Friday, 30 September 2011

Photoshop introduction

At the end of our Photoshop introduction today, we were set a quick task to raid Google images and create a collage of what we're doing this weekend to ensure we'd taken everything on board and were comfortable using the selection tools we'd been shown. I present the fruits of my labour...

Click for full size

On Saturday I'm going to Guildford for shopping and excitement! On Sunday, I'll be saving the world and probably phoning my mum. When I'm around, party time is all the time.

See below for notes from today if you're interested in that kind of thing!

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Factual research: Arthur Rackham

Arthur Rackham, the 4th of 12 children, was born in London on 19 September 1867. From 1879 he attended the City of London school. Popular amongst his peers and teachers, Arthur was otherwise academically unremarkable — he demonstrated something of a talent for drawing and won a number of prizes from Herbett Dicksee, the school drawing master.

During 1884 Arthur spent 4 months in Australia where he became inspired by his surroundings, producing many watercolour paintings and sketches of the landscapes. Upon returning to England, he enrolled at the Lambeth School of Art as an evening student. He sought work during the day to help fund his education and in 1885 began a job clerking at the Westminster Fire Office.

Fig A: 'A Fact,' Scraps Magazine, 1884
During his time at the office, Rackham continued to produce many drawings and watercolours, one of which was publicly exhibited in 1888 at the Royal Academe. He frequently contributed drawings to local magazines and newspapers, the first of which was published in Scraps magazine in 1884 (Fig A). Though this (admittedly rather crude) drawing lacked anything of the charm for which Rackham's later illustrations would become renowned, he was already beginning to demonstrate a keen eye for line and form.

Fig B: 'How a Bank was Robbed,' Westminster Budget, 1893
Fig C: 'The Dolly Dialogues,' 1894
Through Rackham's regular contributions to local magazines, he was able leave the fire office in 1892 after securing a position as graphic journalist for the Westminster Budget. Rackham provided many illustrations for articles and ran a frequent column in which he would caricature public figures. The demand for photorealistic and 'straight line' technical drawings was high, given the nature of the position, but Rackham was granted opportunities to deviate and work in a far looser, more whimsical manner for which he would later become renowned.

Rackham received a large number of commercial commissions during the last decade of the century, with many drawings published in travel brochures, newspapers and even several books — including an illustrated edition of The Dolly Dialogues (a feature previously run in the Westminster Gazette) in 1894.

Aside from his distaste of the field in general (he found the paper's deadlines too constraining for the sort of meticulous detail his work often demanded), Rackham's eventual departure from journalism was forced by means of practical necessity. The role of the artist in journalism was threatened to become obsolete with the impending introduction of the camera.

He hit the height of his fame at the turn of the new century — shortly following his marriage to fellow artist Edyth Starkie in 1903, 99 of his illustrations were published in Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm to great success. The final revised edition, published in 1909, contained an astonishing 40 coloured illustrations and 55 line drawings. By the time of his death in 1939, Rackham had illustrated more than 60 children's books, including Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Aesop's Fables, The Night Before Christmas, Cinderella and American classic Rip van Winkle. Rackham's final book, the Wind in the Willows, was published posthumously in 1940.


Gettings, F., 1975. Arthur Rackham. London: Macmillan.
Hudson, D., 1960. Arthur Rackham: His Life and Work. 2nd ed. London: William Heinemann Ltd.
Arthur Rackham. 2011. Arthur Rackham. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 25 September 2011].
Arthur Rackham Biography. 2011. Arthur Rackham Biography. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 25 September 2011].

Monday, 26 September 2011

Reflecting on research methods

I've noticed, especially these past couple of days, that my research work is becoming more and more of a struggle. I seem to be scouring books and websites for hours on end without really coming back with anything to show for it, and I think it's because I'm unfocused. I'm worrying too much about what I think I should be reading or writing down. Rather than working as I normally would I'm very aware of the fact that people will be looking at it and constantly asking myself if it's what they want to see, or if it's "right." It is, of course, hugely important to consider things like assessment criteria and presentation, but it's getting to the point where I'm too afraid to write anything down in case it's "wrong" — which is totally counterproductive!

I've decided to try and re-evaluate the way I carry out my research and development work by creating a basic research template for myself and highlighting key bits of information I should be looking for. It's easy to get lost in a sea of sources when you don't really know what it is you're supposed to be looking for — worrying which bits I should and shouldn't be looking at, wondering whether this is important or that's important — but by reminding myself of exactly what I need to pick out, I should be able to carry out research much more efficiently.

What I really need to know is —

who I'm looking at
what they did
why and how they did it

What key dates are there in the artist's history? What years were they active? What are their notable publications?  What exhibitions have they been in?

It all sounds tremendously obvious and probably just fundamental skills I should know already, but I often find myself feeling very overwhelmed by the amount of information available. A lot of it is often influenced by the author's own opinions so it can sometimes be difficult to pick out the important and factual information. A lot of things are simply made to sound important because they've moved the author in some way, meaning I tend to 'not get it' and worry that maybe I've missed something.

I'm not intending to imply that opinions should always be disregarded — they are of course extremely valuable — but in cases like this I think it's better to initially start off as cleanly as possible so that you can better evaluate an artist on your own terms.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Alice & Martin Provensen

Found myself a bit of a dynamic duo whilst looking through one of the books I got from the library — Alice & Martin Provensen, a huband-wife team that illustrated children's books in the mid-'40s. Martin also designed Tony the tiger!

Image source

Image source

Image source
I love the contrast created between the detailed scenery and the colourful cutout characters. The bold and simplistic shapes against relatively detailed backdrops really brings the character into focus.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Initial project thoughts — Digital Animation

In response to some of the things Craig told me, I went straight to the library and got a load of books on fairytale/children's book illustrators. He mentioned that he favours Disney films and children's fairytales (notably Beauty & the Beast and Peter Pan) so I've started by looking mainly at classic illustrations from those particular stories.

Craig initially struck me as a very warm-hearted person with strong connections to his childhood, so I'd like to try to represent that by somehow combining the charm and appeal of Disney's popular renditions of fairytale characters with the sentimentality and intricacy of classic fairytale illustrations.

One of the things I love about these old illustrations is the attention to detail. The very soft watercolors and delicate lines would make excellent stop-motion puppets if I was able to faithfully replicate the style (perhaps using modified photographs?)

I've put together a very quick 'influence map' in my sketchbook of just a few images that caught my attention to give me a visual starting point (and something to refer back to in case I get stuck).

Digital Animation — partner notes

Just quickly adding the notes I took from my 'partner interview' (for want of a better term)

Craig Smitherman

21, Sittingbourne, currently living with brother in Guildford

Favourite place: Holland because of the scenery and night sky, stars
Most used phrases: "Hi," "You alright?" "How are you?"
Hobbies: Drawing, mostly people, listening to music.
Favourite music: Jazz, bluegrass, easy listening, country and folk. Melody Gardot, Dolly Parton, Alison Crowe

Has always wanted to visit Paris because of the architecture, sculpture and lifestyle. Would also like to go to Disneyland! Favourite time of day is night. Definitely more of an owl than a lark.

Interested in animation to tell stories. Has always drawn and written ideas, but never pieced them together. Previously attended UCA Canterbury

Interested mainly in 2D and stop motion animation — favourite film is Beauty & The Beast. Favourite animators are Glen Keane and Lotte Reiniger.

Favourite cartoons: Tom & Jerry, Loony Tunes, Spongebob

Favourite stories: The Night Before Christmas, Peter Pan. Loves children's stories and fairytales.

Favourite colour: Everything (mostly festive colours — red, gold, green).

Interested in Victorian era — dress style, decorative art. 

Who would play him in a film: Twin brother

Five words to describe himself: Funny, caring, polite, banter, creative

Would most like to see himself in a fairytale-type story