Friday, 29 January 2010

Fool Moon (animated graduation film, 2008)

Here's Aaron Johnston's fun short animated graduation film Fool Moon, which I worked on as Colouring Assistant during my 3rd Year at ECA in 2007/2008.

It's a comedy about a football-mad boy and his pet monkey searching for a ball-shaped object to use as a football on their native desert island, but after various mishaps they set their sights on capturing the moon.

This is one of the six animated graduation films that I was credited for working on during 2008, and is the first to make a full appearance on the Internet.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Testimonial from John Hales - Director of 'Macbeth' (Seagull Theatre, Lowestoft - November 2009)

Back in October I was commissioned to produce 4 animation sequences to be screened as part of John Hales' modern-dress theatre production of Macbeth, starring Abi Titmuss, at the Seagull Theatre in Lowestoft.

The production - complete with my animation - toured Norwich for numerous dates throughout November, and now that it is all over, I've recently received this testimonial from John Hales [who both directed the production and played the part of Macbeth]:

Dear Andy,

Hello there. So, the dust has finally settled after Christmas and Macbeth enough for me to write to say thank you SO much (caps intended) for your amazing work animating the fourth apparition.

It was always an ambitious production and we’d already pulled off a bit of a coup with Abi Titmuss as Lady Macbeth and some of the filming, but you and the other animators you sourced for us to bring the visions to life were just first class.

I’ve Directed for film and TV as well as theatre over the past 18 years and I was painfully aware of the mountain I was asking you all to climb in terms of schedule and the detail of the work and you not only met the challenge head on, but exceeded all my hopes and expectations of how powerful the visions could be in the hands of talented, committed and original animators like yourself and your colleagues.
It was a real pleasure to work with you on a creative level too – you have real flair but are also aware of telling the story effectively, a perfect blend which became apparent at our regular updates and each new instalment of the work. Add that all this was achieved without us even meeting once in person. I think it speaks volumes for the clarity with which you approach a project, really connecting with the brief and then working with me and the ideas to make them even better. And, on top of that, you even delivered the work early!

Cast, audience and reviewers alike were unanimous in the praise for your work Andy. I’d recommend you without a moment’s hesitation - I really hope the future brings you the success you deserve.

Thanks for everything,

With the very best wishes

John Hales
Seagull Rep

Below is my 54-second animation sequence, portraying the Fourth Vision from Act 4, Scene 1 of William Shakespeare's Macbeth, as screened during the theatre production:

To discover more about all my work for the production please visit this earlier blog post.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

12fp(s) - painting 19

This is the most recent Film-inspired painting that I have produced, and as such was the final painting to appear at my exhibition last month.
It is based on one of my favourite films, however this particular still wasn't my first choice to paint (for such a stylish and culturally significant film, it seems to have surprisingly few unedited film stills available on the Internet).

The film, starring Warren Beatty & Faye Dunaway, re-tells a notorious American crime story, and was directed by Arthur Penn in what critics consider a ground-breaking style that merged the big-budget world of Hollywood with the joie-de-vivre of Nouvelle Vague [French New Wave] films. As a matter of fact, the first choice director was acclaimed Nouvelle Vague critic/director Francois Truffaut (Jules et Jim, 400 Blows), and when he dropped out in order to direct Fahrenheit 451 (starring Oskar Werner and Julie Christie) the producers approached Jean-Luc Godard (A Bout de Souffle, Bande a Part) - who today is widely considered the most influential of all the Nouvelle Vague directors.
The film is Bonnie & Clyde (1967).

The film is a romanticised version of the couple's real-life story as they rob banks and go on the run with their gang. It has plenty of great action sequences mixed with enough intimate moments between the gang for it to feel like a complete story rather than just a hollow action-heavy blockbuster like we're used to from Hollywood today.
As such there were numerous scenes from this film that I had in mind for making this painting, however I was unable to source any of them as still images on the Internet, and so decided to settle on this still image portraying Bonnie Parker holding up a bank instead.

The actual film was shot in colour, however I decided to paint this a single reddish colour similar to my earlier Bande a Part painting because that style worked well in the past. I'm not so keen on it here though, mainly because this particular pigment [similar but not identical to the one used in the Bande a Part painting] didn't offer the kind of strong tonal variation that I think would have made this painting come to life.
By using that particular colour I had hoped that it would create an appealing vintage aesthetic, however once I started painting I discovered that the colour was more like an off salmon-pink, which I don't find appealing: Had the paint been a bolder pink colour it may have worked better, or (ideally) had it been more of a brown/sepia colour, I think it would have been near-perfect.

Friday, 8 January 2010

12fp(s) - painting 18

This was the final painting that I created during a flurry of creativity at the beginning of December after learning that the exhibition of my Film-inspired Painting Series at the Filmhouse was getting extended for an extra month.

There were a significant number of still images from this film that I was interested in painting for the series, however I eventually settled on this one because I liked the dark ambience and intriguing mood that is gripping the attention of the two protagonists.
The other stills that I had considered for this painting felt too focused on Grace Kelly's character, and as paintings would therefore have looked too much like a traditional fashion plate or a portrait painting rather than a Film still - which would have been out-of-place within the rest of this painting series.

I'm not entirely sure what I think of this finished painting...
I like the overall aesthetic, but particularly the atmosphere and colouring: There's a nice tonal variation, which I think gives the painting a good sense of depth and effectively translates the sense of tension from the film itself.

However I think the painting also looks quite [unintentionally] comical because it seems like an illustration from a cheap pulp fiction novel, which I admire but can't really take seriously. Also, the painting of Grace Kelly's character looks like it came from another source and has just been glued onto this painting: For example her fashionable clothing and brightly-lit figure seem entirely juxtaposed with the rest of the image. You could argue that this juxtaposition was enforced by the film itself, however I'd suggest that the painting style of Grace Kelly's character differs subtly from the rest of the painting, which does nothing but intensify the issue further.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Influences part 24: Gil Elvgren

Gil Elvgren (1914 - 1980) was an American painter and illustrator, best known for some of the 500 pin-up paintings that he produced during a 40 year career; however he also produced adverts for a range of clients including Coca-Cola (for 25 years) and the Good Housekeeping magazine.
In his excellent book Gil Elvgren: The Complete Collection (2008), co-author Charles G. Martignette describes Elvgren as "the Norman Rockwell of the pin-up genre of American Illustration" before going on to say that he also had the high skills of a classical artist. Indeed I would go so far as to suggest that Elvgren's work demonstrates [although often restrained in his commercial work] a superb understanding of form, composition, lighting, and colour that is comparable with Great Masters such as Rembrandt and Vermeer.

Even if you don't already know him by name, you may be familiar with Elvgren's visual style. For example, the style of his pin-up paintings influenced the look of The Saturday's 'Just Can't Get Enough' music video for Comic Relief 2009.

Gil Elvgren is often considered the greatest pin-up artist of all time, and has influenced a great number of artists.
I can't recall how I became familiar with his work, but I suspect it was either name-checked from research conducted during my final year at Edinburgh College of Art, or else he was probably mentioned by a tattoo artist on Miami Ink (as pin-up girls have often been a source of inspiration for many traditional tattoos).
Regardless of this, Elvgren's first notable influence on my own work came soon after I graduated (July 2009), and is most obvious in my portrait painting of actress Ava Gardner as seen here.
Although in my previous blog post I mentioned that I considered the style of Gil Elvgren's pin-up paintings as a relevant painting technique for interpreting the cool 60s style of Alfred Hitchcock's Marnie into a painting of my own.

- An extensive fan site.
- Gil Elvgren at The Pin-Up Files.
- Pin-Up Page: A big collection of Elvgren pin-up paintings.
- Interview with the director of The Saturday's Just Can't Get Enough music video - created in the style of Gil Elvgren's pin-up paintings.

CAUTION: Some of Gil Elvgren's pin-up paintings below display vintage Pretty Girls with underwear and/or mild nudity, which may not be suitable for viewing in public places (ie: at work, school, library, etc).
If using a public computer, please consider those around you and observe any codes-of-conduct before proceeding to the paintings below. (I don't think the images are distasteful or bad, but who knows - some people may take offense to them)...

12fp(s) - painting 17

The second of the three paintings I created at the beginning of December was from Alfred Hitchcock's Marnie (1964).
It was actually one of the very first film stills that I had planned to paint for my Film-inspired Painting Series (way back in July/August), however I had put it off for such a long time because I always harboured strong reservations about how well the film still would translate into a painting.

The main reason for that reservation was because I loved the 60s style inherent in the film (particularly in relation to Diane Baker's character), and although I imagined her style adapting well into a portrait painting technically similar to Gil Elvgren's pin-up illustrations, I did not want to adopt that painting style for this series.

By the time December came around (at least four months after I had initially watched the film and planned to paint a still image from it), my admiration for the visual style of the film was no longer at the front of my mind and I finally felt free enough to try interpreting the style of the film into a painting.

I decided to go with quite a minimalist painting style in the hope that this would allow the fashion/style of the characters to stand out as the main focus of the image instead of the painting style/technique: This is similar to a watercolour portrait painting that I did back in 2007 and still really admire.
Just like in 2007, I think the minimalist painting style worked well for highlighting the stylish fashion of the female, however I really dislike what it has done to the portrait of Sean Connery - it just looks bizarre.

Although it's effective for highlighting the characters, I'm not too keen on the background either (although I can't think of what else would have worked better).
In the original film still the background is part of an interior shot but it looked rather ambiguous, so if I tried to literally translate that ambiguous background with paint then it would look even more abstract, which I think would detract from the subjects of the painting. Also, the original background (as seen in the film) was a brownish colour, however I felt that there was already too much orange/brown colours in the faces and that using more of those colours in the background would make the overall painting too flat and unappealing.
I therefore decided to use what I thought would be complimentary - a green colour - for the background.
I'm still in two minds about whether that was the right decision to make because in some ways the green colour is really ghastly while the bizarre shapes and tonal variations of the background don't really tell us anything; yet at the same time I can't help but feel as though the green background is exciting because it makes the audiences eyes jump constantly between the foreground and background in a never-ending duel to maintain your attention.

Despite all this though, I kinda think that for the painting to be most effective I should just cut it in two and show only Diane Baker's character - cos I think that side of the painting looks fine... (?)

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

12fp(s) - painting 16

When I was asked to extend my painting exhibition at the Filmhouse for an extra month (until the end of 2009), I decided to create some new Film-inspired Paintings for the display.

There were three film stills at that moment that I was particularly keen to paint, and in a flurry of creativity, I kinda ended up working on all three of them simultaneously; however the first of my three new paintings was a still from Woody Allen's Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008).
I have not yet seen the film, but I was aware of this particular still, and really liked its colourful composition of Penelope Cruz' character posing against what looks like a graffitied garage door.

The painting itself looks more like a portrait than a film still (so it doesn't seem to easily fit with the rest of my Film-inspired Painting Series), and in my opinion there are weaknesses regarding the quality of the portrait: For example the image looks rather two-dimensional, yet the texture of the paint is a bit blotchy, which I find to distract from the subject of the painting.
Despite that issue, I still enjoy this painting simply for its softness and the almost pastel-like colour palette. It doesn't try to shout out or draw attention to itself, it just sits peacefully in the background.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

12fp(s) - painting 15

After two months, the exhibition of my Film-inspired Painting Series came to a close this evening, which means that I can finally upload the following painting (cos I had forgotten to scan it before putting it on display at the Filmhouse!)

This was a strange little painting that I was inspired to do at the beginning of November thanks to Halloween.
I really liked the original film still: it had a vintage aesthetic to it, and in a kind of Beauty And The Beast moment, the interaction between Frankenstein's monster and the little girl illustrates the tenderness that hides underneath his grotesque appearance.

The painting would probably have looked more appealing if painted in the same Burnt Umber [brown] colour as my Bande a Part painting, however I wanted to do something a bit different from both that painting and my Hamlet Goes Business painting (which used blue), so green seemed like an intriguing choice...

I now think the green and white aesthetic looks too cold to convey the warmth of the relationship between the two characters, however it was an interesting challenge to work on.

Monday, 4 January 2010

12fp(s) - painting 14 [SOLD]

This was the first of many 'new' Film-inspired Paintings that I created as potential replacements for any paintings that sold during my solo exhibition (which ran from November 5th 2009 until January 4th 2010) at the Filmhouse cinema in Edinburgh.

I had been fascinated by the cinematography in Jean-Luc Godard's La Mepris [Contempt] for quite some time, and there were several stills featuring Brigitte Bardot that I thought would make interesting paintings (the still below for example).

...However I wasn't keen on using those stills for this painting series because, as with Painting 2 (from Aki Kaurismäki's Shadows In Paradise), I didn't like how those kinds of stills looked more like a portrait than a still image from a film. But after a bit of time researching I eventually found a pleasant Mediterranean-based film still that had an intriguing composition vaguely similar to my North By Northwest painting, and which loosely evoked a mood similar to the paintings of Edward Hopper, who is one of my favourite painters.

This was the first painting I had done in a few weeks, and I wasn't entirely sure what kind of aesthetic I wanted to achieve with it. I was changing my mind about various aspects of the painting as I went along, and I kept rushing things unnecessarily, which is rarely a good idea.
In the end I wasn't too pleased with the quality of the finished painting, however the addition of some dark ink over Bardot's character helped to draw attention away from the blotchy background (which had been really bugging me); and I think the strong aesthetic of the source film still also helped to mitigate any other issues I had.

It may not have been one of my stronger paintings (in my opinion), but apparently you learn from every mistake...