October 2021 has been the first month since I started creative blogging that I haven’t posted anything. Ordinarily, I would have felt awful about this, but not this time! Last month was all about immersing myself in the Adobe Max Creative Conference, visiting art galleries, revelling in the art books I had ordered and reflecting on where I am and where I want to be creatively.
The highlight was the unexpected collision of two worlds: old school stop motion and modern design and illustration. How, you ask? Through layers!
I walked into the Titan of Cinema exhibition at the National Galleries of Scotland Modern Two with only one of Ray Harryhausen’s creations in mind: his skeleton army. I was hit, to my surprise, with a part of my childhood I had completely forgotten. Cyclops. Tallos. Hydra. Boom, boom, BOOM! They transported me back into our living room with the whole family sitting in front of the TV on a Sunday morning, watching Harryhausen’s creatures come to life in awe. And then the one who had always scared me: Medusa. Scaly green skin highlighted by spotlights, writhing snakes for hair, teeth bared, those menacing wide, cold blue eyes and that rattle in her tail (I shiver whilst writing this. Come to think of it I wonder if this is where my dislike for snakes stems from?!)… I never wanted to look at her as a child, too afraid I’d turn to stone. It’s a little like not wanting to say Beetlejuice three times, just in case. I digress…
Ray Harryhausen, an American born visual effects creator who, through his very own version of stop motion, Dynamation, created some of the most iconic movies in cinematic history. Jason and the Argonauts, Clash of the Titans, Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger, King Kong. In the exhibition, you’re guided through his creative process: preliminary sketches, storyboards, maquettes, and the birth of Dynamation itself.
There was one room in particular which allowed me to combine both my childhood with my creative mind. A room in which Harryhausen’s use of multiple layers to create a 3D effect were exhibited on a large scale for the movies Earth vs. the Flying Saucers and The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms.
This part of the exhibition took me back not to my childhood but to a recent session I’d joined with Michael Fugoso (aka Fugstrator) during Adobe Max – The Creative Conference. Fugoso is a designer/illustrator from San Diego who creates 3D aeronautical designs in Adobe Illustrator. In the session he built a preliminary rocket sketch with line, shape and symmetry in vector format and slowly, with multiple layers, began to add colour, light and shade. The final design was already a worthy three-dimensional image but he moved the desired layers over to a software package called Adobe Aero. This is where the Harryhausenesque style shone through. The layers were manipulated so that they were standing at 90 degrees and popping out of the screen. Mind Blown!
Both Harryhausen’s and Fugoso’s work, despite being from two different industries, two different eras and using two different work processes, still create an inspired sense of depth through image, light and sheer creativity. It’s fascinating that in the creative industry, with all the advancement of technology and software, the basic foundation of any creative process has always been the same. That all Adobe has done is take the physical aspect of layering to the screen in order to achieve what Harryhausen had through sheets of painted glass.
I wonder: with Ray Harryhausen’s vision, Michael Fugoso’s skill and Adobe’s software, what new and exciting visual masterpiece can we create and what future developments can it inspire?