A recent school project that I got to use my illustration skills on! The task was quite different from what I’m used to doing – I typically stick to characters and bold lines, but in this case I was designing environments and patterns and colour! So it was a great exercise. I’m super pleased with how it turned out!
For our Body Interface class, the concept for our project was that we were going to create an interactive performance system based on Dai minority dance. We had a member of our team who was trained in this style of dance, and another of our team members implemented our idea by programming it in Max MSP. I got to fill the role of artist!
The style of dance we were going to work with (truly beautiful):
Our idea was to live-capture the dancer on camera and convert their form into a silhouette that would be part of a virtual set (kind of a “living painting”). Their silhouette would show a pattern through it symbolizing that they are embodying an element of the Dai culture. Our software would also track the gestures of the dancer and change the set to match which movements they are currently doing.
I created the art for three different sets, working with the themes Fish, Peacock and Blossoms. I tried to make the art inspired by traditional Chinese art, but not try to pretend that it IS traditional Chinese art – I kind of interpreted it through my style. I tend to be wary of appropriating elements from cultures that aren’t my own because I’m afraid I’ll totally butcher it and offend someone, but my team member helped by providing reference photos and feedback and approved my images. So, great!
Here are the sets:
These are placeholder silhouettes I used to help me compose the graphics, the silhouettes in the final piece were dynamically generated from the performer. This is probably my favourite set out of the three! The orange & purple pattern is inspired by this dance costume.
For the final sets I applied paper, watercolour & pastel filters to make them look a bit less “computery”, but here is the peacock one with no filters.
It took quite a few tries for me to get the colour composition for the above set – everything kept being too light-coloured and the figures weren’t standing out from the background enough. I wanted a light blue background for the sky, but I had to darken it enough and lighten the figures enough so that they would be different enough. But it still looks “light” because of the greenish hue and in comparison to some of the darker elements on the page. TRICKERY! An overall Levels adjustment laying in Photoshop helped me bump up the contrast as well.
Here are the underlying patterns for the different sets in full: