Magi Mojaxx

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Some months ago I was approached by a member of Magi Mojaxx (and a friend) and asked to do a cover for their yet-to-be-released EP.

At the time they were called Thomasina and the Undercover Mermaids but ended up changing their name. Originally I had the idea to play with the iconic gun barrel sequences from James Bond films, where I turn the barrel into a whirlpool with three mermen in the middle (much like Charlie’s Angels) hold up their respective musical instruments up for protection. The idea fell through when they changed their name and I thought to myself that it was probably a good thing, as I’d much rather come up with something original which isn’t such an obvious reference.

My final idea was somewhat inspired by the idea of my friend’s adventures all the way out in the US, and the name ‘Magi Mojaxx’ made me think of something almost shamanic. The way I described it to him when we had a chat about it was “wide open desert space, a massive fire at sunset”. I believe the final image was an almost exact representation of what I had envisioned in my mind and I felt incredibly happy with it. And so did Magi Mojaxx which made it all the better!

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Out of This World / Mœbius

One day years ago, as I was going about my business online, skimming through images and articles in dismissive boredom, I stumbled upon something truly extraordinary. An artist whose work made my mind completely blank and quiet and what I remember feeling was an outward wave of tingling energy from my heart all the way to the tips of my fingers. It’s a similar feeling to falling in love when your eyes meet someone else’s.

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It was an image by Jean Giraud, also known as Moebius, comfortably nestled amongst the piles and piles of whatever Pinterest had to offer at the time. “Esteemed by Federico Fellini, Stan Lee and Hayao Miyazaki among others, he has been described as the most influential bandes dessinées (comic strip) artist after Hergé.

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I was mesmerised by his use of colour, composition and detail. It is apparent in each and every image of his, instant awareness of space and scale. Simple, yet so complex it spins your head. It is an experience in itself of another world, another universe, and it all originated from the mind of this one person.

Jean Giraud (8 May 1938 – 10 March 2012) has since been one of my absolute favourite artists and I whenever I find myself looking for inspiration or ideas I always seem to find the perfect piece. It was too soon after I discovered his work that I found out he died after battling cancer for a long time.

Many artists have since paid their tributes, including Paul Pope whose Adventure Time Moebius-styled short comic strip was featured in AT Issue 5. I took the liberty of putting it in just below.

vortex / cover & illustrations

Before the academic year was over I was working on an important side-project. The second book by author Vera Petrova called Vortex, about to come out.

After the success of her first book 6 years ago she wished to collaborate once more to create a second boutique publication, this time with illustrated chapters rather than just a cover. Saying I was excited would be an understatement.

What happened was quite interesting – Vera had had a look through all of my work online and liked several pieces which she thought would fit the esthetic she imagined for her book. I suggested making new work in accordance but she was set on several sketchbook pieces from the beginning days of my final year project ‘Cosmic Genesis’. As they were no longer of any importance to the outcome of the project, I felt they would fit well for the occasion. Thus they became chapter illustrations.

The cover artwork was chosen in a similar manner. Vera wanted her second book to carry on the layout of her first book (‘Instead of a Book’) – a short but wide image which flows from the back cover to the front cover as one long piece. A very fitting image I had done was, again from ‘Cosmic Genesis’, the 3.3m-long animation concept. She felt it was illustrative of her entire idea behind ‘Vortex’ so she had me send it over to her visual editor (Rumen Dimitranov), who shortened it wonderfully so it can fit the format without losing meaning.

You can see the finished cover below, as well as some of the illustrations inside.

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aftermath / after hand-in

It’s been a while since I thought to write anything on here. The summer’s almost gone and perhaps the reason is that so much has happened in the space of three months. Sometimes it’s more important to enjoy the moments, to live, and let it all happen before you know what’s worth recording and writing about.

First things first – I am no longer a student. The last few posts I wrote were published on the day of my hand-in deadline. After all the hard work, the stress exploded from all of us in the form of celebrations and indulgences of all kinds – everything we denied ourselves for months we got to dive into in the space of a few weeks. In a sort of preparation for the exhibition which opened the week after hand-in.

Oh it was so good to not be worried anymore. Well, of course I was worried. I had the most dreadful feeling about my assessment, mixed with the most liberating sense of freedom. Nothing can hold me back now. I was free to focus on the ideas I wanted to focus on, the way I wanted to focus on them. All that with  a massive pinch of excitement about my family coming to Cardiff to see the show. (MASSIVE)

Some important questions (to myself) answered:

Was I happy with my final works?
I was as happy I could be – it was a project I had worked on for longer than any other and it was one which morphed into so many different forms throughout the time I worked on it. The core idea remained, despite the change in the translatable meaning. I was well aware I was capable of something monumentally more substantial though after the last decision to change the project, I effectively stabbed myself in the back and capped my result to something satisfactory to myself rather than something outstanding.

Did the result surprise me?
Not really. I was expecting a low grade but at the same time I was well unhappy about how I was judged. The unfairness of the whole situation was the most frustrating aspect of it, feeling like I’m being completely misunderstood when all I try to do is bring people’s attention to ideas and issues every single person thinks about at some point or other, without a doubt. Somehow it would’ve been better if I had focused on a mundane issue with little if any whatsoever deeper existential meaning, as it seemed like that’s the type of topics which the tutors fancied the most. I have no regrets at all. I just wish people appreciated deeper thought processes a bit more (and appreciated personal expression).

Would I have done it differently if i had the chance?
Yes and no. Yes – I would’ve stuck with my gut and done what I meant to do since the very start without changing my idea a thousand times throughout the year. I would’ve had a lot less tutorials than I did, as it seems to me that’s what messed up  my process in the first place (and I ended up being accused of not having enough tutorials… excuse me??). And No, I wouldn’t change my idea and what I wanted to communicate – my research has become an invaluable part of my philosophies and personal beliefs, and I still believe what I was trying to say id incredibly important in our day and age.

To conclude, in this one week before the show, the tornado inside my mind dissipated and suddenly I could see with clarity all the details of the wasted landscape. All in place, maybe not in the place they initially were, but in place nonetheless – exactly where they should be. It took the most devastating of storms to set things right for myself as a person and as an artist.

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Cosmic genesis / artist statement

Everything about our lives and our very existence depends on the milestones of the Cosmic Genesis – the points in the history of the universe since the beginning of time which made life on this planet possible. Each one of those points, the formation of the Earth, the shaping of the Solar System, the origin of the Milky Way, has been crucial and yet has happened due to an ever-continuing ripple (or butterfly) effect. As if reflected in our own scale of being, each thought, decision, action, no matter how seemingly insignificant has the potential to cause unimaginable changes in this world we think is set in stone. On the contrary, it is alive, breathing, growing, evolving, moulded by the forces which influence it, whether that refers to meteorites, the shifting of tectonic plates, natural phenomena or the negligent behaviour of a single one of the Earth’s myriad of species.

Rooted in mythology and stemming from scientific discovery, this project’s aim is to bring the viewer’s attention to a higher perspective and a process of self-reflection, both figurative and literal. Through the observation of this chain of creation, the viewer’s mind is stripped of superficial concerns which are replaced by a sense of understanding and elevated perception. Ultimately I wish to evoke empathy towards our home planet and an awareness of the choices we make, which could sustain or exhaust it.

Field year 3: Encounter (PDP)

 

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In Illustration they don’t appreciate exhibitions in the same way as other courses do. The whole idea is that the work we do is not the type one would see in a gallery, so there is no emphasis on shows, and that makes complete sense. As illustrators, this isn’t something we have to worry about, while our friends in Fine Art actually get assessed on it. Since first year a few of us have felt this certain discontent with how for two years we’ve seen amazing work exhibited by our friends while all we had was our portfolios, project books and desks. Personally, and I know this is true not just for me, I believed that if we had exhibitions at the end of first and second year, it would not only have been good experience but also would have helped us have at least some basis for this year’s ‘Encounter’ brief.

The most confusing part of the whole thing was constantly being reminded that we should not think of it as an exhibition (because it’s not what illustrators do), but we should focus on our work and think of how it sits in the world and how we want it to be encountered… that’s all fine, but at the end of the day what happened was that we were building spaces and putting up an exhibition. The continuous refusal to refer to it as such added to the constant level of stress throughout the year along with one other thing.

Groups. Since the start of the year, we were told to divide into small groups according to what our work was about, so when we put up the show at the end of the year, people would be looking at a collection of works with the same thematic. Instant red light goes up in my mind, how come we are the only course that’s not exhibiting everyone’s work together? Ignored the red light and tried to make sense out of the situation but it was only worsening. First with realising that I’d have to be into a group named ‘Myth and Fairy tales’, even though my project wasn’t meant to be perceived as a project on fables but a project on scientific truths based on mythology. When it turned out to be only me and one other person in that group we were told to just group with everyone who’s uncertain or hasn’t decided and so our odd-one-out group barely had any relation whatsoever between everyone’s works. We managed to find connections in the end although the very idea of having to consider how our work comes together and speaks as a whole was adding so much unnecessary stress, I was this close to leaving it all.

And then there was the lectures on how to put up a show, which, to be fair, I completely understood, though I believe both the lecturer and most of my course mates were misinterpreting the situation. Rita Cachao was teaching us by giving examples of different shows and how they work together, but the very idea is, that the work is collected or created for a specific show with a specific purpose, whereas each of us had been developing their own project of choice. Most people in the lectures were misinterpreting her efforts, thinking that now we have to change our work because it all has to go together. At that point the lectures were cut off and everyone felt even more frustrated because of the uncertainty – are we exhibiting together or are we not? What was the point to all the groups in the end?

One thing we had to do a month or two ago was fill out a form about technical requirements and describe the type of work we’d be exhibiting. After having stressed and talked to tutors about my installation plans and needing a large, open, free space, time and time again, and after handing that form in, you can imagine my surprise and frustration when I was allocated the furthest corner in the tightest maze of a space, which by the way turned out to also be where the door to the product design storage room was. Having that on my mind, being told that it could change when it obviously wasn’t going to (and it didn’t) and in the end being told I shouldn’t be stressing about it was just drop after drop until the cup was full and I no longer cared about how my work was going to be encountered. Nothing went according to my plan and in the end I had to rethink the whole setup just to make sure there is enough room for my work to be observed and for people to be able to go into the space right next to mine without getting caught in my pieces and messing everything up… all was fine in the end, I don’t have my hopes too high, knowing how much better it could have been had I got the type of space I asked for.

Building the actual walls and boxes actually turned out to be more fun than I thought, and it felt like a good way to connect with everyone and do something together, as a team, although some people didn’t show up and that ended up delaying us. Altogether it was a good experience that could have been so much better had it been addressed differently.

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Subject year 3 (PDP)

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Since the end of last year, throughout the summer and the whole of first term, my focus has mainly been on the idea of gods, goddesses and their visual representations. The dissertation proposal gave a lot of weight to the subject and in my mind it was like a seed which slowly but surely started poking out of the ground, becoming my main focus for the start of my third year of Illustration. Knowing that it would be a project that would take up the entire year, unlike anything else we’d done before, I knew I had to choose well and make sure my project would feel relevant to me throughout the year. It was not an easy choice because I’m all too well-aware of my interest and attention levels, and yet it was – knowing I’d be concentrating on the dissertation made me realise that whatever research I did would inform both aspects of my studies.

From the very beginning we were assured that nothing is set in stone, our project idea will grow and evolve and potentially change into something completely different from the initial concept. It was important to keep our minds open, and that is exactly what I did. At the start I chose to focus on mythology, specifically creation myths. I was keen on visualising the similarities between the different stories, my plan being to show that as different our cultures were, they all built on the same basic set of principles – the primordial void, the cosmic egg, the world tree, the creation of humans out of earthy substances (mud, dust, trees). My good intentions weren’t entirely applied, as I didn’t actually do a great amount of work in first term – the dissertation was taking most of my attention and in the end I only had the theory with some concept works, which resulted into a weak formative assessment. Looking back, I realised I could have put together a significantly more substantial, uniform set of works. My problem stemmed from the fact that I hadn’t decided what I was working towards. A visual storybook, a graphic novel, posters, and animation…? I realised, the hard way, that knowing what I’m working towards helps me mould my ideas and direct my work to a certain standard and consistency, something I was lacking in first term. There was not much I could do about it if I wanted to do well in my dissertation and do it right by the deadline, although I took the time to arrange all my ideas and come up with a plan for the type of work I would start working towards immediately after – an animation.

As my plan changed, my idea and the reasons behind it became more diluted. I was painfully aware of the amount of work I’d need to do if I were to make a hand-drawn animation. At the time there were several drawbacks to the plan, work that didn’t have anything to do with my project but was in fact the type of work I want to do as an illustrator – an EP cover and the exhibition we organised at Paper Arts in Bristol (a big shout out to Jamie Stevenson who was the man behind it all). Before I knew it, it was already time for our second term assessment and all I had was, again, concept work and thumbnails for my animation so I decided to create a long continuous piece which would in fact be the full visualisation of my final short animation. The positive feedback I had for it as a piece on its own made me rethink my whole project – leave the animation focus on this. It made sense – if it works, why not? I was also largely swayed by the lessened workload, one big hand drawn piece is better than hundreds and hundreds of illustrated frames. And all was good until the opening night of Within/Without, where one of my tutors noted the success of my pieces and advised that I revise my choices and work towards a similar outcome for my final piece. That was the point when I felt completely thrown off but I took her advice regardless. The development illustrations I’d been doing in my sketchbook could easily be translated into separate images which I could turn into an installation – a series of hanging pieces forming a narrative of a backward timeline, the Cosmic Genesis. With only a month to finish everything I found myself rushing everything. Stress levels started increasing drastically around the time I had to lose about five days waiting to get my laser cuts done so I could start painting over them. I went even further down the stress hole when we were allocated spaces and I got the furthest possible corner space when I’d asked specifically for an open space for a free-hanging installation. Up until the last moment I was assured it was not final and changes could be made and at the end it was evident that changes were not going to be made. The culmination of all possible stress was reached in the last few days – finishing everything off, making sure I have everything required for hand in and setting up the exhibition and the studio space. Now that it is all over I can evaluate the different aspects of the project:

IDEAS

It was difficult to explain my concepts in presentations, even with concept work for back up, there wasn’t enough and it seemed like there was nothing to ground my idea, according to feedback. The project changed drastically over the course of the year and so did the idea behind it but in the end, when writing my statement, I felt like it had finally come together in the best possible way, bearing the desired message.

RESEARCH

As the idea morphed so did the research. From myths to animations, academic reading, artists of interest, individual and collections of works, spiritual and scientific studies… even though it was a bit all over the place I feel it was all necessary to shape the project into what it is.

DEVELOPMENT

With so many shifts, I ended up having to discard most of the work I’d done over the course of the year. But at the end it’s all about how you allow your project to grow and evolve, which is exactly what I did.

OUTCOME

Even though it all felt a bit rushed, I am happy with my final pieces, even though I feel like I could have done an exceptional job had I reached the idea earlier and not had to worry about the exhibition space.

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