16/12/2016 ‘among my swan’
28/11/2016 ‘lakeside willow’
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
After some hard thinking and work I finally finished them. These are the pieces I’ve chosen to put in the exhibition.
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.
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.
I’ve been going on and on about the show and now it’s gone and passed, and I haven’t said a word about it.
As you probably already know, it was in two parts – from the 31st of March to the 6th of April and from the 7th to the 13th of April. We tried to make sure the people whose work would be up at the same time related with one another in some way and we found out that a lot of our works do that anyway. As almost everyone was exhibiting work that was part of their final year project (for the degree show in May) it was an amazing opportunity to experience the curatorial side of the whole ‘Encounter’ challenge. We found more connections between our work than we previously thought and also received amazing feedback on and after both opening nights.
My own work had nothing to do with my final project, which was probably not the best of ideas, but I wanted to focus on something fresh in my mind – at the time I still wasn’t sure whether I wanted to do an animation for my final piece or a very long scroll-type painting on a large scale. Neither would have worked well in the gallery space at Paper Arts, so in the end I chose the subject which had ceaselessly been on my mind since the Christmas holidays – DREAMS.
I’d been having a series of very vivid and realistic dreams with massive amounts of detail stored in my memories. I wouldn’t say that they influenced my waking life but I’ve always thought that if someone is in your dream, you have to tell them. A number of people were in my dreams, one person in particular, who also appears in the final images, more so than the others – when I shared my dreams with him, it became a common conversation topic, and a really exciting one at that, which brought us closer and solidified our friendship, something I was immensely happy about. So, in a sense, they actually did influence my waking life.
Anyway, I shouldn’t go off on a tangent. The opening night for the second week was a lovely event which I thoroughly enjoyed. I got very positive feedback from our year tutor, Amelia, who believed I should go on with this for my final piece. That completely threw me off and I found myself wide-eyed and panicking, telling her it actually has nothing to do with my final piece (even though I’d already been trying to find a way to relate dreams with myths). Her suggestion was that I should find a way to do something similar… ‘because it really does work very well, good job!’
Even though I didn’t sell any of the prints I had on display (I was gutted when I realised I’d forgotten mount board and cellophane pockets) I am really happy to have had the chance to have my work seen by so many people. Hopefully it will have inspired some of them to truly explore and experience their dreams. :)
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).
Wouldn’t it be interesting, I thought to myself, if dreams were just reality inverted.
I’ve been experimenting with inversion as a way to differentiate between drawings of ‘reality’ and drawings of ‘dreams’.
The piece below was a quick way to distract my overloaded mind so I could focus on my project better. Even though I was coming up with ideas around those two cityscapes, they are mainly an experiment, as this time I was directly drawing the inverted piece, rather than inverting it with photoshop.