Underdrawing

In this extract from The Secrets of Drawing: All in the Mind (episode 3)  Art critic, Andrew Graham-Dixon touches briefly on  underdrawing . Using drawing as my main tool and central in my process, I found this extract of the series particularly interesting and I’ve not read or found much on celebrated underdrawings. Here, Graham-Dixon informs us that during World War Two, an American fire bomb was dropped in Pizza, just missing the tower but landing on the nearby chapel. As a result, the lead roof melted, dripped down the walls damaging the 14th century frescos. But that wasn’t the end for the frescos as they now hang and are celebrated in a shoddy condition in the anti-chamber of the chapel. However, what became more astonishing and spectacular by pure fortuity, was that from the resulting blast, the frescos now reveal beautiful, detailed underdrawings made by Francesco De Triano. Probably one of the first instances where drawings reveal that order of raw consciousness, thinking and planning.  This made me consider what other hidden treasures could be found under great works of art? The extract concludes with a very engaging experiment conducted by John Tchalenko, Head of Drawing & Cognition at an educational institute I’ve become familiar with over the past three years, Camberwell University of Arts in London.

Extract times: 12:00-24:33 or a better idea would be to engage in the whole thing! It’s a cracking documentary.

 

 

Disruptive Technologies: Motion Tweens (Featuring Sequence 5)

Throughout the project I’ve been texturing and rendering countless frames though not a motion tween. Using the revised Sequence Five which comprises of 75 frames , here I’ve textured each frame individually. Below are the sequences, the second being textured with SMS alert sound bites. The textured sequence adds more rawness to the overall effect.

Sequence Five 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cyclogeography 5: Somewhere in Asia

miyadera-horinouchi-saitama-2016
Miyadera & Horinouchi, Saitama, Japan

When I was younger I used to watch re-runs of the stylish 60s TV cop series The Man From Uncle. Still like watching them now. Occasionally, a pre-sequence of an episode would typically begin with someone pursing someone with deadly intent and usually  in the middle of an uncultivated environment. Then, a screen title appears, ‘Somewhere in Africa’. Such vagueness with geographical referencing I found outlandish yet fascinating and original. When I get occasionally lost though usually not being pursued with deadly intent while cycling, that peculiar TV graphic reference springs to mind.

On this particular hot afternoon I wasn’t lost. I was drifting around Miyadera, a remote countryside area in Iruma shi, Saitama. Getting off the overbearing 179 road, I ventured into a quiet residential area. The look, the feel, the smell of the area was very scenic. I passed a closed post office, a closed independent grocery store, a closed hair salon and a closed petrol station. What was even more peculiar was the fact that I seemed to be the only person in the vicinity. The only thing in motion. Time was standing still yet I was allowed to move. The desolateness was most intriguing. I got off the ‘birdy’ and panned this experience. I waited a little, still nothing. I cycled back down to the main road, all the time, looking back, but still not a soul in sight.

SOUND DETAILS FROM FREESOUND.ORG:

Both effects put into audacity, amplified with echo. Details below from sound authors.

Howling wind effect: A doctored vocal imitation of a cold howling wind. Recorded using a Blue Yeti USB microphone. includes reverb and light stereo panning effectsCrickets: A minute of raw audio of night wildlife in Callahan, Florida. Crickets more or less dominate the ambiance.

 

Traffic interrupted the drift back to base. A long stretch of cars, bikes, trucks, some heavy articulated trucks were building up, clogging the 179. Many of the vehicles were too close to the curb so I dismounted the bike and walked for a while on the pavement slowly passing the steadily moving traffic. Down a few winding roads, I could see the turn-off in the distance. A small battered drive way on an incline caught my eye along the way. I noticed an old Showa house practically in ruins at the end of the drive. My eyes lit up instantly. I strolled down the drive way as though I lived there. Anyone watching me from the traffic would have thought so. Anyway, I was now on public property, I considered what to say in the event of being greeted by a person bearing a frown emerging from the front door entrance, holding a shotgun (as if!).  Fortunately, no one seemed to be around but a pair of old grey trousers on a rusty metal hanger hanging outside suggested a presence. Obscured from the drive way view was another ruin of a house but this one had much more character. This one was my cup of tea. It was connected to a structure I couldn’t work out. A workhouse of some kind. The protecting outer layers of wood had completely deteriorated. What was left were a chaotic assembly of upright rotting beams with buckets, bottles, ubiquitous yellow plastic crates and other nondescript ephemeral articles poking out of the weeds and brambles. Looking at this spectacle made me think if this were a human body, then I would be observing static internal organs. I sketched some of the outline but then re-positioned myself. Over the next few weeks I would return to this very spot. However, I’ve not been back to the area in Miyadera though. That picture of emptiness and abandonment still resonates in my mind.

horinouchi-saitama-2016

Horinouchi, Tokorozawa Shi, Saitama Ken (2016)

 

 

 

 

 

Cyclogeography 4: Spinning Tins & Rusty Ruins

Mikajima, Saitama, Japan

mikajima-2016

I cycled through and around Mikajima one ferociously, hot afternoon early this month. Mikajima is a very rural area of Tokorozawa-shi , Saitama in Japan.

In the middle of nowhere I felt, surrounded by fields, farms, orchards, meandering dirt tracks and farmers scattered around in the fields. I’m not alone then. The sky cloudless with a slight soft breeze, insects buzzing and screeching away at high volume. I’m filled with a wonderful agoraphobic sensation.

Along a long stretch of road, I passed an old house and stopped on pause. The improvised wind chime in the form of spinning beer tins tingled away when catching that bit of breeze. An old man gardening, looked my way, smiled though nonchalant about his spinning tins being filmed.

 

 

From the fields and down a mysterious pathway I pedaled, round a few corners, the not knowing started to excite. Then, a dusty lane took me down a path, obscured by flowing trees. I ventured down and come across a few hidden, rickety, forgotten old houses. However, my attention was immediately grabbed by a structure which seemed half standing and half falling, like something in suspended animation. The surrounding shrubbery, gloriously unkept with an abundance of discarded objects decorated the scene.  As I drew nearer, the rotting wood, rusty corrugated iron strips, weeds peering out and the hard dry earth all became more apparent and visual. A deserted spectacle but now left as an exhibit to the curious passer-by. I found a shady area, took out the sketching tools and began to record, after all, it might be gone by tomorrow.

Mikajima House (edited 2016).jpg

 

 

 

 

Cyclogeography 3:Tokyo to Saitama Drift

Asagaya-Sayamagaoka (July 30 2016).jpg.jpg

Drift Starting & Ending Points: Narita Higashi (Suginami-ku, Tokyo) -Nishi Sayamagaoka-Tokorozawa-shi, Saitama) 

Distance (approx) 20 miles/33 kilometres

A longer drift than normal and in familiar environments.  The starting and ending points are locations where have I have to where I presently live. Drift date, 30th July, 2016.

I set off quite late that day, around 3:00 p.m. The Japanese summer heat is much cooler at that time of day. By doing so, I found I could drift along fairly comfortably at a relaxed pace.

I had a rough idea about the route I would follow though it was expected that my direction would spiral out of control at some point. And that’s usually when the excitement and adventure starts. Like a boy scout, my crumpled paper ordinance survey is somewhere in the depths of my rucksack as it comes in handy when venturing into the unknown. comes in. As far as technology is concerned, I’m not quite up to date. I mean I don’t carry any electronic navigation tools so in that sense there is more chance of serendipity. A magical chance encounter!

I began by following Nakasugi-dori Avenue which would lead me to Saganomiya train station on the Seibu Shinjuku line. Then, I followed the line to Kampachi-dori Avenue which is an absolute mother of a road in Tokyo. I was relieved to get off that awful, obtrusive road. Anyway, the road headed northwards and I eventually got to Nakamurabashi station on the Seibu Ikebukuro line. Still on track (excuse the pun). The light was now dimming, the environment softening to oranges and browns. I was now in unchartered territory. All I had to do was simply follow the train line. Eight stops until Tokorozawa, that shouldn’t be difficult, I thought. However, when I got to Hibarigaoka I couldn’t follow the line so easily so I decided to deviate slightly but stay in the same direction. It was a welcome change peacefully riding along the country roads, I felt more freedom and unrestricted. No weighty, articulated trucks breathing heavily and overbearingly on your shoulder . However free I felt, I was beginning to get a bit anxious as I couldn’t see a road sign for quite some time. I was just floating around fields, along rivers and the occasional A-road. All the time hoping that I would end up back on course. Not that it really mattered.

I finally ended up at Kumegawa courtesy old an elderly lady who gave me directions using her walking stick! Now I was back on the Seibu Shinjuku line! God knows how and where I deviated but the line lead to Tokorozawa. I just took the long route, a more scenic route, the getting lost route. Eventually, I got to Tokorozawa station around 6 p.m. and I’m back following the Seibu Ikebukuro line. However, from Tokorozawa station to Nishi Tokorozawa station was another hurdle, it seemed impossible to follow the line. It was dark now too which changed the mood. I had never lost my way cycling in the dark before. After about an hour of cycling down dimly lit quiet streets, past a few creepy graveyards, going down numerous dead-ends and asking a few hundred people for directions, I finally got home and was shattered. But what an exhilarating adventure!

Part of this experience involves recording old Showa architecture. I saw many engaging places along the way. Oddly enough, it was a Yakitori (skewered chicken) shop, which caught my eye the most. It is located where I began the big drift, in Narita Higashi. One side of the shop is littered by greasy canisters and other with various dirty-looking objects. What a spectacle! You would never see this back in the UK, Health & Safety inspectors would have closed the place down years ago. It will eventually get knocked down or even closed down in the near future but at least now it’s recorded in my sketchbook.

Yakitori Shop 2 (2016).jpg

Laura Oldfield Ford

Earlier this year I went to an exhibition followed by a discussion at  The Towner Gallery  in Eastbourne called Recording Britain  . I witnessed some fascinating drawings and paintings from a variety of British artists. Most of the artwork in the collection is between 1939-1942. However, there are a few more recent drawings and photographs in the collection. I was particularly drawn to a drawing by Laura Oldfield Ford . It was an urban scene from a London suburb in which a menacing Brutalist high-rise occupies the backdrop. The drawings offered a distinctive punk visual aesthetic; I was instantly drawn to her work.

These stylish dystopian scenes  made me think about the ‘derives’ (drifts) I have been on around the backstreets of inner-city Tokyo. A city no different than London being centres for free enterprise and modernity. Yet in Tokyo, particularly in the sprawling metropolis of Nakano-ku  and Shinjuku-ku, old crumbling relics of the Showa Period are still in abundance yet inevitably and sadly their days are numbered. I also learned that Oldfield is a psychogeographer  and ‘has organized drifts, flag burning ceremonies, mass activisms and other performance pieces in an unconventional extension of her practice’. (C.Lomax, July 2008).

To celebrate a few pieces of her work in a slide show, I’ve accompanied Mountain’s 1971 Nantucket Sleighride. An instrumental piece that later gained more acclaimed when used for the political/current affairs program Weekend World in the late 1970s.

 

Portraiture

At the end of last month I finished off the drawings for my project. Now I’m at the sorting, assembling, and ordering stage in the hope that a bolt of lightning might occur and I’m able to advance round the board, like in Monopoly. However, nothing has happened yet. Anyway, I know it’s not related to my project but having been engaged in my daughter’s ‘self’ for the past eight months, it has made me consider portraiture in more depth. I feel I need to comment.

My practice, rotoscoping, is a process which involves manipulating and rendering over the image. When having to draw a face or any face for that matter by the same process, I still intend to create a likeness, a truism of that person. However, in recent times, the face is now taken for granted in our selfie-obsessed society as we engage in our ‘Celebrate the Self’ platforms such as Facebook. Am I sounding too cynical? Probably an age thing.

When we represent someone in oil, graphite, ink pen or whatever, our intentions are to make that person become memorable. That’s what I get echoing within when I enter places such as the National Portrait Gallery. Yes, I want that person to be remembered and recorded for posterity. When the subject is in front of me, what goes through my head when faced with that daunting task of portraying that person on paper? Well, I still try to follow the same principles and considerations.

During the art school years of learning and discovering, I marvelled at portraits, especially the ones which oozed expression and were almost caricaturesque. However, the teachers were often very critical of my self-portraits for being too stylised and leaning too much on Austrian Expressionism. They were right. Funny how I vividly usually remember the critics.                                  

I was always too shy to sit in front of someone with pencil and paper unless it was in a life drawing class, then I would uncharacteristically sit at the front! Other times I usually found myself drawing my subjects while they were performing. The lecturer gesticulating in a lecture, my friend quietly reading or a stranger sleeping on the train, for instance. The subject being unaware that a secret camera armed with a HB pencil or 0.5 graphic ink pen would be recording their being. Even then, I had doubts, something always eating away inside, lacking in confidence as usual. Can I read the face? Do I have the manual dexterity to nail that familiarity on paper?

The perils don’t end there. This constant argument with my inner voice posed other potential hazards. Is there a strong resemblance and should there be one? Also, which face should I aim to represent? The one that I usually see, privately see or a face caught somewhere in between? When drawing my ex-girlfriend, I wanted to capture her beauty. If I could capture her beauty, ultimately, she the subject, would be satisfied. In theory that is. But what happens when things go pear-shaped? I recall Katie not thinking much of her portrait and I don’t blame her. A beautiful woman savaged by crude, wiry, scratchy, graphic markings. I adore the portrait.  Also, my portraits differ when being familiar or unfamiliar with the subject. The former can be the most intimidating as it involves a third party, possibly someone who is familiar with the subject. That person is able to comment, make judgement on my craftsmanship. The unfamiliar the subject, like our identities on social media sites, we are able to fabricate and deceive our  audience. Amen

 

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Portrait Building (2016)

 

 

       

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Public Information Film Project: Sequence No 11

I haven’t been writing about my practice for a while now. It’s not that I’m procrastinating or anything, far from it, it’s just that I don’t want to bore myself with the project. It’s easy to do that when you’re working on one thing and you’re in your own little world most of the time. You know what I mean? I’m at that stage where I’ve just completed all the drawings and I’m trying to plan the following: script a narration, edit the sequences and the create the audio. On top of that, after adding all the aforementioned technicalities, I hope to stimulate awareness, create fear and persuade all at the same time. What a challenge! Had I not decided to take a year out, the situation would be erm…well, just get something framed for the graduate exhibition and reflect on what might have been.  I hope that will not be the case.

To get a second opinion on things, recently, I went to see a friend who is currently working on a documentary based on an incident in World War II in Tokyo. His previous project was Lessons from the Night (2009) . It was a well-spent two hours. His comments and challenging questions were of great benefit for me. As a result, I felt much more inspired. It’s important to hear others’ views. When showing your work, the audience is viewing an unfamiliar journey, a journey that is all too familiar for yourself. He was able to ‘‘see’ what is difficult for me to ‘see’. As his film making expertise is predominantly in editing footage, I got a few useful pointers. In his opinion, areas of the animation seemed flat. The viewing dynamic could be tweaked. Using Adobe Premier, I could consider panning the visuals or homing into areas for effect. All considerations taken on board

SEQUENCE 11

In earlier sequences, to increase movement within sequences that I considered too static, I added pattern to the hair. Something child-like that could work with the narrative. The pattern creates a bubbly effect as a consequence. I feel it doesn’t interfere and detract the sequence too much and comments have been generally positive.(famous last words!)

 

 

 

Sequence 11 Gif

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rotoscoping: Linear Alterations, Before & After

Here, I’ve been experimenting with the effects in Windows Movie Maker Live. The objective is to radically alter linear movement and brush strokes. Usually, after the drawing process when rotoscoping, I import the files into a photo editor and texture each frame. This can be quite time-consuming especially when you’ve got between 200-300 drawings to manipulate!

For this methodology, the first animation (before) has the following effects: posterized,  threshold and a black & white with red filter. The outcome at this stage of the process doesn’t appear very spectacular and the film  pretty much remains similar to its original version. The same film is then imported again into WMM. Again, using threshold then tweaking the brightness. The outcome alters quite dramatically, I’m able to contrive a scratchier, sketchier linear movement.

BEFORE 

 

AFTER   

 

 

Public Information Film Project: Sequence No 8

Inspired by an American PSA,   Helping Johnny Remember   by Brooklyn artist, Ashleigh Nankivelle, Sequence 8 involves liquifying the image during the editing process. Nankivelle dramatically distorts features to add eeriness in narrative. Liquify is just one of the many tools used in the photo editing software. The effect distresses and distorts features. The results being quite comical in cases.

Frame 270 (i) Here, I’m considering brush size in liquify. Fig 1-with a smaller brush size, I’m able to create a more fluid-looking and watery image. Fig 2 a larger brush size elongates the line. I prefer the larger brush as the distortion is subtle.

Frame 270

Fig 1  

Frame 270 (ii)

Fig 2 

 

SEQUENCE 8: Frame 270

270   31 Frame 270.jpg

Unedited & Edited: Resize,Liquify,Weaver (i) dots size 10 (ii) highlight, Focal Zoom (i) darken

Sequence 8 Animated gif- The liquify effect isn’t so pronounced after the fully edited sequence. Gif animation speed set at 140 milliseconds.

Pif Project Sequence 8.gif

 

Don’t Have Nightmares 2015 (Revised)

Don’t Have Nightmares was an unfinished project back in March, 2015. An installation was to be incorporated but due to complications, I abandon the idea. Also, the audio was never added as the animation remained unfinished. It was a pity, as Jonny (sound engineer) had worked hard on the audio. So, rather than just abandon the project, I found myself being more proactive over the festive period. I continued working on the animation. First, adding motion tweens, then a few stills, then cyan tones and finally the icing on the cake-the audio. Done!

My inspiration came from the books I’m currently reading and the public information film project I’m currently working on. The idea of using the animation (Don’t Have Nightmares) for a public information project was considered back in June/July last year. The books, The Internet is not the Answer by Andrew Keen and The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, inspired me to use the animation to interpret the argument that privacy is becoming obsolete. The voyeuristic iconic shower sequence in Psycho where the viewer is allowed to secretly peer in at the subject is akin to the way social media platforms are set up. Facebook being the obvious example. That’s not to say we only use social media for a spying purpose, but there is the temptation to do so. Interestingly, Andrew Keen references another Hitchcock film, Rear Window. In his book, he states that Hitchcock’s narrative parallels Google’s dominance in the digital age. I considered a new working title ‘Are Friends Celebrities?’ However, I ditched the idea to avoid any referencing confusion on my blog. Overall, I’m pleased with the end result and thankfully so is the sound engineer.

Audio information from an earlier post (March 2015):

The original audio was severely revamped. Stock sound fx downloaded and manipulated in pitch or speed. Analogue synthesizer used for simple “heartbeat” pulse. Reverb plug ins used to simulate tiled bathroom ambience. Delay with lfo sweep used to emulate water going down a plughole, swirling psycho effect.  Overall, I was very pleased with Jonny’s work. However, the screams were still too prominent for me so I decided to make amendments in Audacity. I reduced the scream amplification and added much more ‘delay’ effects on screams

 

 

Public Information Film Project: Sequences Nos 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5

As I’m about half way with the drawings of my current project, I thought it would be a good idea to keep track of the effects which are used when rendering each drawing. This is an area I neglected in my last project which created problems. As you can see, there are subtle differences in each sequence. However, if you compare these drawings  to the last animation (Alienation & Conformity), I’m being a bit more conservative in my approach when editing the drawings. Preferably , I’d like more continuity as the context will focus predominantly on the message as opposed to the visuals. That’s not to say I don’t want the visuals to stand out, just not to become too much of a distraction. Don’t worry, this post will all make sense eventually!

SEQUENCE ONE: FRAME 1 

Frame 11 Frame 1

Unedited     Edited: resize (width: 5296 height: 2979),focal zoom,                                                                  texture(materials)

 

SEQUENCE TWO: FRAME 47

Frame 47    Frame 47.jpg      Unedited                                                  Edited: resize, focal zoom, texture(fabrics)

 

SEQUENCE THREE: FRAME 71

711 Frame 71

Unedited                                           Edited: resize,focal zoom, posterize, rainbow

 

SEQUENCE FOUR: FRAME 97

97 1 Frame 97

Unedited                                             Edited: resize, focal zoom, posterize, rainbow

 

SEQUENCE FIVE: FRAME 121

1211 Frame 121

Unedited                          Edited: resize, weaver(hardlight), focal zoom, rainbow

Below are sequences 1-4. Each sequence has been played 2/3 in succession which gives me some idea whether or not I will loop particular sequences

SEQUENCES 1-4  

https://www.flickr.com/photos/29850505@N02/22066763635/in/dateposted/

 

 

 

 

 

Public Information Film Project: Sequence No 1

The animation in my last project, The Tokyo Underground,  Alienation & Conformity involved animation merged with footage. I received mixed opinions regarding the process but overall positive ones so now I’m at the contemplating stage with this project. Here I’ve drawn the first sequence, 46 drawings in total. The drawings have been individually textured. Test 1 Sequence 1 involves 12 drawings and Test 1 Sequence 2, all 46 drawings. In both sequences the drawings have been copied a few times, by doing so the viewer is given enough time to take in the visuals. After continuous viewing I’m still undecided for a number of reasons. Including footage with rendered drawings,  without doubt helps shadow, line and tone. Stronger and bolder by appearance.  However, by not merging the footage the drawings seem more natural though carry less impact. As for the abstract motion tween, mmmm I’m not sure. It’s a bit gimicky to me. Is it necessary?

Test 1 Sequence 1 (without footage)

Test 2 Sequence 1 (including footage)  

Test 3 Sequence 1 (abstract motion tween)

 

 

 

 

The Drawing Process

The footage has been edited and assembled into the software. I begin the usual systematic approach in the process. First, by looking at areas of footage which are clearly visible and areas which are not. When footage is difficult to render, a great deal of improvisation is involved in this process. Usually facial areas offer the most problems such as eyelashes, corners of lips and hair curls.  This is where line thickness is a big consideration.  For the aforementioned intricate areas, the footage is enlarged, this gives me greater control when rendering . For this animation I’m taking each sequence in stages. The first sequence involves 46 drawings. Frames 1 and 47 has been rendered and then textured. In my last animation, I textured the whole animation after completing the drawings (337). I’m hoping by using this approach, I can make better choices during the drawing process.

Public Information Film Project: Frames 1 & 47 (non-textured/textured)  

Public Information Film Project (frame 1)Public Information Film Project (frame 1).jpg

 

Public Information Film Project (frame 47)Public Information Film Project (frame 47).jpg

‘Cicadas, Crackling and Popping Wet Wood and Lost Laughter in the Breeze’

As well as being glued to the cricket, yesterday afternoon was spent designing the audio in Audacity for the rotoscope animation in my last project, Don’t Have Nightmares 0.2: The Tokyo Underground.  The audio is made up from an eclectic mix of ambient sounds. The train carriage audio is applied primarily as the base sound. Ambient sounds such as cicadas, crackling and popping wet wood and lost laughter in the breeze have been arranged fading in/out at various points. In the past, I’ve found that when experimenting in Audacity, it’s very easy to over-tweak, cut too much, over-amplify, suffocate the sound with heavy effects and end up with a cacophony as a result. While editing yesterday, simplicity  is key with subtle adjustments. I’m pleased with the overall arrangement and finding my way round Audacity with more ease is encouraging.

Alienation & Conformity (2015)

DATA UPDATE MARCH 2017

ALIENATION & CONFORMITY (2015) Rotoscope animation, 29 seconds, 337 drawings

The Tokyo Underground was a site-specific project was made between February-July 2015 as part of a series (Don’t Have Nightmares) which explores aspects of fear in art. The resulting rotoscope animation, Alienation & Conformity is a personal interpretation of how fear pervades daily urban life while living and working in alien environments. The animated passenger pan is a comment on emotions and anxieties endured over a period of time. The journey begins with a feeling of trepidation, being watched, analysed and under scrutiny and over time the tension begins to diminish though the fear is still underlying. Though the work is largely a personal experience, it also a comment on how an economic and political system can be ruthlessly exposed and pushed into the psyche of the inhabitants. The many who are caught up within these brutal capitalistic parameters, all carrying the same flag in pursuit of profit, wealth and the material gain.