Creative Focus Week

This week the University of Central Lancashire opens its doors to the public for its Creative Focus Week from the 16th to the 21st June. A week long degree show exhibition of all its creative final year students individual work with courses stretching across a broad spectrum of subjects from Architecture, Media, Design, Fine art, Performance and fashion across the universities Preston campus.

The week features sculpture, design, paintings, sound instillations, animation, film and much more displayed in various studios located in the Hanover, Victoria and Harris buildings and the universities Media Factory. With the Hanover building also exhibiting work by the foundation year art and design students.

The week also features the Creative Focus Awards on Friday 13th June, with one student from each of the creative courses nominated and a student will be chosen from each area to receive the award. Friday the 20th of June will also see the catwalk exhibition of the UCLan Fashion Design students, many of which showcased their collections at this years Graduate Fashion week at London’s Truman Brewery.

The entire week long Creative Focus exhibition (10am-6pm )  is completely free and guided tours are available for businesses, schools and colleges. Staff and students can also be found throughout each building ready to discuss courses and individual work for any visitors wanting any more information. This highly anticipated event is a chance to see many important names of the creative future displaying their final major projects that their whole three academic years have been working up to.

Dan Ojari

Animators exist and work in a pocket of time quite different from that of other filmmakers – a dimension where time wheezes and slows down to miniscule second by second, frame by frame. Take the words of award-winning animator and director Dan Ojari, who graduated from the Royal College of Art in 2011:

“What a second is… Brief? Insignificant? Short? Most people don’t really pay too much attention to one.”

Blink, and another second has past that you will likely never miss. It may be argued in reality that sequential time is fabricated, but that’s exactly what an animation is: a sequence of events flickering by, capturing moments in time.

Perhaps Ojari’s keen insight as cinematic keeper of time is why his RCA graduate short film Slow Derek was a tale about the quintessential everyman: an office worker going through the gestures of every banal second of the day even as he begins to suspect that Earth is, slowly, leaving him behind. Slow Derek has garnered numerous awards and critical acclaim, from the Visual Science Award at the UCD Imagine Science Film Satellite Festival to the Grand Prix of Animayo and Animated Encounters.

As Derek rides his scheduled train or sits at his desk, we feel a sense of complacency that is suddenly interjected with uncanny visions of a spinning void. Ojari comments that the film is “very much about relativity and the contrast between the mundane and the colossal. The starting point was after I became particularly fascinated with how fast the earth is travelling, especially because we don’t feel this speed. We are literally hurtling through space at hundreds of thousands of miles per hour and yet don’t feel a thing. I felt this was, aside from being an amazing actual fact, also was an interesting metaphor for modern day life.”

We feel aligned with the protagonist specifically because he is a vessel for our contemporary fears and suspicions that the world is somehow not what it seems. As we lead what philosopher Henry David Thoreau might call “lives of quiet desperation”, we believe there is a “true” reality slinking amongst us, just out of our grasp. Ojari’s character takes his destiny into his own hands by climbing out of the literal and metaphorical train window and plunging fearlessly into the void.

Red pill or blue pill? In a short eight-minute film, Ojari bundles all of these philosophical questions into a cinematic feast of modeling-clay beauty that mirrors our world and our contemporary neuroses.

To see more of Dan Ojari’s work, visit his website or follow him on Vimeo.

James Lancett

Originally from Wales illustrator and animator James Lancett graduated from Kingston University in  2011, and has since launched an increasingly impressive career in the arts world, with a warm and textured style that can’t fail you make you feel all fuzzy inside just looking at it.

Lancett’s showreel (see the video on the left hand side) shows some of his most recent animations, my personal favourites being Overcast, a rather sweet story about a cartoon character’s inability to get along in the real world due to an ever-present raincloud over his head, and The Diver, about a swimmers flights of fancy.

All of Lancett’s animations have a simple warmth and tone to them that carries across to all of his illustration work as well, which keeps on Lancett’s consistent style.

 

LINKS

Website

Vimeo

Tumblr/Blog

Twitter

Lancett is also currently represented by agency JellyLondon, and you can see his profile on their website here.

Ellie Ragdale

Ellie Ragdale is a stop motion animator based in Sheffield. As well as creating her beautiful and intricate films, Ellie is also on a mission to bring the creation of animated film to the masses, running workshops for children and planning film screenings designed to bring the Sheffield creative community together. Find out all about her and her work below.

Ellie has been making animations since her final year studying Drama and Screen at the University of Manchester, when she managed to persuade her tutor to let her take a new second year module in animation. She had always been interested in animated film, having loved shows like Pingu and Camberwick as a child, but says it was the inspirational teaching of Barry Purves, the module leader and acclaimed stop motion animator, that made her realise just how passionate she was about it. Ellie threw herself into the course with enthusiasm, making her first film, Tim the Tiny Horse, a project focussing on adapting fantasy texts for screen and based on the stories of comedian Harry Hill.

Ellie says that the reason stop motion animation appealed to her so greatly is because it allows her to combine her two loves, namely making things and making films. Her films encompass a variety of styles and techniques (such as puppet animation, pixilation and papercraft) and she cites her influences as not only children’s stop motion television programmes, but also the “non-polished, handmade aesthetic” of director Michel Gondry.

After graduation, Ellie found work experience with a variety of different filmmakers, companies and festivals, including working with Broken Pixel animator Ashley Dean on two music videos (Gazpacho’s Black Lily and Fossil Collective’s Let It Go, which won best music video at the 2012 Aesthetica Film Festival). She continued to create her own films and in the summer of 2012, through what she describes as ‘almost coincidence’, began to make films with musician and friend Andrew Anderson. The pair’s skills complimented each other perfectly, with Andrew’s original compositions providing the ideal score for Ellie’s animations. Their first film, You Let Me Down Again, was a music video for Andrew’s band Proto Idiot, and has since been shown at the London Short Film Festival. Since then, they have worked on several films together, including The Animal Arkhive, for which they received funding though IdeasTap and permission to use sound effects from the British Libraries sound archive.

Ellie’s says that her plans for the future are to continue working with Andrew under their company ‘Peck Films’. Their aim is to secure commissions to make animated shorts for companies, as well as to continue to make their own films. Recently, Ellie has also begun to teach animation as part of the Kids Art Academy afterschool club sessions around Sheffield. Through Sheffield-based community arts charity Art in the Park and somewhereto_ (a nation-wide Olympic legacy scheme that focuses on connecting young people aged 16-25 with free space to do the things they love) Ellie secured funding through O2’s ‘Think Big’ grant, meaning that she was able the run a series of animation workshops in more disadvantaged areas of the city and, as a continuation of this, last month had her application bid for O2’s ‘Think Bigger’ fund accepted. As a result, this Autumn she plans to stage an immersive cinema screening event for children. Ellie says that she wants it to be a community event, showcasing the work of local children created in a series of workshops leading up to the event, and involving other young creative people like herself “to combine a variety of skills and talents and make this event something really special and unique”

For more information about Ellie’s work, visit her Vimeo page or follow her on Twitter.

Luiz Stockler

Animation is a difficult game, and one that takes a great deal of time and talent to do even a little of. But when done well, a nicely executed animation can be more arresting and memorable than any simple illustration or art piece. And Luiz Stockler certainly manages to capture the enviable trio of success in his work: style, skill, and (when needed) emotion.

Vovô is my personal favourite example of his work, and it won a variety of awards after it’s first screening in 2011. It’s a heartfelt and very touching short film recounting Luiz’s memories of his Brazilian grandfather – vovô meaning granddad in Portuguese. The style is simple and sketchy, but has a beautiful tone that makes it a powerful piece of animation. However being his graduate film for the University of Wales that he made over two years ago now, Luiz has since moved on to some other really interesting projects, including a looped animation display for RCA’s 2013 Work In Progress show.

Presently Luiz has just (as of two hours previous to me writing this very article) finished Montenegro, his MA graduation film for the Royal College of Art- a film about a young man going through severe depression and anxiety because he’s slowly losing his hair (it also features a brief cameo from Zinedinne Zedan). I have yet to see the final film, but am sure it will live up to the high standard set by his previous work.

You should also take a look at his illustration and sketchbook work, they have a real sketchiness and sense of wit to them that’s lovely to see. Also all of the work mentioned above can be found via the links at the bottom of the page, so go take a looksie.

 

What’s the most recent update on your latest film Montenegro?

Ummm…I’ve literally finished it about an hour ago…YES!

What would you say is the biggest inspiration for you and your work?

I’m pretty inspired by the small things I notice in the everyday world around me. Situations and the humour or poignancy in them. Also, i get ideas from things I read or hear, poetic phrases or combinations of words resonate with me quite a lot, my illustrations have a strong relationship with words. Most of my work generally starts off as being a series of anecdotes that I have written down in my book, sort of like sketches, and at some point I get them all together and write something with it

Your illustrations are also really accomplished pieces with a great sense of style- was choosing between animation and illustration, or even fine art perhaps, ever a significant choice for you?

Actually no. ‘Art’ or ‘Fine Art’ always sounded so serious to me – As a kid, the idea of people scratching their chins before deciding to pay ridiculous amounts for a pile of bricks seemed insane. I just liked making comics and drawing obscene things in my books. Then I discovered Hiroshige and Lowry when I was about 15, that totally changed my perspective on what was ‘Art’. The little people in Hiroshige’s paintings reminded me of Herge’s drawings in the Tintin books. There was playfulness and humour (just like the pile of bricks…) and these were drawings from a few hundred years ago. I remember thinking how amazing they were. But yeah…fine art never crossed my mind really…I love art so much and I get a lot of inspiration from painters, sculptors etc..but it still sounds too serious now. Animation/illustration, a lot of the time, makes me think of childhood and fun…which is awesome

What does the immediate future hold for your career?

I’m graduating at the end of the month from the Royal College of Art so I guess I’ll be freelancing (unemployed) until further notice…but hopefully Montenegro will get into some festivals and I can travel and with it and see audiences enjoy it…or not

And finally, do you have any favourite musicians or bands you like to listen to whilst working?

Lately I have been rinsing the new Daft Punk album – Random Access Memories, its really great. I also listen to a lot of Devendra Barnhart. When I really need to concentrate and focus, I prefer to listen to podcasts rather than music – Radiolab has kept me entertained the past few weeks, you can learn a lot whilst animating

LINKS

Website

Vimeo

Tumblr/Blog

Twitter

Jo Peel

Jo Peel’s ‘Pipe Dreams’ is the largest mural completed by an individual artist.

Urban decay and construction are the main subjects of London artist Jo Peel’s drawing and animation. Her vibrant and creatively dynamic canvases suggest an attunement between the individual and the cityscape; despite the decay of the environment, her art makes it clear that it is very much the place where the heart is situated.

There is no denying the “inviting warmth” and “nostalgic feel” attributed to her work but in taking in the broad vistas she illustrates, what becomes most visible is the presence of a strong socio-cultural critique. Her site profile states that Jo “creates a dialogue by accurately recording the urban landscape in front her”. She does so “by leaving in the elements of construction and decay”; a stylistic gesture which embeds a “rawness and reality that pin-points a moment in time”. This dialogue is also the tension between the creative vibrancy of the artist and the dullness of the city.

Jo is a significant force in the urban contemporary art scene and a member of the internationally Scrawl Collective. Her most recent work is the animated short ‘Pipe Dreams’, a visual record of the process of decay as represented by a simple scrap of paper. Painted on a five-story building, ‘Pipe Dreams’ is the largest mural completed by an individual artist. It was created over the course of three months and uses a shipping container and a decommissioned double-decker bus as part of its mixed media.

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Twitter
Prints
Website

Darcy Prendergast

This week’s blog is going to celebrate the animation of Darcy Prendergast and his production company ‘Oh Yeah Wow’. There is quite an impressive backlog of work to be mentioned here; Darcy’s films include music videos for the likes of Gotye and Bombay Bicycle Club, and a short Nickelodeon series called ‘Critter Litter’ featuring a llama for a hero. These animated delights are usually stop-motion clay productions but Darcy has also produced some experimental ‘light-painting’ films such as Rippled in 2012 (see video).

Darcy Prendergast was also involved in the animation of critically acclaimed feature film Mary and Max back in 2009, but has since chosen to work independently with his own production company. ‘Oh Yeah Wow’, which he runs with a group of close friends. The team’s most recent film is for Wax Taylor and Aloe Blacc and follows ‘a crochet quadropus’ as he floats about turning the world blue.

http://ohyeahwow.com/work/

Darcy’s animation, whilst varying in technique, is recognisable for its darkly humorous, sometimes gothic, style. Darcy’s animal models, perhaps influenced by his father’s career as a zoo-keeper, are some of his most frequently occurring and most imaginative creations. There is a saturation of the colour blue in many of Darcy’s films which adds to the surreal atmosphere of both his animated and live-action films. ‘Oh Yeah Wow’ has also produced slick films for advertisements and music videos which are stylistically more formal. Whatever your animation preferences, Darcy Prendergast is one to watch.

https://vimeo.com/ohyeahwow

 

Matthew Lawes

‘Emma imagines a World based in Colour,
Where dreams are not nightmares and Children don’t suffer.’

Matthew Lawes is a London based director, animator, writer and all-round creative genius. When I first saw Matthew’s videos the vibrant colours, artistic narratives, beautiful music, creative sets and skilful animation took me back. In 2012 Matthew animated and directed the beautiful, yet haunting, short film Emma. The dark moods juxtaposed with the children’s fairy tale, makes for an unexpected narrative. Matthew constructs his Cinderella meets Rapunzel-esque narrative around a young girl called Emma, who “is different, her story unkind”. Emma’s authoritative father enjoys watching her suffer, and locks her away in a tower. However not all is to despair, as Emma’s hardship does not oppress her creativity; with her only way to escape her cruel reality is through her imagination and the cinema.

After being visually enchanted by Emma, the narrative filled me with a bittersweet pathos for the young innocent girl. I felt pathos and empathy for the cruel life young Emma endured. Emma’s salvation through her imagination and the cinema made me relate to her. In times of ‘doom’ and ‘gloom’, I can relate to Emma wanting to use her imagination to escape a harsh and mundane life. I think this is something we can all relate to.

Matthew’s career path has taken an interesting turn since graduation from the University of Newcastle, where he studied Architecture. Yes, I too was wondering how Matthew ended up in animation and not architecture. So I put my journalistic hat on, and got Matthew to answer a few of my questions. Matthew was kind enough to chat to me about the making of Emma and Emma’s fairy tale world, his creative background, awards, inspiration, and advice for all you young avid filmmakers.

So you studied architecture at Newcastle University, how did you end up wanting to make and direct short films?

I have always had a huge passion for film but didn’t want to study it at university. Architecture appealed to me as it was design led and the skills are easily transferrable to film – from the pitching process through to completion. The biggest lesson was how to use limitations to your advantage, which is hugely relevant to animation when you start out. I want to make films for the rest of my life, so three years of studying something else seemed more important at the time. I also wanted to see if I could achieve in something that I was not naturally drawn to. If I could achieve that then I felt I could do anything in the ‘real world’.

How long did the making of Emma take?
Around six weeks; with the sets and models taking three weeks, and the animation and editing taking another three weeks.

How did you come up with the narrative of Emma?
I have lots of poems and small bits of writings in various notebooks around my studio, so it was basically just a case of which one do I want to make first. I like to think it is a compendium of ideas, however most of it is total gobbledegook. I found a note the other day in capitals that said ‘I AM TOO SERIOUS SOMETIMES BECAUSE I AM TIRED!!!’ Sigh. The narrative came from a poem I wrote. Whenever I think of something weird and wonderful I jot it down and sometimes I connect those thoughts to form something more substantial. I suppose it is like a diary of my daily thoughts but less personal.

Are you Emma? Do you find happiness in a dark world through filming and capturing your dreams?
I think there are parts of me in Emma, but I’m not directly her. I was surprised how dark people thought the film was. It is really interesting to think of a story and form your own opinions and then have them changed once an audience has seen your film. I hate negative emotions so I would say the opposite; I find happiness in a positive world personally. Maybe I have a darker side I don’t know about yet, maybe Emma suggests that.

How did you feel when you were nominated for Shorts 2012 New Director of the Year?
Honestly that has been my biggest personal triumph so far. I am incredibly chuffed and inspired to work even harder. It was amazing to be put in a category with some brilliant new directors from around the world.

What inspires you?
Emotions and people that convey them well in any art form, inspires me. Also, my friends and family inspire me. Stories and late night chats around a large dinner table with lots of bottles of wine and laughter. I love finding out about people and what they stand for and experience.

For young people trying to break into the film industry, what would your advice and wisdom be?
Work harder than the hardest worker you know. Be tenacious and stay positive. Surround yourself with good people, enjoy the highs and learn to deal with the lows as quickly as possible.

What have you got planned for the future?
I am working on a number of adverts at the moment and I have just written a new short film about childhood imaginary friends. It’s a live action short with animation. I also produce a site called www.citysessions.co.uk, which is great fun. I want to collaborate with as many people as possible.

With the success of Emma, Matthew saw himself nominated for New Director of the Year at Shorts 2012, along with other nominations from Phoenix Comicon Film Festival 2013, Golden Kuker Sofia International Animation Film Festival, Rob Knox Film Festival, N4YP Film Festival, Basauri – Bizkaia International Animated Film Festival, and Cornwall Film Festival. As you can see, Matthew he has already created a huge international buzz around his animations.

Quick. Hurry. Go and check out all of Matthews other awesome videos: http://matthewlawes.co.uk/ and check out www.citysessions.co.uk.

Hannah and the Moon – BAFTA New Talent winner

Kate Charter is an Edinburgh College of Art Animation graduate who has just won the BAFTA New Talent award and Best New work award at the British Academy event held at Glasgow’s Oran Mor at the end of March. Her animation ‘Hannah and the Moon’ is a short film about a girl who leaves home to find her friend. The film is like an animated hand drawn picture book incorporating text instead of a traditional narrative.

Kate’s past work experience include working for a local agency in Leith, creating animations for a charity project called ‘Rock Opera’ and working on the visual effects and Foley sound recording on a film called ‘Seams in the Dark’, directed by Claire Lamond.With such huge success that Kate has had recently I’m sure amazing things are on the horizon…

I asked Kate a few questions about her brilliant talent, her university career and her aims for the future.

What was your inspiration behind ‘Hannah the Moon’?

“The idea came from a few different places. When I was a child I had a story called ‘The House and the Golden Windows’ which I fancied adapting but I also wanted to include a character with long bony fingers and I knew I wanted it to be set at night. Originally I thought I wanted to adapt an existing children’s book but after searching I decided to write my own. Incorporating text into the film came from listening to a Women’s hour show on Radio 4 on the future of Ebooks. The idea stuck in my head and I believed there was a new place for animation.”

Why did you choose to study at Edinburgh College of Art?

“I thought that Edinburgh was a really nice city. To be honest it was a shot in the dark and I didn’t know a lot about the actual animation course. Fortunately I fell on my feet!”

What has happened since graduation? And where do you see yourself in ten years time?

“Since graduating I’ve spent some time at home in Cambridge (I spent the Summer driving a tractor for my family’s farm! -I think it was a head in the sand moment) and now I’m back in Edinburgh finding my way into the quickly evolving and competitive digital media world. In the future I would love to be writing, illustrating, animating and designing apps for my children’s stories. I love Oliver Jeffers and I’d quite like to follow in his footsteps.”

Any advice for future animation students?

“Just do it! You have to bite the bullet with animation and get stuck in! Sometimes the best stuff can be made in a day and sometimes it takes months to get what you want. The best thing about studying animation for me was the people I was surrounded by and the camaraderie of being in a studio for so many hours! In fact my best advice is to be nice-as your classmates will become your family!”

Check out Kate’s website katecharter.com , her picture book complimenting the film and her blog showing her working methods

 

 

Sam Spreckley

Never ending contradiction and comparison between nature and technology has found new resolution in Sam Spreckley’s practice. His artworks are fresh ideas altering everyday reality in an unexpected direction.

Sam graduated with a Masters degree in Electronic Imaging from Duncan of Jordanstone, and is now based in Scotland. He is interested in the moving image, sound and animation, exploring the relationships found between sound and image. He has exhibited both nationally and internationally at film festivals and exhibitions, most recently in Greece as part of the European Young artists Biennial and also in the Moscow Museum of Modern Art.

His practice is inspired by biology and science, attempting to transform everyday items into mysterious objects. The featured video is based on the opposite elements- oil and water, two elements that will never mix. Combination of the two, merged with electronic sounds creates almost a mechanical structure. This surreal video is a skilfully made deceiving illusion, looking similar to a 3D animation it is hard to acknowledge the natural processes involved.

Sam turns natural elements into immersive artworks, synthesizing biological structures with machinery sounds. Exaggerating sensory perception and re imagining sounds of every detail, he creates an alternate sense of the natural world. This is another way of observing our reality, a rather uncommon looking glass that is focused on the processes existing in nature.

To find out more visit this website http://vimeo.com/samspreckley

Tohu Va Vohu

I have found out about the work of York-based illustrator Jamie Mills fairly recently, and have fallen completely in love with his beautiful illustrations, Lowry-esque line drawings that focus on themes of nature and natural history, delightfully juxtaposing dark shading with bright, primary colours. However, it’s not his drawings that I want to introduce you to; it’s his recent foray into the world of animation.

Tohu Va Vohu is Mills’ first ever short animation. At a run time of just under six minutes, it is a enchanting composition that channels themes similar to those Mills favours in his illustrative work, using that same contrast of shade and colour to stunning effect. The purpose of the film is to explore how our world is made up of “chaotic, cyclical patterns and structures” and how our we as humans come to have influence on these over time. Furthermore, it is set to a hauntingly beautiful score composed by Glacis (if you like it, is available to purchase here) which, combined with the intricate delicacy of Mill’s animations, creates something nothing short of spectacular.

Currently only the trailer is available to watch online, but Mills is applying to festivals for the full film to be showcased sometime in the future. Follow the Tohu Va Vohu page of his website for more details, including stills from the film and information about upcoming showings, as well as links to more of Mills’ beautiful designs.

– Georgie

Konx-om-Pax

Konx-om-Pax aka Tom Scholefield is an animator, director and audio/visual artist based in Glasgow. The name “Konx-om-Pax” is taken from the title of a series of essays published in 1907 by famed occultist Aleister Crowley, it translates as “Light In Extension.”

Tom Scholefield connects esoteric and pop-culture, blurs the boundaries between different mediums, and experiments combining sound and 3 dimensional animations into interactive art pieces. He makes music and animations, creates short films, videos and sleeve designs. He has made music videos for Mogwai, Jamie Lidell and Hudson Mohawke. His works are best described as a merge between music production and installation art.

This year he released his debut album on Planet Mu “Regional Surrealism”. His created animation for the album trailer effectively accompanies electronic music and shows off his skills as an animator and visual artist. This animation is a detailed and complex fantasy world of futuristic structures and mechanisms inhabiting a monochromatic environment. Mechanical mountainous terrain is a successful interpretation of the cold, ambient and atmospheric instrumental music sounds.

Tom Scholefield is interested in alternate realities and different states of being. His works celebrate cultural variety, intertwining esoteric and futuristic ideas into fantastic worlds and surreal artworks. To see more of his works visit this website www.displaycopy.net