The Learning Log that pertains directly to this Assignment is located at…
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The brief is broad – I made a list of aspects of myself that I could include and deciding which to use.
I listed some approaches (life event, an interest, a place etc) and some thoughts about specific applications of these approaches (a childhood nightmare, self-portrait).
Researching ‘myself’ is not simple: being as I am me. It is hard to step back and assess my thoughts about me using my brain – it is the brain analysing itself!
Reading the book ‘Daring Greatly’ coincided with this assignment work – its insights into self-reflection influenced how I approached this work.
I made a connection between the disjointed picture and some off-cut pieces of ply that I had collected after making some scenery – a link with my work – they were a result, a sign, or a clue. I thought about them as body parts. Some of them reminded me of ‘Photo Corners’ and I built an idea about representing my photography using these offcuts from my other work.
This first one I added a background in that is reminiscent of a photo studio.
I used Adobe ‘Shape’ to capture just the outline shapes of the wood so that I could experiment with them in Illustrator. This also gave me access to scaling.
I created different figures to find an appropriate shape that would communicate ‘Dancer’:
I chose the solo ballerina en pointe – the shape that was most easy to discern as a dancer but also linked directly to photographs that I have taken of dancers.
During the scaling and arranging process in Adobe Illustrator I chanced to create a situation where the dancer was not entirely inside the four-cornered frame and realised that this arrangement represented another dance-world image: the mirror which is used for training.
I had been thinking about just showing a photograph in an album (with its corners) but this gave a second interpretation that was still connected.
The figure is not me: would that be misleading? I wanted to show myself somewhere – what was my role as photographer?
It is important to me that the photos I take of dancers capture their skill, training and experience; my role as photographer is also the result of skill, training and experience and the photograph – now a digital artefact rather than a physical one – is like a meeting point, an instant in time where those things coincide.
Through breaking down these ideas in different ways I came to ‘numbers’ as way to represent these ideas. Out of the possibilities I chose to represent the dance work through the numbers 1 to 8 as dance is often choreographed and remembered using eight-counts to time the movements. The photography has a highly technical and computerised element to it for which I used binary digits.
I notice that some decisions pander to the viewers’ preconceptions rather than the ‘truth’. For example – although photography is represented here like a ‘machine’ it is far from that. Essential elements in photography are decisions made using human skills of interpretation and judgement rather than it being a textbook-scientific or mechanical process. Likewise the numbers 1 to 8 I have created in a hand-drawn way to elicit a sense of ‘art’ and ‘beauty’ as opposed to ‘mechanical’ or ‘accuracy’ but the truth is that dancers train long and hard to acquire skills that we ascribe to machines such as ‘accuracy’, ‘replication’ and stamina that enables ‘tireless-looking’ work: the grace and musicality is there on show too but it is their technical skills that allow this to look effortless and as intended.
I considered showing many aspects of the dancer’s work – further dividing the dancers’ shape into areas that showed ‘work’, ‘musicality’, ‘muscle memory’. I experimented with some ways of writing numbers – using charcoal on textured paper for example – for both the dancer and the photography and came to the idea of representing blood – red and blue – to show physical work being done. This lead to using the numbers themselves as a blood substitute.
I started working in Illustrator to create the dancer, mirror and photo corners – all scaled, rotated and flipped as necessary. These components were then imported to Photoshop where it is easier to apply texturing to separate layers.
I created three ‘textures’ in different ways for the illustration.
Importing this to Photoshop I created the red and blue colour scheme – ‘blood colours’ – by substituting colours using a ‘Colour Gradient’. The centre of this gradient was black to keep the two colours apart for a slightly different effect.
The binary digits I created by making two lino cuts – a zero and one – and filling a sheet with prints from them. The process included using a camera memory card to define the size and shape of the surrounding ‘brackets’.
In the end I had to replicate this image 8 times to cover the whole mirror in digits that are sufficiently small. I had also inverted it to produce a black background and yellow digits. On the final image this is blended with the mirror effect and is a little ghostly so the colour is not apparent.
I was left with a plain background. I thought about this being a photograph album so recreated the heavy, lightly textured, black card from which (perhaps historically now) photograph albums are commonly made. This was done entirely digitally within photoshop.
I have mixed feelings about ‘Mixed Media’. It has become something quite simple in the end – a lot of the work was understanding me and how I was going to communicate something about myself. I like the result, personally, but as an exercise in communication I think the image needs a lot of explaining, particularly about the origin of the shapes that make up the dancer. I have reservations about the fact that those shapes are not the best ones with which to represent the shape of a dancer… but I am also sure that the choice looks deliberate – a stylistic choice rather than a bad attempt at life drawing.
On the positive side – I enjoy a degree of inscrutability. If this were an illustration to accompany an article about the life of a dancer and their experience of being photographed (or of the life of a photographer) then the meaning might gradually unravel as the article was read. I enjoy the double-meaning of the mirror/photograph, the dance studio/album.
In another context I like that the viewer might have questions ‘what does it mean?’ and may go on to provide their own, unique, answers – ones I didn’t put there.
The exercise at the start of Graphic Design 1 was similar but much less ‘physical’ work contributed – it was mostly born in the computer.
In keeping with the philosophies behind this piece I’ve discovered a range of technical difficulties with lino cutting that need to be overcome in order to produce the results seen historically. These include accurate cutting (you can’t ‘undo’ a cut); ink management (a lot of work goes into having only the right amount on the cut); paper choice (I didn’t explore this in depth but I used two different papers and the absorbancy matters for a clean result); you can’t be tentative about cutting – bold cuts exactly where they’re needed gets best results (the first cut needs to be the right shape). You tend to get ink on your fingers (and other places it isn’t intended to go) – need to not get it on the work (except via the print)!
After all of that before even considering the actual design.