Reflection

Looking back over my research blog it is interesting to see how it has developed from the starting point to the final image and how this enquiry has informed my practice. Overall I can see that my work is very much practice led research. I started with a general idea about my research theme ‘the everyday’ to a more refined approach of exploring the theme ‘reportage illustration’.

In order to establish a real understanding of this theme I used various methods that supported this investigation. These included visual work in notebooks, personal notes and gathering information about how other illustrators work with the everyday theme. However at this stage I needed to generate a better appreciation of what the everyday really represented. To do this I established clear aims and objectives that really helped to focus the direction of my work and mark out the important aspects of this project. Pivotal in this process was Alan Male’s book, Illustration: a Theoretical & Contextual Perspective. This book outlines the importance of developing the brief by defining the rational, the aim and the objectives. I learnt to approach the research in an organised manner and clarified what I wanted to investigate.

Leaning about the different cultural theorists ideas about the theme of the everyday was exciting and offered new ways of looking at my work. This discovery of different approaches to the theme of the everyday certainly helped to view my work from another perspective and helped inform a more meaningful in dept understanding of what I was drawing. This supported a practice led approach to develop new work not ventured before.

In fact I found myself drawn to learn more about the different theoretical perspectives about my research theme and how this is relevant to my own practice. It helped solidify my decision on the theme of the everyday by drawing my own everyday world. I could start here in my studio, my home and draw in situ.

This helped change my approach to the research and explore the field of reportage illustration. In hindsight I can see that I work in a linear fashion gathering broad general information and narrowing this down to explore certain aspects. Methods used in this process are a mix of practical notebook work, reading related information, watching films based on this theme and related articles. It was a new find to see the connections between theoretical research and practical work. From this I learnt that the key feature of my work is social commentary or a personal visual description.

The concept of illustration as a visual essay certainly informed my research enquiry and ideas for future projects. Considering this idea and the various research methods I used it is appropriate to situate this practice led research within the context of a phenomenological framework. This theoretical point of view advocates the study of direct experience of the individual (Cohen, L., Manion, L. & Morrison, K. 2013, p.18).

The key features underpinning this practice led research is the relationship between experience and its interpretation through the process of drawing.  From this I realised that my illustration practice is concerned with learning about the world and its objects and visually communicating that experience through new exciting work.

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Reference List:

Cohen, L., Manion, L. & Morrison, K. 2013, Research Methods in Education, 7th edn, Taylor and Francis, Hoboken.

 

FAT1 Visual Essay

Studio1

linestudio
Fig.1 Line Drawing

Selecting a particular room to represent my idea of the everyday was a challenge, after some initial sketches I settled on drawing my studio, a converted box room in my home.

Studio
Fig.2 First Study

This first colour study used muted tones to contrast with the detail in the drawing. I was concerned with capturing the mood of this space using a selected colour range.

Studio1
Fig.3 Second Study

This image shows muted browns and blues with spaces left blank for text. The feel or mood of my studio wasn’t quire resolved at this image.

Studio2
Fig.4 Third Study

This third colour study shows the space in pink and magenta hues, again not quite there in terms of showing the mood.

Studio4
Fig.5 Final Colour Study

This final colour selection I felt represented the atmosphere of my studio. I selected brown, blue and purple tones repeated throughout the illustration which gives the image a sense of movement. There was enough information in the drawing to allow for a selective colour range. Although this could be developed with more varieties of colour selection.

Reportage
Fig.6 Final Image

The final image for Practice 1 included hand written notes describing the history and purpose of various objects. The reason behind this was to show how a personal illustration could act like a visual diary. Plus to demonstrate how an illustration can interact with an audience. This piece was my first real enquiry into visual essay and certainly sparked many ideas for future projects.

List of Figures:

Figs. 1,2,3,4,5,6 Author’s own work.

The New Visual Journalism

Gary Embury ‘The New Visual Journalism’ VaroomLab, vol. 1

This text is a response to the online journal set up by Gary Embury called http://reportager.uwe.ac.uk in 2012. He states that reportage as visual essay and documentary illustration is something which is experiencing a renaissance. For example the form of visual essay within the graphic novel genre. This article examines how the drawn image can compete with the photographic image. He raises the question here if society can accept photographic journalism why not in drawing?

Throughout this article Embury makes a convincing argument for the role and purpose of visual (drawing) journalism. Examples of reportage illustrators’ work and interviews supporting the central points give authenticity. Essentially the main point is that reportage illustration is unique in its depiction and approach to social issues and experiences. Steven Heller in The artist as illustrator, The illustrator as journalist (1992) wrote, “despite our current reliance on photographic, electronic and now digital media, for the transmission, and reception of objective information, the artist continues to be a valuable interpreter of critical events”(p.1).

This is particularly interesting to my research enquiry as it offers a new approach to drawing the everyday in terms of social content. Importantly it helps situate my practice in the wider illustration field. The concept of illustration as a visual essay has informed my research enquiry and certainly influenced where my research into this field has focused on.

Reference list:

Embury, Gary (2012) ‘The New Visual Journalism’, VaroomLab, vol. 1, London: Published by VaroomLab. Available at http://www.varoom-mag.com/wpcontent/uploads/2013/01/VaroomLab_Journal_IssueOne.pdf [Accessed 14th November]

Heller, S. Alan E Cober, (1992) The artist as illustrator, The illustrator as journalist, Katonah museum of art, New York.

 

Developing my visual research

I enjoyed this process of researching and developing a more refined understanding of this area of illustration, reportage. I started with drawings documenting my everyday surrounding in my notebooks. Using pen and markers in grey and black tones I focused on objects in my kitchen and studio materials. I really liked this idea of looking closely everyday things I use, almost like re seeing things.

I decided to look at larger everyday living spaces and draw from these. Initially I began with pen and also tried here a blue paint marker on a painted coloured background. My preference, really my style is more suited to the pen drawings although I’d like to try some different tools, like the Japanese pen and brush markers to experiment with line.

 

Kitchen

                                                     Fig.6. Stefano’s Kitchen

Key features in my work are style and colour evident in the final outcome for ‘Stefano’s Kitchen’ drawing. The flat solid colours and line drawing are features of my visual style. I enjoyed doing this work and it prompted many ideas for the Practice 1 piece.

List of Figures:

Figs. 1,2,3,4,5,6 Author’s own illustrations.

Mount Athos Project

 

Tim Vyner’s project Mount Athos Project in 2015 on is a great example of how reportage illustration can be viewed as an animation. The idea of a storyline is central to the medium of animation which aptly describes this particular project.

Tim Vyner’s first visit to Mount Athos as the beneficiary of the Doug Patterson/RCA bursary was in the spring of 2013. By the time the seasons had completed a full cycle he visited all twenty Monasteries in three separate trips.

This work documents his first-hand experiences on location. He combines the traditional technique of watercolour painting or ink drawings or drawing with an iPad and makes short films like the one here. His work   based on location always captures a sense of time and place which is evident in this piece. The idea in this project was to show how monastic life has changed very little over a millennium and to record this through  particular moments that create a unique record of Mount Athos in the present day.

Again I find this way of working a great source of inspiration and something I am keen to try out join my own practice. Similarly my work lends itself to a mix of traditional pen and inks drawings which I scan and paint or highlight certain areas in Illustrator or Photoshop.

Related links:

http://www.timvyner.com

http://reportager.uwe.ac.uk

 

Place Identity

cropped-cropped-everyday.jpg
Fig.1 Pen drawing of everyday objects

The theme of the everyday is very broad and can have a multitude of meanings. In order to tackle this huge area I decided to focus on everyday spaces and daily experiences, like urban space, living space, working spaces and non spaces (like motorways, petrol stations). This decision was influenced from my research on the aforementioned theorists that sparked ideas.

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Fig.2 Book Cover

The concept of ‘Place-identity’ in The People, Place, and Space Reader  was of particular interest in terms of how the everyday is experienced. This text is situated in the field of environmental psychology. It argues that identities are formed in relation to the environment and consist of knowledge and feelings developed through everyday experiences of physical spaces. This concept is called ‘place identity’ and it is argued, is an essential part of a person’s self-identity.

The ideas discussed in this collection of essays build on previous cultural theorist that I have encountered in my research, like Pierre Bourdieu. He argues that space can have no meaning apart from practice; the system of generative and structuring dispositions, or habitus, constitutes and is constituted by actors’ movement through space (1984). Social practice activates spatial meanings, they are not fixed, but invoked by actors who bring their own knowledge, culture and intentions (p. 145).

The People, Place, and Space Reader brings together the excerpted writings of scholars, designers, and activists from a variety of fields upon which we draw in our teaching and research to make sense of the makings and meanings of the world we inhabit. They help us to understand the relationships between people and the environment at all scales, and to consider the active roles individuals, groups, and social structures play in creating the environments in which people live, work, and play.

Similarities can be made with Relph, E. (1976) Place and Placelessness, it states that different groups are distinguished by place identity. However this paper develops the enquiry by stating that physical environments can change rapidly and no longer correspond to place identity (p.79).

‘ …every individual must deal with a changing society, with unexpected events, with advanced in technology, with social upheavals…have an impact on the physical world of the person.’ (p.79)

This concept of ‘place identity’ can be applied to illustration reportage where issue based content aims to explore personal experiences or responses to location.

Relph gives a detailed phenomenological account of how places are experienced and how they are changing. He argues that place is a fundamental aspect of people’s existence in the world. Explored are how and why people engage and identify with particular places. He agrues that spread of modernity is causing a sense of ‘placelessness’ destroying ‘distinctive places and the making of standardised landscapes that results from an insensitiveity to the significance of place (preface).

This was one of the first major studies that examined the idea of place in terms of the human experience. However, it is important to note that this study conducted in 1976 may not apply completely in today’s global world. It is included here as it provides a background to this topic and is supported in part by contemporary studies like ‘Place-identity’, The People, Place, and Space Reader.

List of Figures:

Fig.1 Author’s own work, Pen drawing of everyday objects

Fig.2 Book Cover ‘Place-identity’ The People, Place, and Space Reader

Reference list:

Gieseking, Jen, Jack, Mangold, William et al (ed) (2014) Proshansky, Harold, Fabian, Abbe, and Kaminoff, Robert, (1983) Place-identity’ The People, Place, and Space Reader, pp.71-81, London: Routledge.

Relph, E. (1976) Place and Placelessness, London: Pion.

Related links:

http://peopleplacespace.org/toc/section-3

Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly, and Eugene Rochberg-Halton. 1981. The Meaning of Things: Domestic Symbols and the Self. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Delany, Samuel R. 2001. Times Square Red, Times Square Blue. New York: New York University Press.

Dixon, John, and Kevin Durrheim. 2004. “Dislocating Identity: Desegregation and the Transformation of Place.” Journal of Environmental Psychology 24(4) (December): 455–473.

Pain, Rachel, and Susan J. Smith (eds). 2008. Fear: Critical Geopolitics and Everyday Life.London: Ashgate.

Exploring the everyday

Unknown-2
Fig.1 Book Cover

One particular book that was a great help in exploring my research theme was Reading the Everyday by Joe Moran. This book is about the changes of everyday life in contemporary Western societies over the past few decades. Moran references important cultural theorists like Henri Lefebvre, Michel de Certeau, Marc Augé and Siegfried Kracauer and aims to further extend this dialogue. He does so by examining in detail the ordinary, routine practices occurring in daily life and shows that analysing such ‘banal’ phenomena can help make sense of cultural and social changes.

The central argument of this book is that the everyday is already read. This is represented in a societies art, politics, design, news and architecture. This is discussed  in four main areas, workspace, urban space, non-places and living places. This book also helped me to identify what ‘places’ or subject matter of the everyday I wanted to show. I could start now with a place in mind, like the home/workspace, and develop drawings and ideas from here.

This is book was particularly insightful as I learnt about the different cultural theorists ideas about my research theme. Interesting ideas are highlighted like John Fiske’s discussion on the habitual acts of everyday life subverted by individuals by not following the ‘rules’. These are the pedestrians who take shortcuts across the grass instead of following the path or the window shopper who enjoys the visual spectacle of the mall but doesn’t buy anything. Fiske discusses the contrasts of the creative practices of everyday life with the routine chores.  Its interesting to note the emerging themes of power and everyday politics is addressed in these arguments (p.10).

In terms of reading the everyday Moran discusses Certeau and Lefebvre ideas that this is an elusive practice. Both argue that the everyday cannot be simple read like a text because it is a lived out experience in urban space and wordless practices. Life is not static its changing constantly, instead they offer a different way of understanding the everyday in terms of a series of shifting interconnected elements (p.23).

Moran weaves the ideas and theories of pioneering cultural theorists in this book while expanding on these same arguments. This provided rich material for my own development and awareness about the everyday in  a cultural context. In fact I found myself drawn to learn more about the different theoretical perspectives about my research theme and how this is relevant to my own practice. It helped solidify my decision on the theme of the everyday by drawing my own everyday world. I could start here in my studio, my home and draw in situ.

List of Figures:

Fig.1  Book Cover Moran, Joe (2005) Reading the Everyday

Reference list:

Moran, Joe (2005) Reading the Everyday, Abingdon: Routledge.

Fiske, John (1989) Reading the Popular, London: Unwin Hyman.