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Chiaroscuro

Chiaroscuro is the use of strong contrasts between light and dark, usually bold contrasts affecting a whole composition. It is also a technical term used by artists and art historians for the use of contrasts of light to achieve a sense of volume in modelling three-dimensional objects and figures.Wikipedia

I thought I’d begin this post with a quote from Wikipedia. My recent Tweedle paintings have taken a darker turn, and I thought I might elaborate on them today. IMG_0238   A few years ago I came up with the Tweedles without really knowing what to do with them. They were a creation without a purpose. I have given them rules, emotions, a mind, a soul…  each of them even has its own backstory, and the story of Tweedles as a species (which I am still writing. Maybe I should try making a graphic novel rather than writing a book…) exists entirely in my head at the moment, awaiting it’s manifestation onto canvas, text, video and music. But even so, I still had no idea where I was going with my Tweedles… They were my creations, but they had no purpose. No reason to exist in my artwork. And then I realised that they were my creations. They were what humans are to a god. They were artificial life of a sort, and I began to explore that.


In my fictional world, Tweedles are created with artifical brains, mixing organic matter with analog and digital technology in nano scale. Because of the way they are made, they think, but differently to us. They feel, but do not understand how to express their emotions (especially with a stitched on mouth that holds their head cloth in place). They can sense the world around them, but cannot truly touch it. Tweedles don’t instinctively have free-will, and need to learn how to be free. Their existence is a confusing one once they can actually develop enough to stop and think about it. Their creators are not omnipresent. They are not omnibenevolent. They create Tweedles for reasons more linked to power and greed, and they create the Tweedles for reasons that are not entirely good but in fact selfish in some ways. Tweedles are made to be servants and slaves. The eventual development of true emotion and free will is just a side-effect of their construction.


I thought about how that would relate to what it’s like to be human. To live and die without knowing why. What your purpose is, if you have one. A lot of people live lives dedicated to a god or supreme being, but without ever questioning whether their creator is really omnibenevolent at all. The amount of suffering in this world seems unjust. Perhaps there is an evil, possibly sadistic being that enjoys messing around with humanity for entertainment? I was thinking about these deep philosophical and theological concepts and questions, and then suddenly the Tweedles had purpose after all. They were a vehicle for this philosophical exploration into life, death, morality, the creators and the created… through painting my recent Tweedle pictures, I am confronting some of my strongest fears in regards my spirituality, humanity and existence. IMG_0236 I wouldn’t really call myself a spiritual person, but if there is a god, how do I know they are good? If he told me that he was, could I really trust them? IMG_0239 And in regards free will, I assume that it exists because I think I can make decisions. But do I really have free will? When we look closely, living cells are made up of lots of dead matter and elements that are having a chemical reaction with each other to make the next part have a reaction and so on. Theoretically our entire bodies are a prolonged chemical reaction, so does that mean that we are even alive, or is humanity (and by extension all life) a strange and complicated quirk of chemistry that never was ‘alive’ in the way we believe we are?

Tweedles are made up of a few bio-engineered and grown brain cells linked into mechanisms and machines which allow them to move their bodies, repair it, respond to stimuli and even potentially build more Tweedles… but by our current definitions of life they are not alive because they are not composed entirely of cells.  Are they alive or not?

Is this Tweedle really dead or can it be repaired and brought back? Was it ever actually alive, and were we as humans ever truly alive?

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By using heavy, dark backgrounds in the paintings (a greenish-black colour) I could help express the gravity of these questions and the weight the answers would have on us if we ever knew them. I wanted to highlight the Tweedles in bright colour to emphasize that they are surrounded by darkness. The specific Tweedle that is the subject through my recent series of paintings walks its entire life treading through the unknown. And then, without realizing how or why, it dies.

No-one will ever truly know exactly what when on in our mind; we can only guess. Sometimes you may meet someone so like minded that you think you know what they’re thinking, and they can seem to read your mind, but in the end we can only hazard estimates and guesses as to the thoughts of other human beings. Eventually all our thoughts, our personalities, our very selves will disappear, as they are only made up of memories, and will eventually fade into darkness…

…and whether there is a light after that darkness will forever be completely unknown to us until we actually experience it.

“We’re born alone, we live alone, we die alone.” – Orson Welles

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Where do Tweedles Come From?

Before you read this article, you must first understand that some of it isn’t going to make much sense without some explanation. So, for any of this to make any sense, may I invite you a few thousand years into the future, to a strange new world.

  • Where the past has been forgotten and replaced by a collection of Lewis Carroll’s books, which are the basis of a theocratic city.
  • Where ecosystems were artificially crafted centuries ago through bio-engineering out of necessity.
  • Where technology has radically changed and clockwork and circuitry are married into an efficient hybrid that runs everything from kettles to computers.
  • Where robotic ravens are hunted for parts that power flying craft that navigate above the skyscrapers.
  • Let me invite your imagination into this city. A city called Wonderland.

*  *  *

In previous posts, I’ve explained very briefly what my Tweedles are, but in the next few posts, I would like to go into much more detail. I want to clarify what they are. They’re origins. How they think. What they’re made of. In this post, I will discuss how Tweedles are made, where they come from and why.

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So where to begin?

 “Begin at the beginning,” the King said, very gravely, “and go on till you come to the end: then stop.” – Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

In the beginning, there was a pile of scrap electronics and clockwork on someone’s desk. This someone wanted to create something to assist him with his plans. This someone hired a mechanic to build this something, and this something was the first Tweedle. How is a Tweedle made? Scrap materials are turned into small pistons, hinges and other moving parts controlled by thin wires that wrap most of these parts and conceal them. Fluid-wires (a technology found in various household appliances in Wonderland) are added to create the hands and parts of arms and legs, that are too small for pistons to fit. Small sensor parts are used for the eyes. Not every part of a Tweedle is easily made… Advanced robots, in the guise of ravens, fly around everywhere. No-one knows where they came from or what they do. These ‘ravens’ are hunted for various reasons by various people. Some people use the levitation devices that keep these robots afloat are used to build flying ships, and some people use it’s parts to make Tweedles. When building a Tweedle, there are two parts you would want to take from a raven:

  • Small, powerful batteries are scavenged because they provide an almost infinite supply of power.
  • Fragments of a microscale supercomputer that are used to help made the Tweedle’s brain.

How do you build it’s brain? Their brain is actually made up of living brain cells that are integrated into the microscopic supercomputer parts. The brain cells are home grown with what is left of the bioengineering technologies created a few centuries ago. The supercomputer parts contain vast quantities of information and knowledge, and the brain cells allow the Tweedle to feel some degree of emotion. This combination of living tissue and artifical processing power provides the Tweedle with a form of artificial intelligence. Finally, Tweedles need something to keep all the brain/computer parts safe. This is done by wrapping the parts in a piece of cloth, with holes for the eyes to stick out through. A smile is stitched on to help hold the fabric in place. And voila… you end up with a Tweedle!

tweedle without mask - Copy

A Tweedle with it’s cloth removed, exposing the insides.

Where do they come from?

Tweedles are built by mechanics working for revolutionaries in workshops, hidden across the city. They are released into the streets to perform tasks for these revolutionaries.

Why build a Tweedle in the first place?

The man who ordered the construction of Tweedles is the leader of a revolutionary group who want to expose the secrets that Wonderland’s government have been hiding and freeing the people of their influence. They plan on doing this by sabotaging and deconstructing important machines that the military and police are dependent on, and assassinating the leaders, then broadcasting the truth for all to hear. The problem is, a revolutionary group consisting only of a few hundred people isn’t capable of taking on the military. They would need a expendable army of their own. And that’s what the Tweedles are. Tweedles can sneak undetected into armouries and dismantle guns. They can bring the pieces back to their masters to build more Tweedles. At a later stage, when Tweedles became more intelligent, they could build and control their own large exosuits and act as soldiers.

 * * *

So now you know about the origins of Tweedles.

I think I’ll discuss the Tweedles’ development as they learn and become more aware, and the culture they start to form among themselves in a later post. Thanks for reading!

Helpful Hints for Creating Characters

As the exams are now over and I have finished school, I am more free to do what I like. However, because I’ll be on holidays in the next week or two I will be unable to blog for a while. I was going to post another drawing, but since I’m going to be gone for a while more, I may as well make this post useful. So, without any further delay, I will share with you some of my hints on how to construct characters, creatures and other people in your artwork:

1. When creating a character in a picture, always start with pencil when draw them. As you develop them you can add or erase anything you want to until they look right. A lot of my drawings are completely pencil-drawn. By allowing yourself to make mistakes and changing or accepting them, you will be able to create interesting characters for your pictures.

tweedle 12. Don’t plan your characters initially – Sometimes I draw some rough lines for human figures to get the proportions right, but usually I just draw. Start drawing either the head or torso and expand your character from there. After a few minutes, the character will start to emerge.

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3. Once you’ve drawn the basic character, give them personality. Whether they’re shy, evil, mad, or confident, observers of your artwork won’t know that you’re character possesses any of these without some sort of visual evidence. My mischievous Tweedle character wouldn’t look so mischievous without the smile stitched onto his face.

4. Now that you’ve sculpted your character this far, you need to think about their background.  How did they get to be the character they are? Where do they come from? For example, the Tweedle on your right was built by some sort of mad scientist for an unknown purpose. Simply knowing your character’s history will help you to really understand how to draw them.

5. Finally, attention to detail can really bring out your characters. While not entirely necessary, even the small pocket watch chain on the hatter or the teabag hanging off his arm, for example, can improve the overall look of the character.

These tips are simply based on the way I create my own characters in my pictures and drawings. They might work for you, they might not, but I hope they are useful to you in one way or another.

I’ve been experimenting a lot with my Tweedle characters recently (based loosely upon Tweedledee and Tweedledum from Alice in Wonderland). I recently gave a leaving present to my school principal (who has helped me a lot throughout my time in secondary school) which consisted of the school logo being built by Tweedles. Although it came up a bit dark on the scanner, the original was drawn on the back of watercolour paper, mounted and put into a frame:

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Logo built by Tweedles

I hope this post provides good advice for both budding artists and people in general, and hope you’ve enjoyed this short insight into how I create the beings that populate my artwork.

Can an Artist have a Stage Name?

I’ve often wondered about my future as an artist, enjoying the thought that my name would be famous… The problem is that it’s already famous. There is an amazing artist named Daniel Smith who specializes in wildlife photo-realism and also an art supply company by the same name as me. It seems that my given name is already taken. When I’m a bit older and I’ve set myself up professionally, I will have to market my name as a brand, but I could end up causing a whole series of problems from copyright infringement to being plain confusing by utilizing ‘Daniel Smith’ as my professional name.

MeThere are quite a few artists who have pseudonyms, most of which are street artists like Banksy, Invader or King Robbo, who use their names to protect their real identities. Anonymity is essential for such artists as their means of creating their works are in the grey areas of the law and are quite often illegal.

I’m not afraid for people to know my name nor do I have any reason to hide my true name, but I will need a different name to work by if I am to make it in the art world without confusing fans of my work.

I know that actors and musicians have stage names, and they are definitely artists, but when it comes to the visual arts there aren’t that many artists with stage names. Maybe there is a reason why visual artists seldom adopt alter egos; maybe taking on a new name would be the best decision I ever made; who knows?

If I do take up a stage name, I would have to choose something cool, catchy, short and easy to remember. If people don’t like saying the name or can’t pronounce or spell it, how can I expect them to want to tell other people about the artist?

I wonder how much of an impact a name can have on someone…

Lets say that I did take up another name, how would that affect my life? Would I still be the same person or would my personality subtly differ when I’m being my professional self and when I’m being me… the real me?

“Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.”  ― Oscar Wilde

At the moment I have no idea what I would call myself. It would have to be a name that isn’t already owned by another person or company. I like the thought of having a mononym – a single word name, but as I’ve just said, I’m currently undecided.

I wonder what your opinions are on this matter? Should I adopt a new name? What sort of name would even suit a visual artist? Is it too much of a risk to go out into the art world with a completely crazy name, or is it worth the risk?

My Artistic Workspace

I’ve had the Leaving Cert. mock exams over the last week and a bit, so I had to study, leaving little time for my blog. I don’t have any more exams until after Easter, so I think it’ll be easier from now on to stick to my blogging schedule.

I display paintings a lot on this blog, but I don’t think I’ve ever shown you the tools I use to create my works. I’ve recently tidied my (very messy) room, so all my art supplies are now organised instead of being scattered around the place.

Here’s a couple of pictures of my new artistic workspace:

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I didn’t have enough room to store my paints and brushes in the drawers, so I had to build a makeshift shelf, using a large piece of wood, a tin can, lego and some jenga blocks! I’ve put my paints where I can get to them the easiest, and the pencils, sellotape and various other things are kept under the shelves. I tried to take a close up photo of the brushes I use, but my photography skills aren’t the best. Naturally, a frog looks after my brushes when they’re not in use.
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The cans on the left are acrylic spray paints and varnish spray. In the jar, between the oils and acrylics, are some sketching pens and two palette knives. Underneath the makeshift shelf are some pastels and charcoal.

Also, as I promised in my last post, I’ve posted the paintings that I thought didn’t work out so well:

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small canvas 1

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I kept them so I could add to them at a later date if I can decide what to put on them; maybe they’re just unfinished for now. I’m starting to think that I really need to move on from landscapes, to try something new. Perhaps I will go back to concentrating solely on frogs for a while. I said I would move on just before Christmas, but I have a bad habit of procrastinating. I’ve decided that I will not include another landscape in my next post. I don’t have a clue what I am going to paint, but I think I’ll start just start painting on the canvas and see where the brush takes me.

Art in Alphabetical Order

My days are already getting busier, as today I had a 4 hour extracurricular class of maths. Maths certainly isn’t my favourite subject, but I need these classes to help me prepare for my exams next year.

Anyway, enough about my life. Today, I want to give you a small insight into creative process.


When I came home I tried to complete the painting I was attempting last weekend, but it didn’t work out. Then I tried painting sunset scenes, but again I had no luck in making them look right. As a result I have a few more outcast paintings to add to my long list of ‘forgotten ones’. I’ve decided to leave the subject of cloudy skies and seas for the time being and look for inspiration elsewhere.

After rummaging through shelves and boxes, I came to the wooden chest at the end of my bed. Inside were a few books, silk drawstring bags with various trinkets in them, and one of many old copies from a while ago. I used to take notes or draw pictures of things that interested me, and inside this copy were my own notes on random historical, spiritual and arcane topics. As I flicked to the back of the old copybook I found what I was looking for.

Inspiration.

I had always found the letters, symbols and characters of ancient languages interesting. I wouldn’t like to learn any of the language; I just liked them for their visual qualities. I loved something about their aesthetics. I couldn’t quite pinpoint what is what about them; whether it was the shape and form of the letters, the way they look on a page, or perhaps just the movement in each line of every symbol. But each letter was like a miniature work of art.

Theban Alphabet

Theban Alphabet

I would research the alphabets of languages and copy them down into this copybook, knowing that one day it could come in handy. And now, over a year later, I found it again. I don’t know what sort of artwork I’ll create using the alphabets. I might only use one letter from my small collection, or I might use it all. Perhaps I won’t use them at all and just continue with my normal paintings, and use them as a backup when my inspiration is drained again. Who knows?

If I hadn’t gotten frustrated with my failures today, I would never have found my old book. And now, I have opened a new door of opportunity. I think I could use them to create a good abstract work. Or maybe see how many ways I can make the letters look like frogs. I have new-found inspiration from old origins, flowing through my mind. I just know that my next works of art, whatever they may be, will work out this time. I feel motivated. And I guess, in a weird way, that shows the true power of language.

The Forgotten Ones

First Pointillism

My First Pointillism Attempt

I’ve really forgotten just how busy school can be. It can be fairly difficult finding time to focus on painting when hours of lessons, study and homework occupy your time. To counter these time constraints, I could easily paint quick, meaningless pictures to post on my site, but that would take the fun out of the whole thing. A true painting, regardless of the artist’s skills, should take as much time as the artist feels is necessary before it is a masterpiece. Other people may not see it as a masterpiece, but to the artist, the painting has a truth and meaning to it; a sense of achievement.

Then, there are those abandoned paintings. Experiments. Unfinished ones with no future. Those that an artist deemed unworthy and cast away. They are either consigned to the rubbish bin or shoved to one side of a disorganised desk, and then they are lost among random piles of paper, usually never to be seen again.

Today, a small trimmed piece of card looked up at me from underneath a dusty old book.

I was painting something new at the time, but the small eyes of the a damaged bookmark looked longingly up at me, and instead of posting a new work, I thought today I’d dedicate a post to remember the forgotten old paintings that were never truly appreciated.

In some ways, they’re the artist’s best works. They may not look like much, but without practising one’s skills and failing, one cannot hope to learn.

Frog Bookmark 9

Frog Bookmark No. 9

The ex-bookmark I’ve posted today was one of my practise paintings when I was trying to paint something for my pointillism post. Unlike the bookmark to your right (my first finished pointillism bookmark), the above picture is untidy, uneven and unbalanced. It is messy. Most artists only display their best works because for them, their average works are ugly. Not many people would want an amateur picture or unfinished painting either. But today I hope to save one forgotten picture from its fate. There is something beautiful about this frog bookmark. The points are applied randomly within certain designated areas. They are spaced too far apart from each other. It is only a preparatory piece, yet today, maybe only for a few short minutes, this abandoned frog earns stardom.

So I’d like to end today’s post by asking all you artists out there, to look back at your old works and remember them. I ask all writers to remember their worst first drafts; all musicians to remember those lyrics that you thought didn’t work; all photographers to remember those hundreds of pictures you may have deleted because they ‘didn’t look right’. Look back on those forgotten ones, because without them, you wouldn’t be where you are today!

Living In A World of Colour

Art isn’t just about creating something. There is a science behind the art. So, occasionally, I will post articles about different artistic topics and today I want to talk to you about a very basic topic.

Colour

Most of us experience a range of colours every day. In the clothes we wear; the rooms of our houses; the trees outside; and virtually everything else. Colour is everywhere!

But did you know that colour can have a profound affect on us? It affects our feelings, our mood, and our behaviour. Our entire life. Everything that makes up who we are is affected subtly by colour.

Don’t believe me? Let’s start with a test…

Which of these colours are you immediately drawn to?

Which of these colours are you immediately drawn to?

The majority of readers will have chosen the colour red. Why? Because red is a very strong colour. On the colour spectrum it has the longest wavelength. It stands out.

To understand the psychology behind colour, we must acknowledge the existence of the four primary psychological colours: Red, Blue, Green and Yellow. Lets see how each colour affects us…

Red
Red can make our blood circulation increase, and maybe for that reason, we think of it as a ‘warm’ colour. Due to the intensity of this colour, it can induce very strong emotions. Roses and Valentine’s day hearts are bright red. When someone is really angry, their face goes red. Strong emotions like love or anger are associated with the colour red, and this also works in reverse. Red reminds us of these emotions. Because of the way red stirs up such powerful feelings, it can symbolise danger. It’s used in a lot on the road. On the rear lights of cars, on road signs and traffic lights.

Red is also used as a symbol of power and sometimes imperialism. A good example would be the overwhelming redness of the banners and uniforms in the ancient Roman Empire, which would conjure up a sense of danger and fear in the hearts of those who opposed them.

Blue
Blue is a much calmer colour, referred to as a ‘cool’ colour. Lighter blues give a sense of peace. It soothes us and can stimulate tiredness. It affects our mental ability, allowing us to think clearer in its presence. We can focus better if a room is painted blue, than a room painted in any other colour, and it encourages productivity.

Statistically speaking, blue is the most common favourite colour. There’s a reason Microsoft made the Blue-screen error window that colour (you know, the evil one that appears when you’re computer crashes just when you’re about to save your work). It calms us, even in times of worry or stress.

GreenWhen we think of green, the first thing that springs to mind is often nature and the environment.  We are all encouraged to be ‘green’  in today’s (hopefully) eco-friendly society. Green is that colour in traffic lights that tells us that it’s okay to continue. Green is a good colour, often associated with money, security, prosperity, luck and health. We seem associate the colour with anything we perceive as beneficial to our lives.

It represents balance and harmony. It gives us a feeling of relaxation and when exposed to enough green on a daily basis, the colour can help the immune system stay healthy as stress levels are decreased.

Yellow

Yellow is the colour of emotion, and like red, it is a very strong colour. Yellow evokes emotional responses in a similar way to red, and that’s why it is often used in emoticons, for example: 🙂 😦

Yellow seems to be associated mostly with happiness, confidence and high self-esteem, but it can equally provoke the opposite feelings if a person is shown a duller yellow. In some places, yellow lighting has been replaced with blue lighting because of the negative emotions the colour can stir up in individuals.

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These are the most basic colours, yet a lot of us aren’t even aware of the influence they have in our lives. A practical application of this influence can be found in our clothes. Wearing bright clothes that suit our personality make us feel good. Wearing dark clothes can make us feel bad.

But if bright colours make us happy, surely something sinister is going on in our world. Since the seventies, people have been wearing darker and darker colours. The ‘modern’ look is full of “sleek” blacks and “spacious” whites. Most phones and iPads (with the exception of those with personalised covers) are either white or black in colour. Black is a colour associated with death and darkness. It isn’t really a positive colour. And the world is slowly veering away from the bright place it once was to adopt the darker colours of some dystopian noir novel. Colour is slowly fading from our lives.

Thanks for reading, but before I finish, I’d like to leave you with these rhetorical questions for you to dwell on…

Which colour do you think has the biggest impact on you? And why?

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