Friday, 19 April 2013

2004/2005 - First year at uni - life drawing and layouts

The first year at university was all about arty exploration, recognising your strengths and weaknesses, brushing up old skills and of course learning new ones!

Backgrounds and Layouts

One of the first projects, after far too many headache-inducing lessons on technical perspective was to draw our current room.

So where was I living? In a garage, I kid you not. 
Despite the fact that I found lodgings just in the nick of time and managed to haul all my worldly goods from Devon to Bournemouth roughly one week before the start of the course, and despite the fact that said room was attached to a plush detached house situated a stone’s throw from the university itself, that room was, in fact, a garage. A garage with a sink I might add, so whilst I had to go out into the garden and through the back door to access everything else including the bathroom on cold winter nights, I could at least wash my hands in my room afterwards.

No it didn’t make any sense to me either.

So here’s a collage of photos of my first room at university, including yet another god-awful snap of myself. I think I am now resigned to the fact that I’m simply one of those people with a knack for pulling the most unflattering half-cut-looking expressions in photographs.

And here’s the outcome of that first project, first as a line drawing and then prettied up a bit with some blue ink staining.

Next up was to create a fictional layout, namely meant to be an ‘artist’s workshop.’ Not quite sure how I got from that to creating a blacksmith’s workshop but I guess they do count as artists in their own right. We also had to choose a specific angle from which we wanted the layout to be viewed, preferably one that could then be animated onto later. For reasons unknown I decided to go for a high angled shot, I guess I thought it would make the scene more interesting to be looking down from the rafters like a raven.

 Here’s the layout:

A daytime version rendered using watercolours:

And a night-time version also rendered using watercolours:

I decided to make the beams themselves as simple overlaid paper cut-outs and prefer the cropping/colours of this second version.

Life Drawing
On location:

Now I really like churches and old buildings so was quite happy to learn that we would be visiting a church called the priory to have a go at drawing all its complex architecture. I was decidedly less happy after three hours or more sat in one position fighting with my pencils.

Turns out that churches aren’t fun to sit in for extended periods of time even on rainy days, or maybe that should be especially on rainy days as all that stone becomes a magnet for the sort of damp that sinks right into your bones. Also I think I sat in a draft on one of those designed-with-the-comfort-of-rocks-in-mind wooden pews. I was possibly using the prayer cushion as a vague relief for my bottom, vague because the prayer cushion was so hard it was like adding another rock to the rubble under my behind.

This is the best sketch I took from that day; it was drawn in blue pencil so I shopped a black and white version for ease of viewing.

I even thought – charcoal to the rescue! Or maybe not as this little image shows:

On another outing we visited the Russell Coates museum. Situated on the Bournemouth seafront just tucked away from the hustle and bustle I recall Russell Coates being one of my favourite places in the town centre but then I’ve always liked the atmosphere in fusty old museums. Here are two sketches of the exterior:

Drawing in the museum evidently was not as much fun as scampering around gawking at the exhibits seeing as I cannot find a single sketch from inside. Perhaps I was just having an off day as I remember really struggling with those turrets and perspective in general, still at least it was sunny and the ground was dry enough for us to sit outside on the grass and picnic.

We visited Marwell Zoo for life drawing at least three times during my years at uni however the only animal sketches I can seem to find from my first year are a few sketches I created from photographs in a wildlife book. 

It was at this point I found I very much prefer working on stained paper to having a blank sheet, any associated fear of ‘ruining’ the image I’m about to create is removed since the paper is already mucky! 

I also like the challenge of creating something out of nothing, transformation, because clean paper is, well, pristine whereas a messy brown blob can be fixed and blossom into something unique.

That idea is pretty much how I went about creating this cheetah:

 This was literally a page I tested some new materials on in the back of my sketchbook. It irked me so much that the page was ‘a mess’ that I had to dive in and put something there to correct it, the colours and shapes reminded me of anger (possibly the one I felt at having a crap irremovable page in the back of my book) which led me to think of a roar, et voila find a picture of a big cat roaring and add it in charcoal – sorted!

In the studio:

So in the studio I discovered I really hate life drawing but I love chalk and charcoal for making all those painful sessions that much easier!

These were created right at the end of the year, after many a failed attempt to get anything to work at all in life drawing. I was chuffed to bits that proportions and details were fitting as well as managing to finally capture a sense of character; maybe all I needed was for the life model to play dress up and spark my imagination!

This was probably the point when I realised I work well with tones and that I find tonal/block work easier than line. I also found I had an affinity with artists such as Seurat and the lovely term, ‘chiaroscuro,’ first entered my vocabulary.

Friday, 5 April 2013

2003/2004 - Art

Well whilst I was busy gallivanting about North Devon snapping photos for most of 03/04 I did take the time to do quite a variety of art. 

Ok so technically a couple of these images were created in 2002, most were made in 2003 and one or two were done in 2004 – I think. The dates are a little muddled what with the duplicate saves and multiple computers and external hard drives they have been added to and removed from since then.
I have tried to break it down into little subsections for ease of browsing.

My lone semi-successful attempt at lino printing was definitely from my time at college I know that much! I presume we had to choose a design by a famous artist. I was very big on illusionary works and dreamscapes the likes of Salvador Dali and M.C. Escher, so what better choice for me than Escher’s woodcut dragon?


This image is a little deceptive in itself seeing as I printed an iguana head onto clear acetate and laid it over the top of the final print.



So let’s get the photo out of the way with. Here’s a very poor quality picture of me in 2003 including the kooky cupboard I mentioned in my last post.

Doesn’t look that small does it? How about if I inform you that I'm sitting on the floor, the iMac is sitting on the box it came in and the lino print is only A3 sized, I mean ye gads the chair on the left is either huge or everything else is cleverly scaled…well I did say I liked illusions!



 Interestingly it seems this was the time two or three familiar faces first graced my sketchpad.
Below is my first ever sketch of Cyan and the start of my love for charcoal.

There’s a bit of a chicken and egg thing going on with the hair, I can’t work out if I had 100% red hair first or whether I dyed it that way after creating her.

Cyan was originally made along with a handful of other characters for a different story that I never penned and Kale was amongst those.

These are the earliest sketches I can find of Kale, he still smokes in the new tale and hasn’t changed a great deal in design, although he’s meant to have slightly dreaded hair, which I haven’t yet figured out how to sketch. Still he’s always been a quirky, unpredictable, violent and almost loveable sociopath; either that or I think he’s loveable because I have Stockholm syndrome from working with him for so long!

Here’s another early one of Cyan,

And a headshot of a character called West:

Also I designed two of Cyan’s school chums and named them Nami Aoki and Jennifer Jones.
I haven’t used West of Jen again since they were very two dimensional concepts. 

Nami on the other hand was probably the first germ of our crazy girl Panda, she has a similar face shape and the same green haircut, only difference is that Panda is far far more loopy and irritating than Nami ever was!


Boxes, cupboards, drawers and gouache

I went through a phase where I would paint on literally anything and everything, if it was made of wood and no-one was using it then it was fair game to be scrawled upon in my eyes. I mostly painted in gouache to begin with as I was familiar with the medium.

The below paintings were done on a pencil box with a reversible lid; naturally I had to feature Cyan on one side. On the flip side is a concept from yet another novel. That book I half-wrote and then gave up on due to lack of plotting. The character shown here was purposefully never named and simply called, ‘the boy.’

Here are the two sides and ends of the pencil box:

Now this is definitely from 2002 as you can see I actually remembered to sign and date it - huzzah!


I should mention that I was massively into Dragon Ball Z in 2003 which obviously had an impact on my choice of style for character design. In fact my friends and I were such avid fans we constructed a miniature bowling alley with DBZ artwork on the sides.

Well when I say ‘we’ I mean they deconstructed a drawer and I painted it, the bowling alley did get up and running but the arty sides were never properly affixed. 

This is the side with male characters which I took a copy of before gifting to my boyfriend at the time. Seeing as I was keeping the side with the female characters I never took a scan and unfortunately now cannot get a copy because it is currently…you guessed it, in England.


Painting in Oils

Finally I began experimenting with oils, first chosen theme: fire.
Yep still a firm favourite thing to paint!


This was actually a finger painting on A3 cartridge paper, guess I felt like making a mess that day.


The two paintings below were done on the inside of a drawer hence the deep gauges of missing wood in both designs. The spiral staircase was based on a dream I had and also features atop a hill in my large dragon painting (no still haven’t got a proper photo of that yet). 


The reverse, the wolf and fire was done on request. A friend at the time liked the staircase a lot and offered to buy it but only if I painted the reverse so he could hang it like a spinning chime. I agreed and think I sold the whole thing for a measly £20 because I knew nothing about pricing, d’oh! >.<


Here are the only two partial photos I currently have of the large dragon painting, you can just about make out the spiral staircase as a white smudge on the hill if you squint really hard:


Another one based on a dream I had, on A3 card this time, it was a good use for the discarded back of a sketchpad if I do say so.


I titled it ‘Static wave,’ since in the dream the tidal wave never moved even though I was terrified it would crash down and drown the campers it remained in place, rushing perfectly upright. Similarly in the painting the wave can never move and so the campers have nothing to fear. 


Yet another painting from a dream I had, yes there’s a theme here; water, in its many glorious suffocating forms.


I guess then I should call them nightmares rather than dreams but none of these water dreams were that frightening. This was my bathroom in a small flat on Broadmead Avenue, Northampton, not a clue why I dreamt of a figure trapped in a bubble of water but I did, so I painted it.

However seeing as it’s a bit on the weird side I probably shouldn’t have taken it to my university interview as an example of work, it certainly got a raised eyebrow from Peter Parr!


Painting from Photographs

Eventually I progressed to painting from photographs as well as from my imagination.


I chose one of my happy snaps from a day at Croyde beach to have a go at painting sand. This was oil on an 8 x 10in canvas, I remember I did it in one sitting so I could time myself - it took eight hours start to finish…boy I had a sore butt after sitting for so long!


Next I thought I’d try my hand at a different subject. This was for my grandparents from a photo of their garden which Granddad always maintained so beautifully. Any time of year you could go into that garden and it would be full of lustrous life just as the photo shows. 


Somehow I don’t feel my painting did his garden justice. I probably realised then that painting flowers wasn’t my thing, unless they were dead flowers of course.


Model making


Again I thought I’d try something new. So I crafted a bird shape from chicken wire, wrapped it in plaster-o-paris, ripped apart two feather dusters and then sat and painstaking glued each feather in place. This involved using an ironically featherless dart to poke holes in the plaster and getting slightly more superglue on my fingers than the manufacturers recommend. 

In fact I’m pretty sure I didn’t find my fingertips beneath the glue for at least a month after this monstrosity was born:

 Finishing touches included electrical tape to bind the beak and feet plus some teddy bear eyes purchased from a sweet-looking old lady in Barnstaple's local craft store. I think she assumed I was making cuddly toys, oh if only she knew how wrong she was!


And finally...

2004 was also the year I created my most successful painting to date, 'Water Tiger,' which I’m sure nigh on everyone has seen by now. It’s origin? Well the local take-out gave me a free calendar and one of the images therein was this tiger, inspiration does strike in the funniest of places.


What you may not have known is that upon completion I took it into Photoshop to see what it would look like in different colours and saved this altered version which only a few folks have seen:

I like how it changes the tone of the piece and find it quite refreshing to look at; I get a better sense of appreciation from the altered version especially after working on and viewing the original so many times.

Shortly after this I moved to Bournemouth, paintings et al in tow to try my hand at university in the field of animation. 

Now we were meant to have prepared a sketchbook with pictures of what we did over the summer to show on our first day. Seeing as I got into university late via what they call the clearing process I hadn't had time to prepare any such sketches and figured I'd literally take 'what I had been up to that summer,' along with me. 

I'm still not sure if staff and fellow students were amused or bemused when I arrived wielding my tiger and a ratty-looking bird!