Research report

Below is the culmination of quite a lot of work produced as a response to the last few weeks of lectures. The first part was presented as a ‘Journal’, this is basically the contents of my ‘Blog’ and will represent 30% of this unit. The next part is the c2000 word report, reflecting on my practice and studio work, cross-referencing it all the while with the lectures. The report is worth 60% of the unit. The remaining 10% is made up of the bibliography.

A Reflection on my Research & Working Practices

The first self-initiated project, which is outlined on pages 1 and 2 of the accompanying ‘Journal’, was an attempt to gain inspiration from various practising illustrators whom I have admired for some time in the form of a series of small projects to be rendered in the ‘style’ of these artists and illustrators.

‘The Elements’ was the first of these mini projects and I intended to use four different illustrators each of whom used different processes to make their images. Marion Deuchars was the inspiration behind ‘Air’, she works in a very simple but effective digital manner incorporating photography and drawing into ‘Adobe PhotoShop’. The subject matter was Amy Johnson, as explained on page 3 of my Journal, the background information was researched on the Internet. It became apparent from the research that Ms Johnson by coincidence was a local heroine, making the project a little more personal. The results may be seen on pages 3 and 4 of the Journal. The resulting illustration was okay, nothing special and to be honest really didn’t challenge me creatively at all, although it was a successful rendition of Marion Deuchars’ working style.

‘Fire’ was the next attempted, the inspiration behind this image was Jonny Hannah, an illustrator who uses silkscreen, acrylic and gouache. The initial inspiration behind the concept was a book published by Taschen on Tin Toys. Whilst making the early preparatory sketches from a colour photograph of a rocket I noticed that the pop rivets within the metalwork were evolving into a sort of Brogue or 1920’s ‘Spat’ shoe, hence the ‘Brogue Rocket Is Go Go Go…’ By coincidence, whether consciously or sub-consciously both rockets and brogues (due to his love of Jazz music) feature heavily in Jonny Hannah’s work. Conceptually this was more interesting, the drawings and layout were working well, though the resulting illustration was very disappointing, it became too cluttered yet too simple at the same time. A limited palette was used which was okay, but overall the resulting image is very dull and almost like that of a comic book illustrator, rather than being contemporary (see pages 6,7 and 8 of the Journal). It could though lead onto a project based around fireworks and their packaging, or maybe a children’s book.

Next came ‘Earth’, this was to be inspired by Nicholas Wilton. After initially scrubbing some Alkyd onto the canvas, I set about painting in artists’ quality oils developing and building textures, scratching and using scrafito. Next I began painting various earthy elements such as flowers and trees and birds in a random fashion, taking Wilton as an inspirational starting point, but still wanting to make my own statement. It was then realised that it wasn’t working at all, so rather than waste the canvas, I painted over it in several layers over a period of several weeks using a very heavy impasto technique and have entered the resulting work into this year’s ‘Mercury Music Prize’, the resulting painting can be seen on page 16 of the Journal.

Whilst the concept was a good one, after looking at the results from these early pieces of work it was very quickly felt that the project had to be abandoned rather than to waste lots of time on completing it, therefore ‘Water’ which was to be a 3D based work inspired by ‘Red Nose Studio’ around the subject of the feature film: ‘The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou – ’ didn’t materialise.

Following this I was commissioned to complete a series of illustrations for ‘Spirit & Destiny’ magazine (Journal pp 9-10), 12 Chinese Horoscopes and a full-page opener. While this was yet another one of those rather boring commissions, at last I began to see it for what it was, just something to pay the bills and the problem with my frustration is really down to the marketing of my practice rather than just the work that was coming in.

‘Friendship or indifference inevitably succeeds love,’ she writes. ‘When the husband ceases to be a lover, and the time will inevitably come, her desire for pleasing will then become languid, or become a spring of bitterness: and love, perhaps the most evanescent of all passions, gives place to jealousy and vanity.’ – Mary Wollstonecraft ‘A Vindication of the Rights of Women’ 1

When I began this course, I came into it wanting to change everything and work in a completely different way due to frustration. I had lost the ‘love’ for what I was doing, had become disillusioned, and ‘bitter’ as the passion had dwindled due to monotonous briefings to such an extent at one point that I thought of quitting the profession. I felt therefore that something like this may help me take a step back, re-build the ‘friendship’ and reinvigorate my love and passion for what I do and what I am – an illustrator!

“So to be independent of public opinion is the first formal condition of achieving anything great or rational, either in life or science. Such achievement will assuredly be recognised in time by public opinion, which will duly transform it into one of its own prejudices.” – The Philosophy of Right, 318 – Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel 2

The question therefore regarding the change of ‘style’ within my work to become what is publicly in ‘vogue’ at the present time, or should I stick to my guns and let public opinion become ‘me’ is a very valid and searching one. Rather than follow the trends, should the trend not follow me whilst still remaining true to myself?

“Owing to the extensive use of machinery and to division of labour, the work of the proletarians has lost all individual character, and, consequently, all charm for the workman. He becomes an appendage of the machine, and it is only the most simple, most monotonous, and most easily acquired knack, that is required of him. Hence, the cost of production of a workman is restricted, almost entirely, to the means of subsistence that he requires for his maintenance, and for the propagation of his race. But the price of a commodity, and therefore also of labour, is equal to its cost of production. In proportion therefore, as the repulsiveness of the work increases, the wage decreases.” – Karl Marx & Frederich Engels ‘The Communist Manifesto’ 3

Do I want to become an “appendage of the machine?” to simply ‘fit in’ and go along with whatever the ‘in’ thing is? Most certainly not! I have always striven to be individual no matter what the cost and if nothing else in the first couple of months of this MA, I have re-learnt just that.

Why were the first couple of projects unsuccessful, well obviously because I was not being true to myself, I was attempting to conform to what is ‘now’ instead of what is ‘me’.

If we therefore take these early project works and a later piece of work seen on page 27 of the Journal, along with the Chinese Horoscopes in between, what do wee see? Well first of all, the ‘style’ is very different in the early project work for obvious reasons, i.e. they were based on works by other artists. Why didn’t they work? To me it is now obvious; it is because they simply weren’t ‘me’. My heart wasn’t in them and there was therefore no passion. The Chinese Horoscopes all follow the same theme, are stylistically identical, yet still seem to lack some passion, why? Because they aren’t conceptual enough, there are no visual puns, they are coloured in exactly the way the art director requested and included elements that I wouldn’t normally have included therefore making the layout and design much more complicated than I felt was necessary to the image. On top of this each image had to have a feminine edge to it, due to the editorial being aimed at the female market.

Finally looking at the most successful image of all, the ‘Get Well’ illustration produced for two of my relatives after being diagnosed with cancer in the first few days of this year. I obviously struggled with the news and though it is part of life and affects most people at some point in their lifetime, when it does, it hits a bit hard. As there is nothing that anybody can do except to show support, a card is the obvious first port of call. Initially I ventured into my local High Street to attempt to buy a card, but nothing at all seemed appropriate – everything seemed either a bit soppy or a bit final. I therefore had only one option, to make my own, so I set about doing just that. As it was a self-initiated project with only myself to please, like all promotional pieces of work, I feel it is much more successful and far simpler than most other pieces of work that I have to produce. But why? Going back to the first project on ‘The Elements’, it too has a reference to another artist, a very blatant take on Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Can. So how come this one works and the others don’t? The only answer that I can give is that there is much more of ‘me’ within the work. Not only is it a visual pun having turned the word ‘Campbell’s’ into ‘Get Well’, but I also have the hands, can opener and actual can rendered in a ‘style’ more akin to myself. It is very simple, very effective and very graphic due to the large amount of ‘white space’, something the Chinese Horoscopes certainly don’t have.

Within my working practice, research is a major part of all projects undertaken. I am unfortunately not one of those people with a photographic memory; I can draw very little without the use of reference material. This material may come from a number of sources. Like most creative people I class myself as a bit of a ‘magpie’, I am always ‘stealing’ things and incorporating them into my work. I am a strong believer that nothing today is original, absolutley everything is inspired by something else before it. This is a little controversial I know, but a statement that I truly believe. So whether it’s from a walk along the beach, a visit to a library, whether it be my own or a public one, searching through my bundle of ‘National Geographic’ magazines or increasingly, resorting to the Internet, one way or another, reference material is sought to inspire the job in hand.

My Illustration practice has been built up over several years in the industry. Like most ‘illustrators’, I work freelance from my own home studio. My work is very conceptual relying on colour and a ‘style’ developed over a sustained period of time. Drawing has always been very important to me and is always the starting point to any work. Although an Apple Mac is now used, it is used just as a ‘tool’ to render the finished artwork along with whatever medium I feel suitable to complete the piece successfully. The style evolves and slowly metamorphosis’s as time goes by, probably sub-consciously and from inspiration in the world around me. At present I can see that my work is becoming much simpler and therefore more effective, relying more on visual puns and simple graphic forms.

So, to sum up ‘if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it!’

References

1 BRAGG, Melvyn ’12 Books That Changed The World’ (pp 194) referring to ‘A Vindication of the Rights of Women’ by Mary Wollstonecraft (1792).

2 STRATHERN, Paul ‘The Essential Hegel’ (pp 39)

3 MARX, Karl & ENGELS, Frederich ‘The Communist Manifesto’ (pp 12)

Paul Garland 2007

Bibliography

Research

BACHELARD, Gaston The Poetics of Space
(1994) first pub. 1964 Beacon Press

BARTHES, Roland Image-Music-Text
(1993) first pub. 1977 (The Death of the Author)
Fontana Press
BARTHES, Roland Mythologies
(1993) Vintage – (pp 15-29)

BRAGG, Melvyn 12 Books That Changed The World
(2006) Hodder & Staughton – (pp 181-206)

CONRAD, Peter Modern Times, Modern Places: Life & (1999) Art in the 20th Century
Thames & Hudson Ltd. – (pp 629-707)

ECO, Umberto Travels in Hyperreality
(1987) Picador – (pp 135-157 & 197-211)

FRASCINA, Francis & Art in Modern Culture: An Anthology
HARRIS, J (ed.) of Critical Texts
(1992) Phaidon – (pp 331-341)

HEBDIGE, Dick a report on the western front:
(1986/7) postmodernism and the ‘politics’ of
style published in ‘Art in Modern Culture: An
Anthology of Critical Texts’

HUYSSEN, Andreas Mapping the Postmodern
Photocopied handout, I could find no
Printing information for this volume.
(pp 267-277)

HYDE, Lewis The Gift: How the Creative Spirit
(2006) first pub. 1979 Transforms the World
Canongate Books Ltd. – (pp xiii-xix)

McLUHAN, Marshall & The Medium is the Massage: An
FIORE, Quentin Inventory of Effects
(2001) first pub. 1967 Ginko Press – (pp 123-129)

MARX,Karl & ENGELS, Frederich The Communist Manifesto
(2002) Penguin Classics – (pp 12-18)

NAYLOR, Gillian (ed.) William Morris By Himself: Design and
(2004) first pub. 1988 Drawings
Time Warner Books UK

SOLOMON, Maynard Marxism and Art
(1979) Harvester Press Limited

STRATHERN, Paul The Essential Hegel
(2002) Ted Smart

STRATHERN, Paul The Essential Marx
(2002) Ted Smart – (pp42-46 & 50-54)

STILES, Kristine & SELZ, Peter Contemporary Art: A Sourcebook of
(1996) Artists’ Writings
University of California Press Limited

WARD, Glenn Teach Yourself Postmodernism
(2003) first pub. 1997 Hodder Education

WOLLSTONECRAFT, Mary A Vindication of the Rights of Women
(2004) first pub. 1792 Penguin Books Ltd.

Artwork Research

KITAHARA, Teruhisa 1000 Robots, Spaceships & other Tin
& SHIZIMU, Yukio Toys
(2002) Taschen GmbH

SHANES, Eric Warhol: The Masterworks
(1991) Studio Editions Limited

Course Research

GRAY, Carole Visualising Research: A Guide to the
& MALINS, Julian Research Process in Art & Design
(2004) Ashgate Publishing Company

WISKER, Gina The Postgraduate Research Handbook
(2001) Palgrave Macmillan

SWETNAM, Derek Writing Your Dissertation
(2004) first pub. 2000 How To Books Ltd.

Websites Accessed

Artwork Research

Marion Deuchars October 2006
http://www.mariondeuchars.co.uk/start.htm

Jonny Hannah October 2006
http://www.castorandpollux.co.uk/cakesandalepress/index.html

Red Nose Studio October 2006
http://www.rednosestudio.com/

Nicholas Wilton October 2006
http://www.zocolo.com/1new_home.html

http://www.amyjohnson.info/ October 2006

http://www.fireworkmuseum.co.uk/ October 2006

http://www.apple.com/trailers/touchstone/the_life_aquatic/ October 2006

http://www.thelifeaquatic.org/ October 2006

http://en.wikipedia.org.wiki/Warhol January 2007

http://www.warhol.org/ January 2007

http://www.warholfoundation.org/ January 2007

Research

http://bbc.co.uk/powerofart January 2007

http://www.pbs.org/hanshofmann/index.html January 2007

http://www.margateexodus.org.uk/home.php January 2007

http://www.stelarc.va.com.au/ January 2007

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eric_Gill January 2007

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keith_Haring January 2007

http://en.wikipedia.org/wik/Klimt January 2007

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palais_Stoclet January 2007

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Picasso January 2007

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guernica_%28painting%29 January 2007

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toulouse_Lautrec January 2007

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vincent_van_Gogh January 2007

Television Programmes Viewed

‘Hans Hofmann: Artist Teacher’
Aired on ‘Artsworld’ January 5th, 2007
http://www.pbs.org/hanshofmann/index.html

‘Waste Man’
Aired on ‘Channel 4’ 2nd December, 2006
http://www.margateexodus.org.uk/home.php

‘Is This Art?’
Aired on ‘Artsworld’ 2nd December, 2006
http://www.stelarc.va.com.au/

‘The Art of Eric Gill’ (1882-1940)
Aired on ‘Artsworld’ 1st December, 2006
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eric_Gill

‘Great Artists: Van Gogh’ (1853-1890)
Aired on ‘Artsworld’ 1st December 2006
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vincent_van_Gogh

‘Great Artists: Klimt’ (1862-1918)
Aired on ‘Artsworld’ 15th December, 2006
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palais_Stoclet

“Drawing The Line – A Portrait of Keith Haring’ (1958-1990)
Aired on ‘Artsworld’ 15th December, 2006
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keith_Haring

‘Toulouse-Lautrec: The Full Story’ (1864-1901)
Aired on ‘Channel 4’ 16th December, 2006
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toulouse_Lautrec

Simon Schama’s Power of Art’ – Picasso: The Story of Guernica’
Aired on ‘BBC 2’ 1st December, 2006
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guernica_%28painting%29
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Picasso

‘Simon Schama’s Power of Art’ – Mark Rothko (1903-1970)
Aired on ‘BBC 2’ 8th December, 2006
http://bbc.co.uk/powerofart

‘Imagine – http://www.herecomeseverybody.co.uk’
Aired on ‘BBC 1’ 5th January, 2007

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