Some more explorations with colour and light, using the same paired down kit of a sheet of black painted glass with scribbles dots and whirls scraped onto its surface and propped against a light source. The magic of long exposure photography turning them into ornate stained glass. I’m not quite done delving into this exhilarating technique just yet so expect more to come.
Some more experiments with fizzing stars, flying comets and glowy milky-ways created in response to the Kick About #40! Using the same analogue technique of painting a sheet of glass black, sketching into that glass and propping a light source behind – who knew something so simple could provide oodles of entertainment!?
In the previous post I talked about how the blobby forms of this technique are my favourite. When the cameras focus was changed after the shutter had been pressed and left to linger for a moment made it so that the inside scratches were in focus but the colour bled out past the scratches into blobby forms. It took me a lot of tinkering to realise why my own experiments all were in focus no matter how much I fucked about with aperture and changed the focus, it was simply because my light source – in this case my iPad and laptop with abstract paintings as its wallpaper was sandwiched too close up towards the glass and simply moving the light source back about a foot gave the long lasted impression I longed for, I mean it when I say my face lit up with excitement…
To me the reason that the blobby ones hit different is because they ignite warm nostalgic memories that have otherwise been dormant, memories that are never crystal clear. These batch of images below reminds me of the town that I grew up in during the summer months as kid. August in the scorching heat, the nights pitch black, the annual rickety fair ground would come to town for the summer fair where my cousins, my friends and I would be hopped up on sugar (or booze if we could get it) and hurry onto all the fairground rides that nowadays would never even pass a safety inspection. One ride in particular was a bunch of cages called the rock-n- roll that rolled around as it spun, another ferris wheel form of this called the rock-o- plane were it was high above the ground.
The rock-n- roll ride had a wide strap that was pinned to your waist that was supposed to be your belt and there to protect you, when I look at this image I remember the plethora of bruises we all had on our skinny hips and abdomens from spam riding this death trap and I remember the pain – not from the bruises but from laughing so hard. I remember the rush of legging it onto the bumper cars to not be left with the shits ones that barely moved that would obviously be savaged by the faster glittery few. The smell of oil masked with popcorn, the feel of candy floss masking your teeth with grit as it melts to pure sugar, the sound of old cogs grinding and machines whirring. I remember the diamond shaped lights that rimmed and flickered the fairgrounds makeshift timber and beams. The strobe lights that made would flash making it seem as though we were in slow motion – freeze-framing us as we screamed our lungs out as we rocked and rolled into the night.
With this weekskick about prompt being ancient Japanese illustrations of fireworks or “flowers of fire” you can imagine the offerings from artists all over are bursting with colour, light and pure spectacle! With my own submission I nicked a technique created by Phil Gomm that left my jaw completely ajar which you can see here, here and here The technique is created by simply painting a sheet of glass black, etching into that glass to create dots, swirls and lines and placing a light source behind to then photograph. To see such a simple setup create such magic hit me with a wave of inspiration and I knew it would be something that I would have to give a whirl of sometime. I think creative constraints a lot of time work in you favour as restrictions can stop the overwhelm of choice and help you out in the end and is something I want to remember. What I loved the most about experimenting with this technique is when the light bled out from within the lines to create a blob of colour around the crisp sketching – these examples are the first whack at it and it took me many attempts to figure out why this first batch of offerings are so crisp and do not have those blobs of bleeding colour that I craved. I became a bit obsessed with this outlet so there is many more on the way, including the fun blobby ones.
It has been a bit since an update for The Lighthouse Keeper. I have been continuing to film scenes during the early hours of the morning and after a failed attempt at butchering some fake tea lights I caved and found a better alternative for the protagonists all important emblem of caged light. Shadow puppet animation is a completely new realm for me and with it comes a slew of hurdles to overcome but experimenting and noticing the techniques of how light affects shadows is a really fulfilling. Here is some screenshots of some filmed scenes, more to come.
This weeks kick about over on Red’s Kingdom revolves around the life and times of German animator Lotte Reinager who was the pioneer of shadow puppet animation. The responses from all the creatives offer an eclectic bunch of contributions to feast your eyes on. When doing research for the Howard Sooley – Prospect Cottage prompt I came across the inspiring work of Reinager and since then I have been busy cutting, gluing and making for a shadow puppet animated short entitled The Lighthouse Keeper which centres around the peculiar landscape of Dungeness and a couple of burley blokes. Creating something for the sake of creating and figuring out the hurdles and bumps is what proves most enjoyable about delving into a fresh medium that I have yet to attempt. The stage is now set, the characters are ready to move, the lights are on and with it the sheer joy of seeing the cutout shapes and silhouettes lit up ablaze brings a smile to my face that makes the absolute bomb site of my shrinking bedroom all worth it.
I am sharing the majority of the cut out shapes, the stage and silhouettes that will feature in the film as well as some lighting and staging tests that feature the main protagonist. I will be showcasing all the nitty and gritty process here, things that worked, things that didn’t and how I plan on animating elements that would require more than just my two hands.
When viewing Howard Sooley’s Prospect Cottage for the most recent Kick AboutI was instantly drawn to the opening images of the lighthouse and the water, the way those clips moved – like old pixelation animation. I wanted to create a moving story revolving around the landscape of Dungeness and all its quirky unique characteristics, I also just really wanted to make something with my hands. I have fashioned a shadow puppet theatre out of old cardboard, a large picture less frame and some grease proof paper so that I can bring to life cuttings of the characters and all the little things that make Dungeness so intriguing. While I don’t have the film to show just yet, I do have the storyboard.
With the recent first birthday of the fortnightly Kick About over on Reds Kingdom I noticed I have a few prompts that haven’t been uploaded here on Gentle Giant, so I will be resolving that in the coming weeks. This prompt being of Jean Cocteau’s Orpheus (1950) being one of them and one of my favourite responses thus far.
“I knew exactly what I was going to create when I seen the new prompt for this weeks kick about, It was the night before my birthday and I was sitting out in the tiny garden in my previous London apartment, I was drinking red wine and smoking a cigarette and frankly, was feeling rather shit. Not sure if it was the birthday blues or if was a amalgamation of other things but my neighbours behind my house were having a party; they recently installed some outside lighting which surrounded their roomy garden in a blazing warm hue that lit up the brick of their apartment like a beacon in the night.
In my garden there is a full length mirror that is perched against a rickety garden shed that is full of art supplies and spiders. The light from the neighbours garden was reflecting brilliantly against the mirror – it looked otherworldly placed against the black shed and darkness of my garden, like the light didn’t belong in the darkness. I thought to myself “I wish that that was a fucking portal so I could step through, leave this place and see some happy faces”. The neighbours next door continued to dance and sing into the night.”
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.
I have been working on trying to achieve a more painterly style with the Oasis world of The Green Glider animated short. To achieve these current renders I collated together many bunches of the 3D trees and plants and rendered them out, I then brought the renders into photoshop and painted over them in three different versions, 1 being the original scratchy and more defined version with clearer visible brush strokes. The second and third iterations blurring them out so they could plop nicely in the background to add more depth. I also made cooler and warmer versions of each painted tree mound and painted some shapes to act as leaves to bulk out areas as seen below.
〰️The Oasis Painted Tress – Clear〰️
〰️The Oasis Painted Tress – Blurry〰️
I then brought those renders back into Maya as alpha maps and situated them accordingly within the scene and added in some of the original 3D trees for the foreground so that it gave more depth of field. To give me more control I used render layers where I added the elements in different collections and rendered them separately – so a render collection for the furthermost elements and a collection for the foregrounds and so on, it means I can have a lot more control in post production if I think something could be blurred further or possibly blend more with the sky colour to give more atmospheric perspective.
There was one caveat – previously all the grass was done with alpha maps which was causing a problem where the scene was so populated with alpha maps that light couldn’t render through them and meant that they were rendering black, I found out I had to dial up the render settings to offset this – the ray depth to be specific which resulted in ridiculous render times! So using what I learned about my Boogie Woogie Jive film and the ongoing Ersilia film, I had a muck about with using Maya’s ancient paint effects which worked wonderfully. Within the many keyframe achievable paint effects parameters there is the possibility to animate a slight breeze to the grass, I will definitely be giving that a whirl and see how to looks. I think with these many trial and errors the Oasis is starting to come to fruition, things can be pushed more but I think I am heading in the right direction.