Monday, 25 July 2016

Final Reflection

This project has been an experience, that’s for sure. I originally set out to do an MA because I believed it was what I needed to further my teaching career, to make the move from F.E to H.E, whilst also allowing me the time to explore my own practice, learn new things and to see if I was capable of being creative again.

I was not prepared for how much it would affect my creative process and practice. In so much as I haven’t done a painting and I haven’t planned a final outcome in the first two weeks of a project. Both of these are massive steps for me. I spent my time at uni,(the first time) searching for a process that I felt was most suitable for my creative outlet, one that generated a style, one that told everyone the illustrations were mine. What I realize now is that this is not what illustration is. Its fair to say that for some, the way that they draw, or make marks or create imagery is their style, their authorial voice. Investing so whole heartedly in a process as a way of defining practice can, in some cases cover weak ideas, a lack of creative thinking and a stagnation of innovation. The illustrator becomes tied to their process through fear. This was certainly the case for me. Is there any other time where a practicing professional illustrator is free to explore their own practice? Not likely. Not without jeopardizing their professional profile or affecting their commercial appeal. As professional illustrators we become trapped in our own process. Trapped by a style that becomes our only way of working. For the first time in my illustration career, I feel a sense of confidence in my ability to successfully problem solve, to be innovative and creative with my practice without relying on painting as an outcome.

In a sense studying an MA has freed me from the restraints of my practice but in a way it has done more than that. It has fundamentally changed the way I approach a creative solution. I, through obsessive time management and fear, usually plan a final outcome during the first few weeks of a project and then work backwards from that point. That’s not to say that I didn’t experiment or explore materials, processes and media, but these experiments were simply a tokenistic gesture, because in my mind, I already had the elements of the final outcome decided. Certainly when I painted, part of the reason for this was purely because I knew the time I had to invest to produce each painting. The project became more about efficiency of production, quality and quantity of imagery, rather than a real engagement with purpose or concepts of the project in question. This reluctance to relinquish the final product is also rooted in ideas about traditional illustration practice, that illustrators must be technically proficient in their draughtsmanship. 

In reflection, illustration should not be only rooted in this, it should be about innovation, about communication, about create something visually engaging. Sometimes an accurate drawing or a beautifully realistic painting doesn’t offer anything more than a photograph would offer. The illustrator needs to bring in something more, something that is beyond the real, something magical, to make the unseen, seen and the unexplained tangible. This does not always require technical proficiency of process, but a comprehensive understanding of purpose.  I have consciously invested time and energy into this exploration of purpose. What am I trying to say? What questions am I trying to answer? And how is my imagery going to convey that to the viewer? Through out each developmental stage of the project I have been asking myself these questions, reflecting on success and failings, trying to unpick the solution by discovering the real question. This has allowed each experiment to have its place in the journey of the project, each development has informed a creative solution that is an important part of the discourse of the project and the continued development of practice. At the beginning of the project I refused to commit to a final outcome and invested instead on documenting and exploring processes and practice through reflection and experimentation. This approach has opened my creative process and broadened my practice. There is still an inherent anxiety that somehow in leaving painting I will loose the core of my authorial voice, my commercial appeal and language, but I have to believe that the ‘New’ will bring something more to my practice.

Moving forward I hope to continue to develop my voice through experimentation and investigation. I never want to be stationary in my practice. I have a great opportunity through teaching to be continually challenging my authorial voice through practice, to share in the creative process of others and to always learn. I am going to become a Hermenaut:  

‘an adventurer, a traveller, a map maker in the uncharted territory of creating something unseen, not experienced before. ‘

O’Reilly 2014

Final Cover

To make the final publication tie in with the other elements of the project, I designed a cover that was complimentary to the screen printed book cover. I used this Peter Vergo quote on the bellyband because I feel that it really does encapsulate the project.

It brings together the idea of the physical positioning of the objects, the objects in situ, how they are arranged together, but also the part that those objects play in constructing the narrative of the collector, their experiences, choices and personality. 

Friday, 22 July 2016

Pagination and Page Layout

I spent some time planning and developing the layout of the catalogue. I struggled initially with the layout throughout the book until I stumbled upon the idea of using the screen-print layers as a starting point for some of the layout designs. This helped with structuring the introductory pages and added a nice continuity across the catalogue, the publication and the prints.  I also used the same colour palette throughout for each participant, taken from the original screen-prints.

I had previously based the order of the book on chronological responses. However, this required a little bit of shuffling in order to break up the screen-printing throughout the publication. I also wanted to punctuate the photos with text and leave enough space around the screen-print sections to create a visual pause for the reader. I also wanted to balance white space throughout with written passages.

Here are some of the more successful double page layout ideas. I have used a combination of original imagery, screen-prints, photography and type to break up the publication.

Although I have used online book printing facilities before like Vista and Blurb, I felt reluctant to use them at such short notice incase there were any issues with the quality of the final publication. Instead I approached Hobs Reprographics on Castle Street for quotes. They were very helpful with file set up, crop marks, bleeds and colour matching. They also offered a quick turn around and could print a full colour 40-page A5 saddle stitched booklet the same day, which seemed like a great offer.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Plinths and the laser cutter: the honeymoon.

As a response to the exhibition space dilemma I have made small plinths or bases for the assortment of models that I have been experimenting with. This was also an opportunity for me to continue my romance with the laser cutter. Although when designing the models I tried to keep the footprint the same, there is quite a large variation across the 7 models. Making a base will help add uniformity to the collection as a whole. I designed a small square base with a hole for the model to sit in. I also used the engraver to add the title of each model and the name of the collector. 

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Documenting the project.

In order to bring all of the disparate elements of the project together I have decided to make a catalogue of the project, to document all the responses together. This feels like the most fitting way to show all of the different elements together and how they work as a complete project.

I spent an afternoon with Carlos in the photography studio setting up lights, a tripod and the rostrum to get a variety of dynamic shots for the publication.


Monday, 18 July 2016

Exhibition Space reflection:

Today we looked around the exhibition space for the show in September. My reluctance to settle on a final outcome in the project felt even more pronounced when looking at the space. I realized that I, in trying to embrace the new, had lost sight of the driving force of much illustration work, which is an end product.

Clients aren’t bothered if you’ve learnt a new skill, or tried a new approach, if anything they want a copy of something you have already produced. If this is the case to be a practicing illustrator, how do you keep developing your own style and moving your practice forward when getting work means that clients are buying into a style that you have already done? There are wider repercussions across the discipline as a whole, how can illustration as a profession move anywhere when we are tied to our current, and in most cases old style and process? How can we be contemporary and adventurers in visual language when, to get work, (after all illustration is a job) we have to re hash, re produced and plagiarize our old work? Where is the space for innovation? For the new?

Illustrators are forced to split their work into two completely separate camps, personal work, a space to drive forward innovation, to embrace new technology, to explore develop and investigate authorial voice, visual language and practice; and commercial work, work that brings in money, where integrity is sacrificed for commerce. In some cases these two camps collide and something truly magical happens, like the work of Merijn Hos mentioned in a previous post.

Alan Male wrote this ‘the role of the illustrator should be as an innovative and vigorous partner and not a submissive and passive provider to the client.’ (2007:182) in his book ‘Illustration: A theoretical and contextual perspective’. This is a great argument. Illustrators should be actively pushing the boundaries of the practice with commercial work as much as with personal work. Personal work should be the place to learn new skills, to experiment and explore, but if this acquisition of the new is not used in commercial practice then its point is lost.

So back to the exhibition: I have thought about the project as a whole and as individual pieces. The difficulty is that the project itself has produced a collection of responses about collections, including books, screen prints, models, and writing. None of which holds more value that the other, but together they form an overall collection, which in itself is arguably closer to the whole concept of the project. I need to consider how these items might be displayed as a collection to truly convey the project as a whole without oversaturating the exhibit.

Cover design - a love affair with the laser cutter

Experiments with a laser cut bellyband for the publication. I used a plan muted grey murano card for the cover to create a neutral base to set off the colourful prints. I chose Orange as the accent colour to unify all the prints together as most have at least one warm tone. Plus I feel that grey and orange is a really nice combination of colours. 

 I wanted the title to be short and to the point rather than over complicating everything. I think it sets the tone for the rest of the book, giving the audience just enough of an idea of the content, without oversaturating it. 


The bellyband also allowed me to put a small 'Thank you' on the back for the participants. I feel like the cover design was crucial in maintaining the quality of the screen prints. This approach has married the colours and tones of the booklet without being too fussy and overcomplicated.