Beer fuelled silliness.

Spoof magazine cover by Jon Tremlett for soulcraftcandy ©2013

Capturing ideas at the precise moment they occur is always a little tricky. It is not unusual for them to crop up at times when one is nowhere near a pen and paper (another great reason for always carrying a sketchbook with you, a habit I’m very slack at perfecting) or you’re in the middle of doing something else and perhaps don’t have the time to scribble it down. The mad dash home, where one can make a note of it before it disappears into the ether, invariably finds me repeating it to myself over and over in an effort to somehow embed it into my memory. It’s often like trying to remember the details of a dream.

 

This image above is the result of one such occasion and having sketched it out upon returning to base, I stuck it on the wall from where it has been shouting at me ever since. A discussion over a pint of beer in a pub with a good friend turned to imagining a series of rather ridiculous magazine titles. Based on a number of publications we both read regularly, it seemed appropriate to take inspiration from them, and within a short space of time we’d spun off into a nonsensical world. This one stems from our goofing about with Sideburn magazine, a fine publication devoted to the celebration of flat-track racing and the burgeoning new custom bike scene spreading across the motorcycling world. It’s a great read and the product of a lot of hard work put in by the guys who put it together, Gary Inman and Ben Part. I’d like to stress that this tongue in cheek spoof is in no way meant to denigrate the fine work that the guys do.

 

At first I was rather reluctant to take it beyond a very rough sketch on some newsprint paper, but as I said, it nagged and nagged at me, so finally I caved in and decided to make it a bit more finished. Usefully it got me using a couple of bits of software that I haven’t touched for a while, so it was a gentle skills refresher too.

 

Whether its humour survives the major test of sharing the joke with others remains to be seen. The important thing is that it’s now done and the itch has been scratched, so to speak. It is likely that some of the other ideas in this group will find the light of day at some point, but not quite yet, I’ve got some other things I want to get underway first.

 

The 3D Pantograph Club, Part 1- Ed’s Machine.

Ed Barton Pantograph on Soulcraftcandy.

Ed and his 3D Scaling Pantograph.

It is an inescapable truth of freelance working for creative companies that you are rarely in a position to show or talk about the work you are engaged in, or have just completed. Issues of client confidentiality, and the fact that much of the work is usually a long way from entering the public domain mean you can’t show anyone what you’ve been making for quite a long time after the event. Hence the lack of “making” content on the blog for a long while.

Prompted by a recent visit to the studio of a sculptor friend, this is about to change however, as it has nudged me into digging a project out of the archive in readiness to post about it.

I first met Ed up at the Ace Cafe, a favoured north London haunt of motorcyclists, where I got talking to him about his fabulous Moto Guzzi. When we discovered what each of us did for a living, and dug a little deeper, it became clear we had more in common that purely an appreciation of personally customised motorbikes. Ed mentioned that he was interested in building a 3D Pantograph, and I had completed the construction of such a device not that long previously. Needless to say he was interested in understanding what my project had revealed regarding these rather esoteric bits of equipment and a good many knowledge sharing conversations ensued.

Before going any further though, it is probably best to try explain what a 3D pantograph is exactly. I will try and be brief. A pantograph is essentially a scaling machine that allows the operator to enlarge, and in some cases reduce, the size of an image or object. They are more commonly found in the 2-dimensional realm where they are used to trace lettering or pictures for engraving and such like. Being utterly analogue in their function they have now been generally superseded in most applications by digital technology, so they are rare things to come across. Working from a fixed pivot point, two pointers, connected by a series of pivoting arms allow the operator to follow an image with one pointer whilst the other creates a replica of that image on another surface at a greater scale, like 2:1 say. In 3 dimensions the principle is the same though in this case the first pointer follows the surface of an object, positioned on a turntable, while the second allows the operator to create a scaled up or reduced version of that point in space on a second turntable nearby. If this doesn’t make sense, then I hope that seeing some images and a short film will help to make things clearer.

The pantograph pivot and counterweight assembly.

The pantograph pivot and counterweight assembly.

Last weeks visit to Ed’s studio in Camberwell, South London was to finally see the pantograph he had built. It was impressive. Through our earlier discussions we had figured out that these machines could take many forms, it is the core geometry which provides the link between different designs. So not surprisingly Ed’s machine is a very different looking beast to the one I built, and amply demonstrates how a different “brief”, ie what you want to make with it,  effects the final design and layout of the machine. Here’s a link to the studio website where you will find a great stop frame film of the guys building their machine and then using it to cut complex forms out of large blocks of expanded polystyrene with a hot wire, and other images. When I visited the studio last week the hot wire had been replaced by a high speed cutting head which the guys had used to carve even more complex forms from similar blocks. You will also see that the machine consists of the two main elements required for the pantograph to work, a pivoting arm that holds the “pointers” and a pair of connected turntables supporting the final piece and the model from which it is being traced.

Ed Barton pantograph at Soulcraftcandy

The business end, a high speed cutting head.

In the next post I’ll reveal the details of the machine I put together for an artist, and expand a bit more on how these things work.

Are you ever unhappy with your work? Perhaps this is why.

Red_Jacket_Racer_by_JonTremlett2013

What do you do whilst thinking about how to finish a picture? This question is usually answered by going and doing something else for a period of time while the imagination, now freed from staring at the problem, finds a solution in its own time. In this instance though, the answer was to promptly do another picture. It’s smaller and was done a bit more quickly. When I’d finished it I was quite happy with it, the red jacket experiment worked well. The following day however, with fresh eyes. I didn’t like it at all. Something wasn’t right, and while I wondered what was suddenly wrong with it, I got to thinking about what it was inside me that would not allow the picture to enjoy any approval. This episode brought to mind a quote from a recent book about creativity by Seth Godin, “The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly”, which was shown to me by my partner a couple of weeks back. To me this quote goes some way to explain why we self appraise our work, not just that we do, and illustrates the relationship between the two agents of this internal process, ambition and taste. here it goes:

 

 On Good Taste.

 

Ira Glass understands how you feel.

 

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple of years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not good. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get passed this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have…… And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it’s normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work, …… It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions”.

 

What I also found interesting about the above was that it explained to me something that has bugged me for ages. Have you ever allowed a friend or family member to see a piece of work? Has that viewing resulted in a spout of gushing praise that made you feel uneasy? After graciously accepting the praise, have you then struggled to explain why to you, in spite of their protestations, the piece is not very good at all and you should do better? I’m sure it’s not just me. The introduction of the ideas of taste and ambition really help to frame the argument you want to make, your only real challenge is to find the right words to use. Let’s face it, people get very upset if you tell them you’ve got better taste than they have! It’s surely about the education of that taste, and we are all responsible for our own in that regard. I must read this book.

 

Here’s to closing the gap.