The beginning…

So I’ve made it through my first week at Central Saint Martins and my main feeling is: omg! art school is even more fun than I expected!

We started the week on Monday with talks from many people on subjects ranging from critical theory to library catalogues. Some of the things that got me excited were:

  • Sean talking about how we convey feeling through body language: we will learn to observe and create postures and movement that denote emotions such as sadness or happiness or anger.
  • Steve telling us that animators have to be sketchy and fast rather than perfectionists about their drawings – which as somewhat of a dasher offer suits me great!
  • Lilly talking about how “nothing is obvious” and “how cultural practices relate to wider systems of power”. I can’t wait to do more thinking and writing about issues of representation and power in animation. I want to deeply question my own practice: how what I make both reflects and shapes the world around me – and how to disrupt rather than entrench the oppressive systems of power that are part of the patriarchal, capitalist, white supremacist, herteronomative society that we live in.

Towards the end of day one Steve set us all up with a light box, a pencil and some animation paper and said “GO! DRAW! MAKE SOMETHING MOVE!”  I felt pretty lost – having never done anything like this before. I started off drawing a person jumping, as they jump they lift their arms up in the air and the smile on their face gets bigger and bigger. When I put it on the line tester to see the drawings move, it made me laugh but it was very clunky and you couldn’t feel the weight of the person or how they were becoming airborne. So I tried again this time with a person rolling over in their sleep. This was easier because I have been practicing sleepy postures recently for a comic I am writing and I could envision how the different parts of the body would move in relation to one another. Here is the result:

I like the way the body moves, but feel like it looks a little too athletic for someone sleeping, I tried to slow it down by making each picture last more frames but that just made it jerky, I think next time I may need to do more drawings. All that said, I am quite fond of this sleepy babe as my first ever piece of drawn animation.

The other animation project we worked on this week was a shadow puppet film. Brief aside: The format of the workshop reminded me a of Ru Paul’s Drag Race which I have recently watching (Shout out to season 4!). At the beginning of the day the teachers gave us a bunch of materials and a brief and sent us on our way, we had to come up with a story, characters, make puppets and backgrounds, rehearse movements, rent and learn to use the video cameras, and film the whole thing before a 4pm screening. The manic-ness of this schedule meant there was no time for faffing or too much perfectionism. Things I learnt about making shadow puppets:

  1. They have to be BIG otherwise they don’t move nicely (or at all)
  2. Making joints both strong and move smoothly is HARD – I ended up using small pieces of wire twisted in on themselves.
  3. We struggled in our team to agree on sizing between the different characters and backgrounds.
  4. Unless the tracing paper is stuck directly to the glass – not just taped around the outside, you lose a lot of the definition so there is no point putting too much detail into the puppets
  5. Detailed backgrounds stuck to the glass however look banging.
  6. Even very simple sound adds a lot to the final film.

Watching everyone’s film at the end of the day was great, they were all very funny and laughing with the rest of the group was a nice way to relax and start to feel a little more comfortable with each other.

The final class of the week was life drawing. It was mostly three minute poses, so no time to get bored. I was rusty but just as I was warming up and starting to like what was coming out of my pencil, Vanessa came over and said “lovely lines but you’re making him flat” she drew a sphere a cube and a pyramid on a piece of paper and showed me how the body can be broken down into versions of these three shapes. At first when I tried this my drawings looked like boring computer graphics – you couldn’t even recognise the model anymore and I felt a little resentful. But I persevered, and began to see a real improvement in the accuracy of poses I was capturing – it was a kind of magical. Below you can see some of my drawings at the beginning of the class:

Vanessa’s sketch:

My drawings after Vanessa’s intervention:

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