Catch up! Illustrating heroism for the London Museum

Continuing with my, long coming, round up of my illustrated shenanigans before the end of the year, I wanted to end with a little insight into what was arguably my favourite project of 2016.

Since joining forces with my wonderful agent towards the end of last year, I’ve been working on a number of projects within the field of publishing. Jodie (aka, SuperAgent) is a literary agent, so specialises in the field of kid book illustration, which is my unquestionable passion. So that works quite well. The only down side of the scenario, is that everything moves SO SLOWLY! I’m desperate to share all the odds and ends I’ve been up to, but have been totally sworn to secrecy by the lords of the Publishing World.

That was, until Summer this year, when Jodie was thrown a total curveball of a job. The London Museum had been donated a medal by the family of a wonderfully brave member of the bomb disposal unit in the early 1940s. The curators at the LM wanted to display it in a new part of their wartime exhibit in their Docklands site. Along with the medal, the family had letters, photos and journal entries from the man himself, Mr Richard Moore.

In an ongoing attempt to reach out to all ages, the Museum were after a comic illustrator to translate the transcript of the journal into a short, quickly absorbed, illustrated story. The journal was so rich with detail and powerfully human, they feared the full effect of Moore’s experience would be lost if it were to be displayed as text. We all know attention spans are short these days . Furthermore, they wanted it done and dusted within a couple of months! Finally a quickfire job!

Aware of my past flirtings with the comics scene, Jodie sent them my comic portfolio and BAM! Back into the comics fray I did go!

And WHAT a fab experience it was! It was unbelievably humbling to be trusted with a gig like this, not only because it was the first time my comic work has gone pro, but also for the richness of the subject matter!

dmr411

It’s always a challenge to take a long piece of writing and edit it down into manageable chunks, LET ALONE when you have to factor in imagery. But then to have the added pressure of capturing the bravery, fear and reality of a REAL man in such extreme situations is a whole other ball game. I’m always moved, grateful and, actually – a touch surprised, when anyone wants my illustrations to represent their work in some manner, but to be trusted with a part of a real person’s history is utterly humbling.

dmr4
In the research stages, I drew directly from photographs to get a loose idea of facial structure of the men. Then I could later work from these drawings, developing the faces in my drawing style.

dmr9

I started by tackling the words. I knew I wanted Moore himself to narrate and therefore the text in the comic should come directly from the journal. I took the bulk of the narrative and broke it into sections, removing any scenes that didn’t move the story along, while trying to keep in as much detail and life as I could from Moore’s entries. Small, human details were important to maintain the relationships of the disposal unit, but some experiences felt repetitive, especially regarding the number of bombs they units disarmed.

dmr2

This was a pretty nerve wracking task. I felt entirely impertinent, erasing anything at all, but the guys at the Museum were supportive and honest. They provided me with as much historical material as they could (they’re very clever, knowledgeable chaps you know)  and after a few meetings, we had the bulk of the narrative sorted.

dmr3

I’d wanted to book end the comic with one of Moore’s original letters to the wife of his friend and mentor. Not only does this frame the 6 page story nicely, adding come comfortable closure, but it really emphasises the relationship between the two men – a vital component of the journal.

Once this structure was developed, I started to work out how to split this narrative over the six page limit the Museum had stipulated. This is my favourite part of making comics, because I think the flow of a narrative is the most vital part of telling a story and holding an audience. I changed the structure for the final two pages to highlight the chaos of the events, where previously the artwork had fit within a fairly straightforward grid format.

This is also where I develop any motifs, graphical cues or repeated visual themes that might help in the telling of the story.

dmr8
The final artwork is beginning to develop based on my many, many drafts!
dmr13
Original sketches from the final spread. I like to draw all over everything then arrange the composition on screen in a digital collage.

 

dmr172
Draft of the first page.

Once I’d worked and reworked the storyboard into it’s finished – yet still loose and ugly -state, I could focus on characters, artwork and colours. I like to work with a limited palette, and allow the colours to communicate the mood, adjusting the dominant colour based on the events in the story.

dmr12
I drew pages and pages of faces to get the characters right. Taking breaks to draw rabbits. Obviously.

dmr15

Interestingly, while I’m an illustrator, the illustration component of a project like this is probably the fastest part. I think visual storytelling is so much more than the image itself.

dmr155
Draft prior to real characterisation…

dmr16

dmr41g2
The final page.

The George Cross exhibition opened in September.

dmr5
The photo above my comic is the real Richard Moore receiving the medal. So there’s no leeway on my characterisation!
dmr412
The medal sits in a glass display unit in the wall.

There’s a lot of reasons why this project is close to my heart. It’s my first comic to have been written for use in a professional context, it was my first attempt at a biographical piece and it was written on a tight deadline.

dmr7

But more than all of these things, it marks a really interesting transition of the nature of learning material. We all have seen the rise in popularity in comics, with small press talent and events rising up to challenge the big guns of Marvel, DC and the like, but for a prolific, historical museum to turn to the graphic novel, really marks a widespread understanding of the communication potential of the format. And I’m proud to have been a teeny, tiny piece of this movement.

The Story of the George Cross is a permanent part of the Museum’s Docklands site. The press release for the opening is here.

dmr10

For more of an insight into my working process on the work, check out this wonderful review and interview about the work with the brilliant Broken Frontier comics community site.

And if you do HAPPEN to be in East London with a spare minute or two, do have a look. Richard Moore’s story is a magnificent example of true heroism in times of incomprehensible difficulty. Regardless of my involvement with the project, he deserves a slice of your time. His story puts an awful lot into perspective and I am humbled to have been privy to his words.

All images of The comic Dear Mrs Ryan belong to the Museum of London. All shots behind the scenes are property of Rebecca Bagley.
Photographs taken by Rebecca Bagley, Jodie Hodges and Andy Oliver. Cheers for everything guys.
Advertisements

The Exhibitionist Part Two: Yet another crack at galleries

So I was in the middle of combating my mistrust of art galleries.

I was doing it in the laziest way possible, don’t get me wrong, by only attending events of illustrative relevance, but I was still doing it.

Having spent the early afternoon in a whirlwind tour of the contemporary illustration scene, by way of the AOI World Illustration Awards at Somerset House, I decided to kick it up a notch with an exhibit that cost real life pennies. Commitment ahoy! This big spender headed to the House of Illustration.

Safe bet? Yeah definitely but whatever, I was still paying to look at walls so I consider it a victory.

hoi_02

hoi_01

So, I am in love with the House of Illustration. Tucked behind the bustle of Kings Cross, if you can fight your way through the Potter-ites to find it, do it. Not only does it have a tiny yet really nice little shop of all things illustration, (I forget I have no use for postcards every time I enter) it also regularly holds events, talks and lectures by some of the industry’s finest. I’ve many a fond memory of various events in those walls held by editorial artists, to kids book creators, comics artists and beyond, all of which have been top quality. It’s genuinely a great place to get yo’self an education in all things drawn so if you’ve not already, do head it up.

hoi_21

What made this venue a great counterpart to the AOI exhibition, is that the HOI not only champions the contemporary, but regularly pays great homage to the history of illustration. It didn’t let me down on my visit either, where, on paying my affordably £7.00 ticket price, I was treated to a charming, unexpected exhibition of Quentin Blake originals.

I suppose it’s not that surprising, given that this goliath of British children’s illustration IS the founder, but even so the short and sweet collection was a bit of a delight. Seven Kinds of Magic, is a collection of Blake pieces in which he approaches themes of surrealism and magic. In all honesty, Blake’s work doesn’t tickle my fancy on too frequent a basis, but it’s truly impossible to deny the life and charm of his scrawled characters and bonkers scenarios. I also firmly believe that any insight into the workings of a practitioner and acknowledgement of how they approach a given subject is all of great relevance. Especially when they have been rather a large part of your childhood experience of pictures. And especially when they are so joyfully mad.

hoi_07

hoi_10hoi_08

hoi_11

On top of this emporium of scribbled musings, another small room housed yet more Blake magic, this time in lieu of the BFG‘s contemporary comeback. Having spent many a sleepless night, terrified I would be consumed by an unfriendly giant (well, what’s any British childhood without a bit of Dahl related trauma?) this did result in a pang of nostalgic excitement. hoi_16

This small collection housed originals from the book, as well as previously unseen images that were cut from the end product. A sneak peek into the production and alternative results of something we’ve all become so familiar with. I’m not the kind of gal who is hugely fussed by the idea of seeing ‘The Original’. For me, if illustrations  were made for a book, those printed pages in their intended context ARE the real versions. Authenticity of ink on a page matters not in my eyes, BUT new images I’ve not seen before? Illustrator interpretations of scenes I was previously left to imagine myself? Well that is something worth taking a peek at.

hoi_15hoi_14

And it is a bit of a joy, even on a wall. It’s around until October, so if you were/are/could be a fan of the book, you really should stop in.

BUT, these surprise delights from an illustration wizard were not actually what had drawn me to the HOI that sunny, August afternoon.

Instead an exhibition of Soviet children’s books, the aptly named A New Childhood had caught my interest hook, line and sinker.

hoi_03

You offer me a chance to compare story, illustration style and subject of historical children’s books to that of the contemporary, I’m there. (#booknerd) You invite me to take a look at the picture books of another culture, particularly those in a time of historical poignancy I’m THERE. You invite me to observe the impact of political unrest on the children’s book market I am ALL OVER THERE. And you appease my love of classic, European and Russian design, casually throw out names like El Lissitzky and charge me less than a tenner? My friend, you got yo’self a date.

It was one of those events that made me sad I wasn’t still in education and having to write a dissertation any time soon. I was mortified the taking of pictures was forbidden, it was a fabulous collection of incredible design work. Stylised illustration in glorious synergy with typography that screamed history.

Given it’s historical relevance, it’s not surprising that the arrangement of the exhibition felt like a classical museum format. The glass topped tables and large, formal information cards gave the collection a treasured, ‘getting cultured’ vibe that took me back to being a kid in a museum. That knowledge that you were, in NO WAY going to EVER be trusted to touch such relics. It’s so strange then, to imagine the pre and post revolution children of Russia, pouring over this very collection I stared at through four inch thick glass, in their beds and with their parents; in the same, slouched manner you see kids on beanbags in Waterstones, sinking into Charlie and Lola with the corners folded in and their imaginations racing.

I understand, and in this case totally appreciated, the serious tone of such a valuable collection being treated with this respect. I liked that I felt I was in a museum. I felt I was being taught. I felt I was really Getting History, but it was so apparent how many millions of miles away from the real world of kids books it was. I wasn’t a reader here, I was an observer.

Yeah okay, the fact I can’t read Russian probably had something to do with that too, I can’t deny it.

hoi_05

And I learned a lot. Aside from the joy I found in discovering the artistic impact of the curious rules of such a strict regime; the banning of all things folklore, the mistrust of anthropomorphism and the, almost comical differences this appears to have with our contemporary, Western picture book climate, I learned facts. I followed the roots of contemporary illustration, the way style and content spread throughout nations, the impact such poignant work has on my current market. The transition of design. The movement of character. It was a delight to see and compare where things came from, to where they are. And, importantly as always; context. Society changes, and the creative output moves too.

To ban fantasy, to encourage production, function and mechanism and place importance on becoming USEFUL adults, is a far cry from the values explored in plenty of picture books today. Such a no-nonsense regime had to drill function into young minds. I suppose for many, it’s brainwashing. To remove a child’s imaginative capability by way of focusing on the reality. The list of banned, damaging or unsuitable children’s output then, seems so obscure to us now.

But that obscurity to our society, is of course where the lesson lies. Call it brainwashing if you will, but children’s books do shape minds, which, in turn, shape people.

We may not like to consider it brainwashing now, perhaps because the societal scenario is not nearly so extreme, perhaps because one political body is not perceived to be outwardly in charge of the entire output, perhaps, and most importantly, because we don’t disagree with the topics of discussion. Either way, we must always be aware that picture books are significant in shaping thoughts, societal codes and values. All works of fiction, media and art in all  their forms, impact directly on the belief system of a person.

I don’t think this is necessarily negative. This is how cultures are formed. We have to define and express shared values to an extent, in order to co-exist without pandemonium. Without getting too pretentious, children’s books, along with all other entertaining consumables, help to define the core of societies.

hoi_04

A New Childhood was a brilliant collection of texts spanning across a foreign period of revolution. It, as all museums do, celebrated and examined a point in history, be it within or outside of our cultural code of conduct. It was an extreme reminder that context is everything and to always be aware of the power of judgements communicated in all media; specifically those intended for the young. First impressions, after all, can be hard to renegotiate.

The House of Illustration is a good place for picture loving yet gallery-wary people like me to explore these, white-walled environments. It takes things I love, like illustration; imagery designed for a purpose, for a brief, for a text and displays it out of it’s original context. The intent is to perhaps elevate it to something more cultured than it is? To remove the dirty, money aspect, and witness the creation as an example of higher art?  It’s a mark of true acceptance of commercial artists, once looked down on by the community of higher artists, into the realms of something greater.

I appreciate the notion, because I (obviously) appreciate the illustrator. I think they SHOULD be appreciated. I do think they should get credit for the work they do. Cover artists of novels should have their name on their work, and picture book artists should be acknowledged as co-authors. In my, humble opinion, that is.

Where I think I fall away from the idea of an exhibition space, is that I don’t view it as any more valuable. I don’t like looking at things on a wall or displayed on a grey floor. I still don’t really rate the experience, even after the array of, frankly, phenomenal collections I experienced. I suppose I personally, don’t really feel it does the illustrator that many favours.

I like to see things, not in their original state, not to appreciate solely the mark on the page or the craftmanship of the line (although there’s no doubt it can be sensationally impressive) in a blank environment where all that matters is its existence. I’m more excited by it In situ. I want to see an illustration next to the text it was made for. I want to see the design of the spread as a whole and how that designer has impacted on the illustration. I want to see the results of every stage of production working their respective magic to create the final output. Arguably of course, that’s why it’s important to see the illustration alone, in a case; to truly experience how it’s placement has changed. That’s why I’ll continue to check out places like this, to get a rounded experience of what illustration is, why it is more than simply drawing.

But don’t expect me to be as excited. I still prefer my pictures printed in pages, tangible, touchable, smellable. Interacting with spine and paper stock and text in the musty library, in the messy play room, in the classroom that smells like pencil shavings.

This is my kind of illustration, and my kind of design. I loved my visit to the HOI, it was an enlightening and beautiful museum and I know I’ll return. Thanks for trying to appease my inner gallery lover, but if you need me, I’ll be on the floor, elbows deep in a beanbag.

hoi_20

 

The Exhibitionist Part One: Another crack at galleries

I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again. I don’t really like art galleries. Sorry.

I am just not the kind of “artist” who feels at home in white walled spaces. They feel contrived to me, simply rooms full of art stuff, created for the sake of art stuff. They just feel a bit…I suppose pointless; an exercise in self indulgence in it’s purest form. Sorry, that’s the designer and commercial artist in me, but I’m just not comfortable there. Give me a comfortable chair, give me a library, a bookshelf, a store front, a magazine. Give me a space that has it’s own purpose, adorned perhaps with relevant, beautiful things and that’s quite a different matter. But art displayed just as art? I struggle.

But I was in London, I had time to kill and I had a plan. Time to try again. To make friends with the gallery, the home of aesthetic culture. The home of ART.

So I did.

Let’s not get carried away or anything, I started small. I decided on two locations of contemporary illustration. Illustration is my passion. Illustration usually has a brief. Illustration is safe.

Baby Steps.

So I hit up the AOI World illustration Awards, currently on display in Somerset house. I do actually love this venue so already we were in a good place.

And it was free. Winner.

aoi_01

I have to say, there was a lot of great talent to explore there. And by that, I mean there was a lot of book illustration and drawings that look like things 🙂

aoi_16

The exhibit was probably what I’d consider the perfect size, two and a bit, uncluttered rooms of nicely spaced work, one central strip of glass cabinets. Easy and digestible and not at all so large it dragged. It wasn’t overwhelming, it didn’t make my heart sink and it didn’t remind me I am a failure of an “artist” for getting bored in an environment I should, by association, consider home.

aoi_02

The work all had a chance to breathe, which felt relevant in a collection like this, because everything on display HAD been created for a purpose, be it a book, an advert, a poster or jacket; it meant you could take each item in and consider it in the context for which it was made. I like a bit of snappy analysis of a work’s strengths. I think this is my downfall with fine art. I can’t assess it because I don’t understand why it’s been made.

Sorry, I’ll stop moaning.

aoi_10aoi_05

For a collection of contemporary illustration, the AOI exhibit was a really nice one. It reminded me of Pick Me Up back in the day, before it got a bit tired (the last few years have not impressed me so much- I WILL STOP MOANING NOW) and I noted a good few new gems to keep an eye on, as well as simply enjoying the work of those I already admire. Yes, I noted the works of many already adorn my shelves.

I know it’s a bit of a cop out in my exploration of galleries, but the highlights for me were mainly book and design based illustration. Big talents like John Burton showed up and the lovely works of the brilliant Lesley Barnes, Alex T Smith and Chris Haughton were as  enjoyable as ever, both in browsing and poster forms.

aoi_11aoi_18aoi_08

aoi_09

I actually liked the repetitive set up of the show a lot, in which the same pieces were encased on walls, in cabinets and on shelves. It gave it a ‘catering for all’ kind of vibe; the work in it’s raw form, the work as a ‘work of art’ and the work in the context of other work next to it. Each variant allowed the illustration to speak in a new context.

With the book being the best one. Obviously.

aoi_07aoi_13aoi_15aoi_17

I liked a lot of the work on display, both by the known and the unknown. I can’t say I think it was a broad collection in terms of the style of work, which did surprise me given that is was a collection from all over the world. Even across cultures and geography, a lot of the drawing styles, use of shapes, colour spoke in a similar language; but realistically I suppose it was unlikely to be anything else. This exhibition was always meant to be a snapshot of contemporary illustration which, like anything, is at the mercy of fashion. With so much exchanging of cultures, information and products through the magic of the internet, I suppose it’s very reasonable that fashions are less confined by borders than ever before. It was a shot of the trendy world of illustration in the here and now. And I, personally, really liked it!

aoi_06aoi_14aoi_12

If you are hankering for a bit of tasty, picture based joy and are in the area, I would suggest checking it out. It won’t take your whole afternoon, it won’t cost the earth and it likely will inspire you, even just that teeniest bit to go and make some nice things. Or at least look at them.

aoi_03

Hat’s off to you Somerset House, the AOI and all your contributers. The awards were well deserved, there was very little that I felt fell short of acclaim; naturally not all to my personal taste, but I suppose that is, in part, the joy of the visual arts.

And I really do appreciate, support and have enjoyed the hard work from those working to champion the humble illustrator. There’s an awful lot of talent on this earth and events like this do their bit to try and push those, often fresh faced, creators into the limelight they really do deserve.

So, was I cultured yet? I decided I wasn’t. I’d really enjoyed my speedy mosey through the contemporary illustration scene, but it wasn’t quite enough. Onward to part two of my afternoon exhibitioning…

 

Exhibition in The Boston Tea Party!

Okay, so we all like Tea. But some of us also like coffee. And some of us REALLY like GOOD coffee.

I am one of said humans, and for this very reason I LOVE the Boston Tea Party chain. For those of you not in the West, you’ll just have to trust me. They do what they do and they do it good.

And look how pretty it is.

BostonBath

So I was pretty delighted when I was doodling away in it’s Bath branch some time ago, and was approached and asked if I’d like to exhibit work for a bit. Pretty neat eh?

So for the month of May, I have adorned the walls of Bath’s bit of Boston with silkscreen prints, etchings, risographs, digital works and any other number of bits and pieces I like to make.

BostonBath2

 

silkscreen_Boston2

 

silkscreen_Boston

 

Bear_dada_Boston

BostonBath3

 

Boston_art

 

So tell all your friends, go grab a coffee (because it really is good) and surround yourself with oddities and nice things for a bit.

And then buy them too.  That would be great. Thanks.

Enough Grumbling, it’s time for Elation! It’s the 1912 Celebration!

So, having had a good ol’ rant at the state of my print that was my exhibition piece, let’s now focus on how great our Exhibition actually was.

A gigantic congratulations to everyone who just completed Year One of Graphic Communication at Bathspa University! As the exhibition wasn’t graded, not everyone felt it was necessary to submit any work, but for those of us that did I think it was a brilliant compendium of different approaches that boasted, not only a lot of talent, but a lot of ideas and conceptual wealth.

As the brief was SO very open (1912…that’s it) there was naturally a very large selection of works on display. Everything from publications to prints to animations to textiles. And the varying ways in which people chose to take the brief was also wonderfully broad. I’ll document here now some of my favourite works as well as some of the less crap photos I managed to take with my very limited photography skills. This is far from everything that was on show, but I’ll try to use what I’ve got to communicate quite what an enormous range of work was on display.

Prints

Arthur Webb: ScreenPrint about the Piltdown Man Hoax

Obviously, a lot of people chose to make use of the print rooms once the third year rush had ended. But to my surprise this didn’t just manifest itself in screen printing, which tends to be the most popular. There was a whole lot of linocuts too, all on different topics and with different strengths. It made for a really great display of variation, as well as assuring me that I’m not the only one with a fondess for printmaking!

I’m also relieved to say that, while it definitely wasn’t up to my standard, people still seemed interested in my Bram Stoker print. It received very nice comments from one or two onlookers too, and while I still was disappointed by the result, hearing nice words did pick me up a lot I must confess!

Kirsty Stanley: Linocut Prints about the first parachute jump by Albert Berry.
David Gordon: One event from each of the 100 years between 1912 and now.

There was also a lot to be said for the ways in which people were using the printmaking. David’s piece was a real stroke of time-consuming ingenuity, in which he screen printed his photographic images in CYMK. This produced a full spectrum of colour, in the same way it does through your inkjet printer, but done via  screen printing. It’s turned out looking completely amazing, although I will say, he nearly killed himself doing it. The boy has real dedication to his art and I can’t express my respect for him highly enough. He never would have stood for a shitty print like mine, let me tell you!

David Gordon: Screen Print using CYMK colours!

Digital Prints

Ah the digital print, or Giclee as they’re known to those who want lots of money for it, but don’t want to have to put in the same level of effort required of you in direct contact printmaking. Don’t let that sound like a put down though, there were some beautiful images made and printed in the exhibition, and I and many others would be proud to own them, and would be even prouder to have done them!

Elhora Powell: Illustrated narrative of the 1912 collapse of the Quing Dynasty.
Bea Baranowska: Handmade Scout badge board

Textiles

There’s a common misconception that in order to be considered graphics, something must have been made via the computer. Allow my classmates to put this one to rest.

Bea Baranowska: The Scouts began in 1912.
Emily Hunter: Screenprint onto canvass documenting the 1912 introduction of the chilli heat scale.

Publications

My favourite. The books and zines. This is only the tiniest example of what was on show, they ranged from professionally printed newspapers and information packs about pig racing, to hand bound print collections, narratives about personal responses to the brief and themed dot to dot books. It was quite an impressive array!

The Publication Table
Thomas Goldsworthy: Olympic Games 1912 Newspaper
Thomas Goldsworthy: Olympic Games 1912 Newspaper
Matt Stewart -Tribe: Scotts Expedition LinoPrint book
Lucy Harper: Hand drawn story of her Great Grandparents
Lucy Harper: Hand drawn story of her Great Grandparents

Animations

And Macs. All Art schools have them, and like a pair of perky boobs on spring break, they love getting them out. This exhibition was no exception, it was Macs galore, and all bursting with newly created animations, films and videos.

Nipples.

Macs set up with all the animations people made. Because it’s just not an art-uni without Macs.
Rhianne Farrell: Handmade stop-start animation about key events of 1912
Carl Godfrey: Animation about the Japanese gift of 1000 Cherry Blossom Trees to America

Flogging Stuff!

Well you know me, I love a good stall. And I made sure I wheedled one into this exhibition too! Luckily, everyone else got involved too and brought along prints and books and anything else they’d made in the year. All together, it made for a pretty impressive display of work. Well done us!

Selling work from the past year.
Beer+awesome drawing=:D
Prints,zines,books,Tick…

So yeah, all in all a great event really that received some really complimentary comments from those that went. I would like to say a huge thank you to three people in particular: Tom Goldsworthy, Carl Godfrey and Ciara Caldwell-Cleave who were in charge of all the publicity and organising of the event. They completely made it what it was, went out of their way to make display animations, organise free beer, made cakes and 1912 ice cubes (made sense at the time) as well as compiling little free compilations of all of the work on display for us to take home, which really was a lovely little touch. Yeah okay, their cheekiness may have got us in trouble with the second years a little bit, but hey, what’s a bit of casual rivalry amongst years eh? Antics like that is totally what this institutionalised education is all about, and the long and short of it is that they made the event.

Free catalogues of everyone’s work!

Cheers guys, I hope since then you’ve had a good old relax, put your feet up and cracked open a cold one.

B

x

Better Late than Never: When Ambition bites you in the Bum

I’m back with a new post! Yes I know it’s terribly late, I am oh-so-sorry, but you see, there was a dragon.

No?

Not buying it?

Yeah well that’s because it’s a lie. There was no dragon, I’ve just been rubbish (again) and have failed at bringing you any kind of news in favour of sleeping. However, those lazy days are now gone! Banished! And I hereby solemnly swear to be much, much better at this blog fandango. Frealz.

So here it goes. Last time I did a post, I was just about to embark on a big old silly printing experiment that did, in the true nature of experimentation, fail horrendously. Yes, you heard, printing finally turned on me. Screen Printing as well, that dirty dog. After all the nice things I said about it. Needless to say, it put me a little bit (a lot) down in the dumps, I don’t like doing bad work. Especially not bad prints.

But such is the nature of trying new things and not leaving yourself enough time to properly get to grips with it.

Basically what happened, was that I wanted to do a print for the End of Year Show, and my tutor talked me into doing it GIANT (A1), as opposed to the comfort zone of A6-A3 size range I tend to aim for, less than a week before the exhibition was due to open. Actually, now that I think about it, this is the same tutor who was to blame for the up-all-night-due-to-lack-of-preparation-2-page-comic shebang. Must investigate the possibility of a single-handed conspiracy against me there.

But I digress, “a big print…ha!” you may claim, “doesn’t sound like such a big deal to me!”

Well, metaphorical voice of imaginary rhetoric reader, you’re right, you wouldn’t think a big print WOULD be such a nightmare, however this one decided it would be due to the following limitations.

  1. I only had one screen. This meant that, in order to achieve the 3 colour print I was aiming for, I had to only expose ONE layer onto the screen (due to time limitations) – the most complex one was naturally the best choice, but this meant the starting two had to be hand cut newsprint cut outs which I would have to use as stencils with the blank screen, then expose the 3rd layer on afterwards. I hate cutting newsprint. It’s delicate and awkward and a pain in the arse to transport. I especially hate cutting newsprint when the newsprint itself is bigger than A1 and I only have an A3 cutting mat and, due to the end-of-year-run-down-of-materials, comparatively blunt utensils.
  2. I also couldn’t afford, due to the end-of-year-run-down-of-funds, to digitally scan and print my exposable design onto a giant acetate in order to expose it, so it had to be hand traced from the original sketch, using special ink (FROM A POT WITH A BRUSH! Not even pens) onto a cheaper, transparent, special-ink-from-a-pot friendly material. This ate one full day of my already very tight schedule.
  3. Due to the size of the print and, by comparison, the size of me, I was encouraged not to print the organic way; hand+squeegie=lovely print, but instead to use THE ARM. Now this was really where my downfall lay. In theory, THE ARM is a great idea. It’s a bit mechanical arm that holds the big squeegees and spreads the ink over large surface areas my own little limbs would struggle to cover. All I had to do was push the handle of THE ARM along with the correct pressure to get a nice, flat, even coverage.

Unfortunately, as I only had, in the end, one day in which I could print, I didn’t really get the time necessary to be able to master the art of THE ARM. In fact, I think it’s fair to say I was actually pretty shit at it. I’m not sure if it was due to my size and weight (or lack thereof) but I just couldn’t seem to put enough pressure on the damn thing to get an even coverage of ink. I tried thousands of variants of amounts of ink, I tried adjusting the bed, adjusting the screen, the suction, I tried more paint in the mix, more solution, harder squeegees, softer squeegees, literally everything I could in the very limited timescale I had.

But in the end, with time ticking by, I had to just go for it. And 3 colours, 5 prints, about 60 newsprint tests and a grump to end all grumps later, was left with a pretty damn substandard print as a result.

Muchos Disappointingos.

As you can see, the colour is not at all flat and the black’s not come through at all clearly. I think had the lines been printed perfectly, it may have tied any issues with the stenciled colour together. Might even have looked better, given the grimy nature of the subject matter. But unfortunately the lines are just as problematic as the other two colours. Which really meant the image lost out in areas of detail like these.

The brief for the exhibition was 1912: Go make something! So I chose to focus on the death of Bram Stoker; author of Dracula, theatre owner and all-round pretty clever guy. From here, I subsequently, invented an “alternative reality” in which Dracula‘s success above all his other works was attributed to the fact that it was not from Stoker’s imagination, but based on true events. I wanted to suggest that his death in 1912, officially regarded as “a series of strokes” was actually caused via the paranormal attack of a vampire.

I chose to do it in the form of a single image narrative. This was actually a bit of a leap for me who is, as you may be aware from my other work (and if you’re not I think you’d better have a look in the shop don’t you?) predominantly a sequential art sort of gal. This whole, summarising in one image was quite the challenge, which is why it was so disappointing to have overcome one hurdle to fail at another.

Anyway, It’s big, it’s a print and you can see what it is, so in many ways, I achieved what I set out to. It’s just a shame the craft is so poor. But we live, we learn and sometimes, we screw up screen printing.

I think that’s definitely what Sinatra was singing about in That’s Life: Screen printing giant images of deceased writers.

What an epiphany.

B

x

Poor Ink coverage could have looked ghostly and haunting, had the black been a little crisper.