Sequential Narrative Outcome

An extract from John Taylor’s poem added to my visuals

Somehow or another, it turns out there was a final outcome for the Southampton project no one knew about. Until now!  Simply known as ‘printed sequential narrative’ in the student check list for the end of year portfolio hand-in, I decided to do something thematically similar to my other outcomes.

I took the first two lines of John Taylor’s poem about his journey from London to Southampton and made a comic book page out of them. I would have liked to have fully illustrated it, but really, this sort of photo-bashing is all I have time for. I definitely think strong graphic images of the characters like a montage sequence for a heist set up or something could be very striking visually.

More Artist Research

I watched a few documentaries on various artists ranging from comic book artists to former Turner prize winners. I talk about it in the video above. Skip to 3:30 if you really don’t want to listen to me talk about religion in video games and Japanese civil wars. 

It shows many artists defined by the process’ they use. I feel like focussing on a core area of expertise is the smartest way to position yourself as a marketable entity, but different strokes for different folks, I guess.

 

Southampton Project: Final Outcome: Process Book

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My intentionally gaudy cover to my gaudy comic book

Final year students were asked to create an extra outcome for the Southampton project: either a film or publication to show the processes involved throughout the project. I chose to do a full-on comic book, as it seemed the best way to present ultimately not-that-interesting information in an entertaining way. And I came on an illustration course to do comic books.

Having a nice guy (Smile-e) explaining everything in a positive light and a cynical bastard co-host (Vegeta) gave me the room to explore all my opinions on what we’ve done, while allowing the reader to keep their own counsel.

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Sample spread from my book. There’re talking about monoprinting

I had a ready made a team that I just couldn’t get around. I thought about alternatives, but ultimately resolved to do what I had to do. I walk into very murky copyright waters now, as I’m using an existing character from a popular franchise (which shall remain nameless even though you know what it is) as my co-host.

I believe US and now UK law supports fair use of copyrighted material for several purposes, the one which I should theoretically fall under is parody. This is a contentious issue, but ultimately, I suspect I’ll always fly too low under the radar for this to ever be a real problem. On top of that, the university retain the rights to any work created by their students, but I also doubt I’m going to get a strongly worded email from London Met telling me to cease and desist from creating the Smile-e Show ‘cos it’s theirs now.

So what is the Smile-e show? It’s a comedy comic I’ve been making for years and I even mentioned it in my UCAS application when I applied for my course. Here’s a video I did about it, showing some examples and what not.

It goes without saying that I underestimated the amount of work it takes to make what turned out to be a 30+ page comic book all by myself with little to no knowledge of how to do it properly, but really, this is one of the core pillars of what I want to be known for.

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One of the hardest spreads I’ve done. I didn’t have good reference imagery or any great technical skill going into this.

I was inspired by Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics, which is a comic book about comic books. I can’t recommend reading it enough. If you think comics=Batman, this book will help you realise comics= Batman+Maus+ Persepolis+ alternative comics, etc,etc. There’s an artform waiting to be discovered. You shouldn’t assume the only vehicles out there are buses and trucks because they’re the biggest and loudest, there are also ice cream vans, super cars and Robin Reliants. It’s the same with comics, but that’s enough about that for now.

I haven’t finished the book. The artwork needs touching up, the lettering isn’t finished, I haven’t written the foreword, the panels need resizing… It’s endless, but for the first time on the course, I can’t be dissuaded by the work required for success, because this is a big deal and whatever happens in the future, I’m only going to end up doing more of these.

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Example of my uni work in the comic

I’m in two minds about the comic being fully coloured. As it stands now, the only colour content is my university art work, which supports its position as the central focus of the book. I think I’ll leave it like that. Colouring is another area of comic book design I’m woefully under-skilled at.

This book is a lot of fun, but very hard work. I look forward to finishing it, but it’s going to be on hold for a while…

 

Southampton: Riso Poster

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My first final outcome for the Southampton Project

Students were asked to create a riso poster and movie for the final outcomes of the Southampton project. As my movie was about John Taylor’s horse and carriage journey from London to Southampton, I decided to take some of that imagery to incorporate into my poster.

The text in the background is a page of advertisements for carriage journeys from London to Southampton, and other places. As required, I managed to combine one layer of my own work with content from the Southampton shared Google drive students had access to.

I’m never going to be comfortable using the riso printer. It’s niche, prone to paper jams and really for people in the mindset of producing small scale publications for immediate distribution. We also don’t seem to have a reliable source of paper for it. Did I mention it likes to screw up when printing? See how those two problems could be multiplicative?

My first attempts at producing a poster were disastrous. I was given speculative advice by staff and didn’t take artistic control. What I ended up with was dreadful. The ink of the separate colour prints just turned into a muddy mess. A couple of my colleagues had mocked up layouts using the university text, which were clean and controlled. I followed suit, picking a combination of images and preparing them for print in a way which would be foolproof.

I’m quite happy with the results. Aren’t you?

Workshop: Screen printing and Mono printing

This week saw us doing two different workshops effectively at the same time and in the same place, no less. We were given instructions so specific that they were rather easy to misinterpret. In preparation for the big day, we were asked to prepare stencils of a certain size on a certain type of paper to be applied to old work of a specific scale for a specific reason.

 

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My first screen print stencil

Our stencils were to use quotes from the shared student resources made available to both the Cass and Solent university that, in one way shape or form, have some connection to Southampton.

I find hand drawing font to be a far more enjoyable process than applying it after the fact. As I hand drew the various pages, I tried to experiment with the shapes and layouts of the letters. Typography is never going to be my favourite thing ever, but taking a more illustrative approach makes it feel not so dissimilar from figure drawing, and that, I can appreciate.

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My second stencil

I tried to avoid being overly precious with the stencils, to preserve both my time and sanity. The chance of me achieving perfect smooth symmetrical curves while drawing with a scalpel were zero, so not worrying about it allowed me to focus more on the thinking than worry about the doing.

 

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My third stencil

As a result, I ended up creating a font that was primarily made out of crescent moon shaped curves. I didn’t stick to that format religiously, but that was the rough idea.

 

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My fourth stencil

After trying out curves, I was curious to se how jagged lines would work. I was pleased to see that using a scalpel worked quite well with such a letterform.

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My fifth stencil

I played around with layout with my last stencil. It could be quite interesting if the image was contained within the white space that the text leaves open. Unfortunately, as you will see, 20 people doing two workshops at the same time in a small timeframe with a limited amount of equipment doesn’t allow one to create the most work you’ve ever seen ever.

 

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Text vs image: what does it mean?

Ultimately, I had to pick one stencil and do a handful of prints to ensue everyone got a turn. I mean, we’re all paying our tuition fees right? I decided that the ‘silent’ stencil was the one I wanted to see in action and I applied it to some prints of earlier work.

 

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Second screen print on the day

It would have been nice to play around with layout, like moving the paper so I would only part print on it, but personally, I feel that such things are best left to situations where you don’t run the risk of permanently damaging expensive, (possibly irreplaceable) equipment.

I always factor in the ease and cost of the processes I use, which is why I opt to use digital software to paint instead of… well, paint. I can’t help but feel that a process like screen printing is sometimes promoted not as a quick-fire way to mass produce posters for immediate use, but as some sort of art form that has some sort of inherent value above its practicality because of tradition. Maybe Warhol and his ilk have something to do with that, but I wouldn’t really know, so let’s leave that there. My point was simply that I don’t agree with any notion that screen printing a poster automatically makes it more valuable than running the same design off of a photocopier. (I’m fully aware that there is a market that will treat screen prints as art objects and therefore pay ‘art’ prices, but lets really not open that can of worms.)

The second workshop we did was an introduction to mono-printing. Now, from the limited research I’ve done, it has come to my attention that ‘mono-print’ can refer to a variety of techniques that share some elements, but can differ quite drastically in terms of complexity and the necessary preparation. We were looking at the simplest form of mono-printing, where one applies certain types of ink to a flat surface, then applies the paper on top and applies pressure to the paper where they want the marks to be made.

This (and all other) types of mono-printing, lend themselves to mass production. Once you’ve removed your first piece of paper, you can simply add another, add some more marks, or not, and create a series of direct duplicates or variants. It is worth noting that none of the duplicates will be identical due to the amount of ink changing as duplicates are produced, but you get the idea.

 

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My attempt at reproducing architecture using mono printing. An example of running before one can walk, methinks.

One interesting technique to consider is of taking some sort of image and using it to trace over to create said image on the reverse side of the paper. I gave this a shot with a picture of Netly Abbey taken from Spike Island by Philip Hoare. It’s very important to know where you’ve actually applied the pressure in this instance, so it is highly recommended to trace the image with a pencil or something and make sure you can see the lines you’ve made. I tell you all this in hindsight so you don’t have to learn the way I did.

 

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Polar bear tracing by me

Using a loose, gestural style can lead to some good results, I found. It is almost mandatory, when you’re so used to drawing with your hand making contact with the surface as you draw. You can’t do that with mono-printing or you’ll end up with great big smudges everywhere, but you know what? I regret not putting that to the test. Another important thing to keep in mind is that any text you write must be written backwards for it to show up the right way on the print. Having just finished my stencil cutouts the day before, I was in the right frame of mind to be thinking of letters as combinations of simple shapes instead of single wholes.

 

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A relief print of the polar bear

Another interesting technique we were shown was how to make a relief from a previous image. Using a tool with its heritage in Japanese screen printing techniques, even pressure was applied across the entire paper. This results in a negative image being created with the ink that was used up on the previous paper being missing from the current one. It’s best to use thicker lines than the ones I used, for clarity’s sake, but that’s the hindsight again.

In contrast to screen printing, mono printing the way we used it was far more spontaneous and allowed for a change in direction on the fly. Screen printing is a process you use after the final design has been finished, whereas mono printing has a lot more in common with the sketching process. That said, it too, is a messy, costly business. And while it is cheap in comparison to screen printing, where, at the very least you need to buy the ink and the screen(s), the ink we were show today is expensive and requires careful maintenance. Unlike the infinite array of colours and textures available to the user of the Adobe digital suite (especially if he obtains said package through extralegal means).

As I reflect on the two techniques we were shown, I can’t help but feel that they are far more indicative of fine art than they are of modern day design. One will more than likely have cheaper, more flexible options for mass production in today’s digital age. I’m not saying I don’t see the value in such time honoured techniques or the tactile worth of the finished article (I vastly prefer to read a real comic book than a pdf, for example), but everything is relative; does the cost in time and money, convenience and options available to you, outweigh the value of creating work in the same way some very famous artists have done, or being able to position yourself as the ‘traditional craftsman’? When I have such a close deadline to finish everything while making it awesome and have to create companion pieces as well, I find it difficult to say its worth taking five times as long, costing ten times as much, just to say that I did. Difficult, but not impossible.

Adobe Premier Pro Workshop

I’ve always wanted to do some video editing, from comedic You Tube Poop to documentary style works, so having the opportunity to learn some basics on Adobe’s video editing program was very nice for me. Ultimately we were tasked with watching the above video and trying to recreate some of the techniques mentioned.

Since we were using Adobe stock footage with their watermarks on it, I’m unsure what the legal situation with posting that footage is. While I usually laugh in the face of copyright restrictions, Adobe do actually know where I live… and have my bank details

Also, the work I did is so basic, it doesn’t even really need to be viewed by anyone who won’t be grading it.

I have every intention of having a moving image showreel at some point, but I think we’ll wait until I have something worth showing.

Also had to run off and re-watch Inception. I recommend you do to. Get them Hans Zimmer BWAAWS from the source.

Book Research

In an attempt to get students away from creating single flat images, we were invited to look at some archival materials. Examples of artists book, specifically. They were stored in a separate library from all the normal books. This place was operating on more of a British Library kind of vibe; reference only, not quite appointment only, but kind of. No bags of any kind allowed in the library, etc etc.

Since we were discouraged from photographing the material in question, I did you some drawings of the books. Aren’t I clever? No? That was a rhetorical question. You’re not supposed to just throw me under the bus like that. Jeez…

 

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Les murs ont la parole mai 68, possibly written by Julian Besancon and edited by Claude Tchou

The first book I looked at was quite small, horizontal in shape and completely typographical. And to top it all off, it was in French. Having had the good fortune to consult with one of the student in our class who speaks French, it was concluded that the book was a collection of inspirational quotes and the like written right before during or after the tumultuous period of upheaval in France during 1968.  I’m always given to the idea that design books are pretty things mostly lacking in substance, but to come across this one which captures the spirit of a political movement, which may or may not resonate in France today, well that is interesting. The message (whatever that may be) is delivered with minimum fuss and no unnecessary ornamentation. I feel encouraged that one can simple leave the message at the heart of the design without mucking around with sideways text and  splitting up words.

 

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All My Rubber Stamps by Mark Pawson

Moving on, the next book I looked at had a black cover with nothing on it. Inside it was a collection of rubber stamps belonging to Mark Pawson.  A very cool book, which I imagine he was selling at art fairs, since no ISBN number means no stocking in book shops. I suspect that’s the case with almost all of the books in that library and probably why someone thought it was a good idea to essentially keep these things under lock and key, but I digress…

He could have manufactured these books by himself, since all he would need to do is make empty books and stamp in the stamps, heck if he had young relatives, he could have enlisted their help. I’m sure they’d have loved it. Also, making your own stamps is an interesting concept, of course, I’m instantly reminded that it is completely possible to do such things on photoshop, which I already have and which it will cost me no more to make use of as opposed to going and buying some stamp kits and screwing up a few times until I get it right. Ah, what is one to do?

 

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The First and Last Straw by Andrew Lanyon

The last book I looked at was an interesting cynical look at Cornwall, from what I can gather, using collage, illustration, photography and more to poke fun at the modernisation of Cornwall. It resonates quite well with our focus on Southampton as I understand it, which is effectively looking at how Southampton has modernised on a way open to ridicule (at the ver least by Owen Hatherley). The variety of techniques applied to support the common theme is probably the sort of thing staff are hoping to see out of students.

Looking at these books and the ones other students were looking at has me thinking about concertina books, dust jackets with posters on the inside, pages with cut outs or made of different matterials to interact with each other, all sorts of things.

My little sketches don’t do justice to the work I’ve talked about, but hopefully my artwork will be able to do justice to my ideas when all is said and done

Messing Around in my Sketchbook

While this blog is designed to show my working and thinking processes as I create work, it is still important to keep a sketchbook. Since I always end up doing things in photoshop, my sketchbook doesn’t tend to get filled up in an organic way. This week, I tried to fill some pages in my sketchbook and, since I’d effectively explained what I’d done on this blog, I ended up using my sketchbook to play around with layout.

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A sample of images I found to use as a sort of mood-board for this years first project, arranged in three columns

I would like to design little books to accompany my work output this year, documenting my processes, research and final outcomes, however I lack the graphic design knowledge, In-Design experience, and mostly, the time to fix that.

Since I had so much raw imagery to print out to put in my book, I elected to print each image small, to save on costs. The most efficient way to do that was to print on a PC (gasp) and use the print wizard option to print multiple images per page. This left me with a large amount of small elements which I could attempt to arrange in an interesting way.

 

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Final outcome page for our first workshop. There’s a four column thing going on here, ruined by the final image. Better luck next time.

I wouldn’t be the first person to let costs influence their design choices. Working within my means is a really strong part of my design ethos and why I use photoshop to paint and cringe every time I have to print out digital content that the whole world can see just to make sure one or two specific people can see it.

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Experimental layout. Does this work? If the text was done in In-design, I think it probably would

I find myself in the very awkward position of having to do a greater deal of experimentation than I’ve ever done before, while simultaneously needing to present a singular design style which represents who I am and what I will contribute to the industry. This is brought into sharp relief right now as I hastily try to put together a portfolio to show employers to secure a work placement, that will represent a part of my final grade.

Wish me luck. I have I feeling I’m going to need it…

More Collage work

The Cass students with the suitable temperament and the necessary financial means went to visit the Solent University students in Southampton this Friday. The rest of us were left to our own devices. I had a little look around the collective student database and came across an old account of a stagecoach journey from London to, or through, I should say, Southampton. This journey was recounted in Stage-coach and Mail in Days of Yore: A Picturesque History of the Coaching Age by Charles G. Harper.

John Taylor makes the journey to the Isle of Wight in 1648. He records the event in rhyme, detailing his travels from London to Southampton. I was struck with the idea of trying to illustrate each rhyming couplet (apologies if that isn’t the correct term. My knowledge of poetry doesn’t extend far beyond be know that I like the sound of the phrase ‘iambic pentameter’).

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Harper’s lead-in text to John Taylor’s poem. This is something of a placeholder, a way to move towards the bits I know how to do, without worrying about the bits I don’t.

I envisage all the images on a wall in a gallery in order, left to right, starting with this one, which attempts to give a little context to the poem.

 

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First two lines of Taylor’s poem and my collage to represent them

The hope was to blow through the whole poem, not overly considering any single element too long. I did make an attempt to employ the diagonal rule here. Perhaps the background counteracts that? Anyway, moving on.

 

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Alternate version of the first two lines

I’ve further abstracted the horses to cutouts of stagecoach paraphernalia in the shape of chess pieces. I had intended to stick the queen or king piece in my representation of London somehow, but it seems there may have been something of a period of interregnum at the time… More on that… right now.

 

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Continuing the narrative using the existing elements, but also trying to hint at the historical context of the lines and Taylor’s reason for his journey in the first place. Diagonal rule in play again.

John Taylor was making is way to the Isle of Wight to see the recently deposed (former) King Charles I. Oliver Cromwell was doing all that famous history stuff he’s famous for at the time. It was at this time where my inability to conceive a suitable sophisticated way to employ the text began seriously slowing me down. In the hopes of continuing apace with my output, I decided to call it a day with the poem.

I went back to the shared documents folder and saw that another student had made a rather long list of evocative phrases from Spike Island by Philip Hoare. I thought I’d like to try and match the language used to one of the images from the book simply by altering  the colour of the image. While it’s not technically collage, I do think it’s a worthwhile endeavour to see how to apply the visual metaphor in other ways.

 

 

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This is the base image of Netly Abby as it appears in Philip Hoare’s book Spike Island: The Memory of a Military Hospital

The first quote I used was “More wondrous and magical, as if it were a vision revealed at Nature’s whim” The conclusions I drew weren’t the most imaginative, I’ll admit, but crawl before you run, right?

 

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I deferred from bordering the image with actual plant life

‘Magical’ represented with an aura around the ruins, the green borders symbolic of nature revealing the ruins to the viewer. I tell a lie, also. this wasn’t the first one I did. The first one used the phrase “Veiled in its ghost stories”.

 

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‘Veiled in its ghost stories’

I just put the image in negatives. Now’s as good a time as any to stress that the goal with these images is the thought process and also to generate work to be put back into the shared student archives to be used by other students. This image could be used as a base for some other visual experiment,

 

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“Silent, neglected and forgotten”

To represent the phrase “Silent, neglected and forgotten”, I made the image a night-time view, where the only attention the abbey gets is the occasional glance from the moon. Coming in with a bit of white allowed me to subtly highlight elements of the abbey and make the image more readable. I will definitely look for opportunities to apply this technique in the future.

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As before, but with moon and fog

I added fog and the moon to this image to mage it mire eerie. In my defence, Dracula has been brought up in one way shape or form to me for the last three weeks, and that’s completely independent of how close we are to Halloween.

 

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Alternate take on ‘Veiled in its ghost stories’

Finally, I took another shot at ‘Veiled in its ghost stories’, by adding a veil of sorts. It shares the same semiotics, to me, of manga characters talking with their mouths visible but their eyes either out of frame or obscured by shadow. This usually denotes some sinister or troubling revelation or demand from the character in question.

In conclusion,  I’ve tried to mess around a bit and work on some more visual metaphor stuff. While I’d rather steer clear of photoshop this year, the ease and flexibility in which it lends itself to the processes that collage requires is just too much to pass up. It has invariably changed the outcomes I’ve achieved so far, but it’s the best way for me to get to something half decent in the time I have available. I would love to do some more work with the cut-out techniques and element of drawing as well. We’ll have to see how well I can manage my time.

Collage Workshop Part 2

We continued our collage workshop on Tuesday  with the aim of exploring the ‘visual metaphor’. ‘What is a visual metaphor?’ you ask, well, it’s where you show something symbolic of what you’re talking about instead of using a direct image. The best example I can think of, since it came up this week in my dissertation studio, is that of Art Spiegelman portraying Nazi soldiers as cats and Jewish victims as mice in his Pulitzer Prize winning graphic novel Maus.

We were asked to create visual metaphors using collage. Bare in mind that time constraints and a general unease when using collage more than likely prevented me from getting my own Pulitzer Prize.

I decided to use someone else’s starting phrases to generate my metaphors, since, well ‘the polar bear was yellow and dirty’ was a bit too narrow, and ‘Southampton is a 1000 year old nowheresville’ was a bit to big. I’d also sort of done a visual metaphor with ‘dirty concrete enclosures’, but you sort of had to be there to get it.

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‘obsessed with morbidity’ collage 1

One of the other students had been looking at an excerpt from Philip Hoare’s book Spike Island: The Memory of a Military Hospital. The phrase ‘obsessed with morbidity’ looked like a good choice to begin with, with quite obvious imagery, and the potential to get more abstract as I went.

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Two more takes on ‘obsessed with morbidity’ observing a withered apple and another woman staring into a mirror seeing only decay in her reflection.

Students were then asked to make collages using cut out shapes, something which I was keen to try anyway, since a large roll of coloured papers came into my possession not so long ago.

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Another representation of a woman looking at a withered apple. I used smooth harmonious lines on the woman and jagged lines on the fruit to symbolise their beauty and decay respectively

Adding pen-work on top helps bring out the meaning more distinctly, I feel.

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A more abstract version of the same idea, with just a tip of the nose, fringe and eye to represent the woman.

Both of the colour paper images were designed to give consideration to the rule of thirds, where basically, to help the compositional appeal of an image, you avoid putting things dead centre. There are also elements of the diagonal rule in play. The diagonal rule isn’t very complicated, simply lead the viewer’s eye from one corner to the opposite one by putting all the ‘stuff’ in between them. (Top left to bottom right or bottom left to top right, etc, etc).

 

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Applying the diagonal rule to an old piece. It is more ‘dynamic’ now, wouldn’t you agree? Maybe too much…

We were also asked to come up with some text based imagery. Like I said, Pulitzer Prize next time.

 

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Not the most innovative image ever, but from these humble beginnings…

 

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Difficult to read, not very clever. Unfinished, also, but that’s the point. One can always come back and improve, or go forward and improve

Ultimately, I feel the day was well spent. A lot was asked of us, and collage is a logistically difficult thing to do to a strict schedule, especially when you don’t have that sixth sense of what to bring, and how to pull it all together that only practice can bring. I need to do a lot more exploratory work, really push the limits of what works and what doesn’t. One problem of ‘knowing what “works”‘ is that all this art and crafts and design and what not, is subjective. Legibility and readability are crucial (unless they aren’t, of course), but layout, colour use, text placement and all the rest are not so easy to feel confident about.

The best thing to do is, well, do. It’s always easier to look over a pile of finished stuff and see what stands out rather than worrying about doing it right once. Who ever uses their first draft? Am I right? The problem is, of course, creating that body of work to reflect over in the first place. I guess it’s time for me to get back to my core focus when it comes to illustration: doing it fast, and as well as possible, but definitely fast.