Christian Bale… Genius performance in The Fighter

Embiggen the Dom-age

Project play-by-play

Who knew this disaster of incompetence was in my future? Not me. Old dog on the loose and this one’s ripe for tricks. Wait, that didn’t come out right. Never mind. Welcome to today’s exciting episode of Random Tim Roth, where Brain gets a workout, then a present, then some rewiring, before finally succumbing to the ‘quality is out of reach in the timeframe allotted’ syndrome. Here is the Brain fodder.

Thinky time

On first blush, where does Brain go? Answer: bloody everywhere. Genius is such a loaded and diluted word and tends to get thrown into parties it shouldn’t be attending, specially in such bad pants. But in that first zap of electricity, Brain went straight to thoughts of who I think of when I hear the word ‘genius’.

Hint: it’s not Lady Ga-Ga.

This next bit is important. Einstein. It’s Einstein. And the first image that popped into my head was not one of him looking studious and brainy in front of a chalky E=MC squared, but of him sticking his tongue out in that cheeky-boy way. You can already see where this is going…

Perhaps there’s something to be done with that, thought Brain? I had visions of a mixed-media collage where I’d cobble together a barely recognizable approximation of Christian Bale using a variety of materials and textures relating to genius.

For example, a tongue made in the style of a Van Gogh painting, skin made to look like Da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa.” (Da Vinci was actually the second name I thought of while pondering genius, but I think that’s more to do with a freelance gig I just wrapped up where I actually had to pretend to be that polymath. Long story. Aren’t they all?)

That’s a couple of iconic genius figures, but I needed more, so I threw out a twitter survey on who people thought of when they first hear the word genius. Got back a Stephen Hawking, Da Vinci, Einstein, Mozart, Michelangelo, Lennon/McCartney and even a Dylan. The last couple were after I finessed the question to be specifically arts/music based. I threw those names in the Brain stew pot and left them to bubble.

It’s clear I’d settled on the idea pretty quickly – collage Christian as iconic Einstein photograph. But remember, it’s not that Christian is a genius. It’s that he gives a genius performance in The Fighter, so I needed a way to bring that into this mediation on being frightfully kick-ass at something. What I needed was a frame of reference from the movie itself.

Stage left: Quote enters. Quote is truth.

“It’s not fuckin’ ladylike to be shoutin’ in the street like this.”

It really isn’t ladylike. Not at all. It’s harpy-like behavior in fact.

So with the quote chosen – and here we’re technically seeping into Prepy Time – I powered forward into the dark unknown.

Side note: I know nothing about Christian Bale beyond the films I’ve seen. Well, besides that dumb little outburst leak which smacked of some marketing bullshit for a movie that I found filled up a Sunday afternoon quite nicely. The fact that I don’t know anything about him is what makes ol’ English there interesting. I can watch him in a film and not see him. Not even think about him. He wears his characters, and that’s a kind of genius in itself.

Total thinky time = 30 minutes, all up

Prepy time

The photo hunt began. I found the Einstein pretty quickly, but finding a photo of Christian facing a way that was similar was a bit more difficult. I hadn’t envisioned using one of him being all hairy and such, but that’s the one I ended up with. I also considered this one from the film itself…

But that would require some Einstein hair insertion. Wasn’t sure I had the skill for that.

And while we’re on the subject, let’s talk about skill. Some time during the image search Brain got the idea that it would quite like to draw the image. The original collage idea was in part to get around image usage issues by altering the image to a degree where it would be unrecognizable from the original. Which reminds me, I need to go check where the Shepard Fairey Obama “Hope” case and read up more on Fair Use laws. It’s a good thing to know.

I knew what Brain was up to with the drawing thing. I played along anyway. Brain wanted a Wacom tablet and heart did too.

Now of course, trust me to go buy a bloody Wacom on the day the iPad 2 comes out. I know I could’ve Amazoned it, but I wanted it right quick and didn’t want to pay extra shipping when I could just pop on down the shops and get one. I toddled off after work to one of the places I hate most in the world – that place that says they’re the Best but upsell you until the cows come home to Buy their dinky little insurance plans at the register ‘because it’s gonna break’. We’ll don’t sell shit then. Geez… Ok. Getting angry. Pull it back.

They didn’t have one. The spot on the shelf, when I finally did find it, was empty. So even though I was doing my very best to avoid the Apple store at 7pm on the night the iPad2 came out, it looked like my script was written for me already and I just had to get to that page.

Fancy having to queue up outside on the street just to buy something that’s not a frickin’ iPad. Ugh. And the SoHo store. Ugh. And I’m getting NY angry again. Let’s talk about fun, shiny stuff. Actually, let’s not talk. Let’s just look.

See how it glints at me? I set it up. We are ready to begin.

Total Prepy time = 2 hours

Sit-down-and-doey Time

Time suck. I suck. Brain is stupid and unre-wireable. And bloody hell, I hate Christian Bale’s beard. Not for aesthetic ‘beard-fear’ reasons either. It’s just a pain to replicate when you’re LEARNING how to use the pen on the Wacom. Small disconnect between what I’m looking at and the hand-eye coordination.

But I persevered. I stuck at it, figuring the more I played with it, the easier it would become. And that was true, to a certain degree. But it also became clear that I had taken on a mammoth task for a project that has a total time limit of 16 hours.

It’s pretty interesting, the way the brain adapts. And not just to the hand-eye thing, but working in illustrator and working out layer-orders and keeping everything neat and logical. It’s kind of nightmare. So many lessons learned this project! So much wasted time realizing there are much shorter ways of doing things after spending hours doing them a certain way.

Of course, if I’d actually bothered to read anything or watch any lessons on working with portraits I would’ve saved myself some pain. But there’s also a part of me that works from the book of ‘learn it by breaking it’. That said, I found a video about what I basically spent all day on Sunday doing: How to create vector portraits in Illustrator. It’s very useful and I’m so glad I can find this kind of stuff online. The Internet – puts the self in self taught.

Now, here’s where I got in trouble. Sticky mess o’ trouble. I spent soooo long doing the image, I had no time to work on the other elements of the finished product. The tongue is not quite right. The typography and layout is kinda ‘bleh’.

And the final insult: I wanted to give Bale an Einstein pin that when you pressed it, it would say the quote in Stephen Hawking’s voice. So that it would work on two levels. A poster AND an interactive giggle. I might still do it… But not today. Today I’m doing a writing sprint.

So, I decided to walk away. Stopped ignoring the clock and pulled the pin. Cobbled all the bits together – the tongue, the type, the button – so that what we’re left with is something that looks more like a layout storyboard than a finished piece. I would like to spend hours on getting the type right, but I spent so long at Bale’s beard that it’s best at this point to shave the project off me and bugger on off into the sunset. I have wiped my hands of it. It is what it is. Laugh on!

Stick. Brain. Poke. Rating

Ok, this one has to get a two. Sure, in terms of learning, the bell curve goes way up and the circuitry got rewired for using that piece of technology to trace. But face it – it’s just tracing. Any monkey can trace something.

I should have spent my time getting the tongue to more naturally fit with the image and instead I’m left with that fleshy thing just sittin’ there. I really needed to dis-connect his jaw and open it for the tongue to come out. I’m beginning to hate the word tongue. Also, the button needs to feel more connected to the jacket, which I think is a bit hard considering I decided to go with the flat-black rather than something with more hints to depth. I added in the zip last minute and that helped a bit.

Conceptually, it’s a bit blah too. But hey, you go with what you’ve got. This is no genius performance from me. 🙂

Total Sit-down-and-doey time = 15 hours. And I might be totally lying about that. It certainly FELT longer when I was stuck in the crumbs of that beard.

YOUR HOMEWORK: Who do you think defines genius?

MY HOMEWORK: Stop being a puss. Be more respectful of timelines. Find some stuff about freehand drawing with this tablet, rather than tracing. It has some nice brushes in Illustrator, but I noticed I had some trouble with free drawing depending on the angle of the tablet and the direction my hand wanted to go. Perhaps that’s what some of the other nibs are for? (and I haven’t even looked at them yet)

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One Response to “Christian Bale… Genius performance in The Fighter”

  1. thenoodleator March 15, 2011 at 4:22 pm #

    Yes. The tongue is too large. But maybe… you know… Just maybe… Ok, I’m not finishing that sentence. I should scale it a bit, probably. Einstein’s tongue is pretty Gene Simmons-like. Also, fixing it hides mistakes, and I think I want this site to be about making them visible for everyone. Rookie moves are learning moves!

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