Illustration where art thou?

Use of space is one of the main things designers think about when creating a piece. You want to make sure your image maintains its equilibrium between the different elements it is composed of. Graphic Designers usually swear by the golden ratio, which is in sorts a scientific way of making sure something looks aesthetically pleasing. This science is actually called Neuroesthetics, it seeks to find out what images are attractive to the brain and why. Most designers use the golden ratio as a guide for composition because it creates images that are immediately balanced and more appealing to the eye. The diagram below is a complex form of the golden ratio but a more simple version of it is if an image is divided in thirds, you would then organise it grouping the first two thirds together and separating the last third, like in the second image.

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The question ‘Where is Illustration?’ can also be interpreted as a question of where illustration can be found around us. I am someone who believes that if you look hard enough, illustration is everywhere. This, however, implies quite a broad definition of illustration where it is closely linked to typography, graphic design and fine art. We use hand drawn and digital images for so many reasons nowadays, whether it is in advertisement, in the software designs for our phones and laptops, on book covers, album covers, logos, packaging (the beautiful illustrations for the Essential Waitrose range for example), the picture books that are read to us as children and the list goes on. Whatever it is, there is always someone whose job is to decide what the design is going to look like.

 

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Heather Gatley’s work for the Essential Waitrose range

 

Tattoos are proof that illustration knows no spacial boundaries. As William Blake put it ‘There are no lines in nature, but there are lines in imagination’. People are able to redefine their own bodies using drawing, thus modifying nature through design. One of the examples that immediately spring to mind when thinking about this is land art; being both French and English I am very used to taking the eurotunnel and one thing I always remember seeing as I arrived at the terminal of the English Channel Tunnel is the white horse carved onto the hill in Folkestone.

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This is of course one of many examples of land art, some of the most famous land artists include Robert Smithson, Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Andy Goldsworthy and Dennis Oppenheim.

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Christo and Jean-Claude
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Dennis Oppenheim

 

Women who draw

The latest exhibition at the House of Illustration entitled ‘Comic Creatrix: 100 women making comics’ is an ode to female comic artists and a celebration of their work throughout history. As debates about feminism and gender inequality are in full swing, the question of female representation in the creative industry is an important one to address. Sexism in the world of comics was recently put into light when earlier this year not a single woman was shortlisted for the Angoulême Grand Prix,  the third largest comic festival in the world.

Although the festival director Franck Bondoux tried to justify this by saying that very few women have played a role in the history of comics, anyone who takes the time to review female contribution to the comic industry in the last 100 years will see that this is in fact a complete myth. The names of June Tarpé Mills, Claire Bretecher, Posy Simmonds, Marjane Satrapi and  Tove Jansson are just a few that spring to mind when thinking of the hundreds of women cartoonists that have helped shape the history of comics. In truth where Mr Bondoux is mistaken, is women authors have indeed been much less celebrated than men authors, but only as a result of sexism overlooking and obscuring women’s work rather than a lack of female comic artists to begin with.

It was refreshing to walk through the House of Illustration and see the works of all of these women being recognised and talked about. The way the exhibition was set up was also quite engaging, as most of the comic excerpts that were being displayed had the full comic available for visitors to look at on a shelf below. Some of the artists being exhibited had a lot to say about their experiences as women in today’s world in regards to everyday sexism, sexual harassment, street harassment, discrimination in the work place and so on. Society is usually quick to silence women’s voices because it doesn’t want to acknowledge the problematic way in which women have and continue to be treated everyday all around the world, but luckily as this is changing people are becoming more and more aware of this vast issue. One of the works I came across in this exhibition and that has stayed with me is ‘Take It As A Compliment’ by Maria Stoian, which acts as a collection of stories as told by rape and sexual harassment victims, both male and female. The way in which the stories are illustrated strongly conveys the mood of each experience, reflecting on the emotions of the victims as they deal with trauma.

I consider this exhibition a great step forward for women in the creative industry and hope to see many more events that celebrate female voices and acknowledge the importance of female contribution in the world of Art and Design.

 

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Animations

After having done an introductory session to After Effects at college I decided to use it to do some animation for our current project. These are very basic as they mainly involve moving around different layers of an image.

3D model work in progress

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For the past few days I have been making my part of the 3D model. So far I am quite happy with it, I have made a banana, some mountains, a giant ice cream and a lake which I have all painted. I am planning on adding a skier coming down the mountains and a couple of beach huts. This model represents my utopian world and many things that I love feature in it. Since my utopia is all about everything being possible, I am playing with the scales being completely skewed.

Before I started making my model I drew sketches of what my ideal world was. I couldn’t include all of the elements on my actual model so I had to pick out the ones that I wanted to have most.

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yeah but no but yeah but no

10_30040056_e20ee2_2583542a.jpgIn CTS we opened up a discussion about stereotypes last week. The conversation was at first centered around the character of Vicky Pollard in the skit comedy show Little Britain. We watched a few videos of her and were asked to reflect on the possible offensive nature of stereotypes.

Many people in the room liked Little Britain and were laughing at the jokes, whilst others found it stupid and offensive. I personally find Little Britain and Vicky Pollard hilarious, my parents used to watch the show when I was growing up and we would always do impressions of the characters and mimic their catchphrases. I think there are a lot of different types of humour in the world and I really understand that Little Britain isn’t funny to everyone, but it is personally very funny to me.

That being said, when watching Little Britain I often feel that I am laughing at something I shouldn’t be laughing at because the humour is based in cruelty and mockery. The show prides itself in being rude, offensive and over the limit. It relies heavily on stereotypes to poke fun at different groups of people such as LBGT, lower class people, the elderly, the disabled, minorities that suffer daily from discrimination and injustice. In those respects I really understand how some people dislike Little Britain.

To me the underlying question here is can you laugh at everything and everyone?

The reason I like this show is because I feel it has a complete lack of seriousness and Matt Lucas and David Walliams are primarily making fun of themselves. It has to be said : they are really funny looking men and they are extremely good at transforming themselves into weird characters. Matt Lucas has an odd appearance, he’s bald and overweight and is gay himself, and it therefore seems more legitimate and acceptable that he uses those aspects of his life in his comedy. David Williams too uses a subtle mix of his own imperfections and his observations about society to make people laugh. The Little Britain characters incorporate aspects of the comedians that portray them and while they are undoubtedly ridiculous they also provoke a degree of affection as well as mockery.

The two actors rely a lot on their physique to make people laugh. So while the show does make fun of quite vulnerable people, it is quite clear that these are extremely over exaggerated stereotypes. Everything is taken way too far and is way too ridiculously extreme to be taken seriously in my o0377CD210000044D-2927972-image-m-32_1422351667041.jpgpinion. I think Little Britain plays with using such strong stereotypes to make the audience think about how they are themselves prejudiced. Take the famous duo Lou and Andy: Andy is a fake paraplegic and his best friend Lou spends his time caring for him and being incredibly patient, completely oblivious to the fact that Andy gets up every time he has his back turned. It is a misconception to say that they are making fun of paraplegics because in reality, what is really funny is that Andy is so incredibly lazy that he is faking being disabled so that he can have Lou wheel him around all the time. I think it is more about making fun of the character itself rather than a certain group of people.

There has also been arguments saying that the show exclusively pokes fun at vulnerable people but I would disagree. Having watched the entire thing, I find there is quite a broad spectrum of people Little Britain makes fun of. The prime minister, a mother that is obsessed with wanting to make her kid famous, a tiny theme tune enthusiast, racist conservative upper class ladies, a bad hypnotist, a crazy flute playing hotel keeper, a hypocritical grammar school teacher, a single man who bought a Thai bride on the internet… Little Britain makes fun of everyone, men, women, white, black, asian, gay, straight, rich, poor, old, teenage… Even though the jokes are very crude I don’t feel as if there is a particular group of people that is being attacked. But I do understand that the obscene and vulgar type of humour of this show isn’t for everyone.

 

 

Paper maché is cool

… It’s not only for primary school science projects.

 

I’m currently working on my utopia for the ‘See you in 6G’ project. In our group, we have now got a very detailed and rich idea of what our futuristic world is. Each of us also has developped their own utopian world. We can all access our utopia through our ‘dream pods’, they allow us to escape the over crowded and polluted city and go to our dream place. Our advanced city revolves around blood, which acts as a new currency and also a way of defining social hierarchy. We have to donate blood to the energy supplier every month in return for being able to access our pods. For our 3D model our group decided that we would build our ‘advanced city’ in the middle and then have five different models that connect to it, onto which we will build our five different utopias.

We decided to do it this way because we all agree that we are all different and don’t have the same idea of what a utopia is. Therefore each of our utopian worlds is different and personal to us. The advanced city in the middle is there to link all of us back to the reality.

My utopia is a world where everything is possible and everything that is normal is defied. I will post more about my model and my utopia once it’s finished, I still have to paint it and there are a few more bits and pieces I want to add to it.

Short Alan Aldridge biography 

  • Aldridge is a British artist, specialised in illustration and graphic design. His work was predominantly focused on surealism and had a very psychedelic style:  ‘it’s very seductive, going into that magic world where any image you conjure up can hang out and converse with you, but I’ve always found my way back to reality’. His career began working as an illustrator for Sunday Times. In addition he worked on some penguin book covers which later led him to become the Art Director for Penguin. In 1968, he founded a graphic design firm called INK which were responsible for famous album covers in the 60s such as The Beatles. There has been a retrospective of his work in 2008 at the Design Museum in London. 
  • theloop.com.au