The Night Before Christmas

He Sees You When You’re Sleeping…

This weeks kick about over on Red’s Kingdom is the illustration “The Night Before Christmas” by Arthur Rachham. I found the illustration by Arthur Rachham horrifying, in the best way. To me his art always veers on that polarising view of charming but in an uncanny not quite right way. Something about the blackness of the line work, particularly with the scratchy shadows and the way the sickly stained walls progressively get more bruised towards the top makes me think that old Saint Nick isn’t as jolly as it’s told and could be hiding in those shadows, ready to unhinge his bearded jaw and gobble up those kids as they run right up to him. So keeping in theme to that here’s a couple illustrations.

Ice Spiral

Creators from all over have responded with whimsical light, shape and formations for this weeks Kick About over on Red’s Kingdom, inspired by the wondrous Ice Spiral installation art created By Andy Goldsworthy. more of Goldsworthy’s striking work can be seen here. Inspirit of Goldworthy’s art I wanted to recollect upon the bitter winter in rural Ireland photographed from last year when the stillness and cold became one to produce frozen splendour. 

When I look at these photos all I can think about is miniature vistas halted in time, like verglas installations created by pristine nature. Pockeded air bubbles mimicking silver dollar plants are trapped among planes of ice like tiny moons. Milky swirls of frozen water interjected with brambles that loop in and out like a serpent on the hunt, and if the camera panned up, something would arise from the mist.

Short Film: Flowers of Fire

When I seen the prompt for Kick About #40 over on reds Kingdom I wanted to see if it was possible to make an animation using the same analogue technique of scraping patterns into black painted glass and using the magic of long exposure to produce a time-lapse of images to see the growth of each burst of light. It was possible – however my original efforts were undesirable and left things a bit muddled. Instead I tried to opt for something simpler by taking photos of each glass setup in pin prick focus and another in a diluted blur to then sandwich both the images next to each other so that a burst of light pops with a simple hard cut in the edit.

I wanted to mimic the life force of a firework display and have the festivities start off slow to gradually bubble to a climax before the the lights fade and the sound of people are no longer completely drowned out. Truth be told I made things harder for myself by shooting each image in 4K and was left scratching my head as to why it was originally painfully slow to edit this short film, by changing the resolution of each image to something my laptop could handle and reimporting, it was a complete joy to edit further. It was the kick in the arse I needed to get on with things and to remember the joy of seeing a short film through its end, lets make it on time for the next one.

Tales From The Woods

This weeks Kick About over on Red’s Kingdom is a spooky one! The words read as follows “listen to them them, children of the night. What music they make” adopted from Dracula by Bram Stoker (1897) – it is no wonder the offerings from artists of all mediums took a more sinister turn. With my own submission I decided to paint over photography from a mystifying land in rural Ireland – the same forest that I recollected upon with this earlier post from last year. Inspired by the stagnant stillness of nature in the night when the ghouls and ghosts come out to play… and also boisterous teenagers. Where there are no street lights and only the little tufts of smoke from chimney spouts signify life. The thick fog and heavy mist hiding and shielding much of what you should see, like a visceral view of brain fog. But still, in that forest, our imaginations would always be lit ablaze. Some would say we were the children of the night.

Colours And Shapes #1

With this weeks kick about prompt being the cut outs of Henri Matisse I wanted to produce something quickly – full of shapes and colour. This felt very much like a meditative practice in which I lost myself in the process of creating such colourful squidgy shapes. In Photoshop the lasso tool in particular was the main modus operandi used to create the shapes which were then simply filled with colour using the paint bucket tool. Initially I made a bunch of shapes that resembled plant forms or algae as well as blocks of shapes that could be used behind the plant forms, then having a plethora of shapes at my disposal I could move, invent and create the grander picture of them all as one. I wanted to keep things as practical as possible and revert from any overly cerebral thoughts so a lot of these designs took a life of their own and I throughly enjoyed letting them be. 

“Country With Trees” Cyanotypes

This weeks prompt over on Reds Kingdom is the art of Peter Mungkuri of the Aṉangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands of north western South Australia who’s illustrative drawings celebrate the life of trees – an important part of the community’s culture.  

My mind instantly wanted to create some cyanotypes, with their mesmerising deep Prussian blue and infrared white, a process that is always a joy and I never tire of. The best part about cyanotypes is its unpredictability, simply letting the cuttings of foliage and flora place where you think and letting the sun do the work always gives a unique result each time.

I purchased the chemicals in powder form added water and coated them on some toothy cold pressed A3 size watercolour paper, adding a minuscule amount of the formula to achieve that rich blue and vivid white.

Phantoms Of Surrealism

When reading about Sheila Legge’s inspiration behind her walking real life surrealist exhibition for this weeks Kick About and how she was so inspired by the paintings of Dalí, I decided to create some Dalí-esque dream-like landscapes while paying homage to Legge’s face full of flowers. The female models were downloaded and imported into Maya where on their heads I glued an abundance of multicoloured flowers- tiger Lilly’s, Dahlia’s, Delphinium’s, African Lilly’s and Daisy’s. Combined with a quick and dirty rig and skin of the figures as well as some mountains in the background to complete the scene and move the figures to my every whim. The rig on the figure on the left of the above image messed up and I loved how fluid and melty the resulting movements turned out – I tried to replicate this mistake with the other rigs but my efforts did not gratify, It was one of those moments where a mistake tuned out to be a blessing but could not be recreated.

This prompt also reminded me of one of my favourite films – Annihilation (2018). In particular when the team walk across a baron land called “The Shimmer” where their bodies start to turn into plant matter. It is a strange and beautiful film that left a lasting impression on me, much in the same respect that surrealist paintings do.

Giant in a Jar “Souvenir” – Making of #2 – The Props

Previous to my last post now that I knew the print was a fail and that I would rely on the edit to superimpose my head in the jar I started setting up the scene with the manner of props. I relied on a bunch of different things to achieve the final output, to get the jars filled with vivid colour like that of an alchemists apothecary I used yellow and red food colouring, a few drops was all that was needed to turn the clear water into a garish blood and greenish goo. I also used a trick I knew from creating my own halloween costumes as a young lad that was obsessed with zombies by combining corn syrup with red food colouring to make a blood like consistency as well as water colour paint for some different coloured jars and a tattered wig.

Lighting the scene was extremely important as I wanted it to reflect the coloured lighting seen in many horror and slasher films. I relied on bicycle lamps, head lamps and little fairy lights that were the saving grace that I bought for the upcoming short film – The Lighthouse Keeper. the lights were hidden behind the jars and behind angles behind the camera, the same red gel and crumpled it over one of the head lamps to give the a more reddish hue. I accidentally broke the main head jar a few weeks ago and it actually worked out in my favour as it was leaking the entire time but it added more of a theatrical sheen to the gloss of the table top which meant that the light bounced off the surface more.

One of my desks that usually contains most of my plants has a little hole in it – I would assume for cables and wires, I wanted to take advantage of this and place a light underneath the hole so that it projected though the largest head jar and light it up from underneath, with initial tests I had to put the timer of my camera on to ten seconds and quickly duck under the desk and hold the light up to get it just right However, I did manage to eventually wedge the light in between a wooden slat so that I didn’t have to stick my lanky self under the desk which was a win in itself, here is a not so glamours behind the scenes look at what that looked like.

The scene was now set, One of the most enjoyable aspects was experimenting with the lighting and placing the jars in places that reflected and bounced the light, all the while taking a plethora of photos from a range of angles.