Sunday, 23 October 2011

Swan...character development?

Looking at swans ( as  I will have a swan within my film)..I decided I wanted to have a drawn image. ...I have been working on swan sketches ...tried pencil...charcoal..pastel...and liked the pastel image best...I tried a variety of techniques and material but pastel seems to be the consistant material of choice for me. Going back to Kentridge and Dudock DeWit ...looking at their film work...and reading about their rationale and process..I am now sure this is the right choice. Even with figure sketches now I prefer the feel and look of pastel and have sourced some lovely pastel pencils which will also give me finer line and still allow for the charcoal technique ...rubbing out and drawing the next 'frame' points if I decide to do this.
I also feel happy with the light brown paper as a backdrop...not quite sepia but in the same tone range...this would help me to find some constant of colour theme I think.This is my version of the swan 'taking off 'which I am happy with at this stage. Crucially for me I think I have captured the movement within the drawing.

I have been looking at developing a transformation from dancer to swan towards the end of my film.I worked with Zoe on some ideas. ...  here are a few stills from the work we have done . I feel some look like a swan already                        
 I am looking for movements which have a bird like quality.....that moment of take off...and how fabric..might  suggest wings and feathers.

We found some lovely moments and certainly plenty for me to work away on...drawing a transformation      

Zoe has an amazing stature...we discussed the swan idea when I first met her and it is the idea which she felt she could most identify with. She is amazingly tall and elegant...but I have also an image of her in my mind as a real tomboy when she was young...must ask her about it!!!!!!      

Zoe also has a wonderful face...and I realised when we last met that she is my face in the sky....McLaren's La Haut Sur Ces Montagnes has an angelic face in the sky above the hills....Zoe is that face!!!!! It is hard to explain , but Zoe has  a really classical face ..and I see the face in McLaren's sky has having that same when I saw her dance i immediately thought of Mclaren's film. I have recently seen a little written note to this image about a skier returning from a day on the slopes to a place near Quebec where French traditional songs have been kept alive.. so the likeness to a traditional face does not surprise me.                  

Really feather -like texture in her skirt here...very similar to some of the images I have of swans wings!!


I have just come from the opening of 'Encounters with Place' the exhibition in Perth Theatre which contains my two Sherrifmuir photos. I have had a great response so far...which gives me a real boost...and a resolve to continue with photogaphy and place. It is something I have really part learning to use my new camera and also to continue to look afresh at places I encounter. There is another series apart from the light and place one which is about my journey home. At some point in the future I will do something with these, but for now it is great to have these exhibited.

It also prompted another discussion the exhibition...about the film I made with Kyra Clegg. It is finished..and I include that final version here. In fact it was exhibited at the ''Encounters iwth Time'' exhibition in Perth, which has just finished last week. It was good to collaborate on this film. I worked with Kyra on creating and selecting the material for the film. I worked on dance for this but also on the lighting, positioning..some of the camera work...and the final edit. We had a really great response to quote ...''a hauntingly beautiful piece''.

dreamtime from kyra clegg on Vimeo.

This process was very worthwhile for me. Collaborating with Kyra was exciting..we encourage each other to develop our thinking and to explore different areas of creative expression.And to take risks. In part I would say the work for 'Dreamtime' was initially inspired by work we had seen together last year. Partly because we both responded in this way to that particular material, it was clear we had sinilar thoughts about collaboration, and agreed then that we would begin a piece together. We wanted to use Kyra's studio space (which she no longer has!) as it could give us a feeling of 'other worldliness'and as there were shutteres we couls change the feeling of the space in a few different ways. Weused daylight, darkness, candlelight  and artificial light.We both have a sense of the dramatic in terms of the visual look of the film...costume, light etc...And bring complementary skills to the 'table'. My knowledge of space and form, light and colour and the moving body pair well with Kyra's sense of  sculptural composition, light, timing, effects, as well as her editing skills. It was time consuming...pulling together all the costume possibilities..props etc and then negotiating which we would use. But it was certainly a more straightforard way to work than on ''All Made Up'' (the film 4 of us made during the advanced production module at DOJCAD). Although for that I also was the one who pulled together the actors and costume, make up etc. And although we had clear roles..James Bell as director, me doung script and production , Adam Thompson doing camera and Kaye doing edit, we dd collaborate on each area. Different to be in the film too ..rather than only outside in a production/scripwriting role.

the talk at the exhibition today has given me ideas for the future.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Ice is just water frozen....water is so different in a frozen will I capture that?
I have spent many months gathering images of a variety of states of water. apart from one image of the Hudson at sunset from McLaren's home address all these photos are my own. McLaren wrote about water on his journey to New York in 1939 and I feel it likely that he would have noted all these varying states of water...and had a response to them.
I am looking for ideas about the location of my film....where will Norman be skating?

 this image of the river Allan in full flood...peaty and turbulent and very dangerous........was taken in Dunblane

The Tay at Dunkeld on a calm sunny day

and later with the sun reflecting on the pools

snow ...water falling frozen.....across the hills.............

the Tay must have looked a bit like this in Norman's description of the frozen river Hudson...

or the loch frozen....

There are a lot of possible settings for Norman...skating on the river..or the would be a pond in canada probably.........plenty to choose from

images of swans

Over the last months I have started collecting a series of images as part of my research... which I feel I would like to have in my film in some form. Early on I noticed swans on the loch at the University in Stirling. There were swans again on the loch I learned to skate on. I went back to visit after reading about Norman skating.
I took some images myself of a mating reunion...typical I have learned of the annual renewal of swan lifetime partnerships!
There is also something for me about swans which is symbolic of the artist's quest. The ungly duckling story is one which I am sure amny artists will identify with. Growing uo with that sense of not quite fitting in with a crowd. And of knowing you are in the right place among other artists.I wonder if McLaren felt that. My time at Stirling uni would certainly seem to have unearthed this suggestion.( although in his case he also did not quite fit the artist stereotype...if there is such a thing) He was not happy with the still image produced by painting and this led him to moving image. Watching swans you become aware of a creature not happy on land...awkward...heavy while walking...but in water smooth and gliding. under the water is another story of course!! great effort is going on unseen to move this whit body across the water.

And then the swan takes off into the air. Again the transition is awkward..a great flapping of wings..incredible noise and looking on you cannot quite imagine how this huge bird will make it into the sky!! but it does and that noise of wings is what gave the swan its name...swan means noise...for it seems that most swans are mute and make very little noise. This transition from great effort to seemingly effortless grace is that of many art forms. dance, painting film making all look easy but we know they take huge effort and time.And so it is with swans... it is quite hard to catch a swan taking off...they do not do it with frequency anytime I have watched. I saw one the first time I met up with Emily the dancer..taking off on the loch at Stirling..but I did not have my camera to hand.

I looked instead for images of swans wings and feathers and even found one from Black Swan the film...

the one on the top left here is from a painting and it is clear the artist caught the moment perfectly when you see it beside the photo top right!!
So the swan has become a metaphor for me about accomplishing your goals...about the effort required to get there and also about the grace of producing that work and reflecting back..... so there will be swan in my McLaren film...he will fly too.....


While discussing and thinking about artists who did most of the work alone I looked again at William Kentridge. I looked at his charcoal work way back and liked the technique so much I did some experiments myself...only very rough!! I found this film of an interview with him on his work process quite inspiring.As a dancer I do sometimes find the process of film frustrating...I get very bogged down in the edit room for example!! I am much happier moving myself...and making work which I can see soon after it is made.With choreography this is what see the work as it develops...then light, costume and set it afterwards.But film is what I have set out to make and I am learning so much...and still have a LONG way to go!!
Kentridge also mentions in this interview the lengthy process of making film and how different this is if you create all the stills yourself in the studio...the dialogue is with yourself about which images to use or edit...and the creative flow is thus undisturbed.

photo exhibition

I am really pleased that two photographs of mine have been chosen as part of a new exhibition in Perth. Encounters with place opens on Monday 24th October at Perth Theatre. The photographs chosen are two which I took while exploring the light in the Stirling area. I was inSherrifmuir when a storm was approaching. Sherrifmuir is a very ancient place with a great history. The approaching storm made me think of the battle of Sherrifmuir. I likened the approaching  storm to a battle and the aftermath revealed through misty layers.

Approaching storm (above) is the photo also which I think most captures the sense of light McLaren used in 'La Haut sur ces Montagnes' his film on a French folk song. My Photo, printed larger that A3 shows that the hint of green on the hilltop is  also just visible and that there is a hint of pink in the clouds.
I am actually going to use this photo within my film. I have an idea to suggest McLaren's film within my own. And to use my own photo image as a backdrop.

This is the second chosen image 'Misty layers' which was taken after the storm om Sherrifmuir. I am especially delighted that the exhibition is being curated by Arthur Watson as I know and like some of his work on scottish landscape and atmosphere. On Sunday the artists will all be treated to a brunch where Arthur will lead us around ,and introduce us to, the exhibition.

danced then drawn

I have been working  with Emily on choreography for my film. I have music now -commissioned from Finn Anderson. I let Emily listen to this as we were warming up and went through the ideas again with her. This is the third time we have met up in preparation. The first to go through the images and ideas and give her as much information about my project as needed so that she understands where we are heading. The second meeting to go through the script and decide how we will go about it. We decide to go into the studio with the music. So this week that is what we did. I filmed the process looking at four slightly different approaches. I tried to get in floorwork as well as travel never losing sight of the 'line' I feel will take us through the film. Re visiting McLaren's own work, particularily his drawings, has also proveded some new ideas.This drawing..a letter to a friend...discovered when I was on placement at The archive in Stirling.. shows, I feel, that McLaren really understood dance. Emily and I discussed this drawing at length and tried to recapture the exact moment in real time. We decided it was perhaps not completely possible but we actually worked on it in the studio among other things.

The drawing on this letter is really in full flow in movement lability in Laban terms..i.e. off balance..Emily and I discovered it would not actually be possible to recover from this position!! But the drawing inspired me and has provided  great material for choreography. Based on the work with Emily we found this similar position..

I have taken the film of the work with Emily and made drawings from it..trying to use McLaren's loopy style, so suggestive of movement so that in the film I might move from the original drawing to my animated drawing..effectively animating McLaren's letter to Hermes. In a sense I feel here that I am taking on the roles of director, animator, camera and producer all at the same time and I have learned from the sessions with Peter Richardson that some of these would be best delegated. However at this stage I also feel , like McLaren did, that if you have a clear idea of how you want your film to look it is useful to keep a tight rein on it.It is also good not to have the creative flow interupted. I also know that at some point I will need a team.
It is great that Emily really likes Finn's music and it seems to dictate to her the loops and twirls that I am searching for.

I captured a few more stills from the choreographic session which I like.

This really confirms for me that this is the style I want to use in my film. I had originally wanted to move from live action to animation as i have always sought to explore the links between my art and McLaren's but I wonder now whether I will be able to do this by this process...choreographing and then drawing...I am really on such a learning curve..but I am happy that my drawing is developing alongside everything else. In this drawing I overlaid two moments from Emily's dance and like the feel of that.                                     

I feel the style really does convey a moment in a movement sequence. I am also reminded of Erica Russell's work. I have now looked at quite a few of her films..Feet of Song is still my favourite.But I do not want to use this style...and feel I could achieve what I am looking for with this loopy style of McLaren's.