The transformative words of Gaston Bachelard is this weeks Kick About over on Red’s Kingdom.
If our last Kick-About together introduced all of us to subjects far-removed from our daily lives and wonderfully esoteric, this week’s prompt, courtesy of Gaston Bachelard, returns us to more familiar spaces, as we explore together what makes from a house a home, and between us producing new works in a short time.
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.
It has been a long time coming since Phil Gomm with Reds Kingdom and myself had a long chat about all the creative endeavours underway. Everything from Pools, The Green Glider Animated short, The Lighthouse Keeper and delving into the freelance realm is discussed below. Have a gawk and a listen.
It’s been rather too long since artist-in-residence, Graeme Daly, and I sat down for a proper blether about his continuing adventures as a freelancer, film-maker and photographer. I keep up with Graeme’s various creative endeavours via his Gentle Giant blog and Twitter feed, but nothing tops an old-fashioned chinwag…
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.
It has been far too long since I have updated here the goings of The Green Glider Animated Short. Truth be told the rigging and skinning process of making an animated character move is a big ugly obstacle and the part of the pipeline that definitely is not my favourite, however it must be done! I had the usual array of fuck ups when rigging and skinning the main protagonist of the animated short – Ash. Pose space deformers would mess up out of the blue making it so that poor Ash would have tumours growing out of his asscheeks and elbows or one of the lovely glitches of Ash’s whole face sliding down his jowls in attempt to put him (or me) out of misery.
I am not out of the blue with the rigging and skinning process just yet, I have Ash’s body rigged and skinned and now it is onto the face. Just the sheer idea of seeing the multicoloured floating shapes hovering around Ash and knowing that he is able to move within the greyness of Maya is exciting. I can almost taste the much more enjoyable animation process in the near horizon and can’t wait to bring some life to his pasty face.
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.”
Welcome to this first anniversary edition of The Kick-About, a fortnightly blog-based creative challenge in which artists of all stripes come together to present work in response to a given prompt. I asked contributors to choose a favourite work of their own from the previous twenty-five editions so I could celebrate them all together here.
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.