Back to school…

OK, a good 5 weeks after actual schools (and, ergo, Marvellous Dave…), but yes, last Thursday, 2 October, was our first day back to the graphite- and miscellaneous-other-art-media-scented studios of the Cambridge School of Art, and marked the commencement of the Masters Stage of the course under the stewardship of Prof. Martin Salisbury, et al. Waking at 5am to shovel everything, tabletop-sweep-into-bin-bag fashion, into assorted receptacles and then into the car – along with myself – to drive over to Cambridge before the M25 traffic attained its customary car-park-pace flow was perhaps not optimal preparation for a day of work-in-progress presentations/’informal group crit’, but that – mysteriously – was the approach I plumped for…

These group presentations always fill me with a sort of trembling dread: for the most part, they are a fascinating insight into my peers’ working practices, ideas and creative processes – seasoned, liberally, with Prof. Salisbury’s observations and commentary, distilled from years of experience teaching similarly-aspiring picturebook illustrators, and interjections from fellow students as we ‘think around’ the challenges that invariably arise from amidst the pages of the sketchbooks/sheaves of paper being presented (although, as the day wears on – and the greenhouse-esque banks of windows in the studio work their incendiary magic –  there is a marked decline in occurrence of such verbal offerings…). For the remainder, though, (a variable period of time, usually contingent on the lateness of the day [by 3 in the afternoon, I think we were down to about 10-12 mins…]) they are a paper-fumbling, verbally-incontinent, horribly perspiration-suffused experience in self-explication (or self-apology, depending how I’m feeling about the work I’m presenting…) that frequently stutters to a conclusion with the realisation that the idea/ideas I had previously managed to convince myself would form a solid, perhaps even innovative (ok, that never happens…) basis for a substantial creative project are, in fact, hackneyed, derivative and distinctly mediocre, and in need of immediate and entirely transformative ‘reimagining’. Back to the proverbial – and literal – drawing board… Gah!

This latest crit was no exception, and I have already pretty much jettisoned one of the project ideas I presented in favour of something I hope will be rather more congruent with the picturebook-associated/child-centric brief for this stage of the course. However, I have to admit that I am still, here in week two at least, clinging stubbornly to the seagull-based idea I have been working on over the summer – chiefly because I am really quite fond of the character and his alternately conceited and moralistic approach to the life of an avian, seaside resident. But, also, because I have now given him a budgie-shaped secondary. I thought I’d include a few more pages from my sketchbooks on this project as I try and claw my way through the morass of awkward plot turns and rendering experiments towards something like an intelligible storyboard and a convincing, empathy-inspiring character with whom I can get along over the next 6 weeks, or so…

My seagull protagonist - temporarily christened Sylvester - has successfully infiltrated the home of the budgie's octogenarian owner, and is considering the potential for tea-and-cake acquisition...

My seagull protagonist – temporarily christened Sylvester – has successfully infiltrated the home of the budgie’s octogenarian owner, and is considering the potential for tea-and-cake acquisition…

A cockatoo or, er, two...

A cockatoo or, er, two…

Birthday-seagull

Birthday gull.

'90s rave gull - can't fight that house beat

’90s rave gull – can’t fight that house beat

 

These two were colour experiments using Inktense pencils. I’m not terribly satisfied with the end result, but I do quite like the smudgy, intense colour you get by working over the initial washed pencil marks again with the intense colour – it really seems to pick up the ‘tooth’ of the watercolour paper.

More cockatoo/budgie-type birds... The exchange between the seagull and smaller, more exotic bird at the bottom of the page IS rather cartoony (TOO cartoony, I have since decided...), but I wanted to have a go at quickly colouring up digitally (as per next image)

More cockatoo/budgie-type birds… The exchange between the seagull and smaller, more exotic bird at the bottom of the page IS rather cartoony (TOO cartoony, I have since decided…), but I wanted to have a go at quickly colouring up digitally (as per next image)

A bit on the rough-and-ready side, and the cockatoo looks rather like he might have applied an all-over feather-mask concocted from some particularly lurid budget toothpaste, but (on the plus side) I like the new digital brush...

A bit on the rough-and-ready side, and the cockatoo looks rather like he might have applied an all-over feather-mask concocted from some particularly lurid budget toothpaste, but (on the plus side) I like the new digital brush…

 

Mmm, chiiiiips....

Mmm, chiiiiips….

I can't remember if he's squeezing his way into or out of the budgie cage, but my hope was to show that it would not be an easy or comfortable endeavour.

I can’t remember if he’s squeezing his way into or out of the budgie cage, but my hope was to show that it would not be an easy or comfortable endeavour.

thoughtful-budgie

Giving ‘it’ some thought

The budgie is still very much at the development stage, but I am slowly wending my way towards a ‘look’ that feels right in terms of embodying the rather more circumspect nature of this character, and this one to the right seems like it’s the closest at the moment. The colour one below was a bit of an indulgence – worked up as the image for a lovely illustrator-friend’s birthday card, and a great excuse to draw…C-A-K-E!!!

Afternoon tea with a cockatiel, anyone...?

Afternoon tea with a cockatiel, anyone…?

I’d also been attempting to play around with the idea of tessellating seagulls, beginning with the repeating patterns of M. C. Escher – celebrated Dutch mathematician & graphic artist (aim high…) – particularly those that work in tile-based patterns, such as ‘Two Birds’ and ‘Bird & Fish’ (Adam Marelli’s blog post on Alex Webb and Escher, ‘Masters of Confusion’, is an interesting source, featuring these images), and then the less regimental and more progressive, creative deconstruction-type works such as ‘Liberation’ and ‘Day & Night’. However, it quickly became apparent that my primary-school SMP-card-based lessons on tessellation were not going to stand in me in sufficiently capable stead to tackle the realisation of this idea without some considerable practise (see heinous attempt, below – any self-respecting 7-year-old would, no doubt, be horrified at the ineptitude there displayed) – and probably a closer look at the geometric foundations of a successful tessellation… *sigh* It is a fascinating visual system, though, so I have decided against completely abandoning the idea – the work of trying to fathom a workable (i.e. tessellating) seagull-esque shape is (very ponderously…) afoot!

Tessellating-seagulls_rough-page

You’ll note the similarity with Escher’s ‘Two Birds’ pattern (you WILL…) in the pencil sketch; I thought that, if I could get a handle on that, I might be able to translate some sort of osmotically-learned tessellation skill to building my own pattern – and, having abandoned that, hoped that I might be able to use various different bird poses to fill the gaps between shapes that were blatantly NOT going to fit together in the required seamless fashion… (*coughs*)

I feel that all the above sketchbook page is missing is a “See Me!” in spidery red biro…

The following image, though, is just something that I thought might be amusing to practise my embryonic and only-partially-remembered Photoshop, er, skills that I managed to dredge together last term; again, although distinctly unpolished – nay, horribly raw in places (see the terrible grey blob of generic ‘land-mass’…) – I actually rather like this, and the idea of a flock (or ‘screech’) of almost mechanical/lobotomised-looking seagulls all flapping inexorably towards the unsuspecting ice-cream-toting crowds of beach-holiday-makers is one that I find curiously appealing… 😉

seagull-scene

 -o0o-

In other news… The fabulous House of Illustration at King’s Cross, London, is to exhibit work by Paula Rego and Honoré Daumier (whose wonderfully atmospheric, theatrical lithographs I revelled in exploring as part of my dissertation last semester) in an upcoming exhibition entitled ‘Scandal, Gossip and Other Stories’, due to run from 14 November 2014. I absolutely love Daumier’s often rather grotesque – and almost always unflattering – caricatures, and am intrigued to see how the works selected will ‘speak’ to Paula Rego’s own dramatic and satirical pieces in this space: I CANNOT WAIT!!! 😀

Meanwhile, I bid ye a mellow and fruitful autumn weekend – or some such other seasonally-appropriate greeting – and hope to ‘see’ you here again soon-ish! 🙂

 

AP x

 

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About illustratedbyamanda

Illustrator and time-fritterer extraordinaire
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3 Responses to Back to school…

  1. Such gorgeous images. The expressions you manage to draw on their faces – the old lady’s in particular, but also the seagull’s – are pure brilliance. I can’t wait to see what you do next! x

    • Ah, thank you so much, Elli! That has made my day 🙂 Shoehorning them into a story is proving less than straightforward, but I hope you’ll like the finished story (when it eventually comes together…!). I remain totally IN AWE of your incredible rhyming and general wordsmithery talents, and this has only been heightened through my struggle to come up with some apt Words to go with my Pictures…! X

  2. Pingback: (It’s gonna be) raining cats & dogs… ;) | amanda's pencil post

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