There's a wonderful, youthful energy and hunger to Doug Hindson, and it comes to the surface the minute you start talking to him about his craft. With such controlled style and polished pieces, you could be forgiven for thinking that he is experienced beyond his years. The truth, however, is that he’s fresh out of university, learning all the way and eager to dive into every opportunity and collaboration that he can - but he makes all this look real easy. This one’s gonna go far I can tell you…
I really like taking either the physical to the digital, or the digital to the physical.
Trying to summarise Doug’s creative practice is tougher than I’d imagined. He could safely be described as a multi-disciplinary artist though - his passions span through illustration, animation, 3D model making, video game design, film and beyond. This breadth of technique has come about as a result of Doug using his time at university to experiment, but he has no desire to halt his exploration of different materials, working practices and methods.
Of course there’s always a risk when working like this that an artist’s body of work can feel incoherent, but Doug does not suffer from this problem. A love of material and craft, as well as strong conceptual and narrative themes, underpins his work, and this for me ties everything together.
It’s good to keep questioning yourself and how you work and maybe that’s what has led me to where I am now. I don’t know what I’m going to be doing in five years, but hopefully just doing more of everything.
Born in Kenya, where his parents were missionaries, Doug didn’t arrive in the UK until aged 10. As a child he doesn’t feel like he stood out for his artistic ability and imagined he’d probably travel a more traditional educational path into Science. There’s no denying Doug’s natural creative streak though, and once he learned more about the creative industries and the range of options on offer, he soon made a choice to pursue Illustration and Animation as the focus for his studies at Kingston University. He graduated earlier this year.
When asked about his influences, Doug cites artists such as Johnny Kelly and Becky & Joe as being important to his work, both of which feature puppetry in their work and communicate a real handmade tone. At the other end of the spectrum Doug is particularly interested in the current independent video games scene, in which innovative digital techniques and interesting narratives are rife. Particular favourites here include Thatgamecompany’s Journey, ustwo’s Monument Valley and Playdead’s Limbo.
Also critical to Doug’s work is the inspiration he takes from less obvious creative disciplines, such as Engineering, Product Design, Robotics and Programming.
I try not to look too much to the world of animation and design for inspiration, just because I feel like it can be a little bit more insular. I always find the most interesting projects are the ones you don’t expect and if everyone is continually almost self-reflecting on themselves and their contemporaries, then you can miss really interesting stuff.
When discussing Doug’s work with him, it’s impossible not to be drawn into the stories behind individual pieces. To me the process becomes equally as interesting as the final result.
Take Skew for example (above), this was a collaborative project with a couple of other illustrators, and was completed in a week. I had assumed it was a stop motion piece, but digging deeper unveils the reality of it actually being live action! Every element of the film was created as a physical artefact (the phone itself was around a meter long) and what was captured on camera was more performance than animation, as the ‘making of’ video below shows.
It was just one of those things where we were trying to make life difficult for ourselves to see what kinds of creative output would come out of it.
In a similar vein, Doug’s Opera Machine is fascinating creation. A project inspired by traditional methods of recording audio, vinyls and the continuous movement of the spinning record - the machine translated the sound of an operatic duet into a physical result. Using a brush pen to represent each singer, the contraption (made of Lego and a plotter device, similar to that found in a printer) made marks on spinning paper that correlated with the vocal performances on the track. The outcome is a wonderful interpretation of the audio through varying marks and line weights, and the two ink colours mixing and seperating as the duo sing together and then alone.
Not all of Doug’s projects have gone entirely to plan though, and the beauty here is that he treats every single experience as one to learn, experiment and develop himself. Doug’s first foray into video games demonstrates this well, as he embraced a creative challenge in a field that he knew very little about technically. Considering the limits of his programming knowledge to be an advantage rather than a hindrance, Doug hoped it would lead him to approaching the task at hand in an unconventional fashion and maybe allow him to discover something new.
As it stands he’s been unable to complete the project due to a particularly elusive bug that's yet to be resolved, but the way Doug sees it, it’s fun and interesting when someone who doesn’t really know what they’re doing just gives something a shot. There’s certainly value in things that go wrong, as even the conversations that come out of this are really useful.
As Doug has so recently finished university, and going from strength to strength already, I asked him what advice he’d give to other students hoping to make their way in the creative industries:
As a student, getting involved in what’s currently happening in the professional industry is really, really useful. Networking is a very dry word and has almost negative connotations, as it sounds like this kind of business procedure that has to be done, but when you think about it, having a beer with someone is networking. I think someone needs to come up with a new word for it!
He goes on to tell me that it’s not until you go to events or screenings that you meet people, and then you realise that they’re not actually that different to you - particularly if you have a common interest through your artistic discipline. And then one beer can lead to another, you meet their friends, learn interesting things, and then all of a sudden you have some great connections on your hands. Wise words indeed.
So what does the bright future hold for Doug and his ever evolving practice? Well he’s had some interesting opportunities come from his degree show, which we look forward to seeing come to fruition. He’s also looking for collaborators in all sorts of different industries in a bid to broaden his creative horizons, and is continuing to work on his video game Capsule and other playable experiences. Overall, his goal is to “keep on exploring”…