Initial Ideas following Primary Briefings

Following the initial briefings, I made plans for the first prompt of the project involving the creation of a ‘character’. Starting together from scratch enabled my collaborator and I to exchange ideas with freedom. We used our initial interaction as a time to get a feel for each other in terms of what we enjoyed creating and any shared interest. We felt it was important to gain a mutual understanding in order for a more positive approach development of our work together.
Through explaining some of my existing work to my collaborator, she was able to get a clearer view and inspiration for her writing. Luckily we shared a lot in common and this process was an easy one. I learnt more about the inspiration behind much of her work and her often personal reflection and experience that appears in her writing felt intimately connected.
In terms of the first prompt, I shared my ‘character’ element with collaborator relating to my developing ideas in my personal work: themes of solitude and a connection to nature. I had begun some more research into the human relationship with the natural world considering spirituality, especially that of buddhist teachings of pilgrimage and enlightenment. I was drawing upon an interest in engagement and internal reflection.

My first visual outputs of found and made images included collages and drawings to touch upon my themes and concept. I tried to avoid depicting a ‘character’ in a traditional sense and instead suggest features and details of a figure. I found a particular emphasis on details of a figure such as feet and hands as they are emotive and suggest a gesture or movement, journey or place.

Through explaining my ideas and creation of an anonymous ‘character’ with my collaborator, we began to make conversation about how illustrators and writers can work together to create a character the reader can picture in their mind. I personally love to draw figures and portraits but felt ‘character design’ did not appeal to me and instead a more intimate connection to the reader/viewer of the collaborative work would potentially be better achieved through their own generation of ‘a character’ in their own mind. We reflected together on the idea of emotion, gesture and storytelling through the figurative elements such as hands, there was something more profound and ambiguous there…

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Event/Meet Pt.1: ‘Wasted’

Through conversation before and after our first face-to-face meeting, my collaborator and I had made particular connection on our personal experiences of the pressures of youth. We began to relate on the lack of self-belief and self-hope many young people develop. The view of the future has always been exciting and terrifying and we are forced to ‘grow up’ while not knowing what is coming. We discussed the unpredictability, loneliness and the emotional fluctuations that occur throughout our young lives and felt inspired to create work reflecting this realisation. My ‘solitude’ theme within my personal work felt related to this isolation we feel in youth. Our first ‘meeting’ of ‘character’ became a more metaphorical converging of ideas and shared concepts, sharing particular books and authors, opinions and experiences.

wasted‘ << Following our meeting in person, my collaborator made work in response to our conversations. Again from a first person – and therefore more personal – viewpoint, she wrote about a situation surrounding themes of separation, exclusion and discomfort in youth culture. I made visual responses to her writing, especially referring to the warped sense of reality (due to the character being intoxicated), colours and setting.

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Short Prose ‘Wasted’ by Ella Rowden
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Warped Scan (movement during scanning process)

Transient Youth

We are no different from previous generations, youth has always been a time of change and learning – My collaborator and I discussed this mostly in terms of our present experience but I began to think also about how connections can be made to the past. Through the resurfacing of an old photo album I got from an antiques shop, I was able to begin contextualising our theme into a different era.

I often find when struggling to move forward with inspiration and ideas, looking back at something old can refresh my thinking. I shared my photos with my collaborator and we both noticed how they showed a similarity to many images shared on social media today. Holidays, house parties and happy couples – we often document and share our ‘highs’ in life and so it is no wonder there is a pressure to feel accepted.

How can we document this turbulent time in life? It is relevant and connects to everyone, young and old who are experiencing/ have experienced it. We felt it was appropriate to draw inspiration from the photos I had found – they held some resonance with our intimate topic, encouraging a thoughtful association with memory and the transience of time.

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While sharing our ideas and photos, my collaborator was working on new material, our exchange on ‘wasted‘ used as an initial creative experiment between the two of us…

In reflection of our developing theme, my collaborator and I discussed what form of writing felt appropriate and best applied. Although her written prose and short stories were strong in their visuals, we both felt swayed towards the use of poetry. In its more simple verses, it suited my ideas for a target publication or series of prints in a minimal style. We both enjoyed the work of Rupi Kaur, her short simple poems in her book ‘Milk and Honey’ were small snapshots into her mind reflecting on emotions and relationships, and these felt transferable to the snapshot photos I had found.

I felt I could better play around with shorter sections of text and we could perhaps create a series of miniature poems with illustrations, they could be subtle and almost diary-like in a collection. I began to make ideas for a publication or series of single images for the end exhibition, fitting with my current practice into self-publishing and print.

Event/Meet Pt.2 – Horizons

Inspired by our exchange of conversation and imagery, my writer sent me a series of ‘draft’ poems. It was clear our minds both worked in a visual way and her interpretation was encouraging. Despite her varied length in the poems, I found myself drawn to particular quotes and verses which referred to our theme in a new, abstract and emotive way. Below are the initial responses I made to some particular examples of her writing where I began to pick apart the text and make visual responses in the same ink medium as before.

These particular examples found connection to our discussions on isolation in youth and also picked up on some new ideas. The last poem especially (‘World Map’) noted a relation to some of our shared reading by Rebecca Solnit – A blurring of horizons and unpredictability of future – The writing by my collaborator produced an image in my head of horizons, bleeding gradients, night, dawn & deep colours of blue, purple and red. Solnit describes a similar colour connection to solitude & distance.

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‘A Field Guide to Getting Lost’ by Rebecca Solnit

My collaborator’s poetic responses felt like a poignant joining of our discussion on pressure in youth and a sort of spiritual development we undergo – They feel like a reflection on life as having a location and being a journey through a landscape. There was a connection here to my very initial ideas on enlightenment and pilgrimage. Through the series of poems you can gain a theme & narrative of emotional isolation & looking into a metaphorical horizon.

“…there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new different sun” – Into the Wild, Jon Krakauer

The two short poems below were directly inspired by my ink drawing responses to the ‘Wasted‘ piece of writing my collaborator initially sent me.

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‘Spilt Ink’ & ‘Jigsaws’ by Ella Rowden

I found particular interest in the second of the poems due to it describing a powerful commentary on a struggling relationship. This felt like an important topic to consider as part of the project, relationships typically forming a significant element to our young lives – they are supposedly one of our greatest woes: VICE article: What Young People Fear the Most.

I especially visualised this very emotive poem, particularly in terms of its recognition of the hand – a previously discussed subject and detail displaying ‘touching’ gestures and interaction. The hand felt like both a physical and metaphorical manifestation of a relationship – they can say a lot in their position. It got me thinking again about how the movement and interaction of hands can speak a language and convey emotion without the rest of the human form…

The House Party

In direct response to some of the photos I shared, my writer produced some new writing – ‘Lonely at a Party’. Clearly referring to an uncomfortable social situation at a house party, the writing touched upon isolation, peer pressure, rebellion and acceptance.

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‘Lonely at a Party’ by Ella Rowden, featuring my initial response notes/illustration

In my illustrated responses (also using my photos as reference and inspiration), I tried to pick up on the more dark and gritty feel to this piece of writing. I also began to use collage to begin to envision ideas for interesting crops I could use as a set of sequential narrative images. These could begin to form a set to use within my final selection for print (within a zine for example).

Sketchbook: ‘the Unknown’

Relationships and peer pressure. Fears for future and a lack of clarity in the distance. How can I illustrate this sense and idea of looking into ‘the unknown’?

I decided to further respond to my writer’s poetry as a collection around our theme of isolation and anxiety in youth. Through my visual experiments I tried to illustrate a blurred mystery for the future and melancholy look back at a previous, but relatable time using reference from my found photos and washy medium of ink.

I made both direct studies of the photographs from my collection and also more gestural mark making experiments in response to textures I imagined within the poems I had been sent. I began especially to experiment with the idea of horizons as a visual metaphor for the future – the horizontal line representing the line of sight into a distance, along a ‘vista’.

I also pictured the marks representing ‘life lines’, the wavers and fluctuations in the quality of the strokes both illustrating a rugged landscape as well as the inevitable ‘ups and downs’ in life…

Horizons & Panoramic Crops

In Photoshop, I began to play again with colours and cropping my ‘horizon’ studies to make abstract variations that look like panoramas. In this perspective it accentuates the horizon line and gives more of a trajectory line to follow, as if you are panning your eye across a landscape.

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By inverting the image and applying colour hues, my images began to reflect an other-worldly and transient feel. The application of blue to the original drawings on white paper however gives a less moody, more minimalistic and calming aesthetic that I preferred and felt was better suited for the feel of our collaborative work.

I considered both variations working well to address our themes as they both display a dreamy look appreciating the melancholy and romantic reflection of past lives, isolation and reflection.

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I also made horizontal crops of other illustrations as experiments. It felt an appropriate thing to play with and related again to the reading across a page. How could I potentially use long cropped images to illustrate the narrative within my writer’s poems? Reading from left to right along a horizon could I directly relate my images to the set of writing.

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The inverted experiments below felt very strong in terms of their glowy and transient aesthetic. I wasn’t sure if they looked too ghostly and ‘dark’ for the comment we were wanting to make with our work and poignant subject matter. The more minimal aesthetic of the original, non-inverted versions was further considered better for this application…

‘Jigsaws’ – Jarring GIF Experimentation

Using a similar colour palette to my previous responses to my writer’s poetry, I played around with my ink drawings I had made using my found photograph reference.

Inspired by my ongoing apprciation of Risograph print, I envisioned how these studies could look if I printed them in two-colour, red and blue to make a more purple-ish tone – a nod to the palette visualised through the short poems. I also experimented with the typical imperfect nature of the print method and its accidental mis-alignment by jolting the layers off slightly. This created a sort of ‘glitched’ effect which felt like an interesting take on the feel of the image when paired with the ‘Jigsaws’ poem. I really liked the jarring effect as it felt like it added a discomfort and psychological touch to the image – playing on the feel of the poem based on the struggle of a relationship.

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‘when the picture does not change, like us’