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.

IPS: Part 2

I did not work as much on my IPS during the first term as I wish I had. I planned to spend two days every week just working on it, but in reality I spent more time on the Play & Learn project as well as working on my Sugar Skull molds, a pet project I had since Unit 8. I also spent more time than I originally planned on my dissertation, which put me into a logical thinking mode that made me visually numb. I tried to combat this by watching HBO’s Carnivàle and writing drafts of diary entries and letters that would suit the performers. It did help me flesh out the story and characters, as well as shifting the point of view, but visually I was almost stunned.

I borrowed several books for research during the Christmas holiday. One of the books had an interesting collection of sideshow banners, which really caught my attention. I painted several small reproductions with gouache that was cut and glued into my sketchbook. At this stage I still played with the idea of making large oil-painted sideshow banners myself, but I later dropped that idea.

I looked at feminist erotic comics and literature to ensure that my Tijuana bible would be empowering and sexy without consorting to the male gaze as most pornography does.

The first three weeks of the spring term was dedicated to the Play & Learn project, to ensure it would be finished by the Interim show. I thought I could return to my IPS without any problems, but at this point I had drifted so far from my original ideas, which honestly were quite vague, that I did not know what to do. Should I try to make lot of delicate artworks before I even knew the synopsis of my story? How should I visualize the characters without using harmful stereotypes? Would the Tijuana bible I spent so much time researching really add something, or would it confuse the message? And what message was I aiming for, really?

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 5

I finally had an idea for my outcome, but I needed to research different games to better find game mechanics that better conveyed my message. I originally looked at Kalaha and other Mancala games, since they are both very simple and offers loads of different strategies. I also wanted to make game tokens that represented teeth, so that the players would literally handle other people's teeth while they played the game. I also looked at Operation and Crocodile Dentist since you are encouraged to remove parts from the patients. I even played with the idea to make a disembodied face to collect the tokens from, but it felt way to grotesque and disrespectful.

This is another quick sketch on flimsy newsprint, but this wireframe helped me to structure the rules and visualize what kind of game elements (boards, cards, tokens) that I needed to produce for the mock-up. Since the rule system itself conveys a message, I realized that I needed to playtest it several times with friends and other students.

This mock-up is made of three thin MDF boards that were laser-cut into 9 mouths and 126 tokens, which were used to estimate roughly how many bricks should be collected each turn and when the game should be considered finished. I wrote the first draft of the rules based on these tests and designed 11 kinds of cards the player would use during play. I have played it several times against other students and it seemed fairly well-balanced. Some suggested that I should add some sort of consequence for removing the last token from a mouth, but otherwise it was fun. Way too fun. Honestly, I was not prepared that it would be so fun to remove teeth tokens from minimalistic mouths!

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.

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?

IPS: Part 1

Hi everyone! The first month of final year has passed and it's time to update this blog, although in a slightly messier manner. The projects are fewer but more complex, so expect to see ongoing updates rather than summaries of things I have done. Be also prepared to find IPS (individual program of study) work with course work, life drawings, and personal projects. With that said, let us begin with the biggest collection of new work for my IPS, which I hinted at in my quick update in March.

I made the first sketches for my IPS in March, after I read about Jean Furella Carroll. She was originally a bearded lady who was in love with a man who could not accept her whiskers. After fifteen years (!) of unanswered love, she decided to remove her beard and cover her body in tattoos. This story is often framed as a sweet love story of dedication, but to me it is more about unequal relationships and sacrifices. The clash of themes fueled my imagination and I started to research about women and tattoos.

During the summer vacation, I started to look more into American sideshows photographs, postcards, and banners. To get a better understanding of the setting and cultural mindset, I also researched (African) American history, specific events such as the Monkey Trials and the Dust Bowl, personal photographs, contemporary circuses, as well as cameras, packages, and tattoos from the 20s and 30s. I also did some sketches of Diane Arbus after several of my dissertation sources referenced or discussed her work.

Independent State: Primer

This project is, without doubt, the most complicated brief we had so far. The intention is to explore the political power of illustration and graphic design, but also get a deeper understanding of how contemporary politics works. The primer was quite simple in itself: Watch a documentary, do individual research, and draw 10 things that a state must provide for its citizens. The last thing we had to do was to enter a political poster competition hosted by The Guardian.

I had some difficult things to handle during Easter, including a break-up from a long-term relationship, a search for accommodation in Stockholm, and wait for a reply on my job application. It was first when I finished my essay I visited the British Museum and walked around the neighbourhoods for my research.

The Guardian competition closed one week before school started. This was something I realized when it was less than 24 hours left. I immediately went home and sketched like mad, but I couldn’t force myself to produce something even passable. Not because I don’t care about politics, but because my main issue was the pluralistic representation system, which I think is absolutely bollocks.

I wanted to show how outdated the system was by drawing David Cameron in a stage costume he wore when he was nine years old: It was the last time a party in UK had support from majority of the voters. I backed out though and have still not produced a finished poster. I will try to do it either this weekend or beginning of next week.

Even though these sketches were a good warm up for the 10 images, I still felt a bit rusty after a longer period of 3D design and project management. I solved this by drawing owls instead of humans. After all, we say a parliament of owls in English. Surely they must have some sort of society to back up that claim?

Affordable Housing

Art Funding

Education

Environmental Protection

Fair Justice System

Independent Media

Healthcare

Libraries

Public Transport

Waste Management

 This is the final versions that I went with. My original idea was to include a full forest and more detailed branches, but I feared that it would take too much focus from the owls. You can also see that some sketches did not make it into final stage. They were too similar to other images, but less striking. I removed them in order to make each image stand out more.

Edition: Part 2

This spread how some of the extra drawings I did to further explore personal subjects. This includes my feet as well as a roller derby-champ on a post-it note. Not only do I tend to get sweaty feet, but I also tend to wear out my shoes rather quickly. I played with the idea that they might be used as non-traceable chemical weapons, but decided against that idea.

I really like this spread. It visualizes some ideas that I had for over a year, as well as some new one that I got during the primer. I also enjoy the SWOT-analysis in the corner with small and quick drawings. I did it to compensate for the misunderstanding of the brief, but some of my classmates prefer those sketches to my ordinary work. You can also see the first sketches of the texture/rug book, as well as some weird insoles. They will become more significant further on.

I had a couple of rough and dissatisfying group collaborations in London. I liked the idea of making an ironic activity book that informs the reader how they also can fuck up collaborations with “tried and trusted” examples that I have experienced! I decided against it though, mostly because of my personal dislike of irony and shaming. Some of the other ideas include “carte de visite” with ordinary people replacing the sideshow prodigies, a stuffed log for Twin Peaks fans, and a moon wine cup that would be cast in transparent silicone.

This fold focused on different possibilities to cut and fold paper. The idea is that the way a booklet unfolds effect the narrative itself. However, I did not feel that these sketches were so productive when I did not have story to begin with. This spread also shows caricatures of Agent Mulder and Agent Scully, as well as the first sketches of a foot-shaped box for insoles.

At this point I decided to explore textures and tactility. You see, I usually prefer to be barefooted since I believe it helps me to keep the focus: the extra stimulus of temperature and texture acts also makes me a bit more aware of my surroundings. I decided that my edition should inspire others to walk more barefoot in a fun and creative way.

My first intention was to make a texture/rug book, a nice joke on behalf of more fancy art books. These spreads shows my visual research on possible bindings and covers.

When I discussed the project with some of my classmates, I realized that the size of the book might be a problem. Most people tend to spread their feet apart while resting, which could end up in a costly and cumbersome product. Some ideas were to have loose sheets, have a large pop-up book or perhaps even two smaller books. After doing some more research on barfuss trails, barefoot running, and reflexology, I decided to ditch the book idea and return to the insoles.

This is a collection of different material that I thought about of using. The first idea was to mimic textures we normally encounter as barefoot, such as the beach, wooden floor with strewed present paper and bubble wrap, camping, and so on. I decided to scrap the idea after doing some research on tactile illustrations. The idea instead geared to make a preparation kit with a handful of insoles, which the user would wear to prepare their feet before going barefoot. The materials had to be distinguishable from each other.

This project went extraordinary well. I discussed ideas with visiting artists, tutors, technicians, and classmates. The boxes turned out to be quite simple to make: All I had to do was to soak strips of thick cardboard in water and clamp it to a wood negative to dry into the right shape. While they dried up, I decided to work on a nice logotype for the finished products. My first idea was to do something classy, perhaps Art Deco-inspired, like a luxury brand. However, I felt that my typography attempt next to Sebastian Kniepp’s portrait (the German vicar who inspired the first barefuss trails) just felt shallow.

I decided to do something more modernistic, but also find a way to incorporate a foot into the design somehow. One idea was to draw the letters like separate toes, but I felt that it was to many characters and that the end result did not look especially nice. I renamed the “Barefoot Preparation Kit” to “Barfüss Preparation Kit” and play around with the letter Ü, added two extra dots and curved it slightly to indicate a sole.

Edition: Part 1

For this primer, we had to research what an edition is and draw/make/collect 30 reflections of our daily life. I combined my drawings with a handful of collected items, which I will not show here. Furthermore, I misunderstood the brief and thought that we were supposed to visualize examples of editions in our diary. I therefore started drawingeditions that I either own or heard about.

The two most prominent meanings of the word edition is 1) a limited run or series o a commodity or 2) a specific version of it. I thought this was especially interesting when it comes to downloadable games, like GOTY Edition of Arkham City: It is indeed a specific version of the game (with all DLC included), but it is also an open edition with no limitations.

My friend Annalotta Pauly told me about Rutherford Chang who collects the Beatles’ White Album and end exhibited over 1000 copies in Liverpool last year. I do not really have anything to say about him, but I thought it would be nice to include him in my research. You can read more about him here

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I started to push the definition aspect to abstract or absurd limits, which lead to ovaries. Think about it! People who have ovaries are born with all the egg cells they need for the rest of their life: You could therefore say that they are an edition. Same thing goes for my legs: I may lose them and replace them with prosthesis legs, but they will never be exactly like those I was born with. They are both a limited run and a specific version!

I do not read superheroes comics and still managed to cram two references to DC in the same post. Anyway, Action Comics #1 are the most valuable comic books out there, but it only cost 10 cents when it came out. While there are many factors that contribute to their value, rarity is probably one of the most important. 

Another example of the connections between shortage and value are the Brillo Boxes. They were levitated to art by Andy Warhol who exhibited them in an art gallery in the 60s. A Swedish museum made authorized copies in the 60s and unauthorized in the early 90s. Those who were made in the 90s was later sold to buyers who did not know that they were fakes. Even the Warhol estate included them in the records without further research! It took several years until a Swedish journalist uncovered the truth, which lead to a huge scandal! You can read more about that here

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This is the most gothic spread I have: Death and love. While the days we have left are an obvious limited edition, the other is a bit more complex. The experience of new love is created by chemicals (hormones and steroids), which creates strong feelings of affection and passion. But these feelings do not last forever. Sometimes they are transformed into a more stable but perhaps less passionate relationships; sometimes the affection disappears all together.

 And now it’s time for the most sci-fi of the spreads. My favourite horror film is John Carpenter’s The Thing, which takes place on a scientific outpost in Antarctica. We have a limited cast where one after one is infected/devoured by an alien that imitate them perfectly afterwards: It is the perfect mix of paranoia and body horror! The robot is a ink sketch of a Boston Dynamics Big Dog, an advanced four-legged robot that adjust to terrain, run at impressive speeds, and is very hard to knock down. Scientists have only built a handful of these, each version better than the last.

I finally realized that I misunderstood the brief at this point and started to draw thing from everyday life, like experiences I had or things I enjoy. The last spread boarded to an exhausted cry for help. The duck is based on an of-beat comment that compared the Muscovy duck’s feather crest with the hairstyle of Elvis Presley or James Dean. I also added a doodle of myself complaining about the poor paper quality of my sketchbook. It is so thin that you can see right through it: It is really distracting.