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..
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.
Yesterday I went with my brother to a Science and Technology Showcase for secondary school students which was held at Plymouth University. When we arrived we were given our Event Passes and after a short wait we were shown to a lecture theatre for careers talks from four different speakers.
First was a talk from Grant Cole (Twitter) to talk about the work of being a Geologist. His work involves studying rocks and fossils, and he has been all over the world, including Iceland, Death Valley, and a salt mine in Sicily. Grant said that he does lots of field work on his own and he has done his research from the air and off-road. Parts of his job sounded really exciting – lots of travelling, glacial walking and making new discoveries.
Next was Kathy Redfern (Twitter), who is a nutritionist. Her work is researching the “impacts of food and nutrition on the health and wellbeing of humans (or animals)” to give advice for the prevention of illness. She specifically works with pregnant women, and she says some of the benefits of her job is that no two days are the same and she gets to travel around the UK and to Portugal.
The third speaker was Jon Waters who is studying Mathematics and is part of the Theoretical Physics Group. His current research is in lasers and he explained that normal torches contain a wide band from the visible light spectrum but lasers only contain a narrow band and can concentrate energy to a fine point. Jon said that his work involves getting used to not knowing the answer. His work involves coming up with mathematical models and performing theoretical tests and he learns new things every day.
The last talk was from a psychologist called Leonie Cooper. She has worked at the National Marine Aquarium and now is working with an intelligent robot called Snap. Her research is in using mental imagery to train people to have healthier behaviours. She says that people seem to find that robots are less judgemental to talk to than other people. Leonie is also interested in how games and apps could be used to reach thousands.
After the talks were finished we went to a big marquee filled with stands from different university departments. It was split into three sections, and we were given thirty minutes in each section. First I went to a stand where I took my thumbprint and compared it to one from an imaginary suspect that I lifted with powder and tape. There was a psychology stand where I did a lie detector test. I had wires attached to the finger on my left hand and my left ear, and I had to pick a card out of five. They were shuffled and I had to lie about which card I had as they were turned over one by one. The wires measured skin response (sweat increases conductivity) and heart rate. The lie detector didn’t pick up my lie I think because I was nervous throughout the whole test! I also had a quick look at other chemistry and biology stands.
In the next section was a stand for the South West Retro Computing Archive, where I did some coding in Basic on a BBC Microcomputer from the 80’s, and J got the hi-score on Pac-man. I have been to one of their events before and they have a huge range of retro consoles to play and learn about. On the BBC computer there is a “return” key instead of an enter key, a “break” key to reset the whole computer, and you have to write your code in numbered lines for the system to read in order.
We then went to the Computing and Games Development stand where me and my brother played Pirate Panic, a game written by some of the students at the stand. Pirate Panic is a multiplayer game where the players have to work together to keep a ship afloat and moving until it reaches land. It’s a really fast paced game which encourages you to panic, just like the pirates! I thought it was exciting and good for teamwork. I also tried a VR game using a headset and I had to shoot lasers at robots. It was a lot of fun to play but my arm was aching after a few minutes because the shoot button was on the headset. We also met and spoke to Nicholas Wade who is in his final year and is working to launch his own games studio called Nikomus Games.
Next I went to the Electrical and Electronic Engineering and Robotics stand. I watched people play with some of the university’s robots and J used a red ball and a sensor to control LED lights that were on the stand. There was a challenge to find the right frequency on one machine by turning a knob and getting a turning circle on a small screen to stay still. We were told that the shape the green light was making was a visual representation of the frequency it was on. J was able to do it but I ran out of time, and we were both given 3D printed tags for taking part.
In the last section there was a Geography stand where I got to try an HTC Vive VR Headset to explore London using Google Earth. It was brilliant and I loved using the handheld controller and that you could still see it in the virtual space! We then went to the i-DAT stand where they had a small black dome which we entered. Inside there was a film projected onto the dome ceiling about being an astronaut. A voiceover explained that there were different levels of G-Force as we watched a CGI representation of a G-Force training machine. We heard how astronauts need to keep exercising while they are in space so they aren’t too weak when they get back to Earth and we saw an astronaut using an exercise bike. We also met Luke Christison who works in the Immersive Vision Theatre (in the Planetarium) which we have tickets to visit in a couple of weeks.
The last stand we visited was about meteorites and the Solar System. I looked at a rock from Mars and compared it to a rock from Earth under a microscope. A woman working on the stand explained to me that the Earth rock had formed in a volcano, and I could observe that both rocks had been made the same way, so at some point there must have been volcanoes on Mars as well! There were some pieces of meteorite on the table and a few of them looked alien. A man from the stand talked to us about the scale of the solar system. He said if we used a scale of 1 metre to 1 Astronomical Unit (AU), and imagined the Sun was right in front of us, the edge of our Solar System would be in Taunton and our nearest star would be in London!
I really enjoyed going around the marquee and the talks in the beginning were interesting. My favourite parts were the Retro Games area and the Games Development area, and I really want to try out more VR gaming and exploration technology and learn more about how it works. I would also like to do more study in electronics and robotics, geology and geography, and psychology, and find out more about Leonie Cooper’s research.
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!
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
For the last part of Saturday I went to Ocean Studios at Royal William Yard. We started upstairs at Emerge which is “a communal workspace for artists and creative businesses.” I looked at Esin Forster’s ocean inspired clay pieces and paintings, and I really liked her character design and marker work. I looked through one of her sketchbooks and found comic style drawings of adventurous characters and they were full of energy. I met Gabriella Van Der Stelt who was working on vivid and warm feeling acrylic paintings of fruit in bowls and buildings. Gabriella was very friendly and I looked her up online afterwards, she also does manga and videogame influenced painting and drawing. I really liked the open space of Emerge studios and can imagine how peaceful it must be to have an area like that to work in.
We went into Lisa Stokes‘ studio and talked to her daughter. Lisa paints large oil paintings which are dark and ominous. Along the corridor, Mary Hick does linocut printing of animals and insects. Her work is intricate and she patiently carves out every blade of grass and hair. Sarah Smalldon (instagram)and Shayne House share a studio where she works on her illustration work and he works on his photography. Sarah showed us her brightly coloured and cheery pictures of houses and buildings, and her hand-decorated plates and furniture. She primes the surface and then draws on them with Uni Posca pens. I am going to try this on some of my own things and for cosplay. Shayne has been working with pin prick photography and talked us through the process. He takes photos and vintage postcards and pricks them with an awl to highlight certain parts, then places the photo on a lightbox and photographs them again. He said he has been inspired by Amy Friend. Pin prick photography gives a really beautiful effect and I recommend you visit his site and see his work, you can also read the backs of the vintage postcards he has collected to work on. I also met Stella in their studio who is a young artist with similar tastes to me, and who I would like to meet again and maybe collaborate with.
There are so many other artists at Ocean Studios and many of them were happy to talk to us. Matt Tomas works on contemporary sculpture, mixing concrete and glass. He showed us the moulds he uses to create glass spikes. Rachel Darbourne makes jewellery from colourful plastic sheets, similar to that used in plastic bags. She folds and bends lots of tiny pieces to make shapes that look like carnations or coral, or Chinese dragon costumes. She also makes art from dismantling teddy bears! Teresa Pemberton is a mixed media artist whose work is inspired by Devon and Cornwall. We looked at her canvases which included oil paints, wire, bits of metal and other found objects. We didn’t meet her unfortunately but the two ladies in her studio were very welcoming, and her artwork has a sense of being welcoming and natural.
The last studio on the top floor we went to belonged to Martyn Cross. Martyn works with unusual materials in experimental ways, and he has ironed plastic bags and shaped them into the shape of a hat and a shoe. He collects old knitting patterns, cuts parts of them away and rearranges them to create strange images. I really liked his simple character drawings that were framed at the side of the studio. Downstairs Annette Daly and Melanie Cassidy share a glasswork studio where they make jewellery and decorations. We quickly looked into a couple of other studios and glimpsed some acrylic paintings we liked by Mike Hanny, but the Studios were closing and so it was time to leave. Looking online afterwards I found out that the paintings I liked are part of a series called ‘The Architects Glittering Plan’, and involve lots of patterned coloured ‘worms’ on a black background. I would love a poster of one of these on my wall.
Outside me and my brother took part in a ‘sketch-a-thon’ and spoke to Nikki Taylor about her wire mesh sculptures. Nikki uses sketches, photos and exact measurements to create life-size sculptures of human bodies in motion. There was so much more I didn’t have time to see in the few hours I was there, as Ocean Studios is filled with all sorts of artists and craftspeople. The Royal William Yard is a very peaceful place to be and I’d like to spend more time there.
In my next post I will write about the Union Street Party, the exhibitions at Devonport Guildhall, and the fine art exhibition also at Royal William Yard.
Links to previous posts on this years Weekender:
After a quick look around PCA we went to Prime Cafe Bar to see the Nomads exhibition by Patrick Strode and Viktor Toth. Patrick’s surreal illustrations felt lonely and I like how he uses colour. In his comic page he mixed pinky-purple-orange watercolours for the background, in his other pictures on display he used just one colour for the background or made two spots of light, but everything else he left untouched. I’d like to try this in my own drawings because his work is really striking. I loved Viktor’s illustration of a woman in a dress wearing a headdress which looked like it was done with ballpen. His pictures are dark and dramatic and seemed like they might be concept art for video games. He also uses colour in confined areas, surrounded by shades of grey and black.
I had Rose Lemonade which tasted a bit like turkish delight, and a slice of banana toffee cake which was soft, squishy and delicious. My mum had an iced mocha in a pretty glass and she says it is the best iced coffee she has had all year. Prime Cafe Bar is a really nice space, it is comfy and there are shelves of books and games you can read and play. We looked at a book about Japan and a Far Side book of cartoons.
We moved on to the Fine Art Building of PCA to the exhibition Nothing Bad Will Happen. We were greeted by Bethany Smiles who was showing her acrylic painting set Icons. The objects on display were really diverse but seemed very personal to the artists. For example, Angela Hilton gathers discarded personal materials for her work, and I’ve Measured Out My Life In Coffee Spoons is a collection of 2 years worth of her own disposable contact lenses, stacked and hung from the ceiling on a piece of invisible thread. My favourite pieces here were two acrylic paintings (one is a work in progress) by Rebecca Williams which were so filled with texture I wanted to stroke the canvas. I also really liked Steve Brown’s political posters which I stopped at for a long time to try and examine every detail, and Sam Turner’s installation Form Of A Cyclical Construct which uses found containers and zip ties and made me think of a huge plastic dragon.
It was time for us to travel across town to Ocean Studios at Royal William Yard, and I will write about that in Part 3..