Thursday, 30 June 2016

Dissertation Scramble

I have been scrambling to finish my dissertation for the last few days and it has wiped me out. I always try my best to plan a strict routine when it comes to any written element, mainly because I know that I always find it a challenge to write anything, let alone something of considered length. In addition to the written element, I knew that I wanted to leave enough time to plan something interesting for the ‘publication’ part of the module. I didn’t want to just produce a pamphlet book or a magazine, or simply get it published through an online company (although in hindsight this would have been a much easier and quicker option.)

I instead planned a concertina book block to resemble and mimic the content of the essay, Instagram. I wanted reading the book to feel the same as scrolling through an Instagram feed. A vertical concertina book block was the closest I could get to the repetitive sensation of scrolling on a phone or tablet. I deliberately kept the scale the same as an iphone 6 screen to make the reading experience as close to an actual phone as possible. I had previously researched developing an App, as part of the collaborative module, but felt that this was too costly and limited the reader audience, in so much as those without iphones or smart phones were unable to access the app. 

Anyway, now this is complete and submitted I am able to bring my focus back to the Final Major Project. Although it has eaten away at my time over the last two weeks, it has given me distance and perspective on the project and allowed me to think through the potential outcomes for the exhibition.

Monday, 20 June 2016

DNA Markers

After continuing to develop screen printed responses to collections focusing on location of objects in relation to each other, how they overlap, touch and exist in 3dimensional space. I started to recognize that there were similarities to the abstracted overlaid shapes to DNA markers. I had already contemplated the idea that objects and collections of objects in some way represent the personality of the individual, perhaps these visualizations of collections could be personality markers like DNA markers, representing the traits of the individual, the objects they collect and how they place them around their lives?

I researched the Human Genome Project (HGP) and found it particularly resonant that the goal of the project was to ‘map and understand’. The idea that mapping can bring understanding I find very relevant to the investigation into collections of objects. I am searching around the idea that individuals collections say something about the person, their choices in life, their personality, they construct a narrative unique to that individual. Although the idea of DNA markers feels a bit cliché and obvious there is something more interesting at work underneath the idea. 

Markers themselves usually consist of DNA that does not contain a gene. But because markers can help a researcher locate a disease-causing gene, they are extremely valuable for tracking inheritance of traits through generations of a family.

I looked back over the prints and explored this idea further. Purely from a visual perspective they are interesting, the colours and overlays play nicely against each other. I am not sure as a stand-alone image they say enough about the ideas behind the project, the collections or the individuals. They only work as an end point when shown with the developmental stages of the project.  

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Back in screenprinting

I wanted to further explore the idea of transparencies, colours and overlays with other people's collections. I asked a number of friends, all illustrators, if they would like to contribute to the project. The only specification was that the objects had to be photographed in situ, how they are everyday, and not curated or staged to look a certain way. I wanted the imagery to be as honest as possible as a starting point. For me, that gives a truer depiction of the personality and attributes of the individual. It was also important that they took the photo themselves, this also says a lot about the character of the person. It is clear which objects and collections they value and treasure through the objects they choose to include. I specifically did not stipulate what the objects needed to be, simply that they should not be moved for the purpose of the photo.

Collection 1. Rheannon Ormond

Collection 2 a. Adam Paxman

Collection 2 b. Adam Paxman

Collection 3. My own

I wanted to continue to develop the use of colours in the images to make sure that they had a sophisticated colour palette, influenced by but not exactly representational of the colours in the original objects. To make the colours in Adam's extensive comic book collection more stimulating, I looked specifically at colourful lights and colourful darks trying to capture the reflected colour across the glossy spines of the comic books. This helped to create a more balanced image.

The image started to come alive once the third colour was added. The same happened with Rheannon's collection. The original colour palette felt very muted and understated. I wanted to exploit the colours in the butterflies and the peacock's feathers to add dynamism to the image. 

I really love the way the overlay exaggerates the negative space and pushes other shapes back. There is a sense of depth and a real understanding of the spaces between the objects and the spaces where they touch, overlap and converge.

I think the final prints are a total triumph and have really helped me to unpick what it is that I am interested in with this projected. It is how the objects sit together, the shape of the collection as a whole entity rather than the individual elements. I am hoping to continue to explore this idea with the 3D scanning and the way people talk about their objects and collections.

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Post Tutorial Reflection

Key Points raised:

·      Final submission date 12th August 2016
·      Closure of the print room – 20th June
·      Exhibition 5th, 6th and 7th Sept

I found it difficult to explain the current direction of my project. I still feel like I’m searching around the main idea. There is an evident reluctance to commit to a final output, object or product. When asked what I was hoping to exhibit, I simply replied ‘I don’t know’.  Petulant? Maybe. But true never the less. There is method behind this approach rooted in the feedback from previous projects and my on going experiences through educational establishments, that I focus so singularly on a final outcome at the start of a project that I neglect experimentation and subsequently the ability to recognize success and failings in my work because of blatant single-mindedness. Instead, my new approach, particularly for this final major project is to explore materials, visuals and processes to really develop my authorial voice through a determination to explore, ask and answer questions around the theme of collections. Obviously it is not as clear-cut as that. I have invested time into developing thoughts around the theme and around illustration practice. There is a mis-match between some of the written elements of my research and the imagery. Although the two sit awkwardly together my next challenge is to find a way to bring the two elements together. How do produce something that talks firstly about collections, the collections of illustrators, why and how they are displayed purchased and organized AND broader thoughts about illustration practice, what it is, where it sits, and what it can be in the future. I’m not totally convinced that this is possible, but what is important to me presently is to continue to develop both areas of the project, the research and written with the visual and exploratory. That, I feel, is the new direction of my work. 

I am continuing to develop visuals around the collections of others and am consciously using the printing process to allow myself the time to explore exhibition ideas and ‘final piece’ ideas. The truth is that my responses to collections have become a collection of their own. This is another possible outcome for the project, a collection of responses about collections, which could include written elements, objects, prints and paintings. For now this idea is in its infancy and needs further contemplation to become anything of substance.

I need to get into the print room and complete the next three prints to work out some more ideas about the potential direction of the project. I think timetabling in reverse from the submission date to now would help give focus and promote decision making in a timely way.

Friday, 10 June 2016

Screen printing exp. 2

After working last week on shapes from my own collection I felt that it was time to introduce other people's collections into the screen printing process. I knew that my emotional and nostalgic connection to my own collection was influencing (in part) how I was manipulating and developing the imagery. 

I started to work with Craig's collection of green action figures as a starting to point to develop some screen prints using transparencies and overlays. I started with the same approach to the previous experiments, using paper stencils for each layer of the screen print, using a light weight cartridge paper (160 gsm) as before.

The paper stencil created a slightly fuzzy edge, sometimes splurging ink underneath the stencil, splodging around the edges, because of the geometric shapes and clean lines in the design this felt too messy. It looked like a mistake rather than intentional. With screen printing, there is an element of trial and error that you can build into the screen print, changing things as and when based on the success of each screen printed layer, sometimes make adjustments during the process to adapt and manipulate 'errors' into the design of the print. I tried pulling more gently and changing the viscosity of the ink to get a smoother pull, but in the end I was forced to admit defeat and tweaked the design to use digital positives. 

 I could not believe the difference in the quality of the print using an exposed image rather than a paper stencil. The pull was much smoother, needed less force, less ink, and dried in no time. Subsequently I was able to experiment more thoroughly with the colour palettes and ink transparencies to make sure I was getting a nice balance of colours. I had already factored this in, in the digital design, but it was a delicate process mixing complimentary colours and balancing the use of the transparency medium. 

This was the first colour overlay experiment looking at how the colours played off against each other. I wanted to try and avoid using too much white in the mix because it adds a cloudy dull palour to the ink. I wanted to maintain a fresh vibrancy with the colours that represented the palette of the original objects. 

 I had to make sure the order of the colours left the lightest colour on the surface. I think these were much more successful than the previous prints. I felt more confident with the process in general and think that I am developing more of an understanding of the potential and inherent visual qualities that screenprinting can offer. 

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Face Experiments

I have been working with the original shapes of the objects, the simplified boxes and the oblique vector boxes, to construct representations of the face as part of a continued development to this project.

The first uses the exact shapes of the objects to construct the face, the second uses the simplified abstracted boxes, the third uses the more complex flattened box designs taken from the original objects. Although they all have different success, the hair is perhaps a cheat in terms of readability of the shapes as a face. (particularly as I have quite a distinctive hair cut and colour.

I explored this further removing the hair and moving away from myself as a reference point just to look specifically at ways to create characterful faces using these shapes. 

These are more successful and could potentially inform the development and direction of this project.

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Totem experiments.

Throughout this exploration of objects I have been torn between the objects and their positioning. By this I mean the objects themselves, their shapes, colours, history and memory, and the organization and positioning of these objects in relation to each other as part of a collection as a whole. The idea of the ‘collection’ being a separate entity to the individual objects made me think about how those objects exist together, in a hierarchy of importance based on how they are displayed.

To further develop this I used the 3d scanned objects from my own collection and started constructing them into hierarchical totem poles. A vertical formation of personal value, based on the most important to the least important. (Although it is important to note that in Native American history the totem pole is constructed with the least important part at the base.)

Visually totem poles might seem like a natural progression in terms of building new structures with existing objects, but in fact there is a more fundamental link between totems and narratives. ‘Totem poles represent stories or document important events.’ I had previously considered objects as a narrative construct around the collector, using the idea of the totem pole, I can develop structural formations that tell a story about the individual. ‘Totems represent the traits and characteristics each story embodies.’ For more about totems visit this site.

Totems remove the idea of the place of the object and give it a new place in relation to the other objects in the collection and the characteristics of the collector.

Another collection

Craig's green action figures.

After spending weeks with my own collection I knew that in order to further explore some of the ideas I had around objects, their placements and their owners I needed to broaden my reference points beyond that of my own objects. I also wanted to make sure that these new collections were not curated for the purpose of this project, but that they existed before and will continue to do so long after. I also did not want to collector to make any changes to their existing displays, just to record them 'as is', in their natural habitat. 

Looking at another person's collection made me think more specifically about what I was interested in. It also helped me to move away from the realistic representation, because I felt no emotional or personal connection to the objects. I was able to look at them unfiltered. 

And so continued the abstraction and overlay of the objects, documenting their position in relation to each other through overlaying simple shapes, points where they touch, overlap and converge. 
There is potential to take these abstractions through screen printing to exploit the use of transparencies and overlays in a different process. 

Friday, 3 June 2016

Post screen-printing reflection


It is important to think more clearly about what I have learnt about screen printing. I often get my students to write out 3 things they feel they have learnt from the session. This is to help them take ownership of their learning and understand how what they have learnt relates to the wider context of the course. Rather arrogantly I do not do this often enough within my own practice to help get clarity of purpose and intention with projects. For the purpose of this reflection I am going to pick out 3 things about the screen-printing process that I have learnt, with a suggestion of how I might develop these further to get the post out of the experience but to also inform the direction of my project.

1.    Paper stencils behave differently to exposed screens:

I made paper stencils because I thought it would be easier and quicker to cut paper silhouettes rather than wait for the images to be exposed on screens. Foolishly I cut 11 stencils, of varying sizes and complexity. I used a low grade cartridge paper on the recommendation of Paul, which actually was a blessing, as I had thought previously that I might use card to get more durability out of each stencil. This, I later realized, would have been too thick and would have caused the squeegee to jump at the edges of the stencil.

The paper stencils caused the ink to pool slightly around the edges of the stencil, leaving a noticeably thicker line of ink around the edge of the print. This took longer to dry and created an uneven surface for the overlaying print. I had to experiment with the viscosity of the ink to get the smoothest pull, trying to balance a mixture of retarder and acrylic to get the best print. 

2.    Planning the print more thoroughly worked better:

One of the prints was based on the real life position of the objects on the shelf while the other was a random combination of the objects loosely based on a totem structure. The colours too, although based on the real objects, were less successful. More forethought in this area would have helped with the overall final print.

Using the existing positioning of objects was much more successful.

3.    Unnecessary layers:

Working with 11 layers, even in an exploratory way, is too many. Not only that, it is not exploiting the inherent qualities of screen-printing as a process. Part of the joy of screen printing is in the overlay, when planned thoroughly these overlays can be used to generate new colours. I was using one stencil for each colour, when I could have thought more specifically about the combination of overlays to create new colours. Equally I wanted to highlight the areas where the objects overlayed each other. But because of the opacity of the inks this felt more accidently than purposeful.

I want to experiment with adding a transparency medium into the mix to make more of the connected spaces where objects touch. 

I am not disappointed with the outcome as part of an exploratory journey with the creative process. I am trying to make sure that the process is bringing something to the idea; building on concepts about collections I am trying to communicate. I want it to contribute to the overall concept not just be secondary to the creation of the image.

Drying time - (the time inbetween)

Screen printing has left me with a lot of time inbetween layers to contemplate the direction of this project and the wider considerations about illustration practice. What the discipline is and what it means to me. This is not a clear cut and easily quantifiable thing. As previously stated the idea of defining illustration practice is fraught with difficulties. Its not what it once was, that is clear, but it cannot be a concise definition either. 

How do we redefine a discipline that is reluctant to be pigeonholed into a static definition? We need to consider definitions and platforms that provide open and forward thinking descriptors that actively celebrate illustrations place within our society, as our universal social narrative.

One of my favourite definitions of illustrators is O’Reilly’s term Hermenaut. John O’Reilly, editor of Varoom magazine, uses the term Hermenaut (2014) a mash up of hermeneutics, the philosophy and methodology of text interpretation and astronaut in his innovative description. O’Reilly consciously describes illustration practice without process and context focusing of forward thinking and discovery. ‘The illustrator becomes a Hermenaut, an adventurer, a traveller, a map maker in the uncharted territory of creating something unseen, not experienced before.’ (O’Reilly 2014) In order to do this the illustrator must embrace the new, adapt to and reflect our ever-changing society. 

The idea that the illustrator is at the forefront of visual discovery is inspired. Like Neil Armstrong in to the unknown depths of space, or Edmund Hilary’s expedition to the roof of the world, illustrators should be living, breathing and searching at the very edge of the known.

My experience of illustrators, and I include myself in this, is that they do not want to be at the edge, exposed and vulnerable. For many, (that’s not to say all by any means) they settle themselves with their authographic style, in isolation from the rest of the discipline. They work to make money, for them illustration is a job, something that does nothing more than pay the bills. This creates a pressure and anxiety around illustration. It has to serve a purpose, generate an income. There is no room for illustration, as a commodity, to be exploratory or revolutionary. This changes the way that the world sees illustration practice. How to the few realign the balance in favour of a discipline that values its own worth and steps fearlessly into the unknown?