Friday, 31 December 2010

Do we all feel the same?

Here it is.. the last rant of 2010 or the first rant of 2011... depending on when I finish and post it.. but also dependent on when you read it.

I feel like I have really wasted this term or at least cocked up my last project beyond all recognition.. (FUBAR springs to mind)... but do we all feel the same at some point? I'm not one who goes around fishing for compliments, i don't often believe my friends when they are being kind, mainly because I don't like my own work half of the time and that I could've done better. The worst thing is knowing that I could've done more, that I have let things slip and if only I had planned a little more that it all could have been avoided.

Luckily I popped into Manchester today to see some friends and spent most of the afternoon chatting and drinking tea with my good friend Abby Ryder ( illustrator/cartoonist, inker, colourer and one half of the dynamic duo who runs the Travelling Man comic store in Manchester). It's not often I vent about work/university but bless her, she listened and helped me feel better. I explained to her about how i was feeling, that I should've done more, I feel like I've ruined my degree, I am lacking in creative ideas at the moment and that I generally have low self esteem when it comes to my own work.... and she said... stop moaning! She told me about how her own experience at university... how hiding away/keeping things to yourself doesn't make them go away. I don't like asking for help as I feel it means I'm not good at what I do but Abby said that even just writing a list of what you want to do allows you to prioritise and work out what is feasible to complete for deadlines. Abby manages to some how hold together working in store and drawing and colouring the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic, colouring comics for 2000AD and then finding time to draw some personal work.. so she must know a thing or two!

Now I mentioned that I never believe my friends when they compliment my work, but thats because most of them see my work as I'm doing it and not when it's finished... so i wonder how they can actually like it before I've even completed it... yet when Abby was looking at some of my work, her reaction was exactly what I'd hoped everyone's would be... she immediately smiled and was interested in seeing more. She described my style as "instantly likeable", maybe due to the cartoon/comic style of most of it... and whilst looking at my 'Negotiated characters' (bugs bunny, mickey etc) she recognised all of the characters (without prompting) and even spotted the link between my work and the punk influenced stickers I was referencing which made me happy... at least someone got it! As I was then explaining the lack of work to my most recent project - the diesel/D&AD competition brief - the interactive aspects that I had tried creating really caught her attention... I have already admitted that maybe I didnt use all of my potential with these ideas.. but that didnt seem to matter. The simple characters that I drew and cut out of foam board really made her smile due to the cutesy quality and japanese influence but it also reminded her of Jess Bradley's work - a friend of her's and a fellow illustrator. Bradley's own cutesy characters are simple in facial features but (dots for eyes and usually a line for a mouth) but its the almost innocent and naive appearance/personality they have which makes them so appealing... again, maybe due to a nostalgia for cartoons from when we were younger or just rekindling the child within us all. Apparently starting out just making her own greetings cards... her work has moved on to trading cards, she's done some designs for GenkiGear t-shirts, childrens books, wall stickers and painting small canvases which she sells at UK comic conventions.

so... all in all... I know I have the ability to do well in whatever I put my mind to... it's just I'm all over the place with what I want to do... I'm half thinking about starting up my own brand as an excuse for me to work in my own varied styles and formats that I want to print on...

I often don't know when to step back and review my work.. I sometimes get too set in my ways and just carry on regardless.. it's only when I've "finished" that I realise I should've changed certain things... but I feel that working alongside someone in a collective will help me come to these conclusions sooner... also they can offer criticism and suggest new ideas.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Past the Sell-By-Date

***Anything I post now is technically after the hand in date, so won't count towards my mark but some of it's stuff I shouldve had on here already... and other bits tie in with the last couple of projects and research I've been posting already...***

Ok logo keyring idea... now i've finally had a bit of extra time to realise what i shouldve done... I've mocked up a keyring idea using some air-dry clay because I've used sculpey in the past and although its great for fine detail... i hate having to bake it to set it! Even so, the air-drying clay took nearly 2 days to set properly! so... maybe I should've just gone with sculpey... Rather than just relying on the one design (running with scissors), the OK logo is something I created a while ago and is something I enjoy.. it feels more personal than some of the other work ive done in the past and more like what I want to create in the future...

I'm aiming to make a fairly final prototype.. then I want to create some rough molds from it and then cast some resin prototypes from that... depending on how they work out... i may paint some but I have also picked up some Glow In The Dark (GID) spray paint... so i will definitely be testing that out!

I even got a bit carried away with the excess clay i took and made these simple characters ... (based off of the little guys i made during the Diesel brief)

I wouldnt use the clay to make anything small scale due to its poor fine detail quality.. but sculpey would work a lot better if I was to finally mock up some of these characters I keep threatening you all with!


One thing I missed off my 'green eyed' post was about Pixar's animated shorts. It's not only their feature length films that capture my imagination and are filled with characters but some of their animated shorts are even better.. in particular... "For The Birds"... similar to Wall*E (and Tom&Jerry).. it doesnt have any speaking characters, instead the narrative, emotion, thoughts and feelings of the short and its characters are shown through subtle "facial" expressions, mannerisms, posture and of course editing and camera angles... there's a lot more that goes into something like this.. but the trick is to make it look flawless and to hide the technical side so you focus less on how its made.. but more on what its showing!

Now often, Pixar seems to be the only name in the business.. but I keep forgetting just how much success DreamWorks Animation have had... It was 'Kung Fu Panda' which stood out as one of their finest achievements but I've also recently seen 'How to Train your Dragon' which has now become another firm favourite of mine. I like seeing all of the behind the scenes work that goes into making these characters... working out how they move, how their weight sits around their frame/skeleton and all of their emotions/facial expressions...

When you look through 'The Art Of Finding Nemo'.. you see concept work from various artists, each with their own interpretation on how a character could look... but for Kung Fu Panda, Dreamworks animation were so in love with the work of Nicolas Marlet that they only used his work as a basis for their 3D character models.

"He was so unique in his solutions that I had a hard time finding other people to emulate it,"

"Some of the rules we followed were actually his, like we don't stick necks straight up out of torsos and then put animal heads on the top or it just looks like a guy in a costume. Instead, we have the neck coming forward, so the head and neck and body are really one unit."

says production designer Raymond Zibach....

All quotes stolen from Peter Deruge's interview from Variety.

Similarly, they must've have done the same for 'How to train your dragon'... taking Marlot's designs to define the general "look" of the characters...

however, I didn't realise until talking to Miss Rosie Wilman (2nd Year Illustration course) that Chris Sanders actually took control over designing one of the main cahracters 'Toothless' the dragon. Knowing this suddenly makes his particular style of illustration jump out! I started seeing similarities from his other work coming out such as the big eyes and wide mouths.. (much like Stitch from Lilo&Stitch).

I've gotta keep these things in mind as I attempt the Disney brief over these next few months.. and also have to learn After Effects! :(

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Contact List

Sadly, I fear I havent sent any questionaires off to artist enquiring about their artwork techniques, their influences or how they go about finding inspiration.. but I'm hoping to speak to them more on a direct level about what its like to work as a freelance artist, what sort of environment do they work in? are they at home or in a studio? i just havent gotten around to formulating a coherent bunch of questions yet...

I have however began 'chatting' to some artist I like and follow on Twitter. I think I've already mentioned how I am starting to use twitter as a quick way to spark a conversation with someone.. the short 140 character statements can lead to a reply which sparks more conversation later.. taking a leaf from Jane Brain's book.. I have almost started to try form friendships with these people, casually talking about off topic subjects or agreeing/disagreeing with a statement/tweet...

a couple of artist in particular that I have been successful in talking are...
(Manchester based illustrator)
(London based illustrator who has recently moved to Berlin, creator of the Lunartik's in a cup of Tea)
(Manchester based Illustrator)

I have in the past tried contacting a few famous artists such as Jim Mahfood and Ashley Wood.. however I feel my ramblings and annoying questions wouldnt have warranted any of their time.. I have also briefly spoken to another couple of artists, Berlin based Tim Wolff (Tim Robot) and Manchester based Dok A (Bruce) about contacting them for feedback on my work as well as discussing their own... but I feel Twitter is an excellent place to start up conversations and to get noticed.. rather than being another random email lost in a spam box.. you can be a random statement lost in a sea of tweets... only kidding.. the nature of twitter being short statements means replies can be typed quickly whilst on the move and not require any huge expendeture of their time.. often checked on lunch breaks or whilst travelling..

anyway.. to follow will be a list of Clients I would like to work for, who could sell my work or who could distribute it....

Kidrobot - HUGE vinyl and designer toy DISTRIBUTER.. (i highlight the word Distributer because they dont design the toys.. but they often approach artists and then source chinese factories to mass produce them). Their retail stores are predominantly US based.. but have a UK store down London. So far... i have not found a "head office" for KR... but each of the stores has a email address that I could try contacting... the website seems to only offer customer service options for web placed orders... (KidRobot was actually started by Paul Bunditz, and I am following him on twitter, so maybe I could try chatting with him directly? ) - main US site. - European site.

Adfunture - Another toy distributer, based in Shanghai.. but its the fact they put out the 'Teddy Troops' I like by Flying Fortress :)

Toy2R - Yet ANOTHER toy distributer, based in Hong Kong this time...

PatchTogether - Now, where the previous contacts are only distributers... PatchTogether is a lot like in that.. you submit your own designs, people then vote and raise their popularity, and then they produce and sell your characters as vinyl toys (limited edition). I'm already signed up to PatchTogether.. but Im not confident enough with some of my designs.. need to have a chat with some people and get some feedback I think...

Magma - I'm more accustomed to visiting the Manchester store, but I cant help but spend when I visit the Magma product and book stores in London. They are more high-end when it comes to limited edition artist goods but if I could get them to sell my artwork or products (when I create some)...

Travelling Man - A smaller, sort of independent, comic store... mainly catering to comics and role playing games rather than the toys and clothing I aim to produce.. but I am good friends with Haroon and Abby in the Manchester store... Haroon is a local DJ/comic nerd with a background in art and Abby is a freelance comic artist having worked on 2000AD, Tom & Jerry and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles... I currently have one of my D&AD posters on display in the store and some of my stickers on the counter. Because of our friendship I would like to think I could approach them to possibly sell or display some of my work in store.. this is also why I'm not listing Forbidden Planet (another chain store focused on comics and toys) but they are a larger company, although they do sell vinyl toys.. theres less room for local artists as the only seem to deal with distributors.


Thunder Egg - A small shop located in the trendy Northern Quarter of Manchester... they sell a mix of pop culture, retro, kitch, folky products... the current trend for these sort of items means that more shops could be willing to give aspiring artists their big break and sell their products.. numerous "vintage" shops are based around the NQ so the possibility to approach these independently or even setting up my own pop up stall would be an option.. maybe not alone.. but a few of us could make a go of this if we produced enough products...

Richard Goodall Gallery - Hidden amongst the many back streets in the Northern Quarter sits the Richard Goodall Gallery, home to many limited gig posters and vinyl toys. Due to me always heading in there either to buy toys or for artist signings.. i have started to form a sort of business friendship.. i wouldnt say they'd invite me for a cup of tea.. be we can exchange pleasantries... If I was to create my own range of toys... this would be the first place I would look to selling them...

Play Lounge - A London based shop, similar to Magma and Richard Goodall Gallery, but a lot smaller and only for toys... They seem to be fairly popular within the vinyl toy scene.. so maybe if I conquer Manchester.. this would be my next step in trying to take London.

Threadless - A website where you submit your own designs to public vote in hopes that they will get printed. This is an easy and effortless way to get your work out there.. it involves very little effort in terms of printing your designs and selling them( unlike setting up an Etsy store)... but i wonder just how they make their money on this.. do they take a commission if your design sells well?

Spunky - back when I first realised I wanted to design for a living, I found this company whilst in college. like threadless.. you submit deisgns.. however rather than receiving a lump sum for your design.. they work purely on a commission basis.. you only get paid more if your design is popular and sells well.

Pixar studios - I've already tried expressing how envious I am of these guys but I would love to be able to create something that is loved by so many for the same reasons I love their work.. combining characters, humour, narrative and fun

Renegade Studios - I first researched these guys because of their remaking of the Mr.Men cartoon series.. the simple animation style and background design to the cartoon (mixed with humour) just makes me smile every time I watch the show..

Aardman Studios - famous for Morph and Wallace & Gromit, it more the history and reputation of the company that would make me want to contact them for work experience or a job. Although I want to create 3D models, I know how awkward and time consuming stop frame animation is! :P

Creative Spark - This is one of the studios based in Manchester that I have tried contacting purely because of their website and their 'Play' section on there.. so far.. nothing heard back from them. I need to start heading around some of the Manc studios to a) get my work noticed but also b) to receive feedback on my work and any advice they have for me...