Sketchbook pages 18.07.2013

A few recent sketchbook pages. I have been slow in my sketchbooks recently and after about six years of using Moleskines I have ditched them. Mainly because of the hefty prices Moleskines now charge – I feel I am subject to some kind of hipster tax. Moleskines recent crowd sourcing marketing fail also contributed to me moving on …

So more skulls (again) and Blondie.

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Bouncer The One Armed Gunslinger: Alexandro Jodorowsky and Francois Boucq

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Published in late 2011 but only arriving on my lap the other day, Bouncer The One Armed Gunslinger (published by Humanoids) is the second volume of collected issues in the ongoing adventures (or misadventures) of the half indian one armed gunslinger Bouncer, written by Alexandro Jodorowsky with art by Francois Boucq.

Bouncer, as his name suggests is the bouncer of the Inferno Saloon in the frontier town of Barro City, and his story is a violent one. The varied cast of characters in this graphic novel include a creepy, freaky trio of Mexican assassins, an aged spooky indian, evil landowners, a loyal three legged dog, a whole array of raggedy outlaws and the odd lynch mob. These characters inhabit a story drenched with violence. All very Sergio Leone, very spaghetti western. Oh, I forgot to mention the opium dens, the revenge obsessed hangwoman, the freaky murderous monkey and the hideously burnt and bedridden owner of the Inferno Saloon. All vital ingredients in this quite epic but exploitive tale. And by exploitive I mean very 70’s, very B movie. Which is a good thing.

Published in late 2011 but only arriving on my lap the other day, Bouncer The One Armed Gunslinger (published by Humanoids, US) is the second volume of collected issues in the ongoing adventures (or misadventures) of the half indian one armed gunslinger Bouncer, written by Alexandro Jodorowsky with art by Francois Boucq.

Bouncer, as his name suggests is the bouncer of the Inferno Saloon in the frontier town of Barro City, and his story is a violent one. The varied cast of characters in this graphic novel include a creepy, freaky trio of Mexican assassins, an aged spooky indian, evil landowners, a loyal three legged dog, a whole array of raggedy outlaws and the odd lynch mob. These characters inhabit a story drenched with violence. All very Sergio Leone, very spaghetti western. Oh, I forgot to mention the opium dens, the revenge obsessed hangwoman, the freaky murderous monkey and the hideously burnt and bedridden owner of the Inferno Saloon. All vital ingredients in this quite epic but exploitive tale. And by exploitive I mean very 70’s, very B movie. Which is a good thing.

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The story opens with Bouncer becoming the town hangman against his wishes, corralled (contextual verb usage!) into the job by the town’s corrupt officials. Events conspire and he ends up being the reluctant hand that brings about the death of his old lover and her new amour. Both are victims of a set up by evil landowner Clark Cooper, with Bouncer the reluctant hangman. Clarke was previously embarrassed by Bouncer as he was booted out of the Inferno saloon and their mutual hatred fuels much of the plot. As all these shenanigans are going on, a mysterious old indian dude is jumping about the town rooftops knocking off members of the towns ruling elite by the nefarious means of a poisonous green coral snake.

There is much more to this graphic novel, and in particular the old Indian, than what I have described above. There is a flashback sequence that fills in some important backstory, and some heartbreaking plot twists and turns, but revealing more would be adding spoilers so I will resist it.

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As a writer and director Jodorowsky is simply legendary and he is rightly celebrated for his films as well as his comic book writing. I first saw his very tripped out film Holy Mountain a couple of years ago and reading Bouncer reminded me that I really need to watch El Topo, his famously weird western.

My first introduction to Jodorowsky was via comic artist genius Moebius and The Incal, a series of comics with a vaguely parallel plot to that of Holy Mountain, that of a twisted and somewhat surreal journey to spiritual awakening. On the back of the success of The Incal Jodorowsky went on to write some great science fiction, notably Les Technopères (The Technopriests). Bouncer … was my first view of Jodorowsky writing a western, and I was a little reluctant to pick it up as my first – my only exposure to Jodorowsky is through his sci fi writing, but I should not have been worried, after a couple of pages in I was hooked.

The art in Bouncer … is by Francois Boucq. A french comic legend, the only Boucq art I have been exposed to previously is the set of satirical shorts collected as Pioneers of the Human Adventure and featuring his absurd character Jérôme Moucherot (published in 1989 by Catalan Communications and translated by Elisabeth Bell who seems to have translated every foreign language comic I read growing up.)

The art by Boucq is excellent, he has that lovely loose but realistic french style, full of energy and expression, and with the analogue appearance of pens and pencils rather than the sterile computer generated look of many contemporary mainstream comics. His art in Bouncer … has moved along since the eighties and Monsieur Moucherot. The quality of line is less scratchy and urgent, but still fluid and expressive. The colouring more subtle and muted. The colour palette in Bouncer … is especially evocative of seventies westerns, all sepia and beautiful autumnal shades of red and orange.

The exaggerated proportions and features of his characters has been replaced with a much more considered approach, but there is still huge expression and character in the faces of his protagonists. Maybe this is due to the subject matter, I would be interested to check out his other contemporary work, and after reading Bouncer … I certainly will track some down.

 

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Chatting to my comicbook aficionado friend about Bouncer … the other night we both remarked on how painterly some of the panels look, in their composition. Bouncer looks like it has been inspired by the epic westerns of John Ford, and my friend pointed out that Ford himself was influenced by the great american painters of the frontier, painters like Thomas Cole, Frederic Church and Albert Bierstadt. Seeing the beautifully composed painterly panels within Bouncer … seems to complete the circle. Bouncer … is a perfect love letter to the Westerns of Ford, but it’s also a note scrawled in blood on the back of a fag packet, addressed to Sergio Leone.

All in all I can’t really fault Bouncer, The One Armed Gunslinger. I am not a huge fan of the western in comic format, Blueberry by Moebius aside. The fact that I enjoyed this so much is a testament to artist and writer. Having always been a fan of Jodorowsky’s writing, I am now on a mission to track down more contemporary English language translations of work by Boucq. Can’t say much more than that really.

 

Nishika N8000: lenticular camera

I recently picked up a 1980′s Nishika N8000 Lenticular camera. It’s a bit of a beast, very eighties, and although it might look sophisticated it’s really just a big plastic box.

lenticular or stereoscopic photography is the creation of 2d images that appear to have motion. The camera takes four images simultaneously, the creation of the lenticular print would take these four images and layer them in such a way that by changing the direction the eye looks at the image, the image would appear to move, or be animated. Please check out wikipedia for a much better explanation of the history and techniques of lenticular or stereoscopic photography.

Another 21st century use for old lenticular cameras is to make animated gif’s from the multiple images – by animated between the images the overall image parallaxes in a rather agreeable fashion. Below are animated gif’s taken with my first film shot through my Nishika, all photos taken around Brighton.

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Photographs from this years Magazine Library exhibition, Tokyo, Japan

Now In Lemon was featured in this years Magazine Library exhibition, Tokyo, Japan. The organisers very kindly sent me some pictures of the exhibition as we could not get over there ourselves this year.

All photography: (c) Nishio Shinsuke / a Zillion ideas.

~ Magazine Library ~

 

~ Magazine Library ~

 

~ Magazine Library ~

 

~ Magazine Library ~

 

~ Magazine Library ~

 

~ Magazine Library ~

 

~ Magazine Library ~

 

~ Magazine Library ~

 

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Databending and glitch art

I’m a big fan of imagery produced from mistakes, accidents, glitches and other random acts. As a student I messed around with the accidental results photocopiers could produce, and now I still abuse scanners to randomly warp and distort images.

Most recently I have been looking into Datamoshing and Databending as part of a Kerb project – both are terms for deliberately corrupting images or video.

Glitching out images and video has been going on for as long as there were images and video to glitch out – nowadays a new wave of creative types are jumping on this lo-fi/glitch bandwagon, and as movements grow and get popular they get labels, so now we have Databend and Datamosh.

Below are a few results from using a HEX editor (I have been using Hex Fiend for the Mac) to manipulate the code of a JPEG image. The first image is the uncorrupted original, a cross-processed photo I took in Spain using an LC-A,  the following five images have been corrupted by randomly replacing characters, copy and pasting chunks of code, and cutting chunks of code entirely.

 

Original JPEG image

Corrupted JPEG 01

Corrupted JPEG 02

Corrupted JPEG 03

 

The two examples below are quite extreme, almost completely destroying the original image. This was achieved by running ‘search and replace’ on the code. I randomly chose a glyph which I swapped out for another randomly chosen glyph.

 

Corrupted JPEG 04

Corrupted JPEG 05

 

As you can see some quite crazy and random results occur from just some colour change to the outright destruction of the original image.

Below are a couple of examples of glitch art that I have seen recently that take these techniques and create something interesting. The examples below are a video created by using a load of corrupted still images, and still images created by corrupting video.

Here is the video using corrupted JPEG’s. Created by my old Creative Director at Lateral Simon Crab. Apparently it took him a long time… (he did the audio as well)

 

 

Here are some freaky beautiful portraits created by deliberately corrupting video, produced by Jared Leistner:

 

Portrait by Jared Leistner

Portrait by Jared Leistner

Portrait by Jared Leistner

 

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Now in Lemon featuring at the ‘Magazine Library’ exhibition, Tokyo, Japan

Our self published art zine, Now in Lemon has been invited to be featured in the 2012 Magazine Library exhibition, Tokyo. From the exhibition organisers: “Since its launch in March of 2009 the travelling ‘Magazine Library’ exhibitions have featured more than 1000 magazines, art books and independent publications. The past 9 exhibitions welcomed more than 50,000 visitors and more than 30 publications have found new distribution routes in Japan via the Magazine Library”.

We are very pleased to have been invited, only wish we could make it over. Here is a video of the 2010 exhibition:

You can take a look at the 2012 Magazine Library exhibition website here.

We still have some copies of Now in Lemon for sale, check it out here.

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Kevin Meredith: Toy Cameras, Creative Photos: High-end Results from 40 Plastic Cameras

I would think that most designers with an eye on the lo-fi will be familiar with the aesthetic of toy cameras. As an arty type with an interest in lo-fi technology and photography I have a couple of toy cameras myself, so when the opportunity came about to review Kevin Meredith’s book on toy cameras – Toy Cameras, Creative Photos: High-end Results from 40 Plastic Cameras (Amazon UK) I was keen to get my hands on it and see what other plastic fantastic cameras are out there.

So what is a toy camera? As Kevin Meredith states in his introduction, it might be a better to ask: “what is a serious camera?”

The answer to that question is simpler, a serious camera is one that has been designed to capture a scene with as much accuracy as possible. The resulting images, while technically perfect, can seem a bit lifeless to some people. Toy cameras are ideal for photographers who don’t want to capture a polished version of the world.

The books setup and approach is straightforward – 40 toy cameras and examples of photographs taken by those cameras. How the book is structured is also simple – Each camera gets a page with an image of, and a few paragraphs about, the camera in question and then several spreads of photography will follow, the photographs illustrating the cameras foibles and quirks. With many images the film type and other details such as the processing technique are given.

The text is informative and succinct. With each camera a little background or description is given, Meredith giving his opinion on the cameras practicality, drawbacks and quirks; for each camera information is given on lens type, aperture, shutter speed, film type, ISO and similar and variant models. The photography throughout the book is excellent – as well as the photography of the author, Meredith has also roped in a load of contributors all who have supplied quality photography.

I was initially surprised at the inclusion of digital cameras, but by Meredith’s own definition a toy camera can be digital and including them supports the inherent inclusiveness of toy cameras. The random ‘happy accidents’ of light leak and vignetting also add to this inclusiveness – no matter what your proficiency in photography the same random results will happen. This is were the divide happens – to embrace such lo-fi photography you have to accept and embrace these random quirks – control freaks should stick to their high-end SLR’s.

The book ends on brief but informative sections on film formats, processing, and toy camera basics: Film speed, shutter speed and aperture.

I don’t  have any real criticisms of this book, It is a simple proposition executed well. I would have preferred to have seen larger images of the cameras but that probably says more about me fetishizing cameras than anything else. I did find that the graphical elements of the book -  furniture and colour – is a little derivative. It looks like a Lomography product. Lomography is the commercial trademark of Lomographische AG, an Austrian company set up in the early nineties whose name is taken from the former Russian manufacturer LOMO PLC, and their camera the LOMO LC-A, which Lomographische AG distribute around Europe. Lomographische AG have very cleverly promoted and nurtured a large worldwide community whose interests are cheap plastic cameras, soviet imports and processing techniques such as cross processing and redscale. The design throughout Toy Cameras, Creative Photos… echo the Lomography branding used throughout their publications and marketing material. Of course there is nothing wrong with this, in fact from a marketing perspective it is probably the right approach as Lomography is such a recognisable entity and has such a large community. I guess I feel that there has been a missed opportunity for this book to have an identity of it’s own, and break the hegemony Lomographische AG have over lo-fi/toy camera culture. This is a minor gripe though and overall the important bits – the photography and text – are given plenty of space to breath.

For a newcomer to lo-fi photography and toy cameras this book will be a great introduction. To someone like me who has already got the lo-fi camera bug it is still a great buy. There are cameras featured in this book that I never knew existed, the action sampler cameras really stoked my imagination, I can see myself trawling ebay for an Oktomat sometime soon. The Ikimono looks cute too.

This book also works well as a reference book or a source of inspiration – there really is some great photography featured and anyone with an interest in photography, be it lo-fi, digital or film will appreciate the qualities of the images.

This review also appears on The Designer’s Review of Books.

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