Give Me a Sign: Reflection

This project has brought self discovery, it has lead me to be determined, it has been long, it has been difficult, but it has been without a doubt one of the best/ most enjoyable projects I have completed in my life.

I have been able to adapt to changes, I have fought with my own difficulties (depression, anxiety and ADHD) in a global pandemic, and although I needed a little extra help from mitigating circumstances this time around, I am proud of where I am today.

Upon reflection of the beginning of this project, I am unsure as to which category my project now fits under. Although I begun working in the thematic group, this project I believe can fit in both responsive and thematic. I researched into the theme of re-birth through this project, I have gathered information on spiritual signs shown from those in the after-life, I have essentially gotten in-touch with my core beliefs and explored my personal ways of understanding situations and adapting to change. I also responded to a life event being the loss of my family dog as I experienced multiple ‘signs’ of re-birth and communication from a possible ‘life beyond life’. I was also inspired by a story which I recalled my mother reading to me when I was 12 years old after losing my best-friend to an incurable syndrome. The story I cannot locate again, although it was very similar to ‘The Secret of the Dragonfly’. This story taught me about loss, but also re-assured me that the lost loved one will still be looking down and wanting to communicate in some form.

The loss of my dog although at first caused grief, it ended up re-igniting the emotion/ relief I felt when the story was read to me, and I wanted to create art work that would offer the same feeling to an audience member if they were possibly experiencing a loss of their own by viewing an exhibition of my work where they would be re-assured, but also feel a sense of escapism, a place of beauty, where a negative/ bad experience (failed/ old 2D work) is re-birthed/formed into something beautiful and intriguing (3D paper butterfly, slice collages, urchins) as the work can be interpreted in alternative ways, which I wanted from my outcome as it can be interpreted to connect with multiple people. I believe it could be interpreted to recycling, reserving the planet, nature, fragility, bullying (fragility being reborn into strength), mental health (although times may be bad now it can be beautiful again), and more. I believe the artist statement I created for the work helps clarify what my personal intentions were and how I was inspired, however I believe leaving the work open will be able to connect with a larger audience.

Overall I am extremely pleased with how this project turned out, as although there was a period of time where my motivation was lacking due to the beginning of the COVID-19 lock down throwing my routine off and causing my ADHD to take over, I was able to create a substantial amount of work which I am finally satisfied with. I was able to offer suggestions for re-gaining motivation to fellow people on my course through a previous blog post, and had fellow students message me asking for advice after reading my post, which felt quite sentimental. Although I fell down, I am proud to say that I bounced back up more ready and more excited about my project than ever.

If I were to change anything about my project, I would have liked to have found a space or had a space nearby to perhaps set up a mock-exhibition, although as I lived in a shared student house there was insufficient space to do so. I believe the way I reacted to the pandemic cannot be changed, and therefore do not regret the fact that I initially lost motivation, as the brightest and most hardworking people need to take a break some times, I suppose I regret not realising this sooner as I initially felt guilty about my lack of productivity.

I believe this project has allowed me to find my visual language, being experimental. I like to work within 3D disciplines but also like to include photography and ‘typical’ 2-Dimensional drawings/ illustrations. Although I have been able to explore and develop my 3D work with this project, which I would like to continue to do as the way that paper can be manipulated from 2D into 3D fascinates me.

I also explored some professional practice opportunities within the exposure module which has been extremely beneficial for myself as I was able to experience first hand what it could be like to work within my desired profession. It also allowed me to focus on my communication skills and confidence in public which is a something I still want to work on, although the experience of doing live demonstrations in the Pen&Paper shop in Cardiff really helped me gain confidence in my profession and engage in conversations with an audience intrigued by my work.

I’d like to say that this is not going to be the final blog post I make. I intend to keep this blog going in order to keep a personal diary on where I have started from and where I am now. I decided to re-visit a 1st year illustration which we did at the beginning of the year, where we were asked to draw our bedroom from memory, so I decided to draw my room now and add my current project into it to feel a ‘full circle’.

Thank you to everyone who has read my posts throughout the three years that I have studied at Cardiff Metropolitan University, thank you to those who have followed me, thank you to my friends and family for supporting me, and thank you to my lecturers for encouraging me to be the best that I can. I cannot wait to hopefully post on this blog as a BA(Hons) Illustration graduate. Thank you all.

Room Observation

Give Me a Sign: Final Collection of Work

This project by far has been one of the most personal and experimental times for me. I have been able to focus on and improve my 3D work, such as my understanding of the software SketchUp, I have been able to explore paper folding techniques in more detail and found a method which I enjoy and am able to adapt to suit different forms, and have been able to explore collage techniques, photography skills, visual language techniques, video making skills, and explore the boundaries of illustration itself.

I began with creating 2-D, pen on paper, marks on a surface work and then explored a different dimension, one that made my message and purpose of an artist strike more than it has before.

I have conducted in depth artist research in order to gain multiple locations of inspiration such as by looking into Richard Sweeney, Andy Goldsworthy, Ana Ramirez Gonzalez, Gracia Lam, Maria Andrews and Kiki Smith. I believe that the range of sources of inspiration helped me find my method of creation in this project as I was able to see so many styles of illustration in a binder near by where I kept all of the artist research along with various images of their work.

I have created multiple pieces and explored many disciplines in order for myself to improve and understand my visual language with confidence, and fortunately (better late than never) I believe I have confidence in the outcome(s) of this project.

Although I would have liked to exhibit all of my work in a show setting, I decided to create a catalogue/ book of my final outcomes in order to put all of the pieces that I created for a show in to one place. This is so if an exhibition opportunity were to arise, I would be able to see what I could place/ fit in the given space. Ideally, I would like the 2D images in print mounted to walls, the 3D Paper sculptures hanging from the ceiling, and the Urchins on a form of podium central to the space. But what I am very pleased about is the adaptability of my work for a show space due to the quantity and variety of work I have curated through my response.

I will include a selection of final images below, although will not give all of the final outcomes away as I would like that to be inclusive between myself and my lecturers, so that if an exhibition opportunity were to arise it would be a surprise to all. I will also add 3 bonus images which I made whilst curating the final collection of work which were not included in the final cut.

Selection of final outcomes

3 Bonus Illustrations

These 3 images I found didn’t quite fit in with the general aesthetic of the majority of the successful outcomes due to the collage/photo edit technique so as a result I decided to cut them from the final catalogue, although it is possible that they fit together in a form of 2D Illustration/Digital edit hybrid series which may be something I could explore later on.

I also created a video/ animatic of my final outcomes to explore my video editing techniques. I placed a musical piece that I created myself over the animatic to create a sense of question/ deep thought.

I decided not to include the urchins and slice collages in the video as it seemed almost out of place, as the butterfly paper sculptures reoccurred throughout the photo edits and individual images it gave more of a sense of metamorphosis/ coherency, which I tried to achieve by using an additive dissolve transition which gave almost a time-lapse sense to the pieces. I did this in order to reference the message/ inspiration behind this work, being re-birth/ loss.

Give Me a Sign: Development of Finals

As the Degree Show and University are in lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, I have had to change the method of hand in for my work. This also means I am unable to set up my final pieces in the way that I had wished to present them. In order to adapt to this situation, I have re-visited my photography days, although with lower quality devices, such as using my iPhone and scanner (as my DSLR camera has somehow broken, and I am unable to find what the problem is).

During the times I ventured outside of my home, whether it be to get my prescriptions, or to go food shopping, I made sure to look for any sorts of scenery that could fit the metaphor of re-birth, or to emphasise the beauty of the resurrected broken, this being the paper sculptures.

So far, I find that the paper sculptures located in de-saturated locations seems to be most effective, as although they look out of place, they also look as though they offer some sort of break from reality, or something ethereal.

I have finished creating the 3 main urchins also, to show the decay and cycle of re-birth.

I am hoping to create a series of these edited images of my sculptures in real locations, in order to place them in a setting as I would have been able to place them in a setting if the degree show was to go ahead. I also believe as my sculptures have a somewhat commercial value, this being that they can be altered to fit alternative purposes, as I experimented with during my professional practice live penguin book project application. I have made a collection of 10 paper sculptures, 3 urchins, over 150 spikes, and am curating a collection of collages of my work in outdoor places.

From this point onward I am aiming to create more collages, and if needs be, 2-5 more paper sculptures. As I do not want to overload my final collages with too many forms, as it risks distracting the viewers from the metaphor and beauty of simplicity, re-birth and somewhat gaining a spiritual aura from the concept of re-birth, through the butterfly-like forms. I am also going to experiment with lowering the saturation of the scenery/ backdrops which I merge my sculptures onto, as I believe the limited colour palettes assists in the sculptures gaining more attention.

I experimented with placing the sculptures in places currently available to myself, such as in my bedroom and in the garden, which resulted as so:

I decided that the camera quality was not strong enough to use these as final images, as I used a Panasonic DSLR which was a little dated. Also I didn’t find the outcomes with editing to be as striking as when using the photoshop overlay technique. It was however interesting to experiment with my sculptures being within a homely/ real setting.

Who Is Artist? Final outcome.

Creating the final outcome, a short film composed of 781 frames/ images, costume, video editing, design, and photography un-surprisingly was quite a long process. Although, I was able to finish it within the deadline that I had set myself.

In order to secure myself meeting my final deadline (2 weeks blanket extension applied), I decided to keep myself organised by creating this schedule. I believe doing so has made me more motivated to do work, as I was initially creating work with a large amount of stress overbearing myself, causing my production and development to be prolonged; this was because of me believing that I would not be able to get all of my work done in time by the deadline, as I kept recalling different requirements I had to meet by my deadline, such as updating my website, my portfolio, submitting an artist statement, presenting a professional practice slideshow, and more. Thankfully, by creating this schedule I am able to see what to do on each day, and have ensured to leave myself plenty of time to allow breaks in between completing work. I have also ensured to allow myself one day a week to do whichever and whatever I wish to do, in order to keep my mental well-being sufficient in these difficult times.

After following this schedule, I have been able to finish my extra puppet animation on-top of my previous submission. I will however be creating some extra still images, and collages with my puppet as some side, still illustrations.

In the curation of this film, I found my sound effects from 2 sources that offer students free sound effects to use in educational films, the links are below:

All of the sound effects I used were either licensed as Public Domain, or as Attribution 3.0, meaning that they are able to be used for personal, as well as public function, meaning that it can also be used for commercial purposes. I will give credit to the creators of the sound effects which I used below my film.

I used Adobe Premier Pro to edit my film together. It is fair to claim that I am out of practice of utilising the software and tools provided by such, although I was able to create the movie that I had envisioned in my creative-mind. If I had more time, or was able to re-do this animation, I would create a stronger body for my puppet, as it was too heavy to stand by itself. Although, I was able to offer more flexibility to this puppet than my previous puppet. This meant that there were more areas of the puppet that could be manipulated, and animated. This included the thigh, calf, and head as well as the puppet’s arms. I would also get access to official tools, such as cameras, tripods, lighting, and a clicker. These would make the animation smoother, and effectively more simple to create, as I struggled to take photos with one hand and move the puppet with the other which resulted in slowing the process.

I also decided to have a constant quiet ticking clock sound effect in this film, with an alarm at the end of the video, in hopes of communicating that it is time for people to wake up. I don’t believe that people outside, or even within the art world truly see the dark side of it. However, my hope is that this film may offer an insight to those emotions and fears.

I also went on to make some side pieces, as well as photograph my puppet in order to show the physical outcome as well as the video outcome. These will be shown below the sound effects credit.

Sound effects:

[Printer] by dersuperanton,

[Painting, roller.] by bbc sfx

[Fast Drawing] by Daniel Simion,

[Fire Alarm] by battlestar10,

[Judges Gavel] by minuteman,

[Kung Fu Punch Sound] by Mike Koenig,

[Squishing Sound] by Mike Koenig,

[Tape Measure] by Mike Koenig,

[Microwave] by KevanGC,

[Rockslide small sound] by Sound Explorer,

[Ticking Clock] by KevanGC,

Height of puppet: Approx. 30cm,

Width of puppet (with arms resting as in “no strings attached” piece): Approx. 20cm.

Who Is Artist? The New Work In Progress.

Now that I have filmed the creation of the foundation of the puppet, it seems fitting to do a reflection on how my concept is developing so far.

I have decided to use a alternative clay to what I had used for my previous puppet. For my first attempt at my puppet I had used FIMO doll clay, and although it worked well, it was hard to work with, as the clay needed to keep heated in order to be malleable. This time I used Super Sculpey, which has a similar feel to the FIMO clay, although it does not need to be kept at a certain temperature in order to be worked into.

So far I have decided to have phrases sneak onto the display, asking questions which I am curious about in the art world. I believe the animation at this current state is quite simplistic, which is appropriate as I wanted the focus to be on the puppet being formed at the beginning of the animation, as a way of showing how an artist isn’t one human, but rather something made by other forces, such as other people being critical in judgement. The next step is to paint and design the clothes for my puppet. I will then be able to create the story line appropriately. Unfortunately, it has become clear that making the model is always quite a slow process, as I intend to be quite precise and use multiple tools to get the structure that I envision into my creation. I am also a novice at designing clothes, although I have finished making the jacket and it took myself half the amount of time to create it this time than it did previously.

I also wanted my puppet to have more of a feature to it to make it not look completely human like, so decided to make the head of the puppet slightly smaller than normal, to further my intention of the puppet looking manufactured, as opposed to a natural person.

Unfortunately, I could not find anything to use as a tri pod as I wanted to zoom and move the camera angles throughout the animation to create more sense of space. As I get to the next stage of filming my puppet moving, I believe I will be able to find an angle/ space to place a make-shift tripod to keep the camera’s placement still/ non-shakey, to give time for the puppet to receive full focus.

I believe I may keep the audio of my animation to be simple sound affects, I don’t want to drain the essence of the story telling in my animation by covering it with music, although simple sound affects that follow the movement and development of the animation should accentuate the metaphors and make the animation more appealing to view.

Below is the first 10 seconds I have filmed for this animation.

Update: 17/04/2020

I have now finished focusing on creating the clothes and colouring the face of my puppet as shown below, and can begin the second stage of my animation.

Artist Research: Puppetry Stop Motion

Once deciding that I am now going to create a short stop frame animation to accompany the final artefact being the puppet itself, I was concerned that I would not be able to find a past artist who has worked with these 2 mediums combined easily, in order to research and gain inspiration to create my work.

Fortunately, I was able to find multiple artists who have worked in stop frame animation whilst using puppets, as opposed to regular clay animation. This is the information I gathered through my research:

Ladislas Starevich

The stop-motion animation of Ladislas Starevich | Den of Geek

Ladislas Starevich was a Polish-Russian stop frame animator and film director that lived from lived from August 8, 1882 to February 26, 1965.

Starevich was the first individual to create a puppet-animated film, called ‘Lucanus Cervus‘ (1910). Starevich would use dead insects as well as his puppets as protagonists in his films.

Starevich was once the director of the Museum of Natural History in Kaunas, Lithuania. It was during his time in this museum that he wished to create a live action fight between two stag beetles to add to the various live action documentary films which he created for the museum; but the beetles would die during filming due to the stage light. It was then that Starevich decided to remove the beetles legs and replace them with wire, which left him with an insect puppet.

An example of one of Starevich’s animations:

Starevich’s work was with no doubt highly innovative. Due to the films being vintage it is unfortunate that his best known works are quite difficult to distinguish and make sense of. Although I am not intending to use bugs in my stop motion. Starevich’s full puppets are quite advanced and appear as though they are their own person, although I want my puppet to clearly appear as a puppet, with strings, handmade/ rough aesthetic etc.

Jiří Trnka 

A Midsummer Night's Dream & The Hand, Jiří Trnka

Jiří Trnka  lived from 24 February 1912 – 30 December 1969, and was a Czech Puppet maker, Illustrator, film director and motion picture director.

Trnka developed his puppeteer passion through attending the Prague School of Arts and Crafts through an internship. Trnka had enjoyed making puppets since childhood, where he was sculpting puppets from wood and putting shows on for his friends.

After graduating from Prague’s School of Arts and Crafts, Trnka created his own puppet theater in 1936. When World War II began the puppet theater group was disbursed, and Trnka moved onto designing stages and illustrating children’s books for throughout the war. Once World War II finished, Trnka teamed up with 2 other artists to form their own animation studio. During this time, Trnka experimented with 2D animation, and created several films, 2 of which were awarded at the 1st Cannes Film Festival. Although, despite the films earning Trnka recognition and awards, he felt more comfortable making puppets, so ventured back into making puppet animation films.

Trnka’s stop motion is beautiful, the movement of each character adds to their personalities, the scenery also creates beautifully toned still images throughout the films if you were to pause it at any given moment.

I would like to experiment with the movement of my puppet throughout my film, perhaps I will create more flexibility to the puppet/ more limbs which can be altered in placement to offer more movement to the puppet than I initially intended.

It is important to note that during this current epidemic forcing us to stay indoors, I only have access to my bedroom as scenery, which is why I would like to embrace the fact that I have the desks, which I (as an art student) use to create my art work, allowing those to not only see into the life of an artist through the puppet, but also the scenery/ back drop of the room which I am using to create my work in at this space of time. I also don’t have access to official stop motion software/ tri- pods/ cameras, although I want to experiment with what I currently have access to. This being an app which I purchased in my second year of studying Illustration. I used this app to film the footage below during a project based in Cardiff Museum.

Encounter: Back to the Start

Taking the feedback provided regarding my formative pass/fail submission of the Encounter module, I am now aware that although I provided quality work, I needed to work on the quantity of what I provided.

Unfortunately, during this formative submission I was met with unfortunate circumstances, such as mental health deterioration, losing my family dog, and other personal issues that affected my progression and speed of creating during that time.

Now I am revisiting this module, I decided that I would like to continue with what worked best, such as my time lapse. Although, to explore more skills I would like to create a stop motion animation. It would be similar to my time-lapse, but could also feature some movement/ action of the puppet after it’s creation, perhaps showing myself ‘controlling’ the artist/ puppet, therefore emphasizing my metaphor.

I can recall suggestions of having the puppet represent myself, in a day in the life of an artist. Therefore, place the puppet in scenery and show how it is controlled by views, critics, and judgement.

I have created a story board to collect some possible sequences to portray the struggles and uncertainties that is faced in the art world.

Ideally, I would like to continue with the idea of basing my puppet off the character that I created for my graphic novel project last year. This is because the graphic novel’s purpose was to discuss the issues of art theft, so the character has already been used to discuss the ‘dark’ parts of the art world. It would also be interesting to place this character in the real world by creating a puppet representation of it, and view how my character would interact with objects, how it may walk, react etc.

I would like to have the stop motion illustrate the feeling of an artist being a puppet, being controlled by the media, or a critic, or their surroundings. I’d like to also leave the stop frame animation have some opportunity for interpretation, so for the audience to perhaps converse amongst themselves to figure out the signification of certain aspects of the short film, such as if the puppet was to receive a magazine, what magazine is it? Why has it got this magazine? Why is it reacting the way that it is?.. and so on.

I will also remake the puppet that I initially created as I believe my skills have improved since the creation of that first puppet. It will also fit with the new stop motion animation, to see the ‘construction of an artist’, as opposed to an artist forming naturally, the fact it is being formed and almost manufactured furthers my metaphor of an artist being controlled/ created by multiple outside sources.

COVID-19: Creation of the first Urchin

Throughout the past few weeks, there is no doubt that my speed of working has slowed down. Being an individual diagnosed with ADHD in this time where everything is consistently changing has left my focus to be disturbed. I cannot seem to stay motivated for long periods of time, and need to have breaks more often than I can afford.

Fortunately, I have managed to complete one sculpture from the series of urchin paper sculptures which I had planned to make for a while, although I had to make 148 individual paper spikes, which were made from old/discarded work.

I decided to photograph some of the pieces I used to make the spikes along the way; although I look at them in their previous 2D paper form and see aged or failed work, I now can look at this 3d piece which has said failed work imported to a successful artefact.

These are the pieces which I cut into 148 x 2cm width strips and formed into spikes.

Creating these spikes took me about 5 days of constant searching (for old work), measuring, cutting, twisting, and sticking. It then took me a further 2 days to glue all of the spikes into place.

In order to create the spikes, I tried to choose illustrations which contained large areas of colour, lines and contrast. I looked for this so that once the spike is to be rolled, the majority would not be white, as I wanted each spike to be unique. I also decided on the length by making it about 1.5 cm larger than the initial copper wire inserts that I was going to use to create a modern aesthetic, although I am more pleased with the outcome of using paper-crafted spikes as opposed to the wire. This is because the piece appears more hand-crafted and personal to myself, as the creator.

I believe in regular circumstances, although this was quite a demanding task which involved implementing multiple techniques, I would have done this artefact in half the amount of time that it took me. Unfortunately, as my focus and concentration is moving and changing, my progress is slowing down.

Although I have strong hope that I can complete this work in time, I am concerned about having enough time to tweak my previous encounter module/project.

I will continue to create the 2 urchins with spikes, as well as my clay urchin body/egg breaking sequence and judge when I have finished those if I have time to create my final piece for this project, as well as re-visiting my puppet project in order to insert my new learned techniques into my previous work.

Although I said this in my last blog, I’d like to reiterate that in this uncertain time, it is to accept what you are and what you are not capable of. All you can do is try your best in this new pandemic. We are all adapting and you are bound to need time to yourself in order to adjust to the new circumstances. Although it is important to try and keep motivated, all should know that it is equally as important to rest and do nothing. It is okay to take time to rest. Isaac Newton didn’t search for an apple to fall on him, it came through rest and waiting. Balance is the key in these times.

Do work because you enjoy it, not just because you have to do it. Also, take time to do nothing. Recuperate, recover and re-engage your senses to the world around you and where you are at this current place in time. If you’re stuck, talk; whether it be through email, messenger or phone call. Finding someone to bounce your ideas back to you is useful. Hopefully through taking my own advice and talking to those around me, I can find myself on track again. I believe it is beginning to work, as I managed to work collectively with my house mates yesterday, which sped up my working speed and allowed me to finish my sculpture.

Trying to Find Creative Motivation

Whilst going through this new unprecedented situation of the COVID-19 pandemic, I have had quite a knock to my motivation and creative inspiration with so much negativity going on at this current point in time. Although, I know I need to be making and creating in some sense in order to try and build up my motivation again.

In order to try to keep creating during my lack of motivation, I gave myself the simple task of creating photo collages through photoshop in order to create scenes with my work in as I have some photos of the sculptures that I have made this far. Editing is something I enjoy doing and find relaxing; although it may not be of great importance to my project it’s important to allow yourself some creative escapism in these times.

I took some old photographs of scenes I had taken, one of a street in London and another of a park in Cardiff.

I was quite pleased with these pieces, although, I am afraid these may not have any significance to the development of my project. Although this is a way for me to practice/ get back in touch with my editing techniques on photoshop, the illustrations I have created may not be of much importance to the goal and objectives of my project. Although, I have learnt through my time studying illustration that any work is good work. Even if it is a failed piece, which my project is essentially trying to portray through the butterfly metaphor, and turning failed 2D work into beautiful 3D sculptures.

Also, if creating work relating to a current project in any sense drains yourself any further, then it is important to allow yourself to create whatever you wish. Just to keep your pencil in your hand, your brush on the paper, and your brain engaged.

I am hoping to find more motivation now that I am clear of the new deliverable’s expected of me, and after having a year meeting with my fellow students also going through the same stresses as myself.

A note to self, and a note to you, reader, is to allow yourself some healing time. Know that it is okay to not always be okay, and that there is always an end to your troubles. You just have to be patient for it to come. It’s not easy and it’s not fun to feel stuck or lost, but know that the best and most productive people in the world need to take breaks sometimes. Everyone needs a moment to gather their thoughts.

I hope my art helps people see beauty from the broken, and how emptiness/ nothingness can become something. A place, a shadow, a new form. I am uploading my work that I do alongside creating my final pieces to social media, in hopes of potentially raising people’s spirits in these uncertain times.

COVID-19: How an Illustrator is Affected.

Due to the outbreak of a new global pandemic, the focus on my current project had subsided for about two weeks, as I moved all of my work from the university studios to my home in Cardiff, discovered about new hand-in guidelines/ module deliverables, and had my family to be concerned about during the self-isolation enforcement from the government.

Due to COVID-19, we are no longer having a degree show, which means I must re-think my original installment plan as my final piece, as the hand-in will be completed through digital format.

I believe I will most likely stick to my plan of making (by creating the objects I initially set out to create in order to form the installment), and then find a way to photograph my work and place them in a setting which would show how my work would look, if it were to be set up in the initial concept I had set out for (gallery/ exhibition setting).

The installation was initially going to look as so:

I believe I am going to call on to my old photography skills learnt through A-levels in order to create realistic/ abstract environments, and perhaps a model/ realistic edit of what my set up would look like through multiple photos of the final piece, and a background.