In this piece of writing I will discuss my progression through my degree course and the development of my work during this time. I feel my creative practice has evolved in many different directions and continues to be incredibly varied. I don’t feel I am the sort of artist who will ever develop a set style, but I don't think that is a bad thing, as I would just get bored too quickly!
During my second year I most enjoyed the children's book illustration unit, where I wrote and illustrated my own story.
I enjoyed working in this way because it was very free and expressive. I also enjoyed the creativity of being in control of everything from the story to the illustrations, layout and text of a book. This project gave me confidence in my abilities and is something I feel very proud of.
Moving into third year I again tried to focus on children's illustration, this time with slightly adult themes, as a way to continue with what I enjoyed but with more meaning. I decided to write my own story, about the Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland, as he interests me. I wanted to break away from the children’s story and chose to make a darker story, aimed at older children or adults. I wanted to make something of the Hatter’s “madness” and so I did a lot of research into mental illness, specifically Schizophrenia and Manic Depression.
I became bored of this project in the end though, it didn’t really inspire me and I had trouble expressing myself through an adaptation of a classic story. I felt that my final outcome was only successful to a certain extent. It could have been better if I had more time. I think the way the narrative progressed portrayed the Hatter’s highs and lows, reminiscent of the symptoms of Manic Depression, but the scenes in ‘wonderland’ signified the delusional nature of Schizophrenia. I am happy with this mixed outcome, as I didn’t want the character’s state of mind to be easily labeled because mental illness is complicated and shouldn’t be easily labeled.
After NP I decided I needed change of direction for my EMP work. I began to realise that it was the ‘fun’ aspects of my children's illustration that excited me the most: the play on words with the title of my first narrative, the bright colours and collage and childlike techniques used in creating my second narrative. I wanted my EMP project to reflect my sense of fun because I didn’t enjoy the serious aspects of my NP work. It just wasn’t me.
So my EMP project ended up being an alternative self-portrait. I am intrigued by the themes of identity and representation and the way in which an individual is perceived by others. I decided I wanted to visually represent aspects of my own personality, both positive and negative, in a fun way that an audience could relate to. I also made the conscious decision to move away from drawing as I was beginning to feel frustrated by not being able to successfully translate the images in my head onto paper. I instead chose to indulge my strong interest in textiles and craft and make my imagery three-dimensional and then capture it photographically.
I created 20 plush monsters which each represented one aspect of my personality. I then took the monsters into my life and photographed them in relevant situations. I really liked this aspect of the project as it made it a very personal experience to me. By introducing the “personality monsters” into familiar situations I gave the project a very hands-on feeling, similar to method acting.
Here are a few of my favourite images:
I am your ugly, self-loathing.
I am your greedy sweet tooth.
I am your self-destructive tendencies.
I like these images because I feel like they really communicated their meaning to the audience. I also really like the finality of the last one: the sense of a captured moment of destruction that can never be re-created in exactly the same way. I am aware that this is an unusual approach to illustration but I have very little interest in the copycat styles of illustration that are being produced by a majority of illustrators at present. I am more inspired by practitioners who have the confidence and imagination to think outside of the box and do something different and this often lead me to look outside of the illustration community for inspiration.
One example would be Julie Taymor, an American theatre director and designer. Her costume designs for the stage adaptation of The Lion King are world-renowned. Taymor used her background interest in puppetry and experimental theatre to create a stunning piece of visual theatre, in which the performers had to use a combination of puppetry and physical theatre to re-create the fun and excitement of the original animated film.
This image is taken during the performance. The effect of a pack of gazelles was created by having the dancers wear puppet gazelles on their head and arms; this meant that as the dancers moved so did the animals. I love this image as it is truly a captured moment, with all the dancers in the air the effect is complete and it looks stunning.
Here the same kind of technique is used to capture the comic qualities of Timon and Pumba. I think Taymor's work appeals to me more so because of my background in theatre.
Another artist I am really inspired by is the illustrator Dave McKean, especially his children’s book illustrations for Neil Gaiman.
(The Wolves in the Walls)
(The day I swapped my dad for two goldfish)
I love the depth and texture to his images and the creative mixture of collage, paint and ink. Again, McKean is another practitioner who is not afraid to break the mould in his approach to illustration. I think this gives his children’s book illustration double the appeal, as they are fun and interesting to children and also visually appealing to the parents buying the book.
This is another example of Dave McKean’s work, this time not aimed at children. I really love this style of illustration and the combination of texture with photographic elements. I would like to take inspiration form this method of working in my future ventures into illustration as I think it suits my slightly scruffy, thrown together style.
Throughout my degree I have been actively engaged in outside activities to help promote myself. I keep a creative blog http://chaosfollows.blogspot.com
which I mostly use to keep a record of my self initiated work and inspiration as well as my university projects. I've found blogging to be a really useful promotional and creative tool, as it gives me a point of reference and is good to look back on. I have branded myself as Rebekka Rekkless under the design heading ChaosFollows as a memorable online presence that suits my working style. I feel branding is important as it creates a recognisable image that potential clients/employers will remember. I also entered a competition to design a book cover at the beginning of the second year, which I won and my design was printed and published. This gave me a huge confidence boost and inspired me to really push myself with my university work throughout the second year.
Looking back I can see that the turning point was third year. I haven't enjoyed third year as much as second. As I went into third year I didn't feel I had learnt enough to fully inform my choices and I think that showed with the repeated uncertainty throughout my projects.
Currently when I look at my post-grad career I don't see myself as an illustrator. I have varied interests ranging from fashion and textiles to web design and I don't feel like I've been able to explore these fully within the degree environment. Basically, I'm not finished learning, but I've had enough of 'education'. I want to continue to learn and experiment creatively in my free time and so will be taking a year out to do this and then re-evaluate my career options.
The work I enjoy doing is very free and experimental and I look forward to continuing with this approach to image making in the future, without the pressure of a project deadline and a degree grade holding me back. I am a kinaesthetic learner, which means I learnt by doing. I enjoy the physical process of creating something, and I can’t always completely visualise what I am aiming for before throwing myself into it! A few areas I intend to explore further in the near future include jewellery making, and t-shirt design. I feel my quirky take on life will work well for this.
Overall though, I was pleased with my EMP project outcome. I wanted to create something that the audience could relate to, even if it was only one aspect of the personality. I wanted to create hope; the reassurance that you are not alone. I think the images communicated this message effectively and were also visually appealing. I was also very pleased with my presentation layout, I am looking forward to the Bournemouth show because I think my project work will work well as an exhibition.