Monday, 30 September 2013

Mechanical Circus

Lion tamer and crazy lion automata

Another busy week just gone and another one to come! I can't believe it's October tomorrow, September where did you go? Anyway, time for a little introduction to one of the things I'm working on at the moment.

Seal spinning a ball automata

In November I am doing some outreach work in schools for Tullie House. They have a very exciting automata exhibition coming up and so I am going to be going into primary schools and making simple automata with the pupils. I'm very excited about it and have been busy making some samples to show the students and give them some ideas.

When working it is important to have a clean and tidy work space. Or at least a large mug of tea.

The working title for the project is Mechanical Circus so I wanted my samples to have a circus theme. Nowadays we, quite rightly, don't have animals performing in the circus but I do like making animal themed things and the idea of performing animals is a lot more attractive than the reality. So, I decided to go a bit nostalgic and have old-fashioned circus attractions including a lion tamer and a performing seal.

Seal detail

Seal detail- Wire whiskers help the shaft stay straight and keep the ball on the seals nose!

I have used very simple cam mechanisms to get simple movement into these pieces as I wanted to show that you can create really effective models with very simple mechanisms, things don't have to be really complicated to look good. The seal in particular has a very simple cam made from a bottle top. The cam follower, made of cardboard, is placed to the edge of the cam so that the spinning movement of the cam is transferred to the cam follower and up to the ball on the seals nose. The cam is slightly eccentric (meaning it attaches to the shaft slightly off centre rather than being a bit mad) so there is also a small up and down movement. The model is finished off with a seal cut from card and lots of bright paint and  bit of trim.

Back view of the automata

The cam is a bottle top and the follower is a circle of cardboard

The lion and lion tamer are slightly more complicated but only really in that they use multiple cams. The lion tamer spins and jumps excitedly using the same mechanism as the seal but with a more eccentric cam. The lions tail also works on the same mechanism but his tongue is slightly different. It works on two cams; one swings it clockwise and then the other one comes up and takes it back counter-clockwise. Two pieces of dowel and a pin in the cam follower stop it swinging too far either way. I didn't get the mechanisms exactly right in this piece but they work well enough to give an idea and they are, I think, quite entertaining!

The cams for the lion and tamer

Lion tamer 

Crazed lion!
Hopefully at some point I'll sit down and figure out video type things and then I'll post some videos so you can see how they move.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Life Drawing 19.9.13

Water-soluble graphite stick dipped in water

Another good session with excellent poses and a relaxed atmosphere. I was feeling very tired having been on holiday last week and then back to the real world with a bang this week but as ever I found that I relaxed and enjoyed my drawing as the evening went on.


Water-soluble graphite

Water-soluble graphite

I didn't do any shaded drawings this week as I have not been very happy with the ones from the last few sessions so I decided to give myself a break and focus totally on the line drawings. I used the graphite stick dipped in water for a few of my drawings and I'm really pleased with how they've come out. Combined with the poses I think they create quite, thoughtful, slow images.

Pen, continuous line

One drawing looking at the page, the other without looking

Pen, continuous line

I drew lots of hands this week, last session it was feet but this session I was back to hands! I really like drawing hands as they are quite challenging but really interesting, they can create so many different shapes. One of the things I love about drawing and drawing hands in particular is the way a few lines can suggest something so much more complex.

Simple lines

Simple lines

As I was focusing on line drawings I tried some drawings using just very simple, clean lines and others with more, overlapping lines. I like the effects of both; the ones with fewer lines are harder as they have to be more exact and the ones with more lines have more depth and shape.

Continuous line 

Continuous line

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Life Drawing 5.9.13

I drew a lot of feet... This one is done in water-soluble graphite

I was in a particularly good mood for this session as it was just before I set off on holiday. Because I was feeling quite relaxed I just got on with my drawings, doing a lot of continuous line and not really worrying too much about how they turned out.

Long pose. Water-soluble graphite

Water-soluble graphite stick dipped in water

Pen, multiple studies

Pen, continuous line

Using 2 pens at once

Continuous line

Continuous line

Continuous line

Continuous line

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Plastic Fantastic

Some of my melted plastic decorations in my studio window

Last month I did two Melted Plastic Decoration Workshops at The Kirkgate Centre in Cockermouth. I really enjoyed them and it is a lovely place to work with very friendly staff.

In the window at The Kirkgate Centre

All the materials set up ready to go!

The workshops were drop-in sessions and I taught people to crochet using plarn (yarn made from strips of plastic bag.) I then showed people how to melt their creations using an iron to create beautiful, light-weight decorations.

Picture made from melted plastic bag pieces

Flower decoration made from melted crochet chains

There were some beautiful creations; unfortunately I didn't get many photographs as I was far too busy crocheting and melting, which as regular readers will know is one of my favourite ways to spend time!

Another beautiful crochet flower

Monday, 2 September 2013

Life Drawing 22.8.13

Water-soluble graphite

Another busy few weeks and no time to keep my blog up to date! Since the pageant I've done some melty plastic workshops, life drawing, mint fest and a few other bits and bobs. But I will start with the last life drawing session.

Continuous line, pen

It was a very enjoyable session and as always our model gave us some excellent poses, I always enjoy drawing this model as I love the rhythmic curves her poses create. I especially enjoyed the longer poses this session and was pleased with my drawings. I worked with the water-soluble graphite both in washes and using the graphite stick dipped in water to get strong, dark lines.

30 minutes, water-soluble graphite

'Random Fall' Continuous line drawing, pen

Continuous line, pen

I did a lot of line drawings again as well as quite a lot of 'blind' drawing (drawing without looking at the page.) I very much enjoy the freedom of drawing in this way; because you are not looking at the page you don't expect your drawing to look good so you stop worrying about it and just draw. As a consequence the drawing actually does tend to be quite good because there is no pressure and no worries and you very much draw what you see. I also find that the more I do it the better it gets, the communication between the eyes and the hands becomes very quick, almost bypassing the conscious mind. It is quite an instinctive process and very relaxing.

'Blind' drawings, hands and feet

Semi-blind drawing

'Blind' drawing