Thursday, 8 February 2007

From Old Server

The Controlled Test is producing some interesting results. I’ll post scenes as I have time (and Mrs Bidmead returns!) First four then: Matthew Howard and his growing tree, Mark Bennicke’s volcano, Sebastian Wasilewski’s nowhere, and Josh Barham’s man. From my other year 11 group try Adam Fadra’s bridge or Sam Eve’s carpet rides or Callum Credland’s big car or Holly Thomson’s window. These are just incomplete scenes from their developing exam movies and we hope the final product will match the promise.

Chris Appelhans' artwork has more than a touch of fantasy about it at times – look at his concept paintings 1, 2 and 3 for example. His website is a source of very varied drawings and paintings. I discovered his animation about Superman and have made it our 2007 Movie of the Week 6 but in the blog it's better to dwell on his other work. He has that wonderfully crisp drawing ability that only the finest artists possess, together with the imagination to capture yours. A wonderfully evocative drawing of the huge family lined up on their front stoop, “Dustbowl”, with the mother clutching a chicken and the father a scythe, led me to a very moving series of photographs in memory of his grandfather. It is a warm tribute.

In assembly today I reflected on Friday's concert, a wonderful morning as many of us watched and listened to the Watoto Children’s Choir from Uganda. We were all caught up by their sheer energy and enthusiasm, not to mention talent. I was sufficiently motivated enough to purchase two CDs so they must have been good. It’s easy to forget these children have suffered war, hunger, and the loss of their parents through Aids. There is a need for us in the richer world to help. I believe the school will support their charity. For now enjoy the music.
There is a slideshow of this and their previous tours. Wouldn’t it be nice to welcome them back here at South Axholme.

We have a visitor today from Birmingham – Archbishop Ilsley Catholic Technology College. David Irish teaches art and is considering introducing animation to his school. “It’s been a great experience looking around your school and I have not only been impressed with the quality of animation but the interest in the creative process, having witnessed the development of the storylines. Now all I have to do is teach myself the fundamentals of animation as I am used to charcoal and paint. On a final note, all of you including the staff and pupils have made me feel most welcome and the school dinners are quite good as well, once again thanks to everyone – Mr Irish.”

I'm going to dwell on an object of desire I actually own. Now my students would doubtless point to the iPod as their object of acoustic desire but I much prefer my Pure Evoke 3 DAB radio. I know if I wore it in my top pocket I would fall over but relaxing in my armchair listening once again to a recording made at the touch of a switch to England hammer the Scots at rugby was sheer heaven. And speaking of rugby you can download a podcast of "The Times" rugby writers, including Jonny Wilkinson, discussing the Six Nations or you can read about it here. You simply can't get too much of a good thing.
Audio / Video-Podcasts-Sport-TimesOnline

I used love American comic books as a child and superheroes were the inhabitants of that world. You will have heard of Superman and Batman because they have been taken up by Hollywood and made into movies. But these superheroes go back to before the Second World War. The first masked hero I know of is The Phantom from 1936 but my particular favourite was Green Lantern. He wore a power ring of unlimited power, well unlimited that is aside from his own imagination. The story gets more complicated than this because there were other heroes who had power rings. Read the incredibly complicated Wilkipedia article about the Guardians of the Universe for example. I’m far too sophisticated to admit I like the stories now but the artwork is supreme.

Flash-based websites can be spectacular and here is one from a small company in Hungary that’s better than most. Future Films is based in Budapest and its site has the wow factor, particularly in full screen mode. Compare their old site with the new to appreciate the advances the web designers have made. This is an impressive shop window for their products. Liam Oades recommends these animations - and The first highlights the difficulty of finding a plumber nowadays; the second has Death going about his business accompanied by a cat. Neither qualify for “Movie of the Week” but they are fun.

When I was a boy I purchased on impulse a book about Pablo Picasso’s paintings – cheap, in a sale, naturally. It changed my views on art. Now sometimes I still think that modern artists can’t draw. Not in Picasso’s case anyway. Look at “Françoise Gilot with Claude and Paloma” (1951) for instance. You might think, “My dog could draw like that.” You would be wrong. Now look at “Pierrot” (1918) with its wonderful colours or the very stylised “Woman with a Crow” (1904). Impressed? Examine his “Guernica” produced in 1937 during the Spanish Civil War. Guernica was a beautiful but undefended Basque town bombed by the Nazis and completely destroyed. Another painting, “A Woman in Tears” depicts the tragedy in a different form. Olga’s Gallery, by the way, is a wonderful resource.

Searching the web for an animation for our next movie of the week I came upon the work of Matthew Irvine, currently working for Nokia but recently a student at the Royal College of Art. His animation work is interesting enough but in 2003 he was working towards his PGCE at Oxted School in Surrey. The results of his work there is posted on his site Year 8 Pixel Portrait Project. Over four pages he develops the project from chalk and charcoal to animated images of his year 8 pupils.

Bill Bryson is my favourite writer of non-fiction because he is so funny. If you wish a gentle introduction to his work in animated form try the “Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid”. My favourite book by him is
Notes from a Small Island” in which he gives an American visitor’s guide to Britain: "Suddenly, in the space of a moment, I realized what it was that I loved about Britain--which is to say, all of it.” You can visit his home page here.

This year we introduced the new course on satire. This involves the study of cartoons and we feature work of Peter Brookes of “The Times”. There are other cartoonists however. Look at the work of Steve Bell for instance in “The Guardian”. There’s a very funny cartoon combining the recent shipwreck and John Reid’s prowess at the Home Office. Reid is ready to go water-skiing and his gear is attached to the beached container ship.

I hear that Mr Barlow is considering producing a podcast to help in revising the PE syllabus. Now how impressive is that! I would be more impressed if he does it to music. In the meantime one of the my favourite sites for free podcasts is “The Times” although you will have to download them from home due to our school restrictions on mp3 downloads. If you are really keen you can listen to Tony Blair interview a variety of people from Number 10 Downing Street. Currently he has posted his discussions with Eddie Izzard, Seb Coe, Chris Evans and, one of my favourite writers, Bill Bryson – see above.

This is the first entry in what will become an occasional blog to highlight art and suchlike that may be of interest for our animation students. Should my students recommend a site to me I may just post it. My favourite animation feature film of recent years was “Toy Story” but I also enjoyed “The Incredibles”. The animation studio producing these is Pixar. We are all familiar with their major works but they also produce shorter animations too and there is a link on their website. Try The Incredible Adventures of Andre and Walter B. It is only a trailer but just look at the opening with the sun rising over the forest with trees in gold and green.

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