Meditation for animation

These last few years i've got really keen on Buddhism. I think in the West, we have a natural inclination towards Eastern outlook, for its difference to our historical thought. For its general relaxed demeanour to religion.. there are many reasons. Buddhism in particular garners a weight of that leaning.

I got into meditation properly right after uni when I moved to Mevagissey for a bit (to live with Miguel). Because it was so quiet there and peaceful in the quiet harbour, mornings were ripe for being still and quiet.

I got into it for a few reasons; one being that natural inclination for sure, also that I am a keen reader, and focus & concentration are important for reading; skills practicing meditation would surely enhance. I don't mean to sound so robotic about it, as I don't feel that way.

I think meditation is becoming more important to the West too as an antidote to our busy lives. Everything is on, always, phones in ears always, sideways thoughts on hectic highstreets.. we are naturally lusting for that 'minute' of silence, the chance to get our minds back to 'now'. It's all about 'Being here now'.

I also got into it as I knew how it'd help my animation practice. Here's a few ideas on why its conductive to animation;

In meditation, especially the practice of mindfulness, we look over our bodies, bit by bit, feeling in every inch of the body. Feeling the pull of individual acute aches & being aware of your anatomy.
I find this technique very close to how I feel in life drawing. In life drawing you're not only looking at some other body, but trying to relate that feeling in your own body - that weight, the fall of things, the pull on intricate & hidden muscles that cause tension on the surface.. If you can draw focus to your own body, and help imitate the flow and feel of what you're looking at, you can understand it on a deeper level, that serves to improve the understanding in your own drawing. If you can feel it you can see it. Or notice it, rather.

Simillarily, in mindfulness we practice watching our breath. This is a fundamental technique, in that the breath serves as an anchor we can always return to, like a mantra. The breath is constant, so-necessary, yet we are often not concious of it, we just do it. Also, by controlling our breath, we can control our mood - slow deep breath's and all that..
So, in watching the breath, we as animators can begin to articulate all those subtle movements in the chest that we never usually notice. We can follow the breath down into the belly, fill your lungs from bottom-up, and roll it back out like a wave, feel it tickle out our noses calmly. Articulating like this is to recall that intricate eye we strive to acquire in animation. To be able to look in such detail is key.

Cultivating that pointed, focused, contcentration in meditation helps us in animation too. Animation is a long and sometimes laborious task that takes dedication and patience. It is good to have us held there content. This is a great antithesis to the inevitable procrastination that waves over you. Like in the Zen saying, 'Dont just do something, sit there!'. Disciplined patience.

I find too in meditation I am often beginning to imagine some obscure mental parable, in line with the practice. often revolving around the breath. Here's a couple, just for example of what I mean, because of course these are steeped in subjectivity:
 - I often visualize my breath like a wave rolling on the shore, from the deep of my lungs, rolling its way up my chest, out of my mouth.
 - I will often have two images in mind too - or one that contorts to the sway of my breath. E.g to meditate on a face that droops and relaxes as my body does with the breath, and pulls tight as I breathe in anew.
 - Also I like to picture a flower, growing. It begins in the dirt, the mess of wantaway life, and, rising through, pulling straight in the stem, unveils its petals in buddha-wisdom. The lotus flower that grows wherever. 'This is the moment of embarking, all auspicious signs are in place'. I remember that in meditation, and it helps garner in me this blossoming flower metaphor.

There is so much more, the idea of satori too - cultivating a quiet mind, that lights up with that great spark of idea. We can't control, or number, the amount of 'moments' we will have like this, visionary moments, the lightbulb flicking on (eurika!) (called satori's in the east, but usually reserved for monastic thought), but we can help by putting ourselves in fertile ground, and staying well watered.


I'll leave it there. Let me know if you see it likewise, or have anything to add.


Kerouac n' cat
One thing I did do whilst up t'North was get into writing Haikus. I did it in the Kerouacian vein. Came across a Jack Kerouac book in Helmsley library, 'book of haikus'. In it he outline's his version of the traditional Japanese poems. He free'd them a little, saying that Western languages didn't fit so inline with the 17 syllable structure of traditional haiku, so instead he proposed just three line numbers. He called them 'American pops'. The aim with haiku is to create a little snapshot of the world, of life, etc, with all the simplicity of a trickling stream, yet the full force of a sunset.

I just keep a little book in my back pocket and write them whenever. I did them with the Kerouacian ideal in mind that 'write in recollection and amazement FOR YOURSELF' however i'll publish a couple here anyway 'cus they're fun little ditties.

cherub smiling cat,
sleeps tight under arm
and i write haikus.

ancestral remarks
detail the fur of the cat
on a winters eve

Hayfields on the horizon - remind
of giddy summer playgrounds
in golden spring youth

Holy smokin fire
puffs its rings to the night
and says 'how do?'

aching windpipes
curtails spiritual practice
today & tomorrow

If sight is only reflections
and waves are all but vibrations
then where is the source which winds them?
When I refer to waves I mean particle waves, e.g sound waves.
what I like about this one is it sorta follows a trajectory, step stonin' the reader to 'the source'.

This last one got me thinking about the source.. how we can't see it. I've long thought upon how human's trying to comprehend our creation is much like a dog trying to grasp how human's talk.. or where a can of coke comes from.. it's above them, outta reach, incomprehensible.

So perhaps an analogy for the source, using the above haiku as reference..:
NOTE - 1,2 & 3 refers to line number

Rain falls down on a mountain. (3)
it trickles down, curving and caressing a path for itself, collecting into a river. (2) The river bends itself along the land, until it reaches the sea.
the sea is unable to turn inland. It cannot swim upstream, but only struggle on the shore. (1)

So you see how the sea can't swim upstream, it can look inland - but it can't reach far. It certainly can't reach its source by its own will. Then how does it reach its source? By simply going through the motions - where it finds itself raised to the clouds.

I hope that makes some sorta sense. I think i'll explore this idea more, in different creative avenues. Perhaps it'd be explainable in song.

Anywho, some more, follwing the theme loosely:

Rainfall & waves for millenia
carved a david of this land
& the granite of our bones recalls us.

vein's criss-crossed
murmer in echo
of the faraway heart

(this ain't a haiku but on the same wave length)
& like a kite morality stems
from the hand of atavism
in the winds of willful existence.

waves reflect
from brain to brain
through ear eye & hand.

cemetry's lined
with washed away lives
stories told to the stones & dirt.

cold & distant
his face hangs like the moon
bright & weary, motionless
(about a wreck-head friend of mine..) 

He reads his woes in the sunday papers,
the cats not out the bag;
children count the ladybugs.

Innocence lost from adolescent eye's
ten years too late
redemption will come

Sisyphusal bee sting!
the forever thorn in one's mind
that rues you from being

go write some of yr own!

What I enjoy most about haiku is its immediate art - art that rivals the click of the camera for its immediacy, and therefore, encapsulated spontinaity.

life update

So a dip in form for this blog, but can explain.. I moved up to Yorkshire last August, and where we were living, we had no internet, or television for that matter. Infact it was quite the hippy household - plenty animals for company (a dog, a cat, 2 rabbits and a pheasant at one point!), a field-fulla-sheep across the road, the woods right on our doorstep.. the village itself only had a curry house, a fish n chips and a pub that opened one night a week!

But anywho so have been doing that since August. I came home for christmas and then decided to move on to the next place.

So now I find myself in Brighton. My reason for coming here is that I want to get creative as I can, get my foot well and truly back on the ball.. I loved living in Yorkshire, but I feel that its time lost in a sense - I did very little creative work whilst I was up there, and instead spent all my time working full time. Infact, the only painting I finished up there was done two days before I came home. I did it for my nan for christmas (see pic)

This is certainly my most well travelled canvas. So I finished it a few days before christmas, however being done with oil's, it certainly wouldn't be dry for a good while. I put it in the car for the first leg of the journey - Helmsley (North Yorkshire) to Essex with Rosey. Not only did I have the canvas with me (which is about waist height btw..!) but I had as much of my stuff as I could physically carry - a full to the brim rucksack, a side-bag full of books & trinkets, a mandolin... I think I also had a few sets of clothes on that wouldn't fit in the bag. From Basildon (Essex) I jumped on a train into central London. Changing onto the tube was the worst part, I didn't even have a hand free to put me ticket through. Finally though got to Victoria and got on my coach. This was the nice part as it was the evening now, and I could sit back finally and enjoy "drivin' home for christmas"..

oil inspiration

Bin getting really into Duncan Grant & Vanessa Bell's paintings recently. I find some of theirs are in a simillar direction to what I want to do with my oils.

With these ones, I like how well the person sits with the nature around them, soaked into it. Really like how the strokes all come together, flowing in different directions to create the shape. The lottery of colour weaved and winding a figure out the Earth (like a wave out the ocean). I think the lack of detail on the faces especially adds to this too - no real personal distinction, its just a person in some shape, just as you may paint a flower arching in some shape.

This is probably the best example:

This one especially, the face kinda rises out of the foliage. The darkened outlines too on his knees and his right shoulder lean him outwards too and give him a slight distinction.

Oil Paintings

so continuing on from the last post, bin keeping at oil paintings. Just doing my third at the mo, and having a break inbetween.

As I said before, what I'm enjoying most is the way you can mix oils on the canvas. I'venever enjoyed colour, its always been a finnicky point for me, but I spose that's because I never went near a theory book for it or tried to understand how. Using oils gives me the time to do this, by practicing it, and learning as I go along.

Anywho here's the second one I did, its of me nan.

Quite happy with this one, though not really as its not what I was going for.

What I want to do with oils, is have the paintings be really loosely defined at the edges, then all come together in the focal point (in this instance that'd be the face) What I'd change is have the outer edges of the painting - eg the shoulders - be really loose & abstract, all paint splodges coming together, like flower petals, rising up to make her face. I want all the splodges to feel like nature coming together to make something. The idea being that we are like waves; how waves rise up out the ocean and form for a minute and we point and say 'hey look its a wave', people are the same: We rise up out the Earth, form for a moment of time, 80 years or so, then fall back into it, like waves do.

This is the idea I want to imply with my paintings. Not capturing that at the mo, but I feel if I continue I will. I think at the mo its because I'm new to it and still toeing quite a conservative line. When I've got the confidence of the medium I'll be able to express what I mean properly.

With this in mind, I'm going to break one of my rules. I've always believed that an 'artist', be it a painter, writer, animator or whoever, should try their best with what they're trying to achieve (the message, not just the technical ability). if you're not trying your best your setting in stone a limit of your abilities that is lower, and is a harder standard to reach further from. Your also not developing. Hemingway summed it up neatly during a conversation with Fitzgerald (from his book A Moveable Feast):
"He had told me at the Closerie des Liles how he wrote what he thought were good stories, and which were really good stories for 'the post', and then changed them for submission, knowing exactly how he must make the twists that made them into salable magazine stories. I had been shocked at this and I said I thought it was whoring. He said that it was whoring but that he had to do it as he made his money from the magazines to have money ahead to write decent books. I said that I did not believe anyone could write anyway except the very best he could write without destroying his talent"
This 'destruction of talent' is the reason why I've chose to avoid the industry. Perhaps its pig-headed to do so, but I don't care, its only my opinion. Perhaps im setting myself up to fail, but again I don't care, I may end up 27 with no 'experience' behind me except my own subjective avenues but I'd rather explore them than some other pursuit. I also know its an ignorant perspective (ignorant of the virtues of the industry) but still the main thing I want to do is my own thing. I'd rather walk at my own pace & do that than be caught up in some whole other world.

But for painting with oils I'm going to break this for a moment; I think what I need to do is continue practicing: be conservative about it, if that's all I can do. Most of all I must just keep at it. Keep knocking them out and getting better technically. It's like Dylan said, 'Write ten songs a day, throw nine away'. The gems will begin to shine.

When I have my confidence with them, I'll be able to be freer with it and explore how I want to use them. I spose this is the standard way really - Picasso learnt to paint traditionally & realistically very well before he went into Cubism. Ralph Steadman too - he was a very accurate & articulate, traditional painter, painting landscapes and still life and such. He got his abilities up, then he met Hunter Thompson, got crazy, and his drawings completely changed..

My main inspiration, I'd say is still Kathe Kollwitz. I love her looseness. Altho she didn't work in oils (atleast that's not what she's known for) the way the lines curve & caress and disperse freely is (referring to the waves idea above) what I want to present.

Also love Lucien Freud just for the sheer thickness of his paint, & his auterial eye.

Also getting very into Duncan Grant & Vanessa Bell. I think these two touched on what I want to do at times, and in their varied exploration threw up some interesting ideas.

If you know anyone else I should look into, let me know. 

I do find I'm very 'conservative'. Painting, writing & such you learn things about yourself (for an auteur POV), infact it was playing Chess I really realised how conservative I am. My friend I usually play with would make big sweeping moves - throw the Queen out into the centre ground within a few moves - whilst I'm there, hushing my pawns along, little by little. As I've got more confident with chess, I've began making bigger sweeping moves, this will be the same for painting, in time.

Right, time to get back to it. Will post the painting up when done. Not liking it at the mo, but must keep my integrety, not let the Lilly Briscoe blues take over, and just keep at it.


your magnetic movements still capture the minutes i'm in

Did a new Dylan painting.

I have to say that I don't think of my paintings as 'art' really, other people use that word sometimes (tho I spose flippantly) and it's nice to be complimented but I don't. These don't say anything - but I don't mean that as a bad thing. They are just done out of enjoyment. I see it like this - the same way you dance to a song you love, that's you reacting to the energy of the music. This is just me doing the same. Painting was completed whilst listening to Highway 61 thru headphones, on repeat, late into the night.

Anywho, this was my first attempt at oils and I'm defintely glad of how it came out. I don't think it's great, but it's a good start, and I felt I learnt alot doing it: I've never been one for colour, I usually just ignore the idea of it completely, or if I do use it am quite blaize & throw it down in an abstract way instead, but oils really give you time to play with colour - mixing on the canvas. This was a great revelation. Watercolours are the opposite - you gotta be very fiddly & precise with your colour mixing before you lay it down, was great to not have to do that.

Everytime I do a painting I mean to not say much atall but always end up spouting off about this and that. Oh well, tis the way the penny drops. Every painting is a lesson learn'd

Here's a great quote from the man from his book Chronicles about his sound (or his art/style):
"The closest I ever got to the sound I hear in my mind was on individual bands in the "Blonde on Blonde" album. It's that thin, that wild mercury sound. It's metallic and bright gold, with whatever that conjures up. That's my particular sound. I haven't been able to succeed in getting it all the time." 

Here's the photo it's from.

the other path

Following on from what I wrote about students attending university, I want to make clear the other path has equal & contrary merit.

NOTE - Reference to university is made in a general sense, although specifically is about my own ballpark (the arts). I'm sure it will encompass other subjects also, but some it will not

In short, uni for me was great to have those three years to really focus on growing (being like a sponge and soaking everything up), the chance to sit down and get on with it, but also the support, and especially the motivation to do so, something that I thought was necessary for me to keep me chained to my work station.

However, I feel strongly that someone, with enough conviction (strong emphasis on the word conviction) can simply (but not easily) do it on there own.

I always felt that, to take the example of a photographer, you don't need the best equipment, you don't need a Canon 5D or expensive tripod & lighting kit; most of all you need ambition, desire, commitment & conviction in yourself. Someone who has those will go out with a £2 camera and shoot everything they wanna shoot in total passion.

One of the best people I've met in the last year is my friend Steve, he didn't go to university, but has all these attributes in abundance for his field (singer / songwriter / music). Talking to him about uni, his idea was that he saw all these people going off for three years and thought 'how do I play catch up?' How do I do that without spending a penny?

Having not gone to university, you stand in the distinct advantage of not being anywhere between £20,000 to £75,000 in debt, and yet (potentially) as well qualified as your competitive peers who did attend university. Altho this may make you shiver in your boots with denial, it is true. Considering that your specialty is a creative venture; qualification comes in the form of a strong portfolio & passed clients, rather than A*'s & B's or 1:1's.

What you don't have is the three years spent with an open-pass to exploring your subject of choice in that prosperous bubble. There are great virtues to be hand from attending university. However, this is where your unspent £20,000-£75,000 comes in - see it as your golden ticket. Live cheaply (at home or in cheap rented accommodation) & get well acquainted with your camera, lightbox, canvas, (whatever). Use the local library to read about them technically, explore the worlds galleries online & keep up with contemporary trends: whatever you want, use the internet to aid it. Make the internet your new best friend and keep your use of it virtuous. Watch endless Youtube tutorials, and not just from nobodies, from masters in their fields, explaining it all intricately. Converse with the multitudes of people on the same path as you, online, get to the bottom of whatever it is you want to get to the bottom of. Be your own boss & push yourself: Schedule yourself a course as if you were a student - an hours researching in the morning, a photoshoot/studio session at mid day. DONT compare your efforts to those around you else you'll get stuck in first gear (unless your blessed with a vibrant & active home town)

You just gotta have the conviction in yourself, most of all.

This is hard, I don't think I could have done this, I think I would have wavered personally. This has been my plight since finishing uni, to write my own course of study (in the books I read, things I do) and keep developing with the same will & wings I developed at uni. But it's tough.

It's also hard to convince those around you that this is a virtuous path. Uni is almost like a free-pass in this regard, your family will determine that 'My son? He's at uni..' with pride and contentment. For them to see you take the other path and say 'He sits in his room and reads books and draws pictures' doesn't hold as much weight in societies eyes. But the one who does it with self-infused conviction, commitment, passion, and everything else, will be a very wealthy fellow.

busy bein' born: a pat on the back to students everywhere

There's a certain brand of cynicism regarding students that you hear from time to time, with even the employment minister Esther McVey recently branding students as 'snobs' who should work for Costa, but there's a very valid case for the worth of students to society.

University is a chance to exist within a bubble, a safe-haven where although you're likely skint, you're skint in the 'beans on toast' sense, rather than the anxious, over-bearing dread that comes part & parcel of being 'real world poor'. It's a bubble where for three + years you have few commitments besides your course of study, and are free to focus on your work, and your own chosen path within that framework.

One of my favorite things about returning to Falmouth University recently was to see all these young people walking about, each with a young-scrunched up face, lost in the thought of their own creation; perhaps trying to figure out some new thing or tie loose ends of there own desires. Each with their feet on the ground and their heads in the clouds.

Uni is a bubble where the freshness of youth can transpire to great things. We see this most voicefully in the sciences, where new ways of doing things, new potions and tonics for societies ills are remedied. Its my belief that cancer won't be cured by some government think tank or multi-million pound contract, but someday - perhaps on the offchance - in some university laboratory.

We see it too in my field, the arts. Art in the 'real world' has a habit of being a grand echo chamber, with icons of the past (1) repeated with tired acclaim (2). Unfortunately the acclaim most modern art receives tends to be thanks to its value in auction houses & ticket prices rather than its true worth to us.

Good universities are what Socrates would refer to as midwives: breeding grounds for newness. In the real world, under the shade of capitalism, great artistic ventures can be cast aside as phantom-plans, when really it is only the smell of money they do not engineer. At uni you have none of those obligations (the need to make work that is financially viable) and so you set off on your ways for other, more sentimental means.

Its the job of all students to take their three years and grasp them with both hands. It is a time of limitless prosperity for themselves as a person, and themselves as an artist, thinker, scientist, whatever. To be in that bubble, surrounded by like-minded folk, all pointed - with fresh insightful vigour - to the future, is a real opportunity for growth. With the right attitude, students bloom not only with their subject, but as people, growing rounded & worldy in lecture halls & libraries, in conversation & relations.

People often chastise the outlook of students as dreamers and idealists, and yes often this is fair criticism. However it is in this naive, playful wonderings that we find the most concentrated effort of new thought. Naive stabs in the dark, yes, fair; but one of them will hit the mark.

I'm a big believer in youth, I think your early 20's is the perfect time for newness. Much like footballers, you have the risk-taking naivety of youth that implores you to try new things, the (virtuous) confidence/arrogance to dignify your vision with great integrity, and are physically & mentally at your peak. You've also not been trodden with the ways of the real world enough to lose any of this. It's a time when the 'folly of enthusiasm' is all around, and the indifference of wisdom' is distant & unheard.

That's about all. A pat on the back to students everywhere.