Melania the Stepback Wife was a character I created for the Mind Your Head Art Cabaret in Peckham this summer, curated by Calum F Kerr and Caroline Gregory.
Based on a hideous hybrid of Melania Trump and the 1970s Stepford Wives, Melania launched her new product line in MissFortune cookies, a wholesome new brand of home baking based on the very same pure, gentically modified, bleached ingredients her momma used to use.
She just wanted to share her own beautiful life and very own misfortune.
Melania tries to interest the audience in her cookies [Picture by Calum F Kerr]
Accompanied by her loyal and real friendly husband Donny Pantsdown
CICAF is the biggest animation festival in China and includes the Golden Monkey King Animation Awards, an education summit, animation trade fair, project investment fair, masterclasses, conferences and Cosplay shows.
The tourist destination Hangzhou is beautifully located at the side of a large lake and is rapidly becoming an important city for animation with the regional government investing 70 million yuan (approx £7million) to support original animation projects in the last year. 22 major roads in the city are decorated with cartoon characters. The city is also preparing to open an amazing new Comic and Animation Museum designed by Dutch architecture firm MVRDV, which will be made in the form of cartoon bubbles and include an IMAX cinema. This museum will definitely be worth visiting when it’s completed. Here is the architectural visualisation.
I felt very privileged to be selected by the British Council to participate in the Expo as part of a UK Day. The opening ceremony for the festival was unlike anything I have ever seen before. We were taken to the Huanglong Sports Stadium, which is bigger than Wembley, to see a truly incredible show. After opening speeches from government officials on the cultural and economic significance of the animation industry, the Golden Monkey Awards were presented to festival prize winners. We were then treated to a two-hour spectacle, which featured kites, flying acrobats, mass dance troupes in all kind of costumes, ice skaters, Chinese popstars and TV presenters. Two massive screens on either side of the auditorium relayed live video feeds of the action. Huge screens also played animations that served as backdrops. Local dignitaries were seated in special seats at the front. Everyone was given plastic hand clappers with flashing LED lights so that the applause was magnified. I cannot imagine anything on this scale to launch a UK animation festival!
The scale of the expo itself was simply staggering. There were two halls in the convention centre, each the size of Olympia, but standing three stories high. On each of the three days we were there the number of people who attended the show exceeded 100,000 people. The demographic was mainly teenagers to early 20s and some families with their children. As it was a public holiday, this seemed to be a major attraction for teenage comic and animation fans. The only event I could compare it with would be Comic Con in the USA.
I spoke to a lot of people, but the majority simply wanted their photos taken with me as there are not many foreign visitors to Hangzhou.
One of the most fascinating aspects of the trip was my introduction to the world of Cosplay. In this teenage sub-cult, costumes are worn that make the wearer look like a character from a (Japanese) comic or animation. I was fascinated by the extent to which animation could influence fashion and the sheer scale of the economics behind this.
Not only was there a Cosplay competition, but several halls of clothes and accessories. I couldn’t resist buying myself a leopard print pair of ears with bells. At times I was surrounded by elves, cat people, French maids, pirates and purple haired ancient warriors with animal ears. I can imagine Chairman Mao turning in his grave!
On the final day of our trip, the British Council had arranged some cultural visits for us. In the morning we went to the Zhongnan Animation company. Founded in 2004 by the CEO of a construction company who wanted to see Chinese animations made for his children, the company now has over 300 staff. In the short time since it was founded, it has produced over 15 TV series and 25 feature films.
We were treated to a screening in their 4d cinema – as well as wearing 3d glasses you sit in a chair that moves with the motion of the action in the animation and air is puffed past your face at certain times. In addition, we were taken to see their merchandising store. Most of the profit in animation comes from toys and other associated items for which the animation itself serves as an advertisement. We were shown a number of new interactive toys that were being developed.
China is a clearly emerging as a force to be reckoned with in the field of animation. The animation industry is not only very successful in China economically, but also has cultural significance for the government who are keen to promote the development of Chinese art forms.
Stuck for design inspiration? Not just for trainspotters, the London Transport Museum has an extraordinary collection of over 5,000 posters in their online archive. Spanning a century of graphic design, the collection features posters inspired by Surrealism, Vorticism, Pop Art, Fauvism – indeed most of the major movements in painting during this period. Not only a visual treasure trove, it offers a fascinating insight into the lives of ordinary Londoners: how they lived and spent their leisure time, how they survived two world wars, how the city continues to stretch and grow. Here is a selection depicting London entertainment:
The West End is awakening, by Ernest Michael Dinkel, 1931
City, by Edward Bawden, 1952
Pantomimes and circuses, by Joan Beales, 1954
The City of London, by Abram Games, 1964
Take your travelcard to the pictures, by unknown artist, 1987
West End entertainments, by Donna Muir and Su Huntley, 1987
Students on the MA Character Animation course at Central Saint Martins are just starting on a new Moving Posters assignment inspired by 10 historic posters that were designed by former students or staff from the college. Their animation work will be featured alongside the original posters in an exhibition in the Window Gallery at CSM in May and will be available to download in the London Transport Museum via QR code on mobile phones by the end of March. Contact us if you would like to be invited to the Window Gallery private view on Friday May 11th in Kings Cross, London.
The V&A Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green is a treasure trove of weird toys from creepy dolls to retro computer games. Jake and Dinos Chapman’s exhibition ‘My Giant Colouring Book’ illustrates the horrors lurking within the pages children’s dot-to-dot, colouring books. Using these books as the basis for a series of etchings, they actualise the potential for the uncanny and the terrifying that haunts the world of children’s stories.
American artist, Ray Villafane, carves pumpkins into a variety of character heads. Check out the pictures here. Happy Hallowe’en!
What he may or not realise is that he is following in a very old tradition of folk art. In the past, toys were a luxury that many working people couldn’t afford to pay for – so they made their own. Apples were an ideal medium for carving dolls heads out of and this folk art is still practiced in rural America. I have also seen a British example in the V&A’s Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green. The Museum of Childhood has an extensive collections of historical toys and is a fantastic resource for ideas for character designs.
I am currently experimenting with apple heads myself, since finding this wild apple on an isolated tree at the top of a mountain in the Pyrennees when I was on holiday this summer. I call her Mrs Applebaum and am using her as the starting point for developing a new character.