Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Screenprinting part1.

Screen printing with paper stencils for the first time in more than 10 years. Slightly wobbly with the squeegee and a few smudges and painful finger prints. Paper stencils provided a whole new set of challenges which I had not even thought about. I knew that even with a mid weight cartridge paper than they would only last for a short run of prints but I hadnt even considered the leakage, ink build up and saturation of the stencil. 

It was nice to play around with the configuration of the shapes to start building a totem style personality profile. Because I am in the experimental stage of the development of the project I don't feel too restricted in terms of the outcome which is good. However, it has started some new ideas forming. The physical act of screen printing in itself is very cathartic and relaxing in the same way that making promotes abstract thought, I found myself constructing and synthesizing ideas and concepts for my research and practice 2. It made me realise that although academic writing and illustration are poles apart in terms of disciplines for me the act of being creative really does give me the mental space to generate and contemplate interesting ideas about not only the concepts within the project but also the wider debates about illustration practice and the continued quest for a definition. 

I am also working on confirgurations based on the real life positioning of the shelf objects using a colour palette based on the original objects. Although screen printing is more of an exploration or enquiry into the process there is something to build on with the idea of the overlap of shapes, not the negative space but the space where objects touch and overlap each other. This might be worth exploring in another batch of prints. 

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Boxes cont..

After spending last week making an array of differently shaped boxes, partly in an attempt to generate some more concrete ideas about the direction of the project and partly as a way to meditate post hand-in week at work, I started playing around with some of the boxes, loosely based on the shelf collection. I used the original objects and vector drawings as a starting point. I feel torn between the 'real' objects and an abstract representation of the objects. I know that I want to develop ideas around the juxtaposition of objects and the way in which people talk about the objects they own. But there is something in the 'real', the tangible that motivates my interest. There is a love of the object itself. I think that perhaps using my own collections is clouding my judgement in this matter. I am naturally closer to my own objects and subsequently am perhaps behaving less objectively about them.

I tried taking the abstraction further, moving away from cubist representation to plain colour blocks. 

What the blocked colour does that the patterned boxes don't is further abstract from the original. This gives an element of mystery, but also reduces the collection to its positioning and colour, rather than the specifics of the objects. I think perhaps the introduction of type or audio would really add another dimension to the collection and build on the idea of collections as narratives and personality profiles.

Although I want to use the objects in situ, I couldn't help but play around with the blocks into structured totems, widest to narrowest etc. Looking at the overall comparisons between 
scale and colour. This also reaffirms the idea that the individual curates, choreographs and organizes their collection as a method of self expression and self representation. Perhaps this is why illustrators and artists immerse themselves in collections as a way of investigating and representing the self.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Mapping Practice pt.2.

I have finally written an abstract for my final major project. (Although this is still a draft version) I am trying to make sure that I don’t close my mind to the exploratory nature of the MA. I realised after the first module that throughout my entire illustration career I visualise the final product within the first few days of getting a project, then work tirelessly to get a visual realisation as close to that original vision as possible. I used the same approach through school, college and university, thinking that effective planning and time management would be the best way to get the most done for each project. However, what I have come to realise throughout this experience is that in doing that I totally remove the creativity from my illustration practice. There is no room for creative process or development or experimentation. The extent of my experimentation is enough to cover what I know is expected from the assessment criteria instead of experimentation that actually has any potential to develop the project or further my own practice.
I used the collaboration module to actively get away from the fixed outcome, trying to let the initial idea form and develop on its own rather than cajoling it into a preconceived outcome. This worked on some level, although I still clung on to the reigns a little. Anyway… I wanted to make sure that my final project embraced the positives from the collaborative module, free from restraint, free from process and free from preconceptions. A real true exploration of ideas and visual language. So, there are only two marked parameters for this project as far as I am concerned: 1. I want to move away from highly rendered painted realism: that’s not to say that I don’t want to do any painting or that I want to produce total abstraction. I want to make my illustration practice do more than just portray the real. (A camera can do that) I want it to go beyond the real whilst still referring to it. I want people to recognise it as real but have it represent something other as well, an emotion, a feeling, a time and place, a story, etc. 2. I want to let the exploration of the idea and imagery to inform the final outcome. I do not want to have any thoughts about the final outcome. I want the project to be a body of work that explores the idea of collections and people who collect. I am hoping that during the final weeks of the project there will be enough imagery to curate into a narrative that explains the project. Although this sounds like a simple and rather obvious process, I have never really worked like this before. I have written previously about illustration practice being free from process and about sharing a way of seeing and interpreting the world. What I realised about my own practice is that there is no interpretation within it. My practice is purely representational, there is no ‘me’ within my own practice. By me, I mean my authorial voice. My visual language is rooted in realistic representation and not an expression of my experience or view of the world. It is about capturing the world as it is, not as I see it.
Whilst spending time in the studio space I reflected on the previous ‘mapping’ session. It raised some questions for me about our ideas about illustration practice. The illustrators we referenced and situated centrally within the illustration circle were all traditional practitioners, illustrators you research at college. Illustrators who come up on the first page of a google search. (not entirely true but you get the idea) Do these illustrators really represent contemporary illustration practice? Or does their inclusion say something more troubling about the current definition of illustration practice? The group is a mixture of illustrators and graphic designers obviously studying a Masters qualification. It is worrying that practitioners at that level would still make reference to ‘old skool’ illustrators.
I added Mut Mut to the centre of the illustration circle as a comment on this question. A 2015 exhibition of contemporary practice titled ‘Mut Mut’ at Assembly Point in south London: consciously rejected the conventional context of contemporary illustration associated with commercial practice. ‘It reflects an observation that illustration practice is experiencing a necessary evolution.’ (Clifton and Gannon 2016) Illustrators can be model makers, sculptors, engineers and technicians.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

More making

I spent today making more boxes, partly as a continued experiment in promoting abstract thought and partly as a development of abstract representation of objects. It allowed me to construct more thorough ideas about the specific direction of my project. Originally I had been toying with the idea of collections and searching for a way to represent the collection in its entirety, the position and juxtaposition of objects across a collection and to somehow combine that with the way that people talk about their own collections. There is something magical and intriguing about the stories that surround objects, how those stories generate a character and meaning projected on to the object. This nostalgia of experience and memory is a very interesting area to look into. It is an integral part of why people collect. But I am particularly interested in how to represent that in a visual form. I have made a selection of boxes as an exploration of the abstraction of realistic representation. The boxes still maintain an element of scale and proportion in comparison to the original objects and to each other in order to maintain some sense of their space within the collection, how they sit against each other and compare to each other to create the collection as a whole.


I particularly enjoyed making boxes on my own, although this takes away the idea of discourse as a group, I found that I was able to concentrate more specifically on my own ideas for the project. Making for me continues to be a meditative experience, where I become almost disembodied from the task at hand and wander around my thoughts and ideas, recognising patterns and themes that previously eluded me. This really has helped me synthesise ideas for both my major project and research and practice 2.

I have been noticeable disheartened post my first stab at writing the draft. However, I continue to forget that in order to achieve and learn that I need to push myself, and that means tackling written elements with as much vigour and gusto that I would like to think that I tackle practical tasks with. The reality is that I will always procrastinate around written work, through anxieties about quality and ability. I need to remember that I am not trying to write a prize winning academic paper, but an exploration of my ideas around the subject and also that an exploration no matter how well informed does not always lead to a clear cut conclusion. In fact in most cases it shouldn’t. In my opinion research should always raise more questions than it answers.  

Saturday, 21 May 2016

More 3d scanning experiments

I have been experimenting with 3D scanning. I have been using a Sense 1st generation 3d scanner.  It is so easy to use, although there is a definite technique to achieving the perfect scan. There has been a lot of trial and error throughout but that's not to say that it hasn't been worth the effort. I am hoping to take the scans through Maya to clean them up and adjust any protrusions. I am striving to keep an authenticity of the scanned environment and part of that is human error.

The main purpose for scanning objects it to get a sense of the space around the object, how the objects are juxtaposed together. How they exist as a collection. Peter Vergo stated in his paper 'The Reticent Object' that in collections:
'objects are bought together not simply for the sake of their physical manifestation or juxtaposition but because they are part of a story one is trying to tell' 
taken from 'New Museology - 1989

For me the place in which an object is displayed is part of the story I am trying to tell. Perhaps I am interested in the objects that surround our collections, objects on the periphery. These objects, although not part of the collection, help to define the purpose of the collection by comparison and contrast. 

As Gelber (1992) states 'Collectors create, combine, classify and curate the objects they acquire in such a way that a new product 'The Collection' emerges.'

Shelf shapes

So I have been working with boxes thus far, but am now going to explore simple shapes as part of a screen printing overlay experiment next week. Here are some of the basic shapes.

There is still a danger that this is too representational of the figure rather than a study into the arrangement and display of the collection. It is difficult to know how far I can abstract the shapes to get something workable without it becoming boring.

Make up bags

Here are a series of images based on the boxes and bags that I keep my makeup in. I wanted to look at a simple representation of the container, using the text to illustrate the volume of the content.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Musings on Authorial Voice.

If illustration practice is defined by the visual language or voice of the illustrator, their authographic style, this also needs definition.

Authographic voice is the presence of the individual: the illustrator’s way of seeing the world. The physical manifestation of the choices they make, this can be in terms of process and the hierarchy of processes they choose. The formal decisions they make about colour, shape, tone and composition inform their visual language. These come from the experiences of the individual, sociological, psychological, environmental and economical. These inform their frames of reference, signs and symbols, aesthetic and formal decisions in their image making. The individuals ways of expressing how they see the world.

The physicality of the illustrator, although not immediately evident plays a great part in the development of the individuals voice. For example, many illustrators use a pencil as part of their initial forming of ideas. Some go on to develop technically proficient pencil drawings while for others the pencil is the starting point for a series of processes personal to them. The way illustrators make marks even with the same implement varies based on the physique of the illustrator. Some can be heavy handed, making thick dark marks; some use a light more fluid touch. Even the way in which they hold the pencil and the pencil they choose becomes part of their authorial voice. The process is the same but the physical presence of the individual informs their unique visual language.

Authorial voice can be defined by the presence of the hand of the illustrator, their physicality; the eye of the illustrators, their way of reinterpreting the world based on their place within it and experiences of it, and their pattern of choices and processes.

Totem Experiments

I have been working on some boxes based on the objects on 1 shelf in my living room. In order to explore the idea that the object itself might not need to be present in a literal sense to represent the collection.

The left is a totem of the objects from the shelf stacked aesthetically, the right is a totem based on location on the shelf, reading objects left to right and back to front, then stacked accordingly. Scale of the objects has been adjusted based on the most suitable stacking sizes, however, the items could be stacked based on relative size.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Mapping Practice pt. 1

As part of our continued discourse about contemporary practice in Illustration and Graphic design we have been working on a mapping exercise during our making workshops. Looking at the relationship between disciplines in a quest to identify the spaces in-between to map the trajectory of our practice throughout the MA. The starting point and the ultimate end goal are charted, in the hope of synthesizing and cementing ideas about our own practice through a dialogue about the practice of others.

As a group we come from a varied of backgrounds, which has made the initial stages of the mapping exercise very interesting. Some students have a strong conceptual idea about their work in terms of process and concepts but perhaps a little less of a solid notion about where there practice sits within contemporary illustration and design. 

Despite everyone’s initial reluctance we were able to start forming some interesting arguments about areas of illustration practice and where they (and the illustrators who represent them) sit within the discipline. My main issue at present with this approach is that we have traditional illustrators located centrally around the main point of illustration practice. It worries me that contemporary illustration practice is then somehow pushed on to the outskirts of the practice, deemed ‘less’ somehow. How can illustration practice move forward when it is still based heavily on traditional methods? Illustration practice can be any visual platform. This proves that the term illustration could be what is holding the discipline back. Perhaps it is no longer fit for purpose and acts as a restraint. Aspiring illustrators are trapped into a discipline that is already dead, based on the traditional, static, safe and outdated (?) work they are forced to associate with the word illustration. 

In Flagrante Collecto

'In Flagrante Collecto (caught in the act of collecting)' 

Gelfman Karl is a professor of art at New York University, a sculptor whose mixed media, found object works have been exhibited internationally, an avid observer of material culture, and a relentless collector.

This tome is bursting at the seams with beautifully photographed and documented collections. But for me, it is Karp's anecdotes that shape the wonder, delight and magic of her collections. There is something phantasmagorical about her story telling that fully absorbs and captivates the reader. We are in and amongst her collection, inside her mind, her experiences and her life. There is a great sense of knowing, of familiarity with the author through her personal transcriptions. 

Karp shares informed insights into the reasons behind collecting centring around ideas of the the self and the individual. 

Needing to collect

1.    Unquestionable dominion. Collecting gives a province of absolute control. The collector is the king of all they survey.

2.    Hands on gratification. There is a deep satisfaction in organising, inventorying and embracing. Touching material objects connects us with the time and place in which they were made or acquired. Organising and categorising ones own personal collection is like a potlatch.

3.    Empowerment by delimitation. One can decide the exact premise of one’s collection. The boundaries, criteria and standards are personal. A fungible scale of allowable desires.

4.    Hunting and gathering. The quest for adding to a collection can be exhilarating. This can encourage a refined sense of strategic reconnaissance and a fulfilling sense of personal acuteness, judgement, attainment and achievement.

5.    Possession. Ownership is an act of self-affirming intimacy. A collector’s single voice is witnessed in a collection. A collection is a constructed self-redefinition of the collector.

6.    Transference of characteristics. Husbanding grants protective custody over the object, in some cases granting asylum, resurrecting or gripping an object back from the maw of oblivion. The salient attributes of the collection accrue to the collector, and consequently transfer through the material object to successive owners.

I I have highlighted two phrases that really made a connection with me. I love the idea that it is
the physicality of an object that generates its intrigue to the owner, it acts as a memory
stimulant, a time machine to its creation, an experience in the owners past. The power of the
object is truly realised through touch. 

  Material culture is a voice through which collective history speaks.

The most primitive purpose of a list is memory prompting. Lists are a handy form of acquisition
when you find personal satisfaction in a category of objects that you keep picking up on, yet
you can’t or don’t want to take home. Where photographic representation is possible, it just
doesn’t encapsulate the concept; in fact, it misrepresents it.
NB: The idea that photographic representation somehow misrepresents the object builds on my previous indecision about realistic painting and effective representation of the objects. Illustration, especially of collectors' objects should continue to go beyond the realms of the real, and occupy that space where the collectors love, passion and self are projected on to the object. 

My husband and I have given extensive collections to several worthy museums because we
believed that the objects and artworks belonged in the public domain where they could be seen
and enjoyed by multitudes.

Selectivity and organisation impart the key differences between a pile of stuff and a collection.
NB: Organisation of objects is another form of self representation. How the collector organises catalogues and shows off their collection represents them. 

The armature of collecting is the collector. Looking hard at the praxis of collecting it is about
self-authorizing action in the service of aggressive sensitivity backed up by one’s own Talmudic
rules. It is about binary vision. It is about exigency, strategy and valour: it is not an allegory.