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Thinking aloud – a journal through creativity

About this blog and illustration for advocacy

I started this blog as part of my MA in Illustration, (programme of Art and Design).
Therefore, it will reflect my research and practice, and academic learning.
In addition, I am an animal advocate, and my goals for illustration revolve around that and some existential wondering.
This is also for anyone who may be seeking an ally in illustration for advocacy.

Please erase my suffering

Reflections on research – with gallery

Mirror test of self awareness

Studying research and practice became easier as I did it; I became more comfortable with the language and terminology of research, and connecting research to learning, through practice and back to research again. The more I enjoyed it, the easier it became easier to focus on a particular part of research.

The reflective cycle

I have struggled with focus. I go through highs and lows with it, unable to focus or sit still followed by periods of deep hyperfocus.
It is helpful to recognise this and the triggers for getting me out of periods of procrastination. Because of this, I crave peer group interaction and I struggle when there is little activity on the forums. I have felt isolated at times; I want to talk about ideas over coffee, hear about other people’s research and ideas and talk with people who relate directly to my (and the group’s) experience. We’re embracing some big topics and pushing ourselves and I would like that sharing, especially with the diversity of disciplines and experiences within the group. I enjoy the process of learning together.

I’ve had that opportunity with my classmate Cathy, via Whatsapp, and I want to encourage others to join a class Whatsapp group.
I’ve had great tutor dialogue but it doesn’t replace the group because we are learning together; it’s a different relationship.

Distance learning is amazing and is the only way for me to study, so I will continue to look for opportunities and people locally for that extra sharing.

I got overwhelmed by research at the start, vital feedback helped me focus my research boundaries but also encouraged me/reminded me to be cautious against reliance on research into cultural issues of representation; I needed to look illustration as a discipline too.

My best moments and possibly one of my strengths was uniting research with practice, either reflectively or looking forward. I enjoyed this but also had problems with momentum when I switched forum one module to another. Despite many plans and planning exercises, I could not anticipate the different levels of progress I made with each activity. Reflection tells me I must find ways to accommodate this.

Moving forward, I see how I am developing the academic language of visual communication and, making and meaning. I am translating that across to my practice-based research and so to my practice. My significant progress has been seeing myself as someone with a voice that is relevant. Without an extensive (any) body of published work, I sometimes feel that my voice doesn’t count but this has taught me what matters is having something to say and earning how to say it – in written and visual ways. I have been seeking validation from being widely published rather from studying a subject indepth.

Also, I have new confidence in my artwork, I have confidence that if I keep drawing and reading and evaluating and drawing and so on, in that reflective cycle, I always do draw something I like, something I can develop. I think anyone reading this will understand how significant that is.

Partly that has come from case studies, partly from broader research and feeling inpsired but also from uninhibited drawing whilst reading about topics that matter to and inpsire me. This drawing stems from reading (and doing) wild swimming, reading about the human-animal binary and a case study research in to the work of author and illustrator Henrik Drescher.

I have found that mixed media is the answer to my indecisions about media and my sometimes-chaotic ways of thinking and working. It feels quite like my thoughts in pictures! I’m going to experiment with collage and explore pencil and charcoal as part of that mixed approach. I’m also excited by research that resulted in using photographs of found objects and what that means to my goals of an environmental message.


Uninhibited drawing, doodling, gave me enjoyment and confidence. For example, I was determined to illustrate as much as I could, including creating Chester Draws for my blog. Sometimes I think I draw better, I’m happier and more relaxed when I don’t try.

I am enthused by my re-ignited love of reading non-fiction and not just in art theory and history. Moving forward this can only inspire more illustration. Ultimately I want to make a book, or two, and say something that will help raise awareness of the intersectionality of rights, how that applies to animals and help end animal suffering. It’s a bold statement but everything that everyone does, if it is done with thought, kindness and warmth will contribute the overall global vegan, and rights, movement.

 

 

Case studies for research

Case studies are a way of exploring the work of inspiring illustration and illustrators.
Investigations can reveal how marks were made, what medium was used and can give insight into expereinces and motivations of established artists.

Exploring examples is a crucial part of the research process.  E.H. Gombrich explains changes in style, through art history, as one consequence of artists learning from each other. Herring, et al. (2009) conclude, ‘… that examples are a cornerstone of creative practice …’

The following is a case study investigation into the work of Henrik Drescher.

Aims of research

The aim of this case study is to learn, for my own practice about methods and philosophies through examination of ideas, sketchbooks and finished work of an established and admired illustrator.
To do this, there is examination of a specific body of work, Henrik’s book Turbulence, published in 2001 and his sketchbook dummy mock up that he submitted to publisher Chronicle Books, prior to finalising the book.
Unless pecified all illustrations are the work of Henrik Drescher and avilable on his website. These give insight in to his ideas and methods.

Research methods
This research takes a phenomenological approach, looking at the qualitative aspects of Drescher’s work.

Through reviewing Drescher’s work and practising my own markmaking
I have started to test processes and begun to concentrate on making rather than outcomes.
This research is about beginning and beginning to become uninhibited.

Drescher has a kind of draw-on-everything, relaxed approach.
For my practice, I am curious about that, about the letting go, becoming uninhibited and progressing to finalised illustrations.
I like his ideas, his outcomes, some more than others. He creates unexpected works with an unrefined feel.
Drescher’s work also highlights examples of collaborative working with individuals, such as writer and translator Mary Jo Bang, and with business organisations, i.e. his work with Audi cars.

In his book Turbulence, Drescher begins the frontispiece with the words, “Being a complete and reliable descriptive collection of the perilous exploration and important discoveries made in the wildest territories upon the face of the earth.”
Here he examples an inelegant but exciting handwritten title with a myriad of other typographic styles. Yet there is cohesion on the page;other text is serif, some script, some photographic. The use of colour leads the eye down the page and creates a sense of adventure; he’s beginning to create turbulence.

 

 


The words and the styles are reminiscent of texts from eras of European empire building and the uncomfortable connotations that brings with it – for example, “Savage men and ferocious beasts”.

Drescher’s marks fill the pages of his sketchbooks; there is white space
but hand drawn grids bleed in to these as if to fill or soften the silences.
Lines are fine and sketchy and bodies are filled with marks, tattoo
like and he creates hand-drawn borders. Nothing is accurately
representational but nothing is abstract.

 

Drescher is a mixed media illustrator; he appears to favour line, pen and pencil. He mixes text, handwritten and typed with imagery – it all feels as if these drawings are of his thoughts and moods and enjoyment of
these. Drescher outlines, but not always with black. It is difficult to tell if he draws that way or if colours are changed digitally.

In interview Drescher describes making Turbulence. Each illustration is drawn in black and white, then printed on to acetate and painted on the back. He describes this as a laborious process but it gives a sculptural quality to illustration. He says this process is lost on his readers but that the essence of the energy comes through. Further on, he talks about refining and finishing a book as , “really hard”. Then he describes how ideas for books build slowly and germinate over years. He says we can only do what we have in us to do. By this he means he can only make what comes from within him. These are interesting insights in to book creation.
The whole interview with Just One More Book can be heard here:

Interview with Henrik Drescher

Drescher inpsires uninhibited drawing. He outlines his unusual processes for developing illustrations and they appear laborious, (he describes tham as such) but are a fascinating insight in to new methods of creative making.

Case studies can prompt experimental drawing. Here is my response to Drescher’s inspiration.


I began – freely drawing concentric circles of ripples. I was struck by the emphasis to the most human-like figure. The fish is subordinate but as an animal advocate illustrator I could experiment with scales ( no pun
intended ) to give the animals dominance on the page. I recognise how much I enjoy using ink pen and biro. I like how fine
pens can misfire and leave ragged trails. Thicker lines can help to give a more child reader friendly style.
I used what was to hand – a fine black biro, black ink, gold ink , a red crayon, a black marker pen, a white pencil, watercolour and soft flat acrylic brush. I included favourite elements of Sputnik (top right)
and stars and a badly scribbled spiral galaxy – without concerns for
repetition. Significantly I have here the kind of drawing I keep to myself – where I don’t know what will make an appearance when I start. This is the start of personal mixed media experimenting.

Herring, R., Chang, C., Krantzler, J., and Bailey, B.P., et al., (2009) Getting inspired!: understanding how and why examples are used in creative design practice [online] Available at:https://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=1518717 [Accessed 10 May 2019]

 

Movement – A research proposal

Movement: One topic, different perspectives

Movement. What does the word make you think of?

 

Movement. What do you think of when you hear, read or say the word movement?
Word connections can help generate ideas around a topic like this.
This mini-project proposal looks at ideas for research in to movement and acts as a catalyst to trigger new thinking.

 Proposal summary
If we consider the concept of movement in picture books, it is there in the illustrations and characterisations, in the shape and line and form of the drawings. Movement is visible through composition and position, repetition and scale on the page. Wavy lines, blurs and character position all help to convey a sense of movement. Leaving empty space for a character to move into can also have a similar effect.

 

Quentin Blake’s Mrs Armitage, moving along left to right (1987)

 

However, there is other movement in a book. A reader travels through a book, through the narrative, front to back, left to right, or right to left depending on cultural conventions. Graphic novels use frames to create movement and pace through a story. There is also movement in the page turning. Is it convention or does a book need to be a real page-turner to entice the reader to move through the story? Is this experience different when a reader knows the story? A page makes a sound when it moves and we can flick through a book back to front and feel that on our faces.

A researcher can ask, what makes the reader turn the page? How can an illustrator combine these things and come to understand how to entice the reader through the narrative? In addition, the animal advocate illustrator can ask how to combine this with overall aims and activism, and messages for change, for rights and for compassion.

Although picture books are targeted at age range, e.g. 4-6 years, 7-9 years, the adult guardian buys and borrows books, and so shares their viewpoint through the book choices they make.

 What follows are ideas for researching concepts about movement in picture books and looking at the different perspectives of the word Movement.

 

 

What follows are ideas for researching concpets about movement in picture books and looking at the different perspectives of the word Movement.

Research aims

  • To gain knowledge about the illustration of ‘movement’, in context of style and technique.
  • To gain insight in picture books, their narrative and reader engagement.
  • To explore conventions and unconventional ways to take a reader from start to finish.

Motivation

  • To gain insight into making great picture book illustrations in support of the animal rights movement.
  • To create images that move the reader, actually and emotionally.
  • To present positive images of animals, with truth and compassion.

Research methodologies

  • Phemenological approach
    • This approach, a subjective approach, which includes qualitative inquiry, is very well suited to creative enquiry. One of the great advantages of creative research is that it allows for play, experimentation and imagination (Kara, 2015 cited in Noble, 2018)
  • Audiencing
    •  Children’s art group – Heyday Arts group, Shrewsbury
    • Participation and observation
    • Book reading, discussion, observation and experimental play
    • The role of the researcher is to encourage reading, book selection and group participation in conversation and drawing in response to picture books.
  • Case study
    • Exploration of the popular contemporary picture books
    • Explore how movement is signified
    • Examine composition and visual properties of illustrations – form, shape, line, colour, symbolism and connotations
  • Experimental practice
    • Idea generation
    • Creative practice, evealuation and self-reflection
  • Ideas
    • Image layering – ghost like images.
    • Composition – arrive on the left and leave on the right.
    • Do not be restrained by conventions.
    • Repetition
    • Transparency
    • Manic marking
    • Digital manipulation
  • Significant to academic knowledge is recognising what could be relevant to othe rpractitioners. What will other practitioners take from this research? What is the transferable knowledge?
    • Image analysis
    • The practice of making a page-turner
    • Connecting with the audience
    • Techniques

As animal advocate this research can also be seen in context of animlarights and movement such as The extinction rebellion movement. Investigation into these movements can help inform about how illustration can support cultural, and global, messages about animal rights, personhood and climate change.

 

References

Blake, Q., (1987) Mrs Armitage Reprint 2006. St. Helens: The Book People

Noble, M., (2018) Arts based research in practice [online] Available at: https://selfinitiatedproject.myblog.arts.ac.uk/2018/10/10/arts-based-research-in-practice [Accessed 19 April 2019]

 

Bibliography

Candy, L., (2006) Practice based research: a guide [pdf] Available at: https://www.creativityandcognition.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/PBR-Guide-1.1-2006.pdf [Accessed 18 April 2019]

Creativity and Cognition (n.d.) Differences between practice-based and practice-led research [online] Available at: https://www.creativityandcognition.com/research/practice-based-research/differences-between-practice-based-and-practice-led-research [Accessed 14 April 2019]

Frayling, C., (1993) Research in Art and Design [pdf] Available at: http://researchonline.rca.ac.uk/384 [Accessed 23 April 2019]

Gray, C., (1996) Inquiry through Practice: developing appropriate research strategies [pdf] Available at: http://carolegray.net/Papers PDFs/ngnm.pdf [Accessed 14 April 2019]

Macmillan study skills (n.d.) Choosing appropriate research study skills [online] Available at: https://www.macmillanihe.com/studentstudyskills/page/choosing-appropriate-research-methodologies [Accessed 18 April 2019]

Rose, G., (2001) Visual Methodologies, London: SAGE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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