Palimpsest @ The Margate Festival Of Design 2022


At the outset of 2022, I began teaching a small cohort of postgraduate students at The Margate School on the Visual Communication: Design, Society, Nature one year, part-time programme. I had the pleasure of working alongside a lovely group of individuals and, in celebration of their achievements, and likewise yesterday’s launch of Margate’s inaugural Festival of Design, I was invited to work with them again to produce a short film.

Entitled Palimpsest, the film originates from the students’ initial sketches, doodles, writings and iterations, layered together, and expressed as the restless flicker of the creative mind.

As of yesterday evening, the film is now installed in The Margate School as a projection-mapped work, animating the large wall above the independent art school’s ground floor staircase. The Margate School operates out of a former department store on Margate high street – with all the quirk and atmosphere you might expect.

Many thanks to Claire-Beth Gibson, Claudine Derksen, Emma Self, Ian Jones, Grace King, Georgia Dack, Susanne Hakuba and Zoe Artingstall for helping me put this together, and for your creative company over this last year. Congratulations on your recent graduation (at the Turner Contemporary no less!) and best of luck for the future. May your brains continue to flicker!




After Powers Of Ten #1 (2022)


So this one takes a bit of explaining… Short version is I wanted to produce something that got into the visual rhyming between the cosmic and the microscopic you see in the Charles and Ray Eames’ 1977 short film, Powers Of Ten, and likewise the graphical quality of its art direction.

For The Kick-About #46, I subjected everyone to macro-photographs of the human litter dusting various surfaces in my home. I decided to use these same photographs as the starting point for my response, and started by spherizing them digitally (over and over again), so as to produce ‘planets’ from them (or molecules?). In part, I was prompted by another Kick-About, and this time was able to produce these little animated loops by running each of the photographs together to make footage, in which the effect of spherizing the original photographs multiple times has been too soften their respective surfaces into these seemingly ‘hand-drawn’ sequences.

To emulate some of the ‘maths’ in the Powers of Ten, I then composited some concentric circles over the top of these animated loops. They might be particles or elements of some periodic table, or eggs, or maps, or other sorts of diagrams, but it was a lot of fun engineering them from a largely automatistic approach to ‘seeing what happens’.

I never really got to a final outcome, so I’ll be sharing a collection of the results over the coming days.







Vertigogo / Panels #1 (2022)


With Saul Bass as our mutual muse for The Kick-About No.49, I took the opportunity to produce a short film in celebration of some of Bass’s signature elements – or more accurately, took the opportunity to work with some simple graphic shapes and bold colours inspired by Bass’s posters and opening titles. The nice thing about working in film is you get all these individual frames to choose from, some of which inspire different modes of presentation. I don’t know if these images count as ‘art’, but they’d make bloody nice rugs!



Film: Vertigogo (2022)


Back when I was teaching an undergraduate course, one of my yearly highlights was a screening for students of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho on the big screen. There are many showier reasons for enjoying this film, but I always loved the Saul Bass-designed opening titles – those simple horizontal lines sliding in across the frame with such urgency, while Bernard Herrmann’s score propelled them along. Working with a few simple elements – dots and dashes, lines and ellipses – I set about producing an affectionate fantasia on some Bass-inspired themes for my response to The Kick-About No.49.




When The Tides Went Down @ the BBC


“Back in the early Summer of 2019, I was invited by friend and filmmaker, Jordan Buckner, to produce his short animated film, When The Tides Went Down, for Screen South and the BBC. Jordan and I have worked together previously on the live-synchronisation animations La creation du monde (2013) and Red & The Kingdom Of Sound (2017) and Jordan’s //_sleeper for the BFI…”


… and tonight, Jordan’s film is featuring on the BBC homepage, where it is listed as one of ‘ten amazing artworks inspired by climate change’. Congratulations, Jordan! When The Tides Went Down was a timely film in 2019, and more so now.




The Two Rivers Café Podcast / Wine Doesn’t Agree With Me


Last year, composer Andrew Fisher very kindly agreed to write the theme for my audiobook adaptation of my first children’s book, Chimera Book 1. Andrew nailed it first time out, taking all the inspiration he needed from artist Phil Cooper’s artwork, and delivering a wonderful mix of b-movie-meets-magic, all shimmer, Halloween chills and a pang of melancholy. A few months later, Andrew invited me on as his first guest on his all-new The Two Rivers Café podcast, where he challenged me to make a new short film on a given theme, to which he would then compose an original score. The theme I chose to work with was ‘wine’ – which was counter-intuitive considering wine doesn’t agree with me! You can listen to our conversation here and watch the film we made together below. Andrew will be talking to, and collaborating with, other creatives in subsequent episodes, and I’m looking forward to spending more time in The Two Rivers Café .



Wine Doesn’t Agree With Me (2021) Phil Gomm / Andrew Fisher


Artist-in-Residence: Tom Beg #10


In between his various creative endeavours triggered by The Kick-About, and his day job designing and delivering the curricula for his English classes, Japan-based creative and Red’s Kingdom artist-in-residence, Tom Beg has continued work on his animated short, Tabula 5465. Time for a catch-up…


Hey Tom, it’s been a while since we had you back in Red’s Kingdom: I know how busy you are, so I was excited to see a recent update on your short film, Tabula 5465, which means you’ve somehow been finding the time to continue work on your animated short.  Tell us about all the latest developments.

Tom: Animation on the next creature is well underway. It is still a work in progress, but it is starting to materialise as something. Now I have a bit of time coming up, I’m aiming to make more substantial progress. Stay tuned for more updates later, but for now, you can look at what I have produced so far.



As far as other more under-the-hood developments go, there have been things tweaked and added here and there. For example, to assist in the animating process, I have created a few simple extra controls to the rig of the character to make it easier to get some nice organic bobbing and swaying movement.  On my previous character this was extremely clunky to implement, so I am glad to have it as as something I can control independently from everything else.

Speaking more in terms of things that have a more obvious visual impact, I have made progress towards getting the final look of the animated sequences. I was able to render out a low-resolution version to test out various post-effects. In the end, I got something that was quite close to how I imagine the final film will look.



I’ve also been chipping away at an animated version of the title sequence and branding that is going to open the animation. It’s all very retro-pop!



Learned any new technical tricks lately?

Tom: One of my goals ,as this project developed, was to start using a tool in Maya called MASH, and I’ve been making the steps to start incorporating it into the pipeline of this animation. Unlike just about every other tool in Maya, MASH is a lot of fun to just play around with and get some interesting effects almost instantly. My purpose for it in this animation is to populate the backgrounds with more simply animated creatures, while the hero creatures in the foreground do the heavy lifting.

I couldn’t help but find out what would happen if 1000 creatures were to suddenly be brought into existence. I can conclude that a slow-moving computer and some amused giggling in a one-room Japanese apartment is what happens.  But after the silliness, I did get round to more subtly incorporating it into the animation, as per my original plan.

When you’re working on a long project like this one, the motivation to keep going with it is never guaranteed – especially when you’ve got so many other responsibilities.  When your mojo is running a bit low, what are your ‘hacks’ for getting back into the saddle?

Tom: Due to my day job, the actual production of the animation comes in waves, but even when I am not doing something related to art and animation, I am usually doing something that is exercising my brain in a creative way. That can be something like working on new lesson ideas, studying Japanese, or even just taking a walk around my neighbourhood and going down a road I’ve never been down before. It all tends to yield at least one interesting new sight, the discovery of something new or a burgeoning interest in something. I used to watch so many Japanese films when I younger because I was just so curious about what they had been making over the last 100 years, and here I am in Japan, learning a language that ten years ago, I could never have imagined having any understanding of.

Mostly, I recommend just finding something new that isn’t your comfort food. I think I am naturally curious person about creativity, especially when it comes to things outside the mainstream. I don’t love everything I see, but I am interested to see it at least once. One of the things I used to do when I was a student was just to marathon-watch lots of truly weird and bizarre stuff that probably should have never been made or seen by anyone. Unfortunately, even this became my comfort food and I had to branch out into even weirder stuff! The 70s was certainly an interesting time in cinema! At the very least it always encouraged me to see the world a little differently.

Do you ever find that your ‘extra-curricular’ projects are feeding into your teaching?  How much do your students/colleagues know about your other life as an artist, animator and film-maker?

Tom: I think creating art is about thinking about an audience and making something which could be interesting for that audience. In essence, that is the same as making relatable and enjoyable lessons. To be honest, I don’t do much direct cross-over, besides some amusing PowerPoint tricks and worksheet design. I always feel like if that cross-over was made more explicitly obvious then maybe I have moved too far away from the point I am supposed to be demonstrating or encouraging students to interact with. However, at the end of the day, both animation and teaching are about eliciting some sort of reaction from someone so they feel interested enough to want to experience more or learn more from that thing. That is what I strive for on all fronts!

What’s next on your slate for Tabula 5464?

Tom: Just animating. I think I said that last time too, but my schedule is clear this time!

Finally, paint me a picture of life in Japan right now, weather, wild-life, the Olympics…

Tom: Rainy season is over (and it certainly did rain, as you may have seen in the news) so now the summer heat is in full swing, and the sweating from places you never imagined sweat could come from begins. Our old Kick-About friend, the cicadas, have also started their annual singing competition. Oh, and yes, the Olympics. Let’s just say that is a thing that is happening…


Film: Fundus (2021)


With many thanks to Deanna Crisbacher, I’m happy to present Fundus – a short experimental film originating from the series of photographs I produced for the Kick-About No.30. I had the strongest feeling these inner/outerspace images should move and liquefy, and in so doing, would further push my experience of them into the cosmic! I tried a few techniques out myself to achieve this, but ultimately called on Dee’s much more impressive box of tricks to produce the morphing effects I was after, with the addition of some apposite music, and a nod here and there to some classic science-fiction films. Thanks again to Dee, and also to the Kick-About community for the continuing impetus to make new work so directly.




MFT #13 Bottles (1936)


Bottles (1936), a Happy Harmonies animated short, directed by Hugh Harman, is one of my favourite things. Here’s why.

Tellingly, when my husband looked over my shoulder and saw me watching this very grainy upload of Bottles, in preparation for writing this, he said fondly, ‘Oh, that one.’ For the next ten minutes, we watched the animation together, suitably transfixed. Afterwards, my husband said, ‘Yep, still scary’, and, happily, I agreed.

As a child, whenever an old-style cartoon came on the television, Bottles was the one I was hoping for. The story, such as it is, begins with an old apothecarist falling asleep one suitably stormy night, initiating a musical dream sequence in which the bottles on the surrounding shelves come to life to perform in a series of variety-style skits. Even as a nipper, I detected that Scooby-Do, Captain Caveman and their like were ‘cheap’ animations. Something about their flat colour and all the labour-saving devices of their locked, unmoving poses told me corners were being cut. I enjoyed these cartoons, of course – better those than Grange Hill, or worse, The Littlest Hobo, but for me they were the equivalent of those packets of Swizzel’s Rainbow Drops – puffed rice dyed colorfully; a bit cheap, a bit thin, a bit light, and always a bit disappointing. Not a proper sweet, only the semblance of one.

But from the opening moments of Bottles you know it’s different; there’s the aliveness of the rain, and the painterly expression of light, and the parallax of the different layers of scenery pulling you filmically into the frame. This is what a labour of love looks like, the art and graft of animated storytelling.



Narratively, Bottles has an exhausting ‘and then, and then, and then’ structure, which I enjoy guiltily, in so much as it forgoes the necessity of character development or other expectations of the craft. My own first forays into creative writing were comic book-style adventures committed to the pages of blue exercise books, in which a spaceman in a smart red suit encountered peril after peril, page after page – and then, and then, and then!

When I watch Bottles I am reminded of my own direct-to-the-page instinctiveness, telling stories with all the boring bits cut out; not for me the moments when the spaceman in the smart red suit had to eat, sleep or urinate; not for me, any long episodes of walking, or talking, or arriving or leaving. Instead, bring on the battalions of robo-spiders, the purple space-krakens and the erupting volcanoes; and then, and then, and then!

As a lecturer in story for animation, I always had to speak to the importance of the ‘three act structure’, and all the other established systems for organising narrative for audiences effectively. All good and useful stuff, but secretly, I loved it more when students worked instinctively and less rationally. When I think about the imaginative forces regulating Bottles, it’s not some careful calibration of narrative structures, but rather the primality of a fever dream.



That inanimate objects come to life when we sleep is one of those knowledges that all children share. That we both love and fear this idea is captured in Harmon’s animation. In Bottles, anthropomorphism is like a contagion, moving along the shelves of the apothecary, imparting rampant squash and stretch to anything it touches. What I especially enjoy about Bottles is its no-holds barred horror, which doesn’t simply reside in the animation’s more obvious macabre set-pieces. There is something uncanny itself about the style of the animation, no matter its subject-matter, disturbing in the same way as those incessant, arm-waving inflatable ‘tube-men’ outside car dealerships. It’s the failure of stillness and the absence of pause, the gangly, boneless, grabbiness of everything.

But it is the poison bottle-come-skeleton everyone remembers about this cartoon, if not its more innocuous-sounding title. This guy is truly the Halloween loadstar; from this cackling character every plastic skeleton in every joke shop, from this character, every plastic mask, and He-Man’s Skeletor, but all of them pale imitations. ‘Death walks the night!’ the skeleton croaks, before unstoppering its own head and administering the droplet of shrinking potion that begins the apothecarist’s surrealistic adventure at the outset of the cartoon. There’s a witch in the mix too, rubber-faced, grotesque, terrifying, and a trio of ghosts – the spirits of ammonia. For this little boy who liked his entertainment served with a hearty helping of morbidity, Bottles managed that most satisfying of combinations: cosy horror, feelings of comfort in a subtle blend with sensations of peril and fright.



In tone and in spectacle, Bottles reminds me strongly of The Mascot (1933) a remarkable black and white stop-motion film by Ladislas Starevich. This too is a tour-de-force of animism, and likewise shares with Bottles its scene-stealing evil character, in Starevich’s film, a yakking devil presiding over a bizarre night-spot popular with gurning turnip-people and ambulating detritus. Another thing the two animations share is their racist cultural stereotypes; The Mascot features a minor black character with exaggerated lips and Mohican-style hair, while Bottles treats us to the ‘dance of the Golliwog Perfume bottles’, accompanied, natch, by the beating of drums. I hardly need put the necessary caveats around this moment in the animation, or rather my discomfort about it as an adult viewer, but as the rest of the cartoon’s featured bottles pertain to real brands, I was curious to understand if ‘Golliwog Perfume’ was an incidence of a racial stereotype created specially for the cartoon’s roster of vaudeville routines. I was amazed to find Le Golliwogg was an actual real-world perfume, launched in 1919 in France, and in 1925 in USA, and that its bottle featured a particularly grotesque example of the golliwog character, designed by Michel de Brunoff and his brother-in-law Lucien Vogel, both of whom where editors of the French Vogue. And there was me thinking the skeleton was the most disturbing thing about Harman’s animated short.

It’s only when I re-watched Bottles that I understood how conspicuously it haunts some of my own stuff, not least the Chimera stories, which imagines a world in which all inanimate objects are capable of life. But Chimera owes more than a nod to the pitch of Bottles too, by which I mean its headlongness, and likewise my resistance to de-fanging some of the books’ more intense scenes, and so ensuring I leave in the bits I suspect will linger for longest in the impressionable minds of my younger readers. Looks like I have carried that skeleton around in my imagination for forty-plus years. Of course, I’m rather glad of it. “Death walks the night!”