Edward Bawden (1903 – 1989) and Eric Ravilious (1903 – 1942) were British designers.
When I look at their work I find that it seems to be like the definition of an era – from pre-WW2 through to the 1960s when more graphic effects of ‘Pop’ art become common. I also grew up in London and experienced the style, if not the actual art, of these two designers through use of the London Underground and their revival as modern reproductions. Famous pieces such as Bawden’s the Kew gardens poster produced from the London Underground in 1936 have been reproduced as Royal Mail Stamps.
This effect alone – the revival of works – tends t give that style a specific date and when I see work by Ravilious and Bawden I automatically place it in the mid 20th Century. Modern works in the same style also conjure up this period. Identifiable aspects of the style include:
- Colour works use less saturated [less vibrant?] colours – muted blues, greens and browns with less use of the more vivid reds, greens and yellows that we see today. These more modern colours may refledct the extensive use of computers and modern ink technology that allow us to use very bright colouring in order to compete with out modern visually-loud environment. Bawden’s colours may also be linked to the pallet of a painter – the kind of shades that are naturally available to painters.
- These illustrations also show extensive use of hand illustrated fonts – display writing: especially on the book covers – that is incorporated closely into the illustration itself. It is common in modern times to see fonts that are very clean and machined in use with illustrations that appear hand drawn and we are used to the scrupulous exactness of modern typography. It is also notable that today a different designer may be controlling these two aspects – an illustrator produces the image and a graphic designer adds the lettering over the completed work, especially on posters for public events and plays.
- Press advertisements produced by Bawden in 1928 for the Underground (Webb 2008 p14) reveal an awareness of the limitations of newspaper print of the time. Only since the 1980s have newspapers dramatically improved the detail that they can reproduce through use of computer technology but in newspapers of 1928 subtle shades of grey in images and photographs would have been more difficult to achieve. Bawden’s adverts make use of high contrast shading with only limited use of hatching, to represent the shape of the subjects being drawn. People in the near ground have features on their faces but more distant figures are described economically using black areas to show where their shape is away from the light. Farther in the distance the figures become just silhouettes of dark or light and outlines.
- These same illustrations also depict the fashions of the time – the top- and bowler-hats, womens’ bonnets and a particular length of hem.
- In Webb 2008 p14 these illustrations are also noted for influences of Paul and John Nash and Edward Lear. Paul Nash was a tutor to Bawden (artrepublic.com) at the Royal College of Art.
- Decorative borders are signatures of this era – a way for the advertisements in the newspapers to be distinct from the surrounding material. On the Association Football advert the border appears to be derived from the capital letter ‘A’ and a circle – a football perhaps – making its meaning ‘Association Football’ in that sense.
Illustrator Bartosz Kosowski
Compare Bawdwen with Illustrator Bartosz Kosowski
Bartosz Kosowski is a Polish Illustrator (see my post Illustrator Bartosz Kosowski) who produces work that can resemble the effect of printmaking done on a textured paper. His work is with a graphic pen and Photoshop, where the texture is introduced, but the end result mimics some of the imperfections found in traditional lino-prints or other printmaking methods. For example, when a print surface is inked unevenly or the take-up of ink is not uniform there occurs a ‘patchiness’ in the final print – often seen in woodblock letterpress. Proch adds colour to the black and white ink drawings using Photoshop and this colour is textured. Sometimes the texture is patchy or fades across the image and is also used to create more shape to the pictures.
These make an excellent comparison with Bawden’s linocut prints – although there is far more detail in Kosowski’s illustrations, where Bawden is limited by the physical reality of carving out lino, the two bodies of work both present a tactile flavour that is attractive.
Kosowski often chooses a limited pallet making much of the dynamics in the subtler shading.
Illustrator Robert Proch
Compare Bawden with Illustrator Robert Proch.
Proch is a Polish Illustrator (see my post Illustrator Robert Proch)
In common, these two illustrators have a non-photographic approach… that is to say that their work is not simply an accurate representation of a scene as you might see it if you were present. Contrast that with, for example, Norman Rockwell, who gave the impression of a photographic viewpoint (and used posed photographs as references)… Bawden and Proch are much more free with scale, perspective and the laws of physics in some cases to present imagery where visual impression is king over photorealism.
This precedence is revealed differently by the two artists – Bawden simplified some of the perspective and in some cases, such as the Kew Gardens illustration, collected images together in mismatched scale but in impressive visual composition. Proch’s works are often self-consistent in scale but break out of photographic representation using hue, tone, pattern, axis alignment and the addition of abstracted patterning.
Asked about the indicated ‘age’ of the work – does Proch’s seem more modern – the answer is certainly yes. Bawden’s work defines the mid-twentieth century in England and to re-create his style is to evoke the 40s and 50s. Proch’s works are ‘in motion’ – full of kinetic potential (can you have kinetic-potential!?) which may have been learned by the viewer from immersion in modern moving pictures – films, video games, graphics on TV – full of flashing lights and disrupted patterns.
John Brunsdon – Printmaker
Founder member of Printmakers Council.
Interview with Brusdon (1995) http://youtu.be/7g1OYbeJltE used a technique of applying different coloured inks to an eched plate. Campare with Bawden’s apparent approach of using different plates (lino cuts) with different coloured inks that are overlayed. For example –
Brunsdon and Bawden joined Christies Contemporary Art 1973
Brusdon’s trees ‘trademark’ – like lungs, skeletons enclosed in glass cloches.
http://youtu.be/rIso5PrJTq0 shows wheelermyt process of lino printmaking, 2009, which shows traditional techniques in modern use. The printing press is interesting for employing identical looking layers of paper and padding to John Brunsdon.
Piece of Work: Linocut
Through looking at these illustrator’s work I’ve become interested in the style Edward Bawden created with his linocuts of English landmarks. Notably ones of Spitalfields, Borough Market and Covent Garden Market as well as Liverpool Street train station.
In modern application the line cut could become part of a further work – scanned and added-to in Photoshop. Another possibilitiy is to make several ‘plates’ – lino cuts for different colour inks – which can be combined on paper or combined in photoshop after scanning.
It is interesting that this might turnout to be a sort of reverse process to Kosowski’s where the blocks of colour are created and scanned in using lino cuts and the black ink might then be added as vectors making two contrasting techniques work together – the lazer-sharp accuracy of the vector shape with the tactile-imperfections of the linocut print. Kosowski’s method created the black inked parts by hand then the textured parts using Photoshop. It would also be interesting to create the same image by both processes.
I originally though looking at Bawden’s prints that he had used separate plates for the different colours. Brunsdon is shown adding different colours to the one engraved plate to stunning effect. Looking again at Bawden’s Spitalfields print it appears that both methods have been used – patches of colour look to have been applied to one plate (blues, beiges, greys), perhaps using masks to help locate the colours in certain areas, then second and third plates of black have been overprinted. This layering has resulted in an ezquisite sharpness to the blacks which render the array of identical lights and meathooks. I can imagine that Bawden witnessed the lights and meathooks in their orderly lines as an impressive sight and chose this method of overprinting to convey their hard forms against the softer shapes of people, meat and architecture.
It might take a while to disentangle which parts of this image are produced when (and how) in the process… there are blocks of colour that fill the non-printing parts of a print as well as elements that are cut very accurately and remain after the negative space has been removed… he makes it look easy! I’m sure it’s not.
In considering the subject for the illustration… Bawden would often have been commissioned to create works that captured the industry of a place. I’ve been running through the types of place locally that could be rendered – schools, village halls, town square, theatre… public spaces. But there is another approach which is a ‘revealing’. In looking back at Bawden’s lino cuts I’m attracted to the fact that some of the necessary industry of the time has now been lost – the fruit and veg operation of Spitalfields has relocated to Leyton so the lino cuts capture a lost environment. Liverpool Street station has also undergone redevelopment in the 80s and serves modern needs through retail, although it still makes a feature of the 1800s architecture.
So perhaps I could find a subject that is a revelation – the inner workings of a modern concern that may or may not exist in the future.
- Car Assembly – production methods may change in the future
- Print – has already changed but may scale down
- Coffee Shops – have arrived in the last 10 years… might disappear along with the high street in the next!
- Farms – although these seem to be permanent features of our world they do evolve in look a great deal
- Train Stations –
Looked at a nearby train station for ideas.
As it happens Wendover train station is next to a major set of power pylons – the railway footbridge is designed with a criss-cross pattern (and is uncharacteristically not blocked in by high solid sides as most other railway bridges are) – the chain link fence next to the rails also incorporate a criss-cross pattern. The track itself offers a strong line. Bawden created wonderful trains with swirly lines for wheels that evoked motion. The wheels on our trains are not so obvious but perhaps a moving train could complete the image – be the focal point and illustrate motion through this world of static, installed, metallic criss-cross patterning.
Together with shading done using ‘hatching’ techniques these all suggest a strong visual theme. The pylons and the railway may also tick another box – features which may disappear from our world in the future.
There are no certainties but… trains could become obsolete if cars become driverless; the new ‘train’ would be a computer controlled convoy of individual vehicles on the roads which mechanically join together to create fuel-saving convoys of convenience, then split and reform to take . The benefits of a relaxing train journey ‘coupled’ with the independence of door-to-door travel. In this kind of world the restriction of a track may lead to trains entering retirement.
Pylons may also become a thing of the past – they are currently needed as a way to transport large quantities of electricity from the site where it is generated to the distributed end-users at the point in time when it is actually consumed. The missing technology of our day is electrical storage. The same technologies that will eventually give us ‘electric’ cars and cheap, viable solar panels (far better than the ones of today) will allow power to be stored locally to where it is consumed. These local reservoirs of power (one in every village!) can be slowly and continuously charged up ready for the peak demand when the whole village makes a cup of tea just before The Archers (also facing possible extinction). The need to supply peak demand directly from the power station will obviate the need for so many Pylons and overhead power lines (which are even now a financial and logistical train on the operation of utilities).
In the background of this pictures is a road – the village bypass – but no cars appeared in these snaps.
I made these sketches directly of the pylons to see how they could be represented.
Afterwards I experimented with using positive and negative space to represent the pylon structure.
This reminds me of Bawden’s Brighton Pier print which has reversed sections… interesting way to change the dominant tone of an area of the work – by reversing the light/dark it creates an area of dark/light.
This was interesting because it shows trees in front of another man-made contruction. This is a foot bridge – it used to resemble a railway carriage but was re-modelled with floor to ceiling windows exposing the zig-zag structure. The similarity with the polons where they are shown photographed through trees is to be noted – both that the trees are a definitely different texture and that the bare pre-Spring trees do not obstruct our observation of the pylons or the bridge in a strong way. The might give context of scale.
These railway tracks viewed through a narrow gridded fence cause the tracks to look broken into fragments – very much like ‘pixellation’ on computer imagery.
Thinking about the aim of this piece of work – #i like to have an aim in mind in order to focus on what I’m portraying. Bawden would have been commissioned to create works depicting markets and stations for organisations with an interest in promoting them – trade and travel ‘boards’ etc. For my purposes I’m looking for a story to tell and at the moment it seems to revolve around the rise and fall of these pieces of infrastructure – railways, which have seemingly already had their hayday – and overhead power lines – a less glamourous workhorse of the modern age that may also be destined for extinction.
In the area where I live there is another issue which is connected – the so-called HS2 – a newly planned high-speed rail link between London and destinations north along a Western route – reaching Leeds and Manchester. It is an interesting time when the railway seems to be both in decline and ascendance, and the proposed rout for the HS2 is only a few miles away from Wendover where I took the photos above. he rout is controversial as it passes right through the centre of the Chiltern Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Some parts of the track are underground around Chesham and Amersham but long lengths are above ground and will cut a swath through this area where even simple planning for houses has been restricted for many years.
I’ve always found electricity pylons to be both a vital requirement and an ugly blight on the landscape, especially when composing photographs of a country view. They are also compelling spectacles – towering over us impressively in a way not unlike the spectacle of the Eiffel Tower (albeit a lot smaller). Trains too hold a fascination – boys who dreamed of being train drivers (before there were pilots and astronauts to compete with) and the glistening examples of Steam Engines that still adorn museums… and reproductions of Bawden’s work.
So here I am back at the beginning – the celebration as well as the curse of industry.
It has just occured to me that two colour lino prints can have a quality that is ghost-like: where the second colour does not completely obliterate the first. This could be used to evoke ghosts of the past or foreshadow the future. I’m imagining then an ‘unspoilt’ landscape over which are printed the industry of trains and power lines. In this way I could then experiment with the various opacities of the printing ink to evoke different meanings – or where colours can vary the response.
This means that the Chiltern Hills themselves become a major subject for the work so I will need to discover a way to represent them for a lino print technique.
Explore ways to represent these elements:
- The Chiltern Hills AONB possibly including
- Sky and clouds, sunshine, rain
- The hills themselves, horizons, crops, meadows, forests
- Flora: trees, grass, hendgrows, more trees
- Fauna: humans (Ramblers!), birds (Kites!), deer, dogs, cows, sheep, hens, horses
- Houses: Flint styling, farmhouses and farms,
- The current Railway
- Trains and carriages
- Catenary – overhead power cables!
- Look of the finished design – how does the train look to us public?
- Pylons and Electric Transmission Lines
Consider colours and how they might work (becomes a shopping list for printing ink)
I began exploring ideas by drawing the generic shape of a modern high speed train – the colours and style on this one were from a photograph of one such train on Google (which I’ve now lost. Ooops!), so I didn’t design that – but drawing it is a jumpingoff point to see where we go visually with this project.
It reminded me of ‘Stremlined’ a word that seems to originate in 1868 (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/streamlined) as a description of a literal line that describes the direction of motion in a fluid. It was co-opted by car manufacturers to describe the graceful curves of cars that came after the boxy Fords. They may not have been using it scientifically.
I thought of a bullet rather than a train and the extreme speeds it reaches. I draw shockwaves in front of it which led me to the idea that the shockwaves (a sort of opposite to the ‘stream’ lines) effect the surrounding area.
Thinking about the differences between bullets and trains – wheels! You can’t see the wheels of a HS train. Bawden used a charming device of coiled line to represent many wheels and wheels in motion on a train.
My daughter likes this (insert ‘thumps up’ symbol here).
The Rothschild family in Tring had the train station built one mile away from their country house, and therefore one mile from Tring Town. Today we do the same – protest that the railway will devastate our own communities. And yet we also look back at the steam age ‘romantically’ – like it was an engine of charm and beauty!
I gave the image some colour in Photoshop as a first step towards the style of Bartosz Kosowski. It is interesting that the colour is applied in a slap-dash manner and yet the original pencil work come through and make the image almost in spite of how ‘carelessly’ the colour is applied. The colours are simple, just a single hue of each green, blue and red, but they make the foreground image come out from the implied grass and sky backgrounds.
In these sketches I’m looking for different forms of expression that I can use that approach Proch’s use of shape and colour. Two things jump out for looking back on these: the rectangular shapes that (to me) represent the harsh noise of a speedboat engine could be blocks of colour rather than just lines… either fatter outlines or whole rectangles that overlapp. I think of these as square radiating sound waves. The squareness is like the harshness of the engine sound.
The second thing is in the 4th picture where there is a texture of vertical pale blue strokes – these don’t align with anything that I considered to be present like the waves of the water or sky… perhaps they come close to being the reflections in the water… but the point is that even thought they don’t align with the direction of travel of the speedboat or the various motions of the water to seem to enhance the energy of the situation. Perhaps they are a form of ‘directional contrast’ – because the boat and water move along other lines these vertical (more static?) lines emphasise the energy in the moving parts by being a contrast in direction. There might be a sense of this in ‘Time Lags’ or ‘Endless Conversation’ but the visual sense of it is more subtle.
Jeremy Clarkson has just been sacked by the BBC due to his physical attack on a colleague. He’s not proud of it and neither are ‘we’. However, nobody died. I’v now imagined that it is Jeremy Clarkson who is in my speedboat… perhaps ‘Top Outboard-Motor’ or ‘Top Speed’ is going to be his next venture for independent TV… or maybe it’s his reckless way to ‘retire’ to some unfortunate ‘quiet’ Mediterranean island. Either way this easily makes my illustration into a slightly satirical accompaniment to an editorial on the fate of the car-clueless presenter.
Proch and Bawden
- Lino cut of the Chilterns showing Pylons and HS2 after the style of Bawden
- Illustration of a speedboat driven by Jeremy Clarkson after the style of Proch
The lino cut work is awaiting access to tools and materials but in the mean time I’ve looked at the process in preparation and at the kind of prints that can be achieved. It is surprising how big these print are today – modern lino print artists produce ‘detailed’ work the size of a room – the reason the word ‘detailed’ is in inverted commas is that the detail is there compared to the overall scale of the work. Small lino prints exhibit coarse detail compared to drawing or painting.
For the lino cut I’m going to focus on the pylons and the chiltern hills – these two elements create a contrast in structure – the pylons are straight-edged and geometric whereas the hills over which they stride are rounded, sometimes a little dramatic in shape but generally curved.
The actual power lines hanging from the pylons are one part that is curved – but very fine. The challenge will be to find an economy of shape that also tries to represent these two structural elements of the scene.
The challenge with Clarkson in a speedboat is the representation of the feeling and emotion of the scene in shape and colour. The medium is still perhaps a choice to be made. I can plan it in pencil and ink. Perhaps the final piece should be painted in acrylic on board or canvas to a larger scale in order to synthesise part of Proch’s experience in making his works – an important part for him is the improvisation that takes place during the painting of the final work: he would not have a detailed sketch.
Proch – Clarkson
I would like to mention paint. I’ve spent a lot of my time on this course and the Graphic Design 1 course using smaller pen-based drawing techniques for all of my work. Outside of the course I use emulsion and acrylic paint for scenic painting but these rarely venture beyond rendering static scenery (like house interiors or textures to make a painted area like wood, leaves or bricks). Looking at Proch’s work and trying to decide what kind of techniques are required to emulate his style of work I’ve found quite hard. He uses a lot of spray paint but I’m unsure how much or in what way he uses it – I never see ‘run’ marks on his work but it looks like he holds the spray close to the work surface.
I can imaging that some if the ‘overlay’ areas are produced using spray and mask techniques which I might need to try if I can’t produce the effects using brushes.
Bawden – Chilterns