Next week will be my fourth Zine Workshop! Here are the details:
Saturday 29th July, 1 to 5 pm, £2 entry
@ THINQTANQ, Central Plymouth
Book online at: tcnv.re/zineworkshop
You can read about previous zine workshops here..
In April, I set up my first Zine Workshop in collaboration with MESH at ThinqTanq, Plymouth. I didn’t charge a fee to take part because my intention was to introduce zinemaking to people who hadn’t tried it before as well as attract current zinemakers, and I thought it would be more likely people would want to come and have a go if it was free! I created a “zero” issue of my zine Gurt Noodle (issue one is in its early stages) to give out as a simple guide to zinemaking for people who had never done zinemaking before. In this issue I included a brief history of zines, some ideas for new zinemakers (zinesters) and instructions on how to make a minizine. You can look through my portfolio for this issue in the video below:
I chose to do my zine in a comic style because I am an illustrator who loves reading comics and drawing characters! One of the characters is a comic version of myself and the other is one I invented. I knew I would be printing in black and white (because of the costs involved) so I used different crosshatching styles to provide texture, shade and ‘colour’. On the back cover I included a folding guide to make a minizine. I packaged an A6 copy of Gurt Noodle Issue Zero with a minizine I had made earlier (each pack got either Robot Ads and Odd Creatures or The Tale Of The Girl Who Ordered Zelda: BOTW But Could Not Play It Because The Console Broke) and a handmade Gurt Noodle badge in a clear plastic envelope.
Around 14 people took part in the first workshop, including some professional local illustrators and a number of young artists. A few participants had made zines before but others weren’t completely sure what a zine was. Everyone seemed to like my Gurt Noodle package (I have now given away around 200 of these all over Plymouth!). At the workshop I demonstrated how to fold a minizine and helped some of the participants to come up with ideas. I also made a few minizines myself.
As we worked, we shared and passed around the zines we had made or were still working on. Everyone made at least one design for a badge, and I used my badge-making machine (a birthday present!) to make those into badges that they could wear home. At the end of the workshop the feedback was really good and everyone wanted to come back again. Most of the participants had made minizines on topics as diverse as The Short Lived Life of Hairyworm John or How To Function As A Human Being. We left with bundles of minizines and ideas for our next projects and I felt the entire workshop had been a huge success!
In May, I organised a second workshop, again supported by MESH. This time, I had to charge a small entry fee towards the (discounted by ThinqTanq) venue hire, MESH provided snacks and drinks, and I brought all my zinemaking resources from home to share (vintage typewriters, white paper, black pens, scissors, stapler etc). I made a new flyer (above) and this time I drew a typewriter as I was hoping to entice some writers into coming along, to hopefully provoke some collaborative work between them and the illustrators who were already planning to come.
Again there were around fourteen participants but not exactly the same people – a couple of different professional illustrators came to take part and a couple of new young people came to give zinemaking a try, but for the most part the participants from the first workshop came back again. Although I was intending to introduce some teamwork exercises, unfortunately I didn’t have a very good plan to encourage work crossovers and collaborations, and no new writers came along. It didn’t seem to matter though as everyone seemed quite happy with the work they were doing and with the workspace. I have also collected quite a decent collection of zines (mostly perzines or comic style zines, and many are by local zinesters) for my Zine Library (available to browse at the workshops) and the participants seemed to really enjoy looking through those.
This time the (many!) minizines made by participants included Perfect Pairs, The 90’s: Yay or Nay, Spider and The Many Artstyles Of Me. I made some more minizines of my own including Link Responds To Things and Periods Suck. My brother also finished his first solo zine Sweet Tooth that he started before the first workshop and I added a copy to the Zine Library.
The next Zine Workshop is on the 24th June (TOMORROW!). I plan to take along some short creative exercises for anyone who would like to try those. I would like to collaborate with some of the other participants on a project, so I am taking some ideas for how we could do that. I hope that previous participants come back and that new people join us!
There is a fee of £2 towards the venue hire, but there will be tea, coffee, biscuits, and zinemaking resources (such as paper, spare pens and pencils, scissors, and glue) all there to use for free. I will also be taking my badge machine (making a badge will cost 50p to cover the cost of the materials) and more copies of my Gurt Noodle Issue Zero for anyone who doesn’t have one yet! If you or anyone you know may be interested, you can find more details and book on the MESH Eventbrite link or you can contact me via email or Instagram.
Thank you to:
and to Everyone who has participated in the workshops so far!
**I am sorry about my bad quality photos but it is hard to take pictures in the Animation room as there is not much light so that visitors can watch the films! And I only have my phone camera so..**
When I visited the Animation room I was lucky to speak with graduating students Tim Howe and Bram Whitford. They explained to me that the first year of the degree course was quite experimental, in the second year they started to specialise and took part in a big project with the other Animation students, and in the third year they specialised further and worked on their final projects. Tim said that students can “start from zero on this course and develop their skills” and Bram explained that students are “encouraged to experiment on this course and explore their strengths”.
They both said that students are able to practice at different roles to see what suits them, for example directing or creating assets, and they are encouraged to collaborate with students from other departments in the college (some collaborated with Plymouth University students too). Bram said that the course covered a lot of different styles of animation as well as business and practical skills. Now that they have finished their degrees, Bram plans to focus on running his own illustration company, and Tim is hoping to do more CGI animation work.
Jessica Mehler is a 2D and Stop-motion animator. For her animation Catawampus she has created beautiful models, she has even hand sewn the clothes worn by her characters. Jessica’s attention to detail is incredible and she has put a lot of her models on display at the exhibition. There is a whole miniature house to look inside, with tiny food and crockery and furniture, and faces featuring different expressions for her main character. Jessica collaborated with filmmaker Julia Claxton on the design and building of the set for Catawampus. The story is about a young girl who gets lost in the woods and finds a mysterious cabin. The animation is of extremely high quality and was one of my favourite pieces in the Animation degree show. Watch a trailer for Catawampus here.
Larisa Cleaver has put a twist on the stories of Red Riding Hood and Goldilocks in her animation Goldi And Red. The style is really cute, using paper cutouts and split pin joints. The movement of the characters and scenery are really exaggerated like puppets and this makes the animation seem playful. The story is fun and I think that younger girls especially would enjoy it. Watch a trailer for Goldi And Red here.
Libby (LJ) Durose is an illustrator and animator and her work on display includes badges and her animation Ava. In Ava a young girl is chased by bullies and thrown into a well, then is befriended by a mysterious girl, who might be a ghost? Ava was another of my favourite pieces in the Animation degree show and I would like to see a longer project or even series of shorts based on these characters. The style is sketchy pen in black and white, it looks influenced by anime and the shadow work is really good. Watch a trailer for Ava here.
Libby’s badge designs are closeups of pen sketched faces and I plan to get one on my next visit to the exhibition. She also does ink portrait commissions and her artwork is in a detailed comic style, contact her by email.
Tim Howe originally specialised in stop-motion but is now working in CGI. His animation Jerome is a stop-motion animation about a man and his dog. Sort of. It has a really unexpected ending which young children might find a bit disturbing, so beware! The story is strange but darkly humourous. Tim’s models are made from oven hardened clay and wire and have a lot of personality. He has also used action figures in parts of the film. Watch Jerome here.
Sophie Oliver is a 2D Animator and her animation Migaloo has painted backgrounds and uses flowing fabric to create a wavy effect. The story is based at sea, a young diver is carried away by the current and helped by a giant whale. The style reminded me of Eric Carle’s story books and the animation was gently flowing. I really enjoyed how the music began smooth and calm and picked up pace and became more frantic when she was swept away. Watch Migaloo here.
Bram Whitford is an illustrator and animator. His animation is about a young person who finds an old top hat in an attic which attaches itself to their head. It seems like an origin story for a crime-fighting hero or villain. It was a funny short animation and I like the simple but cute artwork. Unfortunately I couldn’t find a link to it to share here!
There is more to see in the Animation room and even just seeing the models used in Catawampus and Jerome are really worth the visit. Allow at least half an hour to watch all the animation pieces which are being shown on a loop projected on a large screen. The PCA Summer Show is on until the 22nd June and the Animation room is on the first floor, next door to Game Arts. The Tavistock Place campus is also having an Open Day this Saturday 17th June so if you are interested in their Foundation, Undergraduate or Postgraduate courses you should go.
Last weekend, Plymouth College of Art opened their main campus to the public for a huge exhibition of work by their students. The college holds a Summer Show every year to show work from the students who are graduating that year. I try to go and see as much of the Show as I can because it is great to meet the artists and talk to them about their work, to learn about what the courses are like, and to see so many different styles and forms of artwork. I will be trying to cover as much of this year’s Show #BreakingThrough17 as possible this year but as there is so much I will be doing it across different blogposts. This one is about the Game Arts room on the first floor.
The projects on display range from interactive VR prototype games to character design work and projects with more focus on story development. I wore a VR headset and experienced being in a virtual spaceship as it flew around a space station and dodged meteorites as the creator, Jake Kay, piloted it using the keyboard. Jake’s simulation of being in space felt realistic and I could look at stars and a planet and asteroids all around me. I felt a bit unbalanced when I took off the headset but I would like to try out more VR projects because they really can give the sense of being in a different world.
Jake said his project took around four months to model and code and was inspired by other games he enjoys like Elite Dangerous and Star Citizen. He said he had “lots of fun” on the course and he hopes to find work as an environmental artist in the future.
There are other environmental modelling projects on display in the room. One is an interactive VR experience called House Vr by Lucy Kisielewska, where the player is able to move around with teleportation (in a similar way to Google Streetview) and pick up and throw objects like cushions and cans using handheld controllers which show up in the VR simulation as a pair of hands.
I also watched video of a 3-dimensional courtyard built by Amy Watson complete with houses, wagons and a well.
One of my favourite projects in the Game Arts room is Sarah Damo’s Wonder Seekers. She has some beautiful concept artwork on display as well as a 3D printed model of a robot, an art book, and a video of short animated scenes. Sarah told me that Wonder Seekers is about “the story of a girl and a parrot in a post-apocalyptic world full of marvels” and that she wanted to do something “a bit different” by creating a post-apocalyptic world that “isn’t dark”.
Sarah explained that her work is inspired by many things, including Romanticism, Impressionism and 90’s cartoons. She works using Photoshop and creates short animations with After Effects. She showed me how she had deliberately placed a three-dimensional robot character on a two-dimensional background drawing in order to make the character stand out.
Not all the concepts on display are for video games. Jack Challoner has created bright and colourful artwork for his card game design project The Art Of Restrict. I read through his detailed explanation of his decision making and artistic process designing monsters. He thought about real creatures in our world and incorporated some of their anatomical features into his invented creatures to make them more believable. He has thought deeply about colour, shape, environment, movement, and behaviour.
Another project I was really impressed by was Hero Brawl by Andrew Cole who has designed characters for a “team brawler” video game. Andrew has carefully explained every stage of his character design process in an artbook, including how he attempted to emulate the style of Norman Rockwell’s character paintings and how he has combined elements of Steampunk, Samurai, Medieval and Nazi armour and clothing to create his character designs.
The artbook for Hero Brawl really showed how much work goes into character design – Andrew identified an aesthetic style that fits the concept, did lots of drawing and painting exercises using stock images to get a feel for that style, studied history for ideas and inspiration, and painted characters and costumes from all directions. I would like to see more books like this one published regardless of whether the games are made or not as they are a really interesting insight into how the artist works and into character design. I hope that PCA is able to keep copies of these Artbooks for their library because I would like to have a much longer look at them.
There is lots more in the room to see but unfortunately I can’t cover everything and some of the work is interactive so it is best experienced for yourself! You can visit the PCA Summer Show until the 22nd June and the Game Arts room is on the first floor. The Tavistock Place campus is also having an Open Day this Saturday 17th June so if you are interested in their Foundation, Undergraduate or Postgraduate courses you should go!
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.
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.
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”:
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.
Last weekend I took part in the Global Game Jam 2017 with my brother J with support from my mum and Plymouth Game Devs. This is the third game jam that we have done as a team, KitiJenGames. The theme was “Waves”, it was a 48 hour jam, and our jam site was ThinqTanq.
The event started with a video about the Global Game Jam. The video explained that the GGJ is a massive international event involving over 600 jam sites and more than 40,000 people across 90 countries! We saw clips of people working in teams all over the world. Most of the people in the video looked like they were in their twenties and I didn’t see anyone else around our age but I hope that there are others out there somewhere! There was a welcome talk by the Extra Credits team. Extra Credits is a YouTube channel that gives advice and has discussions about game development, and me and J really enjoy their videos.
The narrator explained some of the different reasons people take part in GGJ, like making prototypes for future development, to share their passion for making games, and because they love developing new games. They then gave advice on taking part in a game jam:
At the end of the video there were lots of short clips to introduce the waves theme. We weren’t allowed to talk about the theme on social media until the next day because everyone has to wait until the last timezone (Hawaii) is told the theme! It was just after 5pm on Friday when we found out the theme.
Me, J and our mum had a short brainstorming session together, and we talked about different kinds of waves e.g. sea waves, waves of monsters, sound waves, seismic waves… We talked about what ideas we had related to them and about different game genres, and decided to make a game where you had to save as many people as possible from an earthquake using a giant claw to take them to a safe zone before the timer runs out. We planned it out on paper and made a short video with our little sister. We would only have until Saturday evening to make the game because we had plans for Sunday (visiting the Eden Project with friends), also we couldn’t work on Saturday morning because me and J both have regular Clubs then. We knew that we had very little time so we worked for a couple of hours from home that night, I worked on the art for the main character and J started to code for the shaking background and the people to rescue.
In the morning we couldn’t do any work because J had his Code Club and I had my NatSatClub. I had a workshop on using Photoshop to make animations. I got back to ThinqTanq just after 1pm to start work on our game again, but my mum had lost the stylus for my drawing tablet! Luckily Viki (ALittleRedPanda) had one spare and lent it to me. J was responsible for the coding and music, I was in charge of making the art assets, and our mum supervised us to make sure we were on track.
The art assets I had to make included the character in peril, the claw to pick them up with, and the safe zone to drop them in. I made all of them in Manga Studio 5 in a pixel art style. The character has their hands in the air, and has a little animation which makes them look left then right, to give the impression they are running around screaming. The animation only uses two frames. I designed the first sprite, then for the second frame I flipped my design and edited the t-shirt on the flipped version so that it was correctly aligned. I only had time to design one character, which my family all say looks like me!
Next I worked on the claw, which has an “open” design while empty (and looks a bit like a propeller), and a “closed” design when holding a character. I did the “open” design first, inspired by the claw machines in arcades. This was another two frame/costume animation, for the second frame I erased the outer joints of the claw. I am happy with my design which does look like a mechanical claw from a birds-eye view.
I designed the “safe zone” as a white square with rounded edges and a big red cross on it like a cartoon ambulance. I also hand-lettered “SAFE ZONE” on the digital image using my stylus and big, black and blocky letters, to make it easy for the player to identify.
By then J had got most of the game code sorted out, so I sent him my finished sprites so he could add them into the game (he was using plain rectangles which my sprites had to replace). I still had to make the background and the start screen, but my hand had started hurting after making the first few sprites so I took a short break and tested the game. J had managed to also make the game music in BeepBox which he said he wanted to sound like an earthquake. We were laughing over the music and the little screaming characters running about because it was quite comical and ridiculous.
I got back to work and started making the background. We had decided to use a road and pavement setting and I dotted rocks and rubble all over it to give the impression of an earthquake. These small elements are also necessary so that when the background shakes or a character moves around it you can imagine the movement and it seems like a real space rather than a flat background. I learned about doing this when we made our last game, Infection! I designed one pile of rocks and rubble and I cloned it to dot around because I was short of time to make lots of different piles of rubble.
The last thing I had to design was the Start Screen. A Start Screen is important to explain what the point of the game is and what the player has to do. I chose a colour scheme that made me think of dirt/earth to go with the game theme. I chose not to use a ready made font but instead I hand-lettered the game title and instructions using my stylus. I didn’t want to use a font that someone else had made as I wanted our game to have its own original look to it. I tried to give the letters a messy but simple look. I wanted to also make a Game Over screen but my hand was hurting too much to do any more drawing and we were running out of time. Finally, my dad, my mum, me and Jenson all recorded voice clips for the game for when the player saves the little people. We used an Android phone to make these wav files (and the Hertz app) and we tried to make funny silly voices to fit with the feel of our game.
It was really fun making ‘Quake Rescue and being part of the Global Game Jam. It felt like I was part of something giant with all the other jammers around the world. The other teams at our site and Jack (SoGoodStudios) the organiser were all friendly and supportive. I think our final game works well and I would describe it as a fun minigame. I think we have definitely improved our skills since our first game jam and our teamwork is better too but it did get hard later on Saturday when we were tired and J wanted to finish up before I did. I am looking forward to doing more game jams through this year!