Wednesday, 22 March 2017

The camera never lies, but does the paintbrush?

It may seem hard to believe, but the above images are not photographs - they are paintings.
Part of a movement known as Hyperrealism, they are as close to real life as you can get. But I'm not sure that I really understand it.

A lot of artists today will take photographs and use those as a reference for their artwork, even if the subject is right in front of them; such as with portraiture. This is fair enough, but if the artwork is of a standard that it is then difficult to tell apart from the photograph it makes you wonder why they do it.

There is sometimes the debate about whether photography has made certain styles of art obsolete. In the main I don't think so, because within paintings and illustrations the artist can stylise various aspects of the look and imagery to perhaps make their own commentary of their subject. But painting in Hyperrealism doesn't seem to allow for this creative stylisation, and so if not only for the purpose of being extremely impressive I just wonder why they put themselves through it.

Hyperrealism is not exclusively linked to painting, and names such as Ron Mueck have become well known for hyperreal scultures. However, in these works there does exist a creative stamp that distances them from their painting counterparts.

I have nothing against hyperrealist painting, it's an impressive form of artwork that seems to be more akin to creating a jigsaw puzzle. But I struggle to shake the idea of an artist working from a photograph, to inject no personal expression and then after many hours end up with a piece that is indistinguishable from it. Based upon the images on my computer screen; that is. More than anything I think that this is a style that needs to be experienced and scrutinised in the flesh, so I hope to see some of these masterful works up close some day.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Animators, an acting masterclass

Around the time that I started doing animation at University, I occasionally heard people talk about animators being actors. I didn't really understand or fully appreciate what was meant by this until I started working on something involving characters. When working on animations like this there will often be times where you might be unsure how to approach a particular movement, and in the same way that an artist might use an image reference to create a piece, animators will sometimes be in need of such material.

However, specific moving imagery references are not as easily sourced - particularly if you are creating something surreal. As a result you might find that is quite common for animators to act out movements in the studio themselves, to get a real idea of how the character might move in a given situation and how best to approach this through animation.

The state of animation has changed dramatically over the past 20 years, and the lines are getting more blurred as to what constitutes animation these days. A range of 3D tools are now easily accessible, which allow quick positioning and movement of a character for this purpose of referencing. The traditional form of animation is a dying art in the west, and this is largely due to the needs of the industry. If you visit any animation festival, you will see a lot of great student work based in the traditional realm, but this becomes more sparse as you explore the commercial works - with the exception of the odd quirky commission. The interest of animators is still there, and whilst traditional animation exists; there will always be the need to use the studio as a stage to act out movements.

One artist that I follow on instagram, Paolo Rivera, demonstrates a good example of this practice. He is a comic book artist who regularly shares the process of his work. Posing and composition are important elements of comic book work, as the artist has to capture the motion of a single image. Paolo will often show how photos of himself acting out various poses, side-by-side with the finished illustration. It's the same process that an animator would use to explore the movement of the character.

Thanks to Paolo for allowing me to use these images, you can see more of his work on his personal blog.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Neo-Ukiyo-e: Modernising Japan's traditional art form

You may have heard of the Ukiyo-e style of printmaking, the art form made popular in Japan's Edo period (17th - 19th century), or at some point you'll probably have seen Katsushika Hokusai's Great Wave print. It was a method of woodblock printing whereby several visual elements within the piece would be etched out of a separate woodblock, and each individual colour applied to paper in sequence to build up the image. Many prints from the Edo period depict everyday lives and famous scenes throughout the land, and now a lot of them are considered masterpieces.

However, I recently came across the term Neo-Ukiyo-e and wondered what it referred to. It is in fact another name for a movement known as Shin-hanga, which came about in the early 20th century as a means to revive the Ukiyo-e style. But it differs slightly from the traditional form of the classics, incorporating more of the common western techniques of lighting and perspective. There isn't a great difference, but the works seem to pop out a little bit more and make us feel like we're almost there.

I was particularly intrigued by the artist Kawase Hasui, who is said to have focused on local scenes as opposed to famous imagery that would be more likely to sell. This resonates with me as I sometimes like to create work based around my memories of certain people or places, and although photography can now provide a snapshot of life today, I think there is still scope to depict scenes through illustration in a way that photography can't even begin to replicate. 

I would like to try my hand at woodblock printing some day, but in the mean time I am continually inspired by works like this and I look forward to depicting some of the less often seen sights that matter to a manner that I know how.

Monday, 13 March 2017

How to motivate yourself when you're out of practice

It can sometimes be frustrating when you fall out of a regular routine of creativity. Sometimes because you feel there's no time left in the day to fit things in, or perhaps you're out of practice and when you do get a chance to sit down and create - what you come up with seems terrible. And that just adds to the torment.

We've all experienced some kind of writer's or artist's block, and we all know the feeling. It's like a downward spiral that we just want to end, and we find ourselves wondering how we ever created things in the past.

Lately I've been focused on an animation project, as well as a redesign of my website, but because I also now spend a lot of my free time studying Japanese, I haven't been finding time for some of the other things that I want to do. So one morning I wrote this note to myself.

I had nothing specific in mind, and just the goal to keep the flame burning. It didn't matter if it was a pile of garbage as long as I spent just 10 minutes at the end of the day doing these few things.

Well...not only did this quick reminder get me creating again, but I feel a little more inspired to draw and seek out new inspirations. Plus, I now have two stories on the go that I have been meaning to get out of my head for a while now.  This note isn't going to work for very long, but I think a part of the fun is in that method of discovering new ways to motivate yourself.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

New Look

It may have gone through a few changes over time, but I've recently updated the look of my website. Rather than the list format that I had previously, I felt that everyone should be able to view my work at a glance before exploring further.

I've incorporated this new blog so that the browsing experience will be a bit smoother. Besides posting news regarding new work, I will also use this blog as a means for sharing all manner of things that inspire me. I hope that this will motivate me to improve my own practice, whilst also providing inspiration to other fellow creatives.