[Project 2: Forrest Gump] Despondency, Eternity, Anxiety, and Cats

While I originally contemplated movies of different genres, I eventually decided on Japanese animated youth drama films just to have some form of unity. All in all, though, my works follow a more chronological sequence, in that I learned various lessons along the way on techniques (mostly by discreetly looking at other poeple’s stuff and Googling “surrealism”), and tried many different things along the way: those which worked reappeared in later pieces, and those which didn’t were eliminated.


Summary: A sense of helplessness in not knowing what to do, mixed with hope for the better. Both animals often appear in intertwining pairs, where the downward-swimming fish symbolises the involution of the spirit, the snake, the succumb to venomous depravity. Yet, while the fish dives towards the soiled earth, the clarity of heaven still drips as a form of hope that things can improve.

This was the first one I started on, and probably one of the more experimented-on ones as a result.

ver1.0 was the original, and already had some element of the dichotomy I was trying to present. The earth was much more cluttered, with various things which are common sources of anxiety (e.g. clock=time, heart=relationships). Mathematical statements (all with no solutions) were clipped on to try and further that idea. ver0.9 didn’t have the stroke around the fishes/snakes, but it was added when Joy mentioned that the focus wasn’t clear enough. The common consensus was that too much was happening, and looking at the others during the group consultation also made me realise that I didn’t really consider the borders. Also, a perfunctory look at surrealist artists made me reconsider the usage of a meaningful background with a meaningful foreground, mostly because blue cloudy skies seemed to be quite a common theme to diminish the background and bring out the foreground.

From ver2.0 onwards, the background of human figures (to suggest uncertainty on what to do) was omitted, and I tried to focus on using shapes with clear directional outlines. Little variation happened between ver2.0 and ver2.7 in the general shape of the intertwining fish and snake to suggest a balance between 2 elements. ver2.5 is a sad remnant of when I was attempting to incorporate basic shapes to unify and differentiate my 4 pieces. But I couldn’t make it work, so I gave up (that’s both a Celtic cross and a coda, incidentally). Dhanu suggested to make everything line up though, so I figured might as well! (Also, I half-toned one half to try and contrast more.)

Summary: Even if our bodies decay, our existence is connected to the world for all time and space simply because we once were. The worm destroys and remakes our bodies to rejuvenate the earth, rising over the time and space of different parts of the world in different eras. Butterflies come from the worm, representing the choices one makes in his life through the idea of the butterfly effect.

This was the second I worked on, and was also vaguely annoying (but not as much because I hadn’t put the same amount of intricacy as for the first).

ver1.0 was also a remnant of my attempt to use basic shapes. I wanted that posture more than any possible meaning associated with the statue, but I eventually figured there was really little purpose in putting a human figure and it wasn’t subtle enough. Also, Joy mentioned that half-toning distorted the background and made it difficult to make out details, which I later tried to resolve by using different half-tone settings and taking at least one building out in its full glory. (There’s also the stroke, which was again an attempt to draw focus. I later learn that this is not a great way of defining focus, but that’ll be for later.)

ver2.0 onwards is all very similar, but with the figure swapped for the worm. This is also due to the earlier realisation that using the shape of the object to provide definition was good. The worm was originally cracked to suggest the breaking of the body, but Joy mentioned that it made the worm very unwormlike, and thus I toned it down (to the point of omission). I also just scaled down the buildings and darkened the butterflies with Threshold to try and define the focus more, although the eventual result still wasn’t sufficient, it seems. (I DID learn that Threshold was very useful for creating focus, though, which I applied in small amounts.)

Summary: If your cat is missing, it could just be that it’s among the stars.

This was really the easiest of them all, somehow. I think it was the simplicity of the narrative, added with the fact that I don’t really have any particular emotion towards the quote that made me particularly want to show anything.

Halfway through making this, it was gently rejected, but I just wanted to finish it anyway because it was cute. This was also my first attempt at intentional and overdone implied lines, and absolute use of half-tones to slightly blur everything that isn’t the focus (and binary colour for the focus). The final comment was that the star on the side looked uncomfortably cut off. It was supposed to be slightly out of the frame, but perhaps I should have moved it in a little more to make it look more intentional.

Summary: To be stripped of your voice is like becoming absent, and for everyone to be happy means that everyone despises you and wishes you don’t exist. The body is fading away, the skeletal spine suggesting decay while the head, the location of your mouth, is replaced by the ink splattered paper. That the paper is shredded and blotched indicates that your words can’t reach anyone, while the scissors represent people who all despise you, their blades pointed at you. Also, there are various scissors to suggest all kinds of people.

This was a headache in that it was the quote I resonated the most with, and thus the quote I was most trapped by, because there was a feeling I really wanted to bring across, but I didn’t want work to be defined by my personal feelings because that always makes it hard on everyone. In the end, I couldn’t make anything satisfactory, so I gave up and went with my feelings.

ver0.2 and ver0.4 don’t even get to 1.0 simply because it wasn’t much of a composition as opposed to a cluster of ideas. Again, the triangle was an attempt at basic shapes, with the ink splatters meant to suggest blood and hurt. The scrabble tiles was a link to the idea of “voice” again, an attempt at breaking the regular rhythm to create focus. The focus would then be letters which form words with multiple meanings/multiple words: in this case, L I V E / E V I L (I couldn’t think of anything better, so I ended up giving up on this one). The pierrot was an attempt to link that to emotion, where the clown lets himself be ridiculed, to the happiness of others (it was an idea from a song). But, again, I generally dislike directly representing human faces in surrealism so I axed it.

ver1.0 was me deciding to go with the ink splatters as the most aesthetically pleasing (and gut feel appealing) to me, and trying to go with the idea of paper as a representation of the voice and feelings. It’s the same as for the final, where wrecked paper = failure to communicate, but now revolving around ideas linked to paper, such as that of stationery (the scissors) to represent “everyone” and the idea of injury infliction (because scissors is sharp. and wins paper). The comment from Joy was that it was too abstract, though, so… Against my better judgment, I linked it back to personal feelings such that it became a human figure. Also, I reduced it to a single paper because many of my previous pieces had problems with “overdoing it”, and I figured 1 paper was enough. Similar to the 3rd piece, I used halftones, and tried to use white to define the focus: consequently, everything else consists of darker shades of grey.

The 4th composition is unusually high res because I edited it in after forgetting to photograph 🙁

What annoyed me most for this project was the number of minor issues I didn’t even think would be issues being issues. A splatter (pastel?) I can’t even recognise appeared on my bag on Sunday night and no amount of detergent nor scrubbing could get it off, I decided to print at home because my 4th composition still needed work even on Friday but my printer evidently cannot print tones of black properly, and printed all my pieces slanted so I had to use the paper cutter to adjust the sides, then the paper cutter kept cutting off little corners/didn’t cut perfectly to the edge. Learning from my previous mistake of being slightly late, I woke up at 4am to prepare everything properly, but it still didn’t work out, miraculously. I’m not sure what to make of this, because it could be me being an utter failure, or just rotten luck.

Something interesting that was mentioned was from Brendan, that there was a lot of animal imagery. I hadn’t even thought about it, and I suppose if I had I would have tried to link the 4th composition too. A human figure may have been good in that humans are considered the only species capable of “thought”, and thus that form of paranoid anxiety, but perhaps something like a fly (I can’t remember the exact one, but there’re quite a few poems about killing flies and the poet’s feelings towards the act) might have been interesting to work with.

Links where I got the images (not all images in the links were used in the final designs)

  • http://www.ba-bamail.com/content.aspx?emailid=22455
  • http://www.thisiscolossal.com/2014/09/siamese-fighting-fish-visarute-angkatavanich/
  • https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Cross
  • https://www.quia.com/jg/2763564list.html
  • http://www.berkshireeagle.com/stories/the-milk-snake-a-case-of-mistaken-identity,510827
  • http://flowerpictures.us/forget_me_not_pictures.html
  • https://www.banggood.com/2-Layers-Embroidery-Lace-Pearl-Beaded-Edge-Bridal-Wedding-Elbow-Veil-With-Comb-p-1018671.html
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Papilio_ulysses
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viceroy_(butterfly)
  • http://www.pbs.org/newshour/tag/monarch-butterfly/
  • https://www.easyweddings.com.au/articles/butterfly-release/
  • https://aeon.co/videos/sand-can-be-lava-coral-bones-even-excrement-what-s-on-your-favorite-beach
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sand
  • https://www.hammondfarms.com/products/sands-and-gravels/beach-sand/
  • https://www.pexels.com/search/sand/
  • https://www.pexels.com/search/sand/
  • https://therish03.wordpress.com/2013/03/11/looking-at-sand-dunes-sand-sculpture-in-detail-for-reference/
  • https://www.123rf.com/photo_26972498_closeup-of-frosted-glass-texture.html
  • http://www.soultravelmultimedia.com/2013/07/24/glass-tutorials-textures-icons-photoshop-styles-vectors-and-more/
  • https://www.123rf.com/photo_8375877_detailed-texture-of-transparent-broken-glass-with-cracks.html
  • https://www.walldevil.com/broken-glass-texture-wallpaper-811689/
  • https://www.videoblocks.com/video/3d-tech-grid-structure-sv7i4wymliw1dpx0g/
  • https://www.videoblocks.com/video/abstract-3d-tunnel-from-a-grid-loop-bb9f4ef/
  • https://www.dreamstime.com/stock-illustration-grid-vortex-tunnel-black-white-d-image46299026
  • http://www.travelphotoreport.com/2012/01/27/great-wall-china/
  • http://www.easysync.us/china-map-of-great-wall.html
  • https://www.getyourguide.com/great-wall-of-china-l525/
  • http://articles.pk/ancient-architecture.html
  • https://www.citelighter.com/art-architecture/architecture/knowledgecards/architecture-of-ancient-egypt
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Matsumoto_Castle05s5s4592.jpg
  • http://www.daydreaminganddecor.com/image/architectural-styles-in-ancient-india-25/
  • https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cleve-van_construction-tower-babel.jpg
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Egyptian_pyramids
  • http://kogallery.com/page9/https://alchetron.com/Castle-of-Sand-93237-W
  • http://www.accucutcraft.com/circle-1.html
  • https://www.ethos3.com/2013/09/presentations-and-the-butterfly/
  • https://gallery.yopriceville.com/Free-Clipart-Pictures/Butterflies-PNG/Beautiful_Blue_and_Brown_Butterfly_PNG_Clipart
  • https://www.aliexpress.com/item/Hot-100Pc-Burlywood-Color-Wooden-Alphabet-Scrabble-Tiles-Black-Letters-Numbers-Toys-Crafts-Baby-Kids-Educational/32757918486.html
  • https://www.aliexpress.com/store/product/100Pcs-Set-Educational-Burlywood-Color-Wooden-Alphabet-Scrabble-Tiles-DIY-Black-Letters-Numbers-Crafts-Baby-Kids/1456622_32669731965.html
  • https://scrabble.hasbro.com/en-us/faq
  • http://somethingborrowedhire.com/product/vintage-style-scrabble-tile-wooden-stand/
  • https://www.aliexpress.com/popular/scrabble-tile-craft.html
  • https://www.pond5.com/stock-footage/18738883/ink-splatter.html
  • http://www.thestyleking.com/encre-noir-by-lalique/
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pink_triangle
  • http://www.vectortemplates.com/raster-ink-splats.php
  • https://graphicriver.net/item/25-high-resolution-ink-splatter-brushes/9750895
  • https://loadus.deviantart.com/art/Ink-Splatter-01-141615821
  • https://loadus.deviantart.com/art/Ink-Splatter-04-141618829
  • https://www.123rf.com/photo_15579327_black-drop-ink-splatter-gloss-brush-paint-spot-grunge-blot-art-blob-oil-abstract-droplet-splat-liqui.html
  • http://powerlisting.wikia.com/wiki/File:Ink_Splatter_1_by_Aushou.jpg
  • http://en.gliamicidipierrot.com/product/pierrot-with-bavero/
  • https://www.videoblocks.com/video/gear-cogs-rotating-system-gearbox-watch-mechanism-jksnwlt/
  • http://www.accuquilt.com/shop/studio-square-12-1-2-12-finished.html

Analysing SHAFT surrealness & Quote exploration

Alternative title: Excerpt of me brainstorming on Sept 23 at 01:03:29 because I couldn’t think of anything.

The fact that I myself, at the moment of painting, do not understand my own pictures, does not mean that these pictures have no meaning; on the contrary, their meaning is so profound, complex, coherent, and involuntary that it escapes the most simple analysis of logical intuition.

I always feel like I have problems conceptualising “surreality”, probably because my opinion on it is very close to Salvador Dali’s, that true surrealism is when I create something that even I can’t understand. But I don’t think that’s something I can do, to let go of all rationality and be able to confidently say that’s what I’m presenting, and yet, I can’t feel comfortable creating something that was purposeful, imbued with meaning, and call it “surrealism”. And that’s problematic for me, because it really affected my ability to complete Project 1, and, as evidently shown by my lack of progress even by this date and time, Project 2.

So I’m writing to make sense of things. When I try to narrow down the scope to something more tangible, then, I think more of SHAFT. They’re a Japanese company renown for their unique style, which often treads the line of symbolic surrealism.


I think the best examples are their portrayals of witches, otherworldly beings of despair (sample 1 and sample 2). In both examples, the witches and their domains are seen in juxtaposition to the “real world”, where they create a world which is nonsensical, filled with extended imagery, repetition, etc.

(Some background knowledge, first. The “witch” is an otherworldly monster, which has her own domain, a world separate from the real world and shaped by her warped consciousness. She also has minions, servants which act as her proxies. Also, Madoka is the pink-haired girl.)

Sample 1 shows the domain of the witch Elly, who is described as the “box witch with a covetous nature. She is a staunchly reclusive witch. Anything she covets she locks away within glass. The thoughts of her prisoners are laid bare, but one can strike her without thought without problems.

The video presents this nature in a surreal way which I will now attempt to analyse.

The witch herself takes the form of a girl. Her torso is like that of a ball jointed doll’s, and her bottom half is a mess of colours (a skirt?) resembling some kind of haphazard oil painting. Everything about her looks like a messy painting, but when presented on screens she is shown to have a clear form, though she is but a silhouette. Perhaps this pays homage to her nature as a recluse, as she appears only through screens, only appearing as her true form when dead. That her body is like that of paint (and of a doll) is also suggestive of how she is easily struck, like paint which can be melded easily (or a doll which can be fragile).

Her servants are humanoid, but anti-naturalistic, and with one wing and a halo. “The box witch’s minions with the duty of transportation. Anything they touch becomes easy to carry.” Again, the bizarre form ties in with the crazed mind of the witch, and the wing and halo likely represents how they are like angels, which “carry” precious things to “paradise”. Their purpose also likely ties in with her coveting nature, in wanting to take precious things. This is shown thoroughly in the video, where they carry Madoka, defying the laws of physics (she’s probably heavy!)


SHAFT also uses a lot of imagery, and for conciseness I’ll just summarise:

  • Entering the domain: I’m classifying this together because it’s a mess of fast-paced “blink and miss” patterned images. Doors opening, windows with people behind curtains, a screen with illegible green digital text, headless women dressed in different colours, flipcard-worthy girl-walking animation, then the “eye” opening. I think the door is pretty obvious, the curtain not so much (the idea of a guest being anticipated?) The screen, perhaps the witch setting up; the headless women, possibly previous prisoners, all similar looking with only minute differences, and the flipcards, possibly showing the witch preparing herself? The eye opening is rather clear, too, that it’s about entering the soul.
  • Carousel horses: Gaiety? Naivety? I’m not too sure on this, but it’s probably safe to say it shows a certain carefree festivity. The horses are also shown to carry the screens, and line the domain in a cylindrical shape, so they possibly act as the “bars” as well.
  • Screens: Likely the “box” that she is mentioned to be the witch of. The screen likely represents her nature as reclusive, in that she appears only through a proxy. It also shows the ability to lay bare the thoughts of prisoners, where the screens show things about Madoka which the witch should not know
  • Water: Or is it? It appears to be, but there’s no oxygen deficiency, and the water doesn’t seem to adhere to physics. Nevertheless, this probably corresponds to the idea of being trapped within “glass”, where both are clear.
  • When Madoka is saved, au contraire, things shift back to “reality”, the original art style, and proper “real” forms fighting against the surreal witch’s world.
  • Even at the end, “blood” is presented as a colourful rainbow, or black ink spurting out and splattering onto the domain’s borders (the real screen)

I won’t talk about Sample 2, which involves a main character and will definitely have a lot of things which can be mentioned.

Some of their backgrounds too, especially when the background doesn’t represent the physical space as opposed to a character’s feelings, or a certain overarching theme/aesthetic. I mostly like the random/alternating/whatever rhythms, especially geometric shapes with a chaos of intersecting lines at random angles. (1 2 3 4)


For me, what I find most admirable is the beauty of extended imagery. I really like having consistent ideas running throughout and reminding you of their existence. I also like contrasts, so the whole surreal versus reality/single person vs repeated background/etc is really appealing to me too.

I initially wanted to do some other “real people” films, like the charming (but also non-international release and obscure) Tetsu no Ko and Kingsglaive (just because I’m FFXV trash). For the sake of actually having a linking theme, though, I decided to just go with animated Japanese youth drama films, i.e. over the top drama, some existential crises, social anxiety, etc.

The problem I previously had was lack of personal input. So I’m going to do what I do (almost somewhat) best, which is writing prose about my feelings, then taking the key points and associating it with images.

どうすれば良かったの?(What should I do?)

I’m at a loss as to what to do, with too many burdens pulling me down. Somewhere out there must be some form of salvation, I wish that I could purge it all, throw away everything, but vines hold me down, they ensnare me and whisper to me that there is no hope beyond this mundane existence. Please let me be free. I want to be free from all of this.

  • At a loss (human figure background)
  • Burdens (a mess of stuff)
  • Salvation (water, heavenly and clear)
  • Ensnarement (snakes, holding you down)

I’m feeling somewhat dissatisfied at my current composition, because I did it separately before the others so I don’t feel like I’ve put enough linking qualities to the other compositions (e.g. border shape, repeated/similar imagery), and it feels very different from the rest in terms of overcongestion. I do want to include koi fish and “no solution” math, but it seems somewhat irrelevant…

それが結び。それが時間。(This is connection. This is time.)

Even though my body is torn to shreds and I am wrecked beyond repair, but my existence still remains. As long as my influence on this world remains, even in the smallest shard, I still remain, for all my ephemerality, for all time and space. Even my cough can change the world, or perhaps not, but somewhere, somehow, I changed something in this world, and that binds me eternally to this space.

  • Destroyed body (cracked sculpture)
  • Ephemerality (sand)
  • Influence on world, even smallest (butterflies)
  • Time and space (ancient architecture)
  • Eternal binding (??

私の声消えたことみんな喜んだ (Everyone is happy that my voice has disappeared)

No more, I am afraid, don’t listen to me. How audacious, how filthy the sound, and when even I can see the entrails of these soiled words, no matter how innocent they seemed to be when they came out. I can’t breathe knowing that someone possibly holds disdain for me, by what I said, I can’t breathe thinking their eyes tear me apart and my words which I didn’t think of prior have were always monsters which would create a rift between me and everyone else.

  • Disgusting words (bleeding ink)
  • Twisted words (scrabble tiles, THEA or HATE)
  • Disdain for me
  • Rift creation

もう一回。 (Just once more.)

Just once more, I’d like to remember what it was like. To be able to careen in fields of green with bare feet, sing unabashedly into the night sky, forget the passing of time with fine lines. If I am to spend eternity as a cog in society, doomed to tedium and normality, then please let me remember once again, what it was like, freedom and serenity without the scorns of time, and all of humanity’s business and productivity which I cannot bear.

  • Insignificant piece of society (cog)
  • Tedium (also cog)
  • Freedom and serenity (??)
  • Cannot bear it (??)

[To be continued. Or edited. Maybe]

[Edit: Now my problem is conciseness. Why am I so weak]