Friday, February 17, 2012

Pop This On For Size

Pop-up books have a rich history and contain some very impressive engineering and science…if you don’t believe me check out the Wikipedia article on the pop-up book. 

These books are extremely fun and amusing with the real magic happening when you open the pages, pull the tabs or spin the dials.

Pop-ups are very interactive usually containing some element of surprise which makes me wonder if some of these concepts could be incorporated into a Halloween display or haunt.

Imagine a life-sized door opening up revealing a “pop-up” surprise.

Or a window shutter.

Or a trap door in the floor.

Or the lid on a crate.

Or a portrait hanging on the wall.

The possibilities are seemingly endless.

Following are some photos from a variety of Halloween themed pop-up books most which have been purchased from thrift stores and garage sales.

Note: Our new pal adopted from the Humane Society likes the large pop up dragon from Greg Hildebrandt's Book of Three-Dimensional Dragons. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Curse of a List Maker and Zombie Potatoes

I’m a guy that likes to make “to do” lists.

If a project is written down then it becomes official, it won’t get forgotten and it is on track to get done.


The only problem with this scenario is when items are added to the list faster than they are crossed off.

I have always joked that if I can have one good idea per day then my work is done and lately I’ve been having a lot of ideas….and many have wound up on the list.
Add a deadline to each project and then it becomes a stress list.

Deadlines are not a bad thing because without a deadline the “to do” items don’t get done.

What exactly are we talking about?

My goal is to reenter the job market, specifically video production after a ten year hiatus.

When applying for a job in television your biggest asset is your demo reel, a compilation of your best work that not only showcases your skills but also your point of view and creative genius.

My demo reel is very solid, segments from 17 years of experience but it is lacking samples of production using contemporary technology most notably motion graphics.

Fortunately I have access to the software and I am currently working on the missing pieces.

Over the last several months I have made a list of 13 different productions that I would like to complete…the projects include several mini documentaries, instructional videos and animated shorts.

My deadline is to have the work completed by the end of April.

Now I’m not totally unrealistic, the chance of completing all 13 videos on the list by my deadline slim to none...I just need to generate a nice sampling that can be sent to prospective employers.

This leads me to potatoes.

Brilliant segue I know.

One of the shorts I’m working on will include some stop motion animation…and because I am who I am the subject of the short video will be zombies.

Several years ago I had a great time making shrunken apple heads for Halloween and during the process experimented with doing something similar with potatoes.

The process worked although potatoes react very differently to the drying process.

An apple will shrink and shrivel while a potato tends to more or less fossilize.

As luck would have it we happened to have a bag of potatoes that were past their prime.

Using some simple tools I carved a variety of faces into the spuds then soaked them in a brine solution for a few hours to help draw out the starch and moisture.

The zombie spuds are now sitting in front of a box fan and slowly drying.

The taters have shrunk a bit and are turning a black color.

After the first night of drying I sprayed them with Lysol to prevent mold growth.

My guess is that they have about another week to go before they will be ready….I will update the progress of this experiment in the coming days.

Now I can cross “carve potatoes” off the list.

Saturday, February 11, 2012


A collection of black and white illustrations from Robert Bright’s Georgie published in 1944.

Georgie is the story of a friendly little ghost in search of a new home to haunt.

The delightful text is accompanied by playful black and white drawings that inspire readers of all ages.

Meet Mr. Squiggs

Mr. Squiggs was a grumpy, grouchy and nasty old man. Mr. Squiggs didn’t like children, animals or grown-ups. The only thing Mr. Squiggs really liked was Halloween and being left alone.

Sounds like my biography.

Mr. Squiggs is the main character in The Magic Pumpkin, a book by Lucille E. Sette and illustrated by Phyllis L. Tildes published in 1984.

Over the years I have found many Halloween themed children’s books at garage sales, thrift stores and used book sales.

These books offer something wonderful to the adult reader, they are like bite sized pieces of candy offering instant gratification when looking for a Halloween fix. The story is the candy shell and the illustrations are the nougat filling.

The next time you feel the need for an inspirational boost try thumbing through the pages of an old Halloween children’s book because you just might find something that sparks your imagination.

Friday, February 10, 2012

This Is What Halloween Looks Like

When I close my eyes and think of Halloween this is what I see. 

Looking at the illustration I can also smell autumn leaves, smoldering candles and hear wind rustling through barren branches.

The illustration is from a children’s book called The Pumpkin Smasher written and illustrated by Anita Benarde.

Published in 1972 this book is a delightful tale of a small town considering cancelling Halloween due to a mysterious vandal smashing all of the town’s pumpkins.

The book is thirty-two pages of Halloween nostalgia, a rare trip to a much simpler time where anything was possible, especially on Halloween night.

The Pumpkin Smasher is currently out of print, I was fortunate enough to find a copy at a local thrift store for a quarter, not a bad price for a trip back in time.


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