Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Half Moon Run @ O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire 18/11/2013

Being a person who likes to spend a lot of money on live music (and then wonder why she doesn't have any), I try to think about which bands I spend money on. With festivals, it's different, you're going there for the experience, the people and the weird and wonderful fantasy land you get to camp in for four days, as well as you are the music. But with live concerts, I have to really like them.

So with Half Moon Run, I'd actually been on a Spotify binge (which I can't do anymore due to my subscription running out, sad times) and was putting together a new playlist to a) get ready for Latitude Festival and b) motivate me during the last push of my dissertation. I usually ignore the spam from Spotify telling me to 'check out these bands we think you'll like!' but this time I didn't. And I'm glad I did!

Half Moon Run are a four-piece hailing from Canada, and when I looked them up, Spotify only had one of their songs stored, 'Full Circle'. I knew nothing about them, listened to this track, and immediately added it to my thoughtfully-named playlist, 'SUMMER SONGS WOO'. I then stumbled across 'Call me in the afternoon' and the entire Dark Eyes album. As I used to sing (a bit, not well ha) I think the first thing that strikes me about any band is the voice. And Devon's voice is really interesting. They have harmonies reminiscent of Fleet Foxes and Fossil Collective, and a kind of keening/straining in his voice that drew me in. And they were playing at Latitude, ticking the last box.

Stupidly, though, I missed them at Latitude, and then found out that my brother liked them too, and had managed to miss them at Latitude AND Reading. But we liked them so much we took the plunge and bought tickets. As they've mainly been touring as a support act for bands like Of Monsters and Men and Mumford and Sons, the tickets weren't expensive, and as Connor informed us mid-gig, this was the biggest of their headlining gigs so far.

The support was a little-known artist called Mikhael Paskalev. I only had a look at him the night before the gig, and whilst musically him and his live band were fantastic, the songs didn't really do anything for me. Whilst the harmonies and build-ups were very impressive, it was difficult to find a central melody/ a memorable tune within them to really motivate me to listen again, as he seemed to be playing around with several different genres at once. He certainly looked the part, well, until he donned a weird cap halfway through, which I'm not sure matched the get up, but hey-ho, that's musicians for you. Still worth a listen, I think.

The band came on pretty demurely, there were no big 'bangs' or crescendos, and they led in with '21 Gun Salute', which is quite a slow starter. It surprised me and my brother, who were expecting them to begin with 'Call Me In the Afternoon' or 'Full Circle', one of their leading singles. This turned out to be a fantastic choice, as they used the songs later on in the evening to really churn up the crowd.

The rest of the album went pretty smoothly, having listened to all of it on repeat for the last few months, I'm ashamed to say I did mouth along as much as I could (despite occasionally doing that awkward thing where you know half of a sentence and have to mumble the rest so the other fans don't think you're an idiot.) The rest of the set was a classic up, then down, a new song, then the big two towards the end. I think the resounding thing I enjoyed about their performance was their obvious surprise at such a warm reaction. A favourite moment was when Devon raised the microphone during the chorus of Full Circle and genuinely grinned his face off as the entire venue sang it back to him - I think it's lovely whenever you're present for an artist realising the effect they've had on such a large number of people.

After that, I began to get a bit worried. My favourite track, hands down, is 'She Wants to Know'. I can't pinpoint what it is about the song that makes it stand out, but I think Devon's vocals are incredible, and it was the one I was looking forward to the most. They'd played right through the entire album, and as She Wants to Know seemed to be one of the lesser-plugged songs on the band's Youtube/Twitter, I didn't think it would be used in the encore. I'd expected it about halfway through. However, they actually finished the set with it. And I was just as surprised as the band as I realised that most of the people around me were yelling the chorus just as loudly as I was. All I can say is the fans have bloody good taste.

Their encore was pretty special too. Opting to scrap the microphones and take on a Pink Mountaintops cover, Lumineers-style, It was pretty adorable to watch all four of them crowd together and harmonise without all of the gear. If I sidestep the screaming girls ruining it for everyone else, it was a highlight. That and Conner's response to a bloke yelling 'CONNER I WANT YOUR BABIES' with a wink and a 'You and Me Later'. The final 'Blues' was a humble, yet satisfying finish. Here is a video of the acoustic performance:

Thank you for reading!


Saturday, 9 November 2013

My Taster at Escape Studios

Well hello!

This has been a very exciting week for me, as I've started to take the first steps in my plans for the future. I've always felt that though illustration and digital painting is my hobby, I'd love to take it to the next level, and turn it into a skill where I could finally work in the industry I spend days watching. So I'm (hopefully) embarking into the wild world of CGI and VFX. I love working in 2D, but creating something that moves and appears photorealistic would be incredible.

So I've been looking at a number of colleges, universities and institutions to find the best place for me to do this. One of the courses I became really excited about very quickly was an intensive vocational course at a London-based studio called Escape. I was recommended them by someone who'd trained there, and so I did some research and booked myself onto an open day.

It's not like your average university campus, it not being a university at all, but a specialist, private college where people of all ages go to gain the skills they need to get into the industry. It's run and taught by industry professionals, primarily. There isn't so much of a theoretical aspect, in that at University you'd need to go and do probably more than one year, and spend some of your time writing essays and independently researching. Now having done an English Degree, a vocational route appealed to me a lot more. I enjoyed my time at Uni and I would never take it back as it provided me with the skills I needed to get to the next stage in my life, and some of the best friends I've ever made. However, at this point I think I really just need training in the software, and that's exactly what Escape offers.

On Thursday, I went ahead and attended their Taster Session, which they offer as an introduction to the kind of training you'd be getting if you took one of their Courses, which I think was a brilliant offer, in that it helped me work out what I was getting into before I nose-dived and signed on. I met some interesting people, and got to try out a day working in 3D with Maya, one of the leading pieces of animation software. I'm not going to lie, it's incredibly daunting, there's about a million different tabs, options and tools, as well as several different methods of achieving the same goal. We were taken through the entire process, Modelling, Texturing, Camera Tracking and even a bit of Comp at the end. We all had huge, good-looking computers to work on, and a screen to watch the tutor on as he explained how to go about doing things.

The end goal was to create some cubes in the style of Andy Warhol's Brillo Boxes in the 60s, something a little like this:

We then had to use pre-made textures and bump maps to create two boxes with a cardboard and a metal texture. I think this was useful because it showed the variety you can achieve. I think texturing is definitely going to be my favourite part of the process, as creating the 'surface' of the object in Photoshop is part of the process. I also enjoyed creating the camera angles, as I could watch the camera pan around so I could check the angles, and it suddenly became an animation rather than a screenshot.

Anyway, here are some snapshots of the end product:

Despite it being a taster course, it was a fantastic experience and I was really pleased with the end product achieved in only a day's work! The tutor was very clear throughout the tutorial, and the people I met were lovely. Despite being one of the only absolute beginners in the class, I certainly didn't feel excluded. I learnt a lot more about the process, and if anything it made me even more excited to get started.

However, as a disclaimer I'm not 100% decided on whether Escape is the right option for me quite yet, I'm still in the process of visiting a few different places in order to get a rounded view of my options and make a calculated decision before I take the plunge.

I'm going to keep this blog updated, and I'll let you all know what I decide to do. I recommend the Escape taster session for anyone that wants a sneak peek, as it was great fun and very informative.


Monday, 4 November 2013

Sketches, WIPs and generally unfinished things.

So it turns out I, like many people, experience sudden bursts of creativity that generally amount to nothing productive.

I'm really good at starting things. I start a lot of things. But very few of them ever get finished, or finished to a degree where I feel genuinely proud of them or worth posting. 
This may well be some kind of perfectionist complex, and so this is my attempt to force myself out of it.

This was a painting started predominantly because I really wanted an iced tea. As you can see, it is the least finished, probably because I bought an iced tea the next day and never looked back.

This character is something I'm really hoping to finish soon. I'm proud of it and I think my painting is improving, slowly and surely. Her legs are proving to be the most irritating limbs I've ever drawn, partially because I like the rest of the image so much I'm constantly redesigning them to match.
 Think I'll sleep on it for now.

This is another sketch I've grown to like recently. I posted my progress on instagram yesterday and actually got a cheeky repost, which I was very chuffed by considering the image quality on my phone camera. It's Edward Kenway from Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag, which though I haven't played it yet, I am planning on buying it soon and have been watching Hannah from the Yogscast play it through. Above all it's a gorgeous game, just like the others, and I love how big and detailed the map is. I'll update if I can actually get my hands on it! In the meantime I might scan him in and make him into a piece of digital painting at some point. But for now, he can stay a manly rugged sketch.

I think I might make more of these more often, if anything just to prove that I do draw on a regular basis. I'm also snowed under with creative projects, as well as my job so it's difficult to keep on top of everything. I'm determined to keep blogging, if anything to fuel my own motivation.


Anxiety, Depression and Social Media

Bit of a different post today, but I felt like writing.

I've been seeing a lot of videos on anxiety and depression and how to deal with it around lately, and it's truly eye-opening. Loads of people seem to be suffering from similar things that I experience on a daily basis, and I find it inspirational watching a lot of people talk about their own experiences. But, obviously, as it is first and foremost a psychological disease, I think there have been some negative effects of it being broadcast so widely and by influential people.

I'm not meaning to be cynical, not at all. I think people genuinely trying to offer advice to other sufferers is a fantastic thing and they should completely be commended. I think it's the inadvertent knock-on effect of having influential people, with a young, impressionable audience, posting videos and making it known that they have a flaw. Take Zoella's video for example:

Now, I think Zoe seems like a lovely person - I watch her videos regularly, even though I'm not really that interested in fashion etc. because she appears genuine, down-to-earth and honest. She's just won the Vlogger of the Year at the BBC Radio Teen Choice, for example. Her audience, as demonstrated by her award, is largely female, 10-16 year old girls. After her video, a shock of responses, videos, blog posts and tweets immediately appeared declaring how inspirational she was, how a lot of these girls were experiencing depression, cutting themselves, and how she was a light at the end of the tunnel. Again, I commend her for sharing such a personal thing, and I found it motivating myself, but at the same time, I think the effects were both positive and negative.

Taking as an example the #cut4bieber scandal, where several young people, predominately girls, jumped on the twitter tagwagon and began to actually take pictures of themselves self-harming. This tag, besides being awful, turned self-harm from a genuine addiction into an attention-seeking joke. I have never self-harmed, but I believe there are people who suffer with severe depression and do it regardless of anyone else's influence, and certainly not for the public eye. In the same way, anxiety and depression have almost become 'popular'. I don't doubt that a lot of the people that say they are suffering online genuinely do have symptoms, and do feel sad, but my point is this: how much of it is assimilated?

I get panic attacks, and I know that if I read about the symptoms of a panic attack, I can convince myself, psychologically, to have one, because I know I'm capable of having them, and I start to feel the symptoms that I'm reading. In the same way that a hypochondriac would look at the symptoms of a disease and psychologically convince themselves that they were suffering from it. 

All of this attention drawn to mental illness, I think, can convince some teenagers, or subliminally encourage them, to make themselves sad, to effectively think their way into the illness. It might begin as a way to live up to their idol, and turn into something horrible and life-changing. 

And this, in turn, has a negative effect on society's view of these diseases, because it suddenly becomes a superficial, made up, crowd-sourced, popular 'thing', as opposed to the genuine problem that it is for so many people. Doctors, still, don't always take it as seriously as they should, and this I think might be exacerbating the problem.

Just something I was thinking about recently. 
I'll stop being opinionated now and get back to drawing, promise.