Visual Artist

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Welcome to my blog, where you will find all my work, works in progress, there's always something going on, an ever changing place where the you can stay up to date with my work, from the idea, to the trials and celebrations. Also you can found a wealth of film reviews that influence my work. Follow on Bloglovin

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Cimarron (1960)


Cimarron (1960)With the combination of both Glenn Ford and Anthony Mann I was sure Cimarron (1960) was going to be strong western. Maybe I was expecting too much when I look at Mann’s later work which was not as strong as that of the James Stewart films or even his later films which don’t really sit well with me. What I found with Cimarron was a flawed attempt at a Giant (1956) in the west. Both indeed take place in the developing frontiers of America.

Looking back at Giant as I did a few months ago I found it to be a larger than life epic that really looked at the lives of all affected by the times they were in. Whereas Cimarron which starts out with great intentions from the land rush of 1889 of Oklahoma that filled the screen like only an epic can do, seemingly thousands of wagons, men and horses ran across the open plains, making for exciting viewing, it could have gone on forever as settlers made it across the open country to claim a bit for themselves. There was a real sense of history being brought alive as all creeds of men and women had gathered together, as if a hundred wagon trains had reached the end of the Oregon trail before they split up to go in different directions to find a home. I felt such potential for the film which for the first hour stayed with it. The growing territory that would later become a state from the wooden buildings that saw a community grow before the audience over a 25 year period.

If only Glenn Ford was onscreen for more of the film it may have made for a better film. Leaving the film to be lead by Maria Schell as Yancey ‘Cimarron’ Cravats (Ford) wife Sabra Cravat who does the best she can and ably. Maybe I was just expecting more of Ford who when onscreen was a man of ideals and principals which he stuck too throughout. From coming to the defence of the Native American’s who chose the settlers life, the white mans way. To the greed of money that began to consume those around him.

Instead of the gold rush that took place at the start of the century, we have the striking of black gold, Oil which bursts into the hands of the most unlikely of people, that Tom and Sarah Wyatt (Arthur O’Connell and Mercedes McCambridge), who enjoy the highlife, beginning to ignore their roots, living the American dream to excess. Whilst the simpler Cravat family struggle on running the local paper which allows Cimarron to share his views with the world if they like them or not.

When he leaves the screen it’s all the air is beginning to escape from the balloon that keeps this film floating, I want him to come back, During which time things progress with the other characters. For Sabra a growing dependence for loans is developed to keep the family going, a theme that does run through, the over-reliance of money, not understand that a better life does not come with more money when Cimarron is later offered a powerful position which could benefit his family.

I guess the themes discussed in the film do save it from falling apart, it’s a strong film on those merits, yet without the strong central character that draws the audience is off the screen we want him back. At least when it comes to Mann and westerns he will always be remembered for those he made in the previous decade, strong, dark and mysterious, characters filled with dark desires that are more memorable. What I can take away from this film is great visuals of a changing country that you usually find in different films.

Hugo (2011)


Hugo (2011)The minute Hugo (2011) began I knew I had made a massive mistake in not seeing this in its intended format of 3D, something that I’ll be kicking myself for ages. There are certain films that once I have seen then in 3D I won’t want to see them any other way as my first encounter is the intended way it should be screened. Putting that niggle to one side I sat down to the only children’s film that Scorsese has ever made that is daughter can watch until she’s old enough to see the likes if Goodfellas (1990) and Taxi Driver (1976) et-al. At least she is able to see the passion that drives the man who has sneaked in a message of film preservation during an enchanting film that follows a young boy Hugo (Asa Butterfield) who wants to complete his late clock working father (Jude Law) work on an automaton that vaguely resembles the professors robotic creation in Metropolis (1927).

Silent movies are at the heart of this film that is opened up to a whole new generation, exploring the directors passion for film, not just when he was growing in the fifties, but that further exploration that influenced his films. Here relying not on the old techniques but those of the future of cinema filmed in 3D, instead not relying on gimmicky spectacle of the format, of things coming out at you, the camera moves into the immersive world of the Parisian train station with all the steam and the cogs of the clocks that Hugo is left to maintain. His drive to complete his fathers work comes to ahead when the note-book that was kept is confiscated by the owner Georges Méliès (Ben Kingsley) of a clockwork toy booth in the station. What begins is a fascinating journey for Hugo as he completes the automaton which is only the beginning of this exciting adventure.

Along with Isabelle (Chloë Grace Moretz) who is in the care of the toy shop owner who is evasive of the determined boy. Together they embark on an adventure through the station and Paris. As much as it is a children’s film there is still plenty to engage older viewers from the rich all british cast of character actors and Sacha Baron Cohen as the classic station inspector there really is something for everyone here in the slower moving film that allows everyone to take in the world of steam, cogs and projected images.

At the heart is a love for cinema, in its purest form from the beginning with the Lumiere Brothers first that first scared audiences as a train pulled into a station as a novelty act that scared audiences, lovingly recreated for a modern audience to view, history is brought alive in the perfect cinematic format. Yet it’s when we get to Georges Méliès and the films he made do we really see the director come into his own for this film. Taking us to a time where it was never really thought about documenting the making of early film, only the few remaining films of that era. You can really forgive the modern sensibility of restoration being discussed here, even building on the life of Georges Méliès

I really am kicking myself this time for not seeing this film earlier and in the intended format, for which us usually used to increase box-office takings or as a novelty attraction that really can ruin a film. I don’t really think that Scorsese will make many if any more children’s film, concerned more with adult themes that are the bulk of his body of work, this surely is him at play with one of his passions that works for everyone young and old.  

rEvive update (27/7/14)


Before I make the move for my first weekend on site of my show in Ilkeston, I have been lucky enough to have some work in the space already to your imaginations sparking ideas of where the work will lead me. Thanks to one of the team (Jeremy) whom I am very grateful for has shared with me some photos of the work in the space alongside Neil Dixon’s whose work leaves me in awe at how fantastic it is. I can’t wait to get there and check it out for myself.

Not long until I make my way up there to start on the river road.

Cafe - rErive

rEvive Show


Cafe - rErive

I am pleased to announce my next show, taking place with fellow artist Neil Dixon in Ilkeston as part of the Cafe (Culture and Arts Forum Erewash) programme rEvive.  I will be constructing a wild west river-road starting from the harbour outwards into the open country. Neil Dixon will be making architectural models of impossible buildings. I’ll keep you updated each time I am there. You can catch the show every Thursday – Saturday from 24th July – 23rd August. A fantastic and rare opportunity to engage with artists as they make their work in the middle of the Ilkeston’s high-street.

 

Pericles in the West Update (18/7/14)


Green-screen was the name of the game today, wanting to capture a western scene before I add a different background. I decided to go with a bank robbery, going through my plastic figures to find the right poses. There are a lot with the same pose, and only 4 horses, that gallop. The figures are broken up into 3 groups, solider, cowboy and pioneer, which at first made it harder, thinking I should reduce the number I have in the scene before I reminded myself that it was never that way in the film or real-life.

Going back a step for a moment I spent a good hour drawing on the model buildings of Lewis, Missouri, to see how they will work with he models. They remind me of old cartoons where everything is loosely drawn in the background, allowing the characters to be the main focus. Which now leads me to think that a background would have to be drawn to really work. Still I have yet to see the final outcome.

Back onto the photo-shoot, I began with lighting which made the work far too bright, the natural light was enough, without creating too much shadow to work with on the background. This could be a mistake I’ll have to correct, just have to see what the results are. I captured images from three viewpoints, straight down the street before looking at each side directly which when placed next to each other look far effective than squeezing the camera into awkward angles to get a shot.

Red Sorghum/Hong gao liang (1987)


Red Sorghum (1987)There are not many films that actually show you the award they have been give, which is quite brave and could be seen as pretentious to say the least, showing off that you have won something before we see why they have won it. In this case the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival (1988). It’s not long until we see why Red Sorghum/Hong gao kiang (1987) did, an intense movie that takes place on a Chinese vineyard. Thrown straight into a marriage that is doomed to fail for Little Nine or the narrators grandma (Li Gong) who is carried through open country and fields before reaching the home of her leprosy suffering husband and vineyard owner, who dies before we even meet him.

You could say that the title is quite literal, going by the English translation, the intensity of the colour red throughout the film, from the box carriage that carries the bride, to the defiant ending. It’s a film full of passion, humour, love and honour. All in good measure as we are allowed into the narrators family history as she is brought to a Vineyard which she inherits after first wanting to shirk off her responsibilities to the business and the people who live and work there.

Not long after falling for one of the workers who makes his feelings known very early on, becoming the narrators Grandpa (Wen Jiang). Shaking things up for not just the other workers but Little Nine who is slow to react to his advances. It’s only when the first batch of wine is being distilled do we see the traditional ceremony hijacked by him both comical and disgusting. He’s very confident to say the least.

Everyone matters in this small working community, even more so when Uncle Luohan (Rujun Ten) leaves the vineyard for particular reason other than something instinctive. Now nine years later when the narrator’s father (Liu Jia) is around, a young child who not only replaces the lost character of Uncle Luohan having a pivotal part in the film. As we enter the last 3rd of the film with the arrival of the Japanese Army during the 1930’s. Filled with bloodshed and brutality which has the audience questioning how far the film will actually go. There was a moment that I thought I would be turning away from the screen. Finding the strength to carry on I was given only the beginning of what could be a lot worse. Seeing a skinning of another human being is something I never thought was captured on film, here at gunpoint anything is possible, we reach our limit after our stomachs are tested.

Its plain brutal and barbaric leading to a brave fight by the Little Nine’s workers to take the war into their own hands. What looks like a plan that shouldn’t fail, ends in a spectacular style, filling the screen once more with red, a signature of the film, laced in smoke that wraps around their secluded lives that we have been following. Simple people who want enjoy what they do, making good wine that is steeped in tradition. When their way of live is threatened they fight back with everything they have, their hearts are their real weapons against the Japanese who are portrayed as monsters on the  fields that are flattened and drenched in blood. The ending is one that will never leave me, steeped in red and heartbreaking to watch as family has been left scared for life. Everything is saved for this last scene which shapes the narrators life, all the quiet build-up of life on the vineyard, the arrival of the outsiders who threaten everything.

Pericles in the West Update (16/7/14)


Things have taken a dramatic turn today, as soon as I measured up, cut and wrapped the green paper around the card as the green-screen, my ideas have changed drastically. I now want a photographic series of images that incorporate backgrounds that I have taken before. This act as a first step in working with green-screen, before I consider animating anything. This is becoming my west now which is a powerful thought.

I’ve also started to draw onto the models, starting with a few, which I will try with the photographs, I’ll do Lewis, Missouri to see how it looks, introduce the figures into the mix, being plain, against the drawn on models I think they should work well, both being rough in appearance. I really want to finish the drawing and start taking photographs.

My Darling Clementine (1946) Revisited


My Darling Clementine (1946)I remember seeing My Darling Clementine (1946) very early on when I started to watch all these classic films which now inform my work. I wasn’t aware at all of what this film was really about. Seeing a man come into town taking the marshals job to ensure that he could seek out revenge for his brothers murder. It’s only with the passing of time, and seeing more film adaptations of the infamous gunfight at the O.K. Corral that I can see a lineage going on here, as new information is found new films are made. Different directors give their spin to the events, John Sturges gave us two interpretations Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957) and The Hour of the Gun (1957) which expanded vasty on the events that we all know of. Here however in the events are told from the true perspective of Wyatt Earp who once met John Ford who’s version stands heads above the others I have seen, telling him how the shoot-out actually happened, making the audience wait until the end.

The build up is really non-existent as we drift from scene to scene, even over the short running time of the film, a lot actually takes places, from the very start we are introduced to the Earp brothers who are not as we expect them, out in the open country with cattle it feels out of place, yet strangely not, they just are. We are introduced to the Clanton’s lead by Walter Brennan who fitted easily from role good to bad guy with ease. Whilst Henry Fonda personifies the up standing Marshall Wyatt Earp who reluctantly takes on his old job in Tombstone to give him licence to avenge his brother James’s death. His remaining brothers follow.

Tombstone is not the classic boom-town that we know from later films, located once more in Monument Valley a location that becomes John Ford country in years to come. Photographed as a mythical land where these events take place, creating instead a small town in the middle of nowhere, far away from civilisation which is creeping up on the people of the town. Lit as a classic film and heavy lighting you could easily mistake it for a film-noir or one of Ford’s earlier films such as The Informer (1935) in the streets of Ireland. The lack of music is eerie at times, whilst other times you hardly notice it, swept away by the people who inhabit this small town.

The main characters of course are all there, from Doc Holliday (Victor Mature) taking on a more adversarial role, competing to enforce the law, whilst still suffering from tuberculosis. All of the Earp and Clanton brothers are present, with the addition of two women who create tension for the two lead men as they try and see eye to eye. Is this the truth or just a Fordian touch to the legend?

It’s classic Ford at his best, writing his own passages of American legend that easily tips into fiction into facts with a sense of grandeur with the lightest of touches. We can see a love for the open country and the people who helped shape it. Defined here by the stars of the day who were seen as god like figures who graced the screens. With breathtaking scenery and by chance shots of the sky that encapsulate everything that Ford is known for. This is what I missed the first time around with this film, all the little touches from the first shot of Earp/Fonda from below, a historical figure and hero of a not so distant past. Complete with the homely touches of the Ford Stock Company who becoming like a travelling band of actors who bring to life the ideas and visions of Ford. I love the director more now than I did a day ago.

Pericles in the West Update (12/7/14)


I’ve done more than I expected, its been a day of thinking, which has not really answered anything yet for me. I was sitting by the work on the floor, wondering what I was doing with it. I want to animate it, it’s crying out to be animated, I want to try a new technique out so why not do it with this work.

The script is the big thing that gets me every time, should I let it go or not, should I film it, even partially. I’m really not  wanting dialogue in this, it complicates things, titles or subtitles maybe something, which adds a useless layer to the work which needn’t be there. I still like the idea of animation accompanying the model, with stills, to see it as a work in progress. That is more engaging for me. The script is what got me here I’ve used it as the basis for what I have and now I want something else.

Which I have been thinking of about experimenting with green-screen which I did mention yesterday. I want to see how it can work with my models, allow for more realistic backgrounds, or just to mess about and see what happens with background possibilities, combing that with animation. Another trip to Bradgate Park maybe in order to get more locations, or even footage from Youtube. I’m not sure. I need to grapple with green-screen which I think I understand is a screen that can be removed in post-production and replaced with another image.

This lead me whilst buying supplies to get a few pieces of green paper, as near to the florescent I could get, grabbing a few roles to work with and balsa dowel to work with. I ended the day by fixing the dowelling to a base, before taping a length of the paper, like a scroll which I can stretch to the appropriate size. I’ve already learned that I need it from top to bottom in places. More support is needed in locations for the paper/screen to stay up long enough to be worked with. So I may need to make purpose built frames to wrap the paper/screen around, Hopefully they can be used in multiple places. The progress will be slow for now, I can see things working though.

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Onto cardboard matters the construction of the backlot is complete, working on the train-station which I kept forgetting about, more concerned with the houses which were complicated at first. Having a row of three which I decided to make. It was all down to the angle they were drawn at. Having to measure the section out again to get my head around how to construct these houses, even with a side porch design. It was touch and go for a while, a few pieces were pulled apart and regaled. I’m pleased with how it looks. Not sure I’ll be making a row of three at my normal scale though.

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The rest of the houses, were much more straight forward, looking for designs that would fit, I kept thinking about one design which came with a front garden, I may do this a normal scale, for now I have just the house.

DSCF3901 DSCF3898 Another aspect of the work I have been thinking about is the aesthetic of the piece. Already there is one finished model fixed in place, whilst another is primed ready for painting, the balk of the models are plain cardboard, I’m tempted this time to draw on the detail with a pen, which would then lean towards a simpler background. I do enjoy the painting process of my models and this would be no different adding the wooden detail. I have no intention of painting the figures, maybe the same should apply to the sets to maintain the language. Just like my first cardboard frontier town at art-school.  It would be back to basics again, allow the action to take centre stage.

Pericles in the West Update (11/7/14)


I thought I could do more than I actually had resources to do, I’ve ran out of glue-gun sticks, which puts me back until I can get hold of some more. I was hoping to get started on the houses which I have said previously will be done together, allowing a few designs or a variation of a design can be built at once. I have however made both the school house and the church. When the piece is over,

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I shall blow up the school-house, and newly designed livery stable to normal model scale. Some of these are acting as moquettes for future pieces which is always a good thing, being both quick allowing me to build them up, adding windows etc, instead of being drawn on.

Next time (after getting more supplies I shall hope to finish the construction of the models before taking a step back to see where things are going. If I do film the models I will be confronted with intrusions of other models, which will have to be removed or avoided. I saw a video of Youtube which explains (briefly0 how to use green-screen, something I have accepted maybe a part of the models language, being a modern back-lot, needing to create the backgrounds to remove the studio sound-stages.

This would be something new for me to experiment with, animating sequences before adding another layer in the background which I was going to paint, which really is not my strong point. At the end of the day, its film studio, which could potentially be filmed in, so why not make that a possibility, if not for display purposes, show the intent and potential in the piece.

I keep looking at the piece and see that the models could be rearranged into multiple forms some would be restricted, which is what has happened with the work. A lot can be done with this piece, I could make every piece I have smaller, and animated at this small scale. Then I think about the script, how does that work with this? Do I see it as a stepping stone or something that should be carried through? The script is what is filmed with actors on a set/location, the bare-bones of a film. I’m more concerned with the visual myself in this piece, seeing how a play would translate, and here it is on my studio floor waiting to be completed/developed. A fresh day is needed to understand where the work is going beyond a miniature filmset/backlot.

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