Introducing artist and illustrator Hannah Postlethwaite
Updated: Mar 15, 2021
Hello there, my name’s Hannah and I’m an illustrator and artist with a passion for spreading creativity. I recently finished two series of craft tutorials called The Ornithorium and The Animation Station and would like to have a little natter about my experience making them. It’s been a really enjoyable process and I’m grateful to Creative West End and Creative Civic Change for my involvement. I would also like to extend a warm thank you to Hilli McManus whose local knowledge and bird expertise proved invaluable in helping kick off The Ornithorium.
The Ornithorium is a series of avian-themed activities in celebration of our wonderful feathered friends. It was particularly inspired by the first Lockdown in which the larger population became more engaged with the wealth of wildlife on their doorstep. The lack of traffic and noise pollution brought birdsong to the fore; and whilst the world of man came to a standstill, nature carried on regardless, and indeed flourished!
The Animation Station is a series of activities exploring different forms of early animation and optical illusion. It was born simply of a love and fascination I have of the subject.
I absolutely love coming up with ideas for creative projects but sometimes let the ideas run wild - a tendency towards the overambitious! True to form, I found transitioning my proposals to reality a rather steep learning curve and a daunting one at that. But with some help and prompting from Creative West End I was able to trim down my original plans to something more realistic.
I’m glad to say I’ve learnt a great deal and introduced a whole host of new skill sets to my bow: operating new software, storyboarding and scripting, recording voice overs, simple animation; incorporating pace and flow; and improving my photography and technical knowledge.
I somewhat underestimated the time involved in each individual process, in particular the editing; and my computer didn’t have enough memory to cope with the software. So, partway through the project, and through absolute necessity, it went off for some TLC: a service, extra ram and new hard drive later it ran like slick clockwork - what a marvellous difference it made!
I didn’t foresee a few processes - for example scripting a dialogue and recording a voiceover. I found this really uncomfortable and it took me sometime to rally - I think most people would agree that it’s not especially appealing to see or hear yourself played back! Gradually, I managed to distance myself from the outcome and become less critical and precious. I think if I were to produce more craft tutorials in the future I’d probably use text prompts instead, but, for this project, with the recurrence of Lockdown it felt important to be more personal and was a handy way to relay information.
Photographing and filming ‘the make’ was the quickest part involved; but nevertheless needed careful planning as the imagery needed to appear sequential: accidentally missing something out could disrupt and stall the process. My ‘studio’ was very makeshift - a tripod balanced through a free-standing shelving unit, the camera strap fastened from above so I could achieve a birds eye view of my work surface and then record and ‘create’ independently. For a large part of the project it took over my dining room: luckily, I have an incredibly patient partner!
Particularly with The Ornithorium I wanted the tutorials to be informative and so inevitably added to the length of the process: time to research and digest information; time to select the most interesting and relevant facts; time to weave these into the dialogue; and time to source suitable and effective imagery. The research part is really fun and I learnt some rather amazing things: one of my favourite facts concerns the Long-Tailed Tit. It weaves spider webs through its nest. The web is sticky so it can fasten bits of lichen to the outside to camouflage it; and it’s also elastic so when the eggs hatch the nest is able to stretch! I find when I learn about something I develop a heightened appreciation for it, so my hope was to foster this, something that, in our current climate crisis seems even more of a responsibility. The videos do of course just scratch the surface but I hope that they might spark interest and promote curiosity in a certain area.
As with any undertaking, it’s impossible to achieve perfection and I’ve made a number of mistakes along the way. One that particularly springs to mind is the Starling tutorial. Whilst I’m very proud of this film, I later realised that one of my instructions wouldn’t actually work! I provided an A4 printout template - and the outline of the Starling is flush to the edge of the sheet. However if it were to be printed the printer would automatically shrink the image down slightly - leaving a margin around the edge. Near the end of the tutorial I talk about ‘the sweet spot’ measurement to place the ribbon so the starling will hang flat; but as the printout would be smaller than the original template it follows that this measurement would also be less. Whilst this is possibly a bit annoying for the viewer I like to think that these kinds of errors would actually challenge them and force them to find their own solutions. So in this way, I see it as an important part of the creative process.
It’s very important to keep in mind that making mistakes is part and parcel - it’s how we learn and go forward. I often notice that people can be almost fearful of being creative: ‘I can’t draw’; ‘I’m not creative’ are common phrases. But mistakes can bleed into outcomes that otherwise might not have occurred to us; they can create space and freedom; they can be therapeutic; there’s actually great power in making mistakes.
Thank you for taking the time to read this reflection. If you would like to know more about me, here are a couple of links:
At the beginning of the project I made a film about the upcoming tutorials, my work and what motivates me: