Last September, I had a blast on my maiden voyage in the Kangoo, camping and stopping off at as many obscure seaside towns as I could find. I went to Hastings largely to see Source Bmx park’s battle of Hastings jam. I took in some of the sights then travelled East to camp for the night and soak up Dungeness. It wasn’t until a couple days later, whilst travelling back through that I spotted these charming old fishing net huts nestled in front of the cliffs. The huts were mishapen, probably by a mix of blustery winds and rough trade passing through, you could tell each one had been repaired or rebuilt countless times. I’d love to go back and explore these some more.
Last month, I took part in an initiative called Life on hold which lets you raise funds for the NHS by remixing artists' work and making a small donation. I chose to remix Mr Penfold's work and carry through a lot of his original visual style.
A brief rundown of my entry:
Walk down any street in Bristol or the UK and you’ll find pockets of music spilling into the street. Filling the void. Neighbours are opening up and banding together (maybe for the first time you’ve ever encountered). A crack of a window, birdsong a few gardens down, or a sound system cycling past. Listening in has helped me feel part of something bigger. A ‘all for one, one for all’ sort of thing whilst we try to do our bit.
My remix of Mr Penfold’s work nods at the window and the sounds/worlds they can channel.
Ever since I first started sketching Peblo, I had this idea of how he might look in 3D. Rather than a round and soft shape, I always imagined him being faceted. That way he had a very distinct silhouette and could allow me to sit him on different sides when it came to animation.
A physical version could be made from all sorts of materials. A block of wood sanded down in an assortment of angles to make a faceted shape or cast in concrete. I never liked the idea of creating a cgi version of him. Yet, the biggest issue I had was tooling up. Sanding a block of wood would look great but getting access to a standup sander was tricky. Sadly I wouldn’t be able to achieve the same effect doing it by hand.
Early sketches and inspiration
So to keep things simple, I toyed with the idea of making him out of concrete or resin. In order to do that, I’d need a mould which meant making a model of him first out of Balsa wood. Balsa wood because it’s cheap to buy and easy to cut with a fine saw.
It was actually quite difficult to sculpt because I didn’t realise how brittle balsa is. So achieving clean lines proved pretty challenging. After a couple iterations, I’m happy with the texture but might try sculpting a potato (yep I said potato) to achieve sharper lines. Then I can cover it in silicone to make a reusable mould.
Sculpting a block of balsa wood
The many incarnations of Peblo!
How he looks nowadays
I love these types of projects because you just need to get stuck in to find your way. Often you make mistakes, but that’s all part of it! Just playing it by ear is so much fun. It’s refreshing and such a contrast to my day job where you only have so much time. Deadline-free, I thought: as long as there was a similar texture and charm to the illustrated version then I’m happy. Otherwise it’s not a Peblo.
So when I had set aside some leftover plywood for my van, thinking I’d make a table out of it....I thought how often am I really going to use it?! Instead let’s make 2x huge versions of Peblo. That way I could experiment a bit, choose the best and maybe sell/gift the other one. Who wouldn’t want to be greeted by that face every day - especially during lockdown!
I did some loose sketches by hand. I’d not drawn Peblo this big before and wasn’t too precious about him looking exactly like the illustration. So did some rough planning in pencil before cutting.
Cut once. Measure twice.
I don’t own a work bench so I have to make do with this ledge in the garden. I’ve cut everything this way. It can a bit laborious! So maybe I’ll indulge in a proper work bench later down the line. I’m sure the neighbours would appreciate something less echoey!
Coarse Sand. Fine sand.
After some sought after advice from a chippy, I used a coarse grit sand first then finished in a finer grit. I’d never really paid much attention to grit level before - but it makes a hell of a difference when you’re painting wood.
I was keen to find a way to paint the wood but not fully cover the grain because there was some really nice texture coming through. A white wash was the answer. You just water down the paint your using, and use a cloth to rub into the wood. Also it doesn’t have to be white paint, it can be any colour you like. I used some scraps to test the paint colours I bought along with ways to apply it such as a cloth, toothbrush, wire wool and brushes.
The real deal
Then it was time to get stuck in. I masked off shapes so I could make it look faceted. You couldn’t keep the tape on there for too long - otherwise you created quite strange borders. I took my time to build up the layers of colours. Switching between the light and darker colours to add depth and mimic the illustration. I added texture with a toothbrush - either flicking it to make specks or dragging it across the surface.
The edges looked a little odd left natural, so I finished them in the dark paint.
Equally the most important aspect was Peblo’s face. I used a couple penny’s to map out where the eyes should go. 1p size so I could paint circles larger and not leave any pencil marks behind. Painting his smile and eyes was absolutely nerve racking. I haven’t got a steady hand! But I’m quite happy with how one of them turned out. It’s the circles that are a struggle, with a paint brush you ended up making so many mistakes you have keep going back over what you’ve done.
Sure enough since making him, I’ve had my photograph taken with Peblo - a neighbour is taking portraits of self isolators in Southville as part of a photography project. Interested to see how that turns out!
Now that we're well and truly in the thick of a global lockdown, it's given me some time to think 'how the heck did we manage to sneak in a snowboarding holiday a month ago?'. I think we've all felt it's been a wake up call from how quickly things have had to shift in response to the pandemic.
I flew to Geneva on the 7th March to spend a week in Meribel (part of the three valleys ski resort) with my good friend Matt. It was one of those last minute deals that we bagged just in time. Both of us had been snowboarding before, and of a similar ability which helped. But this was the first trip we had done together and the most we had hung out for in years since working together.
White waves and selfies
I think we rode 5 out of those 7 days we were there. It was a great mix of downtime, adventure and childplay. I won't go into detail about each day we spent there as I won't do it justice. That said, Matt did create several youtube videos to impress his daughters. I think they capture the non stop goofing around and pure excitement throwing ourselves down the mountain perfectly. So take a look if you're interested.
The apartment. Note: the chair drying rack - a godsend!
I mention 'downtime' because whilst the trip was exhausting: gearing up, hiking, riding etc - it had relaxing moments too. Luckily we're both quite similar, we like our own space, don't always need to talk and are happy to do our own thing sometimes. For instance, most evenings we were in the front room, Matt video editing whilst I spent time drawing and writing.
In general, France was pretty casual about the whole coronavirus thing. I was really surprised but then again, we were also part of the problem! We flew back on 14th March - the same day France announced all resorts will close. Literally sneaked it in!
All freehand using a BIC pen. Fuelled with wheat beer!
Around October last year, a few colleagues and I started our own book club. Recommendations are fairly common but it’s hard to find the time to read them all, let alone choose a good one. So to make things easy, we collected everybody’s suggestions and sorted out who wanted to get involved. I was a little quiet initially but by the time the second book assignment came around I warmed to the idea and signed up. The book was “Start with why: How great leaders inspire everyone to take action.” written by Simon Sinek. Here’s my write-up about how it went and what I learnt.
Coming into this, I was a bit overwhelmed that I’d have to read a book on something I wouldn’t normally buy and reflect on. It was branded as a Marketing book which I would usually avoid at all costs. The biggest challenge I found was keeping my notes concise, as I nearly ended up copying the whole book. However, there were a few things that really resonated with me in this.
The first was the line ‘everyday is like choosing toothpaste.” I’ve been there plenty of times. It talks about the noise we experience with certain products that don’t have a clear sense of why they exist in the first place. Next time you go buy toothpaste, just look at the abundance of different Colgate toothpastes. I’ll be honest I don’t think I’ve bought the same type twice unless it’s on offer. And its because to get sales, they take up most of the shelf, there’s one for everyone (32 variations to be precise), there’s at least one that’s always on offer, in order to manipulate you. A short term fix for a long term issue.
‘If I’d asked my customers what they wanted, they would have asked for a faster horse’ - Henry Ford
I’d heard this quote before. It tells us not to rely on data, things we can quantify and put into words all the time. This was a real interesting thing to learn. You know that feeling when something feels right but you can't quite put your finger on why it does. This is actually down to our biology not our inability to articulate. Mind BLOWN!
Had you heard of the golden circle ahead of reading?
Nope, never, only the golden ratio but that’s quite different. The golden circle is a very simple representation of how people should communicate their offering to the outside world. It can be applied to many things like how to rally people together, sell things or inspire your employees. The circle is made up of 3 rings. The outer ring is what you do, the middle ring is how you do what you do and lastly the inner ring is why you do what you do. You follow it by working from the inside out. From why to how to what. Throughout the book, Simon reminds us it’s not what you do it’s why you do what you do. And makes a good case of it by applying the golden circle to pivotal stories like the Wright Brothers first flight, the downfall of the American motor industry and how Apple continues to innovate.
“Start with why is repetitive. Although Sinek makes a strong point, he repeats this for the entirety of the book rather than developing the idea and giving more examples. You only need to watch the ted talk to understand the method.”
It’s very repetitive! Whilst I was a little put off by all the remarks to Apple - after all they seem to be used as an example for most things, it really helped to tie the whole thing together and made it easy to follow. The other bit I thought was really clever, is because he uses a handful of examples they became like characters of a novel as you learnt more and more about them, just when you thought you knew everything, the author reveals another reason why they make a great example. It definitely helped me absorb what I was reading. I do now feel the words ‘it’s not what you do, it’s why you do what you do’ etched on my eyeballs. The ted talk is really useful but I feel like it only scratches the surface. Even though what he’s talking about is eyewateringly simple, only with the book will you have those silly moments when you realise JUST how simple it is.
Sinek defines people as WHY-types or HOW-types. Do you think you’re a why or how person? How did you come to this conclusion?
Basically in the book, he explains how Martin Luther King was a why person but every why person needs a how person. A why is just a belief. How’s are the actions we take to realise that belief. Early on I thought of myself as a how type because I dislike standing up in front of people and projecting what I believe in - heck I’ve never done that! Design wise, I can be conceptual but enjoy the roll out of things more. For instance designing a website involves many different parts, but I feel most comfortable doing one thing well. So if someone does the branding, or has an idea of how it should feel I can run with it.
But then the more I thought about it, maybe I’m half how, half why. Yes I can make things happen but I do rather love to dream. The one thing this book really does is sit at the forefront of anything you work on once you’ve read it. Throughout, you’re like ‘What is MY why”.
Why are some people and organisations more inventive, pioneering and successful than others? And why are they able to repeat their success again and again?
I think you need to be open minded, a good listener and not have the answer for everything. It definitely felt that great collaboration and trust is at the heart of all those examples. The ability to keep on doing it, is no matter how big or successful you get, you never lose those traits.
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