Painting Workshop with Rob Nicol

Somewhere in the middle of the spring term, after the interim show, we had the opportunity to sign up for a painting workshop. I still thought about making one of those sideshow banners, so I happily joined in. We had to prepare by choosing a few colours and objects to work with, which would be related to our IPS. I did not really have any good objects at the time, so it ended up with some parts of my trash collection. The paint was also kind of trash, in form of test samples and leftovers I wanted to clear up. However, I still enjoyed the workshop and think some of the images are pretty neat. It also helped me think more about colour and colour scheme, which you can see in this post.

IPS: Part 3

I managed to fill out an entire sketchbook at the beginning of January for my IPS work, but most of my attention went into my Play & Learn project. I also worked on two personal projects that started out as foot notes but gradually took over my spring. This resulted in a sketchbook where the reference photos and moodboards almost surpass all the sketches. Most of the images were collected from library books and internet searching.

While the previous spreads focused on carte de visits and/or postcards, this spread was inspired by the “Moroccan Moments” and “Oriental Magic” banners, which suited the scorpion girl imagery that I already started working on. These references come from Abderrahman Slaouis book “The Orientalist Poster.” (Casablanca, Malika Editions) from 1997. I imagined that the two main characters agree to change their scene costumes to fit an orientalist theme. And since the sideshow was used to enforce racial stereotypes and eroticisation, I decided to look at oriental stereotypes rather than researching authentic fashion from Morocco. The sexualized depictions of women were later combined with a fantastic pulp cover to make a burlesque outfit in one of my final images.

These are the first thumbnails and/or quick sketches I did for the IPS, which feels like something I should have done earlier. I do not know why I have that gut feeling since I only used them after my primary research are finished, which it was at this point. I guess it was because my research were so vast and hard to define – I wanted my imagery to be quite realistic and follow the characters across US in the 1930s. Even though I’m slowly working to the finish line, it still feels like I have not done enough research.

These thumbnails also functions as the loose storyboard for the project. At this stage I imagined the final result to be a large interactive installation, a culmination of the experience I learned from the Play & Learn project. The images, as well as some short letters, would be presented in a cigar box. The audience would then pick up these memorabilia and put them on the wall, which would have different dramatic curves according to Kurt Vonnegut’s lecture about the shape of stories. Because of the interactive aspect, the images would not have to follow a strictly sequential storytelling but rather to stand out and be memorable on their own.

It took my at least one full afternoon to make all these thumbnails sketches. I focused more on realistic imagery and compositions rather than playing around with stylized or abstract image making. Main sources of inspiration was Walker Evans and Dorothea Lange for realism and Edward Hopper for compositions and level of detail. I also referred to Ransom Rigg’s book “Talking Pictures: Images and Messages Rescued from the Past” (New York, HarperCollins Publishers) from 2012.

At this point I decided to quickly go through all the thumbnails and redo them with ink splotches. The idea was to trim down the imagery and get a better sense of the graphic shapes. I did not put so much effort into it as you might guess, but it helped me come up with creative compositions that were later used for the final pieces.

Play & Learn: Part 6

How do you make a game less fun to play, but not making it preachy or boring? I did not want to change the game system too much since it was rather balanced and enjoyed by all test players. No, my approach was to work more on the visual identity of the game. After discussing my problems with tutors and other students, I decided to make the game boards separate and more human-like to create empathy and compassion. Another aim was to emulate the graphic design from the time period in the rules and cards, as well as adding trivia about the experiments. Finally, I also decided to add images of damaged teeth to visually emphasize the consequence of the experiments. Some of my discarded ideas include red ID number on each board as well as forcing the players to wear surgical masks during play.

I returned to London about a week before the spring term started. This gave me plenty of time to discuss my ideas with the 3d design and ceramics technicians. They advised me to only make the tokens in porcelain, unlike my original idea were everything but the lips were made in a slip mould. Because of this, I had to come up with new designs that moved away from time-consuming ceramics to something that would be easier to mass produce. I also needed to ensure that the final design would not be too grotesque and off-putting. The minimal board designs would be cheaper overall, but they did not evoke the same emotions in the players as the larger face-shaped boards that I finally went with.

I decided to make the boards out of birch plywood since birch was one of the most popular woods in Swedish design from the time period. After a trip to the 4D ModelShop in London, the silicon lips were changed to plastizone due to time constraint and costs. I also laser-cut a special token tray that I used to make roughly 180 porcelain tokens that was sprayed with an transparent glaze. I order paper samples from G.F. Smith and Paper Back, but ended up printing on some thicker paper from a local stationers due to time limitations. While I did all this, I also read the book Sockerförsöket by Elin Bommenel, which explain the experiments, from the historical and political context to the scientific methods and collaborations with the industry. The book also mentions the consequences of the experiments, the controversies regarding the final report and how it was used to reform the Swedish dental care. It was three intensive weeks to say the least!

Play & Learn: Part 2

I decided to leave the topics aside for a while and look at the research suggestions provided the tutors. It was a great mix of videos, children books, graphic design, and work done by previous students, which helped me to start thinking outside the box and imagine possible outcomes of the project. Here are some  of my sketchbook spreads:

I also visited the Science Museum in London and looked at their permanent exhibition to see how they used playful interaction for educational purposes. I wish in hindsight that I spent less time downstairs and more in the “Engineer your Future” room, where they keep all their wacky science experiments. Wished I did some more sketching up there as well, but there were too many eager kids and watchful parents for my comfort. With that said, the hammer mechanism in the second image became pretty useful during our first group project.

Play & Learn: Part 1

Last summer we had to choose between four different primers which would become the foundation for our final year projects. One of these primers was Play & Learn, which focus on creating an interactive and playful learning experience through illustration and design. I choose to focus on thehistory of sugar, mostly because Nordiska Museet in Stockholm had a temporary exhibition on the subject. Here are some of the location drawings I produced during my visits.

Everything was new to me: even though I have heard the connections between sugar and colonialism, I had not yet understood the direct connections to slavery and rise of racism. I did not know that the sugar industry was the 7th largest industry in Sweden during the 1930s. The Swedish government lowered taxes for the industry to create job during the depression, which in turn propagate the cheap and healthy benefits of granulated sugar. I was also surprised to learn that sugar was used in Middle Eastern medicine to create the first medical pills and tablets during the 15th century, and that it was a key ingredient in medicine up to the 20th century. All information excited me, but it also became a problem: how would I ever be able to limit my focus to just one topic?

Independent State: The alienated Flânuer of Peckham

The current project I work on had a slow start. There were to many things I worried about: I had an IPS and dissertation presentation today, assessment next week; I struggle with my finances and am looking for a new room to rent in September. I also started research my IPS, which was more fun but it also took precious time from the project.

I had several tutorials for this project. In my first tutorial, I discussed ideas and decided to do something based on masks and identity. My intention was to create a mask that reflects how communities create identities through celebrities and folk heroes. However, I was criticized for deciding the project's outcome before doing a proper research during my second tutorial. I listened to the criticism and did life-drawings in Peckham to generate ideas. This was very useful! Not only did I clear my mind, but I also found interesting places and objects that inspired me.

I went to my third tutorial this Monday, this time with another tutor. I showed her my sketches and discussed my previous idea. A dirty mirror turned out to be a turning point! Instead of trying to make 'the mask of Peckham', I would make a mask in mirrored card. After all, we use mirrors to reflect ourselves, to enforce our sense of personal identity. Today this role is taken over by selfies and social media, which both connects and alienates us: Even though I live in Peckham since October, I have only explored around 20-30% of the streets before I did my life-drawings.

I take masked selfies all around Camberwell and Peckham at this stage. The mask shows the alienation through hiding my face, my source of identification, while also highlighting my dependence of social media as a potential source of this alienation. Internet seduces me to chat with old friends, consume pop-culture, and plan for the future, rather than focus on the present and spend time with my classmates. If you look carefully, you may see my smartphone and/or the closest surroundings reflected in each photograph.

How can we break this isolation of the self? My personal solution lies in the act of walking. I often take a stroll when I hang out with my friends, chatting about everything that cross our mind while our bodies navigate through space. The act of walking also gives me a sense of power: Not only do I exhort my will and power over my body, but also over my surroundings. It feels that i de-mystify it in order to define it and ultimately control it. One of the first things I did first time I visited New York was to go for a 3 hours walk, just so I could get to know the city.

I plan to work more with this piece before our exhibition. I want to make a short video of the photographs like the auto generated Facebook videos, but I do not know how I should end it. Should I tear, cut, and break the mask every passing day, to show the gradual decrease of alienation? Or should I keep the mask intact since we cannot simply back away from internet and social media at this point?

Life Drawings

We had optional life drawing classes during the Spring term as well. This is some examples of my work there, presented in no particular order. First out are traditional life drawings.

The following images combines traditional techniques with abstract drawings of sounds and movements.

These drawings was made blindfolded, based on the sound the model made while walking around.

The last drawings was also made blindfolded, but they were based on a story the model read out loud.