Constellation: Archeologies of the Unseen

Something that particularly interested me about my first constellation lecture was the theory that it is impossible to experience things just visually. This is a theory which has enough evidence and research behind it to be believed to be fact, however one which is incredibly thought provoking to me. This concept would have us believe that events associated with one particular sensory aspect can be experienced by more than one, if not all of the senses. The taste of the colour red, the appearance of the emotion anger, the feeling of perfume in the air; all experiences that are more commonly associated with different senses but are thought to be experienced by all. The act of drawing is arguably a process of observation and expression, in which the artist transfers experiences of the senses into an image on paper. This was tested in our lecture, in an experiment in which we all held a small object under the table and drew it purely based on what we could feel. We then looked at the object and drew it based on what we could see. My object was a small Spiderman action figure. While I failed to detect the detail of the character, I successfully drew the figure of a human with generally the right body build and proportion. Upon observation of the drawings of the whole class, we noticed that the blind drawing was significantly smaller than the image drawn from visual stimuli. I believe this was due to the confidence gained by being able to see the subject, as well as the difficulty in detecting size purely from feeling a small object in the palm of your hand.

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Workshop: An Introduction to Typography

Upon beginning our exploration into the world of typography- a world into which I have never been introduced to before- David asked us to trace out our names, considering the spacing and placement of letters so that they were equal and correct. This proved more difficult that I initially expected, however after three attempts I feel my work looks reasonably accurate.

We were then given two words on a piece of paper, asked to cut them up and rearrange them so that again, the spacing and placement was perfect. I took more time on this task, as the letters kept moving and it was difficult to decide where the baseline sat through the paper that the letters were printed onto. Upon completion of this task, I feel my spacing is good on both words, and I have a wider understanding of the intricacy and importance of spacing in type.

Storybook: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

For my main story book project, I chose Alice in Wonderland in the hope of capturing the absurdity and unexpected qualities of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson’s original 28,000 word story whilst attempting to discard the familiar nostalgia of the more commonly known Disney version.

I first collected ideas of the original story of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, detecting the essential elements and interesting quotes to include in my book. I wanted it to be interesting and visually vibrant, whilst also telling the story. I discovered quotes from the original manuscript that I found particularly interesting, humorous and wacky that I knew I wanted to incorporate somehow. I also visualised imagery from the novel, trying to disregard disney’s interpretations however agreeing that some were probably as Dodgson imagined. The use of red became important to me as I read into the importance of its colour to the queen of hearts, and also the connotations of red which tied in well with the manipulative, dark, destructive habits of some of the characters in Wonderland. I decided that my book would be created in black and white, with drops of red to add colour and atmosphere.

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I then considered the layout of the book itself as a whole and the pages individually. I contemplated cutting a circular book, reflective of the rabbit hole in which Alice falls down. I wanted it to be created so that, when opened in full, the pages resembled a long, dark hole, in which the reader can fall into whilst reading the story as Alice did. However, upon experimenting with a circle book, this became difficult. The limits of folding the paper meant that a circular book could never achieve the illusion I was hoping for, and so I discarded this option.

I sketched some designs for the cover of the novel, as this was important to me for instantly igniting the tone and atmosphere of the book. In terms of creating a dark atmosphere- as I feel is intended for Dodgson’s novel- I considered drawing a tiny door to Wonderland on my front cover, surrounded by words written sloppily in red ink. For these words, I toyed with ‘We’re All Mad Here’ and ‘Welcome to Wonderland’, also experimenting with the idea of a scroll containing the Queen of Heart’s rules for Wonderland in an attempt to create a sense of some dark humour. I decided to create my book covers using the technique Sarah Edmonds taught us in her workshop, using book fabric and mount board. This would mean that drawing a book cover onto the very front of the book would be more difficult, as the ink from the pen would either bleed or possess a slightly different colour to its intended colour. I decided that I would draw a composition of different important elements of the traditional Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland novel and place in on the inside cover double page.

I considered the shape of the pages in my book. After the failure of my spherical book idea, I looked into the idea of pages shaped like potion bottles, similar to those drank and eaten from by Alice in the novel. I researched different sized and shaped potion bottles and decided that this idea would give each page its own individual shape, as well as allowing enough joining paper on the folds of the concertina form so that the paper was less likely to tear and break between the potion bottles.

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Using extracts of Dodgson’s novel on the internet, I collated the title names of the chapters and important content in each of them. I then created simple designs to present the titles and the chapters events in interesting and aesthetically pleasing ways.

I am extremely and happy and proud of the final outcome of my book. I feel the colour scheme chosen was fitting with the story and effective in delivering the dark tones of the novel. I believe the black outlined drawings and graphics on the pages are clear and deliver the content of the chapters well, guiding even a first time reader through the basics of the chaotic classic.

UPDATE: After handing in my book for review, I was chosen to have my book exhibited in the Artist’s Book Conference however, prior to this I wanted to make some changes to improve my book. I decided to add illustrations of potion bottle labels to the reverse side of each page. To do this, I needed to create many original graphic creations for the bottle labels that fit with the time period of the book. I researched old potion and medicine bottle labels of the 19th and 20th Century and attempted to replicate some of the different label shapes and patterns. I found some medical language and created some of my own and began playing with designs for the bottles. I didn’t want them to make sense, and I didn’t want the labels to be medically correct. The more abstract and bizarre the better! I enjoyed creating the bottle labels and drawing them onto my book and I feel they turned out well.

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I am very proud of the final outcome of my artist book and the creative processes which I applied from the workshops I intended in order to create it. I felt comfortable creating something with my hands after studying a fine art degree last year, and it was almost relaxing to not be worried about my technical abilities on computer software, and how this might affect the outcome of my project. I chose Alice in Wonderland because of the imaginative ideas and vivid imagery that makes up the world of wonderland as I felt that I could include this in my book, making it interesting and exciting to look at. I think this was a good choice as it gave me the freedom to test the limits of a book, as everything in wonderland in the novel is slightly insane and from another world. I enjoyed creating a concertina book and feel it served the purpose well, however I feel that it is a shame that other ideas which I experimented with, to make the book and pages itself resemble the rabbit hole, didn’t work out. I like the differentiation in the pages of the book and I enjoyed researching potion bottle shapes and bottle labels for my book. Many hours and many craft knife injuries later, I think it looks quite good!

Storybook: Potion Label Research

As the pages in my concertina storybook are going to be in the shape of potion bottles, I have conducted research into potion bottle labels and typography from the 1800’s, around the time that Alice in Wonderland was originally written.

I have found the following images which I will use as inspiration:

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I found this image of title pages of black and white films. I will take inspiration from these fonts in my medicine labels.

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The above images are scans from circus posters, hotel luggage labels and medicine bottle labels from the 1800’s. The is a distinct theme in the genre of typography used which I would describe as quite gothic. A lot of the fonts are serif, and those which are not feature a both thin and thick parts to the lettering. Many of the fonts look custom, as the feature particularly intricate elements of pattern. The borders of the pages are patterns in some cases and plain rectangular in others, however the majority do have a border. Lots of the titles are underlined, and those which aren’t are freely experimental placed diagonally and on a curve. Many of the titles and main piece of text have some sort of design behind them, some look like a scroll, others like a stamp, a picture frame or simply a patterned outline. I hope to experiment with all of these things and trial elements of everything I have discovered and described on the reverse side of my book pages.

Constellation: “We are all connected; to each other, biologically. To the earth, chemically. To the rest of the universe, atomically.” – Neil DeGrasse Tyson

Ashley Morgan began her lecture on Masculinity with this quote, perfectly explaining the compatibility of the different keynote lectures with the range of courses in the room. As a graphic communication student, I understand that this unpicking of the term ‘Masculinity’ is important in understanding the target audience for my work and how to aim it specifically at those people when I am creating a piece of work. It is also important to understand social structures, how opinions of different types of people have changed and what character personalities are ‘popular’ in current pop culture. Ashley presented the representation of ‘masculine men’ in popular films and discussed how, in the past, they have more frequently been the main character. Gramsci labelled these men ‘hegemonic’- a term used for social practises which promote male dominance and female subordination. This was then compared with more current films and television programmes which feature ‘wimps, geeks and nerds…the ‘less masculine’ end of the male spectrum’ according to Connell. These types of men are shown in The Big Bang Theory, in which characters like Sheldon Cooper and Raj Koothrappali are the main focus. Looking at modern film and television, it is apparent that the traditional, strong, male protagonist is making way for men with other interests in life, particularly making room for men considered ‘geeks’ of whatever interest. These men are geniuses in their field; their storylines and narrative often being driven by other pursuits than the classic chase of women and sexual satisfaction. The presentation of ‘geeks’ in the media demonstrates how science can drive the narrative, just as much as social situations and everyday life, as seen previously in film and television.

Workshop: Handmade Books with Sarah Edmonds

Upon beginning our Story Book project, I took part in a workshop lead by Illustrator Sarah Edmonds, who broadened my perspective of what categorises something as a book. Sarah brought a beautiful collection of books, some created by herself and others by other talented illustrators and artists. I loved having the opportunity to delve into the books, exploring the processes of their creation and travelling along the journey of their stories.

One book I found particularly difficult to return to Sarah was her very personal ‘Sketches from Sweden’. Whilst on a visit to Sweden, Sarah recorded drawings and images of scenes, later scanning and editing them into a small, square, folded book. When opened out entirely, the A3 piece of art tells a story of a journey through Sweden in the Winter, printed on the back of a vibrant map of Sweden. This book made me smile and sparked me with the desire to create a book similar to Sarah’s ‘Sketches from Sweden’ on visits I hope to make to different places in the future.

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Many of Sarah’s books were interactive in one way or another, whether that be through the removal and replacement of parts of the book itself or the contribution of the art of others towards the completed piece. Both of these were true for the collaborative project ‘Shoe Tales’, in which people wrote memorable stories involving a particular pair of shoes on a post card before tucking it into a page, made of brown envelopes and parcel paper. Reading the memories of anonymous people made the book personal and communal, giving insight into the lives of many people whilst creating short stories containing no characters. Some pages contain memories as simple as ‘I met my true love wearing Pink Plimsols’, whilst others are longer; all make for a beautiful and heart warming read. I loved the delicacy of the book, and the idea that it was the product of many hard working hands and much loved memories. The interactive element of the book was something that Sarah particularly drew our attention to, as she went on to teach us how we could achieve pull-out/pocket aspects in our own books.

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Sarah taught us some basics in creating concertina books, and some other folding techniques. After experimenting with size and folds, she taught us how to create the cover for a book using book fabric and mount board. Through this task, I discovered the precision required in order to have an even, professional looking book cover, despite the simple household utensils involved in its creation. (Sticky back sellotape and scissors).

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I thoroughly enjoyed Sarah’s workshop and found it incredibly eyeopening into the world of her work and the industry of innovative illustrators. I feel inspired and excited for the rest of the Story Book topic.

Workshop: The Seven Basic Plots-Tragedy

After the insightful and exciting workshop on book making and illustration delivered by Sarah Edmunds, we began to broaden our minds to books we already know and love so dearly. Using Christopher Booker’s theory of The Seven Basic Plots, we categorised famous books and films, proving his theory quite correct and struggling to find any anomalies.

These Seven Plots consist of:

  • Overcoming the Monster
  • Rags to Riches
  • The Quest
  • Voyage and Return
  • Comedy
  • Tragedy
  • Rebirth

After finding a love for the genre of tragedy and in particular, Wuthering Heights thanks to my studies last year, I decided to pursue this tragic love story through further workshops. I selected the important and iconic scenes of the book and illustrated them using basic imagery on a sheet of A2 paper, originally hiding the title in the hope that people may detect the story using just the imagery and quotations I provided.

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A task completed in a small amount of time with very little planning, I am not particularly happy with the outcome of this, and know I could have achieved much more with more time for planning and execution. However, my book of choice was detectable by those familiar with it and for this I am proud of my efforts.