John Fraser's Creative Blog

An On-going Record of Combing Art, Teaching, Consultancy, and an Active Mind

Ideas Still in Flux – 2D Cartoon Animation Now Catches My Eye

Hi ya.

Part of what I do is teach (mainly primary school on supply), and I’ve noticed certain gaps in the resources out there to help teachers do a great job. There are some aspects of teaching that I know a great deal about and am good at, that I think are really important, and where a lack of helpful resources has really jumped out at me. So I’m now investigating 2D animation software for delivering those concepts using short animated cartoons with pauses for thought for discussion. To introduce children to new material, and to then get them to think about the difficult bits of a topic. So my idea is similar to an animated version of the already existing Science Concept Cartoons – but for some other subjects. (Also brought to mind is Mathmateers – whatever that was actually called – which used to be videos for teaching maths to primary school children, and involved aliens visiting our planet.)

Where I’m at with this emerging interest. After some research, I’ve just purchased some software, but it is not opening on my mac. So I need to wait till after the weekend when hopefully tech support will get back to me. I’m getting ideas for my style and characters together, and viewing videos on YouTube of how the software works.

In looking at 3D software – as some previous posts indicated – I’ve now looked at some samples of things printed out in 3D. I’m just not satisfied with the quality of those processes at the minute for coloured items (which is where my interest lies) for that to be a path for me to go down. Traditional ceramics produces a much higher quality product. But I also have a feeling that I may have gone off the boil with ceramics for the second time after it having been a source of income. Interests move on.

This emergence of 2D animated cartooning as an interest, is for me a typical shift of focus. The last post showed an interest in 3D software to get glazing patterns right. That interest in what 3D software can do, has morphed or combined with: me having used Flash in the past; being familiar with layers, timelines and related concepts from photo software, video software, as well as Flash; having a strong interest in metaphor and children’s stories; and a strong interest in creative teaching approaches. So these have combined to form a potential new direction. Not a replacement to teaching – there is no income from all this yet – but an interest that is a potential add-on to teaching activities.

We’ll see where all this goes!

First steps will be a whole lot of skill acquisition and experimentation, and the production of a first animated cartoon which will result in me knowing a whole lot more about all these things. Currently 2D is the thing I’m passionate about… that is absorbing a lot of my spare hours… and… and who knows… Watch this space.

2017 Intentions

My focus for this year will be on making and developing what I’m doing. At this stage I’m not interested in aiming for a particular audience, nor considering how a piece could be sold.

I want to focus on pieces having some meaning for me. I’m interested in extending what I currently do – this includes pieces being brighter and bolder. Pieces do not have to be  functional in a ceramics daily-use sense.

The glaze test piece will be useful for providing some of my palette.

My recent interest in 3D software and printing will be of relevance for exploring how to glaze some pieces – I won’t be using the software for making pieces for 3D printing. I think that colouring a 3D screen-based image should sometimes prove useful (in addition to 2D sketches) for exploring and altering ideas before committing to actual glazing and firing. Particularly if it is a more complex piece.

Basically my aim is putting time into taking my work forward, and avoiding distractions. While the expression ‘taking some time out’ comes to mind, it is actually more about putting some time in for what I really want to do.

Pieces made on Sandy Brown course

Sandy’s course was great. Here are some of the pieces I made, seen in her studio.

The course is about creativity (ceramics happens to be the medium). It also gave me a chance to work on some ideas solidly, without interruption. Some of the ideas seen here will no doubt emerge and evolve in my makings as time goes on.

This is a course I’d highly recommend.

Exploring 3D Software and 3D Printing



This lidded ring box is a work in progress and is based on a piece initially formed in clay which was then scanned in. It is being altered and coloured using 3D software with the end destination being 3D printing. The next stage needed right now is to split this into two using the software.

This is the first piece that I will ever have 3D printed, so I’ll be interested in how it turns out. I’m fascinated by the idea of a relatively large amount of effort going into the initial creative aspects of 3D pieces,but then the potential being there to reproduce the finished item on demand. My workflow is that I’ve sketched ideas and formed this piece in clay (standard steps for me as a ceramic artist), scanned it it, and am now completing it using 3D sculpting software). The final step will be uploading a file and getting the item actually printed.

I’m planning on keeping this workflow for future pieces, even though it is quite labour intensive and time consuming. I’m interested in pieces continuing to have gone through a hand-formed stage. I’m after the expressiveness of those processes and am then also using sculpting 3D software rather than precision software. Lots of the 3D pieces currently available to buy on the internet are mathematically based mini-pieces of precision engineering. While a bit of me admires that sort of work, another bit also finds it a bit sterile. This is my personal taste: I am interested in keeping the human element and expressiveness in all that I do.

At this stage there are obviously huge advantages to me in using commercial printing, which is what I’ll be doing: the quality is high; they do the keeping up with technology; and it is vastly cheaper in time and money than trying to take on any of this aspect of the process myself.

3D technology, and where it is currently up to, means that though I have coloured this piece brightly here, when it is 3D printed, the colours will actually end up much softer (less saturated).

A final area of interest in all this to me, is just how rapidly 3D software and the possibilities are progressing. I played with some software a few years ago without producing any finished items, and the range of software and ease of use are clearly evolving rapidly, as are the printing possibilities.


Test Piece Out of Glaze Firing


The test piece I’ve been working on is now finished and shown here. I’m pleased with it.

I like where there is glaze movement and where the glaze is varied. These are glazes over glazes so a 10 by 10 square shows 100 possibilities – and there is a lot more than that on this piece! These results can be tweaked by how the glazes are applied: evenly or not, thickly or not; on a steeply sloping part of the pot or not… combine that with design and there are a great many possibilities coming from this reference piece.

This piece took a long time to do, but I think it is well worth it. Now it’s a matter of looking closely and choosing bits that I feel a response to. Everything is documented on the pot, so it is easy to see what the glazes were, how they were applied and in what order.

For a sense of scale: the pot is 43 cm (17″) across. It exactly filled my kiln. I do have offers of borrowing space in other kilns if I want to work at a larger scale… but that would be for another day. Right now I’m keen to get some glaze combinations onto pots. I tend to use multiple glaze areas on a piece, so it won’t be just a single glaze-on-glaze used to cover a complete piece.

Off to a Sandy Brown Course on Sunday


That’s Sandy and some of her work. That’s also one of her large paintings behind her.

The course starts on Monday and goes through to the following Saturday. I also attended one of her courses about fifteen years ago, when I was doing thrown work. How lucky am I?

Feet on Handmade Items


Every pot has a foot (the bit which it stands on), and some have feet – more than one foot. This image shows some work in progress with a few feet variations. Feet may not be very visible when the pot is in use, but they are there and should contribute to the pot as a whole.

I like the feet on the shallow tray on the top left, they go with the form. I also expect that these feet will support the form against excessive sagging or warping in the stoneware firing in which the clay becomes slightly soft under the extreme temperatures involved.

For the pot on the top right I like the irregularity seen at the left hand side, but not so much the regularity of the right hand side. The holes visible in the feet are so that the tray can be hung on a wall if wanted. I’m not so happy with their position – they are too visible – and I’ve started some pieces since these ones where the holes are where the feet join the rest of the pot, and that is better.

These two pieces will all go forward (they will be finished), and I feel I’m learning from the pieces I’m making at the minute.

Clocks Video

Work in Progress

I’m in the middle of a whole lot of glaze tests, but I can glaze the piece on the left before the tests are finished, using the same glazes and overlaps as shown in the piece to the right. I am very happy with this decision.

This is a case where I can reuse instead start over or reinvent.

Slow and Steady Wins the Race: Cumulative Progress

After a period away from the pottery, I’ve managed to ease back in. Half an hour or more per day over quite a few days is significantly more than no hours per day over several days (mathematically, the second is an infinite multiple of the first).

So, these images of the same pot show that even a little time regularly spent can begin to make a difference. At this rate, at some point, this test piece will be finished, fired and useful! (What you are seeing is me building up glazes under-and-over glazes.)

Test Piece and Uncertainty


This is the test piece I am currently working on.

This test piece is a test of several different aspects of my evolving practice:

  1. A new smoother clay
  2. The maximum size to fit inside my studio kiln (50cm diameter, 40cm height)
  3. Glaze combinations (glazes under and over others)
  4. A new – for me – forming method with a number of soft slabs joined without slip, to follow the form of a hump mould.

I hope – but don’t know – that some of the glaze tests will look great, and that the piece will survive the glaze firing, and that everything will work out just fine. But of course, these being tests, I don’t know yet. I just need to accept the uncertainty and keep working… my experience says all will work out okay, my fears say otherwise…

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