Art, reviews and thoughts from a young artist in Plymouth, UK.

Archive for October, 2016

Games for Better Game Jam

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My ‘cover art’ for our game Infection! showing my final designs for the white blood cell, antibiotic and bacteria characters.

On the weekend of 30th September to 2nd October KitiJenGames (the games development team consisting of me and my brother) participated in the Games for Better 48 hour game jam.  The game jam was organized by Jack from SoGoodStudios and Oli from Sizeable Games because they believe that games can be a good tool for educating people about issues in the world. The game jam theme was Antibiotic Resistance.

On the Friday evening before the jam we went to Plymouth University’s Babbage Building to listen to talks from experts.  The first speaker was Dr Victoria Hurth (Twitter) who is an Associate Professor in Marketing and an expert in sustainability.  She talked about sustainable consumption and explained how animals are being bred (for food) in poor environments and they are given antibiotics to keep them healthy.  Because of this more bacteria are becoming resistant to antibiotics leading to the creation of ‘superbugs’.  The second speaker was Dr Mathew Upton who is an Associate Professor in Medical Microbiology and he said that “Resistance Is Inevitable” when we use antibiotics and explained about bacterial conjugation.  The third speaker was Dr Richard Ayres (Twitter) who is the Lead of Population Health at Peninsula Medical School and a practicing GP.  He explained that sometimes doctors don’t get a lot of time to assess their patients and this can lead to prescription of antibiotics when they are unnecessary.  The talks were really interesting and I didn’t know a lot about antibiotic resistance before them so I learned a lot.

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Dr Mathew Upton showed this image of resistant bacteria and I used it to design my bacteria character.

As soon as the talks finished the game jam started.  It was late on a Friday night so me and my brother J went home and talked about game ideas.  We decided to make a game where you play as an antibiotic and you have to defend the white blood cells from bacteria.  As you play, some bacteria would become resistant and you would have to power up with extra different coloured antibiotics, causing the bacteria to then become even stronger!  The game would be impossible to win and the goal would be to get the highest score possible.  We worked as a team to make a plan on paper and we decided that J would be in charge of doing the coding using Unity and I would be in charge of all the art.  J didn’t know much about using Unity yet but he thought this would be a good chance to learn more.  I decided to go with a cute pixel art look and that I would use Manga Studio 5 to make my files.

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My initial designs for the bacteria character

On Saturday morning J went to his Code Club (Twitter) and I went to my Art Club so we couldn’t get started on our game until the afternoon.  The list of things I needed to design was the bacteria, the power-up, the white blood cells, the antibiotic, the background and the border.  I began working on the main character designs, sketching on paper.  My antibiotic character was a blue pill with a smiley face that would have a little rocking animation.  My first attempt at a bacteria character looked too much like a little sun (very jolly!) so I redesigned to make it a bit more evil, and came up with a ball with angular spikes and a mean face, which would wiggle as it moved.  My white blood cell characters were dopey-looking spheres,and in our game they wouldn’t defend themselves but would just hang around until they were killed by bacteria.

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My initial designs for the antibiotic character.

J asked if I could provide my designs as a sprite sheet. I learnt how to make one from a tutorial and then drew the different sprites for their animations using my Wacom Bamboo tablet and Manga Studio.  After I sent a sprite sheet of the antibiotic over we needed a background. We used a basic plain one at first but it was difficult to tell if the character was moving around, so I made another background with rectangles of different sizes and similar colours, and for the border I used the same pattern but with darker colours.  It was a simple design (supposed to represent the inside of a body) but I really like how it turned out.  I created the sprite sheets for the other characters and sent them over to J’s computer for him to add in to the game, and I designed some ‘cover art’ to put on our itch.io page (and at the top of this post).

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Me and J are on the left eating pizza, Jack and Oli are in the middle.  This photo was taken and posted on Twitter by Eleanor Browne twitter.com/incubationeb

We had to haul our computers to the Babbage building on campus on Saturday night because J was struggling with making the animation work, and Jack helped us out with that and him and Oli gave us some tips.  We arrived just in time to share the free pizza which we ate while listening to video game music and chatting.  My mum had to start helping J with his side of the gamemaking and they spent a lot of time searching online for tutorials and help, but I think he learned a lot about Unity during this project.  We had to give up the idea of power ups and new levels because we ran out of time, and there are a few bugs with the scores, but overall I think our game is fun and cute.

Our finished game is Infection! and you can play it in a browser on your computer.  You can see the Twitter feed for the jam (and discover more of the games) at #GamesForBetter.  I really like Lumberjack and Chickens by Lisoo and I like the look of Dr. Swiperson by @CantGetOurName.

Jupiter Hadley played all the Games for Better games (including ours) for her YouTube channel Jupi Plays (support Jupiter on Patreon) and the judges sent us some feedback to help us improve our gamemaking in the future.  J has signed up to a Unity course to learn more for our next project.  I have signed up to a course on Pixel Art so that I can improve my skills and make more detailed sprites.  Our courses are both on Udemy and if you look around online you can find big discounts on them.  I am also researching game cover art because I would like to improve my cover art illustrations.

I really enjoyed this game jam and I’m looking forward to the next one, and though 48 hour game jams are really hard work they are well worth it because you have to push yourself and so you can learn and improve your skills a lot in a short amount of time.  Follow the link for my post about our first game jam.

 

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Plymouth Art Weekender Day 3

The 25th of September was Day 3 of the Plymouth Art Weekender.  Here are links to my earlier posts about the event: Day 1 and Day 2 (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3).

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My little sister on the merry-go-round at Union Street Party 2016

Day 3 was a Sunday so we relaxed in the morning then headed to the Union Street Party, where last year I took part in my first public participation art project “Painter Pitcher” (organised by Amy Whittingham), with my brother and my dad.  That was a lot of fun and I was looking forward to seeing what was happening at the party this year.  The flyer for the Weekender said there would be a print workshop from Double Elephant and I really wanted to give that a try as I have seen their workshop leaflets at PCA in the past and they look really interesting.

We arrived as a band was setting up on the main stage and a woman from the We Are Plymouth booth asked if we wanted to take part in their photo project to celebrate Plymouth’s people and communities.  Me and my brother were given a small whiteboard to write “We are Plymouth” on (I added a doodle of my own!) and a badge each to wear for our photo.  Unfortunately we didn’t take a photo of our own because we thought they would be posted online but their Instagram account is empty!

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Instructions and ticket for Marcella Finazzi’s installation at Sloggett and Son, and my We Are Plymouth badge

We carried on walking around and had fun messing about on a bouncy castle and a rodeo bull.  Next to the bouncy castle were two men playing music with a guitar and drums and they were encouraging members of the public to join in. We watched a woman singing an Elvis song and a few young boys taking turns on the mic and drums, and there was a really great atmosphere around this part of the Party.  Right next door was Sloggett and Son, a shop that sells vintage furniture and they were hosting an installation of instant photos and sound recordings called “What we talk about when we talk about love” by Marcella Finazzi.  We got into line to participate and Marcella gave us a ticket and instructions on what to do.  We wrote about what love means to us on slips of paper and she took our photo for her album.  Being around all the vintage furniture while listening to to the conversations through the headphones made me feel like I was inside someone’s house and part of their family.  When we left we were given another slip of paper each with a ‘love thought’ printed on it.   Mine read “You look good today” and my brother’s read “I believe in you”.

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Instant photo of my family by Marcella Finazzi

We heard music and saw people dancing and went to watch for a few minutes then went into the Camper Obscura.  This is a camper van that has been converted into a Camera Obscura that you can sit inside!  We all went in and the man running the van closed the door to shut out the light.  We sat opposite each other on benches and he gave us a big whiteboard to hold flat on our laps.  He opened a hole in the roof with mirrors inside and the reflections of outside the van came in and were shown on the whiteboard.  We had to raise and lower it to get the picture in focus.  I loved this, it was a great experiment and I want to build my own camera obscura at home to better understand how they work.  After we came out the man took a polaroid of us to put on the door alongside pictures of all the other people who had visited that day.  I have my own Instant 1000 Polaroid Land Camera which I used last year for my Max Caulfield cosplay, I don’t know if it works but I am going to save up and get some film (there is a shop on the Barbican called So Perfect Images that sells it) to try out because I really like the way they work and the photos they make, and I’ve been really inspired by the different artists using instant film throughout the Weekender.

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Polaroid in development of my family by the man with the Camper Obscura

 

We looked up and down Union Street again and ate some delicious apples which we hand-turned into long spirals with a little machine, but we couldn’t find the Double Elephant workshop.  We were a little disappointed about that but otherwise we did have a really good time at this years Union Street Party, and I really liked all the different ways there were to get involved in the artworks happening there, however it was time to move on to our next destination.

We drove over to Devonport Guildhall for the Chrysalis exhibition of work by the artists from Flameworks.  All of the artists are making different things, from illustrations to metalwork and jewellery.  One of my favourite displays was “Teapotty” by Peter Heywood which was a selection of teapots made from different materials, including tea leaves, cubes of beech wood, lead, cocktail sticks, and chocolate.  The teapot made of cubes of wood made me think of 3D pixel art brought to life and there was something quite humorous about the collection.  I also liked “Resurrection” by Ati Charlesworth, a mixed media drawing of an old tree trunk with fresh branches and leaves growing from it.  The trunk was drawn with ink dots but Ati used watercolour and gold paint on the leaves and the new wood to bring it to life.  Another drawing I liked was “Shadow of a Previous Life” by Louise Rabey.  This was quite a sad picture based on a memory Louise had of a beloved pet who passed away when she was young.  There were lots more pieces of art on display here, my brother and sister’s favourite was “Salix II” by Piers Edsall which is a big steel musical sculpture with rods that the two of them made a lot of noise with!

Before we left the Guildhall we went downstairs to the cafe and I had a piece of treacle tart that had a layer of jam in it, and looked around Lynsey Johnstone’s exhibition “Floral Abundance”.  Lynsey works with acrylic paints, metallic paints, and glitter to make vibrant and colourful paintings which are full of life.

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Close up on “Summertime Magic” by Lynsey Johnstone

Our next stop was Devonport Live at 56 George Street but unfortunately it was closed, so we carried on to the Royal William Yard and the “Being Human” exhibition.  As soon as we entered we saw the “Participate” installation by Alain Pezard.  This was a collection of porcelain figurines which were quite unsettling, and some of them had been broken and stuck back together in creepy ways.  This has given me some ideas for things I would like to (un)make and it reminded me of Sid’s experiments from Toy Story!  I wish we had known about this piece beforehand because Alain had invited members of the public to bring in their own figurine and I would have liked to do that.

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“Participate” by Alain Pezard

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Creepy figurine holding her own head in Alain Pezard’s “Participate”

I found a lot of this exhibition quite alien to me because I haven’t experienced much fine art before.  Every piece of artwork was different to the other works on display, and there was photography, video, installations, collections, oil paintings, even performance works. I enjoyed another of Alain Pezard’s installations called “Water of the World”, which is a range of bottles of water collected and sent to him over 32 years by participants from all over the world.

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“Water of the World” by Alain Pezard

Another one of my favourites was “Devon Words” by Caitlin Hennessy.  Caitlin is interested in old words that are disappearing from our language as it evolves.  Caitlin talked to us about her research and the meanings of the words she had chosen were sometimes quite funny but sometimes there wasn’t a better word for what was being described, for example we found out that a ‘griggle’ is a small apple left on it’s tree!  I liked this piece so much I bought a small book of words hand-printed (and signed for me!) by Caitlin.

 

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“Devon Words” collected by Caitlin Hennessy

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A page from one of Caitlin Hennessy’s printed books of old words

Before we left RWY we popped into Martin Bush’s gallery of oil paintings.  Martin creates huge bright and warmly coloured abstract art inspired by jazz music and landscapes, and influenced by Matisse and Jackson Pollock.  Martin’s paintings are really beautiful and full of energy and we all really enjoyed our visit to his gallery.

And that was the end of my Art Weekender! I got to see such a wide variety of art but there were still exhibitions I couldn’t fit in, in particular I was sad that I didn’t make it to the Plymouth Arts Centre or the Karst Gallery.  I’m really looking forward to seeing more exhibitions by local artists at the next Plymouth Art Weekender in 2017 and especially finding out what opportunities there are for members of the public and young artists like me to experience being part of the creation of different artworks for the festival.

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