Digital Makings has led to direct exposure to the wonderful world of digital arts and many fantastic digital artists that work in this area. Digital art is a wonderful world that encompasses everything from music, to photography, to film, to animation, to CAD, to creative coding and hacking, to more traditional arts and mediums infused with digital elements.
Animation workshop October 2016
The thing that I find so absolutely fascinating about digital art is that firstly, my preconception going into Digital Makings was all wrong. I believes that digital arts and traditional arts were quite separate; however what I’m finding through the project of Digital Makings, is that traditional arts still has an integral part to play with many artists using sculpture, drawing, painting, etc within their digital arts practice. In fact, digital art and traditional art are so complementary and where they meet and overlap, there is real synergy that can lead to real creative results.
Secondly, Digital Art is a continuously evolving process of experimentation and learning. If we think how rapidly technology is developing, how often new apps and programmes are constantly being launched and updated; it happens daily. In the midst of designing workshops related to apps, we’ve had their capabilities wildly transform or often, disappear altogether replaced by something newer. Clearly this constant evolution and change will affect Digital Arts and the artists that engage in those mediums. To me, their practice could arguably be described in an exciting state of flux.
Over the recent weeks, I’ve worked with a brilliant North East based Digital artist; Lesley-anne Rose as part of Digital Makings.
Lesley ran an animation workshop on 15th October and a family music workshop on 12th November as part of the Digital Makings activity programme. Both were at Gateshead Central Library and both workshops were amazing!
Talking to Lesley, I could see we had a lot in common, we were passionate about similar community agendas, both a bit unconventional and in love with the weird and the wonderful. I then looked at her animation showreel, which is absolutely amazing and knew that I had to make her my November artist of the Month.
Lesley-anne Rose is an Artist and Arts educator who works across photography animation and sculptural platforms. She has a special interest in stop motion animation and model making. She works with community organisations such as We engage and Baltic Stars facilitating creative digital engagement. She has had animations commission by the likes of Channel 4, BALTIC and has even animated a music video!
I caught up with Lesley, to get some insight into the world of the digital artists, to find out what inspires her animations and how she overcomes rapidly changing technology alongside participatory barriers to engagement……
Hi Lesley, Tell me about your arts practice?
I work across a few mediums, from photography to sculpture and model making; though my speciality is stop motion animation.
I am interested in the comic and the banal things in life; I take a lot of photographs of rubbish in bushes for some reason. I have also been collecting film footage of people doing something I am fascinated with, the drag queen from the Black Garter Pub in Newcastle for example. I am not sure what I will do with the filming yet.
Favourite project of 2016 so far?
I think the Art and SOLE (Self Organised Learning Environments) project with Helen Burns at Newcastle University; I liked this project because independent thinking, ownership and agency are central to the experience. Children get to make decisions about their own learning and once that happens you can feel the energy in the room change in a good way!
Can you tell me a bit about your involvement with We engAGE?
I work with Claire and another two Artists facilitating digital engagement to older people and people living with Dementia.
I have met and worked with some amazing people as part of this project! Recently we have been looking at sustainability, working with schools and care homes together; we are hoping to foster long term partnerships between older people and students.
Why are participatory workshops a good means to engage in digital and new types of technology?
In a workshop, you can try applications with someone who can help you navigate complex software in order to make something, like an animation, piece of music, digital drawing or a computer game. Access to digital learning is something I am really passionate about.
Lesley- anne Rose: Animation workshop October 2016
What do you find are the common barriers to engagement in Digital Arts and Digital in general and how do you seek to overcome them?
Cost, knowledge and confidence are major barriers as well as age and access. There are still a lot of people who don’t have access to any digital facilities for various reasons. My job as a facilitator is to make the equipment less scary and more of a tool for creative use.
Why did you decide to take the Digital Arts route?
For me it was a means to an end; I wanted to make better animations and saved up to buy the laptop, software and camera that would enable me to take a step up in quality.
I really enjoy the learning process and became interested in a few software packages that are fantastic for any budding creative; Photoshop, Dragonframe, Final Cut Pro-editing software and most recently, Game Maker software.
Even though all artists’ practice and participatory workshops grow, evolve and change – as technology updates, changes and new innovations are launched all the time, surely this must speed up this process for a Digital Artist?
Any smaller, cheaper, hand held technology has the potential to be used as a creative tool. I don’t want workshop participants to just be consumers of technology, I am interested in how creative technology can give a voice to people who can showcase their work across digital platforms like YouTube.
Lesley-anne Rose – Animation workshop October 2016
How does emerging new technology affect your practice as a digital artist?
Keeps me on my toes! I had to learn how to describe a quantum computer in order make a short animation, I watched a lot of explanations online and was thankful for the ever educational online community.
You do work for a variety cultural organisations and community initiatives; from BALTIC, to Woodhorn, to Equal Arts , to We engAGE, to Gateshead Culture Team – what’s it like working for different cultural organisations as an artist?
The work is really varied! I also work with GemArts and have done some great projects with them working with marginalised groups and learning about other cultures. I am a huge fan of Contemporary Art which of course there is plenty of at BALTIC. I think Contemporary Art is an underrated educational tool; Artists responding to the world around them and asking many questions is something we should all feel able to do.
Can you tell me a bit about your involvement with Baltic Stars – sounds like such an interesting project!?
I really enjoy working on this project; with every group, the process and outcomes are vastly different. This project is funded by Children in Need and the aim is to work with young people with special educational needs outside of school and with their families. Every group I have worked with has had fun exploring ideas such as identity, music, sculpture and photography as part of their creative pathway.
You do quite a lot of animation commission work; how do these commissions occur?
Usually, someone has seen my work and recommended me. I do apply for commissions as well and perhaps I am not to everyone’s taste as an animator.
What was it like being commissioned to make an animation for Random Acts on Channel 4 ?
I didn’t think I would get through! Then when I did it was long hours of working with a great team of talented artists. Long long days in a blacked out room; it was worth it though and I am still proud of that animation .
Lesley-anne Rose – Spatula Head – Random Acts, Channel 4
I’ve watched your various show reels and they are amazing! They seem to be quite dark, a bit Tim Burtonesque….what inspires the concepts and stories behind your animation?
I am inspired by Jan Svankmajer, a Czech animator as well as The Brother Quay. I get a lot of inspiration places as well as people, I think that’s why I like photographing the rubbish in parks, it’s a kind of story of the person who left it there.
Your work also seems to infuse a lot of traditional arts (what you call as analogue skills – really like that term!) – from sculpture, to drawing, to puppet making, to photography – do you have a particular traditional arts “specialism”?
I don’t think I have a particular specialism; I use drawing a lot in my process even though my drawing skills are not that great. I am fond of the drawing process and anyone can do it. You just need something that can make a mark and somewhere to put your mark, even if it’s a signature, it’s a way to tell the world I am here!
Can you tell me a bit about the animation process?
Stop motion animation is essentially a mix of photographic skills and model making. I make a set and puppets and plan out what needs to happen in that sequence of photographs.
Some scenes are made up of hundreds of photographs, some shorter scenes may be 50 or 60 shots. I work with a really talented post production artist who removes out any rigging (mechanism that holds the puppet in place) and tweaks the photos so that the animation looks good.
What are you plans for 2017? Any exciting projects that you can share with us on the horizon?
Other than trying to master the basics of game design, I don’t have any big projects lined up for 2017. Animation wise, I have an animation in production that requires me to figure out how to lip synch, making loads of tiny replaceable puppet mouths that I am hoping to complete by this time next year.
Thank you Lesley – I’ve loved working with her so far on Digital Makings and I hope our paths cross again soon. Good luck with the Lip syncing!