Saturday, 26 September 2009

the "S" word strikes again

I don't know what it is about me, but I often get too hung up on an influence and then I never seem to progress past it... Just recently on this animation brief I came up with the idea of making it like the digital comics I've referenced a couple of posts ago, but that led me into creating a small narrative that not only didn't fit the restrictions of the brief but it had gaps in the storyboard and it didn't really develop any sort of interest (apparently)... After a conversation or two, new ideas have sprung up which reign in my ideas and will hopefully stop me from over complicating the creative/production process, whilst giving it an "s" word closer to some of my main influences, as well as creating something a little more interesting to watch...

I have so many ways of creating a piece of work that I often sit there just trying to figure out which would be best for me to make it in... and in the end, I produce something that is just a copy of something that has gone before. I understand that it's nigh on impossible to create something completely original, since the whole educational process involves us researching work by artists from different movements, years or decades, but I'm often losing myself and any connection to my work by NOT doing this.

Rather than drawing out panels of a comic strip and making elements within them move, I am now going to be looking at something a bit simpler yet quirkier... the closest example I can give without telling you all about my animation is... the opening credits to "Catch Me If You Can".

Created by Olivier Kuntzel and Florence Deygas (, their 60's styled themed side scrolling animation uses nothing but cut out pieces of paper for the limbs of the characters, scanned into a computer and manipulated in the same way South Park is created. They themselves made the credits as a homage to Saul Bass and his intro's to films like "Anatomy of a Murder", and it shows in their work... although having access to newer technologies than in the 50's and 60's they still resorted back to a technique that suited the theme. (I'm pretty sure they did the album cover for "The Best of Nina Simone" and its advertising, but I haven't found out for definite).

I've been looking at the openings and credits to films like Bolt, Wall E, Monster's Inc and Kung Fu Panda and I've loved them, so much so that I've wanted to create EVERYTHING for this animation project.. such as a cast of characters, a variety of scenes/background to place my cast in and I've even wanted to experiment with the soundtrack... but I'm still missing the point... I'm not focusing on the fact that I should be trying to create a specific movement using what I already have, not trying to create something totally new and different... but who can blame me :P I am ambitious and eager to create something that I am genuinely proud of but I'm also somewhat big headed, I want to show what I can do but also that you should hire me, that I can do anything...

Also, during one of my conversations, the idea of representation rather than factual realism can provide more interesting outcomes in a piece of work. The example shown to me was this cartoon by Crockett Johnson, in which a child draws his surroundings from his imagination. As the story goes on, he's drawing out an adventure but all that is needed is just a horizon line for him to be travelling along and other suggested details... this stands as a great example that I don't need to go over board with the details.. (details always discouraged me from drawing anyway... I don't lke drawing hyper-realism etc so why am I making this difficult for myself?).

another example I found was the opening sequence to the film "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World"...

and then just for fun...

i love this intro.. the animation, the movement, the "s" word and especially the music

finally, a student also paid homage to Saul Bass by re-making the intro to "Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope" ... this made me smile so much... the attention to detail is fantastic, it actually helps if you watch it a couple of times to get what I mean... ;)

Critical Studies : brief 1

In our Wednesday sessions now we're looking at Modernism/Postmodernism and we were simply given the task to pick an artist that we like and find out who their influences are... you can often see hints of other artists influence in people's work whether it’s a similar use of colour, composition or subject matter (I often link everyone to Picasso now) but this is the first time I think that I've actually seen such a clear progression and culmination of influences... it almost makes me think I'm doing something wrong as I can't see any of this in my own work.

I chose Jon Burgerman, a UK artist/illustrator/doodler, simply because I like his work and I had his book to hand... Using the humble coloured pen he begins drawing a line that grows along its journey on the page into a character or characters of intertwined shapes. As an overall shape starts to emerge which could be used as a body for a character, he then add shapes that could be arms, legs or ears to build on the new life he's creating. Never truly knowing what a doodle will end up looking like (or never over thinking it), his constant line gives each drawing a sense of movement and direction which leaves you imaging how these drawings could move if animated (which many have been recently, and there's a new iphone app coming out soon featuring his work).

So, delving into his book "Pens are my friends" I discovered a list of his influences, but what surprised me was how you could clearly see the relevance of each artist and just how it ties into Burgerman’s work. There’s his urban art/graffiti references from Mr.Jago, Adam Neate, Barry McGee, Phil Frost and Dave the Chimp, whose line work, composition, characters and humour have been incorporated in some way into Burgerman’s style but there’s also his more traditional artistic influences such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, David Carson, Cy Twombly and the illustrator Jim Avignon. If you put just one piece of artwork from all these artists into a blender, the result would be the continuous line drawn, abstract, colourful portraits of the characters that come alive on a page from Burgerman’s hand.

This has actually made me try narrow down my influences a little more… but I can’t tell the difference between who influences me anymore and those whose work I just like... Having so many different interests in many different areas which also range in technique means rather than my interests being 50% of one thing and 50% of another… I feel more like I’m 10% of this, 8% of this, 20% of something else and so on. Being interested in so many different techniques and styles does give me a myriad of ways in which I can draw/make something but I don’t feel any real connection to one as I haven’t spent enough time focused on a particular area and I am merely mimicking styles (or the “S” word as it shall be known from now on).


Adam Neate:

Barry McGee:

Phil Frost:

Dave the Chimp:

Jean-Michel Basquiat:

David Carson:

Cy Twombly:

Jim Avignon:

Monday, 21 September 2009

some sketches

I've already posted these on facebook a little while back, but I feel like my own personal sketches/drawings/work are seperate from my uni life and that my tutors and peers won't see the kind of stuff I like to do outside of the uni set briefs...

I'm also torn between putting up sketches of my work over finished stuff in case my work is stolen/ripped off... (which has happened to me a couple of month ago)... but how else am I going to get coverage?

Recently I've been playing around with capturing character based on a few of my interests (zombies, star wars, motorbikes and paintball) with hopes that these could be turned into mascots of some sort. A few of my favourites are the 2nd sketch which is my rendition of Valentino Rossi (motogp rider), the 5th sketch is of a character that sprung out of a lunch time pub session and finally the last sketch is based on the Eels song "my beloved monster" which I am hoping to expand on and turn into my own vinyl character... :) (eventually)

Animation ideas

I have already professed my hatred for animation purely due to the sheer amount of time it takes to complete but I can't help but love cartoons... people assume that because I enjoy comics and cartoons, I would like to work in those areas, but because I love comics and cartoons so much I don't actually want to work in them as I fear it would spoil my passion for them... also because I reckon I can't live up to standards set by some of my favourite animators/studios...

We've been given the option of which software to use for our animations and I'm venturing into the unknown with After Effects instead of I-Stop this year. Since I've never seen, let alone used After Effects, I thought I'd research a little via YouTube and try find some good examples of what I could achieve. I have already seen the work of two of my favourite comic artists work transformed into 2D animations (Ashley Wood's Metal Gear Solid work and Mike Mignola's Hellboy) which brings more life to the already rich world's in their work. The seemingly simple animation involves only moving/altering a few elements making the movements quite subtle yet effective. Although theres no excessive animation in the movements (e.g. running, lip sync etc) other simple effects have been used to show the progression of events...

Ashley Wood's Metal Gear Solid digital comic:
first 10mins::

another shorter version, but someone has added Muse onto the soundtrack::

I have the Hellboy digital comics on my computer but haven't found them on YouTube, however I did find the animated digital comic prequel to the second Hellboy movie 'Hellboy II: the golden army' which uses the same techniques although it isn't drawn in Mignola's style...

The closest I could find is actually a students work who has taken Mignola's original comic artwork and animated it as if it would be the intro to a cartoon series using the same style as the comics. Apparently direct images were taken from the Hellboy comics and edited via Photoshop and After Effects which leaves me quietly confident I can achieve something similar for my own animation, although i now need to sort out my storyboard and then create my "comic" panels from which I'll animate...

I also remembered an old music video for The Get Up Kids song 'Overdue', which I originally saw as a bonus video to their UK single release. It again incorporates simpler techniques to showing movement but I also forgot to mention that all these videos make use of camera angles, pans and zooms to show progression and in particular on this video, as cuts and fades to the next scene as the camera pans across.

I have already mentioned these previously but I didn't go into a lot of detail and I don't want them to be lost amongst my old posts (once I get further into this blogging malarky). I love 50's style animation and illustration which explains why I love cartoons such as Samurai Jack and the Star Wars:Clone Wars series, which both take influence from this specific era in exaggerating features and shapes that make up their characters and backgrounds. Genndy Tartakovsky has written, storyboarded, animated, directed and produced both of these as well as others such as Dexter's Lab and The Powerpuff Girls, but its Dan Krall and Scott Wills who's artwork features in 'Jack and 'Clone Wars which gives the characters many beautiful backgrounds to inhabit. I have recently thought character design only stemmed to characters/figures but each of the backgrounds painted by both these artists has more character and mood than all of the work I've created. Immediately you feel a sense of scale and space in each piece making you want to dive into them yourself and experience the environments whether they're futuristic cities or heavily wooded forrests, if i can achieve this once in my upcoming animation i'll be happy... but I wonder where to draw the line between stealing techniques and copying styles.

this is exactly what I meant about not being able to live up to the standards of animators I like, I have 2 weeks to create something in a program I've never used before... :/ if worst comes to worst... I'll make summat in I-Stop since I've done it before :P

Sunday, 20 September 2009

"Figure" project

Seeing as we are all training to be illustrators, more often than not, a lot of us try to avoid drawing the figure... I personally struggle capturing accurate shapes and proportions hence why I often resort to a more cartoon like way of drawing (but technically no drawing is ever wrong)... anyway, this project was set to try combat that stigma of drawing the figure in a sort of abstract way. Choosing two artistic references, one contemporary and one historical, we were to combine them with a third to create a resource of shapes and elements to use in creating our figures...

I chose Sam Buxton for my contemporary reference, Alvin Lustig for historical and my 3rd reference was toys (more specifically action figures)... and this is what i came up with...

(just thought I would add a note that we had to fit our figures into a set template, hence why proportion is a bit out in leg length and head size etc)

Initially we weren't fully aware what we would be doing with the elements we were collecting so I chose Alvin Lustig because I thought a lot of his work would lend itself well to screen printing and I could again use the technique both at home and within uni. However, unless I later decide to screen print these characters for personal benefit, I won't be using this technique and so I actually used these as an excuse to practice using Illustrator more.

(these images were found via Flickr, all copyright of original photographer, not me)

Lustig is strange character, emerging around the same time as Rand, he was kind of over shadowed by him and many of Lustig's pieces seem to have slipped through the cracks in graphic history. Better known for his New Directions book cover designs, he utilised shape, colour and composition to make what he called graphical representations of the authors work. As with any artist now, I always seem to notice elements that remind me very much of Picasso or more so, in Lustig's case, of Matisse and his cut out shapes of gouache painted paper. The majority of information on Lustig can be found via the website set up in his honour ( ) and it paints a wonderful picture of his personality, being very work focused and devoted to function as well as aesthetic form. One story in particular describes how he would rearrange all the furniture in his rented studios so they were more efficient and that he was denied permission by one studio owner to knock down and rebuild walls in order to make them more functional. He only really came to designing book covers later in his career, as he started off interested in architecture which then led into interior design, furniture design, textile design and some how into designing a helicopter. I can relate to his passion for design and its expansion into other areas, after designing his first chair for Paramount Furniture he was such a perfectionist that he went and designed the advertisements for it too, as I too get carried away as one idea leads into another and so on.

Next, taking the three dimensional work of Sam Buxton, I thought I might be able to throw in some 3D work like last year and because I didn't know the exact direction this project would be heading in. Buxton's MikroMen sculptures started life as a quirky and unique business card, but by a chance encounter, grew into little world they now inhabit. Using a chemically milled process to etch out the designs from credit card sized sheet metal, these characters literally pop out at you into a 3D scene of what apparently Buxton finds interesting... (airport security, hosptial care, space, the gym and social behaviour... so a bit of a mix). It is also Buxton's interest in new technologies that spurs on his work, most recently using electroluminescent technology to create interactive pieces that bring the general public closer to the products they use. I've always been interested in making artwork that little bit more exciting, taking a drawing or painting and giving it a 3D quality purely because if something exists in a 3D realm, it sparks the curiosity to touch and get involved... hence why I used the Gestalten book TACTILE almost like my own little bible last year. I was actually hoping I could incorporate some of my previous posts on Augmented Reality and create a character that I could make 3D in the same way but augemented reality doesn't translate well to a book format.

Taking the uniform and almost clinical layout of Buxton's work, mixed with my own interest in sci-fi, I first began work on my astronaut. I couldn't decide what colour to use for his face from our limited pallette so as I left it black, it developed into a more skeletal character and I took some inspiration from a Doctor Who character, the Vashta Nerada.... this then led me onto creating the alien character as a partner to him etc. With the alien however, I took more influence from the work of Lustig which can be seen especially in the alien's eye and shape of his body and I even used Lustig's lamp as a basis for the aliens tectacle legs.

I can't wait to see how the book of everyone's characters turns out... we just need to make sure all the bits are in and then send it to the printers ;)

Sunday, 6 September 2009

i bloody love technology...

ok... just stumbled across this video showing the capabilities of technology of the future... Tomorrows World really was rubbish...

video description from youtube:
If youve been waiting for that Minority Report-style interface to really come to fruition, you can finally exhale. One of the science advisors from the Steven Spielberg film has created a real-world implementation of the computer systems seen in the film. Dubbed g-speak, the mind bending OS combines gestural i/o, recombinant networking, and real-world pixels, to deliver what the creators call the first major step in [a] computer interface since 1984

This ties in with my research on Sam Buxton's clone chaise and table designs which make use electroluminescent technology, looking at how the audience/consumer can interact more with technology and everyday existence. It's like the next upgrade from the iphone, nintendo wii and head's up displays, i may be getting a little ahead of myself when looking at new technologies that are similar in aesthetics to Buxton's E.L work but suddenly the ideas featured in Star Trek, Minority Report (and that bit in Iron Man where Stark (R.Downey Jr) is back in his basement redesigning his suit ) are starting to get a little closer to reality.

i cant bloody wait! soon we'll be surfing or "diving" the net like in ghost in the shell

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Pixar are fantastic....

Ok, i accidentally forgot about this one when i was puttin my little collection of animation styles/characters together... although i love "For the Birds" (originally shown before Monsters Inc.), I now have a new favourite animation short...

(shown on the extras of the Wall E dvd, Burn E is another great short by them)

Toys are NOT evil

only those that cost a tonne and immediately leave you with buyers remorse are evil...

anyway... since i'm researching toys as an excuse to make my own toy AND link in with the ones i already own (like Kidrobot things and stuff by Ledbetter and Burgerman) I thought I best post some of these things so I'm not having to constantly refer to them and print out pages and pages of them in my sketchbooks/research folders...

Toys are Evil blog:
basically all the recent and freshest news on "executive toys" you could need... want to know what limited editions runs people are making? or want to see sneak peeks from your fave designers... well here is the best place, because 9 out of 10 times... you cant afford them... (Ashely Wood's WWR Bertie.. goin for approx $250... WHY!?)

Computer Arts:
I also spend a tonne of my free time looking at tutorials, not on how to achieve specific styles but techniques... I recently joined the tutsplus network for a month jsut to have access to their archive of tutorials and resources... anyway... before that I used to buy computer/digital art mags almost religiously... luckily they now post the majority of their tutorials on their websites.. and in particular I found these tutorials, of which two I shall definitely be abusing in this coming year....

how to digitally sculpt a vinyl figure :

how to ACTUALLY sculpt a vinyl figure :
(luckily my girlfriend has most of the knowledge and equipment to do this too)

I'm also very interested in character, hence my previous posts and why i like all the toys featured in the links here... I've been playin with Illustrator to try improve some of my own creations by following some of these tutorials...

and I dont know if any of you know of this technology yet... but its gonna be freakin awesome when it kicks off... (a link to Sam Buxton's love of technology here too)
this almost feels like it could be the next step in the video game industry or even toy/board game industry...

with almost every household having access to a computer and the internet.. all else that is needed is a webcam and.. hey presto... your own augmented reality...

although its a fairly new technology... it was only a matter of time....

other places to look at and dream about buying toys:

Richard Goodall Gallery (Manchester) @

KidRobot @

Urban Retro @

My Plastic Heart @

Vinyl Pulse @

Some of my fave artists so far:

Joe Ledbetter @

Ashley Wood @ and

Jon Burgerman @

Flying Fortress @
(for my own reference :