In October of 2018 I had the pleasure of being invited to Beijing to partake in an animation workshop ran by Birgitta Hosea and was joined with a fellow classmate Ellie Row along with other students from the animation course in Farnham and the students at Beihang university. It was an experience that opened my eyes to adventure and thought me about the culture surrounding the students at Beihang unviersity. I ate delectable food, relished in the wonders of the Forbidden City and found myself in a dream like state when transfixed by the neon lights that flood the hazy nights.
Here we are above arriving in Beijing after a gruelling 13 hour flight that left my lankly legs squished and shaky and in dire need of a strong coffee. Icy (furthest left) and Leanne third most left greeted us at the airport where each one of the UK expats having a buddy that was our go to mentors for the trip with Leanne being my buddy and helping and guiding us to get the best experience of being a student and experiencing the sites in such a mesmerising city.
The animation workshops was guided by Birgitta and really helped us in converting emotion through to animation practices in order for equipped us to be better animators and storytellers. One workshop that was thoroughly enjoyable saw us in a large open area within Beihang University where a massive curved sheet of paper was hung around the perimeter of the hall as seen below.
The objective involved Birgitta to call out an emotive prompt such as anger, happiness or sadness and for us to feel and absorb that emotion through coloured chalk and pastels while at times having our eyes closed to translate that through the chalk and gesture onto the paper using suggestive strokes and markings. At the end we had to write that emotive prompt into the gestural markings and what can to be was a plethora of clear emotions that was seen through simple and suggestive strokes. It was a charming introductory practice that bonded us with the Chinese students and to see this massive creation surrounding the walls of the halls made it feel like an artistic accomplishment that made us proud whenever onlookers would stop and absorb our collective creation.
After we had left the wondrous Beihang university the space on the walls was needed for other installations and instead of simply throwing away our creation an artist named Tong Wang, recycled the drawings from our workshop by crumbling them into the slatted timber flooring and titled the piece – Paper Forest. I really admire that this artist seen further opportunity from our piece and took the chance to transform our piece and the space once again.
One other animation workshop was a performance piece. plastic plates were provided where we drew an emotive face correlating to an emotion – cheeky, angry flirty or sad. The plates were tied to our faces as Birgitta would shout out in scale an emotion that sometimes was mixed with another emotion, So sadness could be interspersed with flirty and so on. Collectively using Birgittas prompts we walked around the hall with our first creation in the background as we acted out and adapted a walk cycle that correlated to Birgitta’s prompt. From this exercise we understand that a person has many traits, emotions and different facets of their personality that can be expressed not just through walking but interaction and movement as a whole, A man for example doesn’t necessarily walk as only masculine, the same for females but their individual personality shines through and made it so that learning and understanding this important lesson when animating a character whether 2D or 3D shows that people are complex and is something to take into consideration when giving a character a fully flourished vivacious life.
Another animation workshop was trying to translate an emotion into an animation, I choose anger and decided to make a 2D animation in photoshop seen below.
Outside of the workshops we made the most of our time by experiencing as much culture surrounding Beijing as possible. One of the highlights of such excursions was the awe inspiring Forbidden City. The Forbidden City is a mammoth mountainous area with ornate structures, temples and imperial gardens and houses that once was the former Chinese imperial palace housed the Ming Dynasty. We walked far and wide for 6 hours and only seen a fraction, noticing the little opulent details that were sculpted into the roof cornices along with the majestic mosaics of tile work that splashed the mountainous area in squares of colour.
I did get a lot of looks form by-passers with some looking perplexed at the amount of pilosity of my hairy stature, some motioning to their own faces at an invisible beard and giving me a thumbs up while those that were brave enough to realise I’m a gentle giant would ask for a picture together that I was more than happy to accommodate with.
Other adventures included a trip to the arts district where we seen the contemporary installations of Xu Bing – The Tobacco Project at the Ullens Centre for Contemporary Art, where he uses cigarettes as installation pieces as well as a glamorous shopping mall that had installation art structures and sculptures displayed into the architecture. The food was also incredible! we filled our bellies with all manner of different delights with my favourite being the hearty hot pots seen below.
I was extremely lucky to be invited on such a trip and even though we were only there for a week, as we were leaving we hugged all our buddies from Beihang university with many of us (myself included) getting a bit teary eyed as we knew it would be hard to ever see them again. I have never met such kind, caring and helpful people. My buddy in particular Leanne was a dream to be buddied up with, Leanne completely made us all feel at home and answered every question we had about their way of life as well as being curious about ours, they knew how to have fun and treated us with respect as we did them. We all had one thing in common and that was a love for animation, we all know how hard it can be sometimes, grafting long into the night over a dancing frog or autobiographical animated short so we respected them for giving us their time and for making this trip so special and one that I will never forget and always keep close to my heart. Travel is good for the soul and in retrospect I know I crave more of it.