Sunday, 30 November 2014

Electric Elkboy (continued some more...)

It was understandable for Chester to be concerned about his masters optimistic views on transport, especially due to the absolute lack of any. They needed to get to London, and yet without the knowledge of their whereabouts it would prove to be an interesting point to raise. Chester rolled forward inquisitively, 'may I press you for a solution sir?' 

The Elkboy turned handsomely around and smiled. 'My dear Chester. I have indeed resolved our little pickle, which was, admittedly, something I should have thought of much earlier. You may want to stand, or erm, roll back a tadge my friend.'

Chester bleeped and followed the order. He was used to these elaborate schemes that the Elkboy concocted, becoming continuously intrigued and entertained. And with the Elkboy currently attempting a handstand, it looked like this would be a good one. 

Sure enough, in a vertical manoeuvre, the Electric Elkboy had lifted his body up from the ground with his feet in the air. Certainly an unorthodox posture for a superhero, but he proceeded nonetheless. With eyes tightly closed, he concentrated all his power toward the lightening bolt upon his brow. The dusty terrain surrounding them trembled and shook, groaning with anticipation as the lightning bolt began to glow brighter. Then the Elkboy opened his eyes and looked to the horizon, raising his voice and bellowed into the expanse before him, 'POLAR BEASTS OF THE NORTH I CHOOSE YOU!' A beam of light shot out from the lightning bolt and penetrated the ground beneath him. For a moment there was a pang of utter silence... and then a sonic boom of awesomeness swept across the land. The Elkboy closed his eyes once more, bent his elbows and flipped himself into the air to finally land on his two feet. Most elegantly done, thought the author of this chapter. 

With the silence returned, the two heroes stood side by side as the dust settled. Chester, still full of unanswered questions, bleeped as scrupulously close to a sigh as robotically possible. 'Worry not, my young padawan,' the Elkboy crooned. 'Remember what Treebeard said to the Hobbits; 'don't be hasty'. And we all know what happened after that, don't we?
   'We do sir?'
The Elkboy nodded, 'of course. The trees only bloody won Chester! And carrying the Hobbits at the same time! Now that is TREE-mendous!' 
   'Sir, I am always supportive of your... puns, but your love of the Halflings leaf has clearly slowed your mind.'
   'Points for the quote, points deducted for sounding so negative. I have summoned a little bit of nature to come and carry us to London. Now, they may not be trees, but they sure as hell get the job done!'
   'Very good sir, I never doubted you for a second. Wonderful.' 

As soon as Chester settled down to wait he felt the ground tremble once more. The dust returned but far upon the horizon, where a trail of cloud grew larger and closer towards them. The vibrations felt more like a stampede than an earthquake; it was alive, moving, and hoofs could soon be heard. Then out of the dust cloud bore the head of a proud beast, antlers spurring through the mist, leading a herd of at least twenty more of these magnificent creatures. They were elk, of course. And the Electric Elkboy had called to them from across the globe, for that was the power that he held within his lightning bolt of truth. 

The Elkboy strode up to the herd and held aloft his hand. The thundering elk slowed immediately to a canter and stopped before him, their heavy breath and gentle snorting lingering in the air. The Elkboy placed his hand upon the head of the lead elk and murmured in a strange tongue that Chester had yet to hear from his master, but it was full of calm and gratitude. The Elkboy turned to Chester, 'they have travelled many miles,' he said. 'But they are strong and courageous. I have no doubt that within the hour we shall be riding for London at great speed. First we need to harness them a little, and find a cosy spot for you and I.'
   'As gallant as your beasts of burden are,' Chester queried. 'Are you sure that they know which direction to go?'
   'Of course they do Chester,' scoffed the Elkboy. 'But I'm rather surprised that with all the hi-tech malarkey I installed into your body, that you don't know which direction to go? Do you still have the Tommy-Tommy Sat-Nav function?'
   'Unfortunately, the missile attack on HQ contained a mild EMP and wiped out many of the systems. You were oblivious to this, sir, as you gallivanted off on your... kite...'
   'Do not underestimate the power of the kite Chester!' interrupted the Elkboy. 'It is fully equipped with...'
   '...So I'm afraid that some of my systems were coincidentally tampered with,' continued Chester. 'I adjusted all the power I had to my boosters so as to follow you.'
   'Very well,' said the Elkboy. 'And I am thankful that you did. We shall, however, put all our faith into these glorious steeds and their navigational skills. Now, could you spare a little power to your toboggan settings?' 
   Chester looked perplexed, even for an expressionless droid. 'My what settings?'
   'Search your network old boy, you'll find them,' said the Elkboy, full of confidence. He was busy choreographing the elk into single file and using the cable from the (temporarily unsuccessful) kite to harness them together. If only Santa could see him now, he thought. And with that thought in mind he directed Chester to the back of the herd. 
   'Chester my trusted droid,' he announced proudly. 'You are to become an imperative part of this convoy. ACTIVATE TOBOGGAN SETTINGS!'

Suddenly, Chester's wheels sprang up and folded neatly beneath him and extending in their stead appeared a pair of well carved, well varnished toboggan rungs. As the compartment doors closed, firmly locking the rungs into place, another extension lowered from the droids back. This would soon become the step for the Electric Elkboy to stand upon; for Chester had transformed in to nothing more and nothing less than a fine looking sleigh. 

'Haha!' laughed the Elkboy. 'How d'ya like them apples, Chester?!' 
   'I feel positively mutilated, sir,' the droid replied. 'Are there any other settings that I have yet to discover with an equal level of disgruntled surprise?'
   'Oh come on Chester... this is going to be bloody amazing. Now can you reach the cable and lock it into place? I need to grab my bag.' Chester did as he was told, accepting that his masters excitement was beyond negotiable.
    After some final adjustments, all was ready; the elk were stamping their hooves, the Elkboy had harnessed himself to Chester's body and the cables were taught with the eagerness of departure. All they needed was the call of the wild; that loud eccentric announcement Chester would expect his master to call out to nobody in particular. And sure enough it came...


Chester couldn't help but let his circuit board smile at his masters optimistic views on transport, especially due to the absolute style in which they would travel. And away they went.

To be continued...

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Episode VI

Freelancing is a funny business. On occasion I feel like I don't particularly belong anywhere, but then again this is precisely what it's all about, so I won't pretend to be dismayed about the matter. I have the writing tendencies of a drama queen sometimes, so ignore me. But don't! Because you need to read my blog. I do actually enjoy the free aspect of this lancing lark, especially when you get a surprise day off to write the next blog chapter. 

What I've come to realise in these last few months of my progress as a freelancer, is that there is no room for laziness. And I am so lazy! (this is subjective to the people who are not hiring me). But this is not in the work place; I love what I do and will crack on 100% in the studio environment. My problem is at home. As you may have noticed in previous blog posts, I claim it takes 'x' amount of hours or days for me to write a paragraph or the like. This is because of my homely distractions!

Here is a short list of things that cause procrastination:
  • lunch
  • planning lunch
  • rearranging my Star Wars figures
  • watching the Tribe
  • making lists
  • going into town and achieving very little from the list I just made
  • planning dinner
  • making a brew
  • tidying my room
  • writing my blog (controversial I admit, but I really should be looking for work right now!)

When it comes to those little 'home' projects i.e. sculpts, card designs, canvas painting, you can always find a place to sell them. I haven't actually considered online sales for any of my work (on for example), purely because I don't have an extensive range. I have paintings, drawings and models but not nearly enough to set up something significant. But there is a solution! 

Facebook. It's largely full of codswallop and nincompoops. But a midst the chaos is a beacon of Minas Tirith. People are always on Facebook. Friends, family, acquaintances, pets, people you don't like, people who don't like you, people who have met you on that coach ride from Bogota to Lima and can't stop tagging you in photographs of himself standing next to a bus. My point is, it's a good database for an incredibly broad range of potential clients. Post some photos of your work up, Facebookers will like and share so that your skills will transcend to all ends of the Internet. I've managed to sell a few items for chump change, but it's still good practice for the budding freelancer. For example, the image below is of a mural I'm currently painting for my Aunty Val; hopefully she can spread the word! 

One of my odd jobs is painting murals; this one is almost finished!

Another part of freelancing is your title. What do you call yourself? What area of your chosen trade do you specialise in? The latter seems fairly obvious, but I still don't know whether to call myself a model maker, carpenter or a stop motion animator. I assume that I'm all three, yet I can do more. Tommy the multi-artist? Sir Thomas the brave? Mr Grainger the carpenter (who can also sculpt, paint, draw, cook, clean and hang out your cotton socks). I'm still in the process of deciding my freelance title because I will be designing some new business cards in the near future.

I am currently in the process of creating a sidekick for my freelancing adventures. It (none gender specific) is called portfolio and wears a cape, whereas I do not. It's all good and well having an online presence (LinkedIn etc) but I wanted a place for visuals, images, videos, not too much text and yet kept a professional level. It is advantageous to have an online portfolio full of visuals because a) that's what artists do (so what could describe our talent more than actually seeing it) and b) it's much simpler to send a link to a potential client or studio to show what you're capable of. Even now I can say click HERE and you've been transported to a rather fetching site concerning yours truly. 

I realise that my blog is full of images concerning my work... but it also contains images of random animals, holiday snaps and the ever present topic of Star Wars. So perhaps not as professional as I'd quite like. But it means that you guys get to read the real me... find out more in this months issue of Heat with an exclusive look into my wardrobe. 

Speaking of Star Wars it's getting very close to that time of year where it'll be a year until Episode VII The Force Awakens is released. And good lord am I excited. It now has a title, filming has been wrapped and the on-set photographs have kept us all ludicrously engrossed. I do believe (and hope) that there will be a Star Wars teaser trailer before Christmas this year. There must be something for us! 

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Electric Elkboy (continued...)

*much time has passed since the last chapter of Electric Elkboy; hopefully the
story will still flow regardless of this lengthy absence*

He was (still) falling...

And unfortunately for Tommy, or as his self acclaimed reputation prefers 'Electric Elboy', there was very little time left between the conscious realisation of having no parachute or inflatable banana and the ever approaching ground. But suddenly, from out of the fiercely chilling and high speed mists there was a familiar, albeit very faint, beeping sound and before the Elkboy could register such familiarity there was an almighty smack. But this slamming sensation was not of soil or grass, but of the clanking of metal. Had he fallen into some sort of recycling centre? Not he! For it was his trusted droid Chester who had caught him as he plummeted to his almost certain doom. 
     "Bravo old chap!" shouted Elkboy as he desperately grasped at the droids ungraspable domed body. They were still hundreds of feet in the air and he admittedly felt far from safe. The Elkboy yelled, struggling for air as well as grip, "now open up your bloody flaps so I can hold onto something!"
     As Chester deployed his aeronautical knowledge, allowing his brave master to finally find a foot hold, the ground drew nearer and the little droids boosters kicked in to slow them down into a perfectly smooth landing. 

The Electric Elkboy jumped off of Chester's back, panting and doubling over as his legs trembled at the sensation of solid ground again. He then proceeded to try and balance out his physical and mental state of mind. Seven minutes later he ceased his over-dramatic gasping to find that Chester had already set up camp. Now, due to the (understandably) small compartments built into the droids body, there really wasn't an awful amount of room; not for conventional camping equipment at any rate. So the Elkboy had devised a cunning array of inflatable outdoor items that, when deflated, could fit rather neatly into said compartments. It was a reoccurring worry, however, that the great Electric Elkboy favoured the inflatable approach to many of his gadgets, but they sufficed all the same. 
     "I cannot believe that I was shot at", fumed he. "Where did you sprout from anyway Chester? I thought you hated flying?"
    Chester retracted the nozzle from a fully inflated stove (complete with propane gas and saucepan set). "Well, after seeing how distraught you were after the incident with the smoothie, I simply wanted to keep a closer eye on you."
     "Ah! A stowaway then?"
   "Merely a guardian angel, sir," Chester conceded. "Besides, it is near impossible to hide upon your, erm, mode of transport."
     "Do not mock my kite Chester! I know full well the capabilities of my inventions, or indeed your feelings upon such matters. So you tailed me then?"
     "I did sir."
     "Very good. I trained you well."

The Elkboy stepped aside to survey the area and Chester returned to the campsite, who begun inflation of a free-standing lamp. He pondered the next course of action as he stood there, legs astride, hands upon hips, gazing into the bleak wilderness before him. Soon his thoughts fled back to that ever-nagging question; who knew the location of his headquarters? That missile attack was clearly meant for him, who else would live in the camels arse of nowhere? And yet, there was another who knew of his ultimate hideout. There was someone who knew, because he had frequently invited her back (to no avail, of course) in an attempt to woo her... by baking his 'the world isn't ready for this' Pizza Pie. 
     Elkboy frowned at the thought. How dare she stand him and his Pizza Pie up. It was irrefutably a taste sensation. Then he remembered the real reason to why he should be frowning... betrayal! But no, surely not by the Emerald Minx. There had been disputes over the years, absolutely, but when they were forced to team up it was consistently a platonic means of adventure and warfare. It was them against the world (or a really bad man). He hadn't seen her for many years now, but as his thoughts strayed deeper into their relationship he began to visualise her beauty. Those gorgeous brown eyes, her incredible smile and those thighs were to die for (which, coincidentally, was one of her famous moves. It was named 'crouching tiger hidden thigh').
     "What would you propose we do now sir?" asked Chester, sidling up beside his master. 
   "What?!" blarped the Elkboy. "Propose? Me? Not until I get recognised for my outstanding cooking!"
      "I'm not sure I follow sir?"
The Elkboy stammered and shook his head. "Think nothing of it my good droid. I was merely daydream... ahem, I mean planning our next move. For move we must, because these lands are unknown to me and they are riddled with evil. I do believe, however, that we have landed on the plains of Limbo, home of the Tribe."
     Chester shifted awkwardly; a rare gesture among droids as one might think it was absurd for a machine to evoke emotional abilities via its limited mobility. But, personified as he was, Chester awkwardly shifted. "With all due respect sir, I am 100% confident that you have completely made that up."
     The Elkboy all but winked at the droid, then leaped onto a nearby rock. His sense of adventure greatly outweighed his sense of logic and reasoning. As the sun gently set over whatever desolation lay before them, a fine and handsome shadow of the Electric Elkboy stretched out to meet whatever may thwart them. "We must travel to London, Chester!"
     "Sorry sir, to London or Chester?"
     "To London! And meet with Hudson, for he will aid us with transport, supplies and information."
    "But sir," exclaimed the droid. "Without sounding prudent, do we not need those three to get to London in the first place?"
The Elkboy stroked his bearded chin and grinned. "Not necessarily."

To be continued...

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Episode (from bed)

This blog post is dedicated to all the brave souls who have succumbed to the tyranny of flu (non- gender specific). For I have become a bed ridden blancmange and therefore missed vital studio time where I have been practicing the art of silicone moulding. But we are not here to wallow in my snotty pit of carcoon, as I have been inspired to divulge into the world of stop motion after recently watching an episode of the 1984 animated series of The Wind in the Willows. This was, of course, when Cosgrove Hall was in it's prime. But despite the closure of this legendary studio, the area surrounding this part of Manchester is still teaming with animated life; a new hope to young graduates.

I have had the privilege of meeting and becoming acquainted with Barry Purves, director of The Wind in the Willows, so it's quite a different experience when watching these animations again because they feel even more personal (due to my career choice). I know about the lengthy process behind the character development, from concept to puppet; I know about set construction and how to make props; I've been behind the scenes! So the experience of viewing my childhood films and TV shows is somewhat enhanced. It feels like it was all amounting to something greater, as oppose to simply watching them because I was a child.

Upon recovery I was perusing the tube of You and discovered a few little gems. It turns out that there are hours upon hours of Disney and Warner Brothers classic cartoons online... for free! I know it's frowned upon to stream or download, but when it's given to you on a silver platter then you have got a fine day of viewing ahead of you my friend. And these short episodes are exactly the 'research' us budding animators should be referring to anyway, so it's actually considered homework in my eyes.

I also watched an award winning stop motion film by Cosgrove Hall called The Fool of the World and the flying ship. Perhaps a little trigger happy on the wording there, but it was pretty awesome to see some more of the legendary animation created within their studio. In fact, I am going to dedicate this blog post not only to the sick and the poorly, but also to classic childhood animation! (particularly those who were born in the 80s, the 80s).

This is only part one of six I think... so get a playlist going!

As it usually takes me a while to write these posts, I am actually feeling much better now. I have been out of bed and frequently walking to the garden and back *smug face*. Yet I still had time to continue my journey and uncover more of these animations I watched when I was yay-high*

*made up measurement tom uses to describe his height when he was younger

So I began looking at the other stop motion shows I watched, such as Camperwick Green and Trumpton. Overly excited I became. Nostalgic and wide eyed I was. For the casual onlooker I was clearly on drugs.

And, of course, when I was introduced to Star Wars I was absolutely blown away with the animation of the Imperial Walkers (AT-AT and AT-ST), although at the time I had no knowledge of the concept of 'stop motion'. I wish that I could remember what was going through my head upon first experiencing the battle of Hoth or how the AT-ST Walkers reacted to the incoming logs that ultimately became their downfall. Such genius in animation!

And the search just got more and more thrilling...or hilarious!

You all get the gist. 80s and 90s for stop motion was really quite something. But then every decade has had revolutionary animation, dating back to the 30s and 40s with Willis O'Brien, the 50s and 60s with Ray Harryhausen and the 70s when Aardman Animations was founded. Obviously there are many more animators; honorable mentions to the Brothers Quay, Jan Svankmajer and of course Mackinnon & Saunders. I'd probably get my arms ripped out of their sockets by a wookie if I didn't mention Factory TM , the studio behind the upcoming reboot of the Clangers. Good grief and what about smaller studios like Yaminations?! We made the Cravendale advert! Yes, stop motion is certainly a niche industry, but people like us will make damn sure the next decade continues to be fully animated. Fuck yeah.

I'm actually feeling much better now and have made a full recovery (this is 3 days prior to my initial sick day). So much so, that I thought I would share a video portraying my short acting career during my University days. You see, normally I wouldn't share this. But I'm a good mood. It is called Stoke Force and I stumbled upon it again whilst I was high on Tesco brand cough medicine. Enjoy.

If you're lucky and tell me beautiful things, 
then episode two will follow.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Episode V

In the words of Samwise Gamgee, well, I'm back

Yes, and a very jovial greetings to all bloggers and bloggees. I have returned from the continent of South America with many tales from afar, all of which shall be generously condensed into a collection of photographs and 'witty' one liners. Please don't think that I am hoodwinking you folks with an abrupt album - I am only showing you a small portion because, after all, this is an animation blog. And boy do I have news on the animation front. 

But it has indeed been a long while since my last blog post, and for that I apologize. Even with the surprisingly regular access to WiFi, more so than places in Europe, (not to give South America a stereo-typically third world slap in the face, but, you know) it didn't feel quite right to write a blog when Machu Picchu was over there. So I shall use this post to get back into the swing of writing things.

Unfortunately, there were a few floaters.

This was actually a very steep
hill. A backpackers nightmare!

Getting lost on an island. I see potential for a TV series!

It's huge! Buenos Aires is pretty
big as well.  

I found these guys after being legless
the night before.

Old Lima was looking very grand. 

Cusco in Peru really shone for us.

Due to laziness, we arranged this cardboard
cut-out to be taken to the summit.

Nothing like messing about on the river.

'What do they have in there.. King Kong?'

Upon my return to the UK I knew I had very little time to set a financial stability that would keep my credit rating at good grief and not WTF?. I applied to whatever money making scheme I could find and it whittled down to three local jobs that could help me get back on my feet; a sandwich delivery boy, waiter or an ice cream man. As you may well guess, I simply must work with food if it's not art related. 

But as I finished my first shift, which comprised of Steve driving me around Coventry, teaching me how to talk (with supposed panache) to people and enlightening them in the ways of sandwich service, I received a call off Barbara from the Factory Transmedia Studios. There was work for me! This was such a lifeline, especially due to my worry that the studio may have others involved with the current projects. 

I have been working on the new production Scream Street of which I'm very excited about. The style and colours are very vibrant and I've been given some pretty cool things to make for the sets. I obviously can't reveal much (but are you surprised?!). So essentially that was the big piece of animation related news... and I can't tell you anything about it! But I shall indulge briefly on what this means for me as a freelance model maker. This may help you, or it may not; or it might begin to help you before getting suddenly distracted by


Becoming self employed is something that has always daunted me, but equally intrigued me. It may be down to Hollywood's funny, bumbling and lovable perception on the regular self employed person; they're the underdog in many cases, and yet we all want to root for them because they're so bloody nice. I always think of Roger from Disney's 101 Dalmatians and how happy he is with what he does. He has a beautiful wife (albeit a 2D character), a lovely house and a job that he adores. I wanted to be Roger! And I think that after I graduated from University, my confidence was knocked slightly because of the reality of the big wide world once you leave the bubble of education (as my tutor Laura Weston puts it). Because it is daunting and hard work, and it takes time to establish yourself as an artist. This is why I was so hesitant in becoming self employed in the first place, simply because I was afraid of failure. Failure of putting all my faith into one line of work and knowing that I'd need to earn 'x' amount to earn a living. I didn't have a backup plan; unless it was to remain in the catering industry with my bad ass crew of dinner-ladies. 

I knew from the start that this line of work wouldn't grant me riches, yet this wouldn't phase me and still hasn't done so. I'm not materialistic, at least for nothing more than the materials I need to make a model. So having this sense of utter faith and confidence in my trade, regardless of money, is quite freaking awesome. I literally had no idea when and where I would be working upon returning from my South American travels. Now some might find this endearing...others, absolutely stupid. I reckon you need to be stupid to be endearing. Enter Tommy Grainger.

Are you having trouble sticking polystyrene together? Of course you are, who isn't? Well I have a fine
solution for you. Expanding foam (found in any half decent hardware store) works a treat 
and will hold blocks of polystyrene together with incredible strength. DANGER! You must wear
gloves because this stuff is very irritable and near impossible to get off your skin. Apply with ease.

Water colour  painting of Tatooine. More fantasy-
based landscapes on the way!

Whilst working at Factory TM for the past few weeks (yes, this blog post consists of past, present and future tense due to how long it takes to write the darn thing) I bumped into one of the recently graduated Staffordshire University students, or Stafflings, as I so frequently call them. This was Rob Millard. I had already spoken to Rob (prior to this pleasant meeting) via Twitter and also when I returned to the University to perform my homemade lecture on 'life after Uni'. I hadn't actually known Rob was in the crowd but I was very honored that he was, for he is a delightful chap. We had a fine ol' chat about animation at Staffs Uni and how it had progressed from when I had attended the course to now. It was great to hear that Laura Weston and Daryl Marsh were still holding the fort and getting these young whipper-snappers to burst their university bubble in preparation for the wide world. 

I have recently watched Rob's final major project and thought it was absolutely bloody marvelous. He mentioned his music video when I met him at the studio, and how many requests he's getting to animate more music videos; and to be frank Rob... I don't blame them! And I don't even know who Frank is! Anyway, here is the video [track - Frank Turner 'We Shall Not Overcome']. You stay classy bloggers.