Illustration 2: Assignment 4 ‘You Are Here’
Creatively explore the statement ‘you are here’. Produce either a short self-published fanzine, graphic novel or artist’s book; an on-line interactive experience; a piece of street art; or an illustrative object.
This is a very open brief, so it allows you plenty of room for exploration and creativity. ‘You are here’ can suggest a site-specific approach, an historical perspective, or you could be philosophical or humorous or both! Remember it’s an illustration project so, whatever you decide to do, make sure it focuses on developing your illustrative work in some way.
Process of development
I decided to base this assignment on a week’s holiday in June 2017 at the time of the Aldeburgh music festival. The main linking narrative was a diary of my thoughts over the 7 days, exploring a number of questions:
- Who is meant by ‘you’? Myself? An absent imaginary friend you wish was here? A voyeur always watching? Unseen presence of different artists who affect one’s perception of the place?
- Where or what is ‘here’? Which ‘here’ are ‘you’ at? Different focus and viewpoint.
- When? places change over time – even over a few seconds – short term, long term, historical perspective and layers – the past is always present
- Subjective perception, exploration and deepening understanding over time
- Imagination and how I want things to be. The ‘here’ I want you to see (if I like you) Selective erasure (eg cars and rubbish bins)
Although these questions might at first appear rather philosophical (that was encouraged by the brief), they have important implications for other types of documentary and travel illustration. Going beyond just sketching and recording what can never be ‘objective observations’ to make more explicit and interesting the biases and thoughts of the illustrator.
The work itself went through many stages after the holiday as my ideas, and also iPad skills, developed around these questions. It evolved from ‘Aldeburgh reality’ into a journey of imaginative and artistic exploration, often using found textures and images to create stories around the place.
I have been to Aldeburgh many times over the last 40 years. Generally just for day trips and very short family breaks, never really looking much below the surface. I had sketched the place for Project 2.1a Drawing on the Familiar, and Project 2.1b Drawing on Location .
Before leaving for holiday I did a review of different types of art that other artists had produced in Aldeburgh from a webs search and my notes on different artists who had displayed their work at Snape Gallery and in the commercial art galleries in the town. I also read up more about Benjamin Britten, the Scallop and as much as I could find on Aldeburgh on the Internet.
Idea 1: ‘Stream of Consciousness’ digital sketchbook.
Initially I intended to improve my iPad sketching skills and do a sort of ‘stream of consciousness’ sketchbook, maybe focusing on a particular style each day to reflect mood, colours etc. I had made a provisional list of areas where I might focus each day:
- Wide shingle beach.
- Scallop and furore as symbol of the underlying conflicts.
- Fishermen and sea
- Seagulls flocking
- Holiday homes.
- Castle and vulnerability to the sea.
But on the first day when I tried to this I found the iPad difficult to use for live sketching because of RSI. In addition the weather was too cold for sketching for long. So we spent the morning at the Maggi Hambling exhibition ‘On the Edge’ that I found very inspiring. (see Post on Maggi Hambling). The rest of the day was spent thinking, listening to the radio and reading in the van and talking to my partner about ideas. It was a holiday after all!
I had not really used the iPad for more than conventional painting and compositing. I started experimenting with iPad styles to see what I could recreate and/or create from my own images. My initial attempts at recreating images were not good.
But when I just started to play rather than recreate sketches, things started to become more interesting.
My ideas about what I was trying to achieve changed – as the first day had not gone to plan in ways that were likely also to be true for the rest of the holiday. And RSI issues sketching on location as originally intended.
The diary became not so much a record of what I did and saw, but my responses to my surroundings in the light of things that I was hearing on the radio and reading. See Aldeburgh Diary of rough notes and photos kept each day.
Aiming to produce a mixture of working from earlier sketches, photographs taken on this holiday, then sketchbook work developed from these later, composited on the iPad.
Idea 2: Aldeburgh in textures: animated slideshow
As I explored Aldeburgh more, I started to notice all the textures and potential textures in the stonework, flakey paint and on the boats. I found a fascinating history of Aldeburgh in the secondhand bookshop. H.P.Clodd ‘Aldeburgh: The History of an Ancient Borough’ 1959 based on in-depth analysis of the town records. I also found a book called ‘The Wild Man of Orford’ by And slowly the two things started to come together as I started to see images of Vikings and Armada fleets in the textures.
The images that gave me the original idea were little pictures in the flint of the Moot hall. It was erected probably between 1520 and 1540 in reign of Henry VIII when Aldeburgh was at the height of its prosperity. In 1594 the coastline was much further to the east with two streets and transverse roads to the beach. The Moot Hall was in the centre, but is now near the sea. Later I started to take more photos of rusty boats, chipboard, old wooden boards etc.
I started to work more on the photos in Procreate, planning to do an animated slideshow with sound effects and music in October when I was back home from work in Philippines.
I started to learn After Effects – particularly 3D animation to separate photos into focal planes that could then be manipulated. The images would be further processed in Procreate and/or Photoshop, sequenced as a narrative, broadly covering parts of history, but mainly aiming for atmospheric effect and developing my digital and animation skills. The animation would be completed in Photoshop, Premiere Pro and After Effects.
I was partly inspired by animation of Yang Yong Liang with his dark backlit images that change over time.
I had started to work out a narrative based on the diary, but linking notes, photos and also the Procreate images by theme rather than day, and reordering these to give some narrative development. My rough notes and thoughts can be found in:
However because of RSI and the heavy load of work on pc at a time when I had a lot of work pressure, I have not been able to complete this. It is something I plan to work further on at level 3.
Idea 3 Interactive page on my professional website
I then thought of an interactive pdf along the lines of that I was working on for Assignment 5: Oromia: Journey Reflections But I did not really want to just repeat the same model. I was also not sure for the material on Aldeburgh that it would be the best option – the images are not large collages where zooming in is an added value. One of the aims of the Aldeburgh images is to promote my skills as an illustrator – if I develop these and adapt to the market, they have more marketable potential in the longer term than work on Ethiopia for a charitable NGO or overseas audience who have little money.
So I decided to develop an interactive web section on the professional SMUGMUG website I am developing for my photography, illustration, printmaking and art. I wanted to explore the full potential of this as a medium for communication as well as promotion through looking at different layouts, slideshows and text possibilities.
My ideas continued to evolve as I worked on this, working within the constraints of the website format. The final version so far can be see on:
Use your sketchbooks to produce a series of drawings and notes that documents an event of your choice. Try and produce a body of work that depicts the event over a period of time. An event can be defined as something happening within a limited time slot, but you can also choose to interpret the term ‘event’ more loosely. It can be a private celebration or your local football match, a Saturday market or the arrival of workmen to dig the road.
Choose something that offers you the opportunity to explore your particular style of drawing, so think about the dynamic of the event and how this relates to how you draw.
Selected coloured images
For this project I chose to sketch the Aldeburgh carnival. In the previous project I had mostly used pencil and an A4 landscape format sketchbook. This worked quite well in terms of portability, but also gave me plenty of space to try out ideas and put multiple sketches on the page. I did not normally rub out. But there was the option of printing on paper and then painting over, or working up digitally. I continued to sketch in pencil mostly, but also tried ink. I am intending to work up more of the images below, using some of my photos also for reference.
I enjoyed this project, and want to do much more of this type of sketching to become really confident and develop my own style. I like quick drawing with a thick clutch pencil, but also with a Rotring pen where I have to draw spontaneously because I cannot rub anything out – though I can alter emphasis and tone with a waterbrush wash. Using simple black and white media, I can draw quickly and there is a lot of potential for reworking images through printing out and overdrawing, or digitally on an iPad or in Photoshop. With reference images and/or video.
Using colour on the actual sketch is harder to get an effective image of people moving and things happening. And also harder to rework. I would like to experiment with media like pastels and pencil, and also drawing with an iPad on location. Maybe layering and mixing photos and drawings. Again I also have ideas that I want to work on to make some more expressive illustrations based on my sketches.
I am quite happy sketching alone and found people quite friendly – when I say that I am studying and learning I do not feel too embarrassed showing what I have done. In general, where people and particularly children are involved, it is actually less sensitive to sit drawing than taking photographs. The main challenge was the sun – that requires knowing the location and which spots are shady when. And some events are just very difficult – as in the procession where I could not find a good vantage point in the shade.
But I need a lot more practice!
Music festival May
Aldeburgh has many festivals during the year to attract the tourists out of London and nearby towns like Colchester. The first one we went to was an arts and music festival with events on the beach. This was only for a day, so I was not able to sketch that much. Also I think there may be Copyright issues sketching other peoples’ art. But these glass icicle posts and the way they were wired to produce sound music was beautiful – also the piano playing on the beach. This image would make a very interesting surrealist painting – cross between Hopper and de Chirico.
With these sketches I started to redraw them, and also print them out as light images and draw over with pen and wash or pencil and Inktense. These sketches are good for practising drawing figures from memory – a similar treatment to the British Museum exercise in Part 1.
I took some reference photos below. But I felt more embarrassed standing and taking photos of people setting their stalls up than I did sitting and sketching. So I only took a couple – though if this had been a photography exercise I could have asked people and done it properly. My partner doing a photography course actually got commissioned to take photos of the stalls – promise of payment if they were any good! The photos are also very flat and lack any energy – unlike what I saw. The photos from later in the day could be used as the basis for interesting watercolours – something I am planning for later. Also collage – with their crowded colour clash feel.
On the way to the fair rides is a children’s boating pool with the statue of a dog. The dog looked really mournful early in the morning dwarfed by the climbing mountain (folded up at the back) as if its territory had been invaded.
The Climbing Cliff and Bouncy Castle were interesting to draw. The main problem was keeping out of the sun. So I could not stay too long.
I tried to do a watercolour of the Sky Ride. It was difficult (but interesting) to get the perspective right. I need to experiment with this one in ProCreate. It would probably work well in pastels with smears for the hair. As well as coloured ink pen – if I was good enough at drawing.
One of the easiest places to sit in the shade and sketch was the Merry-go-round which was just next to a shelter with quite comfortable benches. No one minded me sketching at all, and most of the time I was not really noticed. Some people came and started chatting – a few artists as well. There was lots of inspiration here with the many different people who came, peoples’ faces and different relationships. As well as the opportunity to practise speed sketching of the horses themselves from different angles. For these sketches I used a Rotring pen to practise drawing at speed where I could not rub out. I actually really enjoyed drawing in this way – forcing me to be bold and not think too much – not to take things too seriously – just have fun in the moment.
Photo collage and drawing
When I got home I also tried collaging and drawing on collaged photos – ideas of stuckedness and freedom – partly drawing on Gertler’s Merry-Go-Round at the Tate Modern. There are many ways in which I could develop my sketches by redrawing, or again printing and over painting in ink and wash.
Reference photos and video
I took a few reference photos and a short video on my small compact camera. But here also I felt much more uncomfortable taking photos – particularly because of the children I did not know. Sketching was much less sensitive.
Punch and Judy
Punch and Judy always reminds me of Dave McKean’s illustrations for Neil Gaiman’s Tragical Comedy of Mr Punch See Google Images. I could do something really effective with these images if I experiment with different styles. Possibly like a drawing I did a while ago in the same Pastel and line style of Mr Punch, using the sketches and photos below and other Punch and Judy images from the web.
The donkeys were down the road just by another sitting place. Here I made friends with the lady who ran it, and she really liked me drawing. Again it was much less sensitive to sketch than to photograph the children. Though I did have to be careful not to sit too long and let the parents sit down.
Carnival – the big escape: Ideas for further development
I originally thought of developing these images further for Project 4.2 Self-publishing, together with some more sketches from Aldeburgh carnival in August 2017. However unfortunately I was unable to go that year because our van was not working. So the work below is now something I aim to develop further at level 3 of the degree.
I started by collating my different sketches and editing and combining these in Procreate, colouring them with pastel, ink and/or wash brushes (see Gallery above). My favourite sketches are of the girls on the merry-go-round seeming to fly and/or be chased by other horses dreaming of freedom, and the girl on the reluctant donkey that just wants to chew grass. The style I had in mind was somewhere between Olivia Lomenech Gill and Ronald Searle. Trying to further develop the Procreate techniques I had explored with my drawings in Cambridge for Assignment 2 A Sense of Place.
I then coloured and combined these in Procreate into a set of 10 double page spreads that could be printed in a small square stapled booklet, incorporating also some images from the previous project.
I think this series is potentially interesting if developed further with more images from a future visit at carnival time. Although it does not work yet, it could possibly become a graphic novel ‘Carnival: The Great Escape’ with completely new drawing done specifically for that purpose around that idea of escape: escape to the seaside, escape from the merry-go-round, escape through drink or snoozing. With the Punch policeman in the way and the stone dog watching. I could also think about incorporating photos and collage, playing with ideas of dream and reality as in McKean’s work in the Tragical Comedy of Mr Punch. I need to think more about the narrative to underlie this revision of the illustrations. Maybe instead of dreams of escape we just need to stay still and enjoy the moment.
I need to let this mull for a while and am planning to come back to it later as sketchbook practice at level 3. When I have further developed gouache and other mixed media drawing skills in Assignment 5. There would be a potential market for this – as a book or individual images for stalls at the carnival itself and tourist bookshops in the area.
For the actual procession it was too hot to draw and in the shade I could not see over peoples’ heads. So I took photos to draw from later. I have not edited them as photos because there are things in the images that I would want to draw that I could not photograph well. The aim was to capture enough information that I could then adjust later when I come to draw. I use these images later as the basis for Project 4.5b Paper Circus.
Going to the carnival
The circus is coming to town! Create a poster advertising what’s on, where and when, but only use paper to do it. Use coloured paper, work with collage, cutting and layering, folding or sculpting. Be creative in your approach to image-making and typography. Scan or photograph your final piece and reflect on how the limitation of only being able to use one material has affected how creative you can be. Was this limitation a help or a hindrance?
Reflect on the results in your learning log.
I do not like the idea of using circus animals so I wanted to focus on human circus performers – acrobats and clowns. Initially I thought of an African/Ethiopian focus. But possibly also drawing on African religious traditions of dance puppets to represent animals. There was a UNESCO celebration of African circus performers in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 2015. The videos from this gave a lot of material.
But in the end I decided to use some of my own photos from the Aldeburgh carnival. This had children and people in wheelchairs dressed up as clowns and animals in very colourful costumes. I started with preliminary ideas for an alternative ‘Cirque des Freaks – featuring the very enabled’ modelled on the paralympics.
My research on Paper Art showed a range of 2D and 3D possibilities, including work on the Circus by Matisse and some powerful silhouette work by Kara Walker. This provided my starting point – printing out cropped versions of the photographs to cut and manipulate with coloured paper.
I began by cutting out the parts of the photographs that I enjoyed.
I turned the cutouts over and photographed them to produce silhouettes on my iPad before sticking them in my sketchbook for colour reference. To see what the silhouettes would look like.
The cutting also left rather different shapes in the paper left behind that could be incorporated.
Mockup in Procreate
I need to know more about the relative size of the elements and have a basic design in mind before collaging, or I end up just trying to fit together jigsaws – as happened in my caricature of Bob Geldof in Project 4.1. Also which elements would be in which colour. Using my iPad silhouette photos I experimented with size, design and colour in Procreate. I liked the jagged edges of the silhouettes, and thought of using some of the figures as text. I was also interested in the reversals of image and text in the word ‘Cirque’.
But this still needs quite a lot more work to transfer to paper. And to maintain my original ‘Cirque des Freaks’ idea showing enabled skills. The cycle and acrobats could be replaced by wheelchairs on tightrope, and the main figure with the weight could have a chimp face etc. But I now need to look carefully at the paralympics and what people in wheelchairs are actually doing – creating new silhouettes from other photos. This issue will need a lot of thought to really challenge stereotypes and make it clear to the viewer.