Thursday 19 March 2009

Stockporticus Talk from Damian Gascoigne March 09

We had a very entertaining talk from Damian Gascoigne last week. Damian teaches on the animation course at Kingston & has worked as a freelance animation director for the past 25 years. His commercial work fuels his personal projects.

Damian stressed the importance of research for him. He’s always snooping around, doodling, snapping, collecting. He spoke of the joy of sketching on a weeks location in Lisbon with the students last year. He particularly loves observing awkward poses made by the students.

Japanese illustrator- ‘Ryohei – on ‘cartoon modern’ website. He did 1950s animation in America. Lewis Cook – ‘The Pierce Sisters’ – 3D work hand-rendered & fed back into computer. Also Alexander Calder.

Personal work
Recent projects ‘Compilation’ & ‘The Love Books”. He reckons you need to be obsessive to persue personal work. He kept a picture diary for years with the main theme of unrequited love. This amounted to 27 books! He exhibited part of this collection as ‘The Love Books’, by projecting some of the pages onto an enormous polystyrene book. Also projected animation of a woman rising up out of a table, like a ghost. Quite haunting.

Pitch Requiem
Damien pitched for 7 commercials last year, which he didn’t get. Luckily, his 8th attempt worked. This pitching amounted to 3 months solid work. Don’t get paid to pitch & very expensive & competitive. Toughest year so far for him was last year. Works within Picasso Pictures as a freelance animation director. He loves the work, but said you need nerves of steel in this business.

New Territory

Has started moving into 3D computer animation, but from a drawn animation background. He explains why this is important to him when describing his process for his animation, ‘Careful’ on his website ( ), as follows:-

“Firstly I questioned the way in which the 3D line work objects are constructed, by putting together deliberately mismatching surfaces of objects, so that the final piece looked liked badly made flat pack furniture. This betrayed its origins as a series of drawings.
Secondly I left in all the rough by-products of my ink drawings, spatters and blobs, inconsistent line weights, accidental transfers from page to page. The exciting thing for me was that these elements began to exist in the space as well as the main objects, trailing around on their own strange orbits, as chairs and turntables twisted and turned.
Thirdly I decided to disconnect the objects from their ground and background, because somehow every time we connected them together to a camera, the whole thing just ended up looking like an arty computer game. To do this we separated layers of line work and set them on slightly offset paths and then created faked backgrounds that did not follow the same camera path at all, but moved in independent but sympathetic directions.
Fourthly I decided to leave some objects as 2D drawings and others as full 3D objects. Placing them in the same space we allowed the nature of drawing as suggestion of form to remain close to the surface.
The thinking underpinning these decisions came from a belief that the pursuit of ‘reality’ that dominates current thinking in 3D computer animation is a misguided and limited path. We don’t need to worry about how things really look. We can see them perfectly well. It is our job as artists to imagine them again.”

Storyboard is the biggest struggle. He loves working in a team, with animators, modelmakers, technical people – all with specialist skills. Got a modelmaker to build his character & then used combination of 3D animated shapes & drawn elements to flatten the image. He draws small – uses a reed pen & rough materials.

A very thought-provoking lecture, especially on the nature of observation, drawing and re-imagining.

Visit to Chris Corr’s studio in London

Rose & I visited Chris Corr in his studio on 4th March as part of our professional practice trip to London. Chris Corr was very welcoming and answered our questions helpfully and patiently. His studio was packed with shelves full of books, a stack of framed original paintings, colourful observational studies on the wall and a desk with work in progress. Not a computer in sight (he does use one to scan in his final work & send it off). I came away enthused & determined to do more work- even painting - without using the computer.

Chris had answered an enquiry for Liam a year or so ago about his influences and working methods, so we knew Chris’s influences included modern architecture, folk art, primitive art, the constructivists, Le Corbusier (a painter as well as an architect), Paul Klee, Ben Nicholson and Max Beckham. Chris talked enthusiastically about the current Le Corbusier exhibition at the Barbican and suggested that the British library was well worth a visit too.

Colourful gouache paintings, noses often different colours (reflecting different surroundings). Colours influenced by travels - especially to India. Editorials, children’s books (Barefoot Books & others), adult fiction, colourful world map canvases for Habitat. His illustrations for Folio Books were amazing - Simone de Beauvoir’s The Mandarins had sumptuous full page illustrations, and yet it is an adult book. With children’s books, sometimes he teams up with a writer and other times he is teamed up with a writer. Likes to present several ideas for a job. Could see on his desk that his final painted image accurately followed a b&w line rough. His portfolio was full of his commissions.

Chris emails stuff & rings ADs. Exhibitions of original painting too. Agent is Illustration Web, who gets him third of commissions.

Lone Wolf
Mainly works on own, but sometimes gets together with Brian Grimwood, who works quickly and uses lots computer imagery. Do work together for restaurants and magazines.

Getting started
Chris won a drawing prize at college which enabled him to live in America for 5 months. He also taught 1 day/week as a drawing tutor. His first commissions were for a newspaper to draw some jazz musicians, some architecture and some poems.

What makes the difference between success or failure as an illustrator?
Drawing, collecting, passion for your work.

What advice would you give to illustrators just starting out?
Be yourself, be organised, meet deadlines, make sure you communicate well.

Friday 13 March 2009

Otto Dettmer talk 9th March 2009

Otto gave a fascinating talk at college last Monday. He combines making screen-printed books for bookfairs with commercial illustrator work, using photoshop. In 1991, he started on a graphics design course at Bristol & in 1995 he started an MA in screen-printing at Kingston.

Mails out A1 folded screeprint sheets promo material he showed us an example of collated images of work he’d done for The Guardian. Did 2 years work for Independent On Sat magazine. Finds that prices have largely remained the same over the last 20 years for illustration work – but can maybe work faster now with computers than before. He now finds the best self-promo is doing work for daily newspapers, because work gets seen so much. When he started, for every 10 clients he saw, 1 would give him work. Often just did one job, & then not invited again. He finds that ADs in Britain more ready to give new illustrators a try & then just as ready to stop commissioning them, whereas in France, he finds it’s more a question of who you know & the relationship becomes more personal. 6 months work for Le Monde. Telegraph magazine – AD Gary Cochran very good to work with. Times supplement. Sends 4-5 roughs, usually 2-3 ideas. Goes for defined block of illustration so paper finds it harder to mess about with. Currently doing weekly Guardian comment column – gets brief at 1pm & has to get it back for 6pm. He finds that the simpler the idea, the better – but cannot always come up with a simple idea in the given time. Allows 2 hours for rough & 2 hours for artwork.

Influenced by Polish designers, film (especially Hitchcock & Fritz Lang), Russian constructivists Litzitsky, Rodchenko, Majakovski (stencil printing), renaissance painters Pousin & Bregeul (for well-researched figures) & neo-classical sculptures. Used to collect found imagery too – but not so much now. Combines photography with flat shapes – that is why he thinks he is commissioned. Has enormous reference library with 1000s images.

Reuses his images if he can – resells at cheaper price or reuses & reworks. Important to keep the copyright so can resell. Reselling old illustrations to a magazine in Germany & other publications too.

With his books, he plays around with text & collected images. Often photocopies in b&w & then screen-prints over with another colour such as red. Interested in consumerism & consumer culture influences. New Testament parallels – temptation, greed etc. Makes work he enjoys & sells at book fairs – covers costs. No mortgage.

Has tried 2 advertising jobs. Last one over 5 years ago – Welsh campaign on healthy living to go on billboards. An unpleasant 2 weeks. Took AOI advice on bidding – ended up doing work for £8,000. Advertisers prefer to work with agencies. Getting the right picture of a swimming pool & a dog really hard.

Doesn’t take portfolio around anymore. Has website, but doesn’t get much commissioned work from web. Has his stock images on display. Debut Arts agency had been keen to have Otto’s stock, but Otto would have ended up with only 25% price & would have no control over who the images went to.

Prefers to work on own, & certainly not with other illustrators. Doesn’t have agent, although he had tried to get one. Finds agents not interested in getting editorial work. Also, they want a clear style, whereas Otto is more conceptual. He used to go to London once/week with 7 appointments/day seeing agents as well as ADs.

I was surprised that no agency had snapped Otto up, but Otto seems to do a good job promoting his work and doesn't seem keen to go after more lucrative work.

Wednesday 11 March 2009

Le Corbusier Exhibition at Barbican (The Art of Architecture)

I visited this exhibition last week.
Le Corbusier (1887-1965) shown as a ‘multi-faceted renaissance man’ – thinker, writer & artist. His paintings, tapestries & sculptures particularly fascinating & organic – was this the same man who started the trend for brutal high-rise architecture surrounded by dead featureless open spaces? His vision was far more optimistic. He was friends with Leger and influenced by Picasso. He wanted post-war painting to be ’precise, pure & in harmony with science & industry’ (brochure accompanying exhibition). He shifted his interest to organic forms for interiors in 1930s & also had a strong interest in ‘primitive’ cultures. His approach to painting became more semi-abstract – ‘characterised by his enthusiasm for organic forms & quest for structural composition’ (brochure blurb).

Ecobuild exhibition

While in London, I visited the enormous Ecobuild & Futurebuild event at Earls Court – with companies showing the latest in sustainable & low carbon construction products. It was the Amazon Nails straw bales stall that impressed me the most with some amazing buildings. Also students from the Architectural Association had designed some amazing installations & sustainable  research projects (see above - woven concrete, floodhouse & vascular mediations)– simulations of natural systems & their behaviours.

London Trip last week