Personal Work

100 Ways To (be) Home Ed

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About Me

I am Kitty and I am a young artist in Plymouth.  I am also home educated and I am writing this post about myself and about what it is like to be a home educated young person for the #100waystohomeed bloghop.  The last post was at Never The Same Two Days Running and the next post will be by @thepndmonster.

I have never been to school but most of my friends do go to school and we have lots in common.  We like a lot of the same things, like going into town, chatting to each other, and watching Netflix together.  We also study some of the same subjects, like English and Art.  We all have to work and study and do housework at home, the main difference in our lives is that in school my friends have to do specific subjects according to a set timetable, whereas I have a choice of what I want to study and my timetable is quite flexible.  So for example while they go to school every Monday to Friday (in term time) from early morning to late afternoon, some days I don’t do a lot of study and instead I play games or go to events and exhibitions or maybe just hang out with other home ed friends.  However, on busy days I might work from the morning until late evening, I often have work to do at weekends, and for me school holidays are usually even busier than term time!

Another thing I have in common with young people who go to school is that we all have goals in our lives, like going to college or university, having a career we enjoy, and growing up to be happy and satisfied adults.  My own goals are to study Graphics, Illustration and Game Arts at Plymouth College of Art, to sell my artwork and meet lots of other artists and illustrators, and to find work in concept and character design in the video games industry.  Just like young people in schools, I have to work hard so that I can achieve my goals, but instead of focussing on GCSE exams in lots of different subjects, as a home educated person I can focus my time on building the skills I enjoy and I know I will definitely need.

I don’t tend to study different subjects every day, but I do have things that I do most days.  On a typical day, for example, I start with working on my art skills.  Starting with drawing helps me warm up to the day and to relax.  Usually I will do a 30 minute character sketch in pencil from my imagination or following a prompt (I like using artprompts.org), or I work on a previous sketch, inking it or colouring it.  After that, I work hard on my English Language study, because I have an assessment coming up at the Art college.  This is quite hard because although I think I have okay English skills (I read and write a lot!) I am not used to working towards an exam or having to answer those sorts of questions.

I spend quite a bit of the rest of my day doing art things, for example I work on projects to learn new techniques like printing, linocutting and costume making.  I do a lot of sketching in my sketchbooks (I have several which I use for different purposes), and I follow online courses and books full of tutorials.  The online courses I am following at the moment include one on drawing backgrounds, one on pixel art, and another on figure drawing and human anatomy.  The art books I work from and study include Keys To Drawing, Making Comics, and Urban Watercolor Sketching.  I think I probably spend a few hours most days either doing art or reading about art, and I follow other artists and illustrators on Twitter and Instagram to see what they are doing and to participate in online projects like #inktober and #dailysketch.  Studying art includes studying history, culture, anatomy, technical skills with different materials and software, psychology, and all sorts of other subjects.

I also try and keep track of current events and read articles especially anything to do with art and games, and especially local things like what the college is doing, or exhibitions and events that are happening.  I like to take part in things that are happening in Plymouth and its important to me to support local artists and to be part of the community.  I write about some of the events and places which I go to on this blog but I go to so much more than I have time to write about!  In the past few weeks I’ve been to a contemporary music concert, a performance by a folk band, an Open Day at the arts college, an exhibition of ‘upcycled’ skateboards, an exhibition about the Titanic, the Eden Project, a vintage toys exhibition, an exhibition about plastic dumped at sea, and more.  Today is Sunday and later I am going to a research performance where the audience will influence the soundtrack.  Going to all these different events expands my view on the world and what is possible as an artist.

Most days I also read fiction, at the moment mostly I am reading comics and manga but I do enjoy novels as well, especially funny ones.  I listen to music (all sorts, from game soundtracks to Britpop to Japanese pop and metal) and I practice playing my guitar.  I chat to my friends and if I can’t see them in person we talk online using Skype and Whatsapp.  At the end of the day I try to always write a bit in my journal and sometimes I read or draw in bed, or watch a film.  My About Me illustration at the top of this post gives more details about the things I enjoy.

As well as all this, every week I go to kickboxing twice (I have earned my Junior Black Belt!), I have either a guitar or a drum lesson, and I go to a local coding/tech club for young people.  I also go every week to a home ed activity group and a home ed social group, I’m a member of the National Art & Design Saturday Club and I go to two Youth Clubs.  I’m quite busy most days!  I don’t see myself just as a student but I also think of myself as a working artist and blogger and I hope to help the organisations and adults I meet to take young artists and writers seriously and see how we are part of the community too.  Although I do work hard at art and writing this part of my life can be really difficult as I am quite shy in person and often I am the only (or one of a small number) of young people at an event.  I can struggle with what to say as I worry about saying something that will be embarrassing    whereas when I am blogging or tweeting I have time to think and edit before I say something.  I take a sketchbook everywhere I go and that helps because if I’m nervous I can draw and that comforts me.

I could write so much more about the things I do as a home educated young person.  For example I also am learning to make games using Scratch, I am learning about electronics and coding using my Shrimp and Raspberry Pi, and I am trying to start a band!  I participate in game jams and create and publish video games with my brother.  I go to comics and science fiction conventions and I like to do cosplay.  I play with my little sister and sometimes we draw together, and I am used to spending time with kids of all different ages in our home ed groups.  My life is so full, but I do make time to relax and see my friends.

I hope that reading this has helped give an insight on what it is like to be home educated.  In some ways of course it is different to going to school but that doesn’t mean that we don’t study or have social lives.  We all have goals and worries just like any other young people, and we all have interests and are passionate about them.  If any other home ed young people are reading, please add me on Twitter or Instagram, and if you are a young artist in Devon or Cornwall add me too and maybe we can meet up sometime!

THANK YOU FOR READING!  Please remember to check out the other blogs on this bloghop and learn more about how different families do home education.

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Personal Work

Anatomy for Figure Drawing & Comics

I’ve been following a long course on drawing anatomy on Udemy called Anatomy for Figure Drawing: Mastering the Human Body by Neil Fontaine and I’ve really enjoyed it so far.  I have learnt how to draw a simple skeletal structure from the front, the basic shape of the human body, and a bit about proportions.

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Skeletal structure practice from Lesson 2

Lesson 1 is a briefing about the course.  Lesson 2 is called “Proportions 1” and covers the proportions of the human skeleton.  I really enjoyed this lesson and it is fun assembling the skeleton on the page.  It has definitely started helping me with drawing more in-proportion characters.

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Sketch from Lesson 3

Lesson 3 is called “Proportions 2” and I am about three quarters of the way through the lesson at the moment.  The lesson looks at how to draw a basic proportionate human body quickly by using what we learned about the skeleton in the previous lesson but imagining skin and muscles over it.  The above sketch shows some of the steps.

 

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Screenshot from Lesson 3

The screenshot above shows the figure from the Lesson at the point where I am at this morning (drawn by Neil).  Below is my own sketch at this stage:

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A female figure I sketched during Lesson 3

I am happy with my sketch and the course so far.  The course includes 65 lectures over 68 hours of video.  I am going to carry on working through them in order but I am really looking forward to the sections on hands and feet because I struggle with these and want to improve.  I have not been able to find figure drawing and life drawing classes to go to in person because they usually have an age limit, so being able to work through online tutorials is really helpful.  I will keep looking for local workshops as well though because it is so much help having a live tutor to talk to and get advice from.

Events and Exhibitions, Personal Work

Titanic Exhibition

On the 23rd of January I went to an exhibition about the Titanic and White Star Line at the Duke of Cornwall hotel, organised by Nigel Voisley.  Nigel said that he was a Titanic enthusiast since he was seven and that most of the items on display were part of his collection, but he had hired a few to put on display, like the old rivet that came from the Titanic itself.

Some of the items on display included a scale model of the Titanic, a life jacket, and tons of everyday objects, like cutlery and crockery.  The model of the ship was interactive and had two buttons hooked up to speakers, when these were pressed they played actual recordings of the Titanic’s horn and the sound of its engines.  I thought it was a particularly fun part of the exhibition and the younger children seemed to enjoy playing with the buttons a lot.

The life jacket was a prototype used as a model for the lifejacket props used in James Cameron’s movie Titanic.  I learned that the life jacket design was one of the leading causes of death on the Titanic.  The lifejacket was cloth with pockets built into it filled with large chunks of cork.  The cork was effective in keeping people afloat, but it was so effective that it wouldn’t sink at all below the water surface.  This means that if someone fell or jumped into the water from over 10 feet, their bodies hit the water but couldn’t go under and so their necks would snap!  This showed me how important it is to look for unintended effects when designing something because they could be serious, even fatal.

I was really interested in the designs on the White Star Line crockery, because they were really pretty.  The designers had used only a couple of colours but the patterns were so intricate and delicate.  I copied some of them down to use as inspiration.

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Sketches of the patterns on the White Star Line crockery.  Unfortunately one of my sketches is smudged..
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One of the crockery display cases – One of my favourites in this one is the butter pat dish.

One of the other exhibits I looked at was a rivet from the Titanic.  I learned that not all of the rivets were made from the same metal, and this made the ship have weak points meaning the Titanic broke more easily, and was one of the causes of the disaster.  This taught me that choice of materials is really important in designing.

Another object I looked at was a commemorative print on tissue paper.  Nigel explained that White Star Line didn’t take responsibility for the sinking of the Titanic and so survivors and families of the victims didn’t get any compensation from them.  At that time there was no welfare system so that left many of those families destitute.  In order to raise money for these families people and organizations would make and sell objects like this commemorative paper.

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Commemorative tissue paper print

The exhibition was brilliant and I learnt loads from my visit and from talking to Nigel, who is very passionate about the Titanic.  Nigel gave some of the children in our group Commemorative Medals for doing some drawing of the Titanic and J was lucky enough to earn one.

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After the exhibition I went down to Millbay Pier to look at the memorial plaque.  The plaque was made with just a few colours but they worked very well together, and there were lots of tiny details and texture to it.  The plaque made me think of some of the linocuts and blockprints I have seen.  There are also plaques there for the Fourth Eddystone Lighthouse and Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

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Unfortunately my photos from the day have shadows across them but I do recommend a visit to see these plaques if you can.

After I got home we found the movie Titanic on Netflix and watched it together.  It’s a really long film and the soundtrack was repetitive and too emotional, but once the disaster kicked off I really started to enjoy the film.  When I was watching it I was reminded of the different facts I had learnt earlier at the exhibition and it definitely made the film more interesting!

Events and Exhibitions, Personal Work

EpicMakeTime with MESH

Tuesday nights at ThinqTanq is EpicMakeTime, a regular coding and tech event hosted by MESH.  MESH stands for “Make, Engineer, Socialise, Hack”.   I have been to EpicMakeTime twice so far.  It is a fun and creative space where people can come together and tinker around with cool stuff.  The people there are friendly and helpful and my brother and me have had support there from Marcus, Rob, Garry, and Matt from the Code Club.

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Our Shrimps

The first week me and my brother brought and built our Shrimps from the Shrimping.It kits.  A Shrimp is a buildable device which can be substituted for an Arduino Uno.  We brought all the components we needed for the first project, “Blink“, and put them together.  I enjoyed putting the components together and learning how it will work and what everything does from the project pages.  We also saw some of the other projects people were working on at MESH, including Steven, the little remote-controlled tank/crawler made by Rob (see him in the video below!) and a remote-controlled drone which flew my little sister’s toys across the room, held onto the bottom with sellotape!

The second week we went we brought our Shrimping.it kits again to program the “Blink” project onto them.  First I had to set up my mum’s laptop with the Arduino IDE, the drivers for the CP2102 UART and the Shrimping.it sketches.  I compiled and uploaded the “Blink” code onto the Shrimp and the LED started blinking!  I took a good look at the code and I edited it to make the blinking light faster and slower, then I experimented and programmed the Shrimp to transmit the S.O.S signal in Morse Code!

I was then given some advice by Marcus on how to make an LED fade.  The LED is set to flash so quickly humans can’t see it flickering, so it just looks like the LED has been dimmed because the light is on half the time.  You can also alter the interval between the light switching on and off to make it brighter or dimmer, for example if the light is on for slightly longer then when it is off, it appears brighter.  I had a go at coding the LED to fade up and down with Marcus’s help.  To just turn the LED on and off I used the code digitalWrite but to make it fade in and out I had to use the code analogWrite and give a value of between 0 and 255.

Next Marcus explained how to program an RGB LED to show and make different colours.  Before I could do it he showed me how to look up some information on the Internet to find the right pins for the three different coloured wires.  I took out the normal LED and plugged the three RGB LED wires in instead.  I made a new program file and identified the three different coloured LEDs.  I used analogWrite to control the colour of the LEDs by putting in different values for each one between 0 and 255.  For example putting 255 for the blue and 0 for green and red would make it glow blue.  If I put 100 for blue and 100 for red and 0 for green I would make it glow purple.  It is easy to make the LED flash in any colour you like for as long as you want.  It was a really cool project to play with and it also helped me think about how colours mix in the RGB system.

Marcus also gave a short talk about his own project and showed us how the Walabot 3D radar sensor works to sense objects around it, even through walls, and to sense someone’s breathing.  J (my brother) didn’t work on his own Shrimp this week but instead worked on his Raspberry Pi playing retro games and learning how to change different settings.  Garry gave me the RGB LED to keep and also a couple of other components to play with including a dimmer switch.  I will definitely go back to EpicMakeTime if I can and will be working through more of the Shrimp and Arduino Uno projects.  It is really fun and interesting making things happen using electronics and code.

USEFUL LINKS:

MESH website and YouTube channels from MESH and ThinqTanq

MESH, #EpicMakeTime and ThinqTanq on Twitter

Register for EpicMakeTime and other MESH events

Buy Shrimping.It kit and do the projects

Arduino lessons on the Adafruit site

 

 

Events and Exhibitions

Talk from Jack Gill at Central Library

On the 19th of January I attended a Careers talk by Jack Gill from So Good Studios in Plymouth Central Library.  So Good Studios is a games development studio based in Plymouth and Jack is the managing director.  Jack set up the company with two of his friends, technical director Sam Hession and creative director Will Hosgood.  The three of them studied Computing and Games Development at Plymouth University together.

Jack was interested in studying programming from an early age but he didn’t get to learn about it much in school.  Luckily his dad was a programmer and would talk to him about it, and bring home games which they would play together.  At sixteen Jack went to college and studied computing alongside english, chemistry, and maths.  He was also interested in and learning about cryptography and making Android apps, and made his first game, which was a text adventure.

Jack then decided to go to university to study computing and games development. He said that on his course he met many people from different backgrounds and with different skills, which is important when working together on projects.  Jack explained how his course worked at university.  Students would choose a module, study for six weeks, then be evaluated on their work.  He met Will and Sam on his course and they became best friends, and realised that their different skills worked well together, so they formed So Good Studios and made their first project, Bath Tubb Pirates.

Three days after their final exam, So Good Studios set up their business in the Formation Zone, which is an “incubator” for start-up buisinesses.  They made their first commercial product, a multiplayer game called Tap Tournament.  Jack said that there are many business and tech networking opportunities in Plymouth, including SOUP crowdfunding events.

Next, Jack talked about the Plymouth Game Devs which he described as a community to foster collaboration and cooperation and involves lots of local developers including So Good Studios, Brainy Beard, Sizeable Games and others.  Plymouth Game Devs organize game jams, and I have been able to take part in three so far; Ludum Dare 36, Games for Better, and the Global Game Jam last weekend.

Finally, Jack gave us “Jack’s Super Cool Advice for Aspiring Game Developers”:

1. Education!

  • Work hard on your studies while you are under 18
  • Studying at university or college is not a necessary route to get into games development but it can be extremely helpful!
  • Learning to find information and teach yourself new things is a vital skill for games developers.  You also need to enjoy learning new things.

2. Community!

  • Joining and building a community with other game developers allows you to show off your games and get support.
  • A community will also help you find people to collaborate with.  This is important because different people bring different skills to a project and splitting work makes it easier and faster to complete a project.
  • Being part of a community can help you to promote your work.

3. Portfolio!

  • Create a portfolio of your projects as you make them so that you can share your games, art, code etc.
  • A portfolio is crucial to your CV to show employers, colleges and clients what you can do!
  • It’s easy to make a portfolio online, for example you could share your work using WordPress, Patreon, YouTube, Tumblr, ArtStation and Scratch.

At the end of the talk Jack answered some questions from the audience.  The room was almost full and I think that the talk was really good!  I’m going to check out ArtStation and I want to get more involved with the Plymouth Game Devs and meet and work with more young games developers.