Friday, August 03, 2012

Post With The Most 03/08/2012

August is a funny month.  Everyone is on holiday - or feels like they should be - and the pace of everything just slows up a little.  It's all a bit snoozy and a little bit lethargic, and if August were a song, it would have to the late, great Ella Fitzgerald singing Gershwin's Summertime.

In keeping with that late Summer vibe, this edition of the Post With The Most is a slimmed-down affair, but no less engaging I hope.  That said, there is one individual in our CGAA community who I know to be having a far from sleepy August, an individual with a deadline looming and final show in the wings.  But more about CG Arts alumnus and Masters student Tom Beg a little later; first, a bit  more congratulation and back-slapping for our Class of 2012.

It doesn't seem possible that the hoopla of New Designers 2012 was already a month ago.  It was a great show, consistently busy, highly regarded, and a great experience for all those involved.  I can already tell you that both Digital Arts and 3D Artist magazine will be showcasing our graduates and their work in up-and-coming issues, and as soon as the respective articles go live I'll be sharing them on here. 

Of course, the real red letter day was July 10th, when the CGAA Class of 2012 graduated in the grand environs of Rochester cathedral.  It was a genuinely lovely day - lots of pomp and silly headgear - so congratulations to everyone.  You made us all proud up there in your caps and gowns, truly a million miles away from those wide-eyed newbies who arrived three years ago not knowing your arses from your elbows, or indeed, your nurbs from your blinns.

And while we're on the subject of graduations and people looking just a little bit silly in Hogwarts-like attire, take a very close look at the image below.  No, you won't recognise any of these graduating students because this lot belong to the University of Kent, but the guy dressed as Albus Dumbledore is none other than our favourite bioscientist and Spectacular Science collaborator, Dr Peter Klappa, who agreed to attend his students' graduation in Harry Potter-inspired fancy dress to raise money for charity.  You can read the full story here.

Dumbledore surprises graduating students

It's particularly fitting that an image from Tom Beg's 2011 adaptation of The Picture of Dorian Gray should have been chosen to grace the cover of this year's Award Ceremonies catalogue.  In many ways, Tom is an honorary member of the Class of 2012, having provided invaluable support, advice and technical know-how all year as our resident GTA, and kindly taking time out of his ongoing Masters project work to create the idents for New Designers 2012.

The films Tom made in his final year of CG Arts & Animation continue to attract attention.  For example, I've just googled Dorian Gray & Tom Beg and found his film showcased and enthused about on Short of the Week...

Short of the Week

 More recently - a few days ago in fact - Tom's Garden of Earthly Delights animation was selected for inclusion on Motion Served - a curated off-shoot of the Behance network (& curated by a guy in New York, no less!).  This is more proof - if any more were needed - of the vital importance of 'making good work and putting it where people can see it' and, as importantly, maintaining a vigorous online presence.

As I suggested earlier, not everyone is zoning out in front of the Olympics or floating on lilos reading Fifty Shades of Grey this August.  Tom's Masters degree is but a few short weeks from culminating in his final show.  I wanted to learn a little more about what he's been up to since graduating from CG Arts in 2011, so I asked him a few questions about his experiences as a soon-to-be Master of the Arts and his unusual venue for his last hurrah.

'How did your experience on CG Arts & Animation prepare you for your Masters?'

Towards the latter end of my BA I had a clear direction of how I wanted to approach creating work in the future.  There is not a direct continuation of technical classes on the MA, so it was necessary that certain skills needed to be in place before I transitioned into post-graduate territory. CG Arts made this transition almost effortless and using the skills I'd learned over the 3 years beforehand gave my work a distinct flavour.  It also prepared me for the things I didn't understand, giving me the confidence to approach methods that were totally unfamiliar to me.  Furthermore - the academic rigor of CG Arts and Animation ensured I was extremely well prepared for tackling the theoretical side of studying a MA where talking and writing about your work and the work of others is always at the forefront of your working process.

 "What is a Masters in Design for Performance and Events?" 

The one year full time course encompasses numerous disciplines. Briefs are very open but almost always form around the context of creating work with Events and Performance in mind. This can take the form of set design, costume design, prop design etc. This can be for a typical proscenium arch theatre space or it can be more site-specific - which is where my interest has fallen. Work is not limited to creating work for theatre, but can also include live music events, installation and film. You're a designer first and foremost but event planning and management can also form big parts of projects.

"How has the work been different on the MA?"

CG Arts and Animation sets you up to be a one-man studio essentially.  I still am a one-man studio but now also have a whole heap new responsibilities to deal with.  Interestingly - the majority of my time has been location scouting and working on location. I spent a lot of time early on trudging about Margate, Faversham and Medway in the pouring rain, only for no one to be around when I arrived or for the space, I wanted to hire or for it to be fully booked out for the entire Summer. Some people were helpful, others not so much. It's all part of the parcel and more often than not, a bit of patience and resilience played to my advantage. 

In truth - I never thought event planning would be a serious part of my studies and it has required some serious organisation. Making sure I'm on time for meetings and not p*ssing people off because I'm late or unprepared   On top of all this I've had to plan budgets, test out and buy equipment and ensure I'm able to feasibly able to put on the type of event I want to produce.  Generally making sure my entire shop is order so I can efficiently put on an effective event. 

"What practices have you continued from CG Arts and Animation?"

We all know that blogging and publishing your work are huge factors on CG Arts and Animation. The MA also encourages you adopt at outward facing approach and students are challenged to make sure their projects exist in the real world and are known about beyond the safe confines of the university.  It is events-centric so if no one other than your peers knows about your project, then no one will turn up to your event! To ensure longevity, students are encouraged to publish and archive their final project in some form to ensure that a project can live long after the event day has passed.

"What is your final project?" 

I would describe my final project as an Installation Event! Taking place on the 18th to the 19th of August aboard LV21 - a decommissioned Lightship currently moored at Gillingham Pier on Medway River. I am working with LV21 for the International Lighthouse and Lightship Weekend or ILLW. The purpose of ILLW is to bring together amateur radio experts and give some exposure to the skill of radio and morse code communication on a world wide scale, ensuring these now mostly unused but intricate and historical skills do not disappear from the world forever.

LV21, a decommissioned lightship, Gillingham Pier

The project is a series of projection mappings in the lower decks of the boat which are based around the history of the boat and visualising this through morse code. I've produced all the mapping myself using my own techniques which I've developed over the course of the last half year. The project is intended to be a showcase of these skills taken to a high level but also a means to give these techniques meaning and purpose - both artistically and possibly commercially.

Tom will be promoting the event on the group blog in the near future, so watch this space for further updates. You can keep up-to-date with all of Tom's creative activity by accessing his various online resources, archives and portfolios.  Again, this is a great example of someone making the very most of what online showcases and networks can offer - multi-platform proactivity! - watch and learn.

As some of you may know, I've just returned from two weeks in France, where I was staying in an old 15th century farmhouse in a tiny village surrounded by fields of sunflowers, peach orchards and farms.  Okay, yes, there was a pool and yes it was 29 degrees in the shade, BUT don't go thinking for one minute that I just lolled about in the sun working my way through Stephen King's highly addictive 900 page plus disaster allegory Under The Dome...   au contraire mon ami!

You see, the great thing about staying in an old 15th century farmhouse in the middle of pretty much nowhere in the south west of rural France is that the nights are pitch black; the sort of primal heart-in-mouth dark out of which superstitions are forged and monsters conjured.  It's the sort of dark that vibrates cinematically with unseen wildlife; the thrumming of tree frogs and the rub of crickets, the whine of heat-seeking mosquitos and the squeaking of bats, and the 'Oh f**k! What was that?' scrabble of a skinny polecat under the roof tiles... It's the sort of darkness that might encourage a person to take their ancient 35mm camera out into the warm night and with it seek to create some other-worldly long exposure imagery involving the use of three battery-operated LED camping lights, several very long lengths of see-through plastic and one large green football... 

These 'pilot' images were actually taken on a digital camera, used only to capture my antics in the undergrowth (peckish sheep ticks kept in abeyance this time by long trousers and a surrendering of flip-flops). I am yet to see the real 'chemical' results of this year's foray into 'spooklight' photography, as my secretive rolls of 1600 and 800 film are in a lab in London waiting to be processed.  I'm planning on producing a book from the images - and maybe even an exhibition if the resulting work is transformative enough.  Watch this space - and if you don't hear anything more about it on here you'll know I left on the lens cap on...

A distinctly lo-fi set-up for capturing a specific view comprising old roof tile, green sponge, garden chair & table  and random red box, but at least the lens cap is off!

I've got something else to share with you too - another aspect of your tutor's creative life and ode to the joys of a British Summer.  For some, an interest in plants and gardens is an indication of the onset of middle-age and growing penchant for a packet of Werther's Original.  For me, my interest in horticulture has always been about colour and form and 'seeing' time.  Plants always astound me; get close enough and they are completely other-worldly with colour-palettes you wouldn't have the courage to create.  A well-designed garden is like a film travelling very, very slowly, like the slowest cross-dissolve you can possibly imagine, as seasons blend, colours shift and the light changes.   Designing a garden is a lot like putting together a digital painting, only using 100s of layers at different transparencies.  Anyway, a while back, someone from a national newspaper took a shine to my very modest patch of paradise - and decided to do a feature on it in a recent Sunday supplement. If you're interested you can find the online version here.

In other news...

Nanomation is the newly-established cg studio comprising 8 of our about-to-be year three students.  Their inaugural collaboration is a re-working of Hansel & Gretel, and I was lucky enough to be included in some of their very early creative discussions before the summer break.  With influences including Chris Cunningham's Come to Daddy and Chris Shepherd's Dad's Dead, this ain't no Dreamworks production....

Meanwhile, in a few days, CGAA graduate, Jolanta Jasiulionyte, is off to the City of Angels to participate in the Siggraph 2012 conference as a student volunteer.  Our resident Maya maestro, Alan Postings, is Siggraph bound too, so I think we can look forward to some 'Postcards from L.A.' on here soon.  

And finally... Many of you will no doubt remember Nat Urwin's hand-drawn animation about an adrenalised mushroom leaping fearlessly from an aeroplane... Well, unhappy with how it ended originally, Nat's gone back and committed to another stint of slumping over a lightbox to put things right.  Enjoy!


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