Sketchbook:Revisited

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1 Published in TRACEY the online journal of contemporary drawing research: July 2007 Sketchbook:Revisited Peter Coupe. Lecturer in interactive media, animation, film, drawing. Freelance illustrator. Summary Whilst clearing out some old paperwork last year, I came across some of my sketchbooks from the early to mid 1970s. I was surprised at how fluent some of these drawings were, over 32 years later, and how much information they conveyed to me about the work I was doing at the time. I have been experimenting with scans of these original drawings using computer media and interactivity, to bring to life some of my unfinished projects. Overview I have always used a sketchbook, long before I knew that is what it was called. I did my first degree, in Sculpture, and found my sketchbooks an essential part of the way that I set down and developed my ideas. I was able to understand the three dimensional shape and form of my work through the two dimensional world of the sketchbook. I could pick up and manipulate any size, shape and weight of object with ease on the page. I recently completed a Masters Degree in Creative Technology, and was once again able to use sketchbooks to set down and clarify ideas, both as a way of setting goals and targets for myself, and also for conveying ideas and their development to others. I still use a sketchbook to develop my own ideas, though often these now relate more to film and animation which is the area I now regard as my natural creative home. Whilst clearing out some old paperwork last year, I came across some of my sketchbooks from the early to mid 1970s. I was surprised at how fluent some of these drawings were, over 32 years later, and how much information they conveyed to me about the work I was doing at the time, and also about myself. I have been experimenting with scans of these original drawings using computer media and interactivity, to bring to life some of my unfinished projects. Peter Coupe Sketchbook:Revisited

2 I have appended a few examples of the sort of things I am currently experimenting with, and hope that they will be of interest. I was (and still am) interested in line, landscape and perspective, and I spent a lot of time working through ideas to do with straight lines in a variety of locations to show, or not, the effect of perspective on them. I opened out large rolls of paper and cloth in a variety of places, and abseiled down rock faces, painting white lines on them as I descended. I photographed lights with time exposure still cameras and created animations using 8mm movie film. I built kites to carry long white tails of paper into the sky, and devised a simple fuse operated camera carrier for kite photography, which parachuted to earth for reloading. I made some small sculptures with elements of both the straight line and also of perspective in them, and created simple moving sculptures with these elements playing out against each other. I used movement and light and, later, introduced sound elements to the display of the pieces. I experimented with motorising some of these ideas, but my lack of skill at the time made these less successful. I used wood, Perspex, metal, cloth, glass fibre and paper and cast pieces in lead and bronze. I have used computer technology to complete some of these unfinished or lost ideas in a new way, a way that would never had occurred to me at the time, and indeed which uses technology that was unimagined at the time. I have added colour and texture, and have brought computer based animation into some of the work that was intended to be completed as small hand-animated sculpture. As a result of these early experiments I am now looking at the possibility of undertaking a research degree to look further into the ideas that exist around revisited drawings and, in particular, the use of computers in their completion

3 Canvas Perspective 1, Peter Coupe, 1974 to 2007 The first illustration in this series shows a series of early sketches around the themes of Landscape and Perspective. The sketches date from the spring of 1974, when I was a student on a BA Fine Art degree course in Sheffield. The scan is a double page spread from a 216 x 140 mm sketchbook. Sketchbook (1) Page 1, Peter Coupe, Pen, pencil, coloured pencil. I was interested in how linear shapes (rectangles) take on different shapes through the action of perspective and distance. I had been out rolling paper and cloth across a variety of landscapes and was using my sketchbook to explore useable ideas for a small sculpture that would show some of my own interest in this change, in a simple but entertaining way. I had already decided that I wanted to introduce an element of kinetic content into the final piece, as I felt this would better convey the process of change, rather than simply present a before and after image pair which would be a rather lifeless way of conveying something so dynamic

4 Page 2 shows that I had started to think in terms of an animation, a moving piece. The images in this fragment show a series of small sketches of a paper line unrolling, at time intervals. They have the feel of film frames and, interestingly, refelect the type of work that I am now doing on a daily basis as a lecturer in film and animation and a freelance illustrator and animator. It is clear that I had decided on this overall layout, because the next sketches in the book become more developmental/technical sketches, and show how I had intended to build the actual piece. Sketchbook (1) Page 2, Peter Coupe, Pen

5 Page 3 shows a development of the idea, and begins to look at the mechanical actions required to make the sculpture move. A hole drilled though the centre of the horizon will carry the string, which in turn will pull the canvas line up and down the simplified landscape drawn on the surface of the support sheet. Sketchbook (1) Page 3, Peter Coupe, Pen, pencil, biro, coloured pencil. The next image, a double page spread, shows an execution drawing of the final piece, complete with a side view for the mechanical workings. It is this drawing that I have decided to complete and reinvigorate to create a working model (on screen) of a piece of work that was never completed as a 3 dimensional object

6 Sketchbook (1) Pages 4 and 5, Peter Coupe, Pen, pencil, coloured pencil. I scanned the drawing into Adobe Photoshop, and began by adding some colour to the grass and sky areas. After experimenting with flat colours, airbrushes and a variety of pen strokes, I decided to use the images from another photograph using the clone effect. This allows the user to transfer an area from one image to another by using a virtual brush. This can also be done with drawn textures or painted areas. The humorous analogy of this might be of applying check or tartan paint with a brush. Sketchbook (1) Fragment (1), Grass cloned onto pencil drawing of grass, Peter Coupe. (1974. Pen, pencil, coloured pencil) & (2007 Photoshop) The effect is quite fascinating, and initially it is hard to know when to stop, and leave well alone. I left the string and canvas shape in their original finish, and also chose to leave the dotted line, showing the position of the canvas shape when in a part-moved position, rather than erasing it. The image below shows the difference in the sky and grass areas before and after the application of real sky and grass from photographs

7 Sketchbook (1) Fragment (2), Peter Coupe. (1974. Pen, pencil, coloured pencil) & (2007 Photoshop tones cloned from original photographs) When I was satisfied with the result I saved it as the image shown below; the final artwork stage of the project. This is still the original drawing from Sketchbook (1) Pages 4 and 5, above, but with the addition of new drawing tools and computer software enhancement. Canvas Perspective 1, Peter Coupe, Digital Image, 2007, from original drawings and photographs created in

8 Using the lasso, copy and layer tools in Photoshop, I then cut out the shape of both the string and the canvas triangle, and placed them onto separate layers of the composition. Canvas Perspective 1, Peter Coupe, Work in progress showing objects on individual layers in image manipulation software. This enabled me to work on them individually, and also allowed me to complete the cloning of the area of grass that was initially covered by them. The string and canvas shape both had to be enlarged. In the original image only part of each is visible (as the sculpture stands at part-way of the movement) and in the planned final animation I needed to be able to see the whole of both at each end of the full movement. Once I had completed work on all the components I went into the animation portion of Photoshop (Image Ready) and created an animation showing Canvas Perspective 1, for the first time ever, moving, as envisaged 32 years previously. The final animation can be played in a web browser or a media player (QuickTime, Windows Media Player). I am currently working on a number of unfinished sketches of sculpture, using computers and drawing technology to carry on where I left off I may be some time. Peter Coupe B.A.(Hons), M.Sc., Cert.Ed

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