Alchemy and Metamorphosis, Gilbert the Shark and a Krupskaya Art Book

Contrary to recent evidence, I've been working on a few creative projects. Strange, right? It's almost like that's what I built this website for in the first place.

Posted on 1 February, 2022

Contrary to evidence of late, I sometimes work on/get involved with creative projects. Strange, right? It’s almost like that’s why I built this website.

I mentioned in my last proper update that since starting my new role, free time for such work has been somewhat diminished. That which continues tends to be of the long term, headspace swallowing variety – ala my Masters. Therefore, I’ve struggled to find time to contribute to other companies and NGOs, etc… the public mourns.

In all seriousness, I highlight this partially because I know a few creative folks who read my journal, who are the sort to beat themselves up over not finding time for things. Life is short and we torture ourselves for not maximising the opportunity that every waking moment brings. But like time, energy is finite. Concentration is also finite. So how do we balance these two things? For my money, the key is priority – if you’re confident that what you’ve prioritised is/are the most pertinent to your long term goals, then don’t drive yourself bonkers over squeezing other stuff in. If you’re not confident that’s the case… well, address that first.

There you go – life advice. From a dude who’s been heald at gun point by Ukrainian military and poo’d on by  a great white shark. Separate events.

Anyway, despite my lack of freelancing activity compared to previous years, a few are indeed in progress. One of which involves sharks and drawing which as you might expect, I’m fairly excited about bossing. I’ve no idea when details of such will be available, but the enthusiasm with which they’re shared will be in earnest.

In the meantime, some new(ish) stuff that got finished over the last few weeks:

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Alchemy and Metamorphosis at The Potteries Museum, Stoke-on-Trent

Alchemy and Metamorphosis at The Potteries Museum, Stoke-on-Trent

Alchemy and Metamorphosis

I’m not entirely sure how I missed this, but Prof. Neil Brownsword had an exhibition hosted at The Potteries Museum from September 2021 until this last weekend.

Richard Harper and I worked with Neil on numerous projects during our time at Staffordshire University, such as The British Ceramics Biennial and Externalising The Archive.

The exbition showcased a wide range of Neil’s work and practices, some of which we helped with in the weeks leading up to our departures. Rich and I performed a load of scans which Neil then wanted to distort and mutate in software (initially ZBrush, I think he eventually made the wise decision of using Blender instead). I showed him the basics of translating vertices and faces, which we then needed to make ‘3D-Printer Friendly’. This was no small ballache, but we perservered and the output was spot on. The end result is a series of prints like the below – bizarre distortions of traditionally produced ceramics that were arguably only possible through the use of computer software:

Besides looking quite distinct, it’s an interesting take on intersplicing practices. If you’re reading this and like me you’re a millenial who has endured many a rant about the damage computers are doing to creative/technical skillsets – you’re likely feeling some degree of validation that an individual who knows such practices better than many in his industry will, sees the value of integrating them with the opportunities modern technology offers. This creation exists only because two worlds and schools of thought were bought together, rather than snobbery and or cynicism keeping them apart.

That’s not to say any of us don’t recognise the risk posed by such knowledge being lost to time, as more people move onto digitally based processes. The three of us discussed the roles immerse technologies could play in the continued education and preservation of these skillsets for a good couple of hours. It was productive until I bought two massive slices of cake and immediately fell into something of a sugar-induced food coma. But an interesting discussion, nonetheless.

I feel like a bit of twat for having totally lost track of the exhibition and it thus being too late to advise anyone in Staffordshire to pay it a visit, which I totally would.

So for those gutted by my incompetence (join the club) – here are some more images from the event:

Gilbert the shark, Geological Trail

My good friends/extended family at The Dyer Island Conservation Trust undertook yet another awesome nature project last year. The new geological trail offers visitors an insight into the surroundings of Kleinbaai/Gansbaai and of course, its relationship to the local wildlife.

It was felt that a character was required to adorn the various signs. I for one refuse to learn anything which isn’t conveyed by a happy-go-lucky cartoon character… which explains my E in GCSE History. If only they’d made Stalin look like one of the Peanuts.

The trust wanted a character who was fun but also relevant to the area, so they arrived at the concept of Gilbert – A great white shark geologist.

Obviously this was a ton of fun, especially when I needed to put both Gilbert and a couple of penguins in the same frame. “Great white sharks and penguins ‘getting along’?” you say in surprise? Well yes, because unlike Orcas – great white sharks aren’t total dicks who’ll munch on anything given half the chance, only to play the victim as soon as everyone’s looking at them. Not that I’m bitter, but if you’re a species who needs its human ambassadors to argue “Well, they’re almost as clever as people” as being a key reason for your conservation, you can knob right off. We’re the species that created Two Broke Girls, Love Island and Nickelback so I’m sorry, but intelligence comparable to ours is not – I repeat not –  a USP.

See that? USP (Unique Selling Proposition) – the new job is starting to rub off on me.

I’ve totally forgotten what I was walking about… Gilbert! So yeah, I did the artwork a while back now but the trust were only recently able to get them erected. I’m super happy with how they’re looking and on a personal level, it means a lot to know we still have some sort of footprint in the area – discluding the various burglar traps Anna left in our old garden that we forgot to take down.

Some examples of Gilbert and his final application can be seen below, please do visit the Gilbert the shark page for further samples.

Gilbert the great white shark
Gilbert on the signage
Gilbert on the signage

Krupskaya Art Book

Anna got a couple of books printed last year of her photography. I was expecting them to be total dog shit. Not because I don’t appreciate her work, but because 90% of what comes through our letter box (or if it’s DPD delivering – left in the bin) with her name plastered across the front of it tends to be.

Well, swallow some humble pie Ed – because they turned out great. Thanks Saal Digital for giving Anna more ammunition to dismiss my criticisms and observations outright. Because she really needed a legitimate reason to add to all the arbitrary, borderline make-believe metrics she typically employs. I can’t wait for the next time I suggest something as extreme as “Honey, do you think it’d be a good idea not to do jigsaw puzzles and eat chocolate while watching Harry Potter until midnight if you’ve got an early start tomorrow morning?” to be met with “Hmmm, but you were wrong about those books being poor quality, weren’t you? Yeah, so I’m good, actually – do one *nom nom nom*”.

Anyway, this inspired me to start doing the same (printing books – not jigsaws). The vast majority of my work is digital and when the day finally arrives that I choose to ditch computers entirely, I would like to maintain access to some of these projects and the memories they hold. As great as digital content is, nothing captures the feel and realness of a subject quite like something physical. You might argue that the popularity of internet porn is evidence to quite the contrary. My retort would be ‘Shut up, I’ve already been proven wrong once on this update – thanks!’.

Krupskaya Artworks 2006 to 2010 is the first such endeavour, comprising panel and cover art from Clouds Over Pripyat up to our Sandokhan split release. I considered delving into the creative process for some of these but then realised that even by my standards, this would be incredibly egotistical. And I’d already done exactly that on this web site.

The results are great, if a bit on the large size and bloody expensive due to me not paying attention when choosing the format. I’m sure I’ll come to thank myself for this mistake when my eyes fail to read anything smaller than 72pt font. For now, it’s thwarted any hopes I had of giving it pride of place alongside the game art books I collect.

I intend to follow this up with a 2011 to 2020 book in the next few weeks:

Other stuff

If you haven’t already, please do check out my Conversation with Sam Cassidy as I think it’s a real eye opener into some of the realities that graduates have faced, leaving University and trying to secure employment during Covid.

The next stop on Krupskaya’s Siberia 2018 Tour Diary ‘Blagoveschensk, I can see China!’ should be wrapped up in a week or so… he says.

Fingers crossed I’ll have details on some new websites and sharky-game related work to chat about soonishly.

Cheers for reading and I hope everyone’s 2022 is off to a decent – or at least, not totally shit – start.