Saturday, 22 March 2014

Ongoing research

The lack of blog posts reflects the fact that I have had to continue working full-time. This has had a serious impact on my ability to pursue my own work but during this time I have made a very useful contact with staff working in the media department of the college.
During the staff development week at the end of the last academic year I went to a 3D CAD introduction and then took some time to learn how to use 1,2, 3D Catch. See old posts tagged research. At the time I made some models of elements of my drawings and looked at how I could use this programme to help visualise what I was drawing. However although useful as a visualisation tool it didn't help me take the work on into any new directions. I had though at one time spoken to Annabeth about the possibility of using the new motion capture software, something I thought could be useful if I was to begin animating one of the figures from my drawing. Because I was so busy I had left this hanging, but then Matt one of Annabeth's colleagues contacted me to say he was interested in helping me realise my drawings as virtual 3D visualisations.
The first thing he asked me to do was to provide him with drawings that he could work on. He had had a look at the drawings on my website and told me that there wasn't enough information for him to be able to develop an image, so could I create a figure that could be visualised in the round. This was itself a challenge because I had never tried to create the 'average' Garry Barker figure. The people I draw are sort of stand-ins for human beings, I don't try to personalise them because they are meant to carry the narrative and are not to be read as actual people doing things. Each drawing is made up, so if you try and rotate them there is no 'real' information to latch on to. After several attempts I finally came up with this drawing.

The figure had to reflect the fact that the bodies I use are non heroic, 'normal', slightly asymmetric and a little used. Matt then took this and produced a 3D image using Maya software. 

This rendering took me back somewhat as I didn't know what I would be getting back but I realised it wasn't quite right. It needed, as Matt put it, a 'bum-crack' and genitals. 
This was the adjusted version. 

Matt then sent me the 'map' of the image, which I thought was really interesting and it triggered off all sorts of thoughts about the relationship between computer generated drawing and older drawing systems, in particular those Egyptian images where you get the sense that they understood the body as something often wrapped (I'm thinking mummification bandages here) or Cubist drawings that try to visualise all parts of the body at once. There was also a hint of those cosmological drawings of the night sky, that many cultures have produced as they attempted to personify the experience of gazing at raw nature. 

The 2D map of the 3D figure above

Visualisation of the night sky

Popova: Cubist drawing

Popova's Cubist study of a man is also about the problems static drawings encounter when trying to portray movement. What I eventually want to make are a series of short animations of my figures taking on Sisyphean tasks such as endlessly digging a hole or climbing a ladder. 

My invented figures are of course 'frozen' in their tasks, this human is forever about to move but never will. This is one of the wonderful things about static drawings, they achieve movement by implication and by the dynamics of their drawing language. However there are other ways to visualise these things
and the idea of an endless loop has started to fasinate me. 
Matt is now working on how to provide the figures with an internal skeleton. Once this is done, it should be possible for Annabeth to work with me using motion capture equipment, including a special body suit, to enable my movements to be translated into how the figure can move. This will mean me digging holes and climbing ladders in the suit and Annabeth recording the actions. 

This type of collaboration is wonderful. It opens out my own work into previously impossible territories  and by working with people that have high end technical skills, enables a 'group mind' to begin thinking about creative possibilities. For Matt my slightly worn drawings of people give him a challenge because he has to deal with their slight asymmetry and older skin appearance and for all of us there is the excitement of working towards something that uses the equipment in ways that start to test boundaries. 


The grey world of my drawings might in future involve movement but the concepts that underpin them don't have to be compromised, only enriched by the minds of others.