Tuesday, 4 December 2012

November Part 2

Onto the second half of the month, which involved less travelling but was no less busy, and I had to do quite a bit of plate-spinning (not literally).

3: November 20th & 27th: a feast of illustration

Over the past 10 weeks I've been travelling to Cambridge every Tuesday, to teach the Illustration for Picture Books course at Hills Road Sixth form college. Our final session for the term was last week; it has been great fun. 

A few examples of the students' work
Everyone said a bit about their work, and I was bowled over by the quality and range of what they had made, from hand-made books, to CD sleeves and artwork, to finished stories and experimental pop-up cards. A seriously industrious and creative bunch of people. I'm looking forward to running the next one (if you are in the Cambridge area and interested in joining the course, details can be found here).

Custom-made bunting by the students on the Illustration for Picture Books course!

4. November 20 - 29th: Pigs flying and fluttering paper

I was asked by JaneJaney and the Drama Centre London to create a series of short animations for their production of Bertolt Brecht's 'The Good Soul of Szechuan'. Here's one of them - a troupe of flying pigs, to accompany one of the songs;

It was played out in a disused library, so the set was deliberately ramshackle, built up from heaps of old discarded books and scaffolding, and the animations were projected onto a slipshod screen at the back of the stage.

I'd never heard of this play before, so other than what had been conveyed to me in the brief, I had little idea of what to expect when I went to see it. It was a real melting pot, with comedy, music, dancing and projection; and had a very contemporary feel, particularly in the library set, partly a reference to current funding cuts to the arts. It was all done in an original, funny and beautiful way.

The lead character, the 'Good Soul', Shen Teh, receives a tobacco shop as a reward from the gods. But people quickly start to take advantage of her, so she disguises herself as a man, Shui Ta, in order to keep her business  alive. I had to create a short animation of her transformation. 

November is always cold and dark, but this seems to have been an especially cold month to me. In a way, that makes it the perfect time to be creative. It has been good to work at my desk by the window, daydreaming, drawing and moving bits of paper around under the rostrum camera, watching the rain hammer down on the other side of the glass. Now we're in December, the sun's a bit brighter but I'm happy to say there's no sign of things slowing down.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

A lot can happen in a month

I've been doing lots of exciting things since I finished the MA and BLINC, but sometimes when people ask you what you've been up to, the pressure of gathering up all the information into a quick synopsis is just too much and I just end up spitting out the same old 'ah, well, you know, this and that, ticking over etc...'; that's when eyes start to glaze over, attention drifts, or you get caught on another subject entirely (not always such a bad thing). 

So, for the record, and courtesy of my diary*, here are a few snapshots of my life over the past month.

1: November 8 - 11th: To Manchester, for the Universal Ear...

Almost straight after BLINC, I went to Manchester to build props and sets and general 'things' for Graeme Cole, creator of/evil genius behind the UNIVERSAL EAR, at the Nexus Art Cafe.

The Universal Ear is a serial, filmed entirely on a Super 8 camera, following postman-hero Harley Byrne as he travels through space and time attempting to capture all the world's music ever. For 'Banned Insubstance', he travels to Greece in the distant future, and takes part in the Olympid games.

Evil Genius
Paper grass
A V.I.P (very important prop)
I made a bed of grass, Olympic medals, a barbell and lots more out of paper, tin foil and cardboard, drank a lot of tea and ate biscuits. It was tough, but luckily I had some kindly volunteers and the aforementioned evil genius on hand to offer help.

2. November 12 - 18th: Diving Belles and Christmas cards...

I helped my friend Sara Fernee on a very exciting scheme that she has been brewing for a long time, involving swimming pools, projectors and divers. Four of us spent an evening being photographed and filmed, diving and swimming underwater in a pool in Brighton. That's as much as I can reveal now, but it's sure to be exciting as Sara's head is forever turning over and forming wonderful ideas. 

Next I was asked by my dear Padre to design some Christmas cards. Here are a couple. 

Rudolph breaks down

Mostyn in Llandudno are also selling my Christmas cards and wrapping paper at the moment. And if you'd like to buy any wrapping paper directly from me, please get in touch. 

Wrapping paper
I think that's enough for now, that's one half of November on record and just about digestible. There's the whole second half to talk about next so I don't want to peak too soon...stick with one course etc...(insert jokes about being full up, squeezing more in, loosening belt buckle etc here)! 

*Thank you, dear diary; without you, my life would be as clear as an exploded pizza.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

BLINC! Blinc-ing brilliant!

I've just come back from a fantastically hectic weekend at home for Blinc digital arts festival in Conwy, North Wales. Blinc happens alongside Gwledd Conwy Feast, a food festival that has built up a strong reputation over the past few years; it's a melting pot of food, the arts and welsh culture.  

This is 'Hiraeth', the finished animation I made for our project. The quality isn't especially good here but you can get an idea. This film formed part of a collaborative performance between myself and dancer Alys Hughes. The music is 'Marwnad Y Fam' by Afal Drwg Efa. I think it fits the film beautifully. 

The whole piece in total was about 10minutes long; the first part focused on a dance and highly atmospheric sound piece, created by Alys, and performed against a backdrop of found footage that I put together. As soon as I have footage of the full performance I will post it up here. Over the weekend our performance was shown at the Royal British Legion, projected onto the side of a bus  - and on the final night of the festival it was projected onto the walls of Conwy castle! 

Our piece on Conwy Castle - that's Alys on the left. The 50ft woman!

Alys very bravely performed her dance outside in the freezing cold but it was worth it to see it on such a huge and vivid scale. I was more than a wee bit overwhelmed! Bring on next year...

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Ceramic Hand letterpress book

These are some more detailed pictures of a book I made on the MA, 'Ceramic Hand'. It's a short story about a girl who's trying to sleep, but she can't help reflecting on a shaky relationship; she's reminded of it by the tacky candle holder on her bedside table, given to her by her ex-boyfriend.

I designed and printed it in letterpress, and bound it by hand. The type is set in Walbaum font, the illustrations are linocuts and the paper is Redeem 160gsm. The colours running throughout the type and illustrations are meant to echo the text, describing the girl's mood, the shadows cast by the candle and the changing sky.

I made five copies of the book and have two left and I made a limited number of lino prints of each illustration. All are for sale! Digital prints of the book and of individual illustrations are also available on request, so if you're interested, please get in touch

Friday, 19 October 2012

Floods animation

Animation is the theme of the moment, what with Blinc coming up, so I wanted to share the short animated film I made for my MA show; it's an illustration of a short story I wrote called 'Floods'. 

Many thanks are due to the following people: Emma Gatrill for her helpful hands; Marcus Hamblett and his family for letting me take over their bathtub and doll's house; Oli Whiting for helping me to record the sound; and Matt Page for patiently showing me the way through Final Cut. Oh - and everybody on the MA who lent me a piece of blue fabric!

Monday, 8 October 2012

Blinc in progress...

Here's a very quick look at some animation I'm making for Blinc digital arts festival, which takes place at the end of October in Conwy, North Wales. I'm collaborating with a dancer and native of Conwy, Alys Hughes. Our performance/animation piece is about 'Hiraeth', which is a welsh word, and translates roughly as 'longing'.

The soundtrack I've used for the finished film is 'Marwnad Y Fam' by Afal Drwg Efa; have a listen to their beautiful and unique music, made in Wales, of course.
Lovely copystand

Thursday, 4 October 2012

This post is linked to the max!

We were all really proud of our MA show, but all good things must come to an end! I wanted to share a bit of the beautiful work that was on display and shamelessly plug the bejeezus out of my super talented course-mates.

Unfortunately I didn't take as many pictures as I thought I had (I must have drunk too much orange squash at the private view), but also check out the quick links in my side bar, and you can get an overview of the exhibition here in a neat little film by Woodrow Phoenix. Click away!

Rebecca Rossiter: The Toad Work
Rebecca Rossiter's project was a unique and absorbing look at the world of work, taken from two personal and very different viewpoints. She made two books; 'Inside Job', an adaptation of Joseph Conrad's 'Heart of Darkness', set in an office, and 'Get Me Out of my Inbox' (my favourite), a series of illustrated e-mails between a father and daughter, both fed up of their jobs. The delicate collages are thoughtful and beautifully paced, and the relationship between the two main characters comes through in crystal clear, un-flowery language. 

Jessica Plant: Samples
Jessica Plant's work, 'Samples', encouraged people in the community to share stories through pieces of fabric, clothing and textiles belonging to them. The stories were gathered into a single, slim but very rich hand-bound book. It's full of beautiful photographs and the stories themselves are insightful and diverse, great examples of how objects that seem meaningless to one person can take on huge meaning for somebody else. I want a copy! 

Other amazing work on show; Dominic Francis Evans' 'Batter My Heart', a relationship compendium with some of the best and funniest advice you could ever hope for. I'm keeping it as my bible. Dom is currently very busy becoming a high-flyer in fashion illustration and beyond. Anna-Kaisa Jormaneinen's dreamlike studies of happiness were another one of my favourite things on show; her pictures are like going to a really happy place in your head (and not wanting to leave). 

Treats at our MA shop; the red book is Dom's!

Super clever Miss Beth Dawson's project 'Toys for the inquisitive child' was a nostalgic treat for the senses. A series of interactive boxes encouraged viewers to play and re-discover their inner child through sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. Beth has a great website, and you can also find images on the wonderful and highly industrious Miss Lauren Watson's blog. Lauren's fabulous project was a collection of illustrated extracts from Graham Robb's 'The Discovery of France', a macabre mixed media feast of treasures. Lauren also teamed up with Sandra Aquilar early on in the year to create 'Thieves'. A very hard-working pair. Sandra's project 'The Lunch Box Cafe' was a playful comic about an alien working in a cafe, produced it in a classic format with subtle colours and halftones...it was like stepping back in time (in a good way). Also excellent was James Burlinson's 'Creature Conga', a rainbow coloured accordion book of weird and wonderful animal factoids. 

Jess' textile sample wares for sale

Other work I wanted to mention; Irene's shape stories 'How the Little Things Grow'; Erika Pal's elegant animation about dreams, 'The House'; Emma Falconer's interactive animation of Odysseus' adventures; Rory Walker's travelling theatre; Ellie Crane's portrayal of anorexia; Emily Wallis' highly skilled anthropomorphic illustrations; James and Tiago de Sousa's intelligent (and really funny) exploration of the psyche and split personalities; Sophy Henn's alternative comic for girls, 'Pickle' (highly desirable!); and Grant Ciecura's simple and potent portrayal of grief. 

PHEW...what a great show. Sad that it's ended - but onwards and upwards for all of us. 

Thursday, 20 September 2012

We're on show!

We've reached our destination - the MA 2012 show! It hasn't quite sunk in yet and I feel very weird; elated and just a bit sad, of course.

But, finally, I feel as though I can show what I've been working on for the past few months, so here are some pictures.

A summary of my project. I wrote six short stories based around everyday objects.  I completed books for three of the stories, an animation for one, and for the final two I chose extracts, presenting them as part of the installation. 
I made a short set of instructions to guide people around the cabinet. 

Here's the cabinet, bought for £50 from a second-hand furniture shop in Brighton, and spray painted white by my lovely housemate Oli.

The top section of the cabinet displayed a short story about scissors. I bound the full story as a concertina, displayed in the middle shelf. The scissors hanging from the top came from my Dad (in exchange for a penny - you should always pay for sharp things). 

The trip switch for the sound

On the bottom shelf, I installed a trip switch, which plays an extract from the story when the cabinet door was opened. Again, my housemate Oli helped me to record the sound. Steve at Build Brighton lent me his skills in creating the circuit board and mechanism that allows the sound to play. He was brilliant, a very clever and helpful person, and I owe him many packets of biscuits.  

The first drawer displayed an animation for Floods (see August post)

Viewers could open the drawer, pull the plug and watch the film on a tiny ipod screen. It's very small, but I wanted it to feel like peering in at something, as if through a keyhole. 

Green Elastic, a story about a missing hair bobble, was in the middle drawer. This is the first story I wrote on the MA. The lights flash a sequence of white LEDs, stopping at random intervals on green for a few seconds. It's meant to convey the sense of waiting and hoping for something you thought you had caught a glimpse of, but can't be sure. 

The story was contained in a small hand-made concertina book and box.

I played with typography to reflect the qualities of the elastic hairband in the story. 

The bottom drawer held an extract from the short story A Hope Box. I wrote this as an entry for the Guardian newspaper's Futurescapes competition earlier this year. The story is, basically, about a mother reflecting on her declining relationship with her daughter; she gathers a box of unusual keepsakes for her, in an attempt to make a connection.

Again, I wanted it to feel like you were peering in, this time through a window. I probably rushed this bit of the cabinet, but actually I'm pleased with how it turned out.

My Mum proof read the story for me when I first wrote it, so I thought it would be interesting to ask her to describe what kind of imagery or colours it conjured for her. This influenced the finished artwork. I really like what she wrote (in an e-mail): 

'A grey satiny smooth surround
Little flashes of colour to represent the things you have talked about
Or the box
A window at the back  ( painted )  looking into the future with a very pale sunrise and rays around it – maybe faint figures floating in the rays'

Ceramic Hand, a story about an unwanted object, was on the top shelf of the bottom cupboard. 

For this story I produced a finished book; in total, I think it took about two months to make. I set and printed all of the type in the letterpress workshop at university (under the watchful eye of our helpful and patient technician, Sat Kalsi).The illustrations are linocuts, and all of the pages are handprinted on 160gsm redeem. I bound it (the type of bind is called butterfly binding) in the bookbinding workshop at the university (where Helen Gibb is the technician, and she is quite a legend).  I loved the whole process.

Skirt is the last story. It's about coveting something you can't have, and also about being an awkward teenager. The narrator falls in love with her best friend's skirt, and asks her Grandmother to make her one just like it, but ends up with something unwearable, frumpy and embarrassing. 

Like A Hope Box, this was an interpretation of an extract from the story. It begins with the narrator sitting in a park with a group of girls, anxiously waiting for her best friend to show up, 'pulling and twisting at clumps of grass with restless fingers'. 

I wanted this part of the installation to be tactile, as the story is quite sensory, often referring to textures and fabric, as a way of expressing the narrator's emotions. I also wanted viewers or readers to understand the girl's anxiety through her actions. These pictures aren't too clear, but the box is resting on a bed of grass (real grass that I grew in trays at home!). The ridged texture of the box is meant to evoke the feeling of corduroy (the fabric that the skirt in the story is made from). 

That's it! Or maybe I should say 'The End'. I want to find a way of getting this collection of stories out into the world in a format that's a bit more accessible. Although I'm pretty happy with this installation, I think I could have 'told' some of the stories a bit clearer, as the heart of this project was the written work. 

If you've stuck with this (very long) post to the end and have any thoughts or questions, feel free to leave a comment or get in touch. I'm also creating a mailing list, so sign up if you'd like to hear more about projects I'm working on.