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STORM BIRD DESIGN

Graphic design, art, discussion and illustration from freelance creative Mark Sosbe www.stormbirddesign.co.uk

Stranger Things – Fan Art Collection

I was recently blown away by Stranger Things, Netflix’s latest series. Set in November 1983 (coincidentally, the same month that I was born), it follows a group of people searching for a young boy after he mysteriously vanishes. They soon discover a plot involving government conspiracies, secret experiments and paranormal forces.
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Watching the show, it felt like it had somehow been engineered specifically for me to enjoy, drawing together as it did so many of my interests: the films of the 1980’s, Spielberg, The Goonies, Dungeons & Dragons, HP Lovecraft, The Thing, Alien and more. The look of the series, along with its gloriously synth-heavy soundtrack, is incredibly evocative, sinking its claws deep into the nostalgia centre of the brain. It is much more than just the sum of its parts, however, weaving together a genuinely interesting story and creating a world I can’t wait to go back to.

I am not alone in falling in love with the world of Stranger Things, and this is clear from the amount of wonderful fan art that it has inspired. I have collected together here some of my favourite pieces, enjoy.

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Matt Ferguson / Via cakesandcomics.com/
Alexander-Nanitchkov
Alexander Nanitchkov / Via tsabo6.deviantart.com/
miranda-meeks
Miranda Meeks / Via miranda-meeks.tumblr.com/
glen-brogan
Glen Brogan / Via twitter.com/GlenBroganArt
matt-needle
Matt Needle / Via mattneedle.co.uk
adamspinto
adamspinto / Via Instagram: @adamspinto
asl
Appropriated Sign Language / Via aslrulesok.bigcartel.com/
barret-biggers
Barret Biggers / Via Twitter: twitter.com/studiomuku
davidmbuisan
davidmbuisan / Via Instagram: @davidmbuisan
Luke-Ormsby
Luke Ormsby / Via Facebook: facebook.com/LukeOrmsbyArt
Crystal-Graziano
Crystal Graziano / Via itsprecioustime.tumblr.com
leoshark
Leoshark / Via leoshark.deviantart.com/
ree
Ree / Via reeartwork.tumblr.com
Serafina-Anelli
Serafina Anelli / Via serasillustrations.tumblr.com
Matheus-Bitencourt-01
Matheus Bitencourt / Via Instagram: @MthBitencourt
Christian-Cimoroni
Christian Cimoroni / Via rebelrebelblackandwhite.tumblr.com
Sergio-Mancinelli
Sergio Mancinelli / Via idriu95.tumblr.com/

All images copyright their respective owners.

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The ADP Riot Tour

I was recently lucky enough to visit artist James Cauty’s excellent ‘Aftermath Dislocation Principle’ as it tours around England. The work was a major highlight of Banksy’s Dismaland and is now on tour, known as the ADP Riot Tour. I wasn’t able to make it to Dismaland, and this was the work that I would have most liked to have seen, so when I discovered it was coming to a town (relatively) near me, I jumped at the chance to go and see it.

I first became aware of Cauty’s work after a recommendation by a friend which pointed me towards his Riot in a Jam Jar series, which I wrote about in my blog post The Art of the Small.

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© James Cauty, Riot in a Jam Jar, 2011-2015.

The Aftermath Dislocation Principle can be seen as a continuation of this series but on a much larger scale. The work takes the form of a 1:87 scale post-riot landscape populated only by police and media crews.

The scale of the work is impressive, with tower blocks, roads, fly-overs, rows of street lamps, fields, churches, fast-food restaurants and patches of waste ground. Over 3000 police officers peer nervously over the edge of ripped up motorways or stand looking bewildered in the shadow of looming tower blocks, in a bleak vision of a dystopian Britain. The lighting of the work is extremely effective – lines of street lamps stretch into the distance, blue lights flicker and flash on police cars, and the searchlights from helicopters pass over the broken landscape.

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The work is housed in a shipping container and viewed through ports on the side. The container itself has become heavily graffitied since the tour began, something which has been embraced and encouraged by the team behind the tour.

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It is an extremely impressive piece of work, and when I visited the atmosphere around the container was buzzing, engaging with people who might not otherwise be interested in art if it were shown in a gallery setting.

I would highly recommend seeing the tour if you get chance. I saw the work in Folkestone, Kent and it is there until the 15th of August. More information about the ADP Riot Tour can be seen here, including news and upcoming tour locations.

A short video of the work can be seen here, showing some of the incredible detail and lighting effects which are hard to capture in a photograph.

You can find out more about The Aftermath Dislocation Principle as well as James Cauty’s other work on his website.

All images copyright their respective owners.

The illuminated paper cuts of Hari & Deepti

I recently stumbled across the amazing work of Deepti Nair and Harikrishnan Panicker, who make up artist duo Hari & Deepti.

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Their stunning work is made by building up layers of hand cut paper which is then illuminated to create a dreamlike and mystical world full of beasts, men and stars. To me, their work recalls the illustrations of Tom Gauld, the intricate paper cuts of Rob Ryan, Indian shadow puppets and the magical world of Studio Ghibli’s Princess Mononoke.

Their work really is breathtaking, especially when considering the method by which it comes to life. I’ve collected together some of my favourite work here. You can see more on their facebook page or by following their instagram.

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All images copyright their respective owners.

The Birds of Sheppey

I recently made some work for an exhibition, Open Aviary, and I wanted to discuss and show the work here.

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The work I produced, entitled The Birds of Sheppey, attempts to highlight the wonderfully varied colours of British birds.

Being a long time bird-lover and enthusiast, it pains me when people overlook common birds, or dismiss them as being boring. I wanted to draw attention to the variety of colours that are found in some of our most well-known birds, such as the mallard and the starling.

I felt that a way to work around this kind of prejudice was to distil each bird down to a series of pure colours, represented as a collection of coloured dots. By following a system or formula, each bird was broken down into its component parts to create what is hopefully a visually stimulating final image.

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As the work was to be displayed on Sheppey, I decided to include only birds that I had personally seen there. It is by no means an exhaustive list of all the birds that are found on Sheppey, but rather, a personal account of my many years of bird watching.

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The Birds of Sheppey can be seen as part of the Open Aviary exhibition at Rose Cottage of Curiosities, Sheerness, until 30th August, 2016.

© 2016 Storm Bird Design

Open Aviary

I am soon going to be exhibiting some new work at Open Aviary, an exhibition of contemporary art which responds to the theme of flight.

I’ve seen a few of the pieces already and it’s looking to be an excellent show, with a range of varied and high-quality artwork.

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The exhibition is organised by Island Projects as part of Sheppey Promenade arts festival.

The Island Project page about the exhibition reads:

“Island Projects is working in partnership with Sheerness Dockyard Preservation Trust and the Promenade Festival 2016 to create a platform for contemporary art on the Isle of Sheppey. The mobile art space ‘Room’ has been installed behind the Sheerness Dockyard Church, and will be host to a range of artists’ project in the coming year. ‘Open Aviary’ is the first of such exhibitions, split over two venues (Rose Cottage & Room) and will bring together a selection of high quality artworks which respond to the theme of Flight.

This year’s Summer Arts Festival called ‘Sheppey Promenade’ celebrates the Island’s strong connection to the idea of flight both aviation and avian flight. The Isle of Sheppey is home to two bird sanctuaries; Shellness and Elmley. The river Swale provides habitat for many hundreds of species of rare and migrating birds. From Nature to Human innovation; the Isle Sheppey played a crucial role in aviation history, being home to the airfield for many early flights in the UK.”

The work I am to be showing is part of a new series that I have been working on, which will hopefully grow into something quite special. It’s a really exciting opportunity to be exhibiting alongside such a strong suite of works.

If you’d like to know more or if you’re in Kent and would like to to plan your visit, head over to the exhibition’s facebook event.

Image: ‘I dreamed I was flying’ Linda Fraser 2016

Wedding Photo Restoration

I have recently been working on restoring an old photograph for a client. The photo was of her parents’ wedding day, and was suffering from extreme fading and discolouration. I had hoped that I may be able to salvage some of the colour information from the image, but it was too far gone, so it became quite an involved process.

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The final restored image along side the original

Firstly, the image was extremely dusty, with a few hairs and scratches. I worked to removed these before moving on to the next stages.

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Once the image had been cleaned up, I did some work with the exposure and contrast of the image. Some of the lighter parts of the photograph were particularly blown out, and these happened to be some of the most important parts of the image, namely the faces of the couple and her wedding dress. By altering the exposure I was able to bring back a lot of the detail which would otherwise have remained lost.

I consulted with the client to discuss the original colours of the image, as it was simply impossible to tell from the information that remained in the photograph. With this information I set about hand colouring the photograph. The colour was built up over a large number of layers using a variety of techniques.

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The final image is one that manages to, hopefully, recapture the look of a special day. I’m happy to say that the client was extremely pleased with the end result.

If you, a friend or a loved one would like to discuss having a photograph restored, please get in touch by emailing me at contact@stormbirddesign.com

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© 2016 Storm Bird Design

Strandbeest: The Dream Machines of Theo Jansen

I wrote about the magnificent creations of Dutch artist Theo Jansen a while ago in my post looking at the Strandbeest.

These fascinating sculptures exist somewhere between engineering, art and biology and are hauntingly beautiful to watch.

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Some exciting news is that these Standbeest – “beach animals” in Dutch –  are currently on show in a special exhibition at San Francisco’s Exploratorium, from May 27 to September 5, 2016.

This is the first time the Strandbeest have been shown in North America, so if you live near San Francisco, it’s a great opportunity to see these amazing creatures in action.

These videos from Tested.com – where I first found out about the Jansen’s work a few years ago – are also well worth a look.

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An in-depth tour of the exhbition with Tested.com
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Adam Savage meets Theo Jansen’s Strandbeest

More information about the exhibition can be seen on the Exploratorium website.

All images copyright their respective owners.

Ideas Test – Webpage Redesign

I was recently approached by Ideas Test to refresh the look of their website.

Their homepage required a significant number of changes, including a complete visual overhaul, a re-sorting of the content and navigation on the page, a more user-friendly blog section and more. Their previous page had begun to look dated, and so they wanted to modernise the look, while ensuring that navigation was simpler and content was much easier to find.

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The old Ideas Test homepage

There were a number of problems with the old page. Certain sections appeared more than once, such as the Twitter feed appearing on both the front page, and in the footer, taking up valuable space. There were two newsletter sign-up sections on the front page, one in the footer and one in the header. Other sections appeared in unusual places, such as the clunky search bar appearing halfway down the page on the right. There were various visual problems, such as the header image stretching and appearing pixelated. I felt that some of the other visual elements looked dated, such as the dropdown bar, which had a faux 3-dimensional effect along with highlights and shadows.

I set about creating a design which I felt would be much clearer and easier to navigate, which reduced the repetition of elements, and one which I felt would have a much stronger visual impact.

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The redesigned homepage

The redesign included a number of changes, such as:

  • A tiled design to make much better use of space, with strong imagery and focus boxes in the main section.
  • Repeated elements, such as the Twitter feed, were reduced to appearing only once.
  • The search bar was re-positioned to the top right of the page, as this is conventionally where people expect to see it.
  • The navigation bar was redesigned completely. The old-fashioned look was abandoned in favour of a much cleaner, more modern look, with flat colours, no shadows and square corners instead of rounded corners. The bar would also react on mouse-over, with dropdown menus appearing and colours changing to show selections.
  • The main image under the navigation bar was to be a rotating carousel of images: to help show a much larger amount of content in a small amount of space, to limit the need for vertical scrolling.
  • A redesigned newsletter signup bar was added near the bottom of the page, to enable quick and easy signups without the need to navigate to another page.
  • Prominent social media links were added to the footer to encourage social engagement.

A key focus was that the page should also be maintainable and updatable by Ideas Test themselves, with the ability to change links, images, text and so on.

Once Ideas Test had approved the design, I set about creating a detailed set of instructions for the web developers to work from, so that they could reproduce the designs in a live site. Having a large amount of experience with this sort of design process certainly helped, as it allowed me to write clear instructions in a way that provided all of the information that the developers would need.

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Some of the instructions sent to the web developers

An excerpt from the instructions document:

8) The main content section to be restyled to a tiled design
— there are two sizes of content box:
Single width
image: 368px x 266px
caption: 368px x 47px, blue #019fcc background
text: Arial Bold, white #FFFFFF, size 18pt, 24px in from left edge of caption box
Double width
image: 760px x 266px
caption: 760px x 47px, blue #019fcc background
text: Arial Bold, white #FFFFFF, size 18pt, 24px in from left edge of caption box, Arial Regular, white #FFFFFF, size 14pt.
— all boxes are separated by a 24px margin (from the edge of the container and from each other)
— these content boxes need to be links
— these content boxes should react on mouseover, the light blue of the caption box changing to dark blue #1c4a64
— These boxes need to be able to be changed and maintained by Ideas Test going forward

These extensive instructions were provided alongside annotated images.

During the project, I also redesigned the page’s blog. The previous design was hamstrung by a poor layout and search functionality. The new design sought to deliver more content in a much more condensed space, as well as a clearer search function. A comparison of before and after the redesign can be seen below.

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With the designs complete and the instructions written, everything then went over to the web developers to implement. I’m happy to say that the final result is very close to the design that I created. The Ideas Test homepage now looks like this:

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You can see the finished page at: ideastest.org.uk 

I’m very pleased with the new page and I think that the developers who created it have done an excellent job in bringing my vision to life. I think that the final result is a much more modern looking website, which is cleaner and more visually appealing. It is simpler to navigate, allowing Ideas Test to drive users to the exact content that they want them to see while enabling users to access information much more quickly and easily.

If you would like to discuss a refresh of your website or brand, please feel free to get in touch by emailing me at contact@stormbirddesign.com

Art 05 – Ash Dome

This is the fifth in my series of posts where I look at some of my favourite works of art.

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Ash Dome (1977 – )
by David Nash

Nearly 40 years ago, sculptor David Nash cleared an area of land near his home in Wales, and planted 22 ash trees in a perfect circle. Over the coming decades he would gently tend to the trees, shaping them into the still-growing work that would come to be known as Ash Dome. The trees spiral around, upwards and inwards, like a great whirlpool. The location of the work is kept secret – even film crews are taking on a circuitous route to guard its location.

The 1970’s were a tumultuous time in Britain, with political and social change and the spectre of the Cold War still looming, ever present. In an interview with the International Sculpture Centre, Nash talks about the motivation for the work:

“There was serious economic gloom, very high unemployment in our country, and nuclear war was a real possibility. We were killing the planet, which we still are because of greed. In Britain, our governments were changing quickly, so we had very short-term political and economic policies. To make a gesture by planting something for the 21st century, which was what Ash Dome was about, was a long-term commitment, an act of faith.”

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For Nash, Ash Dome was a beacon of hope, a symbol that we would endure and that in the 21st century we would find space to breathe. While for him it is a forward looking work, I see it as something that gestures to a much earlier time.

To me, it evokes thoughts of pagan monuments and stone circles, of our ancestors in the great wooded expanses that once covered much of Britain calling to the spirits of the rivers and the forests. It reminds me of scenes from The Wicker Man (1973) of female bodies dancing around a fire. It conjures thoughts, too, of the fantastical – of fairyfolk and Ent moots and Weirwood trees.

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The truth, of course, is that it has required meticulous human intervention to become what it is today. But, despite the truth, the idea that it may be natural – that it may be just possible to happen upon a magical, hidden place – is a fiction that I am happy to believe.

All images copyright their respective owners.

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