CP3: The One-Man Team: Layout, Media, and Concept Art

For any creative practitioner, its important we research, experiment, and draft prior to establishing our final work. As explained by author Brian Hutchinson, “the first drafts are perhaps the most important step to completing your project […] it enables your idea to become a physical, tangible manifestation you can refer to and build on” (Hutchinson, 2014). In relation to our comic, this notion will be explored through layout, media, and character design. To expand, the following post aims to provide further insight into the creative process that developed our comic book. In particular, we’ll examine the most suitable layout for our target audience as well as experiment with traditional media to determine the most appropriate colour palette for our comic. From a conceptual context, we’ll also examine an early series of drawings related to our comic’s central character – the Yowie.

In relation to layout, the following self-created templates (see Fig. 3.1) will be used throughout the comic, each fulfilling a different purpose depending on the narrative tone. For example:

  • Template A

    Template A

    Template B

    Template B

    Template C

    Template C

    Template D

    Template D

    Template E

    Template E

    Template A (9 Panels): This template will be the most recurring layout, providing the comic with an easy-to-read appearance. In particular, it will enable a younger audience to follow the comic narrative without difficulty.

  • Template B (4 Rows): In contrast to the other layouts, template B will provide the opportunity for wide shots and panoramas. This will enable the expansive landscape to be depicted as well as reinstate the loneliness of the Yowie. From a wider perspective, it also enhances the opportunity to include Australian motifs and symbols, establishing a national identity within the comic.
  • Template C (Big Beginning): From a drafting standpoint, this template is still under consideration for the final work. To expand, its purpose will simply serve to open the narrative in a unique fashion.
  • Template D (Big Middle): Perhaps the most important, template D will serve to reduce the monotonous layout that many comics fall prey to.
  • Template E (Big Ending): This template enables the final scenes to be almost a series of paintings, delivering the final messages of the artwork. In particular, the larger panels highlight the gravity of the situation that unfolds in the final stages of the comic narrative.
COL_AUS

Fig 3.2: Outback Colour Palette

From an artistic standpoint, media will also play a vital role towards the final appearance, style and reception of our comic. To expand, both inks and watercolours will be used throughout the final work, fulfilling a different purpose depending on the tone of the narrative. In particular, the use of watercolours will be mainly limited to backgrounds and scenery, emphasising the ink-drawn characters as well as enabling a fast-paced approach to traditional colouring (Noë, 2000). To expand, the colour palette will heavily depend on tones synonymous with the north-west Australian outback – harvest browns, sunburnt reds, blue skies, and eucalyptus green (see Fig. 3.2). From a research perspective, a series of photographs from north-western Australia will be referred to, providing a framework for colours depending on the location of the scene. In relation to digital media, the use of technology will be limited to simply two tools: scanner and laminator. For the purpose of reworking, templates, and experimentation, the scanner will enable drafts to be uploaded and reprinted as a means to develop characters, scenes and type. In particular, it will also increase the production rate of templates, providing a faster approach to experimenting with layouts per page of the comic (see Fig. 3.1). In relation to the laminator, the final process will involve laminating the comic to provide a high-gloss finish similar to the high-profile comics in store.

TheYowie_Final

Fig 3.3: “The Yowie” Concept Art Final

Like any visual project, concept art plays a vital role towards developing the characters, landscape, and environment. To enhance the potential of our comic, it’s important we explore different approaches to character design, enabling the most appropriate draft to succeed. From a contemporary perspective, concept art within comics has recently embraced the use of digital technology, using raster graphics editors as well as graphic tablets to enable more efficient working methods. However our creative project will rely upon a number of traditional mediums such as pencil, markers, and ink. As explained by Pixar CEO John Lasseter, “proficiency with traditional media is often paramount to a concept artist’s ability to use painting or drawing software […] more importantly Interpretation of ideas and how they are realized is where the concept artist’s individual creativity is most evident, as subject matter is often beyond their control” (Shamsuddin, 2012).

10752014_10153334029797818_1882003575_ncollage_theyowie

In the upcoming days, the following media experiments, drafts, and conceptual art will be used to develop the final creative product – a comic book that appeals to both adults and children. From a personal standpoint, its possible to claim that I’ve bit off more than I can chew, yet the overall purpose of this unit is to explore our creative process – a notion that may encourage more informed decisions in future creative projects. In turn, it seems important to note the creative possibilities that arise from aiming high and missing the mark than perhaps playing the field safe by aiming low and passing the unit.

References

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Week 8: Copyright or Copyleft? Exploring, Debating, and Hating Intellectual Property Laws

Like politics and religion, copyright is pervasive, debated, and entrenched in our global society. To expand, its existence operates as a “legal concept, enacted by most governments through associated copyright laws, giving the creator of intellectual property specific rights” (Curtin University, 2014). From a creative standpoint, this statement refers to the protection of a wide array of subject matter from “written works such as articles, books, poems, manuals and even telephone directories to music, to pictorial works such as drawings, paintings and maps, to broadcast media such as television, film and radio” (Magnum Legal Services, 2010). In particular, this protection provides the creator with an exclusive right to enjoy the fruits of their creative skills and endeavours – and in particular the fruits that arise from “economic” uses of their creations (Dowd, 2006). In addition, by protecting the rights of creators, the law of copyright provides a society-wide incentive to encourage the production of new works (Magnum Legal Services, 2010). In turn, we would expect the notion of copyright to appear fair, agreeable, and perhaps appealing for any creative practitioner in our society. However many individuals argue that copyright serves to enrich a few at the expense of creativity as well as restrict the public’s natural right to use, modify, and share creative works. Like pro-copyright material (see video above), this ongoing stance against traditional copyright views can be explored throughout a series of creative products such as video-based parodies, satirical artwork, remixed songs, and theatrical renditions. To enhance our understanding of this widespread debate, it’s important we consider both copyright and copyleft viewpoints to inform our own standpoint relating to intellectual property.

From a case study standpoint, this week’s tutorial aimed to explore a series of questions related to copyright law, including: does copyright enhance or restrict creativity? To explore this notion, the class separated into two factions: copyright and copyleft, providing the opportunity for discussion, personal opinion, and arguments to sway our thinking related to intellectual property law. From a personal perspective, the flaws on both economic and cultural grounds from the concept of copyright provided a series of key arguments to favour the view of copyleft. To expand, we can perhaps explore the notion that our background, past experiences, and creative philosophy can play a vital role in our backing of either copyright or copyleft viewpoints. For example, the tutorial’s landslide support of copyright laws may have been influenced by its demographics: young undergraduate students that have yet to be fully recognised, financed, or paid for their creative work. In turn, the select economic benefits associated with copyright can perhaps be more appealing than the non-economic rights related to copyleft (Curtin University, 2014).

In contrast to supporting select aspects of the copyleft movement, it’s important to consider what pro-copyright arguments swayed our thinking. Firstly it seems necessary to note that copyright laws play a vital role in our society, granting the creator of an original work exclusive rights to its use and distribution as well as enabling them to receive compensation for their intellectual effort (Dowd, 20). In turn, this underlying principle prevents an individual from imitating, manipulating or downright plagiarising a piece of creative work. To enhance our understanding of this statement, we can explore a selection of lawsuits that provided compensation, protection, and recognition for aspiring artists that discovered their creative work plagiarised. For example, hip hop group The Black Eyed Peas were successfully sued $1.2 million dollars by Ohio DJ Lynn Tolliver, claiming that his song “I Need a Freak” was sampled without his permission in the 2005 hit single “My Humps” (NME, 2011). Despite this, it’s important to consider the exceeding examples of past copyright lawsuits that favoured billion dollar corporations over independent companies, small businesses, or creative individuals. Like many legal systems, it’s possible to argue that copyright may facilitate those with the most financial backing or mass media influence. In turn, we could explore the notion that copyright laws are providing billion dollar media conglomerates with increasing powers, ownership, and influence over the creative industries (see Fig. 8.1).

Fig 8.1: Like many mass media conglomerates, the Walt Disney Company continues to purchase intellectual property from outside sources. In 2012 Disney had, for $4 billion, acquired Lucasfilm and its subsidiaries, providing complete creative control and ownership of the legendary StarWars franchise. Following this purchase, over 32 copyright lawsuits were filed against various creative practitioners, companies, and studios for using StarWars characters that now belonged to the Walt Disney Company (Polo, 2012).

Fig 8.1: Like many mass media conglomerates, the Walt Disney Company continues to purchase intellectual property from outside sources. In 2012 Disney had, for $4 billion, acquired Lucasfilm and its subsidiaries, providing complete creative control and ownership of the legendary StarWars franchise. Following this purchase, over 32 copyright lawsuits were filed against various creative practitioners, companies, and studios for using StarWars characters that now belonged to the Walt Disney Company (Polo, 2012).

Fig. 8.2: Copyrighted to Warner/Chappell Music, "Happy Birthday to You" receives an estimated US$2,000,000 per year to the copyright holders (FMT News, 2014)

Fig. 8.2: Copyrighted to Warner/Chappell Music, “Happy Birthday to You” receives an estimated US$2,000,000 per year to the copyright holders (FMT News, 2014)

To support our partial opposition to prevalent copyright laws, it’s important we explore the dark side of copyright as well as challenge the arguments delivered by it’s supporters in this week’s tutorial. From a personal perspective, many of the pro-copyright viewpoints were highly frustrating as they contrasted with the pro-copyleft notion of what constitutes as creative work. In particular, there was an underlying sense of irony throughout the debate as several pro-copyright peers were liable for incorporating copyrighted photographs, fictional characters, and trademark patterns into their own creative endeavours without consent from the original creators. From a design standpoint, this statement relates to many creative institutions, practitioners, and scholars that argue, “the best ideas come from building on the ideas, artistic endeavours, and inventions of others” (Johnson, 2010). To expand, it’s possible to argue that every modern creation is somewhat unoriginal, drawing its ideas from the back of a pre-existing design, invention, or piece of work. For example, organisations like IBM, Microsoft, and Apple, have a long history of profiting, marketing, and adapting their designs from pre-existing ideas and technology. For many pro-copyright individuals, this reality may be labelled as theft, sacrilege or perhaps easier to overlook by staring into their beloved Apple iPhones (ZING!). However it’s important for any creative practitioner to consider the possibility that increasing copyright laws stand to negatively affect the creative industries. To enhance our understanding of this notion, we can apply prevalent copyright laws to the past, providing the argument that many influential works, inventions, and experiments may have been deemed plagiarised and subsequently undervalued. For example, we can explore the idea that William Shakespeare, Hans Christen Andersen and C. S. Lewis could have breached copyright laws by drawing upon folklores, legends, and religious scriptures. This concept may appear a farfetched scenario to support copyleft thinking but we only need to consider the traditional song “happy birthday” as a modern example of intellectual property laws gone mad (see Fig. 8.2).

References

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CP1: Getting Started

Like any project, taking control from beginning to end can be intimidating, especially if you are assigned to complete the proposal alone. Despite this, we can explore a range of methods to apply in our project’s onset, helping the creative process to run smoother and more efficiently. To expand, it’s important to examine the following question: what measures can we take at this early stage to increase the likelihood of project success? In turn, it’s important we consider the project’s purpose, target audience, deadline, and various aims. In relation to our comic book, research will play a core role towards developing our storyline, characters, and setting, as well as effectively creating a successful comic. From a creative standpoint, this devotion to research has the potential to deliver problem-solving information as well enhance our understanding of the project, providing the ‘best’ that has been said and thought on the topics that relate to our comic’s storyline (Armstrong, 2012).

To begin our research, it’s vital we determine the information that we need or want to know (Booth, Colomb & Williams, 2008). For the purpose of this project, numerous aspects of the comic industries will be explored including: design techniques, narrative devices, consumer base, and select opposition. To expand, this research phase will tackle key challenges such as creating a comic book that displays intellectual credibility as well as an appealing nature to both adults and children. In relation to sources, it’s important that we consider the value, reliance, and context of the information used throughout our research. For example, a wide range of comics will be explored (see Fig. 1.1), providing reliable insight into the layout, medium, and typography of successful comic-based publications. From a creative standpoint, perhaps this research into the comic industry can influence our artistic approach, narrative direction, and selection of medium towards creating a comic?

Fig 1.1: From independent publications to big studio favourites, a wide series of comics will be explored to enhance our understanding of artistic styles, technique, and principles

Fig 1.1: From independent publications to big studio favourites, a wide series of comics will be explored to enhance our understanding of artistic styles, technique, and principles

In relation to narrative, research will also play a key role towards shaping the comic’s central characters, setting, and appealing plot line for both adults and children. To expand, a series of books, articles, interviews, and Internet sources will be explored to enhance our understanding of particular themes as well as unearth important details that can affect our entire story (Wilson, 2012). This critical analysis will focus upon several main topics related to early 20th century Australia, including: indigenous communities, rural townships, bush folklores, and the legendary Yowie, a mythical hominid reputed to live in the Australian wilderness. In particular, the latter will be focused upon heavily, providing a sense of imagery to draft and conceive our central character upon (see CP2-VLOG: Finding Yowie). From a wider perspective, understanding the information that we need could perhaps enhance our chances of focus-driven research, laying the foundations for a good final project (Ching, 2013).

Fig. 1.2: Online forums such as CBR and Comic Rack are a valuable tool for accessing knowledge, ideas, and insight into target audiences

Fig. 1.2: Online comic forums such as CBR and Comic Rack are a valuable tool for accessing knowledge, ideas, and insight into target audiences

In addition to researching narrative-based topics, it’s also important that we consider the target audience, opposition and stakeholders in our project. Like many works belonging to the creative industries, empathy-driven design can perhaps determine the success or failure of our product. In relation to our project, it’s vital we develop an understanding of the material that both adults and children may wish to see in a comic book. From a research standpoint, this information can be sought in successful comic publications as well as feedback from online forums in the comic community. In particular, the latter option continues to provide a series of useful remarks, suggestions, and critiques that relate to the following question: how can we create a comic that appeals to both adults and children? This feedback from online forums such as Comic Rack and Comic Book Resources (see Fig. 1.2) has provided a web of information that can be used to develop a befitting comic book for our target audience. In contrast, we can also use online parenting or education forums as an opportunity to explore the debate and opposition surrounding the intellectual credibility of comics. This useful insight into the concerns from parents, teachers, and educational institutes can be used to drive the design of a comic that entertains children as well as possibly educate.

Procrastinator001Throughout the week, this wealth of information will be thoroughly examined, providing the final design decisions needed to begin our comic book. To expand, the following post will be displayed in video format, presenting a series of concept art, research, and initial storyboarding related to the comic’s central character: The Yowie. Like many creative projects, it seems the true power of any artistic endeavour is imbedded in those first sketches. From a design standpoint, it also seems important to note and avoid the procrastination trap that befalls so many assignments, projects, and creative practitioners. Here’s to getting the job done.

References

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Week 6: Rethinking Technology: An Animator’s Perspective

Technology Hand

From a creative standpoint, technology will “not live up to its potential until we start to think of it less like televisions and more like paintbrushes” (Saxena, 2013). To expand, this notion can be explored through the ability to perceive computer screens not simply as information gateways, but also a new medium for design and expression. In relation to the creative industries, it’s also possible to consider disciplines as mediated by the capabilities of the technology used as well as the production methods available (McMahon, 2014). For example, the existence of photography is the result of combining several key technologies, involving the use of chemicals, light-sensitive material, and electrical charge. Like any discipline, perhaps the more we learn, explore, and manipulate the abilities of its technology, the more creative we become? In contrast, philosophical debates have arisen over the present and future use of technology in creativity, sparking digital criticism as well as disagreements over whether technology improves the creative condition or worsens it (Schatzberg, 2006). To enhance our understanding of this statement, we can explore the capabilities and restrictions inherent in the technological media and production methods of our own creative disciplines.

In relation to animation, technology plays a vital role in the conception, production, and distribution of its creative work. From a contemporary standpoint, this increasing industry has come a long way since the early days of hand-drawn cartoons, boasting an impressive US$68.4 billion dollar market value (Board of Investments, 2009). To expand, the techniques used by animators to bring characters to life have improved dramatically over the years, and unlike traditional animation, which made its debut in 1906 and created the illusion of movement through frame-by-frame manipulation of illustrations, most animators today use computers to generate three-dimensional images (Curtis, 2014). From a technological standpoint, this arrival of computer animation was a turning point in terms of the type of technology animation studios needed to use. For example, software such as Adobe Flash, Poser Pro, and Autodesk Maya, have provided platforms to create relatively quick and easy animations using a variety of digital drawing tools. In turn, digital technology has provided animation studios an effective means to experiment, develop, and produce films at a faster and more cost-effective rate compared to traditional methods (see videos below).

Fig 6.1: The explosive growth of Flash animation, brought about a major revival of the animated television genre

Fig 6.1: The explosive growth of Flash animation, brought about a major revival of the animated television genre

Fig. 6.2: The Polar Express (2008) used motion capture technology to derive the movement of characters exclusively from actor Tom Hank's physical movements

Fig. 6.2: The Polar Express (2008) used motion capture technology to derive the movement of characters exclusively from actor Tom Hank’s physical actions

To enhance our understanding of the relationship between technology and animation, we can explore the capabilities and restrictions inherent in it’s modern media and production methods. With the popularity and financial success of contemporary films such as Transformers (2007), Toy Story 3 (2010), and Despicable Me (2010), the immense capabilities of computer-based animation have been brought sharply into focus. As explained by Jesse Cordtz, animator and operations manager of Blue Sky Studios, “two of the greatest advantages of using computer animation on a project are the realism and speed that digital software can bring to the filmmaking process” (Naillon, 2014). To expand, new techniques derived from computer graphics, have provided pioneer opportunities: low-cost Flash animation has made TV-animation production more economical (see Fig. 6.1), while upscale motion capture technology has allowed actors to emote realistically (see Fig. 6.2). In particular, digital software has also provided a heightened opportunity for experimentation, enabling animators to simply undo, redo or delete commands. From a creative standpoint, perhaps it’s possible to argue that digital media has provided animators with an increased playing field to embrace creativity?

In contrast to capabilities, it’s also possible to examine the restrictions inherent in the digital media and production methods of modern animation. To expand, any computer animation is often restricted by the software’s limitations. For example, the earliest incarnations of Pixar animation such as The Adventures of André and Wally B. (1984, see video below) appear incredibly different than the later, more sophisticated films of Finding Nemo (2003), The Incredibles (2004), and Toy Story 3 (2010). These changes are largely responsible to the advances in technology, which have a direct effect on the restrictions of any animation-based software (Naillon, 2014). From a critical standpoint, we can also explore the capabilities of digital software as perhaps an overlooked restriction in the field of creativity. For example, leading programs such as Autodesk Maya have increasingly provided animators with a series of in-built templates, skins, and action sequences. In turn, this simplified software may affect the long-term creativity of animation, perhaps jeopardising the skill level of many aspiring animators? From a personal perspective, the widespread adoption of these animation-based programs can often be as melancholic as inspiring. If digital technology can lead many animation students to neglect their drawing skills, can prompt-filled software stand to affect the imagination and creative process of future animators?

References

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Week 5: Design & Creativity, a Love Story

Like creativity, design is a field that is highly valued, but not always well understood. To enhance our understanding of design, its important we examine the role that creativity plays in shaping a great designer (Quay, 2012). From a wider perspective, this study can also provide insight into problem-solving techniques used for overcoming creative stalemate. In particular, Edward de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats method can be explored as a means to inspire creative thinking in the field of design. This analysis of the relationship between creativity and design can perhaps enhance our own skills in the creative discipline we belong to.

From a general perspective, the cornerstone of design is arguably driven by the motivation to improve or create new products. Despite this, the creative process applied by any designer has always been a “highly debated and researched component of the human psyche” (Gross, 2011). As author Steven Johnson claims, “by learning to recognise where and how patterns of creativity occur in design, we can possibly discover the secrets towards unlocking our creative potential” (Where Good Ideas Come From, 2011). In recent studies, this notion has led to the development of design thinking, “design-specific cognitive activities that designers apply during the process of designing” (Visser, 2006). This involves the method of combining ‘empathy’ for the context of a problem, ‘creativity’ in the generation of insights and solutions, and ‘rationality’ in analysing and fitting various solutions to the problem context (Cross, 2011). From a personal perspective, this practice is applied to various design-based units, often producing the highest result for a creative product or service.

In relation to designing a creative product, this week’s lecture also took a key interest in the notion of applying rules and parameters to our work. As explained by Dr. Stuart Medley, deciding on the rules and parameters can be as personal to the individual as well as the industry they belong to (Lecture Week Five: Creativity and Design, 2014). For example, the use of gridlines is a strict rule that enables graphic designers to be aware of how elements are positioned prior to printing (Harris, 2012). In contrast, restricting the use of typefaces, lines, and shapes for layout, may be seen as a parameter that caters to my particular design style. For many creative companies, these types of rules and parameters are a vital means to upholding consistency throughout their designs. This is perhaps evident in the products of Apple, bringing order to complexity by delivering simple and consistent interface (Isaacson, 2011). In turn, this adherence to self-imposed rules or parameters can possibly increase our chances of achieving a particular design.

From a creative standpoint, there are numerous techniques inspired to explore, evaluate and implement ideas throughout the design process (Pink, 2006). In particular, Edward de Bono’s ‘Six Thinking Hats’ technique has the potential to look at design decisions from a number of important perspectives. To expand, each ‘Thinking Hat’ represents a different style of thinking (see Fig 5.1), providing a means for groups to plan thinking processes in a detailed and cohesive way. As explained by de Bono, “this technique forces you to move outside your habitual thinking style, often helping you to get a more rounded view of a situation” (Six Thinking Hats, 2008). In relation to the creative industries, the ‘Six Thinking Hats’ technique can be highly beneficial by blocking confrontations that happen when people with different thinking styles discuss the same problem (Mind Tools, 2014). Perhaps the collaborative nature of animation and graphic design may someday provide the opportunity to further explore this technique.

Fig. 5.1

Fig. 5.1: The ‘Six Thinking Hats’ of Edward de Bono

For many designers, manipulating elements and principles can also provide a means to explore ideas as well as challenge the status quo. From early paintings to contemporary cinema, this notion can be observed throughout the history of creativity. As Csikszentmihalyi explains, “this process of discovery involved in experimenting and creating something new appears to be one of the most enjoyable activities any human can be involved in […] there is no worry of failure and all self-consciousness disappears” (The Flow of Creativity, 1996). To expand, perhaps this enjoyable experience is responsible for driving many creative practitioners to challenge the present state of art and design? In relation to this statement, historian Dr. Neil Swanson claims, “we remember the mavericks […] the creatives that explore new ideas and confront the social expectations of their time […] they are careless for opinion, caught in their own creative flow” (Ganeri, 2002). In contrast, the modern dominance of digital technologies has also encouraged many creative practitioners to support traditional ideas, methods and styles. From an animation standpoint, this notion can be observed throughout the work of director Hayao Miyazaki (see Fig. 5.2). Despite belonging to the digital age, Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli has become one of the most beloved animation studios, producing a wide selection of films in the style of pre-digitalised times (Williams, 2014). Like many creative practitioners, Miyazaki represents a core ideal at the heart of Csikszentmihalyi’s work – “creative persons may differ from one another in a variety of ways, but in one respect they are unanimous: they all love what they do” (The Flow of Creativity, 1996).

References

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Creative Project Proposal: Australia’s Bigfoot

For many readers, we often harbour the notion that comics are solely for the pleasure of children and teenagers, their intellectual value being minimum at best. Despite this, a recent marketing study conducted by a major comic book publisher, indicates that the average age of comic book readers is between 25 and 30 (Standberry, 2012). To expand, countries such as France, Belgium, and Japan, have a long relationship with comic books, including their own distinct styles and wide selection of stories in different genres (Townsend, 2012). In contrast, the Australian comic book industry is almost non-existent, often relying on overseas publications to satisfy its consumers. From a creative standpoint, this presents a series of challenges to base my project upon, including the opportunity to create a comic book that appeals to both adults and children. In particular, we can also explore the possibility of designing a comic that displays intellectual credibility as well as a distinct style that reflects our national identity.

To enhance our understanding of this project, it’s vital we explore numerous aspects of the comic industries such as design techniques, narrative devices, consumer base, and select opposition. In particular, this research phase will also include various resources related to key aspects of the storyline. For example, indigenous folklores may be explored to help characterise the comic’s central character, the legendary Yowie, a mythical hominid reputed to live in the Australian wilderness (Dennis, 2006). In relation to narrative, this critical analysis can enhance our understanding as well as unearth important details that can affect our entire story (Wilson, 2012). As explained by Pixar Animation Studio’s Andrew Stanton, “the essence of any great creative product is research […] successful research can often decide the difference between a good or bad end-result” (Ibarra, 2013). This statement reflects the crucial role that research can play in the creative industries, often inspiring a foundation to guide the direction of our creative product.

Fig 1.1 (From Top to Bottom): Hergé's iconic Tintin series, & Art Spiegelman's internationally acclaimed Maus

Fig 1.1 (From Top to Bottom): Hergé’s iconic Tintin series, & Art Spiegelman’s internationally acclaimed Maus

In relation to design process, applying a series of rules and parameters can provide a benchmark for managing our comic. This practice involves careful consideration of what we wish to achieve as well as defines the steps necessary to do so. As Dr. Stuart Medley of Edith Cowan University states, “deciding on the rules and parameters [can be] a playful and creative act in itself” (Lecture Week Five: Creativity and Design, 2014). To enhance the success of our comic, three major rules and parameters have been set relating to medium, colour, and layout. This includes the strict use of conventional drawing tools such as pencil, ink, and watercolour, as well as applying a palette of colours related to the tones and hues of outback Australia. To enhance our understanding of these traditional mediums, the acclaimed works of both comic artists Hergé and Art Spiegelman will be explored (see Fig. 1.1). In particular, their use of word balloons, sequential panels, and brief descriptive prose will be applied as guidelines towards crafting our comic layout.

From a creative standpoint, it also seems important to note the limitations that accompany any project. This enables a creative practitioner to identify future problems that may arise as well as explore early methods to overcome them. In contrast to the team of artists usually behind a comic production, it seems the greatest challenge facing our solo project is a limited time frame. To overcome this limitation, it’s imperative that self-discipline is enforced through effective time management and self-imposed due dates. Despite this, it’s also important to recognise the chance that any creative proposal may deviate from its original intention. From a personal perspective, this can be highly appealing as a creative practitioner. For instance, how many unexpected detours have led artists, writers, or inventors to create a final piece far greater than what they anticipated?

To expand upon our creative proposal, we can explore beyond the intention of showcasing a tangible comic book. In particular, the following blurb provides clearer insight into the storyline pertaining to the comic:

Set in early twentieth century Australia, two siblings move to the country to be with their last remaining relatives, an estranged aunt and uncle. However they soon discover their new country landscape is home to a lonely and misunderstood creature known as The Yowie. While befriending a mythical monster proves to be much easier than expected, they soon encounter a series of big problems: how do you keep a 15-foot-tall, yam-eating yowie a secret – especially when there’s a high priced bounty on his head and the combined force of the local township mobilising to destroy the “violent and unnatural creature”?

For the purpose of documenting my project, this blog will be frequently updated to present the process, methods, and challenges involved in creating a comic. In relation to the final product, the comic will be displayed page by page in a series of uploaded media files, preferably video and photograph. From a personal perspective, the opportunity to practice traditional techniques as well as develop an original character stands as highly appealing to my creative senses. Perhaps this project will incite a newfound appreciation for the comic art form?

Spidey_Senses

References

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Week 4: Exploring the Creative Psyche

Team Freud or Team Jung? For buddies Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, the psyche was a many-splendored thing: fluid, multi-dimensional, alive, and capable of creative development (Salman, 2008). However their relationship and collaboration began to deteriorate as the years went on. While Freud had viewed Jung as the most innovative and original of his followers, he was unhappy with Jung’s disagreement with some of the basic tenets of Freudian theory. From Jung’s point of view, the major problems were “Freud’s emphasis on sexuality and his inordinate need for personal authority in intellectual matters pertaining to psychoanalysis” (Cherry, 2012). In turn, the Freud-Jung relationship ended in 1913 amid personal and theoretical conflicts.

Following this break, Jung later founded his own school of analytical psychology. In the six-year period that followed 1914, he advanced such concepts as the collective unconscious, individuation, archetypes, the shadow, and projection. These key contributions established a series of theories such as the gradual discovery of our ‘real inner self’, genetic blueprints for ideal behaviour, and a repressed dark side that exists in our unconscious (O’Shaugnessy & Stadler, 2002). To expand our understanding of these terms, we can analyse narrative growth as an individuation process, as well examine archetypal figures and behaviours inscribed in fictional characters. In addition, Jung’s concept of the shadow can be best understood in conjunction with historical examples of projection. In turn, perhaps these analyses can provide insight into our own psyches as well as teach us how to reach our creative potential?

From a personal perspective, Jung’s definition of archetypes was a key term that particularly stood out. Described as a “genetic blueprint for ideal types of behaviour” (O’Shaugnessy & Stadler, 2002), Jung argued that archetypal figures are inscribed in mythological characters, devised as guides to teach us to act in certain ways. In turn, psychologist Robert Moore later used this theory to create a framework that explained the four major archetypes of masculine psychology: King, Warrior, Magician, and Lover (The Art of Manliness, 2014). From a creative standpoint, representations of different qualities in a particular psyche can provide an ideal basis for narratives that wish to explore an archetype as well as it’s positive and shadow aspects. For example, Moore’s archetypes of masculinity are illustrated in many fictional characters belonging to popular culture (see Fig. 3.2). By applying Moore’s archetypes of masculinity, creative practitioners can design a character that possesses too much or too little of a particular aspect, leading to the shadow sides of the archetype. Like the mythological figures of our ancestors, perhaps the archetypes of our beloved fictional characters are a modern means to convey ideal types of behaviour?

Fig 3.2: From TV’s Breaking Bad to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry, Moore’s archetypes of masculinity are illustrated in many fictional characters belonging to popular culture

In relation to creativity, we can perhaps examine our own unconscious behaviour and it’s role in the work we create. Through exploring Jung’s concept of the shadow in conjunction with the idea of projection, it seems we’re forced to ask the question: to what extent are we aware of our own unconscious motivations and personality? More importantly, in Jung’s terms, have we achieved individuation by embracing our shadow self rather than projecting it on to others? (Mason, 2014) From a social perspective, it’s possible to argue that many individuals continue to repress their shadow side within the subconscious. This is repeatedly reflected through the projection of a society that labels minority groups as the cause of many social problems (O’Shaugnessy & Stadler, 2002). For example, the ‘bad’ tendencies that the gay community is often accused of – unnatural, diseased, socially unconscious and so on – are usually the repressed and denied aspects of homophobic people accusing them of such sins. In turn, it seems understanding our unconscious motivations can be enhanced by confronting our shadow side, a difficult and testing process for some more than others. From a personal perspective, perhaps accessing my shadow side is particularly difficult due to an open and unprejudiced upbringing? To expand, we could question whether the individuation of our own parents, imposed upon ourselves in childhood, has any link to the magnitude of our future shadow side?

Like his B.F.F Freud, Carl Jung has made a lasting mark in enhancing our understanding in the field of creativity. From archetypes to shadow sides, his work has illuminated patterns of behaviour and thought that can be found in all characters and narratives throughout the creative industries. From a personal perspective, we can even apply these concepts to ourselves, assisting our long-term quest to find our ‘real inner self’ and fulfilment in life. More importantly we can use Jung’s theories to identify the dark, negative side that ‘prevents’ us from reaching our full creative potential. Or perhaps, ‘enable’? After all, Darth Vader did build the Death Star.

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References

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Week 3: Remembering Robin, a Creative Personality

What makes a creative personality? It’s a question that continues to be hotly debated by some of the greatest minds of our time. From a social perspective, we often jump to romantic stereotypes when defining a creative person – the tortured soul, the sensation seeker, the impulsive and uninhibited, or the downright maverick (Plucker, 2012). However research indicates that a creative personality is the property of a far more complex system, indefinable by any single answer (Csikszentmihalyi, 1996). To enhance our understanding of creative personalities, this week’s reading explored psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s ten dimensions of complexity – a set of “contrasting personality traits that may be the most telling characteristics of creative people” (Creativity: Flow and The Psychology of Discovery and Invention, 1996). Each example plays central to Csikszentmihalyi’s theory that a creative individual will house an internalized system of conflicting traits. In turn can these ten dimensions bare any resemblance or responsibility for the stereotypes we place upon creative people? More importantly can they enhance our understanding of the correlation between mental illness and creativity?

Following the recent loss of comic genius Robin Williams, it feels almost tributary to write a blog that explores creative personality as well as its relation to mental illness. While many commentators may be willing to link Williams’ creativity to his lifelong battle with depression, it is important that we also attribute his creativity to where it probably best belongs – to his playfulness, intelligence, physical energy, and insight into the human condition that few people have (Grohol, 2014). While we can’t say for certain whether Williams’ creativity was due, at least in part, to his mental illness, we can explore the notion that creative individuals are prone to a greater sense of suffering and pain. From a historical perspective, it often seems the most renowned creatives have followed the same tragic path of Williams, a “lengthy list that includes painters, poets, writers, musicians and designers – Vincent van Gogh, Ernest Hemingway, Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, Kurt Cobain, and Alexander McQueen” (Puente, 2014). As psychoanalyst Barry Panter claims, “when artists are dealing with unconscious emotional issues, that creates great pressure inside, and they use their art to deal with those issues […] it’s a way of externalizing their pain, hoping to gain control and even mastery over it” (Creativity & Madness: Psychological Studies of Art and Artists, 1995). Expanding upon this statement we can also explore Csikszentmihalyi’s tenth dimension of complexity – “openness and sensitivity of creative individuals often exposes them to suffering and pain yet also a great enjoyment” (p.73, 1996). Perhaps it was this contrasting personality trait that led poor Robin Williams to briefly endure that “lonely moment of morbid certainty” (Brand, 2014) like so many other creative personalities before him.

Expanding upon this week’s reading of creative personality, there were several other key dimensions of complexity that particularly stood out. This included creative persons alternating between imagination and a rooted sense of reality, as well as feeling very passionate about their work, yet extremely objective at the same time. Both pairs of contrasting personality traits presented information that enhanced my understanding of creativity. In particular the latter dimension related to a complex and personal balance of passion and objectivity held towards my creative works. As Csikszentmihalyi explains, “without the passion, we soon lose interest in a difficult task […] yet without being objective about it, our work is not very good and lacks credibility” (p.72, 1996). From a personal perspective it is not uncommon to find myself objective as well as passionate towards my own work, enabling me to safely accept criticism or response. To elaborate Csikszentmihalyi notes in his 1996 article for Psychology Today that creative people “show tendencies of thought and action that contain contradictory extremes; instead of being an “individual”, each of them is a “multitude” (Kaufman, 2011). Like the late Robin Williams, this statement can often apply to the great contradictions of performers, caught between a world of extroverted entertainment and a desperate need for downtime and reflection.

Despite this week’s reading presenting a feasible list of characteristics found in creative people (p.76, 1996), it’s possible to argue that anyone can still relate to one of Csikszentmihalyi’s ten dimensions of complexity. From a social perspective, we could explore this notion by examining individuals that suffer from mental illness and a lack of creativity but still identify with Csikszentmihalyi’s tenth dimension – openness and sensitivity will often expose them to suffering and pain yet also a great enjoyment. After all, as leading psychologist Jeffrey Bornestein explains, “we should put to rest the myth that in order to be a creative genius, one must also be mentally ill […] up to 15-20% of the population could be classified as HSP (Highly Sensitive Person) […] and with or without creativity, anyone can still be open and sensitive […] making us more vulnerable to conditions such as anxiety and depression, or any genetic conditions inherent within our families” (Puente, 2014). In contrast, the shocking suicide of Robin Williams presented another creative personality that had the gift of enhancing the lives of others, yet struggled to handle their own. Perhaps we can only hope that losing another creative giant will stimulate broader research into the inner workings of creative minds, and a more public conversation about mental illness, helping to mitigate the stigma behind the disease. As aptly stated by John Grohol, founder and CEO of Psych Central, “his gifts to the world will be sorely missed, regardless of exactly where they came from” (Robin Williams: Creativity & Mental Illness, 2014). Here’s to Robin Williams, a real genie of creativity.

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References

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Week 2: Night, Light, and History with Dr. Glenn Spoors

The historical development of ideas associated with creativity is essential to understanding the importance and use of creativity in past artistic and professional practice (Spoors, 2014). By exploring this notion, the definition of creativity has evidently changed over time, making its current meaning dependent upon which traditions one is drawing from. As Dr. Glenn Spoors explained in this week’s lecture, each historical perception and use of creativity is heavily influenced by the social and cultural factors of its time. For example, the use of creativity in ancient civilisations often required conformance to strict rules and order, while various “modernisms” such as surrealism and cubism were radical in trying to redefine the role of art. As demonstrated by Spoors, these key historical shifts in the history of creativity can be clearly reflected in the artistic products belonging to a specific era (see Fig 2.1).

(From left to right): Tablet (2100BCE – 1800BCE) from Tomb of Akhenaten, The Ascension (1100AD - 1200AD) from the Sacramentary of the Cathedral of Saint-Etienne, Girl before a Mirror (1932) by Pablo Picasso

Fig 2.1 (From left to right): Tablet (2100BCE – 1800BCE) from Tomb of Akhenaten, The Ascension (1100AD – 1200AD) from the Sacramentary of the Cathedral of Saint-Etienne, Girl before a Mirror (1932) by Pablo Picasso

From a personal perspective, the gradual transition from creativity being recognized as something externally derived to something wholly intrinsic was a key historical shift that particularly stood out. By examining the medieval perception that one’s own creativity was providence or the devil’s work, we can observe how the definition of creativity changes to suit the historical circumstances that it belongs to (Spoors, 2014). This concept can also be applied to our post-industrial age that characterises creativity as a safeguard against uncertainty and economic turmoil as well as a new commodity of cultural capital (Batey, 2011). As stated in the Ernst & Young 2010 Connecting Innovation to Profit report, “the ability to manage, organise, cultivate and nurture creativity is directly linked to growth and achievement” (Jensen, 2011). From a wider perspective, this statement can be applied to early human survival as well as a company’s growth in the modern world. For example, by examining ancient statues of the female body such as the Venus of Willendorf, prehistoric peoples arguably used creativity to express biological cues important to our species survival (Spoors, 2014).

In a modern sense, it’s not impossible to recognise some of the earlier ideas about creativity in particular artists or movements. Factors from the classical imagination such as repetition or conformance to a particular system of rules are evident in the creativity of comic artists. Despite a variety of styles and genres, both comic books and graphic novels continue to follow a strict layout of sequential panels that represent individual scenes (see Fig. 2.2). As stated by Steven Lafler of the National Association of Comics Art Educators (NACAE), “more colleges and universities are beginning to offer degrees in comic book art, better known as sequential art, such as the School of Visual Arts in New York City” (2004). In turn the imagination of comic artists are placed under a system of rule that perhaps dictates how a graphic novel or comic book should look. From a historical perspective, we can draw comparisons between this and the strict guidelines that oversaw artistic practices in Ancient Egypt. Who knows, perhaps the repeated form of comics in the distant future will resemble Ancient Egypt’s singular representation of the human body?

Fig. 2.3: From 1944 to 2014, comic layouts continue to favour sequential panels that represent individual scenes

Fig. 2.2: From 1944 to 2014, comic layouts continue to favour sequential panels that represent individual scenes

Expanding upon key historical shifts in the history of creativity, this week’s reading took a particular interest in the dark ages of imagination. Titled “Cock’s Crow” by A. R. Ekirch, the reading discussed the impact of artificial lighting on human productivity, creativity, and imagination. From economic growth to lifestyle changes, Ekirch explores the impacts of a lost darkness by somewhat posing the question: has artificial lightning enhanced or hindered our creativity? From a personal perspective, it wasn’t uncommon to find myself favouring the latter opinion. While the introduction of artificial lighting has provided longer working hours, faster development, and safer environments, it has also harmed our sleeping patterns, removed entire constellations from sight, and diminished opportunities for privacy, intimacy and self-reflection. In turn the wondrous and mysterious corners of our world have been illuminated, eliminating fireside tales and obscuring the star filled skies. Despite this how many of us still wish to escape the city lights? Increasingly we are travelling to the last frontiers of darkness for a chance to sleep beneath the stars. Perhaps without the intrusion of artificial lighting we can access a heightened sense of creativity? In contrast there is still a strong sense of indifference and fear towards the night than we may like to admit. From a creative perspective, this social attitude can be observed in the anthropomorphic characters of Pixar Animation Studio’s short film “Night & Day” (see Fig. 2.4). While the character of Day is presented as proud and content, Night is arguably introduced as jealous, aggressive and perhaps subordinate to Day. More importantly the artificial light that exists within Night is perhaps imperative to our identification with night in 2014.

Whether we praise or condemn its contribution to creativity, the fact remains: artificial lighting is here to stay. In the face of its increasing presence, there has never been a greater need to uphold sleep, safeguard dreams, and perhaps preserve the final frontiers of darkness. How many creative inspirations do we risk to lose in a world that increasingly shuns such vital and precious elements of our humanity?

 

References

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