Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Up Helly Aa in Three Dimensions!

Last week I picked up an unusual brief as part of my work at Shetland Arts: Design a map of Lerwick for visitors of Up Helly Aa.

Up Helly Aa is a fire festival which lands on the last Tuesday of January every year. This map is to give a bit of guidance for visitors to Shetland, and part of Shetland Arts print marketing for their annual Fiery Sessions concert at the Garrison Theatre on Up Helly Aa day, and also the Hop night concert at Mareel on Wednesday.

Up Helly Aa season is a funny time of year in Shetland and it's something which I have mixed emotions about especially since living in Bristol. It plays an important part of Shetland life, while lighting up the dark miserable winter months.
Short turnaround time

I honestly love when a fun project has a deadline. It enabled me to go away and quickly spend some time trying out a few ideas before making a decision on the final concept and getting stuck in.

Above: a few different early screen shots. progressing through render style and lighting. And a glimpse at a working example of how to add pin pointers for place names.

3D Lerwick
Over the last year in my own practice I've been using 3D software to make artwork for print. I'm interested in how digital 3D objects exist in different ways as printed physical artworks. Read more about previous experiments.

As a child (and even still now) I was fascinated by models and 3D maps and representations of towns. They're like little alternative worlds and toys, and I was keen to get this aesthetic across in this map. As a child I also loved the official Up Helly Aa route map diagram in the programme - which has been the same for many many years!

The original brief was to make a theme park style map, so my starting point to refine the style was to look for some source imagery (above).

Visiting the halls
I had a checklist of places to include in the map, much like the squads on Up Helly Aa day go around guising, I had to go around drawing each venue one by one using reference imagery from the internet - since I can't just look out my window!

Approaching projects as an artist/designer is a little tricky sometimes. The map needs to be functional as a navigational tool, but the style lends itself to be fun and abstract. To work like this I always saw the roads and land as the 'untouchable' elements whereas, the buildings and objects are where we can have fun. I meant them to be fun representations of the place, rather than trying to achieve unobtainable accuracy.

Being on a tight deadline I had to work really fast - I felt simplicity was important. I'm by no means pro at using Blender which is my adopted Open Source software of choice. I took the opportunity to learn new processes. Investing some time in learning more efficient ways of drawing.

Some elements can be copied and redefined for purpose to save time. I also learned valuable new shortcuts thanks to this guide.

Light the torch
Colours and textures were mapped to the objects - some chosen to represent the material and some chosen artistically to root us in the unreal toy like world.

Blender has some built in physics to represent cloth and fire/smoke that I hadn't come across before. When they're a bit tricky to get right they give some great results.

Hope you like it and if you happen to be in Shetland, you can pickup a printed copy from Mareel!

Leave a comment or get in touch via Twitter @jonosandilands