Developing Comic Further – Environment, Characters and Panels

Playroom

The previous post on this comic idea had some sketched hints at the ‘playroom’ kind of aesthetic I wanted for the bedroom, so I thought to try working on some different angles/compositions/framing for panels that would give the reader the impression that the wall was in fact being projected on to, and that the images on the walls are moving animations.  I keep coming back to the Rugrats, but in particular, those scenes where we are seeing the world through Spike’s eyes – all distorted with fish-eye aspects.  I can’t find any examples online, but it’s quite a nightmarish viewpoint.  Add the playroom from Akira into this, along with that age-old futuristic ideal of images everywhere*, and I’ll arrive at something scary/recognisable/cute in time enough.

This isn’t the bit I mean at all, but I can’t find any images of the playroom online either. I think it’s the ominous lighting in the fight scene with Tetsuo that has me referencing it more than anything, though, so this image will more than suffice.

*A fine passage from Cybersexualies essay Technophilia, by Mary Ann Doane, refers to the impressive amount of imagery in science fiction (though it certainly isn’t something we’re unfamiliar with in every day life):

‘Garrett Stewart remarks on the over-abundance of viewing screens and viewing machines in science fiction in general – of ‘banks of monitors, outsized video intercoms, x-ray display panels, hologram tubes, backlit photoscopes, aerial overhead projectors, slide screens, radar scopes, whole curved walls of transmitted imagery, the retinal registers of unseen electronic eyes.’  And in his view, ‘cinema becomes a synecdoche for the entire technics of an imagined society.’ (30)

It seems like having this ultra-‘natural’ scene projected onto the bedroom walls will be quite an obvious illustration of the use of technology to create a new, ultra-human, and un-Other-based environment, a central theme in my dissertation.  Having the child in the scene playing with a tablet-type device feels a little lazy, but I was also aware of the importance of including very recognisable technologies in order for the story to be relatable; tablets are pretty ubiquitous right now.  Here are some goofay designs:

Gaming2

Gaming

Struggling at the minute to decide what language the child is learning on the device – if I choose Japanese, I’m giving myself an opportunity to practice my own learning, but I am aware and wary of the whole Orientalism cliche in so much science fiction… We’ll see.

I am having some trouble deciding on what the two characters (mother and child) should look like too.  Every time I make a conscious effort to draw a person, a character that I have made up, I suddenly find myself drawing hideous, hideous faces, the kind of which I’d never draw when I’m just doodling, and drawing faces for my own enjoyment.  At the same time, if I try looking at other comic artists whose work I love, I’ll copy them, and then hate myself for being that unimaginative, that lazy.  The only real solution to this problem is to keep drawing every day (as absolutely everyone advises), and eventually the brain-to-wrist connections will get stronger.  This is what I got from this recent exercise:

GrossKiddo

Kiddo

Madre

Rockabye

So, that’ll be something to push harder on tonight, and hope that the aesthetic comes out when I have at these (more definite) panels in the next few days/weeks:

Comic4

Child comes into room after following baby’s cries, and sees mother-robot breastfeeding little baby sibling.

Comic5

Comic7

Snaps out of that. Mother-robot comes over to pick child up, child has knife, slices open veil (onto which the image of mother’s head is being projected)

This is another fantasy/dream sequence, and when it finishes (with a detailed image of the mechanical head under the veil), the child goes back to their playroom and is happy when greeted by its tablet.

While at home in Northern Ireland for three weeks, I’ll use this time to draw out the comic, in black-and-white – probably using ink and a paint brush, potentially working in fineliner – once I know what I want it to look like/which tool I can use more skillfully, that decision will make itself.

Comic Cover

I have been working on cover ideas, using many different colours for the face in the mother-robot’s veil, similar to the work of two artists I came across in the last few months, who use colour with bold, electric energy:

And someone who goes by the handle 8 9 3 9

Less half-clothed ladies for half-clothed ladies’ sake though.  Also looking closely at the colour palette of Wesley Allbrook’s comics, particularly the pink-pink of Montmartre à trois.  She’s incredible.

COP Creative Response – Story-forming

This comic tells the story of a child whose natural biological mother is now permanently absent.  She died shortly after giving birth to their younger sibling.  The father – a wealthy, successful, busy man – sees that the children need a mother.  Humanoid technology is at this time progressing, though it has not yet reached a point at which these androids are indistinguishable from humans.  Engineers are having particular trouble getting facial movements just right, and as a way of bypassing this problem, came up with the temporary solution of projecting animated human heads from the inside of a veil which is draped over the head, and securely attached around the shoulders at the base of the neck.  The father of our family decides this is the best course of action, especially for the baby, who he believes would suffer greatly from the lack of its mother’s nurturing.

Comic

Comic2

Comic3

Automaton Idea (basix)

This is a quick crap sketch of an idea for a potential ‘made piece’ – but until I know a little more about building automata, I’m a little stumped with it.

Automaton Idea

This documentary from the BBC was wonderful at scaring me into the realisation that they are not a thing to be taken too lightly, however.  But, my god, John Joseph Merlin‘s a dreamboat if I ever knew one.  Just look at his swan, JUST LOOK AT IT!

Chen Man exhibition at the Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery

‘Young Pioneer and CCTV’ 2009

Chen Man, described in her Twitter bio as a ‘representative of modern Chinese visual artists’, is a photographer working in Beijing.  Though her work is most associated with the commercial fashion industry, it was the playfully hyper-futuristic aesthetic of her personal projects which attracted my attention most.  In particular, her Pioneer series exemplifies her wish to combine the two concepts of beauty which can often seem utterly disparate (by the consensual understanding of ‘nature’).  She discusses this in what her interviewer describes as ‘a lazy Beijing burr’ in this article from Time Out Shanghai:

‘There are two kinds of beauty: natural, real things – flowers, children, the sky – and artificial, manmade things, things derived from human wisdom like iPads, cars, design. Now I’m trying to combine those two kinds of beauty.’

A fairly simplifying approach to take to the subject, but one that produces images which are almost startlingly contemporary in their dedication to the surface, to the aesthetic value.  The skin-tight plastic of the Pioneer’s dress; her lean, straight frame; the uninterrupted smoothness of her skin and hair – all combine to give the impression of a commercial product.  The fetishisation of plastic, of sleek functionality, is projected onto this model, and one can’t help but note that when identifying the ‘beautiful’ in this image, we tend to find ourselves admiring more the ‘artificial, manmade’ category of Man’s description.

This is by no means a new phenomenon, and I do wonder at the perseverance of the appeal of beautiful lady-machines.  In particular, the potentially more modern occurrence of female artists (particularly in the pop culture spectrum) appropriating these ideas of the indisputably female cyborg and applying this to themselves, or their subject (I can’t help but think of Janelle Monáe… and not just because I’m listening to her Electric Lady album as I type).  The objectification of the female form has been long-practiced in art, this is an inescapable historical fact, but is the sentiment so changed when a female artist is doing the objectifying?  The image of a technologically-empowered female figure has been noted by many to serve as an illustration of the ‘Monster’ of modern times (Maria from Fritz Lang’s Metropolis is a well-known, early example of this), and is very much present this photograph from Man’s Pioneer series (I can’t find the name for this anywhere – should’ve taken better notes in the S&A Gallery):

The model here has produced a satellite from under her skirt.  Her face belies sexual arousal, with no hint of shyness in the direct eye contact with the camera.  The troubling infantile costume is my only (yet overriding) issue with the series.  As an extreme vision of the strictures put in place by the mass media of our patriarchal society, and at the same time playing right into the overt sexualisation of prepubescent girls, the costumes in this series are a worrying indication of an all-too-common theme (particularly in science fiction) of the female giving up her womanhood, for an immortal life steeped in reticence.

Presentation, presented in silence.

Here is the fairly shambolic attempt at the COP presentation, another to add to the pile I haven’t delivered to the class after relapses in the ol’ anxiety issues.

Presentation1

Some of the slides need expanding on, yes.  So let’s:

  1. This is me trying to create a flowchart of a kind, organising the bits of disparate thought.  Read away,
  2. This is introducing some of the topics from the flowchart – in another dimension I’d have talked them out a little in the presentation.
  3. Here, I was beginning to figure out where I wanted to drop my thinkin’ pins.
  4. This is a sentence, I’m sure of it.  I wanted to say something more about recovering from the trauma of abandonment issues after leaving the womb, and Freudian jazz like that.
  5. NGE – this, I was just going to try my best to explain coherently.  I wasn’t feeling too confident about that idea, but I had hoped the whole hype around having giant robots and mounds of archaic religious references would be enough to dazzle my audience, and that would be enough.
  6. Then this slide, which I would skillfully lead onto:
  7. Japan’s integration with technology, and more recent falling population, along with the idea that Anno’s anime comes from a subconscious connection with the zeitgeist of the time
  8. Look to my post on Masaaki Yuasa (I was winging this too).
  9. More winging – this sequence in Jan Svankmajer’s Faustus – just some reanimation fright through the medium of animation.
  10. Dancing Diana, from Conrad Shawcross – bringing robots into our arts scene, further infiltrating into extra aspects of our lives – marks the beginning of my research into robotics as a launchpad into automata.
  11. Just drawing – enjoying shapes.
  12. More drawing – having problems.
  13. Idea of future baby environment – thinking on replacing traditional mother figure with technology in very literal sense.
  14. Automaton idea.

Cutie Automata

These wind-ups from Japanese designer duo Maywa Denki are extraordinarily cute, and may prove to be a worthwhile inspiration point for creating something lovable rather than harrowing.  I haven’t yet decided whether I’d like my creative response to be outright horror, yet I think Masaaki Yuasa’s Happy Machine short exemplifies the fact that the two (cute and terrifying) can go hand-in-hand quite effectively.

Babies, babies, gross, gross babies

S5_e17_BMO_dragging_the_baby_through_the_forest

Babies are gross.  Just look at Sparkle/Ricky, the baby BMO finds in ‘BMO Lost‘, a heartachey episode of Adventure Time.  (S)he is one of the most perfect gross/cute babies I have seen in a cartoon, and an important undercurrent of my thoughts when drawing out some stupid babies to project my hologram-fish-mobile-night-light-thing on top of.  I was just running through some ideas built around babies getting raised in very close quarters with digital technology from the outset of their fat little lives these days.  Here are some babies:

babies

Here is baby with fish pencil drawing:

morebabies

Such a fat Sparkle/Ricky.  Working through with colour, trying to highlight the fact that these fish are holograms, but it just got uglier still:

FishBaby2

This is more an idea of setting for a story set a little further in the future than ideas of what I could make for our practical response – due to the fact I won’t have time to produce the kind of comic/animation I would class as finished before Christmas, and I want to make an automaton – but it’s all pushing me further into thinking about children being raised by non-human machines.

Light Night Volunteering – COP Creative Practitioner

From Light Night:

I was posted at Akeelah Bertram‘s installation piece that was exhibited inside the Art Gallery, entitled Vase: an installation of abstract colour and throbbing noise in an otherwise blank room, where participants were welcome to simply sit, and gradually give themselves up to the immersive qualities of the piece.  The title called to mind a mash of mostly forgotten (to me, you understand) theory on the concept of the vessel, particularly in theories of the significance of sculpture, and even more specifically in ceramics.  Watching the visitors to the Gallery enter the room, it was often disappointing to see so many unchanged expressions after a two-minute drop-in and skulk-around.  Yet, much more heartening were the slightly dazed, softer faces of those who resurfaced after having made the choice to take a space on the cold floor, get comfortable, and give themselves bodily to the Vase for more than a few moments.

The nature of Light Night, though, does lend a sense of urgency to each event/piece, so it was understandable that a number of the visitors that night didn’t stick around for very long.  Nevertheless, it was by no means an unpopular piece, and I felt the fact that so many people did stay served to exemplify the powerful hold a constructed, almost virtual, environment can wield on even a passing audience.  In her bio on DIScrit 89Plus, Bertram explains the purpose of her video installations:

‘to make digital video a physical experience. Not 4-D cinema – and most definitely not a hologram. The creation of an experience in which you feel the material of video, like you can the material of sculpture. Making video transcend the optical experience and turning it into a tactile one.’

Her work addresses something intrinsic to our society of escapism-addicts: in bringing this pulsing, digital video into and around the realm of the body, she gives us the opportunity to relinquish our grasp on the world outside this one room and away from the projection.  It seems crucial then, too, that this is not a solitary experience.  The rooms Bertram exhibits in are chosen for their capacity too, and so in a group of anything under 100 people (this was the number I was given when guarding the door at the Leeds Gallery anyway), we can have a collective experience of something we can imagine as akin to digital transcendence.

I thought it was quite an impressive piece, and seeing it just helped solidify the fact that I could benefit from having projections of some kind in my own creative response for COP.  I think the almost-intrusive quality afforded by projected video is too much opportunity to pass up.