Dare you listen to the music of the ants?
Archive for the ‘Illustration’ Category
It must officially be summer (despite the grey skies) because I’m back at Fine Line tattooing again. I began this past week with some tidying-up work on the shoulder part of a Japanese sleeve – fixing some clouds and adding-in some colour that had been missed. And to celebrate my return to the studio, Rena and Stuart had bought me my very own gun – a lighter-weight liner/shader that’s a good machine to start on.
Not only has it been great to get back to work on real skin, but it’s been interesting to return to tattooing in the context of my other current projects. The whole comics and archaeology thing seems to be really taking off, which means that I’m exploring comics as a medium that bit more closely – and seeing lots more graphic and visual-communication parallels between the two. I’m also returning to the tattoo studio at a time when I’m doing more of these Japanese woodblock-inspired prints for exhibitions with the Inside Out art group, and again, it’s been interesting to explore parallel lines of praxis between the two.
Because just as each area I work in has its own separate and unique methodologies and mechanics, so they also overlap. It’s these areas of connection and contrast that I find particularly rewarding: a chance to draw lines between one thing and a very different other.
Posted in Art, Illustration, tagged Cafe Radio, Llanymynech Limeworks, Llanymynech Rocks, The Hand at Llanarmon, Underhill Farm, Underhill Farm Art & Wild Craft Fair, Underhill Farm artists on May 2, 2013 | Leave a Comment »
It’s the Underhill Farm Art & Wild Craft Fair this Bank Holiday weekend, and (in addition to organising the event!), I’m hanging a recent print inspired by Llanymynech quarry above the farm. It’s a slightly off-beat work, I suppose, but thoroughly in keeping with recent prints that I’ve exhibited at Cafe Radio in Oswestry and The Hand at Llanarmon.
The print is another in my series inspired by Japanese woodblocks, and uses many of the visual motifs and devices developed by woodblock print artists during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. I’ve been using this style to approach representation of landscape in the Welsh Marches in a different way for about a year or so now, and the results have been really interesting. As my familiarity with the style, and the evolution of my own artistic response has developed, so I have started not just to represent the landscape differently, but I have started to see it differently.
It’s inevitable that as an artist, one naturally translates a view or landscape into the medium and presentation format one is most familiar with. Not being a landscape artist particularly, I found myself most often mentally translating views of the Marches into watercolours or semi-abstract oils, or quick pen-and-ink sketches – media that I do work in, but that I’m not particularly comfortable in. What I never found myself doing was mentally translating what I was seeing into styles that I used everyday in my illustration work.
Now, however, I do. Using the model of Japanese woodblock prints seems to have unlocked something in the way I look at landscape. Now I find myself seeing things that I didn’t really see before – not details in the landscape, but elements that inspire me draw and produce prints entirely concordant with my usual way of working. It’s been something of a revelation. And what’s more, this whole issue of not just representing but also seeing and looking through the lens of a particular style or medium seems to carry with it big implications for what I’m doing with comics and archaeology.
So, the piece I am hanging at Underhill Farm this weekend is only the first in quite a big series of prints which I’ll be finishing up over the course of the year. The series is entitled A Way of Looking at Time, and at the moment consists of eight prints, but will probably end up being expanded to twelve. Each one is linked to all the others, both physically (each print connects, left and right, to others in the series), and thematically – exploring the layering of landscapes, experience and time with artistic responses growing out of the Underhill Farm artists’ group. The series will be exhibited at Underhill Farm first, and then at other venues around the Borderlands.
Printed at NOW Art. Thanks to Ollie, Nick, Pete & Mo at NOW Group.
Underhill Farm Art & Wild Craft Fair – Sat., Sun, Mon., May 4 – 6, 10-4pm. Underhill Farm, Shropshire: SY10 9RB. More info at: www.insideoutart.co.uk
The ever-wonderful Posy Simmonds has written a funeral fairy tale in her own inimitable style.
Proof (if any were needed) that, after all these years, she’s still at her best when she’s penning her own quiet brand of political commentary for The Guardian. There’s a nice interview with her from a few years ago here.
There’s tons of great reasons to get your sketchbook out in Waikiki!
Hidden amongst all the modern glass and steel are reminders of the early days of tourism here – Polynesian “tikis”, relics of a bygone era now. A bit of urban archaeology will locate them: spirits of a vanished past, hidden in odd, forgotten corners near lo-rise “Aloha-Deco” apartment complexes back towards the Ala Wai canal.
Although no longer the poster children of Pacific tourism that they once were, these early gods of cheap air-travel and mass-market 1950s aloha still hold a certain fascination. For me, they conjure up the Pacific that my Grandparents knew – that mysterious, still slightly edgy post-war world complicated by contested memories of war and America’s new colonial aspirations.
Perhaps there is no more appropriate symbol for that era than the stolen iconography of the “Tiki”, now itself reduced to the status of a modern antiquity?
A curiosity, this. Helobiae is an ongoing blog-based illustrated story by the artist/writer mp. It’s a gentle fantasy, built of fable-like prose and vectorised, Illustrator-style drawings.
Neither fish nor fowl, the dreamy narrative seems to wander without plot or direction, but occasionally clicks together, events and climaxes suddenly appearing as if out of a fog bank. There’s something of Everway or Myst about the tale, vague and timeless, but clearly rooted in its own gentle mythology.
Worth a look – there’s a huge amount of it, too.
Some interesting posts recently about the true value and meaning of “free work”. Both Brian Wleklinski at widgetsandstone.com design collective and Amy Ng at pikaland.com have written on the thorny issue of doing work for nothing.
Most freelance illustrators work for less than they should most of the time. Most of us tend to undercharge rather than overcharge, and the rates we use often don’t begin to reflect the time we actually put into a job. Work we don’t charge for, work we don’t charge enough for, work we do for friends and family, volunteer groups and charities – it’s “free work”.
But rather than grit your teeth and think of this as unfair, why not try and see free work as an opportunity? A graphic designer friend and I were talking about this recently and came up with some new ways to think about “free work”:
1. An opportunity to do something new. Rather than look at free work as someone getting something out of you for nothing, use it as an opportunity to do something you’ve never done before. Why not try out a new technique, or play around with a new piece of software? Why not get out those oil pastels you never use or download some free filters or fonts? Free work can be a learning opportunity, a way to expand your repertoire, suggest new directions. And if the free client doesn’t like the result, well, what have you honestly lost?
2. An opportunity to diversify your portfolio. If you get known for a particular look or technique, it’s easy to be channelled into a particular type of work. It’s hard to keep your portfolio always looking fresh when you’re constantly working to make money – you end up with a portfolio of work other people wanted you to do rather than one that reflects what you can do. If you use free work as an opportunity to try new ideas and techniques, then it’s also a chance to breath some new life into an old portfolio.
3. An opportunity to build community, not just to network. “Networking” is such an over-used term. It’s supposed to mean something dynamic and inspiring, but really just means “going out and looking for work”. Rather than network, try building a community with like-minded people. Free work is a chance to get out of your usual networking circles – editorial, children’s books, medical illustration, whatever – and bump into people you’d otherwise never meet. Do a poster for a friend’s book-launch, a CD insert for your brother’s heavy-metal band, a flyer for someone else’s sketching evening, a logo for a weekend community group – you’re instantly out of your over-familiar networking circle and genuinely in with new people.
4. An opportunity to reflect. Too many freelance illustrators stick with familiar work because they know they can do it. Having a reliable source of work is vital in freelance circles. I know it’s a truism, but stick with something too long and you’ll just get stuck. Doing free work is a chance to step outside what you usually do and cast a glance over your portfolio, your clients and your practice from a different perspective. Who knows? Maybe you might prefer being a heavy metal band artist…?
Thanks to everyone who came along to my lecture in York – or who attended via the livestream on YouTube. Gratifying to have such a large crowd, and nice to know that there are so many students out there interested in the how we visualise archaeology.
Some really interesting questions at the end, too. The one from Chloe raised once again the idea of using the principles of sequential art as a teaching tool, particularly in interdisciplinary settings. I made the same suggestion that I did at the VIA conference, which is to look at the airline safety briefing card as a model. Combined with other infographic styles – flow-charts, etc. – this could be a powerful tool for communicating practice within archaeology.
Another question asked about the links between comics and animation in archaeology. While I think both have distinctive ontologies of narrative, I think that some of the same questions I’ve been posing about narrative could be put to both interactive media and animations in archaeology. Many of them seem to lack much in the way of narrative content, despite the mechanics of movement. How does this affect audience engagement – particularly in outreach and presentation contexts?
Finally, Pete’s question about how one gets started in comics and archaeology “if you can’t draw”, raised the important and ongoing question of the nature of visualisation in archaeology: craft or skill? Is it “better” to maintain the production of visualisations in archaeology at a craft level, open to all who undertake archaeological practice? Or should archaeology promote the idea of visualisation as a specialist skill, “better” left to specialists? On the one hand, the former often precludes the development of sophisticated and specialist image types; but the latter once again creates the problem that the people working with data are not the people visualising it. My own feeling is that the answer lies somewhere in the middle – archaeological visualisation should be seen as a craft tradition, with practitioners drawn from within the profession, but with access to specialist training that allows them to develop specialist familiarity. This position enables them to act not just as producers, but advisors and collaborators within the profession, rather than increasingly moving outside of it.
Comics, I think, is a perfect example of a kind of visualisation that can just as easily and just as successfully work both as a craft and a specialist medium: small-press and self-published comics are every bit as vital and sophisticated as their glossy, newsstand cousins – more, some might say, as they preserve an absolute sense of editorial independence. This might be key to understanding how comics can function in archaeology as a visual medium. My advice to Pete was to get out and do some comics: use photographs, use symbols, use clip-art; just start making them and see where the medium leads.
Trapped at home by the snow this weekend, so I turned my hand to a bit of band tribute art.
This homage to 1950s horror comics is for local (and surely a strong contender of the “Best Group Name in Musical History”) band Awesome Zombie Ants - proper industrial electronic wall-of-sound rock with vocals by Neil “366 Teeshirts” Phillips.