Buffalo Girls.

I worked on illustrating the story ‘Buffalo Gals won’t you come out tonight’ by Ursula K. Le Guin. The story evokes imagery through language moving the reader from real to unreal, employing the slippage of time and concept of inhabitated space and being. It is a short story, and I would aim to adopt the story into an illustrated narrative or graphic novel.

The story is full of magic and evokes strong feelings around motherhood, and the role of mother as protector and teacher, where grandmother is the wisest of all. The animals that feature in the tale are from native american stories. The tale enables the reader to assess what is real, what is known, against what is not real, what is only felt. Once emmersed in the unreal, the real becomes strange. “If the language we use to describe things has no meaning in the context we’re in, our understanding of things dissolves until there is nothing left but the basic elements of the thing, like iron and salt on our tongues.” (Fettig, 2012).

The story is of a girl that falls from the sky, from a plane flown by a man, flying her to her father. They sky is patriarchal. Myra falls from the sky into the world of the old ones. This is a world of female animals. When Myra sees through her left eye, her good eye, she sees animals. When the wound of her damaged right eye is soothed and replaced with a pitch eye, Myra sees people. Pitch eyes are a reference to a Native American origin story, where Coyote’s eyes got stuck in a tree and were replaced with pitch.

Seeing and naming are themes throughout the short story. Sight cannot be trusted to show Myra the real. Names are as slippery, and Myra adopts three names, Myra, Gal and Pup. The various names indicate a fractured identity, “Through an openness to viewpoints and communities outside dominant human cultural experiences, Myra becomes, and accepts the necessity of remaining … a “split and contradictory self”.” (Armbruster, 1996). 

Karla Armbruster analysed the the short story in her paper A Poststructuralist Approach to Ecofeminist Criticism. Although twenty years old, the paper lays a foundation for further investigation into blurring boundaries of realities, such as in my interest reinventing the space of video games for illustration. Armbruster suggest the slippage found in the identity of Myra, “holds potential for subverting dominant ideologies because her divisions and contradictions allow her to connect without oversimplifying her identity in ways that reinscribe those ideologies in new forms.” (Armbruster 1996).

In terms of visual research I focussed initially on finding inspiration from Native American artists. I have discovered historical and contemporary paintings and drawings that use flat planes, shapes and block colours, which in many ways complement my own visual language. Artists I have discovered include:

I instantly appreciated the artworks as aesthetically there are many similarities with some of the artists I am inspired by such as Lorena Lohr, Agnes Martin and Anni Albers. 

I came across amazing carved dolls called Kachina, which embody spirits. These are ancient and contemporary and are representations of ceremonial dress. 

On reflection I am excited by the serendipity of the project, a story about humanity’s loss of contact with nature, which I feel compelled to illustrate, has led me to discover artists that otherwise I would not have researched. 

I have concentrated on developing characters and working through techniques and processes to inform an art style and visual language.

During the story of ‘Buffalo Gals won’t you come out tonight’ Myra sees her animal protectors in two different ways. With her human eye she sees them as animals, with her pitch eye she sees the animals as ‘her own people’, a humans. She is often in a state of confusion or falling, moving between the real and unreal. I think a solution to how she sees the animals during these transition stages would be for the characters to become their Kachina Doll versions. Kachina Dolls are small carved and decorated dolls made by Native Americans to represent mythological figures. The animals in the story are based on these mythological figures. Using the dolls as starting point, I have begun to illustrate and develop the animal characters.

ZONE.

Interview with Kit Gillson of Zone comics. Friday 29th March 2019. 4pm.

So, if I have read correctly, Zone came about after a comic book symposium held during the 2016 Guernsey Literary Festival. Can you reflect on what your initial thoughts about the project when you first came together as a collective?

Yes, the Guernsey Literary Festival in, yep 2016. As artists we were fed up with not getting anything done alone. THe symposium inspired us to think about doing things differently. Breaking into the UK for all of us as individuals seemed remote so as a group we figured that starting something on island [sic. Guernsey] would suit our energies better.

Now three years on, can you describe what has changed?

Yeah it has changed. We have lost some contributors but those of us that reman have got better at what we do. The first year we were unsure, the second year we were unsustainably over confident and ambitious with our expectations.

Is that why it took over a year to to get the third edition of Zone out?

Kind of. Through the process of making the third one we learned to keep our expectations in check and focus more on the outcome of the edition rather than having an overload of ideas.

At the start, would it be fair to say that as a group you didn’t really have a consistent message or concept for the publication?

All the contributors comics were very different and still are. That’s the beauty of it – variety. We are more used to working together now, that’s the real difference.

Does the variety in concept affect the audience you attract?

Yes and no. Anthologies are harder to sell but we throw a wider ner in that there is likely to be something for the casual reader.

What art styles would you say Zone has?

Well, from traditional European comic style such as bande dessinée to fairly experimental styles. The idea is there is no Zone style.

So the point is you don’t want a unified message?

We want stories, quality and variety.

As a collective are you a closed group?

Not entirely. We are open to committed contributors.

How actively do you search for new people?

Not very! We all keep an eye open but, we met organically so presume the mext will join organically.

Can you describe your group’s representation?

One hundred percent male, age range mid twenties to mid forties, all white. On contributor is from South Africa, one is Dutch. We all live in Guernsey.

How do you think your publication might change with a more diverse representation?

Our publication is not about politics. It’s about crazy stories. People who read our comic are not necessarily standard comic book readers so more variety would help this I guess.

What methods do you use to sell your comics?

Currently just at Zone events.

How do you see the comic moving forward?

With new contributors, we will become stronger as we refine our roles within the collective. We aim to make on going stories within the comics. Which will attract a readership base. People buy the comic for the variety and because it is local. But we hope they will come back for the next edition for the next installment of the stories.

Do you have high hopes for the continuing success of Zone?

We all have our individual hopes for what we are building. I hope the anthology will grow and we can build our own individual pathways from it. So launch our individual projects on.

Can you describe your role in the collective?

Co-founder or board-member, artist and writer.

How would you describe your art style, what does it bring to the collaboration?

I experiment with personal parameters, which are a consistent style throughout the story I tell in each issue, and then change the style in the next issue. I’m not sure if or what I will stick with as I’ve not been doing it all that long. I get bored if I don’t change things up. I definitely bring bold colour to the publication.

What are your main influences as a comic book artist?

Well, Guillermo del Toro and Mike Mignola, Hayao Miyazaki, Albert Uderzo and Didier Conrad of Asterix, and Jean-Pierre Jeunet to name a few.

Which contributors art style do you prefer and why?

I like the techniques of Fimbulwinter as it is made with traditional methods, full size, on paper with brush pen. But I also like Axolotl Had Face Man as it appeals to my sense of humour, the story and the art style.

You are also a film-maker, animator and TV camera operator. Do you think this has an affect on how you draw to tell stories?

I tend to think in camera angles. Some comic book artists use the page as a whole, or blend images together in interesting ways. But I think in camera angles. To say my comics are a storyboard would be underselling, but like a storyboard for a film I guess. Really its is about framing and composition of each panel like it is a different shot. I ask is the angle making the character humorous, or scary, assessing the relationship between the characters is important. So using film language really, in illustration.

How important do you think it is to be multifaceted as a practitioner? Does it help or hinder to be an illustrator and a film-maker, animator and TV camera operator? Would it be easier for you if you were defined by one discipline or specialism?

I find it doesn’t help me focus. I admire people who can do one thing. I try to keep the disciplines separate. There is some crossover as my creativity stretches over all the things I do. But I do think of them as separate. To be honest it’s something I’ve not really thought about. The difference between filmmaking and News camera, from the outside they might look the same, but they are very different.

Links:

https://www.kitgillson.com/ https://www.imdb.com/name/nm9153829/
https://www.linkedin.com/in/kit-gillson-948916a3/v
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCjkCi-l5ZAv91p6ca7Q_FCQ
https://vimeo.com/323492767
https://vimeo.com/323504818
https://www.facebook.com/ZoneGSY/

Multiplicity.

‘Multiplicity’, a show organised and curated by Alice Nant and Ben Bailey-Davies, 29.03.2019 – 12.04.2019.

This is the GateHouse Gallery. It is a small three roomed space that was turned from a school tuck shop into a gallery five years ago. It normally shows work from local artists and raises money for the private school it is attached to. This is the first time the Further Education College I work at has had the opportunity to hold an exhibition here. The exhibition was designed to show development work of the students of courses from Level 1 to Level 5, without hierarchy, and promote the work we do at the College. In June the Course holds a end of year show for the Level 3 graduating students, since being in the art department (I joined in 2015) I have organised four shows outside the normal end of year event in order to showcase work from different student levels and celebrate all student achievement.

We chose a variety of student work from all levels including all types of art & design production including drawing, printmaking, textiles, video, animation, photography, graphic design, illustration, sculpture, prop making and sketchbook work.

As it is a small gallery we tried to put in a wide variety of work trying to avoid making the space feel overcrowded.

To order the space whilst maintaining a sense of space we hung the work in groups of grids and also tried to to visually join rooms as with the computers on plinths (above), and using images of faces (below). A continuity device to draw viewers through the separate spaces of the gallery.

We also employed window sills for small objects and used the natural light to highlight more delicate items.

There were a few interesting problems to solve. Including finding the best ways to display sketchbooks, a paper dress and a dress as a canvas for a video installation.

The projector for the dress video installation was put on a plinth in the centre of one of the rooms. Initially we thought this might be a problem, with technology blocking access to the work. But because the photography portraits at the back were visible through both the other rooms, the work drew the viewer’s gaze in and above the projector. Being bold with the projector placement worked successfully.

This awkward corner with a fire alarm and light switch was complemented by a block print of a switch plate.

There was an opening evening with a good turnout, media coverage with good reviews and the show was up for two weeks. The success can be measured with College management agreeing to this showcase becoming an annual event.

Discovering Lorena Lohr.

A recent conversation with photographer Ben Bailey Davies, about William Eggleston, led me to discover the photographer Lorena Lohr. Whilst hunting for a particular Eggleston image, on Google images, I clicked a link to the site journal.collectionair.com where I read an article that compared Eggleston’s photography with an upcoming photographer Lorena Lohr.

I was immediately drawn to her lonely imagery, her colour compositions and use of texture to create spaces. I appreciated the use of colour film which I feel contributes to the understated sorrow and beauty of her images.

The overuse of filters and overlays on platforms such as Instagram have undermined the sincere aesthetic of film. One of the best, and worst, examples of this populist aesthetic is the instagrammer @accidentallywesanderson. This account the instagram extension of a ‘community’ travel and backpacker website or ‘lookbook’ – www.accidentallywesanderson.com where people are invited to submit their aesthetically retro (ala Wes Anderson) images for publication.

Lorena Lohr’s series ‘Open Sands’ might easily be dismissed as a similar enterprise. A traveller, taking composed snaps in a retro style on her journey through the American southwest. However, her photography stands apart from this populist phenomena. Her images are created with an integrity that describes experience and tells stories.

Screen Shot 2018-11-10 at 12.23.19.png

Lorena Lohr, Untitled, 2017

Louise Benson describes Lohr’s work as, “The experience of the unknown, together with the heightened sensations of both wonderment and fear that come with it, is embraced in Lohr’s focus on the neglected interiors and faded facades that populate much of America.”

When describing her methodology Lohr states, I don’t try and work that out too much or have any continuous approach. But there’s always an interest to preserve the arrangements that are present in interiors, streets and building facades, both in public and private spaces – to record the way these objects are seen at that point in time, having been placed that way by the people coming and going, and how layers of narrative are built up in the way these objects are left behind.”

This is where I find connections with my own practice. Firstly in method. When I do take photographic images I use an Agfa Isoly 100, 1980’s 35mm point and shoot camera, a Pentax SFXn, 35mm SLR from the early 90’s, a Diana Baby 110mm point and shoot or a Sony AVCHD with lens mount a Helios 44mm lens and HDYA Skylight 1B filter. I use the digital Sony when I require more control over the image I am taking, but for  experimentation and chance, such as in Lohr’s images I use the point and shoot cameras.

Secondly in methodology, I work in series, obsessively collecting images I have made according to the subject matter I am exploring. Currently photorealistic illustrations of home computers from 1978 – 1984. The computer subjects are lonely bodies, genderless, silent. Neglected machines with untold stories.

It is in the stories that have not been told, the voicelessness of the neglected, is where I find most connection with Lohr’s work.

Lohr states that she is interested mostly in “harmonious line, colour and composition” and that she is inspired by early Renaissance painters such as Hans Memling, Hieronymus Bosch and Lucas Cranach.

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Hieronymus Bosch, Garden of Earthly Delights, c.1500

There is certainly a visual connection between colour and flatness of picture plane. Also, there is a voicelessness in these Renaissance paintings. Of course with the religious paintings, people would have known the stories, but the subjects in the paintings themselves seem voiceless. Their story is imposed on them by a common understanding. There seems so much left to be said.

When talking about her painterly influences she says that she often wonders what her images would look like as paintings and alludes to the possibility of collaborative work. This is interesting to me also. I do not stick to one medium, hand drawing, digital drawing, photography and filmmaking are all part of my practice. Often I transfer an image between media. The idea that Lohr’s photographs might not be the end, the finished image is a concept that has some potential for exploration. The idea of taking an image on a journey through different media, discovering how it might change. Would taking an image out its context as a photograph of a place into an illustration of a photograph of a place, give enough distance to change its narrative?

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Lorena Lohr, Untitled, 2017

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Lorena Lohr, Untitled, 2017

Sources:

Collectionair, Ones to Watch, One-On-One: William Eggleston And Lorena Lohr, 2016 journal.collectionair.com/ones-to-watch/one-one-william-eggleston-lorena-lohr/

Wise, L, From Gucci ads to Instagram fads: how the Wes Anderson aesthetic took over the world, April 2018 www.theguardian.com/film/2018/apr/07/from-gucci-ads-to-instagram-fads-how-the-wes-anderson-aesthetic-took-over-the-world

Benson, L, Lorena Lohr Exhibition Introduction, Claire de Rouen Books, 2016 clairederouenbooks.com/collections/photography

Hernandez, C, An Interview with Lorena Lohr on Traveling To Where No One Goes, Lomography Magazine, 2017 www.lomography.com/magazine/333230-an-interview-with-lorena-lohr-on-traveling-to-where-no-one-goes

http://www.lorenalohr.com

Reflection.

When I began this journey I wanted to subvert existing forms of visual language, disrupting production based connotations and assumptions. I began to realise that what I was looking for came from need for my visual language to be heard in a suitable framework, in an appropriate space. I have worked in film, fine art and textiles which all come with their own inherent language which is taken into consideration when making and viewing the work. In film I make feminist movies, in painting I make female art and in textiles I use traditionally female techniques to make a point. I do none of these things, but also, I do because I am using media and techniques with a prescribed language. I want to work in a way where my work is work.

Whilst undertaking theoretical research and making practical work I came to the realisation that looking backwards and being frustrated was hindering, and blocking, my creative development. I began to discover practitioners that operate in a fairly ‘new’ environment and are investigating it for its potential and it’s visual language. For instance practitioners like Jenova Chen that strive to use video games for artistic and illustrative purposes, and others that seek to claim a digital space for new creativity, such as Harvey and Samyn and their Realtime Manifesto. I too want to explore this potential and discover and define the visual language.

Therefore, through the process of beginning my MA journey I have discovered that that to look forward, and investigate the new, might allow me to find a way to make work in a language or framework that feels appropriate.

I have enjoyed undertaking initial research and reading about Carl Einstein’s tectonic understanding of Hegel’s dialectics. I can see value in investigating theorists such as Leif Weatherby and his proposal that ternary computing has the capacity to provide a metaphysical space. These investigations will help me frame my understanding of the metaphysical space of the digital and allow me to begin to define a space within this for my work.

Overall I have felt able to write a proposal for the next phase of my MA and can begin to see a way forward to a final outcome. I found writing a proposal at the start of the process almost impossible. I felt I knew what I wanted to set out but it lacked clarity and depth. I now feel able to write a proposal with some clarity and I am confident that the depth and understanding will come with further research.

For instance I am certain of the direction of my practical work for the start of the next phase and know that will lead to further theoretical research and analysis. I also know my theoretical research interests and I am excited to discover how these will affect my practice. I know too, that experimenting with and learning new technologies will enable further progress and I am looking forward to the clarity of work to come.

I love technology.

I have been investigating redundant technologies. In particular drawing interfaces with 8 bit computers. In particular the Commodore 64.

There are two reasons for choosing the C64. The first is that I managed to acquire two working consoles, and the second is that it was the first computer I experienced.

I have discovered that there were a number of interesting interfaces that could be used to draw with a C64.

The Koalapad.

The Koalapad, image found at photodoto.com/do-you-need-a-drawing-tablet/

Before Wacom, the Koalapad was an interface that could be used as a grahpics tablet even though it was designed to be used for accountants and data input. Occasionally there have been Koalapads for sale on Ebay, however, they seem to be sort after and rare as they are reasonably expensive.

The CAD-MASTER LIGHT PEN.

The Cad-master Light Pen is an interface that connects through the controller port of the C64. The pen is then used directly on the monitor screen, which needs to be a tube screen. It works by transmitting and receiving light in the same way the zapper gun did in the Commodore 64 game Duck Hunt. I have bought a Cad-master Light Pen and a copy of the software ready to use with my C64 and an old JVC TV.

Jenova Chen.

Images from artist’s website: jenovachen.info

The art-videogame ‘Journey’ is a stunning, illustrative experience and whilst visiting ‘Videogames: Deign/Play/Disrupt’ at the V&A I learned about the production and art of the game.

Jenova Chen is the art director and concept artist of the indie videogames company ‘thatgamecompany’. He, and his company, are award winning practitioners that have produced the art-games Flow, Flower and Journey. he is also the co-founder of Anapura Ineractive which encourages and support emerging creatives.

Chen describes game content as “The soul of a video game”, and has produced research papers on the concept of ‘Flow’ in games.

A concept that I admire with the game Journey is that it is a multi-player game which allows you to interact with other players over the Internet. However, players cannot talk to each other or touch. They can interact through movement and sound. Creating an uplifting interaction.

There is a philosophy behind his work, he states “I started to realize there is an emotion missing in the modern society, and of course missing in the online console games. It is the feeling of not knowing, a sense of wonder, a sense of awe, at the fact that you don’t understand, at the fact that you are so small and you are not empowered”.(1) Therefore he aims to create games as a space, or an environment, for spirituality and connection. He has said that audiences for film can find romance, sensuality, spirituality and humanity, however in videogames it is difficult to find anything other than violence and the need to win at all costs. I not only appreciate his art style, but also his philosophy.

References:

  1. Ohannessian, K., (2012) ‘Game designers Jenova Chen on the art behind his “Journey”‘. Fast Company. Accessed via www.fastcompany.com/1680062/game-designer-jenova-chen-on-the-art-behind-his-journey
Image from ‘Journey’ jenovachen.info
Image from ‘Journey’ jenovachen.info
Image from ‘Journey’ jenovachen.info
Image from ‘Journey’ jenovachen.info