Friday, October 18, 2013

The Haunted Season






Much time has passed, and there is much to be told. I’ll break these posts into a series of segments, starting from last Summer. Bare with me while I dust the tools needed to render these months with volume and life. I suspect I will have it in good shape in a blog or two.


                             

In a dark cave, I fry my eyes over sizzling light, piling lines upon lines until I hear the faint murmur of a heartbeat. My film is an embryo. Within my studio there is an artificial cold, a seeping, air conditioned bite that covers every cubic inch of exposed skin in a manufactured chill. Its that unnatural sensation of a vacuum sealed, modernist building that makes one feel preserved by some unnatural force of scientific refrigeration. I need a break, so I step out into the sunlight...


My eyes saw what stretched before me through a bright Polaroid filter. White-hot Summer hazes blurred the distance with warm streaks; just as well to enjoy the sand before me, pasted onto my bare shoulders.  Coney Island wheeled a whirl of ants about a boardwalk waiting to fulfill Summer dreams. My vision bounced with the subtle disturbance of walking. I scanned from the towels to that smile, beaming behind a pair of huge tinted windows that tend to rest on the face during that time of year.

“Would you like to go see a high school friend of mine?”


Above ground the subway is a treat, and your eyes can scan the landscape, imagining all the songs and stories flying past deep eastern Brooklyn from the subway window.  Wood striped buildings speed blurred in the foreground, shrunken midground rectangles drift by like lazy clouds with faded painted advertisements, and a distant blue mass of ever-receding weathered structures hangs solid in the distance. An ambient rustle rises like a shouting static and we are thrust back into darkness. The world becomes the underground once again. In the quiet black I explain Logan. “He was a role model of sorts, I unintentionally followed in his exact footsteps.”  His Texas Art Association flag hung daunting between the U.S. and Texas in the high, cylindrical atrium circling the entrance of Frisco High School’s southern wing. This signified one of the many contest won first by him that paved the path of our future successes. Two years after Logan, I succeeded him as President of the Art Club, then as a merit scholar to Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. Now he waited in a yet unknown part of that distant northern city.


Greenpoint opened its arms with generous breathing room atypical of New York streets. Warm three story wood panels gave nods hinting a half-century of secrets behind their smiles. Former industrial patches felt repurposed by a wave of artist weary of the heavier rent and pretension in more bohemian areas.  Brick buildings revealed waist high patios of bars surfing along the sidewalk, inviting a step into the expansive hub beyond. Wood beams supporting high roofs that gave way to pockets of monochrome life ripped from Picasso’s tone-driven phases. Past the bar and cafe porches you might glance through corners of espresso scented conversation under lights of reclining blue, or follow a trail of smoke across a moody bar cast in sheets and shades of red. Fresh air drifts into open front restaurants with an ornate wooden structures ripped from a high-class, old west saloon. Dim under the shadow of the bright day, clouds of scent bekon the senses to the cool space. Or, maybe to take the spiraling wooden staircase dividing the tall room up to rooftop views of the skyline across a dark river. We pass groups spilling out into the sidewalk talking over beers in a wide alleyway sloping down into the water. The collages of clothing are some paint splattered and all assembled from bits of bygone generations. The identifiable style works in a strange, layered harmony. I recognize this ever shifting uniform of the artist adorning the open loading dock of a motorcycle shop. Bikes pushed aside accommodate sizzling grills and stocked coolers. Tireless work and stress have hardened a cynicism that escapes from me unexpectedly, and robs me of the social skills I had known so effortlessly throughout my life. It is with no little self consciousness that I “casually” slap hands with a hometown friend. But in the carless and dwindling sting of Summer heat, the flow of artistic discourse and eager storytelling comes freely. Talks of past and future meet in a humble alleyway across from the bustle of millions. Distance from those millions allows a heavier blue to set across coming night. We were told to pee in the Gutter; so named was a dive bar with carpeted walls thick with hunting trophies, candy machines generations old from trucking depots, all lit through a smoky haze by hanging green pool table lamps. A strip of windows running like the foreman's observation tower of an old factory overlook a five lane bowling alley attached via staircase to the bar. We marked the spot for a later gathering of friends for bowling, billiards and birthday wishes. The Gutter is a deep purple blotch against a night sky, crouching by a river at the end of an alleyway; It is a beautifully isolated place teeming with its own ecosystem like the underside of a forest rock. Stumbling back to the alley I notice an ever-present ambiance of electric energy across the East River, and appreciate the small solitude that held our gallery party quietly out of sight.


My glass and steal cave is unmoved by my exhaustion. I can hear the film’s pulse daily now, as drawing by drawing 12 frames a second begins to give way to animated movement. Every morning of my Summer I wake up bathed in a diagonal stripes of hazy orange from my window, and yet march midday into that vacuum sealed freezer. 3am shuts down the building’s power, and during my walk home even New York is asleep or drunk. There is progress, but the bags under my eyes ask me if there could really be another school year of this in me.

Back on that above ground stretch of tracks we seek Far Rockaway. A slowly rattling tram coast from the foggy ephemera of grassy marshes that mark the end of ever more sparse buildings. The shuttle conductor calls goodbye to last stop, and we roll past the end of the subway and step off the shuttle into an alien world.  Through a wall of fog, sun-bleached, pastel houses emerge on stilts from the swamp below. Horizontal two by fours snake endlessly twisting and joining to form curving sidewalks and paths overhanging the water below.The corners of the city wear a different face and abide no rules. The fact that our destination is so called, Far Rockaway, is evidence of its remote and appreciably overlooked nature. Iron gates shut on an abandoned stone courthouse. Tall grass swallows the bottom 5 feet of courtyard and ivy playfully circles the deeply carved “justice” overhead. A row of plastic condos attempt to place a resort mask on the tiny strip of land, but fades a block away like a passing set propped up on two by fours. Heat beats splintered grey poles holding a zig-zaging tapestry of telephone wires. Shoes from my parent’s childhood swing by a breeze from those black lines. Hills supporting trees and dense, clinging vegetation have long replaced the rooftops of even brightly colored wooden homes.  Clean sands, few humans, and miles of boardwalk stretch before us. I spend some time being happily manhandled by aggressive waves before retiring. I am a contented spectator to the sole surf spot within city limits.

                       

I’ve lost count of the hours spent in sterile toil. I know how my characters move, how they feel. Its always that cryogenic cold, and all other life forms have gone home for Summer. The film can’t go on if I don’t, so why don’t pace myself? Still, this fictional world is takes shape beneath my fingertips. I could take comfort within my creation, if not for the horror of its content.

That annual text from Liam arrives on schedule.
Once again, Liam runs the pre-college program. Once again, the pre-college kids didn’t deplete their supply of Coney Island cash. Once again, Liam’s loyal friends must take it upon themselves to selflessly help devour a thousand dollars worth of rides, food, and beer before they expire.

Scenes 26-28 done, need to add steam to 45, the background needs to be re-done on 19, can 25 be cut? Why hasn’t my sound designer emailed me back yet?

A graphic novel commision dangles before me. I toy with the idea, and bring sketches to a domineering glass and steel skyscraper. A screaming war tower that will not be ignored, it juts from the meek three story average of Brooklyn to rival Manhattan’s giants. The security guard next to a waterfall directs me around frosted glass walls to an elevator. See-through fabric is the first thing I notice as my client’s model girlfriend answers the door. Directing me inside his apartment, the walls are lined with strange, expensive looking modernist paintings of genetailia. For a few sessions I bring revised sketches to this palace of vintage collector’s vinyl and leather furniture. The son of a famous author reviews them over a view of the skyline beyond.

The project is dark, and the writer, my potential benefactor, well connected. Actors from popular television shows have already starred in the movie set to premiere alongside the graphic novel. A dense script follows a public shooter through his crime and the media circus that follows. It’s a black look into the psychology of a monster, a statement about domestic terrorism. Heavy content and time constraints cannot balance alongside my growing film. After a difficult discussion, I pass on the offer. On the night I leave the project, my closest friends and I suspend our disbelief to enjoy a midnight premiere in a dark theater. For the night, we share a space within the fiction of Chris Nolan’s final Batman film; For three hours, we become carefree children rooting for the fantastic. Friends and strangers share a different fate in the same screening across the country. The public shooting feels a little close to home for more reason than one.

Weeks go by. I’m buried beyond light in the shafts now, and blindly mine for the heart of the film. The handles of my pick run sores up and down my palms. A bounty of progress stacking up in my cart make the effort somewhat worthwhile.

We christen my final RA training with a massive Lounge Monster decoration to welcome a new crop of freshman. The project is temporary, but leadership hopes to inspire an afterlife in memory.


Scene after scene litters the floor of the completed pile. Drawings number in the thousands, characters move onscreen, yet there i barely a dent in the wall ahead.

When I arrived at Pratt my freshman year, wood framed dutch townhouses from the age of lithographs sat overgrown in the back of campus. Time stretched with hands of vines to pull them beneath the earth. In 2012, Pratts swings its mighty hand, heavy with 50,000 dollars of tuition multiplied thousands of times and students over. In an instant, there are four livable townhouses. The rest are soon on their way.  It seems strange to see abodes from what were so long mighty and beautiful ruins. None the less, someone manages to tastefully install air conditioner in this Parthenon. Within one is a fleet of retired RAs, old friends, and like minded artists. Sitting on the stoop of Gandalf house, as it came to be named,  my friend Uriah is approached by an ancient man weaving polite and pleasant stories from his time in that same house in the 6 decades before. Annabeth’s name inadvertently reveals the coed housing, and the gentleman bolts at an unnatural and appalled speed. In proper form, his politeness never ceases despite disappearing muttering into the dusk. Fun and unusual events seem to go hand in hand with Gandalf house, from poker tournaments with missing people, to mattress sledding that ends in ambulances, and even a snowball fight with the building itself. One of the formative visits to the house in the waning days of 2012’s Summer delivered us into the hands of terror and wonder. A dear friend, one Jared Schwartz, and I are approached with the possibility of some urban exploration. The air brakes hiss and we step from the bus with a thankful nod for our specially requested stop. We stare at a city block far from home. Like much of Brooklyn, its surrounded with developing and remodeling construction. Fortunately our treasure isn’t in the war path of city planners with a taste to replace history with high-rent, “modernist” apartments. It was long ago paved over and hidden from the hands of profit and time. Encased within a city block, our target is barely visible above the surrounding rectangle of architecture: it is guarded on all sides by giant storage facilities, brownstone apartments, tall businesses, and the kind of unidentifiable warehouse-like structures people rarely ask questions about. Circling the block, we survey our points of entrance. Along the brownstones, there are several locked rod-iron gates, plus a taller gate in the backyards with sharp spikes and a sheer fall. We say no thank you to the iron spears. It is a Sunday, and all but a few storage facility employees are absent from the massive parking lot. In the back, a rusty ladder in the corner of an aluminum sheeted wall look promising, though the razor wire atop it daunting. The strip of carpet we find is thick enough to avoid being pierced by the razor wire, but narrow enough to make the vault perilous. When we see the added fun of the 10 foot drop into a thicket of thorns and branches, we set it aside as a plan B. Passing the  polished steel of the generic business, we know the route is impenetrable; even the owners likely don’t have access to the space beyond. We come finally upon a long stretch of dusty lot buzzing in front of an unmarked warehouse. Clandestine, dirty trucks match the men loading concealed products onto them. Walls of tires, scrap metal, and conveniently placed machinery wall off the inner circle around the warehouse. Rows upon rows of tightly packed vehicles form 100 meters of cover across the parking lot. Products padlocked and sealed criss cross the warehouse alternately in unmarked vans. Employees in low set hats furtively exchange “goods.”  Waiting for a shifting of men and a change of gaurd, we dart behind an old el camino, wait for a driver to pass, then swing under a detached bed of some forgotten eighteen-wheeler. On counts and turns we play human tetris with the parking lot, hoping to avoid detection and whatever vague consequences come with it.We slide through the cab of a doorless car and arrive at the mountainous cinder block wall at the back most edge of the compound. From the roof of a rusted hatchback propped diagonal from the ground, we pull ourselves upon the stair casing wounds in the cinderblock layers. We are swift and careful; Although we are deep beyond the workers, the lowest through-path between the multiple layers of cinderblock is several stories high, and easily spotted from a distance. Down we climb through a spiraling, concrete hole, atop twisted, rusting relics of what was once a chain link fence, and into a forest of scraggly weeds. We are in.
                              

What stands before us is a massive, encased and forgotten power plant over a century old. What stands behind is a sheer grey wall, with a message sprawled in ancient graffiti several stories tall, a threat to frighten an eternity of visitors, “We are coming.” Gravel crunches underfoot below a waist of weeds dipping into a valley. The echo of our footsteps in this forgotten world are hollow and unimpeded; for now at least we are alone . A moat of twisted trees, wreckage, slip holes, metal, and other unseen dangers fill the chasm between us and the power plant. Cautiously, we forge a path across large stones, crossing a felled tree to stand ground level on the massive building’s loading dock. Without collecting cuts and scrapes in the brambles surrounding the building, this seems to be the only access. Our courtyard landing is an island of concrete slowly splitting and sinking into the waving sea of patient branches. Dilapidation did little to lessen the strength of iron bars, bricked windows, and massive immovable doors with no handles. Branches and shrubs reach from the side to shade and hide the bottom loading dock’s path to the basement. To enter this haunting giant from the lower door seems suspiciously close to the premise of a horror film, especially as it sits a leg’s-break down with few climbing options. We shrug it off and lower each other down. Together we heave the mighty bulk of the massive sliding sectional door enough for Anna to dart crounched into the darkness. A resounding slam shatters the errie silence of our stadium sized concrete encasement as we let the door fall. We climb vines back to ground level. Long moments pass, followed by a heaving creek. The handle-less door heavy with a hundred years gives way from inside. We fix a crack in the door with a loose cinder block’s guarantee. The immediate dark is too dense to make out details of your belt buckle, but the sprawling first floor is guided by stripes of luminance. Columns strike the ground with a radiance almost solid, spilling glow into hazy white pools around the base. We hop between puddles against indistinguishable mechanical silhouettes. Moving slowly, we pray hard against unseen pitfalls to the unknown levels underneath. We span the space between us and the forest of light to a rusty industrial staircase in the adjacent corner. Heavy iron supports holding wide stone steps seem coated but not invaded by cancerous oxidization. We brave the space beyond the waning arms of the bright columns across ancient dark steps. The handrails, are many years absent. Overhead a pin of light opens and swallows us into a deep, light flooded room. As we suspected from the scarcity of the silhouettes below, most of the machinery from the building’s days as a power plant has been salvaged when the ship sank. Forsaken metal chunks form the structure for the rumor of the building’s second age. We now look assured upon the remnants of a homeless civilization. Standing now in a bare colosseum, high stone ceilings stretch immense distances. Speckled missing bits of wall and window fall like knocked in teeth in rectangles of sunshine along the perimeter. Jared and I stand across from what was once an ornate, circular stained glass window. This giant sits atop the summit of a hill, and a breeze reaches up from below. Cobbled chunks of Brooklyn neighborhoods stretch miles towards the waters in the far east. We hover in the relative silence of the wind, watching paradoxes of buzzing. Civilization flanks and ignores us within our doubly isolated enclaves. Sheets drape, tied to the tops of beams and pieces of machinery.Squares of cloth meet and form private rooms. A yellowing scholastic notebook is filled years ago with ideas for begging. A middle schooler’s optimistic font recalls neither math notes nor diary entries. “Luke, I am your father, need cash for new death star.” one line read. This and many others fill the notebook. The levity with which one so young solicits dinner makes me wonder with what shape the soul is crushed. We part the curtains to peak at spilling piles of collected, stained toys and shoes. A mattress across a box-spring of egg-crates gazes out a window. Across the hall, a border of shelves all but barricade the entrance to another room, a narrow passage accessible by pushing inward on heavy cabinet doors and walking through the hole in the back. A bed faces outside again, and the room is empty save for a copy of the Giver, and a bible verse scratched into aluminum. 
                                    

We zig zag through the rooms and echoes of the lives before us.Ascending floors each stretch stories high. Crowned by graffiti, the top floor is a day glow tower with an immensity to dwarf all rooms prior, spilling with makeshift rooms and hovels like a pueblo dwelling in the land of the dead. The ground tells a darker tale here, as the rainbow shards of crack viles glitter next to piles of herion needles. 

Still, there is something monstrous and beautiful in this surreal place. Original architecture subsist through the cavernous mounds of operator’s stations at either end of the room. Wires soar in horizontal  arcs hundreds of feet overhead. Decorated manikins float next to mobiles of discarded bicycle tires far above reach.  



What would have seemed a gaudy and unbelievable lair for a comic book gang  held our breath in its reality. All seems out of scale above. Gaping chasms in the roof show us a micro version of Anna taking pictures in the graffiti caves below. 


Meanwhile, oversized versions of common machinery make one feel dwarfed next to the 30 feet of oxidizing fan blades. These behemoths are cloned in lines across the sides. We head back to the cinderblock touch point. Before our reunion with the loading dock, Jared and I make a brave stop in a basement packed with blinding darkness. A haunting presence feels buried alive amongst the generators and the sinking mud. Remote corners bare witness to the history of a lonely dwelling. Far from the communities that would take shape above, something crouched in the chilling damp generations prior. Scattered, fading evidence a half century old whispers remembrances of a life gone by. Paper crumbles beneath the hot yellow sword of our shared flashlight, and the ancient line of shoes and gloves seems best undisturbed. We depart lest more concrete remains of the years spent in darkness revealed themselves in some pitiful, unvisited corner.

We ride with ripped pants and dirtied nails past the brownstones streets. Homes congeal from independence into the solid walls that form our neighborhood streets. I know I must return to my state-of-the-art prison soon. Air brakes squeal our address. The scent of fall is a cool wind through a dense warm haze, spiced with the bursting blood of leaves leaping and spilling from trees: A smelling salt to sharpen the senses from the Summer’s ether. Cross the gates of Pratt awaited our final year in Brooklyn.    

Friday, July 20, 2012

A COLLECTION OF SHORT STORIES

Introduction:

Once again I find myself at an impasse; My words are stilted by the fear of the injustice they may serve my own life. Each day adds a shovelful to the mountainous (and mostly factual) lore I'd hoped to climb. What I offer, dear family and loved ones, is a compromise. A series of tales and truths with aspirations to entertain. Before which, some exposition better bulleted than worked into story:


  • One more year! One more year! I've been elected to serve my fellow Prattonians as a Lead RA during my final days within Pratt's gates.
  • Junior years's films did well: a few festivals, fantastic internet exposure, and a lot of experienced gained. 
  • I am currently interning at Augenblick Studios: Augenblick Studios
  • I am in production on my senior animation until I graduate. Its a whopper of a project entitled BREADHEADS. The three pictures below are:
    • 1. A character sheet in which I map out the quickest and easiest way to draw my Sargent  ten million times.
    • 2. A screenshot from the opening scene. 
    • 3. An example of my mental state throughout the process























For more on Breadhead related shenanigans, and the dark, doodled depths of my sketchbooks, visit: http://codywalzel.tumblr.com/


For those of you who haven't seen, here are three of the four animations created during my junior year:







Now to the fun part for all you reading enthusiasts. I proudly present, my life in segments:

It's surreal to see the labors of your own artistic hand alive on television. So much so at times, that you forget to be appreciative for the opportunity. A quiet moment with a steaming cup of coffee in the Augenblick Studios screening room provided some perspective. Dense walls and carpeted floors blended sounds near and far into a smooth, soft murmur. Windows on my right showcased the heavy fog hanging on buildings to turn reality to landscape. I could almost hear the brooding jazz decorating the mood. A block from where I sat the bridges labeled Brooklyn and Manhattan shook hands. Floating over the River East, my vantage point witnessed the parting of the two friends in a v shaped path to the hazy island beyond. Stone giants with a century of stories invited a look around. Kind red bricked structures smiled from behind colossal painted advertisements decades faded. Creaking ships drifted exchanging  low, breathy "good-days."  They all turned to ask if I remembered why I came. I couldn't help a smile as I headed back to my desk.    




Endless angled paint strokes aim to imitate the look of linoleum cut relief prints. I am bound to the endless wall in part by the fear that I will find a paint-covered Kayla starved three days from now. My hard working girlfriend tirelessly prepares for her senior show. It seems the comic book created entirely from the painstaking linoleum relief cut process didn't satisfy the over-achiever in her. I find myself recreating a full scale reproduction of a planet sized black hole on which to display the prints. How long have we been mining this coal mine? How far will human civilization have advanced when we emerge?


Breathless and grasping to life, we escape with success, as the night of the show comes crashing down. Hands are shaken and congrats showered. Echoing gallery exchange builds a roar and we squeeze through the thickening crowd, and land out in the sushi restaurant where I meet Kayla's parents. The lovely but brief dinner gives way to the Brooklyn Public House rendezvous and a mob of my friends celebrating a conglomerate of birthdays. the fabric covering my ass grazes the comfort of a chair a nanosecond before a whirlwind rips us from the pub and ushers me into a gypsy cab. Limited shoulder room assures I get aquatinted with these new friends hell-bound for Manhattan. Chattering uptown girls in cocktail dresses more expensive than my combined wardrobe fill the lines on both sides of our huddled mass of insider Brooklynites. Steal and glass winds in a fused double helix to the heavens above us. Determining the specifics of this free invitation to watch millionaire's children spend their parent's money seemed a waste of energy at this point. Panic seizes me as I vocalize my realization. One short month from my 21st and this establishment only allows patrons who can purchase their products. So much for my 18 and up hopes. Stepping from a cartoonist's rendition of 1970's NYC was a four foot black gentleman in an alligator skin hat, a pair of Ray Charle's glasses, and a hawaiin button down revealing his navel. "Play it cool my man," "But-" "Don't sweat and nobody will sweat ya'" A mountainous bouncer glazes over my card. The heated pool is so inviting, and this view so nice.


Screaming red light  echoes on the reflective building and bumps the glass. Residents glass's thickness away take pictures. It is the fourth of July, and this balcony kindly reveals the city. Due south, some amateur pyrotechnicians test the patience of the law from our neighboring building's lawn. The occupant's don't seem to mind. The East river is ablaze with impressive displays of fire that sponsorship allows. Across the island, the Hudson tells the same story. Celebratory color arm in arm with satisfying pops trace the water all the way up the river's spine.

Level 5, sky-side: Motion indicates the life forms and mechanics that layer the levels below our subway window. Diverse and industrious, these racing specks recede into the massive distance on all sides. We ride the canopy of a rainforest with steal leaves. A crisscrossing clutter of bridges, tracks, buildings, and roads loosens its knot and allows my metal worm to spit me out.  Weathered structures beg to tell the tale of the millions they have known. Urban expression on level 4 below these swinging concrete branches. Placed behind glass walls, what was once called degenerate feels itself entitled to the term art. Dipping, we feel that stomach tickle hit our throats while the coaster throws us downhill. Thus the nature of the places in which we exist.
- Level 3: Rain pounds and shudders the walls of the neon lit, youth-filled bar. Alive with laughter, the Knitting Factory ignores the rain's tantrum as the comedian pours his heart from the stage. Shoulder to shoulder crowds surround the worn nostalgia of the vintage living room. Soundproof glass blocks the distant energy of a band's passion in a room behind the silhouette of the tattooed bartender.
-Level 2: Under the steaming, enormous ironing board bridge buzzes a wooden-shingled burrow.  Radiating beer signs make visible an old irish pub from beneath the black shadow of the bridge. I nod respect to this ancient establishment for endured this perceptual dark, and pass downhill. If the city is a rock, I'm dancing amongst the wriggling life forms below it. Level 1: The outskirts of my concrete forest  are free from the reaching branches of the manmade foliage.  5 points opens its mouth, and we graciously enter:




Finals were strapping on the gloves, and my birthday right around the corner. I locked horns with decisions of work and play that have plagued me for the entirety of my college life. I beseech wisdom of you equipped with years and perspective. I constantly question whether to spend the night working towards the future or make some memories in my youth. How much freedom do I allow these competitive ideologies? The night of my 21st offered a treaty: a tableful of shots before a coffee fueled all-nighter.

I've taken to the art of wandering, and documenting my findings in a tiny cork sketchbook. Ever wondered what the Brooklyn Navy Yard looked like from below the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway? If you have, thats weirdly specific, but either way, enjoy:



In an aside from my colorfully descriptive adventures I must admit the true nature of my recent life. Most of my days are spent buried in ambitious labors that keep 16 hour work days the norm. Juggling the aforementioned senior film, my RA job, presidency of the animation club, an internship,  15+ non thesis related credits, and the occasional side project means very limited leisure. Last semester and the next year will likely be remembered mostly for exhaustion and impoverishment, weeks of canned chilly and 4 hours of sleep. Despite this, I always have more to share than I am capable to writing. I will try always to regale and provoke pride from all those who know I can endure. 


-Love,
Cody






Sunday, October 2, 2011

Cold and Productive

For those of you still out there, I weave what is to me a tale of brevity. Painting justly the last semester is impossible on a canvas this small. The following I offer is but a sketch; I hope it may provide some picture of the months that inspired it.



It is Friday the 13th, in January of 2012. I live now in the time of oppressive cold, where bodies roam radiating a white aura of winter breath. Wrapping up the final days of break, I prepare for what's ahead with a look at what's behind.

Surviving the sensationalized, consecutive attacks of the hurricane, the earthquake, and the big financial protest, I'd love to pretend I'm a season veteran of disaster. In al honesty you probably had a clearer picture of whichever of these events you followed from the comfort of your living room. Pratt is an island, isolated from the influx of media excitements. Both the people that make it up and by extension the entity itself are too specifically concerned to worry too much about disasters and economics.



For a brief time I moved on to my second internship. Augenblick Studios kindly invited me to intern for their production, Ugly Americans, to which I happily obliged. Nicely framed posters of productions I grew up adoring covered walls straight from some edgy version of a 1930's Disney studio decor. Deer heads and German old world style bar paraphernalia mingled with wooden desk caves lit by soft green incandescent lamps. Collectable toys, bookshelves filled to the brim with inspiration, and animators who will for years to come put me to shame surrounded me. Apparently I had stepped into some awesome and warped cartoon version of a retro reality. Friday afternoon progress screenings were aided by beer, pizza, and the contagious energy of people who love what they do. After learning more in a few weeks of actual hands on experience than any class at Pratt, I was forced by scheduling into an early retirement. The balancing act of 18 credits, working on a film, being an RA, maintaining a social life, and the internship finally came crashing down. I decided Augenblick would be around later, and said adieu for now.



Sell the trip to some friends, cram into a bus full of strangers, and set sail for somewhere more rural. This was the plan and execution of my second annual trip to Pratt's free leadership weekend. Past the blur of concrete are trees, hills, and eventually, a 30 foot high zip-line. A game of bumper boats accompanied the ropes course in what turned out to be a silly and stress relieving weekend. It also marked one of the last hangouts with my dear friend Conor, whose Boston house I visited this summer, and who is now taking some time off from Pratt.




The rumors about New Jersey are mostly true, and it seems to have rightfully usurped many serious contenders for most made fun of state. The exception to this lies off of exit zero. Cape May New Jersey is another gem of surrealism hidden in this northern landscape. Detailed balconies of festively painted wood surround charming beach houses straight from an idealized brochure. This comparison is apropos, seeing as how it is said to be the oldest resort town in the country. My friend Francesca was kind enough to allow me a visit to her charming, seaside village. Bicycles criss-cross streets containing family owned restaurants catty-corner to salt water taffy. Airy pastels speckle the buildings in a landscape with an air of sea salt and the song of crashing waves. The overzealous beach swarms to consume the forest, leaving canopies of trees rising from hills of conquering sand. Thank you Francesca for a marvelous escape.



December marked the end of the long anticipated duck project. Despite my overflowing urge to show off my hard work to all my lovely blog followers, I would be disqualified form a variety of competitions for posting the project online. I await the return of my friend Billy from long Island and the score for the film he will be bringing with him, then I will be submitting to all the free and cheap animation festivals I can get my grubby hands on.

Animation Show of Shows, a Process to Completion lecture with Alan Foreman, A Sesame Street lecture, email correspondence with recently graduated/successful students, and upcoming lunch conversations with several animators mark my clumsy but persistent attempts at networking. I will also be taking my films to the monthly screenings and critiques hosted by the East Coast's animation guild. Hopefully I wont have to decide whether its who you know or what you know.

I now have a tumblr!! This means I will be posting my comics, doodles, animated segments, and sketches! Please follow, checkup, see what i'm up inside the sketchbook:


codywalzel.tumblr.com

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Story Continues...

Roosevelt Island is like a dip into the Truman Show. A still-aired floating piece of suburbia is fenced by the towering skyscrapers and scurrying life of upper Manhattan. Streets lined with oddly organized structures are strolled at a mid-American tempo light years from the pace across the river. More than just the unremarkable simplicity of the place stood out to me. Something eerie and plastic seemed to hide the island's true face, like a sea creature lurking just beneath the surface of the Hudson. Peaceful, bizarre, and distinctly distant from my typical city environment, it was enough to inspire talks of taking in some different sights this Summer. My friend Conor who accompanied me into this Twilight Zone suggested I come home with him to Boston as the next stop on my adventurous path. The plan was in motion, friends were gathered, and a few weeks later, we set sail to Boston.



Lying outside the city of Boston is the most quintessentially American neighborhood I have ever encountered. Wood paneled houses sit atop green rolling hills on streets canopied by leafy trees and a sense of history. Immaculately clean lawns and gardens are speckled by the shade of the ancient trees, and I honestly wouldn't have been surprised to see apple pie on the windowsill under the American flag. The insincerity of most suburbs must have to do in part with their cheap attempt at imitation of a neighborhood like this. A park perched high on a hill revealed a layered clearing of hills for miles until the city of Boston poked through the cradle of foliage. Exhausting the daytime entertainment in my friend's hometown, it was on to the city. Boston itself was charming and clean, a red bricked and well preserved piece of American city. Wholesomeness only gets you so far, and as much as I enjoyed the pristine environment, I missed the wild unpredictability and unbridled raw energy one feels in New York. I looked in vein for a drunken man in a peacock costume or the spontaneous invitation to a BBQ on a rooftop in the projects. Finishing up our time in Massachusetts, we were led through the dark maze of houses until the neighborhood disappeared into forest paths, and the paths disappeared into a cave of trees. Finally we emerged onto campfire, and enjoyed out last night away from NYC.



Classy Jazz festivals on Governor's Island provide a chance to dress up and mingle with like minded Jazz enthusiast.



Summer is when the city opens its jaws and swallows you into the belly of free festivities uniquely available in the brief sliver of nice weather. The Brooklyn Bridge 50 yards behind me, the shimmering lights over lower Manhattan to the right, and the statue of liberty just beyond the screen, the city queued up Ghostbusters on the outdoor movie. It was not a bad way to see this cult classic for the first time. I returned to Brooklyn Bridge Park a few days later to kayak in the East river and enjoy the stunning sights of NYC from the water. The scale of the city never ceases to shrink me.
Purchased last Winter Break, my six flags season pass works at any park around the country for the next year. It took little convincing to aim a car full of my friends at the nearby Six Flags great adventure park. Leaving the city behind we embrace New Jersey state line. It lives up to its cheesy reputation with reflective metallic diners that resemble a regurgitation of some 1950's space series. Laughably tasteless, our choice of restaurant allows us some fun at the predictable quality of interstate side cuisine. Crossing into the cornfields and rustic rural features of Pennsylvania, we concluded a great day of rides that helped us forget we weren’t children anymore. Our hospitable friend Nicole lodges us for the night as we rejuvenate for the trains back home.




Blasts from the past show up to NYC in the form of two former high school teachers. The reunion of Frisco High School faculty and alumni included myself, my friend Marly who attends Marymount Manhattan, and briefly, Hannah. Historically inclined, the bar tour encompasses several of the most significant spots in the city’s cultural lifetime. A surreal clash of my old and new worlds dissolved student-teacher lines into friendship. Exciting and unusual, the night left me with amazement at my former teacher’s stamina, and a new found respect for the partying abilities of the people I once deemed old enough to call “Mr.” and “Mrs.”

My friend and fellow RA, Liam, assistant coordinated Pratt’s Pre-College program. Besides the substantial payment and satisfactory managerial power given to the position, there is the remaining theme park account. Students in the Pre-College program are chaperoned through a number of NYC’s attractions, including Coney Island’s freshly built Luna Park. Luckily for us, high school students visiting the city for the first time fancy themselves far too cool to take advantage of the activities already purchased by their parent’s money. Scattering back to their respective homes, the kids left behind a great deal of Luna Park credits. Thus, we felt charged with the task of keeping this cash from going to waste. Friends were gathered; A few hours and roughly 700 dollars later, we headed to the beach to enjoy Coney Island’s weekly Friday night fireworks. Rides, souvenirs, drinks, food, and games were topped of by the indulgent glee of hot, bright flashes of light and sound. Exploding over the night-darkened ocean, the smoky remains drifted in eerie waves from the beach towards the neon amusement park. Clouds of smoke slithered through the century old structures creating an image of haunting beauty. The camera phone picture does little justice to the ghostly atmosphere, but I thought I’d show it anyway. After all this, Liam still had around 600 remaining to spend. I’ll be applying for this job next year…





RA training brought a new generation of friends and experiences. Receiving the disappointing news that this year’s camp lacked a lake, I had low expectations for our retreat. What I found instead was a forest ripped from mythology. Slender, rain darkened trees rose from the carpet of moss and disappeared in the thick fog a few layers beyond. Speckled with warm shades of newts, the forest floor was alive with friendly creatures and vibrant vegetation. New friends and old grew closer as we journeyed the quiet majesty of the rainy wilderness. Mysterious, serpentine paths revealed valleys and peaks, stair-casing waterfalls and long forgotten clearings. Oh, and I guess we did some learning too.
Back to school means back to sorting the influx of house party invitations. It means accompanying hoards of art school kids to Brooklyn rooftops to shake the foundations of brownstone buildings into wee hours of the morning. I’ll attend until the weather gets cold and the work picks up; then its back to our caves to hide from the elements as we hammer out our artwork in dimly lit interiors.

Catching wind of the spiciest curry in all the five boroughs, we set off to face the challenge. Ten of us boarded the subway, eight competitors and two spectators, anxiety building as we neared the legendary phaal dish. The price for failure had ranged from tabletop vomiting, to nose bleeds and ambulance calls. Victory over the flaming meteorite of meat and sauce would earn you a certificate of recognition, a spot on the mostly vacant wall of fame, and eternal glory as a “curry monster.” Equipping ourselves with mango lassis, naan, and all the determination we would muster, we were given a verbal disclaimer and 30minutes to complete the dish. Exploding in skin dissolving heat, the looks around the table went from excited to grave. Tears of pain and laughter, raised voices and the most fun kind of excruciating pain characterized the next half hour. Despite the spice-induced numbness the spread from my mouth down through my hands, I found my downfall was the massive portions of food. I shouldn’t have eaten that huge burrito for lunch a few short hours prior… Stubbornly exploring all possible strategies, I finally had to throw in the towel when I learned I would be disqualified if I attempted to vomit and continue eating. Although I am not personally a curry monster, I witnessed five of my friend’s induction into the phaal challenge hall of fame.
I conclude this entry, which has been long in the making, from my friends Long Island vacation home. As I write to you now, I peer out bay windows, past a balconied wooden porch, down a tangled, infinite mixture of flora bursting from a steep hill, and into the peace of the Long Island Sound 200 or so yards beyond. Saturday afternoon, we loaded a car to capacity, and headed out to enjoy the long weekend. The last few days have been filled with the grey-blue peace of a sophisticated northeastern beach.








I stand ready and eager to face the challenges of the next year. Life has proven action packed, difficult, and fulfilling. I’m having the time of my life, but keep in mind: If you are reading this, chances are I miss you dearly.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Devoured by the Flames of Summer

I couldn't sleep one day, so I watched the birth of the roaring sun.



New friends means new trouble to get into. Summer has become synonymous with intensity: intensity of events, intensity of heat in unairconditioned buildings, intensity of plans I make and things I can't plan for.

In the summer, we ride bikes through traffic to parks. We sit near rivers that overlook some of the world's most famous buildings.







This is what my school looks like in these days



And this is what protest looks like. Pratt refuses to hire union workers, so they inflate rats. Meanwhile, us irreverent art students take pictures and laugh.





Weddings introduce me to St. Louis and fine midwestern dining.



Receptions are held in houses that have touched the century mark.



I've even time to stop by the Church of Scientology for a spiritual tour. Funny stuff.



Careful with Pratt cats, they're not all friendly...



My Summer animation is under control but moving slowly. A separate blog is in progress to document my process for those of you interested. My internship continues to be educational and fulfilling. Seeing projects you've worked on broadcasted on national television is surreal.

Care to see me in a magazine article? Read Up:

http://gateway.pratt.edu/student-news-june-2011/



Do I look like somebody famous? Hopefully I will someday. Stay tuned for more excitement and adventure, at codywalzel.blogspot.com!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Since you have last checked on me, some interesting things have happened...


Those of you who have noticed my absence from the blistering Texas heat will be happy to know that i didn't get abducted, I am staying the summer here in New York. I am a summer RA in my space for next fall.

I have an internship this summer working for a show called superjail on cartoon network, at a studio called Titmouse.

I got into Wallabout film festival for my first semester animation final. It was really exciting to be next to a host of amazing films from all over the world.

I won for a student leadership award for quiet influence from Pratt (quiet assumedly meaning subtle not literally quiet).

A Pratt magazine called the gateway, which is sent out to tens of thousands of readers, has chosen me as their student spotlight for the June issue.

This summer has yielded relaxation with friends, trips to flee markets, and plans for road trips in and around the NYC area.

I apologize for the brevity of this message, but I haven't been in the mood for descriptive writing lately, which is why it took me so long to write another post. Just wanted to keep all of you who care about me informed on the goings on in my life.

Here are some pictures from lately:


Over spring break, some friends came to visit...this is us at the Metropolitan Museum of art



Here are me and three of my friends, we walked around campus like this, and got a surprisingly amount of confused stares considering all the things that go down at art school.



My friend Lauren from Frisco High went to college in NYC too, and she wanted to go to the top of the empire state before she moved to California.








Hopefully my creative spark for describing my life will return. For now all my creative energy is being poured into exhaustive research for a sumer animation I am planning.
With love from New York,
-Cody

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Into the Icy Voyage

New York greeted me with a flurry of snow that has since been piled in human height stacks in the corners of Brooklyn’s streets. At first, I welcomed the blustery wonderland as I watched the world disappear into a swirling haze of white from my 12th story window. But winter is a relentless old broad, and she beats on me with weekly sheets of sleet and ice that made me regret even my earliest affections for frozen precipitation. What didn’t help winter’s case was my nearly two week encounter with death in the form of the black plague, aka some mutated flu monster. Throughout the congestion, aches, fevers, fatigues, piles of mucus, and less dignified stomach issues I continued to kid myself about the symptoms and force myself to class, retroactively diagnosing myself with flu. Needless to say I am ready for some warmer weather that is still months away.




In RA training we have an event called “behind closed doors.” This event requires new RAs to confront various pre-staged rooms as they travel the floors of a residence hall. Inside they find older RAs acting as residents in a number of confrontation scenarios. The idea is to condition the newbies to appropriately handle tough situations. It has also become somewhat of an opportunity for the older RAs to have some fun at the new people’s expense. As the new, terrified RAs tremble at the notion of handling a party room, or a pot bust, the older RAs are likely inside planning to make it as difficult as possible. With some experience now under my belt, I savored the opportunity to be on the fun side of this exercise. In the party room, I played a belligerent drunk and fled the room at top speed when the RAs in training arrived. In the pot room, I was an incoherent stoner who forgot all my information and gave a fake name. It was a fun opportunity to give back to the system that had once teased me.

Taking advantage of the largest city in America, I have partaken in a variety of fun and uniquely New York adventures, despite my increasingly crushing schedule. 5 dollars got me into a famous comedy club known as the Upright Citizens Brigade for a highly unusual but exceedingly hilarious night. Spare time and weekends have provided the opportunity for the endless exploration of diverse NYC cuisine. I have discovered a charming and affordable Cuban restaurant near Pratt as well as a newfound love for Indian food available throughout the city. Amongst Brooklyn’s expansive and mostly abandoned ruins of what once was a navy yard Jared (my roommate) and I made quite a discovery. A late night walk through the lifeless streets framed by the cracked windows and age damaged crumbling stone skeletons of buildings revealed an illuminating light at the end of a hidden street. Glowing, pristinely new letters read, “Steiner Studios.” A bit of research uncovered that it is the largest studio in the world outside of Los Angeles, and only about 3 blocks from Pratt. After a bit of over-the-phone truth stretching about our position at our school, a few friends and I got invited on a private tour of the studios. We saw the sets for the upcoming movie Men in Black 3, and the currently on air television shows: Boardwalk Empire, and Damages. Our tour of the expansive studios had to take place early in the day because the projects were shooting that afternoon.



The Palm Room of Brooklyn Botanical Gardens hosted what I anticipated to be a prom-like event known as Pratt Night Out. Since tickets where only $10, I was curious to see what an art school dance had in store. Turns out: better food, more people I like, a whole lot more dancing, (all of it ridiculous in the best way possible). Hors d'oeuvres, dubstep (aka weird robot music), and a lot of laid back fun combined with an excuse to dress up is a recipe for a pretty good night.





An extra-curricular side project to produce a contest-quality animation is under way by the team of Jared, Colin Kelly, and myself. Taking our project on as professionals, my classmates and I have visited the Museum of Modern Art for notes on visual style, researched films and animations, and sought the reviewing eye of the head of the animation department. Quite a lot of discussion, a loose script, and working models of the character designs have resulted from our work thus far. I anticipate it will be the greatest thing I have ever animated in my short career, and a quality above most student level animations. Details to come as the project develops.



Also, I learned to knit, it’s pretty cool.


Look closely at this one....
Hope all is well down south =)