The Wes Anderson Diorama

Toward the end of my teaching career, I was invited to the Museum of Natural History for a professional development where the man leading the lecture was one of the curators of the dioramas there. I usually spent these PDs catching up on my sleep or daydreaming about what I’m going to do when I win the lotto jackpot, but that day, I sat, rapt and enchanted, and wished that I hadn’t turned down the opportunity to be an assistant to my ex-boyfriend’s friend, Taxidermy George, who, was one of the most illustrious taxidermist in the country back then and at present.

Taxidermy George, at the time, was running his business in his parents’ basement and was nice enough to have me over to show me his studio. I wanted nothing more than to quit my job right there and then and become a taxidermist, an impulse that practicality said a resounding no to. It turned out to be a mistake, as I found out, to even qualify as an assistant to work on the dioramas at the museum, I would need a rudimentary understanding of taxidermy.

Well, I probably wouldn’t have been too good at it since I’m not too crazy with the idea of working with dead things. But boy, would I love to do the backgrounds for the displays! As it was, the only time I got to really spread my wings was putting up the stage sets for the annual New Year’s performances at the school I was teaching and I wanted to do more of it. At 30+ years old, I felt it might be too much of a gamble to go into the set design/taxidermy business, so I kept it tamped down and wished that one day I would have the time and space to work on it, even at a miniature scale.

As it turns out, there was never time nor budget for me to indulge in this whim of mine, until one day I was looking for something in my loose dolls drawer and saw that I had an array of tiny “last dolls” that had been torn from its original set due to customization. I could turn these dolls into pieces for a diorama!

It took nearly two years for me to finish it, largely due to the lack of time. When the dolls were painted, I experimented with different ideas on the display itself and finally found the perfect frame. I learned how to do wood staining with materials I had on hand (isn’t YouTube tutorials wonderful?) and got to paint on flat canvases for the first time in years. It was a lot of fun putting the pieces together, and I wish I can remember most of the process as a majority of these dioramas were painted at around 3AM when I am in zombie-mode.

This is the first in the (hopefully) many series of a miniaturized large scale project. I admit it was a bit too ambitious for someone who didn’t have a lot of time and didn’t really know what she was doing. I chose to showcase some of the characters from Wes Anderson’s movies because I’d painted so many sets in the last 10 years that I didn’t have to do too much research. Just to let you know how long this project had taken me to complete: When I first drew out the rough sketches, “Isle of Dogs” didn’t even exist yet!

Bottle Rocket

Rushmore

The Royal Tenenbaums

Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

Hotel Chevalier

Darjeeling Limited

The Fantastic Mr. Fox

Moonrise Kingdom

Grand Budapest Hotel

Isle of Dogs

 

 

Cursed Toys

In my humble opinion, there is nothing scarier than toys that are designed to maim and kill. It’s because of the movies solely based on cursed objects that I was never really into dolls other than Barbies. Here is a collection of some of the dolls featured in a few favorite horror movies of mine.

Here we have the titular character from “Annabell,” a movie about the most evil doll in the world. IRL the said doll was actually a Raggedy Ann, which, aesthetically, does not look like a conduit of pure evil. Then there’s Brahms, who is technically not evil in any way, but still creepy tho. There’s Billy from “Dead Silent.” I don’t think I have ever seen a ventriloquist doll that is NOT evil looking. Then of course there’s Chucky, whom I’ve painted before but I cannot leave him out from this group. And can we ever forget what that clown doll try to do to little kids in “The Poltergeist?” Last but not least there’s Talky Tina from the hit TV series “The Twilight Zone.” She is more of an avenger for abused little kids so I approve of her murderous rampage.

Well, there you have it.

Happy Halloween, y’all!

Ghosts and Monsters

I did three Halloween themed projects this year, this being the main one, an idea I’d been toying around for years now. It is basically a little sampler of a grander scheme of things, and I’m grateful I had time to churn it out.

As my longtime readers might know, I am a fan of horror movies and literature. Naturally I ate up every single movie Guillermo Del Toro has ever made. It took a while for me to figure this one out, but once I sat down to have a good think, everything just fell into place.

The first creature is of course, Hellboy, quickly followed by Pale Man from “Pan’s Labyrinth,” and of course the Amphibian Man from “The Shape of Water.” I painted him realizing that in the movie, he seemed to glow if he’s scared, angry or horny and decided to try my hand at glow-in-the-dark paints. It’s one of those things I don’t know how to photograph, so just know that the blue bits on the Amphibian Man does pop once the lights go out!!

Although I am a fan of the horror genre, I’m not particularly crazy about ghost movies…to me it seems like a cop out. However, “Crimson Peak” was so well made in every aspect, from the stunning visuals to story telling, that it is currently on the top of my favorite ghost story movie.

The same could be said for “The Orphanage,” which I also loved, especially the ending! Maybe next year I’ll be able to paint a full set from each of these sampler dolls!

Belchers Family Halloween Special

I don’t know when it became a thing, that I have to do a Bob’s Burger themed set around this time of year. Instead of painting them in various Halloween costumes, I decided a mash up of the Belchers and the Addams family. It’s not the most original mash up ever, but I did have loads of fun painting these!

As this was a quick one-off, logistics dictated that I paint a diminutive 6-piece set, otherwise I would’ve love to include Mort and Aunt Gail!

Here’s Thing with a spatula. I’m sure Bob would appreciate an extra hand in the kitchen, if not to help him flip the burgers, but to talk to like he talks to inanimate objects.

Tina and Cousin Itt are my spirit animals so it’s natural they’re mashed up in this world.

I thought it would be fun for Gene to play a mini calliope organ, something he would probably not touch in the Belcherverse, but definitely would in the Addams family.

In Louise’s fever dream “Flu-ouise,” her beloved Kuchi Kopi was disfigured, something Wednesday Addams would definitely appreciate.

Happy Halloween!

Witness for the Prosecution

This is the third (and hopefully not the final) installation of an Agatha Christie mystery set. I was tasked to paint “Witness for the Prosecution” and was encouraged to watch the movie first. I’d seen it a LONG time ago, but as my memory, when it comes to films and books, seems to be sieved, so I was only to happy to have the excuse to watch it again, and boy was I glad I had. The movie was well written and superbly acted and I began the project brimming with ideas.

This set was painted right before the advent of my Christmas season and I was grateful for the timing. I’m not saying this would’ve been a slap dash project, but there would’ve been a few less gingham or twill designs painted, that’s for sure!

 

Isle of Dogs (And About Time Too!)

Okay, I am ashamed to admit it, but I actually started painting Wes Anderson’s hit stop motion “Isle of Dogs” over a year ago and got nowhere with it fast as life kept interrupting The Process. Fortunately a Wes Anderson enthusiast expressed interest in it which lit that ebbing flame under me once again and I was able to create this set just for her. There’s another half painted version languishing in my closet and I am hoping that now that I’ve gotten my feet wet, I am more motivated to finish it!

I’ve been painting a lot of dogs for the past few months so jumping into this set hadn’t been much of a problem. Believe it or not they are a little more difficult to paint than the human dolls due to the sheer amount of fur action they’ve got going on. I can’t even tell you how many audio books I’ve burned through whilst painting this set. I’m not complaining, though. Have you read Blake Crouch’s mindbending “Recursion?!?!”

This set consists of Chief, Boss (my favorite because of his little outfit), Spots, Duke, Rex, King, and of course, teeny weeny little Atari.

 

And Then There Were None

Following up with the Agatha Christie and her detectives set, I got to paint the entire cast of 1945’s version of “And Then There Were None.” The book had scared the bejeesus out of me when I was younger and also made me a Christie fan for life!

This one was interesting because the man who had proposed this set to me and I have decided right from the start to paint it entirely in black and white. It took the guesswork out of the entire process, which you would think makes things easier. But it was a bit hard in the beginning trying to determine which shade of grey to use for every single item! While working on this project I had a very discouraging setback for an ongoing endeavor, so I was grateful this one was a breeze through and through and therefore I didn’t have to be talked off the ledge!

This version features June Duprez as Vera Claythorne, Louis Hayward as Captain Philip Lombard, Roland Young as Detective William Henry Blore, Walter Huston as Dr. Edward G. Armstrong.

Barry Fitzgerald as Judge Francis J. Quinncannon, Judith Anderson as Emily Brent, Richard Haydn as Thomas Rogers, C. Aubrey Smith as General Sir John Mandrake, Queenie Leonard as Ethel Rogers, and…

…Mischa Auer as Prince Nikita “Nikki” Starloff!

If given the chance (and time), I will be all over “Murder on the Orient Express,” another oldie but a goodie!

 

 

This One Really Goes to Eleven

It’s really wonderful to see Spinal Tap is still popular after all these years. Why shouldn’t it be? I got around to painting a different version of it last year and am really looking forward to doing yet another one! This one comes with a mini amp. The amp is so tiny that I wasn’t able to paint little number 11 on it for this particular set but I did in a subsequent one, except I’d forgotten to take a photo of it. Like they say, if it’s not photographed, it’s didn’t happen. Luckily I’ll have another opportunity very soon to do so!

Agatha Christie and her Detectives

I have started working in my new sweatshop (and already being visited by the cutest Kingfisher, massive grasshoppers, and a few cats) on a cold and rainy week. It was quite fitting that the first set I’m working on at the new address was Agatha Christie and her myriad detectives. Although I wouldn’t exactly classify her books as one of those “cozy little mysteries,” but the gloomy weather did invoke the kind of English afternoons where tea is poured and scones are warmed and maybe a body or two are stumbled upon and I was more than happy to get right back into the game after 2 weeks of straight up moving and shoving furniture and boxes into place!

I grew up with two voracious readers for parents and both loved mysteries as much as me so there were always copies of Agatha Christie novels lying around the house. It was a wander down memory lane now as I painted Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple, Tuppence and Tommy, remembering my parents first telling me the plot to some of Christie’s works and then later me reading it for the first time.

The set was proposed to me and even though I was given photos of the actors portraying the characters, we kept the physical descriptions of them based on the novels. Sometimes I wish they would do more of that in films because, judging from what I’ve seen of Lifetime Channel’s promos of V.C. Andrews’ “Heaven” series, I know right now I am going to be vastly disappointed! I’ll watch them all, but I will not be happy about it!