Art & Design in The British Film # 7: John Bryan

Continuing a series about Art Directors in the British film industry up to 1948, when the book containing these articles was published.

This chapter deals with the remarkable John Bryan. (1911 – 1969)
(Click on the thumbnail images to enlarge them)

thumbnail of Blanche Fury
Blanche Fury 1948

John Bryan’s work shows him to be a designer of the romantic school.

His drawings are always full of vitality, while his handling of light and shade and his distorted perspective show a nice disregard for convention which is also characteristic of his own personality.
His visualization of an idea is all that matters, and he spares neither himself nor anyone else in his attempts to achieve it.

thumbnail of Great Expectations
Great Expectations 1946
Watch the Great Expectations trailer.

His backgrounds to ‘The Night of the Fire’, made by Desmond Hurst in 1947 first showed that he was an outstanding young artist and one of the most promising designers in the British film industry.
The cameraman on this production was the great Gunthe Krampf, who has been associated with some of the most memorable film productions in the last thirty years.

thumbnail of Great Expectations
Great Expectations 1946

However good a designer may be, unless the cameraman working together with him is also an artist, the audience will never appreciate the value of his work. Today, Bryan is again lucky in his association with Guy Green. Their work together as designer and cameraman on ‘Great Expectations’ was a memorable experience.

thumbnail of Oliver Twist
Oliver Twist 1948

Like Carrick and Junge, John Bryan began his experience in the theatre. At sixteen he was apprenticed for two years to Arthur and Lemaitre, scenic artists, who at that time were busy painting scenery for Bryan’s father who was producing for Daly’s. Then he was with Alick Johnston’s Scenic Studios, where he met Laurence Irving, an artist who was to have such an influence upon his film career.

thumbnail of Oliver Twist
Oliver Twist 1948

Irving’s theatre production of ‘The Good Companions’ was being painted at Johnston’s studio when he took an interest in young John’s work and offered him a job as his personal assistant, so off he went to the lovely atmosphere of Irving’s Mill at Whitstable. With Irving he worked on his first film, ‘Diamond Cut Dianiond’ and later on ‘Colonel Blood’ at Sound City, where he was later to work as an Art Director, getting £7 10s. a week turning out ‘quickies’ until the studio closed in 1940.

When William Cameron Menzies was looking for assistants for ‘The Shape of Things to Come’, Bryan and Frank Wells joined him, and from there he ‘drifted’ on to Vincent Korda’s staff.

Following various jobs as Art Director on small films, he joined Pascal to become Art Director on ‘Pygmalion’, a production which Laurence Irving designed.

During the war camouflage claimed him for a couple of years, then he was back at film work designing ‘The Adventures of Tartu’ for M.G.M. (in England), followed by ‘Millions Like Us’ and ‘Fanny by Gaslight’.

Then came that great production of ‘Caesar and Cleopatra’, and here he again linked up with Pascal as his Art Director. Oliver Messel was responsible for decor and costumes while Heckroth and Bellan also worked on the production, a fine group of artists all working together.

In 1945 he renewed his association with Tony Havelock-Allen, for whom he had worked in the old days at Sound City and, together with David Lean and Guy Green, they made ‘Great Expectations’. On this film, however, Bryan worked as Production Designer and Shingleton was his Art Director.

thumbnail of Oliver Twist
Oliver Twist 1948
(You can see this exact shot in this Trailer.)

‘Great Expectations’ was followed by ‘Oliver Twist’, a picture which was admirably suited to Bryan’s love of the romantic. On this picture he has not separated the responsibilities of Production Designer from that of Art Director and to my mind the result is even better.

How to Turn a Single Sheet of Paper Into a Multi Page Notebook

I believe I first read about this incredibly useful piece of folded up paper on the 43Folders website a couple of years ago.
43 Folders is a site devoted to Getting Things Done, the David Allen book about `The Art of Stress-Free Productivity´

In essence, it’s a way of using a single sheet of paper that would not be very handy in its naturally flat and somewhat floppy state and folding it very simply (and applying one cut, or a neat tear) into an eight page booklet that’s an absolutely ideal size for simple note taking and jotting.

I’ve been using it ever since I first clapped eyes on it for shopping lists, noting filenames and dimensions, storing URLs and phone numbers, tiny sketches, and loads of other little scribblings throughout the day. When the booklet is full, I’ll transcribe anything valuable into a more permanent record, and chuck the little notebook in the recycling bin.

Aside from its sheer usefulness as an unobtrusive, always handy pad, its real attraction for me is that I can make it from a piece of paper that has already been used on one side. I have to confess that despite my best ecological intentions, I’ll often print out a one sided page of paper for some fairly trivial purpose, and then later try to salve my conscience by (at least) recycling that sheet.

With this little folding trick, however, I can use the second side of an already printed sheet and give it a second useful life.

Revisiting the PocketrMod website a couple of days ago, I noticed that they have implemented a terrific new interface that presents a huge array of page layouts for you to configure into any combination you fancy. It’s a brilliant piece of web design. (Thinks: There must be some AJAX at work behind the scenes.)

Folding Guide
(Click to enlarge the thumbnails )

Click 'n' Drag
Click it ‘n’ Drag it.

Click 'n' Drag
Drag the page template over to the target page.

Storyboard page template
The most useful page template of them all, from the animator’s point of view.

Learn Morse Code!
PocketMod contains many useful page layouts that you never knew you wanted. Fancy learning Morse code, anyone?

There’s even a downloadable version of the program for Windows and Mac. However, it doesn’t yet include the ability to print on metric A4 paper, so if you live in Europe, stick with the web based version until the next upgrade of the software.

I guarantee that you will find this gizmo useful, especially when you remember that it is free!! If you really like it, it’s OK to give the authors a donation. :)


Ma Jun – `New China Series´ Works in Porcelain

There are some delicious layers of irony permeating the work of Ma Jun.
He’s a young artist who was born in 1974 in Quingdao, China, and he graduated from the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing, in 2003.

Casting and moulding in porcelain is demanding work, and as far as I can see, Ma Jun has had a few battles with his material. Glazed clay does not have the same plastic qualities as the, er plastics he is imitating.

That said, Ma Jun’s work shows that there are some powerful cultural conflicts continuing to work between tradition and modernism in today’s China.

Television, 2005

Television, 2007

Coca Cola Bottles 1

Television, 2007

Car, 2007

Here’s a link to Ma Jun’s work in the L.A.Gallery in Frankfurt, Germany

Google the rest!

Goodbye Tony, and Thanks for Trashing Our Liberties

Taking Liberties
Click to enlarge

He left number 10 Downing Street today, for the last time. I heard a BBC radio report that people actually cried. And they were government ministers! They must know that something even worse is coming. Gulp.

The film `Taking Liberties´ was released here in the UK a couple of weeks ago.

Taking Liberties

There’s a trailer here, and the comprehensive website for the film is here.

Go and see the film while you have the freedom to do so.

Daniel Cacouault’s Exhibition: The Story of Bluebeard

Daniel Cacouault's Exhibition

Wahey! Daniel’s private view is on Tuesday the 26th of June at the 3B Gallery, 92 Rue St Martin, Paris 75004. (France) Nearest Metro: Hôtel de Ville or Châtelet.
I’m not sure how long the exhibition lasts, there doesn’t seem to be a weblink to the gallery.

UPDATE: Meanwhile, here’s an invitation for you to download and print. :)

Daniel Cacouault's invitation

3 More Gobelins students’ Anneçy shorts (Updated)

Each day of the Anneçy Animated Film Festival, a new pre-screening short made by groups of students from the Gobelins school is released.

Here are the three latest shorts:

`Keep Walking´
by Carlo Vogele, Antonin Herveet, Sophia Chevrier, Cécile Francoia, and Leah Ordonia

`Anima Facta Est´
Anima Facta Est
by Lucie Arnissolle, Maël Gourmelen, Léah F. Ordonia, Célia Riviere, Setpen Vuillemin

And thirdly: `Chronos 1.0´
Chronos 1.0
By Wassim Boutales, Yann Boyer, Vincent Mahe, and Bruno Mangyoku.


UPDATE! The final 2 student shorts have been released:-

by Stéphane Vlavonou, Sébastien Rouxel, Stéphane Chung, Nicolas Rubio, and Nima Azarba

Emile and the Fabulous Little Gentlemen.
by Jean-Nicolas Arnoux, Tom Haugomat, Charles-André Lefebvre, and Louis Tardivier.

Art & Design in The British Film # 6: Ralph Brinton

This is the sixth chapter in the ongoing series about Art Directors and Production Designers in British Film up to 1948, and the featured artist in this excerpt from the book is Ralph Brinton (1895 – 1975)

“In its widest sense I would say that my favourite medium as a designer is the moving picture provided by cinematography”.

This Man In Paris
`This Man In Paris´ 1939
Odd Man Out
`Odd Man Out´ 1946
Uncle Silas
`Uncle Silas´ 1947

The text follows after the fold: Continue reading Art & Design in The British Film # 6: Ralph Brinton

`La Grande Arche´- Gobelins students’ Anneçy short (Updated)

Annecy Animated Film Festival Poster
The poster for the 2007 Anneçy International Animated Film Festival (FIFA)

Groups of students at the Gobelins school in Paris produce short films for the Anneçy Animated Film Festival as part of their final year film projects.

These short animated films are used as interstitials in between the major programmed screenings in the festival, and for many people who cannot be in Anneçy, they are eagerly awaited.

The first of these films to be made public is `La Grande Arche´, by Jean-Michel Boesch, Quentin Baillieux, Manuel Tanon-Tchi, and Sébastien Vovau.

It’s a high speed frenetic dash, with some great poses and distorted extremes in the animation.

(Click the thumbnails to enlarge)
Frame from La Grande Arche

Frame from La Grande Arche

Frame from La Grande Arche

Frame from La Grande Arche

These four students contribute to a multi user blog that shows many of their illustrations. There are several mini (Flash) galleries at top right of this blog.
(You might be annoyed by the little javascript that forbids right click, and their use of nicknames also makes it difficult to see who did what.)

I haven’t yet found a specific “making of” website yet, but these things often surface after the heat of the deadline has cooled down.


There’s a hilarious Annecy short due for release in a couple of days, called Chronos 1, about time travel.
A couple of sneek peek screengrabs:

Chronos 1 Screengrab
(Click to enlarge)

Chronos 1 Screengrab

I won’t do a spoiler, you’ll just have to wait until the film is released on the 15th of June.

Good Evening from Isaac Levitan (Updated)

The Watermill, Sunset
The Watermill, Sunset, 1880 (Click the pic)

This beautiful painting by Isaac Levitan broke surface at Sotheby’s recently and accrued a bit more value. Over half a million quid, actually.

The illumination by slanting afternoon or early evening light is a motif that Levitan often employs for its wistful, melancholic qualities.

At this time in his short life he was feeling almost happy for once, so I suppose that the light in this canvas is more significant than the dark. (Read the notes after the fold.)

The more I look at Levitan’s work, the more it strikes me that although he is rightly celebrated as one of the greatest Russian landscape painters (if not THE greatest), he also shows some very strong symbolist tendencies.

Over and over again Levitan incorporates the signs of transition and progression into his pictures. Have a look at how often he includes a body of water that is equipped with a shaky or unreliable means of crossing it. There are bridges, jetties, boats and walkways that lead the viewer onto a distant and frequently golden farther shore.

To my mind ( and I might just be projecting here, so don’t take this conjecture too seriously) Levitan seems to be reaching for some sort of salvation or validation that always seems just out of his reach.

Take notice of the evening sunlight and the risky looking causeways that lead towards it in the following series of pictures.

By the deep waters
By The Deep Waters

The Quiet Abode
The Quiet Abode

Evening Bells
Evening Bells

Over Eternal Rest
Over Eternal Rest

Study for The Lake
Study for “The Lake”

The above picture was a study for the one, below, which was unfortunately left unfinished at the time of his premature death.

The Lake
The Lake.

UPDATE Andrei Riabovitchev has posted a couple of portfolios of Levitan’s work on his blog, RusArt here and here.

Continue reading Good Evening from Isaac Levitan (Updated)