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Photography at the Zoo

I have a great holiday in England recently. My family and I went to Blackpool, and went up the Blackpool tower and into their ‘dungeon’ experience underneath the tower. The family went to Liverpool for the day, where we walked around and explored.

I visited the Tate Liverpool, and went into the Jackson Pollock exhibition.I got to the museum late in the day, and it was starting to close. I was on my way out of the museum, along with another man, when I discovered that the doors had been locked!! I was lucky to have my phone on me, and had to get my someone to tell the security guards to get us out. Apparently we were the first people to be locked in the Tate Liverpool in about ten years! I don’t know whether to be embarrassed or consider that an achievement! At least I got to spend a bit of extra time with Jackson Pollock paintings, and even an Andy Warhol print! 🙂

Anyhow, I thought today I’d post the photos that I took on holiday in England at a zoo (I can’t remember the name of the zoo unfortunately):

And here are my personal favourites… behold a two headed giraffe!!! 🙂

Seeing Double

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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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Hand of the Creator

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This was a painting inspired by Michelangelo’s ‘Creation of Adam‘. In this painting, a Tweedle looks up at its human creator’s hand, gently reaching towards it.

Tweedles are humanoid in shape. They were invented in man’s image. As Tweedles learn more about the world around them, they attempt to mimic human behaviour but can never truly understand why we do the things we do.

For example, the Tweedle in this painting has adopted a red robe, similar in colour to its face cloth, because it has seen humans wearing clothes. It doesn’t fully comprehend the concept of clothing. It tries to understand by copying us, but ultimately the clothes serve it no purpose.

No matter how much a Tweedle tries to understand its creators, it never will be able to. It can never connect with what it is to be human, and so it is depicted reaching out but not touching the human.

We are reminded of the relationship Tweedles have with their masters. The hand is above the Tweedle. The hand may appear to be reaching out, but it could actually be a commanding hand. The sheer size of the hand compared to the Tweedle shows the power the human has over the Tweedle. While Tweedles are almost completely obedient, the Tweedle is unable to rebel against the human even if it wanted to.

The very hands that made the Tweedle stitched a smile onto its face. Tweedle don’t have real mouths, so the smile is fake. By the way its master has created it, the Tweedle is forced to smile every second of every day. Whether or not it actually would smile if it did have a mouth is another question entirely.

So, in this painting the Tweedle is seeking understanding, hoping that the human wants the same. The human in the painting wants control, obedience and power. The Tweedle’s desires for knowledge and understanding are benign, while the human’s command of the Tweedle could potentially be for their own personal gain.

The Tweedle will never truly know if their creator’s grand scheme is for the greater good… or for entirely selfish reasons.

Photography Class

Just a quick post today! I wanted to share my photos from my photography elective:

Which one is your favourite?

A Tweedle’s Eternal Silence

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What happens when a Tweedle dies?

It can think and feel. Due to variations in grown brain cells, Tweedles even appear to have their own personalities, so does it have a soul?

What Tweedles do have is a partially organic brain. Their ‘brains’ consist of artificially grown living brain cells. These brain cells are shut inside a protective casing that keeps them in a sterile, stasis-like environment so they don’t decay naturally. These cells are linked up to a microscale CPU, both of which are kept functional by a battery that utilizes nuclear fusion on a very small scale. All of these combine to form the mind of a Tweedle.

Surely everything that makes up a Tweedle’s sense of self is part of its mind. So if it had a soul, maybe such a thing would exist in its mind?

Do we even have souls, or are we just a product of our own minds?

Assuming only living creatures have souls, could a Tweedle ever be alive in the first place?

In the fictional world they inhabit, Tweedles are considered as an artificial life form. They can move, respond to stimuli and repair parts of themselves. Although Tweedles don’t have the knowledge, they theoretically could build new Tweedles. They have quite a few of the scientific characteristics of being alive, but do they count as living things?

And are we ourselves actually alive, or just biological machines like the Tweedles?

Tweedle and Chain

Tweedle and Chain

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ve probably noticed that there are a lot of pictures of Tweedles interacting with chains. Chains in my artwork are symbolic of the master/servant relationship Tweedles have with their creators.

Because Tweedles can act fairly autonomously, they are often seen hanging from the chain or holding onto it, but never actually bound to it. They could easily let go of the chains, but are afraid to do so because they are built with an emotional attachment to their master; an unintentional but useful glitch in their creation.

When a Tweedle fails as a servant and is unable to return to them, it loses this emotional attachment and essentially becomes free. Without a true sense of what it means to be free, most Tweedles that have reached this freedom don’t know how to cope. Some wander aimlessly, some try to find a new master, and some simply stop working.

In this painting it is not entirely clear whether or not the Tweedle is hanging from the chain or standing on the ground holding onto it. For me this represents the lack of control the creators actually have on their creations. This could be further interpreted as the lack of control a higher being or God might actually have on humanity.

As I have quite a few canvas boards at the moment, I’ll be making a series of these paintings, using the Tweedles to explore themes such as free will, servitude, identity, and the problems of mind, body, soul and death.

Forlorn Dreams of Immortality

This is a piece on the self preservation instinct and its eventual futility due to the inescapable nature of death.

A bird reaches towards a key to unlock a padlock on its leg. As the bird flies towards the key, the chain is pulled and the key moves further away.

There is a bit of slack in the part of the chain resting on the floor, giving hope that the key might be reachable after all.

Unfortunately, even if the bird could ever reach the key, it is stuck in a room with neither doors nor windows. Other than the chain, the lock and the key, the room is empty.

No matter what the creature attempts to achieve, it would eventually die of starvation or thirst.

The true message of the piece is intentionally unclear and left open to your interpretation. I’d love to hear what you think of it and thank you for reading!

The Time has Come to Talk of Many Things…

 “Of shoes and ships and sealing-wax, of cabbages and kings…”

– the Walrus from ‘Through the Looking-Glass’ by Lewis Carroll.

A lot has happened in the last month.

  • In my fine art course, I’ve been studying and memorizing about 60 images (which means learning the works of art, their artists and the image’s backgrounds) for a slide test, working hard to meet assessment deadlines and completed an essay on AWN Pugin and his views on architecture.
  • I’ve met an amazingly wonderful girl called Eve, who is also an aspiring artist. 🙂 ❤
  • The kittens now have names; ‘Millie’ and ‘Sebastian’ and are growing into very happy, hyper cats.
  • As a result of having cats in the house my whole family (myself included) has contracted ringworm, which is very itchy!

Most of the work we have done as students at the college are exploratory, and that there are very few finished works of art. There’s a lot of stuff involving sketchbooks and note taking. I’ve found it strange that for all the work we do as students, it seems to amount to very little actual art, although that will probably change in the second semester. Anyhow, assessments are taking place next week, so I won’t be able to show you most of my works until next Friday or the Monday that follows it. However, I do have a few scanned images of pages from one of my sketchbooks before I handed it up, which you can see below:

During my first semester, I believe that I’m already starting to develop my ideas and I’m much more sure and confident about the sort of artwork I want to produce. In my personal artwork, I think I am forming two main subject matters:

  1. the first being work concerning my Tweedles,
  2. the second being an exploration of themes, including immortality, demons, angels and the supernatural.

It’s been an insightful and illuminating few months and I’m really enjoying myself at art college! As we now approach the middle of December, I want to wish all of you the happiest of holidays as Christmas approaches! Thank you for reading!

And Now for Something Completely Different…

In college over the last few weeks we’ve been experimenting with techniques, without focusing on creating a finished product. I would post them… but they are under assessment now, so when I get the chance, I’ll put them up on this blog. With Halloween approaching, I’ve been working on a costume… which will also appear on this blog soon. (Probably around the time of Halloween) But today, I wanted to show you some pictures of the two newest members of the family:

The kitten on the left is called Millie, but the grey doesn’t have a name yet.

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What do you think this cat’s name should be?

The 100th Post

I’ve just finished moving into Cork now and have now got wifi access so I can finally post this post!

I thought that, since I’m beginning a new art course, I’d look at the evolution of my artwork on this blog from the beginning of its creation up until now.

 


 

My very first post was about a stencil I made of the local church, which I sponged watercolour paints onto. The finishing touches were painted by hand without the stencil.

I continued to use watercolours, using scraps of card to make bookmarks that I used to practice and improve my skills…

 


 

Below are a few of these bookmarks I created with watercolours:


 

When I was more confident in my skills, I started painting with acrylics on small canvas:

 


 

During the Leaving Cert. Exam years, when I had a break from studying I started to doodle. These doodles quickly turned into drawings, and they resulted in a series of A4 pencil drawings.


From one of those pencil drawings came the idea for a mechanical creature that has stuck with me up to the present day – Tweedles. I focuses mainly on them and, virtually obsessed with them, made a lot of artwork that featured Tweedles.

They were the main subject for my PLC course artwork as I converted them from pencil to print, from print to painting and even began to make physical life-sized Tweedle sculptures:

 


 

Although I do intend to keep making Tweedle-orientated artwork, I think during my 4 year Fine Art course at Crawford I will experiment with new ideas and techniques, moving away from Tweedles a bit to explore new themes.

I’d like to thank everyone who’s viewed, commented, followed or liked anything on this blog as we celebrate 100 posts.

Keeping this blog has allowed me to keep track of my artwork and its progress, and all the support I’ve had from you guys has been very beneficial in my creative process, and has helped me understand my own artwork from new perspectives.

Thank you very much for reading!

PLC Portfolio Life Drawings

Since there are a LOT of Tweedles in my PLC artwork, I thought I’d take a break from them. Instead, I’ve posted some of my works from life drawing classes, along with some of my still life drawings that didn’t contain Tweedles. Please click for a better view and enjoy!

(WIP) Book Excerpt from ‘Skycry’

It’s much more difficult to get back into blogging for me than I thought. I’ve been so caught up with the end of the PLC course, making things and writing my story that I’ve completely forgotten to add anything on here for a while!! So, today I thought I’d add some more of my story to this blog.

The story only exists in my head at the moment, and I’ve only got 38 pages written so far. I’ve realized that I am a fairly slow writer so it may take a long time for me to entirely finish writing and editing. My artwork is both the inspiration for my story and is also inspired by my story, so the creative process for both writing and art is cyclical.

Anyhow, here’s an excerpt from my novel-in-progress, ‘Skycry’. It is still a work-in-progress and may change as I edit and rewrite, but I’d love to see what you think of it so far. All comments and criticism are very welcome here.

. . .

A Tweedle scampered as best it could along the damp gutters, dragging a bag of cogs and clockwork behind it. Passers by unknowingly splashed the Tweedle repeatedly. This wouldn’t have been much of a problem if it wasn’t for the presence of a nearby policeman, who caught the streetlights’ reflection on the wet metal Tweedle.

The policeman immediately reached down to grab the Tweedle, but his hand missed as the creature ran, spilling its cogs as it sprinted. The policeman ran after the creature, pushing his way through the crowd. Reaching again, he grasped its arm.

Fortunately, the wet weather was causing its arms to rust, and just when the policeman was about to crush the Tweedle, its arm snapped off. The Tweedle fell onto the pavement and jumped down a gutter chute that led to the lower levels of the city.

As the Tweedle tumbled downwards it banged against the many miniature waterwheels that lined the chutes. It finally landed, three-storeys above the ground level.

Battered and broken, the Tweedle got up and limped towards a wastebin. With its remaining hand, it cut a little hole in the bottom of the bin so that some waste poured out. Among old food wrappers, cardboard and smashed glass, the Tweedle found a few components of a scrap kettle. Using its foot to help grip some of the pieces, it started to construct a new arm for itself. Wires, plastic and parts of a heating element where crafted into basic pistons and a crude claw. It wrapped the new arm into position with some remaining wire.

Now that the Tweedle had repaired itself, it just sat there, stuck in thought.

Renfred and his revolutionaries built Tweedles to be their servants; the brain cells that were connected to the computer components of the ravens made Tweedles intelligent, but it also meant that Tweedles experienced an unintended side effect: they could feel emotions.

As a result, Tweedles are emotionally attached to their masters. When a Tweedle fails the mission assigned to it by its masters, they become full of guilt, shame and despair. Its life feels meaningless to it. They have failed at the very thing they were built for and they don’t want to disappoint their masters. Unable to fully deal with the emotions provided by their artificially grown brain cells, Tweedles then become unstable.

This Tweedle was no exception. It was broken and alone. It could not reach its master in time. It had no function anymore. At this point most Tweedles would have just shut down or dismantled themselves, but this particular Tweedle didn’t know what to do.

It broke free of its thoughtful trance and realised that it was no longer useful to its master.

Not quite sure what to do with this newfound freedom, the Tweedle just wandered down the quiet street. Dozens of bridges above blocked off most of the natural light, so the street was illuminated only by a series of green lights that ran along the walls either side.

As the Tweedle proceeded down the street, it heard a muffled noise through one of the walls. A door opened and with it came the clatter of cutlery and crockery, and a cacophony of conversations. Two creatures walked out of the door; one was human and the other was humanoid, but its arms and legs were disproportionately longer than the rest of its scaly body. Both of them held teacups, which they left on a boarded up windowsill before skipping joyfully down the street. With wonder and curiosity, the Tweedle rushed through the door before it closed.

The room was large. Feet moved all around. Tables were surrounded by all kinds of people and creatures. A shouting bartender competed to be heard against the upbeat music that blasted from some loudspeakers. “Special Teas Are Our Specialty! We’ve got Chai tea! Oooolong tea! Ginseng tea! Mint Tea! Red tea! Black tea, Brown tea, Green-tea-blue-tea-yellow-tea-new-tea-old-tea…!” The bartender’s words were now like to those of a hyperactive auctioneer. Eager queues of people were fighting for the next cup of tea, waving teacups at the bartender as he filled them for them.

A man on the other side of the room rested against the wall with his arms folded. The brim of the hat he was wearing cast a shadow that concealed his eyes as they pierced through the bustling crowd, watching the confused Tweedle carefully.

The man pushed himself off the wall and took five steps forward, and then three back to avoid a customer who was rushing to get more tea. He awkwardly moved through the crowd, side-stepping and hopping in what appeared to be more a dance than ordinary walking. He stopped in front of the Tweedle and looked down at it.

He lifted his hat to reveal a face that looked no older than twenty five, yet his eyes were slightly foggy, as if they were older than he was.

He knelt and opened his palm. “Come with me.” The Tweedle backed away. “Don’t be shy! I’m not going to hurt you.” he smiled. It hesitated and then jumped onto his hand. He carefully carried it, with his hands cupped, through the crowd and into his office. He opened his hands and let it jump out onto a shelf.

The man gestured towards a small crack in the wall just above the shelf, and then he sat at the office desk in a revolving seat. He flicked a switch under his desk, a panel in the desk opened containing a cup of tea which he sipped. “Walk through the hole. You’ll find some friends in there.”

The Tweedle peered through the hole. The space in the wall was lit up by very weak lights and it was crammed with small furniture. If the space had been given walls and a roof, it could easily be mistaken for a dollhouse.

Staring back at the Tweedle were other Tweedles, also with injuries of their own; shattered legs, damaged arms and a few with their faces removed to reveal the insides of their heads. These strange Tweedles wore hooded robes, made from thin pieces of cloth. The group hummed at the Tweedle and threw a piece of red fabric in front of it. The Tweedle picked up the fabric and returned out of the hole, puzzled, waving it at the man in the hat.

“I’m guessing you’re new to the whole freedom thing. I think you’re supposed to wear the cloth. It’s yours to keep or modify or… do whatever you want with. You’re one of them now. You’re not some slave anymore. You can own things now. You can be whatever you want to be, even if you haven’t a clue what that is yet.”

 

©Daniel Forrest Smith, 2014
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