Streetcar Gremlins in Watercolor

Watercolor has become my medium of choice when depicting my lil gremlins.  Here are three of my most recent paintings.  I'm torn when it comes to the Nola children's book, about whether to watercolor the whole shebang or incorporate my puppets.  When I began conceptualizing the story, I intended to use as many "real" elements as possible (even considered constructing a miniature streetcar interior), but I've been loving the watercolors so.
I suspect I will probably end up with some mix, somewhere in the middle....wont find that balance until I start actually creating pages in Photoshop, I suppose...


Nutria Bat Bodied

Started building up the nutria bat's body with upholstery foam and styrofoam.  Next, painting the head, feet, and wings before beginning to add fur...


"Nola & the Streetcar Gremlins" - The Nutria Bat

The original Nutria Bat, from Monster Month 2007

In my previous post on the book dummy, the left hand page shows Nola being carried away by Nutria Bats.  The bats will be puppets created for the book, and I've been working on them here and there, this weekend I sculpted the first head.  The wings were made months ago by laying out the armature and painting a couple of thin layers of latex for the membrane, a tip I got long ago from the great Nick Hilligoss.  The head is sculpey around a foil core.  After baking the head, I removed some of the foil, enough to fit the epoxy "head" of the armature, and Gorilla-glued the sculpted clay head onto the armature.  Body will be buildup of upholstery foam covered in brown fake fur.


Book Dummy

When I decided to begin working on "Nola & the Streetcar Gremlins" about a year ago, one of the first steps for me was to create a book dummy.  After doing some research, I settled on a landscape format, 32 pages, and crafted a mini version of my book using sketchbook paper that I can haul around with me.  It is about 4"x6", stapled binding.  Inside, I can plan compositions of individual pages, sketch illustrations, layout and edit text, all in pencil.  When I have lived with a page for awhile and have settled on it, I redraw in pen.  I will use this dummy as a guide when laying out final pages in photoshop.  These "storyboards" will also help me in the fabrication phase, as I intend to use my Nola puppet for the Nola character, posed, photographed, and composited into watercolor and digital backgrounds.  Some set pieces, props, and supporting characters will also be fabricated, so I will have a "preproduction" phase similar to a stop motion film.


Troll Triptych

I've been working on this oil painting for years, fiddling here and there with it, and hit a stride over the weekend.  This is the central panel in a triptych showcasing the magic of New Orleans City Park.  Other two panels (not pictured) are also a work-in-progress but getting near completion, I'd say 75% there. This is the painting that jump started my Nola Legends series.  I was so frustrated by the sheer size of this one that I decided to go uber-small for the series (2ft x 3 ft compared to 5" x 7").  I'd forgotten just how much I love working (and reworking) with oil paints, I need to do more with them...


Nola and the Streetcar Gremlins

I always have a lot cooking on the stove top, rotating between paintings and animation and sculpture and you name it.  One of the in-development projects (that you may see me blogging about here) is a children's book called "Nola & the Streetcar Gremlins".

I have an ongoing series of paintings featuring fantasy creatures in classic New Orleans settings, and the one image that seems to stand out over and over again with crowds at art markets is my Streetcar Gremlins.  My little gremlins have evolved into their own entity, inspiring watercolors and figures.  It feels only natural to have them featured in book form.

Me and some of my gremlin art at the Piety Street Art Market

I started reading up on children's books, mainly the pros and cons of seeking out a publishing house versus self-publishing through a site like Amazon or Lulu.com (I am still undecided, though leaning towards self publishing because it would guarantee the rights to Nola et al would remain with me, most important).  I have also been reading accounts on writing for children, my fave being the book pictured here, "Origins of Story on Writing for Children", which includes essays from people like Maurice Sendak and Madeleine L'Engle.  And of course I can always bounce ideas off of my personal expert, my five year old :)

My little puppet Nola seemed like the perfect vehicle for a book series, so I squashed the two thoughts together and the idea was born. Each book in the series will be called "Nola & The..." and each book will start the same way...

"...Nola always wears her scarf, even in the summer.  Her feet are on sideways, and her eyes are quite large, and sometimes one of them wanders.  She is a very ordinary girl, with very, very bad luck.  Just about any bad thing you could ever imagine happening has happened to Nola..."


Ghost Puppet - rods n cables

Ghostbusters subway ghost

I have decided to go with a ghost, spook, spectre for my first rod and cable puppet, using my video tutorial from Stan Winston school as a guide.  The puppet will be built up from, and remain mounted to, a base board which will help limit movement so that I can focus on the head mechanism.  The "spine" of the puppet will be made from flexible toilet bowl tubing which will allow my pup to sway and hover.  It will most likely be painted in purples and blues, except for the area nearest the wood base which will be black along with the base and my pants and shoes, to create the illusion of a fading ghostly figure.  I have to continually remind myself that this is a "live" puppet and not initially intended for film (my inclination would be to paint the bottom green for chroma keying, or to simply "composite" the pup with a digitally induced fade).  It will be challenging I think to try to capture the fade with a paintjob, but I have faith.  I will probably start slapping clay on this guy in the next day or two.