5.2.2 Edges revisited: Aldeburgh

My overwhelming inspiration for the series was the visit on my first day to the Maggi Hambling exhibition ‘On the Edge’ at the Peter Peer’s gallery.
Aldeburgh itself is ‘on the edge’ in a number of ways:

  • the extreme vulnerability to the encroachment of the sea that has halved the land originally occupied in Aldeburgh and nearby Thorpeness and Orford – currently generally held at bay with barriers and groynes, but threatened in the longer term by global warming.
  • to the North the skyline is dominated by Sizewell nuclear power station – with periodic leaks though none so far serious.

The holiday was just after the June general election. Radio discussions on election fall out were playing on a popular mood of shock and uncertainty, reinforcing feelings of anxiety from Hambling’s Edge.

See final on-line web gallery on my zemni images SMUGMug website

Overall assessment

I found this project very interesting in taking a subjective as well as objective approach to documentary. However I became overwhelmed by the amount of information bombarding me all the time and the infinite range of potential approaches and treatments. I also found basing my work on iPad sketching challenging because at that point I had not done the iPad Explorations Critical Review, also physical issues with lighting/screen glare and RSI limited my ability to work in this way. I need to practise much more with the iPad and also probably include more physical sketching and painting on location, developing these skills also building on my Aldeburgh sketchbook projects.

I also need to think much more about the type of narrative I want to produce. The coherence of narrative for each day makes sense, and could be developed much further. But the overall narrative of the week has no real coherence or rhythm to keep the viewer interested. I need to look in detail at different theories of narrative, particularly visual narrative, and rethink how I might approach this. Either continuing as an interactive on-line experience, maybe also experimenting with slideshows/image videos and/or a printed book.

Process of development

Illustration 2: Assignment 4 ‘You Are Here’: The Task 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.

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.

Preparation

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 . My sketches for these can be found in Illustration 2: Aldeburgh Sketchbooks.

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.

Aldeburgh Diary Notes

During the holiday I made rough notes on my thoughts and reading using One Note and photo diary. These notes and my subsequent re-workings for Illustration 2 through to Advanced Practice can be found through the following links.

Day 1 Sunday 11th June Hambling. Wave, turbulence. Sunset. Fenced off beach.

Day 2 Monday 12th June. Kovats. Many tales. Ink. Gloomy darkness with yellow sea poppies. Twisted nets, ensnaring.

Day 3 Tuesday 13th June Stories in textures Hilary Mantell. Filling in the gaps. Museum. Ancient times. The Magpie. Viking. Armada.

Day 4 Wednesday 14th June ‘Where does all the time go?’ Med houses. Marsh. Nostalgia.

Day 5 Thursday 15th June William Kentridge erasure/ black and white charcoal

Day 6 Friday 16th June coetzee open studios beach dog dance. New ideas, opening up. Nets.

Day 7 Saturday 17th June new dawn. Watercolour.

See also Aldeburgh history notes.

On the Edge

My overwhelming inspiration for ‘On the Edge’ bringing all my notes and thoughts together was the visit on the first day to the Maggi Hambling exhibition ‘On the Edge’ at the Peter Peer’s gallery.

Aldeburgh itself is ‘on the edge’ in a number of ways:

  • the extreme vulnerability to the encroachment of the sea that has halved the land originally occupied in Aldeburgh and nearby Thorpeness and Orford – currently generally held at bay with barriers and groynes, but threatened in the longer term by global warming.
  • to the North the skyline is dominated by Sizewell nuclear power station – with periodic leaks though none so far serious.

The holiday was just after the June general election. Radio discussions on election fall out were playing on a popular mood of shock and uncertainty, reinforcing feelings of anxiety from Hambling’s Edge.

Ideas for development of the final narrative

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
  • Tourists.
  • 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.

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 pdf/web-page

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.

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. The versions produced for Illustration 2 assessment can be found on pages on the SMUGMUG site:

My ideas continued to evolve as I worked on this, working within the constraints of the website format.