Friday, 27 February 2015

Work. Art. Play.

Informal presentation to my fellow MA Multi-Disciplinary Printmaking students at UWE, Bristol.
Practitioners I am looking at and the work I am currently making.

Links, notes, ramblings below:


  1. Work. Art. Play.
    • I've noticed these 3 key areas I'm exploring in my overall work.
  2. Influence: Rosemarie Fiore / Smoke Painting #34 / 2013 
    • Based on this theme of Work Art And Play New York based artist Rosemarie Fiore
    • Smoke Drawings. Residue from Firework smoke.  
  3. Process: Smoke Paintings
    • Using a DIY rig to contain the fireworks while painting onto paper.
  4. Influence: Rosemarie Fiore /Scrambler Drawings / 2004 
    • Large Spirograph drawings
  5. Process: Scrambler Drawings
    • created using a fair ground ride called the scrambler.
  6. Recap - Rosemarie Fiore
    • Process is more interesting. I absolutely love Fiore's processes and methods for image making 
    • Are the outcomes a necessity of the process? 
    • Always required to be displayed alongside documentation of process - such as video.
    • More info: See my blog about Rosemarie Fiore 
  7. Pinball
    • I'm interested in these types of processes when creating my own work
    • My project is based around the medium of Pinball.
    • This is an example of a vintage Pinball Machine from 1976 (which has been modified)
    • Artwork originally by Gordon Morison who created the art for over 150+ machines) during the 70s-80s
    • Pinball is a combination of art , music, sound immersing players in a story. It's a piece of artwork. 
    • Retro - popular culture.
    • My interests is as an example of printmaking - the backglass, playfield and plastic parts
    • Also electronics + programming - to create interactivity between user (player/viewer) and the artwork (pinball)
  8. Research
    • Finding machines  to play - no longer arcades, so turned to the internet
    • Found a community and league 
    • Have now played over 50 Machines. 280th in the UK & 9042nd in world Pinball Rankings.
    • Understand different types + functions of Pinball machines. 
    • More on Resarch Play
  9. Work Experience with MyPinballs
  10. Pinbox
    • My original aim was to build my own pinball machine. It is quite ambitious.
    • Start with a smaller, toy like, game.
    • Prototyping
    • More on Pinbox project
  11. Pinbox 2
  12. Influence: Roxy Paine / Intrusion / 2014 
    • The moment I saw this work by Roxy Paine I had this moment of clarity.
    • Set in stone idea of making pinball game. 
    • I can be more playful with the IDEA of pinball rather than recreating a familiar game
    • Paine's work here is a familiar shape but pinball parts replaced by extrusion of a rock face 
    • The pinball machine is carved from wood between organic and man-made environments and the processing of machines.
  13. Influence: Ryan Gander / “Self Portrait X” / 2012 
    • Another example of the process I'm interested in by British artist Ryan Gander.
    • Portraits from memory. But not the actual paintings, the paintings weredestroyed. 
    • What we see here are the pallets used to mix the paints
    • Imagine the size from amount of paint and moods from the colours
    • An idea of what painting could be if tradition is taken away
  14. Sketches
    •  Small scale test pieces when building a game.
    • I almost discarded these but upon reviewing my work from the past few months these were most fun to build.
  15. Sketches 2
    • Thinking differently about my approach - work as an artist rather than a designer (creating and end product)
    • Perhaps these are framed parts, taken out of context of the machine 
  16. Ball loops
    • Visualising other experiment sketches - artists impressions if you will.
    • The idea of a never ending loop of balls.
  17. Pin a china shop
    • Based on places we are not allowed to play, why not? Lets break the rules
    • The china must be smashed
  18. Zorbinball
    • It may be that the idea goes no further than this stage, but if I can communicate it effectively and properly document it, who knows I may come back to it further down the line.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Swallowed / Regurgitated

Mockup of Pinbox #1

My last post about Pinbox (improved flippers) mentioned keeping up momentum during development of the proposed Pinbox game. So far my original plans have not gone entirely to plan...

Over the last few weeks I've been processing (in my head) what I've learned during my in depth pinball research and work experience, having new thoughts and ideas while coming to some realisations about the direction of this project.

To plan?
I went forward with more cardboard prototyping and came up with a cartridge based playfield system.

This would allow for interchangeable playfields for a game. Ideas were starting to flow about a story based set of playfields, which a player can work through to complete the game. (See the mockup at start of post for #1). Each playfield would have a simple target or mode to complete before you move on to the next. I liken this to a game boy cartridge.

Also some testing of standard pinball parts. I'm not going to try to regurgitate any of this yet.

Momentum has been kinda brought to a stand still due to some struggles I've had while focusing on this set outcome of a game. While I have been going through a pretty clear process, I feel I may be heading in the wrong direction.

What's changed?
I've approached the project as a designer and created a product. It's loosing it's meaning as a piece of artwork and turning into something I don't find interesting or as fun. I suppose I've given myself the restriction that it must be a pinball machine ie the a game as we already know it.

I'm worried the outcome will not be of high quality and/or it's not dissimilar from what's out there already. The idea of creating a pinball machine, may be better than the reality.

Constantly questioning what I am doing and worrying about the outcome is certainly the opposite process from what I would like at this stage. I'm looking for ways to improve my workflow and process, while allowing myself to have fun making too. I feel I have just sunk back into old ways of working and I'm not happy with it.

So I am shelving Pinbox for now, I may be back to it when I work other things out.

A new approach

Roxy Paine "Intrustion" Source
When I saw the image of Roxy Paine's Intrustion (above), it was like a moment of clarity. I knew I was taking the wrong approach.

This piece, along with much of Paine's work, is an acknowledgement to nature's battle alongside machines. I think what this one says is that nature will always win. It's hand carved into wood, appearing as a pinball machine, yet the parts inside are actually a 3D extrusion of a rock formation. The piece creates a juxtoposition between machine and nature, a transformation of what know, or think we know about something.

For my pinball project, approaching as an artist rather than a designer is my new focus. I can be more playful. The process of making the work, can become the work, through a set of 'sketches' at first. The small prototypes I have been making to date have been the most enjoyable part of what I have done, I need to utelise that energy and spontaneity.

Be more expressive and experimental when working with materials instead of planning it all out.

Hope that wasn't too much to swallow... More regurgitations soon...

Thursday, 5 February 2015

MyPinballs: Day 3

Placement/Work Experience
26 - 28 January 

Read day two here.

The last day - we were pretty motivated to get the Twilight Zone lower playfield restoration complete so I could see it through - but although there was a bit of work required to get it finished, we still managed to fit in the conversion of NBA Fastbreak to P-ROC control. The P-ROC controller is how I found out about Jim online through his software rewrites, so great to see his next game get prepared!

myPinballs Arduino pinball controller prototyping
One upcoming project I managed to get a bit of a sneak glimpse at was the myPinballs Arduino Pinball Controller. This controller will be perfect for the games I make - and much simpler than P-ROC. Custom hardware by myPinballs.

 Whirlwind - Software rewrite with P-ROC
When continuing work on the Twilight Zone, as Jim was fixing up some replacement rivets for a new Twilight Zone proximity sensor - I got a chance to play the Whirlwind which is another software rewrite Jim has done using P-ROC. As it is alpha numeric display, it is in a way simpler, but by no means that simple from what I can see! It's a great game to play - and surprisingly for me, amongst one of the top games I have played. Custom software by myPinballs.

After playing Whirlwind Jim showed me some of the reproduction plastics in his stock of spare parts. These are for Monster Bash. They are screenprinted and lasercut into acrylic. Ideas ideas.
NBA Fastbreak - Converting to custom control for software rewrite with P-ROC
This felt like a bonus round - I really wasn't expecting to see this happening. We had a bit of time to spare after finishing up on the Twilight Zone restore so we squeezed this in. I got to see how a pinball machine is converted to custom control ready for a software rewrite. Jim even managed to quickly get the game up and running with some flipper function so I could see the P-ROC physically control the machine via the board and laptop. 

Replacing the Williams board with the P-ROC (mounted on a plate so it fits into Williams machines). Custom software by myPinballs.

After sorting a few driver issues, Jim got the laptop, P-ROC and game talking to one another very quickly!

Hello P-ROC!

Board Swapping in action
Spare parts for the NBA Fastbreak game

Twilight Zone playfield restore - completed
Further understanding of flippers and using the manual to identify the correct coils again. Restoration by myPinballs.

Was just interested in some of the mechanisms. Restoration by myPinballs.

Time to flip over and begin adding the flipper plastic parts. Restoration by myPinballs.

And that's our job done. Jim will help the client replace the rest of the top of the playfield parts and instal into the cabinet again to make sure everything is in good working order. This needs to be done on location at the clients house. Restoration by myPinballs.

And finally the lower playfield completed! Sense of achievement... want to see Jim's picture from before for comparison? Restoration by myPinballs.

All work shown here courtesy of myPinballs.

Follow Jim's Adventure in Pinball via myPinballs blog at
Give him a tweet @mypinballs.

MyPinballs: Day 2

Placement/Work Experience
26 - 28 January 

Read day one here.

Straight into day two - we spent some of the valuable time going over the different projects. We didn't want to spend the whole time on the restoration project, as that is just one of the parts of the business. However it's very hard to get stuck into working with everything in the time, so Jim kindly spent a huge part of the day going over the other areas of the company.

This overview helped me understand the different areas of myPinballs but also a quick run through about how these different systems work.

Overview: Revenge From Mars - saucer modification kit
Modification for the saucers - really great to see it in action after having seen online. Mod by myPinballs.

Video from myPinballs YouTube channel

Overview: Squawk & Talk - Bally sound board reproduction

The Squawk & Talk board is a replacement board for early 80s Bally games. This is in the prototype and testing stage. Custom hardware by myPinballs.

Video from myPinballs YouTube channel

Overview: Elektra Restoration

As well as having one of the Squawk & Talk boards installed, I got to see Jim's work on restoring this 1981 game. I must say it looks totally great so far - need to make sure I get a shot when it is complete. Restoration by myPinballs.

Overview: Indiana Jones - Software Rewrite with P-ROC

There was some updated DMD screen files to be uploaded to the Indiana Jones which is an ongoing rewrite project - this was great for me to see how to work with the files on the laptop - and move them over to the game which is connected to a local network. We did some comparisons before the files were transferred and after and Jim noted minor issues. Custom software by myPinballs.
The new colour DMD's by Eric look great. More about this over on Pinside.

Twilight Zone playfield restore continued

After lunch we continued with the Twilight Zone restoration - making good progress - and realising we may finish up in the time I was there. Restoration by myPinballs.
Continue to day three...

All work shown here courtesy of myPinballs.

Follow Jim's Adventure in Pinball via myPinballs blog at
Give him a tweet @mypinballs.

MyPinballs: Day 1

Placement/Work Experience
26 - 28 January 

Read the intro here.

I was staying in Leeds during my visit, Jim is based in Pudsey which is just around half an hour by bus from Leeds city centre. In the morning I arrived we spent some time speaking about pinball, the different parts of Jim's company and having a few cups of tea of course.

myPinballs is clearly split into three different areas of work 1) Restoration 2) Electronics 3) Software. During the couple of days of my visit we managed to go over all of these areas, and managed to get stuck into helping out with some especially the restoration.

Twilight Zone playfield restore
Twilight Zone is one of the top rated pinball machines, it just so happened Jim had one in for restoration when I was scheduled to be on placement. Restoration by myPinballs.


Old lamps removed on left need to be replaced. In the tub, the lamp sockets which twist in & out of the lighting boards on right - all ready to be cleaned. Restoration by myPinballs.


Top left is an old switch connected to the playfield - note the wear on the copper switches. Top right is a new switch assembled. Bottom left all switches ready to go and finally a switch in place in the playfield after being soldered in by Jim. Restoration by myPinballs.

Before and after - on top, the subway - you can see dirt from the ball track in the center. Bottom built up dirt around a rubber part - now nice and clean! Restoration by myPinballs.

The manual

This is the bible for any owner of a machine - most games have their own one. Jim collects these manuals. As well as diagrams for most parts, there is a table of the different solenoids and a wire colour guide - so you can identify the location for each part. Restoration by myPinballs.


To finish up the day we managed to finish off assembling the jet bumpers or "Town Square" in this Twilight Zone game. Restoration by myPinballs.
Continue to day two...

All work shown here courtesy of myPinballs.

Follow Jim's Adventure in Pinball via myPinballs blog at
Give him a tweet @mypinballs.

MyPinballs: Intro

Placement/Work Experience
26 - 28 January 

See the photo blogs for each day:

myPinballs is the alter-ego for Jim Askey, a pinball/arcade collector/restorer/modder/hacker/experimenter/reinventor. Jim has created worldwide tournament systems, built his own pinball games, created his own driver and control hardware and worked within the industry with some of the pinball's greatest designers.

Follow Jim's Adventure in Pinball via myPinballs blog at
Give him a tweet @mypinballs.

Scheduled for my visit is a look at some of his many projects:
  • Revenge From Mars rgb saucer kits (pinball machine modification kit)
  • Bally sound board reproduction (custom pinball machine hardware board)
  • Gottlieb 80b cpu board reproduction (custom pinball machine hardware board)
  • Indiana Jones pinball machine software rewrite (python and pyprocgame)
  • Whirlwind pinball machine software rewrite (python and pyprocgame)
  • NBA Fast Break pinball machine (altered to custom control using p-roc control boards)
  • Twilight Zone playfield in for a restoration (electronics & what a restoration requires)
Before I go Jim said it would be to useful to read up on (just a basic understanding)
  • Ardunio controllers (have a bit of knowledge of these)
  • p-roc boards
  • python code
  • pyprocgame ( the custom pinball framework)
  • Also to have a look on for any pinball games that I like and we can talk about
This is a 2-3 day placement and I'd like to explore some possibilities of more/ongoing work.

See the photo blogs for each day:

Monday, 2 February 2015

Restoration: Expressway

See my last post for more explanation on this. On Saturday I visited the Bally Expressway pinball machine, which is stored in the garage of Ray Wilkinson in Bath. I wanted to visit to see it in person before going any further and to meet the family.

Although it does need quite a lot of work I am pretty eager to get it to my desk space in Bristol to begin looking into it further. So this is going ahead. My aim is to restore it to a good working order and to protect it against further damage and wear after it's 15 years in storage. The machine will still belong to the family.

Full documentation of the current state of the machine will be the first stage after we arrange transportation to Bristol.
Ray was working on his bike in the garage when we arrived. The garage is like a treasure trove - there is also an old jukebox.
Getting a look at the machine
Inspecting the backglass - from a distance looks fine....
Close up, we can see some peeling of the screenprint. This is common and especially since it has been stored in a garage. The plan would be to clear coat the inside to protect against further peeling.
The cabinet lock seems to have been removed - but at least we can get a view inside. Looks better than I expected - but just pretty dirty, dusty and spider webs. The cabinet may have been damp in places - this could cause further problems. Check the play counter though - has had a good few plays in it's day.
View inside of the backbox - same here pretty dirty. Possibly damp.
Playfield with a little wear - everything needs a good clean and sort out. Next to the bumpers looks like has been protected with some sort of sticky paper instead of mylar - this needs to be removed with care if it is indeed sticky back.
A bonus I was not expecting: the full schematic that goes with the machine. This includes a diagram of all the switches and a parts list. I have scanned this - find below.

Schamatics & manual

Bally Expressway Manual / Notes (PDF)