This week some friends from MACA and I all went down to Hackney Picturehouse to do an Aardman model making workshop, led by George who works as a junior model maker at Aardman studios in Bristol. There were quite a few animation students in the mix, both 3D and 2D, but puppet/claymation was a new realm for me and one that I was very intrigued by.
As we all received the same amount of clay and instructions for building a character, the workshop didn’t leave as much to our imagination as I might have expected but nonetheless I had a really great time building my own Gromit! Despite working in the same order on the same tasks, everyone’s models came out looking very different with different personalities and facial expressions, as you can see in the photo below of mine and my classmates’. (Mine is second from the right!)
At the end of the session we took group photos of our army of Gromits and asked George a couple of questions about what it was like working in stop motion animation and model making. He told us a bit about the selection process at Aardman, as well as how groups would work together both on short-term and longer term projects. He told us that we should work on creating the best portfolios and showreels we could before applying for jobs, as this was the way to be the most successful in the industry. All in all a really enjoyable and educational experience – maybe next time they’ll teach us how to make Wallace…
This week at life drawing, I decided to put my plan of using circles into practice when sketching our new life model Phil. Vanessa showed my the ropes first, showing me how to start by drawing a circle for the torso, followed by one for the hips and a final circle for the head to get a general gist of the model’s movement and stance. Drawing the spine in also helped to get a feel for how the model’s posture was, as my previous drawings were lacking in this area! I really felt like my drawings improved a lot.
Vanessa’s feedback was that my characters looked a little two dimensional, and that I tended to cut off my lines too early rather than flow readily into one another. As a cartoonist at heart, this made a lot of sense – creating the limbs as cylinders rather than as straight lines helped me a lot in fleshing out my characters and making them seem properly ’round’ in the sense of being three dimensional. Again, we were doing short poses of 2, 3 and 4 minutes, which meant there were a lot of different movements to capture in short succession. Like Jennifer, Phil made full use of the prop selection!
Using the circles helped me massively improve my technique, so I’m definitely going to be using them more in the future!
This weekend a friend and I went over to Brixton to a studio named Under Way Studio to try out a new class – mono printing using silk screens. I had tried lino printing as a teenager in art class but this sort of work was completely new to me! We began in a manner somewhat similar to the shadow puppets, cutting out the shapes that we wanted out of paper and this time using them to create negatives (in that the paint would fill the spaces we cut).
I chose to create a piece inspired by the life drawings I had from Thursday, as I thought Jennifer’s movements were really dynamic and beautiful. I layered a couple of different poses on top of one another, meaning that the end result looked as though she was moving around on the page:
I also added a couple of shapes to layer on top of one another, creating a final piece that I was quite pleased with. Though we only had three colours to work with, I felt that the end result was well-suited to the vibrancy of the primary colour paints. Each layer/colour had to be done individually, pulling the paint across the screen beforehand to “flood” it, then redone over the stencil to create very bold and clean shapes. We then (very professionally) dried each layer with a hairdryer, before changing colours on the screen and printing the next on top. I was really satisfied by the cleanness of the final lines and the vibrancy of my figure’s movement through different layers of colour. I’ll be back for more screen printing for sure…
This evening I spent a couple of hours getting back into the swing of life drawing, something I haven’t always felt the most confident about doing. Our model Jennifer posed with a couple of different objects for us, such as a hoola hoop and a couple of long metal poles, as well as a scarf that she wound around herself in various different ways. She held her poses for short periods of 1, 2, 3 and 4 minutes each, meaning our drawings had to be done quickly and in short succession. This style of drawing suited me well, as I was able to put multiple different poses on a page at once. I tend to draw quickly, so I felt better suited to the shorter poses. (photos below)
I have always found drawing from life difficult and frustrating, as whatever I created never looked exactly like the object or figure I was looking at. While I am usually more confident in creating characters from my own head and often struggle with drawing realistic anatomy, I think I have slightly improved in my technique, with help from my classmates. One technique recommended to me was to draw the torso first, using circles to indicate the main body mass, which I didn’t try this session but am planning to next week. Here’s to learning a bit more anatomy – what I need to practice the most!
Today – day three – we delved into an area I’d never tried before, that being the world of shadow puppetry. Originally Chinese, shadow puppetry first began in the 1920s and 30s and used flat figures against a transparent screen to create silhouetted figures that performed for an audience. Making our own puppets involved a lot of cutting and sticking of various sheets of black paper to one another, setting up backgrounds and characters and looking for good lighting all over campus (clue: the roof is a gold mine in terms of natural light…)
Our group created an old, crotchety puppet to traverse reluctantly through a black-paper forest, poking whatever he could find with his paper walking stick before being grabbed and put back in his box again. The main objective of the exercise was to try and portray character through the movement of the puppets, which I think ours did quite well at. What we struggled a little more with was the pace of the story, as our scenes took a while to move between. We filmed everything live-action which meant with a little editing we could have cut the pauses quite easily. What we ended up with was quite a fun little short that we’d all helped to create and design, and I was really impressed with the other groups’ films too! An ancient but entertaining art.