Tuesday, 25 February 2020

Road to Wembley #10

With my intended fixture for this round (Coventry v Spurs) moved to the Monday evening, it was time for 'plan B': Championship side Leicester City against WSL fourth placed Reading. Unfortunately, this didn't materialise either thanks to Storm Dennis, which we found out en route to the game. Being unable to make the rearranged midweek fixture, our only hope to see a game from the fifth round proper (last sixteen) was another trip to north London to watch the rescheduled Arsenal Women FC vs Lewes FC Women at Meadow Park (home of Boreham Wood FC). The things we do for the love of the game, eh?!

Whilst Arsenal are the most successful top flight English women's side to date, having won more trophies and titles than any other, Lewes have their own unique story. In 2017, Lewes launched their EqualityFC campaign, which saw the Lewes Women players being paid the same as their male counterparts. At the time of writing, they are the only club in the world to be doing so. Lets hope it's not long before more clubs start to follow suit. Having visited The Dripping Pan in November last year for a women's game, it was a fantastically positive match day experience, with a great atmosphere and attendance. I would highly recommend a visit if you are yet to do so. They are a really progressive club.

The Dripping Pan

Despite it being raining on the drive down, by the time we arrived at Borehamwood it had cleared up. Cleared up even so that the yellow object was visible in the sky. I don't mean my photo vest (or hat, for that matter):

Meadow Park is a four sided affair, with two distinct looking stands (one seated along one touchline, one standing at one goal end), another large seated stand (which was almost full by the time the match was underway) and some uncovered more traditional looking terracing at the other one of the ends. This was where the Lewes supporters situated themselves for the first half. The most poignant feature beyond the realms of the ground was the singular tower block behind the main stand. Pollok anyone?!

This game was the designated Heads Up game, encouraging supporters to #KickOffAConversation about mental health. You can read more about the important campaign here. Both teams wore Heads Up t-shirts whilst warming up.

The last time Arsenal and Lewes met was a nil-nine thrashing. Were we going to see a repeat in this game? Perhaps not... Ninth placed championship side Lewes were able to prevent third placed WSL side Arsenal from scoring until the second halfDespite Arsenal obtaining the majority of possession, they were unable to break through Lewes's strong line of defence until the fifty-fourth minute. Indirectly assisted by Danielle Van de Donk, it was Caitlin Foord who knocked in the rebound, scoring on her debut outing for the Gunners. A promising start for the Australian international. 

Van de Donk did end up getting her moment too in the eighty-fourth minute, doubling the host's lead. It was almost always going to go Arsenal's way, though I was impressed by the performance Lewes put in. I'm sure the 1,663 spectators would share similar feelings and hopefully found the match a great afternoon's entertainment. Lewes bow out of the cup in the best possible fashion.

Arsenal will take on Spurs (again at home) in their quarter final match on the 15th March. The ties in full are here, with one yet to be decided:

Click here to view the full photo set.

Tuesday, 11 February 2020


I'm assuming how you've got to this blog post is through my social media, therefore you may have seen me post various animated skate clips of late. This is a post about those.

I used to skateboard in my teens and I still really like the culture and aesthetics surrounding skateboarding, despite not having ridden a board in around ten years. In 2011 I shot a skate video of one of my talented skater friends Fred Simmons and I still have the footage from that video.

I've been animating a lot of either animals or hands recently, so I was trying to look for something I could animate which would look great rotoscoped, but also something aside from what I have done lately. Digging deep on my computer I found the skate clips, which proved perfect for my animating needs.

My intentions for the animations were to create something which was looser and more flowing than my usual moderately fixed outline pieces. This was for a number of reasons:

• Force me out of my comfort zone by trying different styles
• Diversify my portfolio

The first piece (below) I tried a super loose style on the outline of the figure. As you can see, I used a brush tool at varying thickness, re-drawing over each line roughly, building up a layered messy effect. I also drew 'random' lines elsewhere on some of the frames, to exaggerate the inaccuracies of the drawing. To fill out the figure, I used what TV Paint calls the Chinese Brush, which has a lot of texture to it. I was purposely inaccurate about applying it: not being afraid to leave gaps or go outside the lines. The more of that, the better.

The background was a blurred out version of some analogue painted frames I did some time ago. I toyed with using a plain coloured, non moving background, though it didn't fit as well as this one did. This did take some trial and error, especially in terms of getting the colour 'right' or at least right for this particular video.

The second one was a direct development from the previous one. I loved the loose outline, though to make it differ, I used a thick marker-like brush, varying in weight. I also drew around the figure using one line, rather than the build up of lines in the previous piece. I liked the use of the shadow in the last one, so continued its usage into this one. I've never really used a shadow before, though I enjoyed the look it created, so I think it will be something I take into further work. It does make the whole piece take longer to produce, though I think the overall outcome makes it worth it.

I also like what I did regarding the bar he skates on: where it appears as he uses it and disappears when he doesn't. This is a technique I think would integrate well within other aspects of my rotoscope work, skate related or other.

After having completed two animations where the inspiration came fairly naturally/ instantly, the third one (below) took some time to develop and finish to a clip which I was happy with. I felt I had somewhat used up all of the 'good' styles and it became difficult to find a style which was equally as loose, without being *too* repetitive or similar to the other two. A hard task.

I left it a while after drawing the outlines and colouring the fill, to allow for more inspiration and thoughts to creep in. I eventually thought back to some previous animations I had carried out using paint and pulled upon the ideas from those:

I feel it's a fitting continuation, as in no way was I ready to 'park' those ideas or techniques. The red painted squares made for a really textured and bright background, a simple and effective technique in my opinion. It contrasts well with the black and the greys of the skater, whilst satisfying my visual style and processes.

So, did I fulfil my two aims as stated earlier in this post? In regard to forcing me out of my comfort zone and usual styles, all three of these pieces did. They don't have the clean look a lot of my work displays and I feel my portfolio is stronger and more diverse for it. This fulfils my second aim, as I plan on including at least one of them when I compile my next showreel.

From having completed these three pieces, I don't want this to be the end of me experimenting with different styles and reverting back to what I feel 'safe' with when creating new work. The idea behind these was to help me move to new techniques and I hope to carry this fluidity into future projects.

Friday, 7 February 2020

Photography | Finding Direction

I have always had an interest in photography, or even just cameras. I remember when I was a child, my dad had a draw in his filing cabinet full of his old film SLRs and I thought they were really exciting. At least to look at: I never dared ask to use one! It wasn't until 2010 where I got one of my own: a second hand manual Praktica from eBay:

This was off the back of me using a compact digital camera beforehand- remember those?! I loved taking photos on my compact and I think I had a good eye for composition (background is in fine art), though my output wasn't giving me the 'look' I had seen everywhere and what I wanted to achieve.

Taken on my Nikon compact
The 35mm SLR was fantastic, but a very cumbersome and heavy object. It was also costly to run and didn't have a filming capacity either, which is what I needed at the time to improve my moving image output. After all, I was studying Film Production and didn't want to rely on the equipment the university provided, especially if I wanted to progress outside of university time. I also really wanted a camera which could 'make the background blurry'. Bokeh, as I now know what it is called. So yep, I cracked and bought a Canon 550d. This is still the camera I use today, maybe that is surprising. I have upgraded from the kit lens, mind!

Above and below: images taken on my Praktica, 2012

I used to use my DSLR a fair amount, but never had a specific focus or style- I think I was just trying to take photographs which looked 'nice', it didn't matter what of. As it wasn't a subject I was studying at university or my main medium to work in, I didn't ever see it as something I could take seriously, though obviously that isn't (or shouldn't be) the case.

Despite enjoying it to take photos with, I sort of left it mainly for shooting video, as that was really why I bought it. After selling my Praktica film SLR due to its bulk and weight, In 2016 I bought an automatic 35mm Olympus Trip, which was lighter and easier to use. In 2017 I sporadically started what now is clearly my main hobby: groundhopping, though without realising it at the time. I brought my Olympus along to the games, because I didn't like taking photos on my phone, but still wanted to take images. Below are some of the ones I took on that camera:

Looking back at the images I took around that time, I had built the foundations of what I create now, though the standard and compositions of the imagery is less considered.

It was only until the latter half of 2018 when I decided to take my DSLR to the football, but even then I had no idea what I was doing. I was still new to watching football at the time. I didn't know whether I wanted to take action shots, pictures of stands, of spectators and I had no reference points or inspiration. I must have enjoyed it though- perhaps I saw it as a challenge(?), as I persisted with taking it along to games. It was probably more-so to keep me distracted from the cold!

I had also stopped drinking completely by this point, so time spent in pubs and photographing portraits of friends and local musicians became less frequent. This used to be largely what I took images of between 2014-16. I obviously needed something to fill that hole and another creative outlet.

I even bought a zoom lens so I could attempt action shots, too. I quickly developed my style and attention towards stands, spectators, landscapes and quirks around the grounds. This was with some action shots and gameplay included, creating a 'story' or 'essay' if you like, taking in all aspects of the match day experience. This direction came after plenty of trial and error, having attended many games without exactly knowing what I was doing with my camera. I sometimes look back at the grounds I attended back then where I didn't fully take advantage of any photo opportunities which I would be 'all over' now. I also look back on it in a positive way, in the fact that if I didn't take my camera to games early on, then I might not have progressed at the speed or indeed in the style that I have.

I really relish in the fact that now my photography has a direction and because of that, it makes it all the more enjoyable, rather than 'just taking pictures'. That is fine, too if that suits you, but this is giving me something I wholly enjoy and thrive in, while building an archive of non league grounds and women's football matches.