Creative tools of the trade


Shotopop is the pebble beach pixel playground of Casper Franken, latte guzzling, medium format film collector and Carin Standford, sun seeking seamstress and mocha manic. It is the memory of an old man and the imagination of a little girl doodled on the surfaces of lost diaries, dirty desktops and dusty windows. While still a toddler in the general scheme of illustration agencies, Shotopop is finding its feet for the first time and spending many hours playing with lots of new and exciting toys, discovering ways to use them in exactly the opposite to what they are intended for.


Toys of the trade

In a world of “proper jobs” where number crunching and form filling is considered the epitome of success, it’s nice to be able to explore and create in a space where absolute wrongs and rights don’t exist. Unless you’re talking about the coffee of course. The beauty of our profession is found floating in the millions of shades of grey that can be sculpted in this black and white world if you have the right tools. So it’s only fair that we big up our toys.

As illustrators and designers there is a massive variety of toys we get to utilise every day in order to get our “work” done. These range from the obvious computers (Macs of course) with their various programs, plug-ins and strap-ons to the more exotic old fashioned classic cameras, primitive adhesives, scissors and crinkly bits, the odd needle and thread and all varieties of vintage trinkets.

Starting with the pride and joy of illustrator’s toys, we have the Macintosh. Whether it be of the book, pro, air, mini or ‘i’ variety, the Mac is not only a design icon in itself but also the most useful and powerful toy to push, pull, warp, manipulate and create imagery with. It has an air of secrecy surrounding it, which only substantiates its reign in the realm of cool. How many of us have waited in anticipation for the next Apple Inc. product to be released - whether a zealot of, keen listener of keynote speeches or just an unsuspecting shopper probing the Apple store, most of us can’t wait to see what Steve Jobs brings out next.

Then there are all sorts of tasty baked goods at the coffee shop counter when it comes to programs to play with on our macs. Ranging from the all in one Photoshop stop; layered with rich creamy image editing tools with a dollop of filters and a smidgen of 3D; to the gooey vectory goodness of Illustrator. Then there are the delights of Flash and Aftereffects which make our pretty pictures crawl, walk, run, skip and jump to life and onto the computer and television screens of the world to entertain and amuse.

Onto the topic of plug-ins and strap-ons. Scattered across the room is a multitude of useful bits and bobs strapped to the USB cables giving them life. Take the ever-elusive Wacom pen. They supply you with a stand so that you know where to find it when you need it, but for some reason, it always seems to go walkies. Once pinned down however, the Wacom pen and tablet is a brilliant piece of digital canvas that offers the flexibility of pen and paper combined with the speed of digital processing. And with the swift progression towards touchscreen computing, led by the likes of the iPhone and Wacom’s Cintiq, it seems only a matter of time before the Apple-Wacom mini Pro one-big-ass-screen becomes the next toy to have - but that’s purely conjecture.

Stepping just a touch back from the screen reveals the wonderful world of photography. From digital dinkies to mammoth SLRs, each has its place and purpose. The iconic casings, plastic lens witchcraft and fumbling film of cult classic Lomographic cameras have a real lo-fi magic that reveals all sorts of quirky and unpredictably colourful mishaps. The Lomography website is fast becoming a cult in its own right where you can become a member and upload your own photos to add to the thousands already published. Becoming a part of the Lomo experience is like opening a treasure trove of lovely photographic calamities and befriending the imperfect lovechildren of box cameras and homemade pinholes with their gaffer-taped fisheye lenses.

Delving even further into the archaic non-technological world, we turn to the trusted art of ink and paper. These toys of the trade still impart a fascinating and alluring quality to projects that is near impossible to recreate in any other way. The use of scissors, textured papers, fabrics, glitter, glue and even the toddler’s favourites in play dough and crayons creates a fertile mine of opportunities for mangling, contorting, plastering and prettifying up all sorts of wonderful creations that embody the artist’s personal touch.

Not only do illustrators and designers get to play with a wide assortment of toys, but we also get to make them. There’s the well-known vinyl toy craze made by and for an industry obsessed with playing for the rest of their lives. From collectable plastic to cardboard do-it-yourselves like NaniBird and Speakerdog toys ranging from ages 3 to strictly for adults. It’s no wonder non-creative folks are jealous – because we never grow up; we just grow into newer and more exciting toys. So let us embrace adulthood with the toys of a new designer generation. Good night all ye Peter Pans.

For more information about Shotopop, visit their very cool website.


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