Sunday, 12 December 2010

Tuesday 7th December 2010 – ITAP – Production for Visual Communicators

The Design Workflow

This is my personal design workflow, but as I imagine this isn’t what was wanted of me, I’ll move swiftly onwards.

From Novice to Expert

Knowledge: I would say I’m competent in my knowledge of illustration. I’m hindered by my devotion to certain aspects of it, and my reluctance to embrace areas which do not fit with my esoteric opinions. I can confidently say I know of a high variety of media which can be implemented, and my working understanding of them is good enough to allow a general notion of positive feedback from my peers.

Knowing what media for what audience has positive consequences!
Standard of Work: In terms of academia based work, I try to vary my working process and experiment, to increase my knowledge of how certain media can accentuate the finesse of one type of drawing, but then constrict it in another. Because of this I would say a lot of my sketchbook work is competent, with the process of rendering and refining taking place over the course of developing a finished piece. I like to think that my finished pieces are generally proficient, and my triple distinction at Foundation, with triple A’s at A-Level supporting this theory, as I see that as a perfectly acceptable standard.

Try different media along the route to a finished piece...
Autonomy: I develop a sense of independence after being at an institution for some time, when I can interpret their language, and understand the brief, I can easily delve into a crusading curve of independence, as this is how i’ve worked in the past, and it serves me well. Often I do like to have a follow up meeting, or a period of reflection, where I consolidate what I’ve done, and use it as a base to go further. I’d rate my working standard here as Proficient, possibly competent at the start of a project whilst I’m still getting a feel for the work.

Coping with Complexity: To stop the entropic side of starting a brief holding me back from working, I do like to set up an analytical basis, where I interrogate the ideas I have, to stop any needless interferences. Although I feel more secure with deliberate planning, I’d say I tend towards a more holistic viewpoint as a project progresses, and my ideas become more refined. It’s like life drawing, there’s no need solely focussing on the head, and trying to make it perfect before the rest of the figure is at least gesturally suggested. But, as I see it this can only follow on from the initial decisions of what angle, approach, medium to undertake the sketch in. So really, I see the chart as unfair when it comes to being competent or proficient, as I ricochet between the two.

Informed Idea -> Refine with a secondary Idea -> Final Finished Piece.
Perception of Context: For this, I would say I’m definitely proficient, if not almost an expert. As soon as one has a brief, project, idea that is wished to be undertaken, everything (the way I perceive it) is done with a sense of how it will benefit the final outcome, and how it could, will, or will not fit in with everything else in the system. Part of this is deciding, at some point, not even necessarily early on, how much freedom you will give yourself, and if at all you can bend the brief into something alternative, something which wasn’t asked for by the client, but which still comes under the umbrella of the brief.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Tuesday 30th November 2010 – ITAP – Photography and Typography.

How does text affect an image?

Without text, some images; photos, advertisements, even pieces of art like Barbara Kruger’s would simply be nonsensical. Text offers a way to push people’s perceptions of an image in a certain direction, make then see certain things in the image, make the image seem more than what it actually is. 

Above is a rather cunning advertisement, the image itself, whilst amusing, is nothing more than a small child. Then, when the text is read, the viewer is suddenly enlightened to the fact that it’s advertising chocolate liqueurs. This advert I like anyway, as it’s smart, amusing and unusual, but looking at it in terms of text, it would be entirely confusing without the slogan at the bottom. A viewer would be left hazarding a guess at what the image was implying, and, more importantly for “Lunivers De Chocolat”, nobody would be any more informed about their product, and the advertisement would be pointless.

Another smart advertisement of the same calibre. 
How does no text affect emotion?

Understanding the relationship between typography and imagery is integral for creating a unified, effective design. This is evident throughout the entire spectrum of advertising, as well as journalistic representations. But, slightly more contemporary; how does seeing a photo out of context, without prior knowledge, change ones opinion of its content?
The above image was taken by me, some years ago. It appears to be little more than a small, sparse piece of woodland. Quite pristine, and, if taken with an SLR, with correct exposure and bounce lighting, it could make a rather nice image. 

However, if then it was explained that in between the 19th of October and 22nd of November 1914, in these wood, just outside of Ypres, in Belgium, 146,000 allied troops were killed, wounded or missing in action, the viewer’s thoughts change completely. 

What was a nice irregular landscape can suddenly be discerned as potholes, trenches and craters. The sublime way the trees are spread out enough to allow the lazy autumn sunlight seep through is suddenly explained through the realization that German artillery bombardments pounded the woods for days on end. This sort of deception by omission is used endlessly in tabloids to encourage shock and outrage among the readers; the act of showing a seemingly normal photo and then dissecting it over 2 or 3 pages obviously proving popular, as it is a standard template for most newspapers.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Tuesday 23rd November 2010 – ITAP – Development of Creative Thought & Structure in Illustration & Graphic Art.

Developing Ideational Fluency

The task of generating ideas, or, as I normally look at it; how to be inspired, is probably the paramount difficulty facing anyone of a creative tendency. Being unsurpassed in technical execution is pointless if one cannot find an intuitive and original outlet for it. 

Personally, I have numerous approaches I take to hunting for that flash of inspiration which can make or break an image. The first and foremost I use is note taking and my small A6 journals. These indispensable books are nothing more than collections of one, maybe two word ideas, small facets of an idea I’ve had which I can jot down on a bus, in a lecture, at the pub, wherever. It allows me to never forget a potential composition, or interesting design, and, when feeling uninspired, as though the dreaded artist’s block is hanging over me like the sword of Damocles, I can turn to my journal and start sketches from there. 

A second method I use is collections. I collect everything, and rarely use it. Mostly digital, I have folders full of catwalk shows, other artists works, photographs, billboards, figure studies and short animations which I call reference, but which are really more like stepping stones; used to either help when referring to how to draw a particular garment, or, if I have an idea, what inventive ways have been used previously for a similar idea, and then these can combine and allow for me to remove mental barriers to allow my designs to merge and move in a new direction. 

Managing a Creative Environment

Feeling calm, at ease and at one with the place where you decide to work is incredibly important when creating individual work, I’d say on a par with personal, cultural and social interests. It alters ones thought process, and if you aren’t comfortable with where you work it will be evident in your sketchbooks and developments. 

As a creative entity, the studio/bedroom/room, the workplace where you spend the majority of your time is integral. It should be an inspirational place, stimulating, a reservoir of creativeness within which you should be able to submerge yourself to work. 

My workplace is still quite chaotic, I haven’t yet found a nice equilibrium between the technological side of my life and the messy traditional art side. My next investment will be a drawing desk, from which all my most used art materials will hopefully be in reach, making for a very comfortable, fluid, and calming environment. I surround  myself with photos of friends, art works of the people I aspire to, and random figures and models I’ve collected on my travels, all of these mean something to me, and simply spark an essence of nostalgia and warm memories, getting me in a state of mind in which I can easily work, stress free (mostly!). 

This workplace is “EatToast’s” a university student from America, whose workplace I simply find wondrous. Looking at it I simply want to delve around, looking at her books, her art supplies, and simply soaking up the different atmosphere. It’s obvious from the photos that a lot of thought has gone into her studio design, and while she seems startlingly outgoing (especially compared to me and my workspace), the sheer volume of intriguing posters, models, and other pieces of work leave me inspired, let alone her.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Sunday 21st November 2010 - Illustration - Sketchbook Previews

For a brief at university, which for the life of me could turn out to be one hell of an enjoyable ride. Need to create a short artbook or 'zine, with an essence of the underbelly of Birmingham thrown in for a laugh. I'm still really unsure as to what direction to take this project; my main loves are sci-fi, fantasy and pin-ups. But then there's the fiscal view: Who will potentially buy this, how can I make this look good to punters, what sells and what doesn't? At the moment, a lush possibility is that of The Hells Angels and The Outlaws motorcycle clubs, they've had a couple of skirmishes in Birmingham over the past couple of years, leaving some in prison and some dead. Applying these ideas with a swathe of viking adornments with a few dragons and elves couldn't hurt... Could it?! Maybe even applying some musical inspiration to it all...

Blogger downsized my previews... Full res:

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Tuesday 9th November 2010 – ITAP – Production & Outcomes, Influences & Reactions.


How illustrators interpret their brief, be it a commercial piece or a speculative piece, allows for a lot of deconstruction and analysis into the time and socio-economic atmosphere of their creation. The tensions and juxtapositions between two different artist’s interpretations of the same piece of work allows for an interesting insight into their, and by means of transience, your own, working process.

The example I chose to use to analyse is the ‘divine comedy’; Inferno by Dante Alighieri. One of my favourite pieces of classical literature, it catalogues Dante’s journey through the planes of hell, confrontations with past acquaintances, and finally the edifice of Satan himself. This has been a source of artistic inspiration for centuries, but one series of illustrations particularly worthy of note, and one I will analyse, are those of Gustave Dore. 

I really feel his works capture an essence of hell, only really attainable through engraving. The medium used leads to all his works being meticulously detailed, and being greyscale, really adding to the image one summons up of hell; a dark, smoky, unwelcoming abyss. The Victorian era, the time in which Dore was working, was a time of great industrial advancement, and from this came what could only be called a social prejudice, in favour of refinement and accuracy, very visible in his work.

Compared with Dore’s masterful analogue rendition of The Divine Comedy, there is the recent 2010 action/adventure console game version. This version has drawn upon other verses of The Divine Comedy, not included in Inferno, and has also changed Dante’s character somewhat to create the story more compelling to play along with. This is why it’s interesting to see how and why interpretations differ. For Dore, it was crucial that people reading the novel could have enthralling images paralleling the story, whereas with the video game, an emphasis is more on the action and depth of character, more time devoted to strengthening the conceptual side of it to make it appropriate, and enticing, for gamers.

I imagine this is very different to what Alighieri envisaged when writing The Divine Comedy.

The medium in which illustrators, or any creative person, communicate their visions and ideas is crucial: Understanding how, and what, to present where could make the difference between success and failure. Conceiving ideas in a sketchbook is a great, and necessary, part of some peoples working methodology, but this then must be transposed into a presentable finished piece that is visually enticing and flows, as this is how we, as creative individuals, sell ourselves. Another important aspect to keep in mind is how one side informs the other; how commercial, client led projects can effect self initiated projects and vice versa. 

The artist I chose to focus on for this is Alex Pardee; an illustrator of unfortunately small renown, best known for illustrating the cover to The Used’s albums. His personal work addresses the concepts of isolation, depression, anxiety and certain psychological states of mind. 

A Lot of his work is inspired by varying states of neuroses.
As is visible here, his personal works contain an element of entropy; it’s chaotic, exciting and very visually expressive. Now, if compared with his commercial client led works; these are obviously informed by his own working methods, his particular medium of choice – inks, watercolours and dyes – and mostly, subject matter; the key, I find, to his illustrations.  

A Piece for InFlames' album: A Sense of Purpose
As a result, his commercial pieces tap into an element of the human psyche that gives his pictures quite a surreal property to them; as though we as viewers relate, on some primitive subconscious level. The colours used are often incongruous and not informed by reality at all. However, due to his persistent testing, evaluating and experimenting, Pardee has managed to create a system by which his personal works are segregated nicely from his professional ones, and yet there is constant inference and cohesion between them.

The colours and flowing line art refer directly back to Pardee's personal pieces

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Tuesday 2nd November 2010 – ITAP – Development of ideas & structure in moving image.

The Hero’s Journey

In many movies, stories and the like, according to Joseph Campbell (the author of ‘The Hero with 1000 faces’), a hero’s journey can be split into three distinct phases: The Departure, The Initiation and The Return. I’ve chosen, simply due to its location in my DVD collection, to look at Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow. The main character, played by Johnny Depp, is Ichabod Crane; not exactly of the same stock as the stereotypical hero.

The departure occurs when he is forced to leave the familiar streets of New York City to the small hamlet of Sleepy Hollow. This is an integral part to the forming of the hero, taking the character out of the safety and normality of their ordinary routine and subjecting them to some quite foreign experiences. Within the departure, the hero is really exposed to an example of their future ordeals, and for Crane this is really his ‘welcome’ into Sleepy Hollow, and the horrors of his first hands on experience of the brutal slayings that had him sent there in the first place. A mentor is also introduced, Katrina Van Tassel (Christina Ricci), who acts as the buffer between the scientific Crane and the quite superstitious townsfolk. 

The second phase, the initiation, is quite blurred in Sleepy Hollow, as it’s a horror film and so includes facets of terror and gore whereas other stories may well instead focus on character development. Crane does come into contact with the antagonist; The Headless Horseman, which is an important emotional turning point in the movie, as Crane is introduced to the secondary world of smoke and mirrors, and quite how serious a force it is in Sleepy Hollow, easily matching his self styled edifice of science and criminology. To accentuate the supernatural side of Sleepy Hollow, Crane’s also introduced to a forest dwelling hermit, who is represented as a clairvoyant of sorts, and helps to evolve the, now quite sinister, plot. 

Finally, the last phase; The Return, is quite swift, with Crane being wholly submerged into the realm of magic, and finally triumphing, returning back to New York City with his love interest and his young ward, as a master of both worlds with the freedom to live as he sees fit.

Character Design

There are four main aspects to character design, which I will again look at with reference to Ichabod Crane. I’ll focus on the first; The Protagonist. This position is fulfilled by Crane, he is who we experience the story through, and who is subject to the conflict in the story. 

The Protagonist’s aspect can be further broken down into three more areas: Appearance, action and interaction. Crane’s appearance is that of a quite middle class city dweller; high collars, pressed black overcoats and, personally, I think a very slick outfit. This is a direct clash to the outfits of the residents of Sleepy Hollow, whose attire consists mostly of neutral earthy colours, and quite rough and ready clothing; due to their farming background. 

In terms of action, Crane’s function is that of a catalyst in solving the murders occurring in Sleepy Hollow, he’s set the task of catching the perpetrator, and through this opens up a world of sinister plots, betrayals and backhanded dealings. 

Finally, interaction: he interacts rather clumsily with the local community, thus ensuring the necessity of Katrina, as she is local and can converse on a similar level. Crane’s communication I think is necessarily stunted and difficult, as this enforces the idea of isolation and despair, as he’s alone in an unforgiving environment, adding to the forming of his heroic character. 

Comparison of Crane and 3 local residents of Sleepy Hollow.