This post is going to cover what I did during the first half of autumn term at the National Art and Design Saturday Club at the Plymouth College of Art. My tutor is Kate Marshall. Kate is an artist who works in all sorts of media and enjoys experimenting with unusual materials from the sites she is researching. Our student ambassador is Ben Lintell. Ben is a student at PCA studying Contemporary Crafts and he creates paper and glass sculptures.
During the first half term we were working with self-portraits and figure drawing. We started with drawing our self-portraits with paper and pencil. I used a mirror and something I found difficult was that any small movements I made would throw me off. I worked entirely in HB pencil because that was all I had with me that day. I think I captured my expression pretty well but I think I could have made it more realistic if I used different pencils.
Next we were given a square of wood each to draw another self-portrait on. I’ve never drawn on wood before and it was hard to erase the pencil marks so I had to use less working lines than usual. I worked from a photo of myself on my phone this time and it was slightly easier than from a mirror, because there was no movement and I could zoom in to investigate details.
I then started painting my self-portrait on the piece of wood with acrylic paints. Kate advised us not to use one colour for our skin as that would make it look fake, but to look closely for blues, greens and other hues. I studied my photo and found lines, shadows and different shades of pinks, browns, greens and blues. I mixed up the different colours on a palette and used two different brush sizes, a medium-sized flat one for covering bigger areas and a slightly smaller round brush for details. I wasn’t able to find a very small brush for fine detail. I don’t normally work with acrylic paints but I enjoyed testing them out. Acrylics are opaque and not transparent like the watercolours I normally use. I watered my paints down a little to make them easier to use and I noticed that when I used colours on top of a layer of white they were more vivid.
Our self-portraits were put on display in Central Saint Martins in London alongside other National Saturday Club groups from around the country. Here is a photo of all the portraits from the Plymouth College of Art group:
We also spent a session speed-drawing each other in different poses and holding or wearing different costume items to practice figure drawing. I did some using my 4B graphite stick and some using charcoal. The charcoal is darker and has a more textured line whereas the graphite gave a smoother line. I found that both allowed me to be more expressive and use bigger gestures than when I use a pencil.
I really enjoyed drawing the different poses and body shapes and found that our quick drawings sometimes didn’t even look human. I want to do a lot more figure drawing as it will help me improve my character design and comic art. I’d also like to do some life drawing lessons but I haven’t found any classes locally that will accept students of my age yet. I’ve signed up to an Udemy course on Anatomy for Figure Drawing (I got this discounted and there are sales quite often on Udemy) and I have been drawing poses from magazines.
Below are some of the sketches I’ve done recently from photos in my NEO magazines. I have been doing very quick sketches of body frameworks using simple lines joined by small circles for joints, and bigger shapes for heads and body sections. I saw this technique used to show figures in action in How To Draw Comics The Marvel Way by Stan Lee and John Buscema. It is a good way to investigate poses and movement. In some places I have used coloured pencil to add more details later.
In this last picture I made up my own poses from my imagination and memory. I feel that my skills have already begun to improve because of this exercise and the work we’ve been doing at the Saturday Club.
(The screenshots in this post were all taken by me on November 9th 2016)
On Thursday 27th of October I attended a talk about Plymouth Cubed at Central Library. The speaker was Neil Argue, who created the project. Neil started his talk explaining the origins of Plymouth Cubed. He had downloaded the Ordnance Survey Minecraft map of Plymouth and he thought that it was too blocky, the scale was wrong and the colours were unrealistic. He said “I think we can do much better”. Neil undertook a four-month process of building the territory using LIDAR (information collected by planes flying overhead), MicroDEM (which turns the data into a Minecraft map), and WorldPainter (which builds the map in Minecraft). The LIDAR data gave information about the height of every part of Plymouth in a one-meter grid, and each meter translates to one block in Minecraft.
However, the LIDAR data does have a few drawbacks. The data is rounded up or down so the landscape can seem quite flat, spaces under bridges are filled because the overhead laser could not pick them up, and objects such as cars and people are scanned and used as land data too, but it did give Neil the basic terrain of Plymouth mapped out to scale in grass and dirt blocks. One of the fans of the project pointed out that Neil had “created a big colouring book shaped like Plymouth”.
It took Neil around a month on his own to build Plymouth Hoe, and by that point he realised that he wouldn’t be able to build all of Plymouth by himself! He showed us a video of how Plymouth Cubed looked at that stage. The audience were in awe and gave plenty of “ooo’s” and “aaa’s”. You can watch Neil’s videos on the Plymouth Cubed YouTube channel.
Neil told us that there are around 30 builders now and he launched the game to show us what the up to date version looks like. As it was loading Neil chuckled and said “Plymouth Cubed is always sunny – It never rains, unless i want it to!”. We were given a look around Derriford Hospital and the Life Centre, which has a working water slide! Neil also showed us that some of the bus stops actually work, and will teleport you to different parts of Plymouth. Some of the builders are also trying to get the Torpoint Ferry working and Neil is hoping to use NPCs at specific destinations to give travellers information about Plymouth.
To join Plymouth Cubed a Minecraft player needs to contact Neil via Facebook (if they are under 16 a parent should contact him). The server will allow twenty players on at a time and it is free to use, and there are some simple rules.
Use the landscape as your guide, don’t straighten stuff out.
You can add new builds, but don’t take anything away.
Don’t touch other people’s builds.
Under sixteens need parent’s permission.
Keep it realistic by using the closest colour blocks to reality
Neil also encourages that people shouldn’t just build their house, but build their whole street or area. He said the builders use a 100-foot rule, “if it looks okay from 100 feet away, then it’s good.” (you can get a distorted view by just looking up close).
The talk went very well and the audience were really excited by it. I’ve been a fan of Plymouth Cubed from when I first heard about it earlier this year (I wrote about it here) and it’s great to see how much has been added since then, and i’m going to make some time to help build Plymouth in Minecraft. Neil has raised some funding to keep the server running with a Crowdfunder and printed some awesome t-shirts which have a lovely photo of Plymouth Cubed on the front and my own watercolour art of Plymouth Cubed (sketch, painting, screenshot inside Plymouth Cubed by Neil) on the back which makes me feel so proud! Here I am with Neil and my brother wearing them:
My “Zombies in Plymouth Cubed” design was chosen to be printed on the back of the 2016 Plymouth Cubed T-shirts by project creator Neil Argue (Nov 2016).
After the talk I went downstairs to Central Library‘s Hello World club where Laura from the library had brought in some Halloween projects. Hello World is a weekly kid’s tech and coding club which my brother J goes to and the room is usually busy with cool projects on Raspberry Pi, BBC MicroBits and Scratch. I used a BBC MicroBit to code flashing green LED eyes inside a pumpkin (see it in action on the left in this video). It’s pretty easy to programme the MicroBit and it’s really fun. Hello World is on Thursday afternoons and you can click the link for more information.
Last week me and my brother attended the On Shaky Ground event at the At-Bristol Science Centre (Twitter). It was an event for home-educated young people led by a woman called Kathy about earthquakes, how they are caused and how engineers and architects design earthquake-resistant buildings.
We began the day with Kathy explaining to us how earthquakes can happen, the consequences of earthquakes and how engineering can help. First she explained how the Earth is made from a central core surrounded by a layer of liquid magma, and above that floats the top layer called the crust, which is made up of several tectonic plates. When the plates move against each other or the pressure is released from below it creates a seismic wave, which we also call an earthquake. Kathy explained that earthquakes can be measured using a seismograph and that there are three different kinds of seismic waves: P-waves, S-waves and surface waves.
Next Kathy talked about the consequences of earthquakes. One of the most interesting facts she told us was that around a million earthquakes happen every year but most are not felt by humans. However, some earthquakes are strong enough to cause landslides, liquification, tsunamis and land ruptures. Kathy explained that everything has a resonating frequency and if an earthquake has the same frequency as a building the building can be damaged or even fall completely. She told us that ‘brown sound’ is a frequency that resonates with a human’s bowels and can make them poo themselves!
Kathy said we can’t predict or prevent earthquakes but we can design earthquake-resistant buildings with clever engineering. We split into teams to plan and build earthquake-resistant water towers. We were given a budget of £100 (fake!) to spend on materials for our towers, such as paper straws and string, and we had one and a half hours to finish our buildings. Our buildings also had to be a certain height and as water towers had to be able to hold some weight, and we had to plan them out before trying to build them. Kathy gave us this advice:
Keep it simple (e.g symmetrical)
Avoid changes in stiffness (changes in material)
Avoid local weak points (changes in load transfer plants)
Keep mass central (if mass is on one side it can cause twisting or falling)
Strong columns and weak beams
Use horizontal load bearing shapes (triangles are strong shapes)
My team was called ‘Igloo’ and was made of me, my brother J, and a friend we made that morning, L. We talked about the tips Kathy gave us. At first we thought about a pyramid shaped building but decided against it because it wouldn’t be able to support the weight at the top. Instead we chose to design a building with a cylindrical external shape with a square core support inside. We chose this because one of the tips on the cards we were given said that if something had less sides it would have stronger earthquake resistance. Next we talked about what materials we would build from. We decided to use large paper straws as scaffolding stuck upright onto the plastic base we were given with hot glue, and smaller straws taped at the top of the long ones to increase the building height, since the large straws on their own weren’t tall enough. We arranged our straws in a circle and wrapped sheets of paper around the outside for the outer wall. To make it all stay together we used a hot glue gun, and reinforced it with tape.
We did have a few problems during the challenge. It was difficult to get the straws to stand up straight because the glue was slow to dry. We didn’t budget for straws for crossbracing so our structure was weak. Some of the straws bent, which created some weak points as well. Lastly, we didn’t manage our time well, so we weren’t finished when our time ran out, but we were given an extra five minutes.
Then we stopped for lunch and had a quick look around some of the science centre. When we came back each table had a slinky to use to demonstrate seismic waves. We learnt that a Seisometer measures the pulse given off by an earthquake and picks up where it came from. Volunteers popped balloons of different sizes to demonstrate the different magnitudes on the Richter Scale. Each number on the Richter Scale indicates an earthquake which has 30 times the energy of the number before it on the scale. A very small balloon didn’t make a noise when it was popped but when a very large balloon was popped it was deafening and I felt it under my feet.
In the next talk Kathy spoke about how ground tremors can have unnatural causes, for example they can be a consequence of fracking, underground railway development, or quarrying. Quarrying is digging into the ground to collect materials (e.g. rocks) and fracking is injecting water at a high pressure into rocks to release gas for people to use as energy. Fracking is extremely controversial because of concerns it could cause tremors and pollution. In the UK, fracking has only started to be used recently and is being monitored. The UK doesn’t get a lot of big earthquakes and the only earthquake-resistant buildings here are nuclear power plants. This is because engineers have to consider the likelihood and the consequences of an earthquake on the buildings they are designing.
Finally we tested our water towers on the earthquake simulator which is a table that shakes and has different settings for magnitude using the G scale (engineers prefer to use the gravity scale to the Richter scale). Our team managed to pass the first two levels but fell on the third (0.3G). Another team managed to get past the conditions of a typical Japanese earthquake. Their tower was built similarly to the Eiffel Tower with a wide base coming to a point and had lots of crossbracing. Instead of resting their weight on the top they had it hanging down the centre.
I really enjoyed the On Shaky Ground event and we learned a lot. Afterwards we had two hours to spare so we had a better look around At-Bristol. I went on a giant hamster wheel that generated power to lift water in buckets. We played games to test our reflexes, measured our heart rates and tested our startle reflex. J had a long talk about the chemical structure of water and about antibiotic resistance with Lisa from the Live science team (team Twitter). Our wristbands had barcodes on them that allowed us to save our results. There was a lot more that we looked at and more we didn’t see because we had so little time left but we are planning to go back again soon. At the end we went through the gift shop and J got a pot of Thinking Putty and I got a couple of Banksy postcards. We also looked at the statues and saw a small amount of a fireworks display in Millennium Square.
Before we came back to Plymouth we paid a visit to Bristol Central Library which was huge and had a large kids and young adult’s section, and while we were there I read some of the manga Nisekoi. We walked through College Green and visited Park Street where I bought some Posca markers, Promarkers and Essdee Softcut (for lino printing) from Cass Art. Cass Art is a huge art shop with two floors and a big selection of pens and other equipment. I have started trying lino printing recently and it is quite good timing because this half term we are doing printing at NA&DSC and at one of my home ed groups.
We also visited some of my cousins for dinner and to catch up. My uncle in Bristol is a graphic designer and we looked at some of each other’s recent work. I showed him all my Inktober drawings and he showed me his custom painted shoes and a mural he has painted on my cousin’s bedroom wall. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to go to Bristol Museum or any galleries because I got sick, but I did get to see a lot of graffiti from the car window and one of our friends has promised to take me to see more next time I’m in Bristol, which hopefully will be soon!