Tuesday, 25 August 2009

William Kentridge at Moma San Francisco

 A recent visit to the iconic MOMA in San Francisco introduced me to South African draughtsman and filmmaker William Kentridge. I was really impressed by his series of short animations based on his drawings. He uses minute changes to his drawings to create stop motion animation. The scale, quality and originality of his drawings were very impressive, and I really like how he plays with the viewers perception of drawing and reality, mixing the two themes up and often including himself within the animation to interact in their world. The result is an insight into the intimate thoughts of the artist mind.

Betty Pepper

Inspired by the old saying 'never judge a book by its cover', Betty Pepper is an artist whose work combines jewelry, textiles and fine arts and craft. Her ongoing project "Book Keeping' uses aged fabrics and textiles, which seem to hold old memories and secrets. Her treatment of theses materials combined with the unique way she presents her jewelry adds to the feeling of gentle nostalgia. Pepper embeds her jewelry in books, which she cuts into to create a home for her jewelry, intrinsically lining them together.

Typography Pop-Up Book

This is one of my favorite book as it marries two of my secret guilty pleasures, pop-up books and typography. I have in the past attempted to make my own pop-up book with varying success. I have a healthy respect for anyone able to get tricky, fiddly paper mechanisms to work to create exuberant creative 3D designs. Whilst this is a simple alphabet book, the beauty lies in the way it illustrates the construction of type. It shows how stems and bowls are related from one letter to the next, it also highlights similarities between the make up of the different letterform Y can be created by removing the leg from the letterform X, or E can be created by removing the arm from the letterform F etc. My personal favorite is the letterform W which can be created with a vertical reflection of the letterform V.
This gives an insight into the way in which typeface design can be done, by repeating these forms within letterforms in the same typeface you can quickly design a whole typeface which is uniform and coherent.

A Scanner Darkly

A Scanner Darkly is the 2006 film directed by Richard Linklater, based on the novel by the same name by Philip K Dick. Starring Keanu Reeves as a drug addicted special agent, this is one of the few roles perfectly suited to his usual wooden acting style and spaced out expression. The films confusing plot line centers around paranoia and deception in a near future dystopia, where drug addiction has reached pandemic levels and the population is constantly monitored.
Robert Downey Jr and Woody Harrelson give outstanding performances as Reeves paranoid housemates and fellow addicts to the fictional 'Substance D' drug.
The real beauty of the film is the unique way in which it is shot. It was filmed digitally using real-live actors, then animated using a process called Interpolated Rotoscoping. Rotoscoping is an editing program where animators trace over live action film frame by frame. Computers are able to interpolate the movement between frames thereby smoothing the transitions from one frame to another, giving a more seamless sequence.
This technique ideally suits the themes of the film. The characters are paranoid, constantly on edge and due to the drug abuse unable to distinguish between reality and their drug inspired conspiracy theories. A lot of the dialogue centers around their drug- addled ramblings which provide humour and adhere the characters to the viewer. The viewer is acutely aware of the real characters behind the animation but are left with a feeling of being unable to grasp their identity, giving a similar feeling to drug haze clouding the characters minds stopping them from observing reality clearly. The theme of hidden identity and deception is continued in the use of scramble suits, which constantly changes the wearers appearance, in a similar way the animation on top of real life actors acts as a cloak for their identity.
This film was groundbreaking in that it was the first time Rotoscoping had been used to create an entire feature film. The animation process took 15 month to complete, and the result is an edgy, thought provoking film, which really draws the viewer in and leave you with that creepy "this could happen" feeling.

Monday, 24 August 2009

You won't find this in the argos catalogue

Since WWII there have been many different crazes and must-have toys that any parent valuing their sanity has had to buy. In the last 15 years however a new trend has come on to the market, one that appeals solely to adults; the collectible resin or vinyl toy. 
These designer toys are usually created by artists with a background in graphic design or illustration and as a result are highly stylized and more design conscious than other toys and figurines. Unsurprisingly these almost painfully cool toys arose in Hong kong, and have a strong japanese influence in their design. Simplified human and animal forms make up the body and head of these toys, similar to japanese manga and anime characters and are highly rounded, making them look cute, cuddly and highly tactile. 
As with the best crazes their commercial success lies in the fact that they are very collectible. Companies are able to produce many different toys from the same mould, and ask different designers to customise the same toy so that consumers can buy many versions of the same toy. The more prestigious or popular the designer, the rarer, therefore more sort- after the toy.
More recently by selling toys which are blank, companies are allowing individuals to produce their own customs designs, furthering the design appeal of these toys.

Designer Ed Lewis customised these Munny toys by Kidrobot to intergrate speakers into their face.