Monday, July 24, 2006

designer's faithful companion

Ok, so back to design. If I had to recommend just one publication for graphic designers/animators/web designers/illustrators and even film makers, it would be Computer Arts magazine.

It's truly the best in its genre, and filled to the brim with great articles, advanced tutorials, brilliant showcases of up&coming talents & agencies, and full of reviews of the latest and best software/printers/cameras/scanners...etc all tried and tested.

What's even better is that it also publishes a more specific and detailed magazine called Computer Arts Projects, in which every issue deals, in depth, with a specific area of design. This month's issue is on Typography: basics, classics, how create your own, how to properly use them... and in addition with a CD full of fonts, resources, font software & tutorial files. And this winning formula is repeated in every issue to tackle a different subject each time. Next month's issue of Projects is about Brand Identity -be sure not to miss it.

They've been very helpful to me as a designer and also as a teacher and I highly and strongly recommend you getting these mags, any designer should be upto date with the latest in technology, techniques and styles, and these mags provide that. You can subscribe to them through Aramex, and I saw a couple of issues of Projects at Books@Cafe a few days ago.

Also be sure to check their website, which has ready tutorials (of various techniques in various software), alongside great articles not featured in their mags.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Animation Workshop pt.2

So the workshop's over! And it was a lot of fun, I had an awesome time!

If I had to complain (which we all know I love to do) I'll say that the only negative bits were that it was too short and that we had days of literally doing nothing (watching reels and reels and reels of shorts and movies and stuff -which is not bad, but I'm more of a hands-on kind of person).

That said, I loved how they managed to show us almost every technique of traditional animation (from stop motion to drawing frames, from oil paint on glass to photographed flip books), which was a pleasant surprise as I had the impression that it'd be all digital stuff.

We were taught basics of After Effects -but I'm glad that I'm nerd and learned the software a week in advance- as they skipped lots of important bits and kinda confused some students!

We each had to create a short piece of animation, which was great! And we screened them in the university's theater. In a couple of weeks they will screen all of our work alongside the work of the students from the film making workshop (which started at the same time but is two weeks longer). I'll put the details of the screening here, if anybody would like to come and see it.

Shout to nini Mervat, Khairy, Lutfi, Natasha & my kiddies for making the workshop more entertaining!!!

I might post a short video of my stuff soon, but for now here are some screen grabs!
{sorry about the hideous water marks, but you gotta protect your art!}

"We did a great job Mr. Tea!" congratulated the Lemonades. "We couldn't have done it without your beautiful drawings my Lemonades!" replied Mr. Tea.

I salute you...

"The world's gone mad, my Lemonades"

The point is not who started it, or who did what. It's how far can one side go to prove a point (that is, if there's a real point to prove and it's not just a good excuse to kill a few hundred)... I can just hear them saying "the less of the trouble makers, the better for us".

I can write novels on this, but honestly I'm not going to. Because at the end of all this, there are real people stuck in the middle and I -like so many others- is very concerned and worried. With no internet connections and no proper phone connections, with the borders closed, we've lost communication with many friends (most considered to be as close as family) and it's beyond worrying and seems so unreal. A country that's 4 hours of driving away, yet feels like it's stuck in another time zone: where killing the innocent was as common riding horses.

Now for the title of this post, well I salute CNN, NBC & Sky News (some of the news channels that we can watch here) for taking footage of the incidents from Arabic TV stations, and only showing bits of it - meticulously calculated bits... how convenient that the footage of the limbless, bleeding children has disappeared between the shot of the burnt car and the destroyed building, how sensitive to remove the images of screaming, crying, bleeding and dying individuals and showing shots of random people with no reaction amidst the ruins.

Are people that stupid?? I, who have near to no proper knowledge of propaganda, know that the first rule is to completely remove any material that would make poeple from the "GOOD" side sympathize with the ENEMIES... and they are still using these techniques and people are still falling for them.

"unequal power.
irrationalized and senseless targeting.
killing of the truly innocent.
now really who in their sane mind can be so blind?"

Sunday, July 02, 2006


I received my order from today, and am very happy with my purchases. Got two Neil Gaiman books and the Madonna "I'm going to tell you a secret" documentary DVD & Live album combo.

Why the Madonna DVD? Well I've always been attracted to balsy & strong woman, plus I do enjoy her music. Also because this documentary has a special place in my heart, see last November while still living in London, I was very fortunate to attend Madonna's private party, which she held at the Koko club for the launch of her album confessions on a Dancefloor', and as if that wasn't enough, she invited all the attendees to the UK premiere of this documentary

- to which I obviously went! It was a great screening with lots of celebrities like Gwenith Paltrow, Stella McCartney and many more.

Now about Neil Gaiman, well I've always been a fan of the Sandman comics (even before finding out the Tori Amos link), and was more interested in his work after I discovered the Tori link, which is that she too is a fan of his, and always sneaks little 'hello's' to Neil in her songs, or sometimes mentions some of his characters or what have you. And this started a great friendship between them, Tori kept adding her cryptic messages to Neil in her songs, and so did he in his books and comics. It's even said that Delirium (one of the Endless in the Sandman comics) is based on Tori with her flaming read hair.

The reason I bought Stardust is that I discovered that it's being made into a movie now, starring Michelle Pfieffer and Robert DeNiro, and in the Tori forums there was a buzz about whether Tori will have anything to do with the movie.

Why, you might ask? Well in her 1996 song Horses, Tori sings: "and will you find me if Neil makes me a tree?". When the time came for Neil to write Stardust, Tori offered him her home in Cornwall to write it in, but in return he had to make her a tree in the book, and he did. I'm very intrigued by this tree he created, and also want to read the book before the movie's released next year. I love the way the writes and his sense of humor, and I know I'll fall in love with the story.

Now the buzz is that Tori might be voicing the tree in the movie (if not in someway appearing in it as well), not having read the book, I don't know if the tree has a human figure or face or whether it's just a normal tree.

It's also been mentioned that Tori was working a soundtrack, so it also might be for Stardust. Time will tell, but it's all exciting news!

So why also get Anansi Boys? the backcover image of the book had one sentence: "God is dead. Meet the Kids." Now who wouldn't want to read that??

I've read the first two chapters of Stardust now, and will hopefully finish the book this week, so I'll write my review of the book then...

Animation Workshop

So tomorrow I start a 2 week animation workshop, and I'm very excited! [not sure if I'll be able to sleep properly tonight!]

I've heard that we'll be doing some film etching, and oil painting alongside digital stuff, and each person will end up doing a short (maybe a few seconds long) which will be screened at the end, so I'll post my achievements here!

Why am I so excited? well I LOVE animation, Walt Disney is my hero and idol -whatever is written about him, the main fact is that he created an empire by having the guts and risking everything to realize his dream...

Why haven't I ventured into animation before? Well, because I love it so much, I've always been scared to get into it, fearing that if I screw things up, I'll end up hating animation -and that was a risk I never wanted to take.

So what's changed my mind? well, my Wonderland-buddy, Mervat works at the Royal Film Commission ( who are organizing the workshop -and I trust her blindly with my life- so we kind of encouraged each other to take this workshop, and especially now since I don't have an office job, it's the perfect timing to finally get down and dirty with animation.

I understand it's just a beginners workshop, but I'm hoping that instead of ending up drifting away from animation, I'll be even more motivated to better my skills and end up doing a small project of my own in the future (I have been developing a script and finished initial character design and basic storyboards).

Well wish me luck (even though it's only me who writes & reads the stuff here!), and I'll keep you posted with whatever happens my Lemonades, and you too Mr. Tea!

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Awful End

...Speaking of children's books, might I recommend the zaniest, funniest most random and lovable book I ever read??

It's called "Awful End" by Philip Ardagh, and here's a short synopses from Amazon:

"When both of Eddie's parents catch a disease that makes them turn yellow and smell of hot-water bottles, it's agreed that he should go to stay with relatives at Awful End. Sadly for Eddie, those relatives are Mad Uncle Jack and Even-Madder Aunt Maud.

Philip Ardagh's supremely daft and extremely funny novel is set in a terribly smelly 19th century world that children will love. Ardagh captures the stench and stealth of the times, turning what could have been a straightforward adventure story into a delightfully pungent, utterly ridiculous but unbelievably gripping adventure story."

The illustrations and story are kind of Tim Burton-esque, the characters feel like they can be one of the neighbors in Corpse Bride (though this book was published in 2000). I'm sure any fan of Burton will love this book.

I would love to see this made into an animated movie -sure stopmotion would be perfect, but let's not copy Mr. Burton!

The story's quite funny, the narrative delightful and random, great little details thrown here are there, enough to build the funny sequences in your head, with characters as loony as the madhatter (if not more!)

Not to give anything away (not that anything will spoil the pleasures of reading such a book) even the secondary characters are delightfully daft! You've got the failed housemaid Gibbering Jane who lives under the stairs in the darkness because she failed the 8 week bed making course, the crazy Even Madder Aunt Maud, who always carries a stuffed stoat with her which she calls Malcom and her husband Mad Uncle Jack calls Sally, and Eddie's parents who the writer calls " yellow and crinkly around the edges"!

Read the book if you want to feel silly and be in a good mood!
[and If you know me personally, I'll lend you my copy gladly!]

rich details vs. imagination

"Children's literature isn't what it used to be." stated Mr. Tea, in his matter-of-fact tone of voice. "not all books, Mr. Tea" said the Lemonades, "we still have great writers who haven't lost the essence and purpose of these books, there's no need to generalize!"

The Chronicles of Narnia
, Alice in Wonderland (and Through the Looking Glass) & the Little Prince, are some of the most famous and loved children's books, but yet when you actually read them as an adult, you discover that they lack in detail: they set the scene and introduce the characters and describe everything that's going on beautifully, but don't really go into tiny miniscule details like who sat where on which side of what table! The whole battle sequence in the Whitch, the Lion & the Wardrobe was told in just a page and after the actual war was over. These kinds of books challenged our imaginations, made us create worlds in our heads filled with what we wanted them to be filled with (Turkish delights and all!).

Today's children books are filled with details, so filled with them that you have forums and discussions on the net scrutinizing the movie version for not using the correct shade of red in the curtains of a specific scene! It is that crazy!

Just to make one point clear, I am not discussing the stories or styles of writings here, or defending/trashing certain books/authors. I'm just pointing out that in a world were we have so many things that can inspire us and spark our imaginations, we also have lots of distractions (for children & adults alike) which I think is eating away the realm of imagination.

So should children's books be less detailed and contain less illustrations to entice the children's imaginations?? Are extremely detailed books only the tip of the 'imagination killers' iceberg?? (or are they completely unrelated to them?)

TV, DVDs, the lack of reading, the way houses are built in Amman (with minimum gardens & tiny sidewalks) and how the concept of parks and proper playareas is nonexistent - all these factors are imagination killers & restrictors. I remember spending hours and hours with my classic Lego blocks (the days before the rainbow colored bricks and the pirates and castles editions) and still managing to create worlds where pyramids were built and dragons were slain. I remember my mother reading encyclopedias to me as a child (hence my early obsession with archeology and the seven wonders of the world) challenging me to figure out how little people like us built such mammoth wonders, and encouraging me to draw them by imagining how they looked before the were demolished or destroyed.

I see how shallow some (and I emphasize the SOME here, I am writing based on my own experiences and not based on statistics) children are nowadays, how they lack the depth in vision and imagination that we had as kids and which I can still see in my friends today {nini Mervy}. Seeing kids sitting endless hours in front of TV with useless uneducational programs and teenagers who've never lifted the front cover of a non-school related book really hurts.

I am a Harry Potter fan, and enjoy reading the books, hating the villains and cheering our heroes, but what I hate from the bottom of my heart is unoriginality. Unoriginality alone is probably half of "Imagination Killers"! How many books are now filling the shelves of bookstores about magic and dragons and spells and kids with powers? How many books have the words "better than the Da Vinci Code" embossed and embellished on their front covers? How many more Superhero movies will they make? Will they stop at SpiderMan 3, 8 or 11?

Is 'copying a winning formula' the new winning formula??
{why does this feel like a line from Sex & the City??}

"...and how faraway from the title topic have we drifted, my Lemonades?"