Digital

I saw this video about a Justin Bieber song on the NYT where Skrillex and Diplo (the guys behind the song) talk about making it. At one point they say something really interesting about analogue manipulation- now that the technology is so cheap, anyone can copy a digital sound, whereas a decade or two ago it was very very expensive and time consuming. The only way to make a unique sound now, is to digitally distort a sample, such as Bieber’s vocal, to squash it/speed it up/slow it down/change the pitch etc.

It's pretty common in image making to scan in hand-made shapes/textures etc and play with them digitally. But the video made me think about what that digital distortion really is, and I realised that at the heart it’s that glitchy language you sometimes get if you don’t copy a file correctly or if you drop a camera or scale some pixels up too big. There’s a quality to that glitch that is the same as a digitally manipulated sound. So I learnt a little about JPG encoding and about how you can edit the text that makes up the code.

 

There’s a indeterminacy to the results, but also once you’ve been doing it a while, there’s a predictability too. You get the same mistakes and quality each time, but the exact result is random. So in that sense it’s kind of similar to traditional printmaking, where you have scuzzy bits in a screenprint, or the grain in a woodcut. You expect those mistakes and become kind of nostalgic for them. So I thought maybe the same could be true of digital glitches.

 

 

The results are interesting on their own, as abstract patterns, but I thought it’d be more interesting if you could incorporate them into your everyday work. I made this patchwork pattern where some of the segments use the digital glitching as an element of the design. On some level I was connecting textiles and the glitch work, but it wasn't until I realised some of the initial stuff I was doing looked similar to Anni Albers’* weavings, that I thought digital manipulation must be related to textiles. Then I remembered watching a documentary on information technology and they spoke about one of the first computers, called the Jacquard loom, that revolutionised the textile industry by using punched cards that were ‘read’ by the machine. That coded card idea was later developed by IBM and is still still an important idea in computing. The code of the punch cards in weaving isn’t any different to the code of a JPG or an MP3. The connection between all this is in the coding itself- it's the sequencing and reinterpretation or the manipulation and misinterpretation of patterns.

 

*Anni Albers, who ended up teaching at Black Mountain college, where John Cage (who I’ve been so obsessed by this last summer) also taught. It’s all connected, friends!

The thing that is not yet a thing

I just caught the end of the big Sonia Delaunay show at the Tate, and one thing that really stuck with me (apart from it being completely amazing) was how she recycled her own ideas and came back to the same thing decades later. There's a painting she made of three women wearing dresses that she designed, with patterns on she made for her textiles company, and each pattern came from different crayon sketches years earlier.

A lot of the talk on that show was about how she moved between painting and commercial art, but what was more interesting to me was how she went from process to a finished thing and back to process again. Totally seamlessly!

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what the most interesting part of an idea is; the process and potential, or the finished thing? Now I’m beginning to think the 'finished' thing is kind of a myth and that if you consider an idea is done, then you might never take it around the corner where it turns into something else. Go around those corners, friends!

 
 


Sun & Moons

I finally got an edition of these prints done, after sitting on the artwork for 3 years!  These two images were a kind of a big deal for me at the time, and I remember making them over a couple weeks, in the evenings at my old tiny flat in a place called Windmill Hill, in Bristol. I remember working on them late into the night listening to Erik Satie a lot and thinking hard on things that seem like small things now.

 The idea that a monoprint could sit together with a vector and a pencil sketch really interested me, kind of like lots of different instruments in a song (you know?). So these two images became a bit of a challenge to see how many different techniques I could pull together and still make work as a whole. A lot of things I learnt with these I’m still figuring out now, and I’m really excited to finally see them how I imagined them to look a few years back. Thanks to super nice dude and expert printer, Ed at Yeti for bringing them unto planet Earth. You can buy them over in my shop.

 
 

Spring

Images and projects that came out this Spring. In other news I've just finished my first kids book, which will be out next year! More on that... next year!

Percussion Music

 
 

I used to live in a house a few years back when I first moved to Bristol that had a huge chalkboard in the kitchen. Lots of people passed by and everyone would write lists and draw pictures, so the chalkboard was always changing. As it would get rubbed off and drawn on again, it would leave fragments from before. I got really into it and the concept of palimpsests, and for I while I started photographing them. The image above is of the chalkboard I took one day about 4 years ago. It got me started on chance and indeterminacy in my work. Photographing these marks freed me up to move away from working on paper and sketchbooks and towards seeing everything as a potential to make things with.

Right now I'm reading about John Cage for the first time and have been joining all the dots with what he was doing with percussion music and using everyday objects as instruments. Lots more to learn, friends!

what skateboarding taught me about design

I started skating when I was about 11 and skated most days till I was about 18. Recently I picked it up again and realised that it taught me so many lessons I use everyday in my design work.

 
 

Nows

Skateboarding exists in the the past, present and future. You’ve just done a thing and you’re planning another thing and you’re reacting with your surroundings. You’re not thinking about feeding the cats or the front page of the newspaper. When you’re existing in those simple feelings of time and place, then you’re existing in the now and that’s a good creative place to be.

Subversion

The main thing I’ve learnt from skateboarding is the attitude of subversion. The whole fun is using your surroundings in a new way. Suddenly curbs and driveways, slopes and ledges, and everything around you becomes a puzzle for you to play with. Design is exactly the same and you can take anything from your everyday surroundings and play with it and turn it into something unexpected.

Cruising

Sometimes the most fun thing is to roll around and not try too hard. Working within your means is sometimes the most fun thing.

Shared knowledge

What’s great about skating with other people is you learn from them and they learn from you. And when someone learns from you, they often take that thing somewhere new and then teach things back to you in ways you hadn’t thought of. Design can be the same if you’re not so precious about the technical stuff and start trusting that it’s all one long project.

Letting go

Skateboards are a good object to learn about the transience of things. The very act of using it will eventually break it. 'No matter what, everything will rot’, I always say. You don’t want to think about it sometimes, but even digital pictures will start to fade and that's okay.

Content>Context>Content>Context>Content

It is this push and pull of new/old techniques combined with new/old ideas that gets your creative brain going. You might have a new technique that fits an old idea or the other way around.

Muscle memory

This is a really weird phrase. It’s the idea that if you do something over and over again, you don’t need to even think about it anymore because your brain remembers the actions that your body does. It’s true, imagine if you had to relearn everything you ever did every time you wanted to do it. Then when things get easier you can combine them or take them somewhere new. So in design too, things become easier with practice and that's a happy thought.

Lying on the pavement

This is a thing that’s not really normal in everyday life, but it’s really fun.

 

No matter wot, everything will rot

 

These are some drawings made from woodblock printing. The shapes are cut in wood with a saw and the inked relief leaves a print. It’s a nice way to work with big shapes because it’s somewhere between a stencil and a woodcut. And it smells real nice.

When you work with natural materials like wood you get a lot more chance occurrences- You get little nicks, knots and splinters show up in the printing process, along with the wood grain. In information theory you say that the entropy is higher because there are more variables along the way- from what type of tree, to how old it was, to whether there was a particularly sunny summer or a cold winter one year. You could go on and on (not to mention my influence on the whole process). It might sound stupid, but all these things have an effect on the information of the tree and so to the end result. It’s the exact opposite of a vector image, which is pure maths with no room for chance. That’s why working with natural stuff becomes more like a collaboration with someone else. The wood I used for these images is probably older than me!

 

 
 

Big Wood Man

 

This is the biggest wood man I've made and it's for THIS great exhibition called TOYS put on by good pals Ed, Jayde and Dave. All the proceeds go to help poorly kids.

The exhibition launches on the 12th November at the Christmas Steps in Bristol.

More info HERE

Working with wood is a really good Autumn thing to do. It's really slow and it warms you up. Lets get bigger and bigger! If anyone needs a playpark with a 15ft woodman, let me know.

Also some robot drawings I did for a colouring book that kids get at the exhibition.

rob hodgson big wood man

Do You See What Eye See?

A couple years or so ago I set up a little questionnaire online where people had to write down what they saw in response to 16 different symbols. The symbols were of varying degrees of ambiguity made up of simple lines, colours or shapes.

I’d been doing lots of commercial work at the time and the idea that so many people were seeing my work was making me question the basic ideas of making pictures. Do you see what I see?

I also thought it was interesting to do a little project using the internet. The internet is a beautiful and weird thing and I got answers from throughout Europe, India, America. I wanted to see if there were similarities in what people saw, but also what differences there were. I was intrigued to see how the answers might differ based on location and culture too.

Are there shared understandings in the representation of colours/shapes/symbols? Are they basic ideas learnt from our ancestors and nature and because of strange biological or optical reasons? Or are our shared understandings all learnt from birth and reinforced by all hearing the same stories and seeing the same things and ideas and TV commercials? Or is everyone seeing different things?

About a year after the questionnaire I picked up a great second hand book called ‘The Psychology Of Perception’, which answered a lot of these questions by a real life professor who has studied this stuff all her life. (Looks like you can read it online for free here https://archive.org/details/psychologyofperc00vern)

do-you-see-01.jpg

I don't want to go through the symbols one by one because maybe it’s more fun for you to make up your own conclusions. But here are some general observations I’ve made since:

Having seen = seeing

I didn’t know what a scolopendra was (don’t look it up, it’s gross) but one person saw a scolopendra in symbol no. 12. I couldn’t have seen it because I had never seen one. Now I know what it is, I might see one. Language is based on shared experience.

Nature

Most simple symbols relate to something in nature. The sun, the sea, the sky, the moon, even some people mentioned paprika. The square is not commonly found in nature and so is only described directly.

Seeing and understanding

Observation- ‘a circle’, ‘a blue dot’, ‘a scribble’

Observation is about seeing- it is what it is

Representation- ‘a tree’, ‘a star’, ‘the sun’

Representation is about description- it is what I've seen before

Conceptualisation- ‘mind’, ‘tension’, ‘happy’

Concept is about language- it is what I think it means

Humour

The person that said ‘Four snakes at the beginning of a race’ for number 13! I laughed out loud. I think this is really really important. Humour and communication go hand in hand and I thought it was so clever and silly and now that’s all I can see.

Faces

People are inclined to describe the emotion depicted by faces rather than simply describing a face as a face.

Logos

Thankfully there’s only one corporate logo in the answers, and two people even mentioned Pig Pen from Peanuts, which means not all is lost with the world.

I think one important thing to note is that when you take away more and more description until you’re left with something really ambiguous, you’re going to get differing views. I definitely have more questions about this stuff and I think you could split the questionnaire up more, so you could do a set based on colour representation, one based on linear graphic symbols, another based just on shapes. And whether they’re nature or nurture, I think it's a mix of both. Again there are more questions. Obviously everyone recognises the sun because everyone has seen the sun or learnt about their culture’s interpretation of it. But maybe it does go deeper and older than that? I don't know!

One thing is clear- you cannot not communicate- Every colour choice, line, symbol or shape is adding up to something and someone is seeing something in it.

Funny Buggers

This is a zine I made when my pal Ed asked me if he could print a new book of mine for his small press, Jazz Dad Books. I wanted to do something with all the image making techniques I’ve been playing with the past few years, and do something really fun to make. All the characters are made using different techniques- block prints, wood prints, stamps, big drawings, little drawings, melting wax crayons, marbling, paper cuts… I made them over the summer and we printed it at Ed’s at the end of September.

I hope they look somewhere between ancient folk costumes and futuristic fashion concepts. I always think about costumes and uniforms and fashion and how funny it all is. People get caught up in the theatre of appearances very easily.

Also a note about the cover-

I wanted to use holographics for a while. I really loved getting shiny stickers and trading cards as a kid, and I’d been thinking about that and the idea of collecting paper things.

Recently I went to visit a big printing company who do lots of commercial printing. The technology is kind of based on old letterpress machines but fast forwarded into the future- they’re huge mechanical things that take up whole buildings. You still even pour the actual ink (CMYK values, spot colours, whatever) in the top. And it smells like a printing workshop. I had a feeling places like that had been replaced by computers and plastic, but it’s not true. Anyway, I went in a room that is floor to ceiling shiny and holographic rolls of paper. Maybe it was a coincidence as I’d just been using it, but It made me think about why no one in the art/design world has really done anything interesting with it before.

There’s so many new materials and new technologies out there that are being used in crappy ways. When these new things come along people usually take what they’re already doing and just try to apply it to the new techniques and materials. It’s why weird skeuomorphic things exist like laminate wood effect flooring. It’s why so many contemporary illustrators spend a lot of time trying to make photoshop illustrations look like old print illustrations. It’s always happened though, when acrylic paints came out it took a long time for people to figure out how to use them in a way that wasn’t like oils. I think you have to keep playing with the new stuff and work out its new potential. I think that’s where the good stuff comes from.

 

 
 

Bone Idol

I've been drawing a lot of skulls lately. I really like simple graphic concepts everyone understands; the sun, the moon, animals, death, food, sleeping, weird and normal things like that. A few years ago I made some sun and moon prints with the idea that even some long lost tribe could understand what I was doing. I think it's healthy to think about to remind yourself how weird and amazing everything is. Also I think we should reclaim the skull as a motif from all the metal heads, they've had it for too long.

Years and years ago I found this website which talks about the 'death meditation' and I love how it reads like it's been translated from another language. I remember reading this when I lived in Plymouth about 5 years ago and had a big window in my room that got really freaking cold and I could see my own breath. I also like what they say about imagination being reality. Anyone remember Funny Bones... Bones Brigade... Where have all the cool skulls gone?

photo-1-1.jpg
rob hodgson skull badges
rob hodgson weird screen
rob hodgson skulls

Flags

The school opposite my house is amazing for stuff like this. I don't imagine it's surprising that I find kids art so fascinating. You can't tell from the photos but they gradually go through the colour spectrum along the length of the fence.

Hello

Hello friends! And welcome to the internet- hopefully I'm going to conjure up some intelligent thoughts and ideas and share some works in progress and other things like that here. Let's not hold our collective breaths, though