Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Can you say Pecha-Kucha? Character Development

Pecha Kucha is an informal fast paced presentation technique 20seconds on each slide 20 slides(or 10 in this case.I presented a series of slides on the development of characters for a children's book called "Sparky get's a friend" its about an bored old cat coping with a new kitten being thrust into his world by his owner.
The starting point.
Any journey starts with a single step or in this case with a blank page,the bane of my life,quick fill it with anything! Cats! Partially anatomically realistic cats,this didn't float my boat so a re-think was in order.

 Cat Re-work.
After taking a peek at Ali Grainey's Blog  I decided simplifying forms was the way to go,settling on a sausage shape for one character and a more rigid cone shape for the other.
personality and context.
Next I tried to breath some life and personality into my creations(in Frankenstylee) everything inhabits somewhere,even germs in a petri-dish have an environment.(context to you and me) I also started to figure out personalities and colours suited to each character too.
Environment and stuff.

"Sparky" re-design.
At this point,during a crit it was decided that Sparky needed to to be made to look more decrepit and old,to create more contrast to the kitten character,I floundered for a bit until one evening "Dads Army" was on the TV and BINGO!! Arthur Lowe fit perfectly with the character of old staid Sparky the cat.
More re-work and expressions too.
Now I felt I had 2 characters I liked to draw and could carry a story for me,from here on it was a matter of composition and making a "nice" series of drawings,oh and telling a story too.

What did I learn? 
Research research research!
Draw Draw Draw and when you think you've done enough draw some more!
Put your'e creations into their world,environment their interactions and (ahem)motivation.
Play with scale,colour,line qualities.
Google people who's work you admire in your chosen field of interest and see how they do it (thanks Simone Lia . and
Take advice and criticism wherever you can get it,(thanks to my tutors,Steve Wilkin and Chris Harper) take notes and mull them over at your leisure.

Ed Allen

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

DD2000(Design Practice) Contemporary Exhibition-Manchester gallery

On Mosley street in the centre of Manchester away from the throng of shoppers and harassed office workers,there is an oasis,a cultural oasis.Within lies the bequests of what used to be Manchester's great and the good,a repository of the tastes of the local movers and shakers from the 17th to the early 20th century,Pre-Raphealite's,landscapes and portraiture abound. But this not what I have come to see,one wing of the gallery is dedicated to Modern and contemporary Art and this is what I shall be reviewing.
Upon entering this wing one notices a figure of perforated steel suspended above the stairway,this is a piece by Anthony Gormley entitled "filter",as with a lot of Gormley's recent work it's a piece based on a cast of the artist's nude figure.Some of his work can be very effective,less so this piece possibly due to it's placement or possibly because Gormley's figures are basically the same,just with a variation in construction methods.

Anthony Gormley's Filter.

For reasons of brevity I shall pick on the pieces that caught my eye . Micheal Craig Martin is a contemporay artist who is also an advocate of conceptualism,in the 1970's he produced a piece called "Oak Tree" which was a glass of water on a shelf,but next to it was a text asserting that the artist's intention is superior to the art itself.This is a concept which dates back to Marcel Duchamps Dada-ist piece "Fountain"of 1917(which was actually a urinal)
The piece exhibited here is "Inhale (yellow)" A large canvas of everyday objects painted in vivid colours,the black lines in the piece have  the appearance of being mechanically drawn due to their regularity.
Martin's conceptual approach was a big influence on Damien Hirst,Tracey Emin and Julian Opie.

Inhale(yellow) by Micheal Craig Martin.
Release is piece by Mark Francis that catches the eye because you know instantly what is about even though it is an abstract piece,it is a large monochrome canvas which though it was painted with acrylics has the appearance of a photographic plate.The image itself is of a cluster of short black bent rods with nodules on each end,are they sperms? are they invading viruses? and though they are in monochrome one gets the feeling they are of a biological nature,this may be because such things are always presented in an abstract way in the media anyway.
Release by Mark Francis

Peter C by David Hockney,this is an example of early Pop Art which is hung directly opposite a piece called Zephyr by Bridgitte Riley an example of Op Art,so called because it causes ocular confusion when viewed. Neither of these pieces could be described as contemporary today but both artists still work with Hockney recently having a retrospective and current exhibition at the National gallery in London. Peter C is a portrait on 2 joined canvases of a friend of Hockney's whilst at art college,Peter Crutch. Hockney had a crush on Peter who was by all accounts "straight",Unrequited love has motivated people to do many creative and destructive things,here it helped produce a piece of work that put David on the "art-map" before he had even left Art-School. 

Left: Peter C by Hockney. Right: Zephyr by Riley
I personally believe Brigitte Riley is one of the UK's most over-looked artists,her work has influenced both the work of fine-artists(Damien Hirst's Dot Painting's anyone?) and graphic designers. This piece is starting look its age,with the linen discolouring at the edges,yet this seems to add another dimension to the piece,It's fading waves of colours still make one feel queezy if viewed too long,there are not many artworks which you remember for there physical,rather than aesthetic effects.

To conclude,though the are non of the "Greatest hits" of modern/contemporary art in the exhibition(there mostly in Mr Saatchi's Gallery) there are lots of interesting modern works by significant practitioners in the world of Fine Art,and in the main gallery works by local artist Liam Spencer who seems to catch the sodium lights and gloom of Manchester perfectly. 

Ed Allen

Monday, 16 April 2012

DD2000(Design Discourse). David Pearson & Jim Stoddart

This a rare interview to see,an interview with both the person who commissions art-work and the designer himself talking about the state of book cover design in the new publishing era. Jim Stoddart is the art director for Penguin books and as such is responsible for the "look" of their current run of products. David Pearson is a Graphic Designer and Typographer charged with the re-launch of Penguin's Popular Classics,Great Loves and Reference series.

To the right David Pearson's work.

To the left the "classic" Penguin Design.

Pearson has taken care not to make the covers too "trendy" as this would quickly date the appearance of the graphics on what are literary classics,he also revels in the lack of space with which to make an impact. David endeavours to set the book apart from the new world of E-books(kindle etc) by making a book a desirable object not just for its contents but also for its visual and tactile qualities. Penguin still publish books with it's classic cover design,which usually looked like the above image on the left,but it also makes these more desirable "designed" covers which are aimed at a visually discerning book-buyer who would buy a series of David Pearson designed covers because they would look good on their bookshelf at home.
Modern book design must also take into account that many books are bought from online booksellers where there is no tactile element and only the graphical qualities are on show,here it will not be possible to see if a book has an embossed or offset printed cover,Only the shapes,colours and typography sell the book(and of course the text within). It will be interesting to see where the E-book goes in the next few years,with the next generation of Kindles allowing Graphic elements to be displayed.
David's own publication Fully Booked deals with book cover and book design,many of the examples within probably fit more within the artist book genre,where content is subsumed to the overall design of the piece,perhaps this is where books must look to in the future,as objects for committed Bibliophiles.

Ed Allen

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

DD2000(Design discourse) Cristoph Niemann.

Cristoph Niemann is an Illustrator/Graphic Designer from Germany who moved to the US in the nineties he worked extensively for the New York Times and the New Yorker Magazine, he has also co-authored several children's books.
A couple of Niemann's covers
The subject of his video on was not so much his working method as his philosophy of communication and role of an Illustrator in today's media.  How people relate to his work,weather it is possible to relate visually speaking,with someone on the other side of the world,a joke he says,is only a joke if your audience laugh. Cristoph believes insecurity is helpful in the work of any designer,it forces you to re-think and sharpen your work,this never being completely satisfied with your work philosophy,is extremely common amongst practitioners in the creative industries,he also states towards the end of the interview that the constant appraisal of one's own work can make the designer somewhat neurotic (that's our future folks, paranoid and disappointed.......joke!).
On the industry, Cristoph was adamant that his clients were key to his becoming a better illustrator/designer though he does say it is natural for the creative to bitch about the demands/constraints of the clients briefs,he enjoys the process of having someone to "bounce" idea's off, but I think this probably because he has had some very good art-director's to work with (I don't think the New Yorker Magazine employs crap art-directors). Speaking of which,Cristoph believes it important for the art director to KNOW their readers and what they will "get" and what they won't.

When Cristoph moved back to Germany he wanted to try new things (tiling bathrooms using the tiles like pixels to create pictures/patterns,making a book Illustrating life in New York using LEGO). He also began a weekly visual blog on The New York Times webpages on which he makes voodoo dolls,witty observations and visually dissects the ephemera of modern society,one of the side efffects of this weekly blog is some of the blog viewers believe Cristoph to be suffering from Attention Deficit Disorder or more bizarrely bladder problems,(Yank's eh). I heartily recommend it for its simplicity and creative use of the graph-chart.

Ed Allen

Sunday, 8 April 2012

DD2000 Editorial Illustration part3.

How much do I admire the work of Noma Bar? let me count the ways...Trained as Hebrew Typographer(actually a Bachelor in Graphic and Typographic design) in Israel the country of his birth. Noma came to London in 2000. Not being able to speak the English very well,he says compelled him to communicate in another way, Pictograms.
Front cover of Negative Space.

A pictogram needs to to be succinct and obvious,yet there always seems to be an ambiguity in any pictorial representation. Noma uses the eyes desire to "find" a meaning in symbols to great effect in his portrait work.
Noma has been qouted as saying "I'am after Maximum communication using the minimum of elements".

Travel Pictograms.

Seldom using more than 3 colours/shades in his work,the lack of colour variation is a neccesity to keep the image "readable" I'm sure you could assemble the same images using collage elements but the result would be visually disparate.  His compositions ARE the picture,not just an aesthetic design choice but key to the construction of a recognisable portrait or idiomatic symbol,using key elements associated with his chosen subject,weather a person or an editorial brief to assemble a visual pun or satirical image.

Mr Allajimhdad and Mr Spock

Although Bar assemble his images with the use of computer software,this is only after many hours of sketchbook work,he lives in a flat overlooking a wooded area in London and spend up to 5 hours a day sitting on the park benches sketching life as it passes by. He stated recently in an interview in the New-Yorker that a portrait of Fever Pitch/High Fidelity author Nick Hornby required over 200 drafts before Noma was happy with the result. At first glance this may seem  like a lot,but the pare-ing down of an original idea into a succinct and coherent final image must require many hours of "tweaking".

Nick Hornby(left) George Dubya(right)

Some critics see Noma's work as little more than "logo's" for the celebrity age,akin to the Nike swoosh or the golden arches of Mc'donald's. I think this is a miss-reading of the images,yes they are easily recognizable(a feat in itself) but they also seek to comment on a subject purely using visual language. When given the brief of the Bush administration's complicity in the Abu Ghraib abuse scandal, not many illustrators
would have come up with something as succinct and sly as Noma Bar's response,perhaps it is too clean and too static for the subject matter but it works on the level of tie-ing the two elements of the story together into one coherent final piece.

Ed Allen