Thursday, November 11, 2010

Birthday suit.

On August 30th I gathered together a nude model, two men with cameras and a tea-making heat-overseeing logistics man to create what was a spur-of-the-moment idea, triggered by a request for some voluntary art by an American client.

Sometimes, I'm amazed how far people will go to help when they're inspired by something. A large American cancer charity asked me to create an illustration for their new fund raising website, through a creative agency (a previous client), to expand on the theme of 'birthdays'. Now I've been involved in tattoos for a number of years, just lately doing a few more, and the first idea that occurred to me was 'I have to draw on a body!' Because, of course, what is cancer all about? The body, and its survival and battles when invaded by cancer.

This of course meant a photographic approach rather than one on paper. Which meant I needed a cameraman, or two. Michael at Zensplash, who takes care of all things web and screen on the Inkymole team, volunteered immediately. And then I needed a model. Up popped Danielle, who's done a bit of modeling before but is more usually found in the worlds of books, languages and hardcore academic debate. Since we decided to make a film of the work in progress too, it also needed stop-motion photographs and filming. Step forward Andy.

With the studio still at the stage of being empty with underfloor-heated concrete, the space under our big skylight was ideal for the drawing. So armed with lights, camera and some serious tea action, we began.

I drew on Danielle using a handful of surgical skin markers bought from a medical supplier, which gave exactly the right purplish hue, but would clean off with relative ease (though Danielle would be the ultimate judge of that). The theme was 'Birthdays' - based on the concept that the cancer charity allows cancer sufferers to celebrate more of them - and the particular quote I'd been asked to illustrate was its founding in 1946 and the amount of money it had raised since - lots of figures and words, but I concentrated too on what are actually the very beautiful shapes and structures of cancer cells; divorcing myself from their devastating nature, I looked closely at their form and construction, organic and creeping, and built those into the illustration.

As it turned out, the illustration took an unintended 'clothing' shape, which if I'd had more than a day I'd like to have extended further across and down the body - but I hope I'll do this again so I can try that next time. The resulting film, painstakingly edited by Michael and with a completely charming bespoke soundtrack by our friend 47trees, is destined for the website, and very large prints of the photographs shown below will go on sale to raise money for the charity. A thoroughly satisfying day with an experimental but beautiful outcome, and one which we'll remember for all sorts of reasons.

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