The monotony of existence
Chosen for comfort as opposed to any pretense of an ensemble. Tracksuit bottoms and an old ragged t-shirt. Four walls, looming ominously like sentinels – guards that watch over the only resident within. The constant hum of a computer fan battles a droll of music to combine into white-noise that becomes a dull ache focused deep between the eyeballs. Shackled to a daily endeavour that has long lost any significance. Life has become a routine, time broken only by sleep. Sustenance, shower, sleep. What is it all for? Every day is the same…
Sometimes I loose track. Maybe this is my own life. Maybe it is a fabrication.
Sitting alone at my drawing board I find it difficult to articulate my feelings. Focusing on a blank canvas, I put pressure on myself to conceive something original to express my frustrations. At once I am both exhausted and inactive.
Naturally, I start to think of a character, endowing them with these emotions. Boredom, fear, lethargy. Soon a form starts to follow, with a personality beginning to develop. A creature of the night for which time has lost all meaning, the reference points long since removed by a prolonged sense of solitude.
Exploring character Rigging
Set around a tree-dwelling community of squirrels, ‘Trouble Up Top’ is a concept idea I had for a children’s story some time ago. Based on a hierarchical structure (in both a literal distribution of real estate within the tree and also within the leadership organization of the gang) the story arch unfolds in a series of misfortunate events, set-up by subordinates and subsequently passed along the chain of command for a resolution. With our protagonist in a position of power as ‘the Boss’, the moral focus of the story is the responsibility of leadership as we see the hardship he endures to keep ‘the family’ functioning.
In the wise words of Uncle Ben (from Spider-Man, not the guy who makes the rice) – ‘…with great power. Comes great responsibility’
For some time, I endeavored to develop a solid draft for the story, but eventually the project found its way to the back burner – having been shelved in my thoughts by other pressing matters with the full intention of picking it up somewhere down the line. Rich with potential; the project still holds plenty of promise with the emerging of a visual aesthetic and the glimmer of a core idea that simply needs time to explore. Like digging into a vein of cookie within a tub of ice cream.
From digital to tangible
Digital drawing software can be a great tool, allowing an artist to produce and edit work in a way that has transformed the capabilities of a freelance creative.
But it’s not all gravy…
Working digitally has taken away the tactile interaction with one’s work, acting as a buffer between hand and art. This can be frustrating and create a sense of disassociation. Bits of kit are available that help to reduce this boundary, allowing the user to manipulate pixels and vectors with a tablet by mimicking the motions of hand drawing but it’s not that same as the intimate process of getting down-and-dirty with a clump of clay or paintbrush. Regardless of the cuts, grazes and splinters, there is something that is missing from digital techniques that can be quite rewarding when working with your hands.
In this blog post, I will briefly document the production of my ‘Monkey Balls’ illustration (on display in the ‘Monkey Room’ at the Mile End Climbing Wall – London) as a way to engage with a piece that was exclusively conceived in the computer.
Digging through piles of the past
Visiting with my dearest mother, I decided to have a rummage through the attic and dig out some boxes of old drawings. With a healthy measure of curiosity, I endeavoured through itchy fibreglass insulation and cobwebs in the hope of discovering some forgotten treasure – kinda like in The Goonies. Retrieving my bounty was no easy feat, relocating to the kitchen to assess my finds in the hope of uncovering something that would help reflect upon my early years of work. Going through old sketchbooks, piles of loose papers and notes, I was a little bit disappointed with my past self. To my eyes, there was a lot of crap.
Sure there was plenty to be nostalgic about, but much of what I had once created with pride was now viewed with negativity. Sketches I had made with the firmest of convictions now seemed to be infantile and poorly executed. Self-deprecating doodles seemed trivial and predictable while experiments with medium appeared clumsy.
‘I thought I was good at drawing’ – I breathed under my breath as I systematically flicked through the old notebooks and loose papers.
‘You have to start somewhere’ – came a voice over my shoulder.
Consumed by the indignation of my former self, I had forgotten to consider how all of these angry scrawlings and random doodles had built over the years to inform the illustrator I am today. In this blog, I will look through a few of my old drawings and discuss the evolving process of one’s artistic approach.
…to rock a rhyme that’s right on time
Some time ago, while wandering the warren of streets that is Covent Garden, I decided to duck into the Kid Robot store to check out the ‘Sneaky Snow Ball’. A winter exhibition set up by Sneaky Raccoon including contributions from many talented artists; the shop was a fill of crazy characters and apparel. Inspired by some of the amazing creations on display; I decided to pick up a blank white 2.5-inch Trikky and make play with my own custom vinyl toy.
A blank white surface with so many possibilities; I was eager to make a start but first I had to consider how to approach this new project. Would I apply pencil and brush to create a decorative piece of graphics and patterns? Or utilize the shape of the small model to develop a cute little character? Reluctantly placing the Trikky to one side, I settled down to give it some thought – as I often do – with pencil and paper.
A return to the frontier
With Tarantino’s return to the Western in The Hateful Eight and Alejandro G. Inarritu producing one of the most anticipated movies of a packed awards season with The Revenant, there has been a striking return to the frontier in the cinema. The latest in a string of movies to reinstate the cowboy to the big screen, I find myself consciously taking notice of the genre. Slow West was a beautiful debut movie for John Maclean, and one of the gems of 2015, while 2014’s Young Ones had a distinctly western feel, although set in a desolate future.
But let’s not get carried away. I’m sure there will be those who point out that the American classic never actually went away, citing titles such as the remake of True Grit, The Assassination of Jessie James by the Coward Robert Ford and the ill-conceived Lone Ranger all released within the last decade. Not to mention some of the Western movies of the mid 20th century that still remain engaging and relevant to this day with themes of self-reliance and perseverance in a harsh environment.
With a growing appreciation of the genre, I have been catching up on some of the classics and in doing so taken reference for my own work.