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.
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.“
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.
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.
Part of our professional practice included creating an online portfolio which could also be referred to as our personal website. We had several tutorials with Dan Peterson about what works, what doesn’t, what we should look out for, how to make it easy to navigate, visually appealing and all sorts of bits and pieces of the sort. He was showing us examples of both successful and relatively unsuccessful sites that we could learn from and get ideas of how we wanted our own site to look, as well as suggesting possible platforms and site-building websites.
Even though we were advised to start working on it as soon as possible I found myself constantly busy with everything else and ended up making it a few weeks after Within/Without. Not that it was an issue, we weren’t pressed for it – but I realised when we made our business cards that I’d have to put my wordpress blog onto them instead of a web address. No harm in that, I have linked my blog and website now as best as I can. The next step would be reorganising the blog menu, but more of that some other time.
When I decided to finally start working on it I had a little investigation of my own – a number of friends spoke of the wonders of Wix, so I had a look for myself. It was brilliant. With so much freedom to design to your heart’s desire, there were infinite visual possibilities. So I got to work.
Deciding what images I wanted to put up and how I wanted them to be placed took some time. I wanted to organise a substantial amount of projects as well as odd pieces and the most time consuming part was actually finding all the work and having to scan and edit it – for some reason my first and second-year self hadn’t thought to make her future life easy and just scan things in instead of just taking photos.
It took longer than I anticipated but in the end I was incredibly happy with the result and felt an awesome rush of excitement as I pressed the publish button.
First published in 1981, Codex Seraphinianus is an illustrated encyclopaedia of an imaginary world, created by Italian artist Luigi Serafini.
“Organized in eminently logical fashion, it describes a system of knowledge that—at least in its structure—mirrors our own: here are botany, zoology, chemistry, physics, engineering, anatomy, anthropology, sociology, linguistics, and urban studies, each describing its object with a peculiarly recognizable exactitude.
Discover for yourself, reader, such wonders as the purple-caged citrus, the spider-web flower, the parfait protea, and the ladder weed. This is a world inhabited by weird half-sentient flora such as the tadpole tree and the meteor-fruit, by the lacy flying-saucer fish, the wheeled caterpillar-rumped horse, and the metamorphic bicranial rhino.
The planet’s sentient species are here as well—races like the Garbage-Dwellers, the Road-Traffic and the Yarn People, and the exotic Rodent-Skin Weaers… Nor can we forget to mention the Homo-Saurians, whose unusual sexual life-cycle is graphically described.
Merely to name these creatures is to confront the limits of our language.”
This is a short cover-jacket description of the journey about to be undertaken by the viewer* lucky enough to have obtained a copy of the Codex, which is rarely reprinted.
*Why viewer and not reader? The Codex, as scientific as it may look, is written in a systematised asemic language which Serafini invented. As the book is in essence an encyclopaedia , it only makes sense for it to be written in the language of the place it explores and thoroughly describes (even if that place is the product of one man’s fantastic imagination). Even though Serafini has stated himself that the text doesn’t mean anything, there have been many attempts to crack the code, the language of the book, but none have really been successful. However, the number system used has been deciphered (independently) by Allan C. Wechsler and Ivan Derzhanski (Bulgarian linguist, find his notes here), among others.
When going through it we can tell that the Codex is divided into several parts beginning with a botanical chapter describing the world’s flora. From microorganisms and particles to larger increasingly-bizarre plants, trees and their processes and place within the environment. We begin to familiarise ourselves with the setting.
The second part covers the fauna – surreal and oddly combined elements – animals and objects which create mind-twisting fusions and most of the time one ends up wondering how would this even work and what are the physical laws that allow for it…?
Imagination is pushing the edges of logical thinking and it’s pushing with the force of limitless potential. The sane mind has no chance against this book, a certain amount of madness is needed to appreciate such an astonishing piece of work.
The complexity increases with the third chapter where we explore the kingdom of unfamiliar bipedal creatures – they are a bit like what we would call centaurs but with the difference that these beings have humanoid legs and the upper body is… potentially anything you could think of.
The most captivating and mind-twisting part of the book is perhaps the fourth chapter – the one which covers what we can only imagine to be the scientific laws and physics which govern the world. Its almost abstract imagery brings science to the level of magic (all magic is just science we don’t understand yet) and truly makes you appreciate the complexity of this imaginary world. Imaginary worlds are governed by imaginary laws, but they are laws nonetheless.
Science leads to inventions so naturally, that is what the next chapter is all about. All the most bizarre machines, gadgets and technology.
Luigi Serafini – Codex Seraphinianus
The sixth chapter is devoted to the humanities. From biology to reproduction and sexuality, the diversity of peoples and studies of limbs or other body parts morphed into tools and objects…What you see below is one of the most famous and widely-recognised illustrations from the Codex. It’s pretty much self-explanatory.
The book continues with a chapter on the history of the world and its people – the early days, the developments of societies, political and religious systems and scenes, as well as different customs.
There is also a whole chapter describing the Codex’s writing system… in that same writing system – an inception of sorts. It is followed by a chapter on food, dining, clothing and fashion. Next come the games and sports activities, and the last chapter solely explores architecture.
I will finish with one of the pages I found most intriguing – the man with a pen for a hand, sitting in front of notepad on an easel. What I find so interesting about it is that it mirrors something which happens in our won world and that is scribbles – they mean nothing. Here we have spilled ink on the floor, and an arrangement of what initially would seem to be random scribbles but are in fact actual letters and words in French. Unfortunately I don;t know the language (yet) but it says something about an orgiastic girl emerging and guessing or wondering, and then something about the first days of the Blaba dam… (guessing at foreign languages is so much fun!)
There is so much more to the Codex but I will leave that for those curious enough to go through the whole thing themselves. It is indeed an astonishing (and frighteningly consistent) piece of work.
Below is a video interview with Serafini himself (yes, he is still alive) about how the codex came to be and what it’s all about.
A few months ago while wondering what to watch with a friend of mine, he suggested La planète sauvage. I hadn’t even heard of it before, which made me wonder how many mind-blowing old animations, films and books I haven’t discovered yet. I had to know more. I wasn’t entirely sure what I was agreeing to but I trusted my friend’s judgement (as he doesn’t normally appreciate animations as much as I do), and thank the heavens I did.
Fantastic Planet (as it is translated in English, though the literal translation is The Wild/Savage Planet) is a 1973 sci-fi film – a cutout stop motion animation – based on the 1957 novel Oms en série by French writer Stefan Wul.
The story takes place in the distant future on the planet Ygam, home of the giant blue humanoid Draags, a technologically and spiritually advanced society. They have brought human beings (called Oms, from the French word for human ‘homme‘) from Earth, considering them to be animals and keeping some of them as pets. Others live in the alien wilderness and, like any pest, their population is kept under control by the Draags.
An Om mother is teased to death by three Draag children and her baby is found by a key Draag leader, Master Sinh, and his daughter Tiva, who names him Terr and keeps him as a pet. She is affectionate and careful not to hurt him, though like any pet she is instructed to keep him disciplined, else he’d be taken away from her.
So the baby Om is given a collar. We dive deeper and deeper into the increasingly strange world the Draags inhabit, following Tiva and Terr. She brings him to education sessions – the Draags have special headphones which transmit knowledge telepathically, directly into their minds. A defect in Terr’s collar opens him up to that transmission as well, so he receives knowledge Oms normally wouldn’t.
As Tiva grows into her teens Terr is already a young man (Draags have a much longer lifespan and don’t reproduce as much as humans do). She performs her first Draag meditation, which allows them to communicate and travel with their minds – an absolutely mind-blowing bit of animation.
By that time Terr has already acquired a sufficient amount of Draag knowledge to steal a pair of headphones and run away into the wilderness…Now, this is one of those moments where I want to continue, but I don’t want to spoil the story, so I’ll leave it at that.
The surreal psychedelic imagery (created by writer and artist Roland Topor, production designer and co-writer) is what makes Fantastic Planet so recognisable and scarily captivating – at times you want to look away but you just… can’t, it’s transfixing.
Apart from its visual appeal, this film, or the relationship between the Draags and Oms which changes as the story unfolds, can be seen as an allegory of the relationships between us humans and between humans and animals, it could be related to themes of racism and speciesism as well as class division. The ending of the film (as well as the events that lead to it) carries a hopeful moral – violence suddenly stops, both Draags and Oms realise there is nothing to be gained from mutual destruction. Peace prevails…
But there is so much more (don’t think just because you’ve read this you know how the film really ends, there’s so much more to it than just this aspect of the plot)! It’s astonishing that the story was conceived in 1957, and it was animated in ’73 – the vision of such a world, such a future, is (even today with our ‘advanced technology and knowledge’) an extraordinary example of science fiction. A timeless feature, which makes you rethink and reevaluate all you think you know about human nature, the nature of society and the nature of relationships between yourself and others.
If you haven’t seen it, rectify the situation as soon as possible – better to see it and not like it than not see it and miss out on such an outstanding film.
Tom Rolfe, fellow course mate, illustrator, and printmaker, showed me a concertina booklet by Nobrow Press he’d recently bought – Rise and Fall by Micah Lidberg. It hit me instantly – the bright colours, simple shapes and markmaking, layering of elements, juxtaposition… and most importantly, the continuous image showing the unfolding of a timeline. I immediately knew I wanted to do something of the sort, and I believe this is how the 3,3m piece came about (that and my friend reminding me about scrolls and such).
After the presentation feedback and going through Rise and Fall again, I will be attempting a simplification of the narrative and visual language, as well as a scale expansion (moving towards a hanging installation rather than a handheld scroll).
I hadn’t paid attention to the album artwork of Iron & Wine until recently. I did a bit of research and was beautifully surprised to find out Sam Beam (known as Iron & Wine) was not only a film tutor before he started making music, but he also did most of his own album artworks.
In an interview with Rachael Maddux he shared that he was always drawing as a kid. He went to art school where he specialised in photography and film, but he always loved drawing and painting.
“…it’s fun to take an image and sort of try to match it with the style of the music on your record — in a surreal way sort of tangentially comment on the music by painting yourself. I like the challenge.”
‘Kiss Each Other Clean’ (front)
‘Walking Far from Home’ (single)
“The original idea was — remember when we were kids and you’d color on a piece of paper with a crayon and you’d paint over that with black Tempera paint and then etch out the drawing?” […] “The idea was to do something like that, so I actually did a bunch of physical ones. But I kept fucking up, so I did it with, like, black ink and a brush — just drawing on white paper. And then we flipped it in the computer and then we were able to color it. We did a bunch of different versions of the colorization and still kind of kept that main idea of all those random colors you get when you actually do that kind of a etching kind of thing, where the color bleeds into the objects in the background. We were able to do a bunch of different versions. . . . We toyed with the idea of including ones for people to draw themselves, but it was kind of a big commitment.”
-S.B. (on the cover art for ‘Kiss Each Other Clean’)
This was the artwork that inspired this post and the research into the visual side of Iron & Wine. Not only does it coincide with my first attempts at album cover art, but also with my recent experiments with inverting images. Reading about his process has inspired me to try it out myself – keep it simple with black and white and then add colour digitally. I do enjoy having a coloured original which is probably why I haven’t thought to try this out yet.
It was actually the cover of Our Endless Numbered Days that I saw first, though I’d been listening to his music before, I hadn’t paid attention. In the interview he says he likes the idea of a recognisable cover, where you always know that it is this or that artist, but he just works the opposite way. He has different versions of the same self-portrait for Our Endless Numbered Days, Such Great Heights, and Passing Afternoon.
‘Our Endless Numbered Days’
‘Such Great Heights’
The cover art for The Shepherd’s Dog is an incredibly captivating painting. The use of colour and positioning give off the hint of a certain dark madness in broad daylight – an exciting way to perceive the music in the album.
A couple of weeks ago James Green had a show at Cardiff M.A.D.E. which was very exciting to see. The works included decorated tribal masks, a room of collages (quite literally) and several mind-blowing paintings.
Since last year’s Field module led by James – Gorillas in the Roses, collaging has become synonymous in my mind with creative madness. There’s something very special about it – dismissible yet profound qualities…
“James Green’s Rhondda World is not a single world, but a place where numberless cultures, histories, fantasies and fabrications jostle against one another in permanent upheaval. Incongruous worlds are shuffled like a giant deck of cards. Each shuffle opens new doors into the possible and improbable. Some of these worlds are real and tangible, some are imaginary; sometimes the different worlds mesh together to produce a new reality, at other times they clash and rebound spilling disconnected ideas in their wake. ”
Dr Jon Clarkson
Creation Myths and the Hint of Higher Understanding
Creation Myths are the explanations of the origins of our world/universe, and no matter where or when, they have existed since the dawn of Reason.
In creation myths, there are ideas explored through the imagination of our ancestors thousands of years ago, and through the logic and facts of science nowadays,
which ideas, strangely enough, are strikingly similar to one another.
Is it crazy to think that there may have been some higher knowledge involved, a collective consciousness?
In terms of space and time, myths and the people who told them had little if not nothing in common, and often didn’t interact as they developed separately, on different continents, divided by vast impassable oceans.
So what could have enabled them to have the same ideas if they had nothing in common?
There may be more than a thousand stories about how our world and our universe as well as ourselves came to be, yet they all rely on the same basic principles.
~ At the beginning there’s nothing/darkness/infinite emptiness and chaos. ~ Then the egg cracks/there’s an explosion of light/the emergence of consciousness or the primordial creator god. ~ Then the creation of the heavens and the earth/night and day/celestial bodies. ~ Then the humans, made of clay/mud/dust/washed up wood…
– What was there before the Big Bang? – The Big Bang, the giant explosion, which marked the beginning of time. – Matter takes new shapes and configurations/gas clusters/stars /planets/galaxies. – Humanity as the product of an evolutionary process, moulded throughout time to what we are today, with the same chemical consistency as the earth we live on….
Could we claim that it could be one and the same story seen through a prism? A different language bringing the story down to understandable terms for the different cultures?
Science gives us yet another explanation (this time based on fact and logic, rather than imagination and logic) and that is still almost the same story, excluding the narrative and the humanised creative forces called gods and goddesses.
Can scientists say what was before the Big Bang? They may still speculate but one thing is certain and that is the black void which lies beyond our cosmic horizon. (Not entirely void, as there is still energy emitting from it, so there must be something in that infinite darkness which is believed to have been billions and billions of years ago, before the BB. FYI: TED Talks, Distant Time and the Hint of a Multiverse)
Another interesting comparison:
In Ancient Egypt they had Nut and Geb, the Sky and the Earth, as lovers in a tight embrace until they were separated by Ra, the sun deity.
In Norse mythology after the death of the giant Ymir, his head was separated from his body so his skull could become the dome of the sky and his body the earth, and the skull was held up by four guards – East, South, West and North. Chinese myth tells the story of Pan Gu, the giant who was asleep in an egg shell and once he awoke and the shell broke, heavier bits that came out of it became the earth, the lighter ones became the sky, and fearing that they’d mix once more, he held them apart, growing simultaneously as they continued to separate.
These three bits of the respective creation myths clearly emphasise that the earth and sky were once mixed, or really close together.
As if playing on the idea that at the dawn of time temperatures were much higher, and matter was much denser. Closer together. And that’s scientific fact: The universe is expanding. It’s cooling off. We have scientific studies right here, explaining to us that simple yet fundamental idea which actually existed for thousands of years beforehand.
So when we say “the universe is expanding, it used to be much denser” our ancestors would have said things like “the sky and the earth were once so close together that there was no room for light and air, so [insert name of god here] came between them and pushed them away from one another”.
Of course, when talking about the universe and the creation of the world, we must think in a much larger scale or time frame, which is one of the things that would have been unfathomable for our ancestors.
– Pan Gu held the sky and earth apart for 18,000 years as he grew and matured.
– God created the heavens and the earth and everything in them in 7 days, according to the old Biblical texts.
But what if those are just the understandable measures the concepts had to be translated into?
– The official age of maturity around the world is most often 18.
– A week consists of 7 days (6 to work and one to rest).
So perhaps these creation stories are metaphors for things we are already aware of… but if we’re aware of them already what is the point?
Could we not have discovered some scientific truths much earlier if only we had paid attention? Instead of denying people’s faiths and calling them pagan and their gods false, and burning people at the stake for their radical ideas which could put the authority of the church in jeopardy, where could we have been today if we had been even a little bit more receptive of external knowledge and ideas?
Because of such a violent history between science and faith, it is understandable why these two fields wouldn’t really look for common ground, but as we advance (and at high rates as well) we can start to see how boundaries between spheres of knowledge are merging and producing the most astonishing results which drive us even further on.
So why is it so difficult for science to work together with mythology towards the possibility of a higher understanding of our universe, and perhaps even discoveries waiting to be made?
Pointless? Nothing is pointless if you know how to look at it.
All scientific advances have been for the purpose of a higher understanding, but so have creation stories. Just as science works with facts and figures, myths about creation were built on the basis of people’s immediate surroundings, the recognition of possible cause for specific effect. They weren’t ‘foolish’ or ‘crazy’ at all when they talked of giants, gods and magical creatures. They just had different tools to work with, and different terminology, most widely recognised as metaphor.
If you showed an iPhone to someone a thousand years ago, it would have been perceived as magic and you would have been accused of witchcraft and burned. We would call that stupidity and blindness, but magic is just the word for science we don’t have yet. Communicating across oceans was an idea beyond belief and yet today our friends or family on the other side of the world are just a phone call away.
Interestingly enough in Tarot, The Magician card, number I, represents just that: someone who can do what they do so well and with such knowledge, that others believe it is magic. That’s how illusionists work, they keep your attention while they do their tricks without you even realising, until you find yourself amazed and in disbelief.
Yes, there is magic in myth. There are creatures made up of different animals; could that be the first notion of genetic modification?
Yes, there are gods of unimaginable power, but what is the meaning behind? A ‘god’ would be a masculine energy, a physical force, a catalyst for action and often destruction. In the same sense, a ‘goddess’ would represent the feminine energy of creation, a mental force, a representation of connection and protection…
Why is it so strange and hard to remember such simple concepts? We end up taking everything so seriously that we lose sense of that transcendent aspect of what these stories are meant to teach us.
Creation stories are the roots.
They are the beginnings to entire mythologies, which in turn became the foundations of religions and different belief systems today.
Cults, religions, worship are all culture-specific. And cultures more or less differ in accordance with territory and population.
Yes, it is the people that make the culture, and yes, it is the people that choose their faith but it’s actually a mirrored effect – it is the culture hand in hand with the faith that moulds the individual. When you place two mirrors facing each other, you just get an infinite loop, much like this one; we are who we are, thanks to our knowledge and experiences, thanks to the culture we grew up in and what we have faith in on a spiritual level.
But does anyone ask themselves the simple question: What if?
What if I wasn’t born where I was?
What if I was raised by a different family in a different country of different a different culture, with different traditions and faith?
I would have had a different upbringing, different associations to things, perhaps even different views on what’s right and wrong.
And maybe I would’ve been blind enough to think that other places, cultures, peoples, have it all mixed up and don’t know the truth…
“Truth is singular, its versions are mistruths.” –Sonmi-451, Cloud Atlas How can we deny what others believe to be true?
When it comes to the material world, it’s easy, just look at the facts. But when it comes to spiritual understanding, that’s where things get tricky.
Religion is a form of identification, just like nationality and language, but where these are focused on territorial background, religions, or faiths, represent a spiritual kinship, a bond beyond the immediate familiarity. To believe in the same thing as another, creates an unmatched connection which is the foundation for collaboration and advancement. We move forward because we move together for the same purpose, in a sense.
But when we look at religion today, do we just see a set of rules for a ‘sinless’ life? Regulations and commands of what to do and what not to do in order to secure a good afterlife in heaven? In order not to be punished and sent to hell to suffer for an eternity? Really? Is that all it comes down to?
Let’s do good things so we don’t go to hell? How is that moral in any way? Isn’t religion meant to teach morality, compassion, love and acceptance rather than fear?
And what happened to the metaphors? We have people all over the planet, believing that there’s a place in the clouds waiting for them after they die, but what if that, like all religious and mythological teachings, is too a metaphor?
Do good and you’ll go to Heaven.
Sin and you’ll go to Hell.
Do good and good will come to you, and you’ll feel good after.
Do bad things and you’ll feel horrible about it after, not to mention the vengeance and/or justice that would immediately befall you as a result of your actions.
Are those ideas trying to teach us that there’s such a thing as cause and effect? Perhaps this is just the contemporary slang for it, or I’ve gone mad, thinking that there might be a hidden meaning behind religious texts… right.
By saying all of this I don’t deny the existence of a Heaven or Hell, I simply try to understand concepts for which there is no physical proof. Or at least no physical proof on our frequency.
Is it possible that our world functions like a radio or a TV? With radios you get different frequencies or different stations – when you change the frequency from A to B, A doesn’t disappear, but we simply stop hearing it. Instead we can only hear station B. It’s the same for channels on TV, they don’t stop existing just because we’re not watching them. And we can’t watch or listen to one channel/station while we’re occupied with another.
In this sense, could our world be a layer of such frequencies, with us only existing on a specific one? Could those notions of Heaven and Hell and other realms actually be scientifically plausible if they existed on a different frequency?
Another example could be light. A light spectrum is the many different wavelengths of energy produced by a light source. Light is measured in nanometers (nm), where each nanometer represents a wavelength of light or band of light energy. Visible light is the part of the spectrum from 380nm to 780nm, which make up a tiny fraction of the spectrum – we can’t physically perceive ultraviolet, x- and gamma rays, which are lower than 380nm, and neither can we see infrared, radar, FM, TV or AM waves (above 780nm). Sound is almost exactly the same – we simply can’t hear anything outside of the sonic range, anything below is infrasonic, and anything above is ultrasonic or even hypersonic.
And yet we are aware of these wavelengths, there is proof of them even though they are unperceivable. Can we become aware of new frequencies of existence in the same way with the right tools?
What if right now we are simply blind to something which is right in front of us, right under our noses, that we just haven’t realised we can perceive?
What if we are able to transcend the barriers of our physical bodies and consciousness by simply changing our own frequency? Our way of thinking? Our mindset?
Could we be truly unified? Cooperating, understanding, caring, and loving? Working together towards a higher purpose, a higher knowledge, a transcendence of sorts?
Try and imagine what we could achieve if we only stopped dividing ourselves – gender, race, nationality, language,… religion? How come religion, which is meant to be the most unifying factor of all end up as one of the most severely dividing one? And this isn’t even about the mistrust and downright hatred between different religions and faiths, this is about the subdivisions within a single faith such as Christianity – it is not just that anymore, you have to be specific when you refer to this religion as there are so many ‘denominations’ of it…
There’s Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant, Anglican, Restorationist, Nontrinitarian… It’s like each one is its own different religion. How can we say we’ve changed so much since ancient times, when, really, we haven’t changed one bit – everyone still believes whatever suits them best, with major disregard and/or denial of everyone else’s belief systems. “My Truth is the only Truth, and everyone else is just wrong”, is this what we truly believe?
How crazy is it that all those different religions and faiths are just the different sides to the same pyramid, all leading up to the same Truth? The Truth which is transcendent of all else?
In order to get where you want to go, you need to know where you are. There are countless ways to get to London for example but depending on where you are, those can vary drastically. In the same sense, religions and such could just be the different paths to the ultimate Truth that we are all aiming for. Why would we deny or accuse a path of being wrong, if it leads to the same place?
Mythologies nowadays are widely regarded as outdated, as ancient stories and fables with some moral value. They are in fact the results of cultural particularities; different territories, languages, population, habits, etc. Our ancestors told the stories in understandable terms, they made do with what they had in front of them to go by, what they knew from their own experience and surroundings. That makes general myths difficult to compare (although the well known Ancient Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, is told in almost the same form in Japan where it’s about the creators of the world, Izanami and Izanagi). This makes Creation stories much more appropriate for such an attempt of pointing out similarities hiding in plain sight for thousands of years.
No matter who you are, where you’re from, how you live your life and whom/what you worship, you have come across or pondered at some point the notion of how everything began. Where did we come from, what made us exist, what made or world the way it is? It’s the type of story we should expect to hear most answers to, and yet as many Creation Myths and Stories of Genesis there are, they all build on the same basic concepts, regardless of where or when they were told.
The matter of Creation is probably one of the most significant questions contemplated, and further studied by scientists, since the dawn of humanity, and it may just be one of the most important things we have not yet fully understood.
“He who thinks he knows, doesn’t know. He who knows that he doesn’t know, knows. For in this context, to know is not to know. And not to know is to know.”
—Power of Myth , p.55
I had the opportunity to briefly work on a live project, illustrating a children’s book. I decided to do a little research, as illustrating for children is not really what I’m used to. In the library I found a book which sparked my interest – Magic Pencil: Children’s Book Illustration Today.
The book was published to coincide with the British Council exhibition of the same name. I found it inspiring as “illustrators don’t often find themselves in galleries” (Joanna Carey, p11) something that’s been on my mind since first year.
Anyway, I was focusing on this book mainly because after flicking through, I saw some examples I recognized, as well as others which I found curiously compelling. Here’s some of what I came across…
“I’ve got two sorts of drawing. I draw passionately all over paper tablecloths, napkins and backs of envelopes. But drawings like that are difficult to convert into anything useful. Sketchbooks are different, important to me, so I can jot down ideas on the spur of the moment that probably wouldn’t come back to me otherwise – dreams, and other things that pass fleetingly through my mind.”
I can very strongly relate to what she is saying as my summer has been concentrated precisely around a sketchbook of that kind. I was impressed by this image instantly, as soon as I saw it I was there, running through the woods with that girl and all the animals… despite the disproportionate figure, everything about the image takes you to that place, and everything you see is in motion. The animals being caught in action is what makes them disproportionate yet highly realistic and… well, believable. The mind only needs an outline, a scene to fill with subconscious content. In this case, my love of the forest, the sensation of running in the forest, and my adoration of Princess Mononoke, probably one of the most developmentally influential films of my childhood. This is what I believe our tutors are trying to push us to achieve for ourselves in our illustrations. That ’empathy’ that all of second year was about.
To be honest though, I was equally if not more impressed by her illustrations for Voltaire’s Candide or Optimism.
With my own affinity to pen drawings and cross sketching I can’t help but be amazed by these pieces. I can’t even put it in words; let’s just say everything about them simply resonates with feeling and meaning. I especially love the touch of a bird flying over the head of the gentleman whose head’s being blown to bits. There is a similar element in Piero della Francesca’s “Baptism of Christ” (1450), a dove flying right above Christ’s head, as a symbol of the Holy Spirit. “It is foreshortened to form a shape like the clouds.” (Source) In this case, not being able to see the whole bird makes you initially think it is a seagull, (nautical theme in place and all that), and yet, the spread of the feather tail is wide enough to be a dove’s (not to mention that seagulls are quite large birds). Touches like this add so much more depth to these already impressive, intelligent (thought-provoking) artworks!
“One thing I’m always conscious of is that illustrations can fail. I’m well aware of the dangers. I know that the wrong illustrations can literally destroy a dream and, however powerful the text, it’s the images that stick in the mind.”
I felt the same weight with the work I was focusing to do, so I can relate to what he is saying. I was remembering my own impressions with illustrations as a little child and all those books that I refused to even touch, and I would hide at the bottom of the book case my younger sister and I shared. I used to hate them because of how dark and scary the illustrations were, how bright and overwhelming the colours were, it all felt like acid being chicked at my face, I didn’t feel inspired either by the look or the feel of it. Even my mum reading the story out without me having to even look at the book was an unpleasant experience and I’d insist that she changed it. Because I come from a heavily communism-influenced country, the illustrations I was exposed to at a young age weren’t always the most considerate ones, if I can say that. It was amazing when I did find books I agreed with, and that happened more often than not, but I can’t help but remember the negative emotions I associate with some illustrations…. (You can see those in a separate post here.)
I see this as a really important illustration advice. For some reason it feels like our tutors are trying to teach us the same thing but without the honesty of whether the purpose we have given our work is being fulfilled. Whether our work influences in the way we wish it to or differently. Sometimes it’s better to be told you’re going in an unfitting or downright wrong direction, than to be left doing tons of work for something which would just be discarded or refused. But then again it’s about us knowing the type of work we do and how it fits in the world. In the end it is our fault if we’ve put our work in the wrong context, and so we must live with the ripples that choice has created.
“When you start to draw a building, for example, as you get to grips with the perspective, you begin to understand how it works, how it’s put together, and with cutaways you can explore it even further.” I find it very important, when portraying something to know what you are portraying. In a sense, that analytical way of looking at things is what I grew up to admire. Wishing I could be Sherlock at a very early age, I was really interested in noticing the details that no one else would, the little bits that could give you secret hints about how the whole thing (or person) works.
When I first saw Stephen Biesty’s illustrations when I was little, I was just entranced. I couldn’t look away, I had to assimilate every single detail and just know how those things worked. As far as I remember it was a castle, and I was just amazed at all the little tunnels and the servants’ quarters, and then there was the stables and the chimneys and the hidden doors and stairwells and dungeons and… there was just so much going on! It didn’t matter where you looked, there was something going on in every bit of the image.
I find it ultimately impressive and inspirational, and yet, Biesty says himself “There’s a huge amount of research, the work itself is very laborious, and so it all takes a long time — often as long as fifteen months to complete one book.” This is something I feel like I’ve never experienced. It made me realise how much time i usually spend on my own artworks and how I usually get frustrated and leave them after a while. As this year, we will be working on one project which will bloom into our degree show, I feel like staying with the same project for a longer period is something vital in the practice of any illustrator, even if for just one project. It’s about how far you can take an idea once given the chance, how well you can understand it for yourself and interpret it visually.
“I can’t say the work gets any easier. In many ways I keep making it more difficult for myself, trying to make things more real, not in a literal, photographic sense, but in an emotional sense, telling the story by capturing the essence of the situation, giving it some meaning. Ardizzone did it, not just in books, but also as a war artist, and Quentin Blake does it. It’s a question of creating another world, believable in its own right. It’s all in the drawing.”
I can’t not agree with these words. Whenever I do my own work I am constantly asking myself the question of whether I am truly portraying something on an emotional as well as cognitive level. In a way, illustration, and all art really, opens you up to what could be interpreted as a sixth sense, the ability to see, understand, relate, and respond instantly to that world within the image…
“One of the first things I realised when I was studying illustration in art school was that most illustrators, with a few exceptions, like Tomi Ungerer, or Saul Steinberg, only work in one style, which they stick to for the rest of their life. And I realised early on that I didn’t want to commit myself in that way. My work changes according to the text. It’s such a great luxury to read a text and just draw, without worrying about ‘style’. And it’s good to keep changing – it makes you feel like you’re still learning something.”
Interestingly enough, I came to the same conclusion myself, with my own course-mates. It was a struggle at first, I didn’t think illustrators were really allowed to change styles… but then everything became clearer and clearer when I took a step back and realised it was impossible for me to limit myself in such ways. I agree with Tony Ross that it is incredibly important to be able to explore your capabilities and to change, shift, adapt, morph, with every next text that comes up, learning, becoming better, finding ways to draw you never thought you would… And not to mention, all art movements started off with a series of experiments and explorations of new ideas.