Monday, May 19, 2014

Month 8 Tree Lesson WIP + Godzilla's Origins in Classical Theater

I thought I'd take a few days to try and catch up a bit in Magic Box before leaping into Painting Drama. (Both very excellent classes offered by the Oatley Academy of Concept Art and Illustration) Don't worry, I'm still chugging along on that OniSan puppet and hope to have another update soonish!!

There's been a massive amount of content added to the lessons since I was last able to spend time in the Secret Lab, so I picked a month more or less at random to resume. I will go back and complete all the lessons eventually. So much learning!
The WIP is for month 8 – on various ways of handling trees as part of the Environment Set.
The idea is to tell a story where the tree(s) features prominently – no skirting around them in this exercise. If I have time I might render it in the three different styles we've been looking at as well, but that greatly depends on the master time table for this year. It's crazy to think it's already almost half gone.

My tree piece was inspired by a comment Chris made about the tree as a Sun Worshiper. The last time I was in a church I observed many people raising up their hands and crying out. This startled me at first because I has been raised in a different denomination (And even then a seldom participant...I don't even remember why I was at this particular church in the first place) and thus unused to anything other than quiet kneeling and sitting in contemplation, the occasional reserved hymn-ing. But I certainly see nothing wrong in expressing such joy and devotion in this more open way. I had been doing sketches of Japanese Maple trees (I love their vibrant colors) and I imagined my maple as a radiant follower of Amaterasu – Shinto goddess of the Sun.

Originally my composition was larger and I explored secondary elements like a fairy village and a maiden – in accordance with the Kwaidan story of the girl with a tree's soul – and other such yokai, but I felt that took the emphasis too far from the tree itself. If I'm going to focus on the tree might as well cut the filler and just do it. So then I sought to balance my tree's gesture between what a maple looked like (Some of them are pretty gnarly) and how a dancer moved (Aiming for a sprightly sort of grace). I'm really excited to jump into value and color studies. A little nervous about the rendering bit, but much more confident with the first 3-4 months worth of lessons under my belt.

As a parting note, and not to spoil things, I was okay with the new Godzilla movie. I wish there had been more Godzilla in it, but I was not quite so bothered by the design as some where. I liked that he still moved like a man in a suit. There was in fact an interesting documentary on Youtube that Raul had me watch beforehand, on the suit actors themselves. Many of them were Kabuki actors, so it was a fortunate overlap in interests for the two of us as he watched to assist in designing a kaiju for a contest and I watched to see the poses, movement, and storytelling. I had already been looking closely at Kabuki demon masks when designing OniSan, so it was great seeing them in action. And I can totally understand why they would enlist Kabuki actors to play the monsters...some of those traditional costumes were absolutely nuts.

If you've got time and love seeing crazy cool stuff:

Godzilla Suit Actors Part I 

Godzilla Suit Actors Part II


Bunraku Puppets 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Calling All Global Exchange Students and Families!!

 (Takachiho, Japan)

Now that the family visiting has finally subsided and I'm getting back into the groove of things...

I'm sure I've told many of you this story and you are certainly welcome to skip ahead, but for those who don't know, it started with a teacher's strike.

When I was in 7th grade we basically got November off from school. At the time it was a welcome break since one of the several things Montana doesn't believe in is “Snow Days.” But we did have to make up the time out of class...which meant Saturday classes and substitutes. The sub for my Geography class was a pleasantly quirky woman who instead of going over the boring landmarks of the surrounding states for the umpteenth time decided to pitch us all an idea – why not learn geography from someone who lives there? Why not host an exchange student? From what I recall, most of my classmates were asleep (Seriously, Saturday morning classes? No thank you) and maybe one other guy was interested in what the Area Representative had to say.

 (Muriwai Beach, Auckland, New Zealand)

I was held in thrall for the whole presentation and as I willingly admit to being a bit stubborn in terms of pursuing things I want, my family started hosting students the very next school year. I guess you could say that was my “rebel phase,” to wear knee-high goth boots and collect foreign siblings/friends who would curse with me in anything but English. Due to my familial background, we started hosting students from Germany. I learned so much from them, that the itch to get out and be an exchange student myself just grew and grew.

But my application was rejected. Pretty crushing for a 16 year old considering the amount of work that goes into one of those YFU applications, but I wasn't going to let one form letter stop me. I applied again the next year and I got in. My initial reaction upon receiving that package with the T shirt that could fit 3 of me was: “MOM. MOM. MOM. I GOT IN! I'M GOING TO...Japan? Wait. What?” I had spent all this time preparing for an adventure to Germany – language lessons, cultural tips from hosting students, etc. I really had no clue how I was going to survive in Anime-Tomorrowland.

(Kumamoto Jo, Kumamoto, Japan)

Obviously, I not only survived – I thrived. So many things just clicked for me that it was the most trans-formative experience I've had yet. Of course that inspired hosting more students and a second trip for me in college to New Zealand for a semester and volunteering/mentoring exchange students here and someday I'll probably go back to hosting. It's a cycle. I'm cool with it.

So as an avid advocate for study abroad and as a way to share that initial experience with others, I've been working on the personal project entitled OniSan. I felt the perfect way to communicate discovering my love for the Japanese culture was to express it through an adaption of an existing, universal tale with similar themes – Beauty and the Beast. I've already received a lot of positive feedback on the development and I'm really touched by the people finding those posts not only inspiring, but helpful.

(Pt. Chev Beach, Auckland, New Zealand)

That said, I am aware that many people will be...surprised by my interpretation. My experience of Japan is unique to me, as are my personal preferences. (Big shock: I didn't respond strongly to the pop culture aspects – this is a big reason why I avoided a more direct retelling set in 2007 when I was there) So I imagine those who expect or want one thing may be quite confused to see something seemingly unrelated to their own ideas. I encourage them to be open minded. I am equally as sure that there will be others who see pieces of OniSan and feel it resonate with their own stories and experiences...and laugh at how silly it seems in retrospect. ;)

Now, to all my exchange friends and family, I want to hear from you!!
What was your exchange experience like? Did you go somewhere or did you host/interact with foreign guests? What inspired you to participate in this global exchange? What was your biggest challenge? What was your biggest success? If you could tell your younger self one thing, what advice would that be? Would you recommend studying abroad or hosting to others? How does your experience affect your life now?

(Imperial Palace, Tokyo, Japan)

I'm really interested to know what you think! Please share in the comments or email/message me!! :)

Here are some awesome resources for those interested in joining in the international fun.
Remember to check for scholarships (That's how I was able to go to Japan):

Youth For Understanding

Cumulus International Association of Universities and Colleges of Art, Design and Media
(Check with your University or College for details on their own programs)

Volunteering/Interning Abroad

Teaching English Abroad with TEFL

US Peace Corps

 (Weta Workshop, Wellington, New Zealand)