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 ;)

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