We have been given a project at our NatSatClub to choose a word from the Devon Dialect and then illustrate it. I made a long list of words, some of my favourites are:
Snishums : Sneezing
Flink : To sprinkle
Zummit : Something
Drumbledrone : Bumblebee (apparently this one was inspiration for Dumbledore’s name!)
I chose to illustrate the word ZART which means “daft”. I looked up the meaning of daft and its synonyms. They fell into two main groups, one with words like “stupid”, “idiotic”, and other not very nice words. The other group contained “eccentric”, “absurd”, “peculiar” and “crackers”, and I thought that this group had a more fun and friendly character, and would be good to illustrate.
I thought about this group of synonyms and tried to make a list of my visual ideas. I came up with lots including Wonka, circuses, spirals, dizziness, wonky, uneven, twist, and drunkenness.
Next I made sketches with the letters in “zart”, trying different forms of the letters and playing with the sizes and the way they came together.
At this stage I had chosen a basic shape I liked. I drew it out bigger and tried it out as an outline and a sort of silhouette version. I started adding extra parts, like a Mad Hatter top hat and drunken bubbles popping. I felt that these would give an eccentric dizzy feel to the illustration.
After I had a good idea of what I wanted I tried a sketch using a thick graphite stick to help me make the letters flow better and to be more expressive. I played with this a bit erasing and adding to it, thickening the letters, changing the way they sloped and trying out stripes. When I was happy I copied my design out in ink using my Pentel brush pen.
I really liked my design as it was but I wanted to fill in some of the stripes with the black ink to finish it off. I haven’t coloured it yet but I think that this piece would work really well in a purple shade with either a green or an orange as a secondary colour. The final black and white version is at the top of this post.
It is fun learning about different words and doing this project reminded me of the Devon Words art project by Caitlin Hennessy which I saw at last year’s Weekender exhibitions and which I wrote about here. I really enjoyed this project and will definitely be doing more lettering and illustrating with words in the future.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
I bought some cotton bags from Hobbycraft for £1 each so that I could try printing on them at home with my Plymouth Pilgrims linocut which I made at my NatSatClub. I washed the bags and they shrunk quite a bit, and I couldn’t get them completely flat with the iron but I like the slightly crumbly texture they have. The other equipment I used was:
Blue Essdee Block-printing ink which I bought from Cass Art (Bristol)
A stainless steel serving spoon to use as a baren
A thick slab of glass to roll the ink on
The four inch roller from the Essdee Cutting and Printing kit bought from the The Art Side (Plymouth)
Attempt #1 – I used cardboard inside the bag in case the ink bled through and the usual amount of ink I would use for printing on paper. The print is visible but looks pale or faded. There was no ink on the inside of the bag. I thought that I needed to apply more ink next time and wondered if the cardboard had cushioned the fabric so that the pressure from the spoon wasn’t enough to transfer the print.
Attempt #2 – I removed the cardboard so there was nothing inside the bag and used a thicker layer of ink. The ink did bleed slightly on the inside of the bag but it was quite a patchy print. I decided I needed a thin protective layer inside the bag and to apply more pressure to the spoon.
Attempt #3 – I used a thin piece of paper inside the bag to protect it from ink bleeding and a thick layer of ink. I put greater pressure on the spoon in all areas. The paper took any ink that bled through but the print was still a little patchy. The print wasn’t aligned properly on this bag but it was my best attempt so far.
Attempt #4 – A thick layer of ink, a lot of pressure with the spoon, and a layer of paper inside the bag. I aligned the bag carefully and went over the print area thoroughly and with a lot of effort with the back of my spoon. This print looked really good although I did lose definition in some areas because of how thick the ink layer was on the lino.
I enjoyed this experiment and I’m going to make some more block-printed bags soon. I need to find a better way to apply more consistent pressure with the equipment I have at home because the spoon works well with paper and card but doesn’t work as well with the fabric. I really like my design and I’m glad it looks good on bags. I don’t know if the ink will stay on the bags in wet weather or if it will wash so I’m going to test one of these bags after they’ve had time to dry properly and look at different types of ink.
On the 30th of November I attended a glass fusing workshop hosted by Sheena Hallybone from PaperCutzGlass with my mum and a few friends. Glass fusing is a technique used to make a piece of art by arranging, gluing, and then fusing pieces of glass together at a high temperature in a kiln.
Sheena demonstrated how to use the tools and what they are called. There were three tools:
A Glass Cutter makes a mark on the glass for the Running Pliers. The line can be straight, wavy or curved.
Running Pliers snap the glass along the mark the Glass Cutter has made.
Grozing Pliers, or ‘Nibblers’, are used to take small corners off and chip away at the glass.
We were given a small square of clear glass each to practice using the tools on, and after we finished practicing Sheena explained that we would have a large piece of clear glass each to arrange our coloured pieces on, which could be divided in different ways to make coasters, candle screens, long suncatchers or shorter tree decorations. She also showed us some of the art she made and what other people had made before in the workshop. I chose to make a coaster and 2 sun catchers.
I decided to make a Zelda-themed sun catcher first. I planned it out on paper first then chose what colour glass to use for it. It is decorated with three Ocarina of Time style fairies. I took too long to make this one because making circles is a complicated process of first cutting squares, marking and cutting off corners, then nibbling around the corners to round them off. This meant I didn’t have much time left to make my other two glass fusing pieces. I do think it looks really good and so I’m glad I spent time getting it right.
For my other sun-catcher I used scrap pieces of glass organized by colour to make rainbow stripes. I was inspired to make this by some of Sheena’s rainbow style suncatchers that were hanging up around us. I used black frits (small granules of glass) to decorate the background.
My coaster is also Zelda-themed and shows a Triforce. I used triangles of paper to cover the area I wanted to leave transparent and sprinkled multicoloured frits and leftover small shards of glass over a layer of glue, then took the paper away. This didn’t take long to do and gives a really pretty effect.
We had to leave our pieces with Sheena so she could fire them in her kiln (there are photos of some of the unfired pieces at the bottom of this post). She added hooks to them so I can hang them up. Yesterday we were able to pick them up from her shop in Plymouth City Market. They were wrapped carefully in bubble wrap and I was really excited to open them up. I had tons of fun during the workshop and I’m really happy with how my fused glass pieces turned out. I would recommend the workshop to any creative people and hope to do it again sometime.
At 6am our coach was in front of the old Plymouth museum. I found a seat next to a friend and chatted while we waited for the rest of the group. It was my first time on a coach and it had soft seats with buttons to make them recline and red curtains in the windows. We set off at 6:20 and me and my friends were excited but tired from being awake so early. A lot of my group slept for the first part of the journey but after we stopped at Exeter services to stretch our legs and get some snacks almost everyone stayed awake. We had another five hours or so of travel ahead so we talked about visits that each of us had made to London in the past and told each other funny anecdotes from our lives. I did some sketching trying out different character faces but my lines were a bit wobbly from the movement of the coach, and I kept dropping my rubber down the side of the seat.
As we travelled through London we took pictures out of the coach windows and pointed out buildings we recognized, like the Gherkin, MI6 and Big Ben. Our coach dropped us off close to Central Saint Martins and we walked the rest of the way. Central Saint Martins is a huge building and we noticed that the inside room was so vast that it was almost as cold as it was outside. We were given stickers to wear to show we were from Plymouth College of Art and ‘perylene maroon’ goodie bags from Cass Art. In my bag I had an A4 sketchbook, some pencils, a bottle of water and some snacks. We sat down to have some lunch while our student ambassador Ben played on a piano and we waited for some of the other groups from around the country to arrive.
After lunch we looked at all the other self-portraits from the different groups and a photographer took a picture of us in front of our own portraits. It felt amazing to have my self-portrait up in a gallery with other young artists’ work. There was a lot of variety in the style and techniques used in the portraits I saw. One group, from the Victoria and Albert museum, had used concertinaed paper with two portraits drawn on it so the one that you could see depended on the angle you viewed it from. Some of these were quite creepy to look at because one side would be a regular portrait and the other side looked strange or demonic. Other groups had worked with print, photography, pencils or collage. My group used acrylic paint on pieces of wood and I wrote about that process in a previous blog post.
After looking around the portraits all the groups were shown into a large room for a series of talks. We learned that even though there were hundreds of us there that day we only represented a third of the total members nationally! Some groups were so far away they couldn’t make it together and so one family had come alone. Those of us from Plymouth spent at least 12 hours travelling to London and back that day! We heard from Cecilia Weckstrom who told us that when she was younger she didn’t know what she wanted to study, and got an apprenticeship with a children’s book company and learned about graphic design, and now she works for Lego and is a Trustee for the NA&DSC. The director of the Saturday Club Trust, Sorrel Hershberg, and Jeremy Till, the Head of Central Saint Martins, both gave us information about the Saturday Arts Club and thanked the founders Sir John Sorrell and Lady Frances Sorrell.
When we came out of the room, ginormous pieces of paper were rolled out for us all to draw on and there were people holding big buckets with tons of crayons, pens and pencils for us to use. My group didn’t have a lot of time before we got back on the coach but we sat on the floor for a short while and I drew my friend and myself. There were a lot of cool doodles and there were tons of kids drawing each other. After that I bought myself a big red NatSatClub hoodie and we got back on the coach for the next part of our trip.
All the groups headed to different venues around London and mine headed to the Tate Britain gallery. We got a short tour around a few of the pieces of art on display and our tour guide and our tutor Kate encouraged us to talk about and critique what we saw. We studied each piece for a few minutes and tried to think of single words that described how we felt or the impression we got from the artworks. One piece that I found intriguing was Fiona Banner’s Break Pointwhich is a huge canvas painted white with red marker pen text describing a chase scene from the movie Point Break. The shade of red that she used and the way the text got closer together towards the bottom of the piece made me tense and it seemed very aggressive. I haven’t seen the film, but I hope to soon so I can see what happens next!
We moved on to the Turner Prize 2016 Exhibition. The Turner Prize is a contemporary art award given every year to a British artist chosen from four nominees. My favourite piece on display was an installation by Michael Dean which was a pile of pennies equal to one penny less than its title,United Kingdom poverty line for two adults and two children: twenty thousand four hundred and thirty six pounds sterling as published on 1st September 2016. Me and my friends thought it would be fun to roll around in it all. It sounds like a lot of money but it didn’t feel like it when I saw it as a pile of pennies.There was an enourmous gold sculpture of a butt by Anthea Hamilton called ‘Project For Door (After Gaetano Pesce)’ and people were laughing and taking silly photos near it. I thought it was absurd in a funny way. Visitors were invited to write their thoughts about the exhibition and pin them up outside the gallery, so we did that and then left to make the long trip home.
On the journey home I took some more pictures of London lit up at night, and everyone was wide awake and in the back someone was playing music. It was such an exciting day, me and my friends ended up having laughing fits for ages for no real reason. We stopped at services to get dinner, but we panicked because we thought we had taken too long but it turned out we were back before most of the group. We settled down eventually and it got quieter and some people fell asleep, and I carried on working in my sketchbook. We got back to Plymouth at around 11 and I was exhausted. The whole day was absolutely amazing and I’m really thankful to have had the opportunity to be part of it.