Dreamworks Exhibition in Rio de Janeiro

I had an incredible experience traveling through Brazil over the summer, and beyond the beaches and jungles and city life I went to a few museums. While in Rio I went to an exhibition at the Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil on animation organised by Dreamworks Studios. The exhibition showcased a lot of behind the scenes development sketches, models, illustrations and more from all the films Dreamworks has produced.

There were the line tests from films being played on projectors that emphasised the expressiveness of the animation. There were character design sketches on the wall, many of which were diverse and hilarious iterations of now familiar characters. There were the live action videos that compared film footage from the same shots. There were finely cast models of the characters and sets from the film. This is something that is more prevalent with 3D animation. They had videos of directors pitching shots in the story room which was very fun to see as the directors made noise and gestures acting out the scene. There were also the beautifully rendered backgrounds and set props. There was text explaining inspirations for various films, for example how Mark Rothko’s work inspired the look of the film Madagascar (2005). There were interactive elements like an animation workshop with rows of Cintiqs or a screen that allowed you to change character expressions or do colour grading.

 

The exhibition was great for getting people interested in animation and reminded me of the quality of work I hope to create some day. A tour through the 150 years of the art of giving movement to drawings and objects, making real the unimaginable.

Reflections on My Time in England

Aatish Taseer in an interview speaks of meeting with the late writer VS Naipaul who he tells about  his eminent journey the United States to study, Naipaul responds with worry and tells him not to go. “Indians they go to these places, they get dazzled by the institution and they come away having learned nothing but the babble.” Taseer goes on to say “We went to America as the generation before us had gone to Britain, one went if one could, it was as simple as that.”… “I have often thought of what I might have been if I had gone somewhere other than America, somewhere like Britain say, where the seeds of historical antagonism between my society and the one I was coming into had already been sown. I feel certain in Britain, I would have had a ruder awakening to history. The twoness Du Bois speaks of, in my case, of colonizer and colonized, would have split my personality, but I didn’t go to Britain I came to America.” (Taseer, 2018)

This deeply exemplifies how I have felt at times in this country. Having been brought up in Delhi’s upper-middle class society there is a reality of a-historicity. Where there past has been purged as it is too painful to reconcile. Delivered in digestible factual portions as objective truths, be they correct of not. Having arrived in London as an outsider I see a society that has largely done the same. Unable to look at their past selves critically, this society has essentially locked away anything unpleasant in their past. “The British came, they colonized, they left.” (Taseer, 2018) as it were. In the denial of it’s past India and Britain are the same, the key difference being where Britain has enjoyed the last 400 years as a largely wealthy society, India has not.

So it is interesting to me to have come here when the question of Brexit is throwing the country into chaos. Where the fault-lines of decay are visible for the first time in a long time and so the society must confront its past. The division between London and the North, of Bank, of Shorditch and the blocks of council houses littered around the city and country.

There is also coming to terms with the immigrants and the decedents of immigrants who have arrived over the decades from post-colonial societies. This is where I have come in, I have mentioned before on this blog how I have been told to “go back to my country” by strangers on the streets. This resulted in me being tremendously angry, because for me this was a consequence of this nations purposeful a-historicity. And in that sense maybe I’m looking at a mirror for the first time.

Taseer, A. (2018) 'V.S. Naipaul, My Wonderful, Cruel Friend', The New York Times, 12 August. Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/12/opinion/vs-naipaul-my-wonderful-cruel-friend.html (Accessed: 3 December 2018).

AmherstCollege (2018) We Shall Be a Country with No History. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_bM3kmo_MIU (Accessed: 3 December 2018).

ALGEBRA (2018) Aatish Taseer @Algebra. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fb7AerAWDrg&t=11s (Accessed: 3 December 2018).

ENO: Satyagraha

We were fortunate to have been offered tickets to the dress rehearsal of Philip Glass’s Satyagraha at the English National Opera. Named after the movement for non-violent protest and self determination usually associated with Gandhi. The Opera talks about his time in South Africa and his formation of the movement based on Ubuntu philosophy, ending with a foreshadowing of Mandela who would take the helm in providing freedom in his country.

The grand performance was a sight to behold and it was nice to see figures who would have been hated by many in the same city a few decades ago taking center stage. What I enjoyed the most about the performance was the grand puppets that seemed to construct themselves throughout the performance. There were parts of the performance that were in Sanskrit which was interesting to hear, being the north Indian equivalent of what Latin is for many Europeans.

This performance however reminded me little of how Indians view the independence movement. For one, Gandhi’s reputation is far more grey in the country these days than how he is seen by outsiders. The far right in power at the moment accuses him of being a British sympathizer and the progressive left accuses him of upholding upper caste Hindu values and reducing the strength of the Dalit movements that formed early in the creation of the country. The opera seems to be bolstering both ideas, with its relating Gandhi’s search for fortitude to passages from the Bhagavad Gita that talk of Dharma, the basis for the Hindu caste structure, and on the other end showing him being protected and led to safety by the British superintendent’s wife.

The fact of the matter is near mythical figures such as Gandhi or Mandela are hard to touch without at least a few people raising eyebrows and Philip Glass’ composition was more than worth experiencing.

At the farm

Rough sketch of a sheep scratching it's neck
Rough sketch of a sheep scratching it’s neck

On as warm a day as London autumn could give us, Steve Roberts our senior lecturer invited us to Mudchute Farm for a day of sketching the animals. After getting lost about five times on the way I was able to meet up with everyone.

Rough sketches of llamas
Rough sketches of llamas

I started with attempting to draw the llamas, but it became evident quite quickly that the animals weren’t going to cooperate. The llamas sat huddled at the far end of the pen, not great for understanding their posture or movement.

Rough sketches of pigs and a llama
Rough sketches of pigs and a llama

Ambling around I found some curious sheep, hungry for a meal. It was interesting to see how they stretched over and squeezed through bar to get to handouts from the park’s visitors. Also how they laid down, front legs first, seemed incredibly awkward.

Rough sketches of sheep
Rough sketches of sheep
Rough sketches of sheep
Rough sketches of sheep

 

Rough sketches of sheep and a squirrel
Rough sketches of sheep and a squirrel
Rough sketches of sheep
Rough sketches of sheep

The chickens scurried about too quickly for me to be able to capture them.

Rough sketches of chickens
Rough sketches of chickens

The donkeys weren’t doing anything interesting either. Their movements though reminded me of Muybridge’s 19th century experiments with animal locomotion, although his subjects were primarily horses (Eadweard Muybridge and Lewis S. Brown, 1957).

Rough sketch of a donkey and a chicken
Rough sketch of a donkey and a chicken
Rough sketch of a donkey
Rough sketch of a donkey

I also found some goats bucking, which was a beautiful movement, but difficult to capture.

Rough sketches of goats
Rough sketches of goats

The drawing was punctuated by conversations about the animation industry. It  was a good day of practice but it was evident that I am a long way away from being able to understand and translate animal movement into drawings.

  • Muybridge, E. and Brown, L. (1957). Animals in motion. New York: Dover Publications.

Into the wild!

The facade of the Natural History Museum
The facade of the Natural History Museum

I have recently arrived in the wild lands of London and decided to begin getting acquainted with the city by being a tourist and seeing some museums (typical, fresh of the boat stuff). The Natural History Museum as always is first on the agenda.

Rough sketch of a raptor fossil
Rough sketch of a raptor fossil

To this I decided to invite my classmates to be, wholly expecting maybe one or two people to join. To my pleasant surprise about 10 people responded. Of which 5 people turned up in the end.

Rough sketch of a Velociraptor fossil
Rough sketch of a Velociraptor fossil, it almost looks like a bird’s neck
Neave Parker's Reconstruction of a Hypsilophodon from the 1960s
Neave Parker’s Amazing Reconstruction of a Hypsilophodon from the 1960s

The exhibits were meticulously planned and composed allowing clear view of many prehistoric and present day animals. With the dinosaur exhibits it was clear that great care has gone into thinking about posture and movement by scientists over the years, we have come a long way from the 1854 reconstructions at Crystal Palace Park (Darren Naish, 2016) or Neave Parker’s beautiful but now considered factually inaccurate works from the 1960s (Natural History Museum, 2017).

Rough sketch of a sauropod's neck
Looking at the complicated shapes of this sauropod’s vertebrae

Another exhibit of great interest to the group was the aquatic mammals hall. One person remarked “What is that?!” when looking at the whale skeletons that hung from the ceiling. It would definitely, in my opinion, be difficult for someone to discern what they were looking at if they had never seen a cetacean skeleton before. I suppose this is where rumors of see monsters begin.

Rough sketch of a whale skeleton
Cetacean skeletons are so bizarre and other worldly
Rough sketch of dolphin and whale models
I loved how this display was set up, these dolphin and whale models seemed to almost be swimming over our heads.
Rough sketches of small mammals
The posture, curves and textures of the back of these mammals was worth staring at

When looking at an elephant skull I was reminded of a National Geographic Article that talks about the possibility that Greeks and Romans invented the Cyclops Myth when looking at Elephant bones, and I can understand why (Hillary Mayell, 2003).

Rough sketch of elephant skull
Rough sketch of elephant skull

All in all it was a great day of drawing the exhibits, getting to know animal anatomy and meeting my classmates.