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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critical

This last week was the most insane, action-packed, work-filled, will-fuelled week I’d probably ever experienced since the start of uni… (a little part of me says probably ever).

There was just so much to do that I hadn’t thought to sort out before. The past two months felt like a speedy blur, there was too much to do and not enough hours in the day – I’d catch myself still at uni in the latest possible hours, forgetting to eat and drinking enough coffee to fuel a tank. I most definitely underwent a mechanisation process and became a work machine, doing everything automatically, as fast as possible without really thinking. Stress was an inseparable part of my system, like the exhaust fumes of a car… fitting. That is perhaps why a number of things didn’t go entirely to plan, although I somehow blame that on additional external worries which could not be overlooked and came with the worst possible timing.

One thing I’ve learned is that when everything is going against you, that is your chance to prove yourself. I managed. I did it despite all the stress and circumstance.

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building exhibition spaces

The last two weeks before the deadline (6 May) were specifically dedicated to building the degree show spaces.

After the negative response of last year’s degree show, we were determined on several things – one was to do with the fact that Illustration in general is not technically in the main art building. This time we were adamant that we should have our exhibition with everyone else’s. Thanks to our course mate Maelle’s efforts we got a number of spaces in the main building in which to build our shows – two spaces on the first floor and two of the glass boxes you see when you walk up the main stairs on the second and third floor.

The whole exhibition module for us is called ‘Encounter’ – its main focus being how illustration may be encountered in the world. Since the start we were told again and again that we should not think of it as an exhibition, which was a bit of a contradiction, especially when we got to building the actual spaces.

That meant building and putting up all the walls in order, painting everything white and making plinths. We were all suddenly working together, a huge team of illustrators, building their degree show, helping each other and communicating – somehow it felt like a lot of us connected more than we’d had in the whole last year, or whole three years really.

As it happens, the materials we could use were limited so that resulted in having to wait for people to finish their task so you could borrow whatever you needed and continue the work. That resulted in some people not showing up, thinking their help wasn’t needed.

The start was strong and we’d done quite a lot of work by the end of the first week, with a bit of a slowdown around the second, and a quick intensifying around the last few days. We were meant to start putting our work up around Thursday afternoon and all through Friday.

It was hectic and stressful for the whole of the two weeks, but we managed to get through it with  hard teamwork!

final pieces

After some hard thinking and work I finally finished them. These are the pieces I’ve chosen to put in the exhibition.

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Due to unforseen technical difficulties I’ve lost some of the scans and these are the only ones I managed to recover.

All of them are painted with acrylic onto MDF covered in black acrylic. It felt amazing to be able to finally paint, rather than plan and do technical things like scanning, editing and blogging.

These will be suspended so they hang at eye-level, arranged so they form the backwards narrative of the creation of our universe.

website

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.

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Laser cutting

So, the final decision was to have my pieces painted onto circular boards. A hard surface with weight to it for the hanging, which could easily be laser-cut into the right shapes and sizes. MDF. Yes.

After speaking to my tutor about it she advised me to talk to a specialist and I sent her an e-mail as soon as I could. After not receiving an answer for about four days, I got quite worried, as I needed the time after to prep and paint the boards. It was nearly a full week before I was induced in the magic of laser-cutting. I managed to fit all the circles onto 3 thin MDF boards and so create the platforms for my final pieces.

Because of the restrictions and considerations of the laser, the hanging holes which I hoped to be quite thin, had to be a lot wider which I wasn’t too pleased with. The other thing was that since I wanted my pieces hanging without turning, I had to have two holes on each. It was either that or getting perspex sticks which I didn’t want to do for it would have taken away the floaty bubble idea.

Finally after almost a full day sorting that out in uni, I was ready to get to work and star painting.

Finally painting

finally finally finally!!!

I started painting my final pieces, after a wait that just felt like a small eternity. Annoyingly enough, I had to first prime the boards, so I can paint them without damaging the wood – that was resolved by a quick solution of watered down PVA from a massive tube in the studio. Next up was the black base – now that was tricky because I was running very low on black acrylic and I didn’t have money for supplies at the time. I had to turn to my friend in Fine Art, Arthur Jarvis, whose work pretty much focuses on dark and sticky substances and for it he uses a lot of black paint. Fortunately he had some left, which I thought would run out quite quickly but miraculously covered all the boards and there was even some left to spare.

After having experimented with wet on wet painting I started thinking of how to do it well with acrylic. The process of making the Space piece and the Cosmic Tree piece was the most satisfying experience – watching mesmerised as the paint flows through the watery layer, plays, settles, moves, swirls and makes unexpected shapes and mixtures. Such things cannot be achieved by the human hand but only induced by it and I liked having that idea add to my work.