazy-in-love at the moment! I was finishing up some yardwork yesterday and heard this lovely voice from the tip top of the pine tree in our yard. It was a large starling and looked ready to impress the first lady that flew by. At first his warbling just sounded like beautiful tones all mixed up, but as I started listening more carefully, I began to pick things out. Starlings imitate other birds, and I heard him talking to the blackbirds, then the seagulls followed by ducks, a goose and a hawk cry (both of which sounded like they were off in the distance). I was impressed… but then he REALLY busted out the repertoire! He yipped like the coyotes across the meadow (you can often hear them at night around here and sometimes even see them during the day) and croaked like the frogs in the marsh, and I swear I heard a little girl’s delighted scream (the kind we make when we go down a really steep hill on a sled). It was astounding – a Tahoe Keys Concert from a one-bird band.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

I get paid to do this?

I've actually gotten a bit of work recently, so the fun experiments have slowed down a bit, but the creative animation continues. This is for a local group of filmmakers, artists, musicians and creative people who have there little "Pet Projekts". Click on the picture to see the latest.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Pencil tests

When I start a new film, it often begins with a strong image in my mind. I may not even have a story or a full picture of characters developed, but I can see in my mind's eye a particular scene that will end up in the film. These end up being the cornerstones of the plot and I build around them. The particular challenge is that usually these images are so strong and well-developed they become intimidating! I am never sure if I will be able to do them justice with pencil and paper. This particular scene has been bouncing around for a while. Amazingly, I think I managed to get pretty close! It's been a while since I've done straight-up classical character animation, so I'm pretty excited I'm not as rusty as I thought.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Opera in the barn

Today I went down to the Washoe valley and the historic Davis Ranch. There is a big, dilapidated barn resting underneath an even bigger dilapidated cottonwood tree. One or the other or both will likely not last another season and the Tahoe Art League was invited to photograph and sketch on the site for the benefit of posterity. I did take some pictures of the exterior of the barn, but inspiration struck as I wandered inside. The light seeping through the decaying siding became my palette. My obsession with slow shutter speeds continues. I stopped down to 1 second exposures and started moving the camera around to see what would happened. I was pretty eager to get home and see the results. Some of the still images are fascinating, mysteriously musical.

As for the animation, my technique needs a little refinement, I think, but throw a few Amici vocals under the abstract images and we have a MacLaren-esque bit of animation.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The bird returns

I wanted to see what this would look like with a bit of color. I started with tempera and then switched to watercolor. Can you tell where I switched?

Thursday, March 20, 2008

I would like...

Once you set your mind on a task, suddenly the world conspires to distract you from it. Two weeks seems to be more manageable for posting, but perhaps the results are worth the wait...

Everything is far
and long gone by.
I think that the star
glittering above me
has been dead for a million years.
I think there were tears
in the car I heard pass
and something terrible was said.
A clock has stopped striking in the house
across the road...
When did it start?...
I would like to step out of my heart
and go walking beneath the enormous sky.
I would like to pray.
And surely of all the stars that perished
long ago,
one still exists.
I think I know
which one it is --
which one, at the end of its beam in the sky,
stand like a white city...

~Rainer Maria Rilke

Wednesday, March 5, 2008


This is the first of a series of weekly bloggimation. My intention for these little weekly animations is to overcome the inertia that is commonly associated with Blank Canvas Syndrome - that ineffable fear of making the first mark on a new project. Yes, I am percolating ideas for my next film. Sorry, still keeping things hidden behind the curtain, but I will disclose that it is a narrative short and I will need to brush up on my drawing and painting skills. Hence the above 10 seconds.

I am occasionally blessed with bald eagle sightings on the beach near my house. I haven't seen the eagle for a few months now, blame crazy snowstorms, my lack of outdoor activity while being sick, or just not crossing paths.

There's about 100 drawings in this sequence and I'm in the process of adding some paint, but, well, that's gonna take a while! Look for it next week (hopefully).