All posts filed under “Thoughts

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What Happened To The Summer?

Last week I was chosen to be the debut illustrator over at The Illustrated Singles Club – a new blog looking to find the visuals in new and upcoming music. The blog selects a new single and an illustrator and gives the illustrator freedom to interpret the song as they wish.

A week ago today I was given Tom Forest’s single ‘Summer’, which almost couldn’t have been more perfect a choice. The song is densely nostalgic – whimsical, but also completely sincere. Forest sings that, should he ever return to his days as a child, he will have ‘died and gone to heaven’. It’s poignant, while also being lifted by the rose-tinted childhood memories many of us can relate to. If there’s two themes I’ve ever loved exploring, it’s nostalgia and death.

I knew exactly what I wanted to draw by the end of the first chorus. The first few notes of the song immediately brought to mind a vast, baking desert with cracked earth – a single road running through. I soon knew I wanted that road to be lifting from the ground towards the sky, as it brings its travellers toward a ‘heaven’. The plodding bass at the beginning lent itself perfectly to a large, giant-like figure moving through this environment. Importantly, I wanted the sense of thick heat of the scene to lend it a feeling of hazy, drugged up magic – rather than something more apocalyptic.

Lastly is the queue of different characters climbing aboard the bus, mostly just everyday people, but toward the back some childlike fantasies and idols – maybe even human accomplishments – that eventually fade away much like we do.

With only a week to produce the piece, having smaller and less detailed features and characters worked in my favour. The piece was also a good excuse to get a firm understanding on Krita, an open source paint software I’m working towards transitioning to. I think it’s hugely important that artists feel as though they own the tools they use to create the work they do, and supporting open source where I can is an important part of that. There are still a few quirks I’m learning and things to iron out, and rendering feels a little slower than I’m used to (especially on Windows), but for every hurdle I’ve discovered something to keep me coming back, which is fantastic considering I haven’t paid a penny.

This was a brilliant project to get involved with, and a great excuse to produce something a bit more left of field than my illustration typically takes me. I hope I’ve done the blog proud.

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I Scream For Ice Cream

Some character designs from about a month ago, submitted for Wildseed Studio’s ages 6-11 demographic. A set of characters that have been in my head for a good few years, the core concept being a Vampire that owns an ice cream stand, but due to his delicate skin complexion – can only open at night. A daft idea, enabled by the surge in popularity of absurdist cartoon shows – Adventure Time, Rick and Morty, Regular Show. I wanted something a bit less cynical, a bit more funky.

I really feel as though my vector illustrations have hit their stride in only the last six months or so. I’ve begun to favour rich, contrasting colours that I might have normally avoided. You get some incredible tones when you begin playing around with how shadows and highlights are coloured. Perhaps more importantly is my approach to line drawing. It’s so important that when you draw a line that you mean it. So much life and foundation is formed when the lines that form the image have a real sense of confidence. Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, we can erase a line instantly and redraw it again and again until it feels just right. Sometimes its hard to make that judgement. On reflection, there’s some parts here that I would go back and give another shot, but life is only so short. They stand well next to each other, and I would love to see them come to life.

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An Afternoon In Meditation

Over the next few weeks (and past couple weeks) I’ve been exploring the idea of ‘Wake Up’. I chose this term because there’s a great degree in which it can be explored. Of course, there’s the literal waking up we do most mornings, but also the idea of having a ‘wake up call’, so to speak. Many times we have these realizations that can very much feel like the sensation of waking up. Sometimes we wish to show things to people to wake them up about topics of politics or their lifestyles.

I’ve created a number of small, test outcomes already (all of which I hope to share here at some point), but most recently I’ve been exploring the connection between Waking Up and our consciousness. After watching CGP Grey’s fantastic video on teleportation (which, while geeking out over star trek, also delivers on some interesting food for thought) I wanted to look into the idea of the ‘self’ a little further. In essence, the argument goes, the only way for future teleportation to work is if we somehow copy all of our atoms, perfectly reproduce them somewhere else, but then delete the atoms in the original location. So is the teleported person still you? They would, of course, hold all the same memories, personality traits, experiences and so on. Regardless, it’s hard to shake the idea that your original body would have to die for the new one to exist, and then perhaps the new one is merely just a clone of you.

So, taking this idea further, if the clone at the other end isn’t you, then you start getting into ideas of ‘what is you’. If we define ourselves as a single stream of consciousness, which would be halted by this teleportation process, then likewise we have no way of knowing whether or not our consciousness dies each time we sleep, only to be replicated and replaced by an entirely new one. Sleep, after all, requires us to be unconscious. It’s impossible to know without attributing the ‘self’ as something that exists intangibly. Really it’s just something fun to think about, but it opens up a number of other questions that ought to be discussed.

When assuming the ‘self’ is something that exists beyond science, we enter the realms of spirituality. While not convinced myself, I’m certainly open to the idea. This idea of being ‘reborn’ or ‘awakened’ or even ‘enlightened’ has always interested me, though I’ve never investigated it much in the past. Haven’t really had any oppurnity to.

For my research, I decided to attend an open meditation session with the Bristol Buddhist Centre. I was very warmly welcomed as a newcomer, and explained a couple times that while I’d attempted meditation before, I never really had the patience to persist with it. We sat around a coffee table and had a short group talk, which soon ended up with our eyes closed, focussing on how our feet felt on the ground, and how it felt to be in that particular place at that particular time.

Before I knew it we were told to make our way to the other room, and without hesitation everyone got up to grab copious amounts of blankets, matts and pillows. Obviously I look a bit lost, and was selected a beginners recommended selection, which consisted of a mat, and five stacked pillows for me to sit on. Once everyone had constructed their pillow forts of maximum comfort, we were asked to pray to Buddha. This wasn’t something I was familiar with. Some did, some didn’t. I decided I would stand up and copy those that were, saying each mantra one after the other, because I felt I was there for the full experience. We sat for what I think must have been forty-five minutes, mostly in silence, occasionally pointed towards a certain thought we would replay in our heads for a piece of time.

It was quite alien for me, perhaps slightly surreal. Being sat, completed still and silent, in a room of twenty people doing exactly the same. Once the time was up (just enough time for people to get back from their lunch breaks), I certainly felt a wave of something over me – maybe calm, or refreshment. Most people grabbed their bags quite quickly and left. I stayed for a cup of tea and a chat about Waking Up, the Buddha, consciousness and so on. It was certainly interesting discussing things in this more abstract sense – something you don’t always get the opportunity to do.

It’s hard to gauge if everyone there was attempting to work their way up towards enlightenment, or feel closer to Buddha. Or maybe there’s something comforting in just sitting still for a while, maybe with a group of people, and being welcomed in. Before I left, one gentlemen got to talking with me about how much better he sleeps now since starting meditation in January. I’m sure there’s still something that’s not necessarily spiritual about the experience.

Everyone was eager to hear about my project – something I don’t always get the privilege of!

So I went home and finished of my animated typographic piece. I’m not sure why, but since going to the meditation session it all feels a bit too clinical now for the subject matter. Limited to just 30 seconds (which I liberally went over) and knowing I should probably leave the part out about Star Trek transporters, I found it very difficult to get across my ideas in this one. Adding some abstract sounds and music has given it that slight edge I was looking for. Oddly enough some sounds help illustrate some points better than when they were absent, but I feel like most of what’s trying to be said here would go over most people’s heads. It’s all a bit too fast and a bit too much.

Oh well, the animations are quite pretty.