Less Talk, more Pics

The Staircase (I need feedback: does it look refined or sloppy? Stylish or shoddy? Surreal or... not surreal....)

Sweet simulated tree bark that's stylish and aesthetic (in my opinion)....

New Studio Setup with the workbench....


Where The Wild Things Are= Jungian Coping Mechanism

Interesting read on Where the Wild Things are from a Jungian perspective- arguing that Max deals with anger via his imagination/ projections (which would be the land of the Wild Things).

This is eerily similar to the coping mechanism for Balder which drives my narrative dioramas (I loved WTWTA as a kid, but hadn't recently considered it on a psychoanalytic level, though in retrospect I suppose it's not that hard to see). So I was pleasantly surprised to see parallels in the method of WTWTA and the development of my own work.

And, the author parallels WTWTA to Jung's Red Book, which I posted on earlier. (!) I think I'm onto something conceptually with all of these interests of my constantly overlapping.... It reassures me a little bit that my narrative may actually be valid.

Experimenting Results

Smooth plaster carved with a tool (gave a nice cracked effect with the foam base)

Wiping away the paint left an interesting texture

Bark tests (wood dowel from freshman year! and modeling paste). The area just left of the center works the best, I think.
My workzone (note the developing staircase)

Mark Powell

I got an exciting email from the weekend: a reply back from Mark Powell, a diorama artist whose "dream dioramas" are simultaneously surreal, disturbing, macabre, aesthetic, and contain that "so gross I want to look away but can't" aspect about them. He's really polished his craft and I was humbled that he was so helpful in providing me insight, wisdom (and encouragement) into the world of diorama making.

Among the list of things I asked were a couple of technical questions and some inquiries about his creative process and thoughts on the importance of visual storytelling. I got some really great information.

A sample of his work (courtesy of www.markpowellart.com)


Rock Castings

Experimenting with plaster over the foam bridge. I like the 5 or so minutes you have when plaster is between a liquid and setting, the point where you can mould it with a knife....

Also, I broke the excess out of the pouring bucket and smashed it around with a hammer a bit, giving me some good extra rocks of various sizes....

Experimentation Results

More experimentation today. The foam/ plaster combo gave me some pretty good looking rocks. Messed around with acrylic paint, spray adhesive, the wire foam cutter, and fake foliage for a mossy effect.

Foam seems to give me the best armature for a base, but what to use on top? I really like the look of the paper mache rock (the round one partially covered by moss.) I sprinkled foliage on it after I took these photos and really liked the result. I don't know if paper mache will make good carved stone though.... Might have to keep up with the plaster.

My best rock (plaster chip and acrylic paint)

Foam bridge, rocks, foliage/ moss

The round paper mache rock (hard to see in the pic, but it has a great texture)

My dining room table. Thanks to my housemates for putting up with this for a couple days....


Museum of Natural History

Today in studio was experimenting with plaster and foam, trying it out at various stages of its hardening onto foam, carving/ texturing it, breaking it, etc. Pics of those results once I do paint tests on them. For now, pictures of beautiful shadowboxes at the NYC museum of natural history (check out the viewing window of the nautical one- it establishes an interior viewpoint with an external window):


New Home Set upse

Got my new 2nd display today: it's unbelievable.

At studio today, I did a ton of researching on materials and their uses, including things as standard as plaster and paper mache to fake aquarium plants. I am discovering that terragenesis.co.uk is becoming a very resourceful site for me, with lots of techniques to get me and my diorama-building skills off the ground....


Norse Cosmology/ Shamanism

During a discussion with my Norse mythology professor today I came across some really interesting material that will likely fuel my research for not only her term paper that I have to write, but for my IP as well....

We were talking about comparative/ psychological schools of thought and how the New Age ideas of Campbell are not too respected any more (at least, anyone following in Campbell's footsteps doesn't hold much weight in the academic realm). This is a little discouraging to me, because I love the concept that narratives/ mythologies are universal and driven by the basic, psychological desires of humans.

The root question, though "why do myths share similarities across cultures?" is still interesting to me, even if the answer isn't some deep, spiritual thing. We got onto talking about the conflict between the gods and giants, and the war between the warrior gods (Aesir) and the fertility gods (Vanir) and why such a mythological system would be in place (and why, for example, is there also a god-giant conflict... god/ titan... in Greek Myth). The answer was rooted in the structure of the society - the struggle for power of the 'producer' class of farmers (represented as Vanir) and the warrior/ priest class (represented as the Aesir).

Since the warrior/ priest class was more dominant in these indo-european cultures, this seems like a good reason why the Aesir are much less mysterious in their names and family tree (Odin, Thor, Balder, Heimdall....)

That led to a discussion on why the cosmology of the Norse universe existed the way it did - the 9 world concept with a central tree Yggradsil (an Axis Mundi). This is what really intruiged me. While the Aesir/ Vanir/ Giant conflicts can be traced to class structure and seem to evolve as indo-europeans spread across the continent, the concept of an Axis Mundi linking the heavens and the earth exists pervasively across the world.

Professor Gull explained to me that this concept has its roots in Shamanistic thought/ practice, which is a form of religion much older and much more universal than Celtic, Greek, or Norse mythology. Kind of like "layer 1" in the build up of Norse myth, which can be rooted in psychology and exist across the world because of the innate desires of humans. Shamanistic practice (the way I understand it) often involves separating the mind from the body and sending out one's spirit to communicate with the gods/ the dead/ animals/ etc. Yggdrasil, or any cosmic world pillar, serves as the channel/ path to connecting between the worlds is traversed by these few who are capable of separating mind and body.

I think this concept, of separating mind from body, may arise as a result of the phenomenology of dreaming, which is a highly influential aspect of most (all?) world cultures/ religions.

I've already been diving into research with some interesting results, and I'm looking forward to examining other Axis Mundis from other world religions/ mythologies/ etc....


The Sun Myth

This isn't diorama specific work, but this piece (from the 'execute a concept 3 ways' exercise) informs my world building and visual style that is developing for the dioramas.... It's another way of telling the Sun Myth that I depicted in a digital painting earlier.

Terrain Test

Sloppy craftsmanship, but the point was to just experiment with some rock castings, sculpey, painting, and liquid resin pouring (for water)....

Diorama Sketches

Riding the waves

This project, in its planning stages, is quite the up and down ride. I go from being all gung-ho about it and excited one moment, to questioning how I can possibly get anything "good" out of it, how it will prepare me for any kind of career, how I can hope to make sequential dioramas when I have little to no experience with them....

I think the biggest fork in the road I see is whether I want the dioramas to be sequential or to be exhibited as separate narratives. Ideally, I want them to all thread together, but I have this hunch that the quality of the dioramas I'm making will change drastically with the second, third, fourth, fifth attempts....

I also have big ideas for "moving" dioramas, shifted lighting, and interactivity, but those are all overambitious at this point. I just need to sit down and make a diorama (or two) before I start thinking about the evolution of them.

I did some sketching tonight which had some positive results. I am happy with the composition of two (almost three) of the scenes I've had brewing in my mind for a while. I'll post them when I get them scanned and a color study thrown on top of them.


Some Inspiration

The Secret Garden (can't find the artist)....
A post on Terragenesis.co.uk
Thomas Doyle


Current Focus

Preparing for a brief presentation tomorrow has given me the chance to focus my energy on where I want to take my IP. The exercise mentioned earlier - executing a borrowed idea 3 ways and an idea from my own writing 3 ways has generated a couple of interesting results, but ultimately proven to me that diorama building is what I really want to make, and what I really want to get good at.

I was hesitant at first about the diorama concept, but I think all of hesitations are unfounded and are merely obstacles that I must be willing to overcome and work through.

At this point, I am ready to go all out to build these narrative dioramas that suggest a voyage and return style journey of a small child through a surreal, exotic dream world. Many sculptural elements in the scenes will be built digitally, then rapid prototyped. Much of the scenery will be built the way a miniature railroad builder or military diorama artist would work. Backgrounds may be painted (for open environments) or self-containing (for interiors).

I am trying to ask myself a lot of the "why? how?" kinds of questions, for both the concept and form of the project.

These questions include:

-What advantages does a diorama have?
-Why is the story I want to tell important, at all?
-Why do I have to work with digital media?
-How will building dioramas prepare me for a future career???

I have some of the answers, but still much more to consider....

The number one advantage/ reason to execute my project this way? The idea of surreal dioramas always gets me excited and I don't think I'll ever get bored or grow weary of it....


Walter Wick

Walter Wick, creator of the I-Spy books, does some really cool visual storytelling with miniature sets, forced perspective, and digital manipulations. This similar to the output I'd thought of for the Bedroom Diorama that I constructed this past summer- a digital assemblage consisting of a set, lighting, and "post-production" layering and photomanipulation.

This guy has a team of artists working for him to make these images, which is a little discouraging for me ("how can I ever achieve such quality when I'm flying solo?"), but also inspiring ("I see what he's done, and see that it works, and I can take that and spin it into confidence for my own diorama/ tableau work....")

2 Mind Maps

The first is for my idea of 'mythopoeia,' or generating a mythology.
The second is the components of building shadowbox dioramas. The more I investigate visual styles for my project, the more I convince myself that I want to build shadowboxes....

***The bubbles in the second picture are saturated according to my confidence level of that particular bubble. E.g., I am very confident in painting and sculpting, but have little to no confidence in 'Shadowbox Construction' or 'Knowledge of Electricity.' This is a nice way for me to lay out visually what areas I need to push myself to investigate.

Mind maps were created with Bubbl.us, a free mind-mapping program (I believe it's Java based)....


More pictures coming soon

My new direction is this: taking two narrative ideas (one of my own invention, one that has been previously established) and executing each idea 3 different ways. This is in response to my inability to make decisions on a visual style; hopefully this will give me an idea of where I want to place the emphasis of my IP project, and how I want to execute it.

I am using the Fall of the Sun myth (of my own creation, which is, of course, not really original at all, but taking and reinterpreting various sun myths) as well as the character Geryon from Dante's inferno. Geryon is the monster of Fraud. It is interesting to me to see how Dante has adapted and reinterpreted Geryon to fit his own allegorical needs from his original roots as a Spanish king. Furthermore, its interesting to see how I interpret Geryon in my head, and how he takes on qualities unique to my brain (in comparison with other representations of the monster). He is already becoming something of my own creation....

I haven't been bringing the camera to studio, but there will be many more images soon. I actually have a ton of stuff to post- commentary on the Goonies, a mind map (or two) and some interesting links....