December 31, 2011


Here's the permalink from VIMEO


December 26, 2011


My website has been down so I haven't been able to upload anything, hence the lateness of this post. The images may be irrelevant now but the good wishes are valid all year.

Double Noel

Santa Nat


December 20, 2011


It took me almost the whole of December to make this very short video and what I've learned is that I want to go back to painting.

I started with a desire to express feelings of nostalgia, sadness and mystery about my Russian ancestry, my father and his relatives, known and unknown, and bewilderment about the impermanence of life and the tenacity of personality, of family resemblance, of faces fusing into other faces.

I wanted to make a video that would be like a painting but with gentle movement taking place at various distances from the spectator. I built a kind of mini stage-set out of three cardboard boxes, one inside the other, with windows cut out of the back, roof and sides. I painted the inside of the boxes so that when lights were placed between them, you could see the colours of rooms behind rooms. On sheets of acetate I printed (digitally, through ink-jet printer) small photos of my Russian relatives, cut them out, then hung them on gold threads from wooden bars and from the ceilings of two front boxes.

What I didn't take into consideration was that the camera and the naked eye are two altogether different species. The depth that my naked eye perceived was completely lost when the camcorder was pointed in the same direction.

What you see is the final version, after discarding about seven others. It's a compromise but I don't dislike it. I borrowed one of Alexander Vertinsky's songs for the soundtrack because he fits the mood so well and because my father liked him so much. I couldn't find a clip of his particular favourite, which started with (pardon my phonetics - I don't speak Russian but understand a few words): Ti sidish adinoke....(You sit alone, staring at the flames....) There are lots of Vertinsky songs on YouTube and if you like the nostalgic chansonnier style, look him up.

Here's the permalink from VIMEO for my video if you can't see it below.


November 29, 2011


My blogging report card this month is shameful. I'm standing in the corner, dunce cap on my head, red-faced and staring at the floor.

Digressed again, off-piste again, 7ism resolutions postponed again. I don't have a valid excuse except that I really have been thinking a lot and trying to see where I'm at, as they say. But I couldn't let November end without a modest ode to falling leaves and darker days and the melancholy of approaching winter. Another rough experimental animation, started yesterday afternoon and finished at about six o'clock this morning, without a break.

I didn't choose the music beforehand but as soon as I watched the silent video I remembered Bachianas Brasileiras by Heitor Villa-Lobos, sung by the extraordinary soprano Bidù Sayão. I've only used a short extract from Number 5 - if you've never heard the whole thing, it's definitely worth looking up. There are many recordings of it but Sayao's interpretation is my absolute favourite.

This is the VIMEO permalink in case you don't see the video here.



November 14, 2011


Today, the seventh day of my first 7ism work, herewith my report and results.

Decided to start with something small and insignificant so I chose to make an improved version of my stop-motion animation NOT a celebrity, the first rough cut of which I posted here last month. Since I declared then that I was definitely going to improve it, this seemed like a good way to test the 7ism movement's effectiveness.

My usual approach is to declare that I am going to do something, then put whatever it is on the shelf (virtual or literal) with all the other things I have declared I am going to do in the immediate future - in my vocabulary, the word immediate is elastic and infinitely stretchable. Unfortunately, reality doesn't understand my vocabulary. Hence the pile-up of broken declarations, which 7ism is going to fix. I hope.

I began at about 2:30 pm on Tuesday, November 8th. The first requirement was to devise a more efficient arrangement to hold the camcorder. A book I have (Get Started in Animation) includes a diagram for building a simple copy-stand with camera mount. While the plan is perfectly feasible, I didn't want to spend too much time on this so I opted for improvisation, my favourite modus operandi.

An old portable easel was given a new function which you can see in the photos below. I pushed the normally vertical canvas-supporting arm into horizontal position, adjusted the legs to the needed height and tightened all the bolts. Then (here's the clever bit) I took one of those tiny tripods available in any camera shop, put its legs together flatly and taped it down firmly to one end of the easel's horizontal bar. The camcorder could then be screwed into the reclining mini- tripod, allowing the camera lens to point straight down. I attached a cable to connect camera to power socket and a Firewire to link my Mac to the camera (I'm using iStopMotion software).

Easel used as rostrum

Camcorder attached to easel

Stop-motion desk set-up

The above photos were taken in the downstairs study where I ended up making the third and final version, but I first set up the rig in my upstairs studio. By the time I was ready to shoot, daylight was gone and I had a lot of trouble positioning lamps even when using daylight bulbs. Version Two was a big headache (literally) for many reasons but I learned a useful lesson.

When something doesn't work because I haven't prepared well enough, my usual tendency is to keep nagging away at the faulty item until I've knocked it into some kind of unsatisfactory order, even though a much more effective solution would be to start from scratch. I went through my old routine in the second version and wasted several days painstakingly re-drawing frame after frame of a whole sequence because I'd filmed it too close and some of it was out of frame. The obvious answer was to re-shoot it. But no, I had to be the masochist.

However, because this was a 7ism project and I was committed to it, I then threw out all those files I had so obsessively been re-doing, re-uploading and... well, you don't want to know every twist and turn of that winding road....decided to do a third version. That's when I moved everything downstairs.

Finally here are the two versions of NOT a celebrity my seven days produced. The animation is still not even close to perfect but I'm satisfied with this particular project and pronounce 7ism a success in enabling me to finish something I probably would have abandoned.

All comments/criticisms etc. are welcome.

FINALVERSION OF NOT a celebrity   (also on Vimeo and on YouTube)

SECOND VERSION (also on Vimeo and YouTube) Click on the little arrow below the screen to start the movie.


November 8, 2011


Heh. I've just created a new art movement.

So far I'm the only member. I don't mind if I remain the only member but in case anyone wants to join, here is the manifesto. If I, the founder, should fail to stick to it, then the movement will automatically self-destruct. Dissolve like sugar in hot coffee.


I hereby announce the birth of a new art movement. I name it 7ism.

The aim of 7ism is the creation of Complete and Wonderful artworks, in any medium, within the time frame of seven days, no less and no more, in a continuous procession of seven day periods, ad infinitum.

Complete = Finished to the best of the creator's ability.

Wonderful= Full of Wonder. Unexpected.

To Wonder= Not know. Reflect upon.

The reasonable objection that Wonderful artworks cannot always be created in seven days is not relevant because this movement does not pretend to address all art and all artists but only those multi-faceted, undisciplined ones who, like myself, find it very difficult to:

a) Finish within a reasonable time what I start .

b) Choose which of my many projects and interests to prioritise.

c) Avoid the frustration and guilt of accumulating un-achieved goals.

Setting short fixed time-frames will encourage sustained attention to one goal at a time, provide the satisfaction of seeing it achieved, and the motivation for moving on immediately to the next (perhaps similar, perhaps very different) seven-day goal.

Joining the 7ism movement requires members to note the day and time they will have to complete the first task they've chosen.

I will embark on my first 7istic slice tomorrow and will report on my progress.

If you are joining, please say so below and on your blog if you have one, and in a week, report on the results of your first 7ism experience. Heh!

7ism logo