The purpose of this exercise was to explore the possibilities of different image-making techniques.
Key words from the brief:
- Working around the theme of ‘hybrid’, create a series of illustrations
- Draw – scan – colour
- Colour – print – draw
- Are there other combinations of mixing and matching digital and analogue (non-digital) ways of working you can identify and try out?
- Reflect on whether these processes have offered you something new or unexpected
I saw two parts to the brief:
- Hybrid as a subject
- Hybrid as a process
Hybrid definition: A thing made by combining two different elements.
Hybrid as a subject
Every day I pass by the sculpture ‘The Minotaur’ by Michael Ayrton. It situated below a walkway across the London Wall as I walk towards the Barbican Centre.
It’s a striking sculpture and I find the pose interesting. It appears to be a submissive pose, quite the opposite of the violent monster described in the Greek myth.
This was my starting point. Hybrid: Half bull, half man.
Hybrid as a process
I thought about the different combinations that I could use in a hybrid Analogue > Digital process.
Analogue process >
|Digital process >||Analogue output >||
The Greek myth
The following summary of the story of Theseus and the Minotaur is taken from Mythology by Edith Hamilton.
The Minotaur was a fierce monster, half man, half bull. It was imprisoned by Minos the powerful ruler of Crete, in The Labyrinth, a cleverly constructed maze at the Minoan Palace of Knossos, so complex it was impossible to escape from.
Theseus was the son of the Athenian king Aegeus and was a great Athenian hero.
Many years before Theseus came to Athens a terrible tragedy happened. Androgeus the only son of Minos was killed whilst taking part in a dangerous expedition to kill a fierce bull at the request of King Aegeus. Minos took his revenge on Aegeus by invading Greece and capturing Athens. He threatened to completely destroy the city unless the Atheneans agreed to send him a tribute of seven maidens and seven youths.
The Atheneans agreed to his demand, and every nine years the human tribute was sent to Crete where they faced a terrible fate. After being paraded in front of the Cretans they were sent into The Labyrinth where they where they were viciously killed and devoured by the Minotaur.
The time had come for the tribute and lots were drawn to choose the unfortunate victims. Theseus was determined to put an end to the barbaric practice and begged his father to let him be put forward as one of the tributes. Aegeus reluctantly agreed on condition that on the return voyage, the usual black sail of the boat should be change to a white one, indicating to the king watching from the Greek coast that his precious son was returning alive and victorious.
After arriving in Crete, the fourteen victims were marched through the waiting crowds towards their fate in the Labyrinth. The daughter of Minos, Ariadne was in the crowd and instantly feel in love with Theseus. She said she would help him to escape if he promised to take her back to Athens where they would be married. Theseus agreed to this, whereby Ariadne explained how he could escape the labyrinth using a trick she had been given by Daedalus the designer and architect of the maze. She told him to carry a ball of golden thread that he must tie to the door leading into the labyrinth, unwinding it as he walked through the maze. In this way he would be able to retrace his steps back to the entrance.
After entering the labyrinth Theseus wandered the maze until he came across the sleeping Minotaur. After a violent struggle the monster lay dead and the victor was able to find his way out of the maze with all of the other human sacrifices following.
After several adventures on homeward voyage Theseus neared Athens where he forget to raise the white sail as agreed with his father. King Aegeus had been eagerly awaiting the return of his son and was watching the horizon from the Acropolis when he saw the black sail. Believing that his son was dead he threw himself off the rocky cliffs into the sea and died.
When Theseus returned home he was made king of Athens.
The work of other artists
I was lucky enough to visit Madrid at this time. I was particularly interested in seeing the permanent Goya exhibits at the Museo Nacional del Prado, particularly his Black Paintings that are dark and disturbing vision of hellish scenes made just before he died. I felt I could use these as inspiration to depict the scene of the terrified human sacrifices as they entered the Labyrinth.
I was also aware that he’d made a series about bullfighting and was hoping to draw inspiration from these and to see his series of drypoint prints ‘The Disaster of War’ that depict horrific scenes of dismemberment during the Dos de Mayo Uprising (1808) and subsequent Peninsular War 1808-1814. Unfortunately neither of these series of prints were on display in the Prado.
I did however get to make some sketches of figures and faces from the Black Paintings.
I also visited the powerful David Wojnarowicz exhibition at the Reina Sofia, History Keeps Me Awake at Night.
His photographs and paintings are an incredibly powerful reaction to the terrible AIDS epidemic in New York in the 1980s that he himself fell victim to.
He uses a bull motive repeatedly across several of his paintings. The version I sketched appeared sprayed on the inside wall of a derelict building and stencilled multiple times across a number of his paintings.
The hybrid processes
I made a number of illustrations of the same subject in using a variety of visual styles and ‘hybrid’ techniques to explore which ones give the best result.
Illustration 1 – draw/paint > photograph > overlay
The base drawing for this image was created using Posca pens for the foreground elements in a very loose expressive style and Posca pen and liquid watercolour for the background elements.
The starting point was an A5 thumbnail sketch of the Minotaur sculpture which led to a more considered A2 painting.
The final digitally recoloured image…
The strength of colour depends on the depth of grey tone in the original artwork. A simple single overlay is easy to control whereas combining different overlays is quite unpredictable.
Illustration 2 – draw > scan > print > collage > paint > photograph > colour overlay
I wanted to create an image to communicate the terror of the innocent youths that were the human sacrifice from the people of Athens as they hid from the Minotaur in The Labyrinth.
The starting point for this image were a number of A5 sketches that I made on my train ride home from work after photographing the Minotaur sculpture.
The foreground figures were taken directly from my sketches of Goya’s Black Paintings. The illustration was made from three layers of image digitally composited and re-coloured in Photoshop.
The making of the final image was truly hybrid and went back and forth between analogue and digital a number of times.
The first drawings of both the Minotaur and foreground figures were made in A5 sketchbooks. These were scanned, sharpened and resized in Photoshop before being printed at A3 size. Individual elements were then cutout and rearranged in a collage at A2 size.
The A2 images were then painted using liquid watercolour and Posca pen and photographed before being taken back into Photoshop.
The background line drawing of fortifications was drawn from reference at A2 size.
All of the different layers were finally composited, retouched and recoloured using colour overlays in Photoshop.
The final composited and recoloured image…
Illustration 3 – paint/draw > scan > recolour
The third variation was more straightforward.
This image was really born out of frustration. I had been feeling far too precious about making the first two images to the point where it was becoming a block to making progress.
I was so fed up with the blank A2 sketchbook in front of me that I picked up a fairly wide brush and bottle of Indian Ink and vomited out the next minotaur sketch onto the page in less than 30 seconds.
I let it dry overnight and decided I rather liked the visual language. It resonated with some of the folk art I’ve been looking at. It has a kind of naivety but strength at the same time.
The background image of the tessellated walls and towers was added using a Sharpie pen.
The final image was photographed and colour added in Photoshop.
Illustration 4 – Stock photo > crop/recolour > print > drawing/painting > collage > photograph > composite/recolour
The final illustration started digital and moved through a process into analogue collage and then back into digital.
I wanted to experiment combining drawing and collage. My inspiration for this was the work of Polish artist and illustrator Andrzej Klimowski whose posters are dark and powerful photo montages.
There’s something disturbing about these posters that I wanted to try and recreate.
The base image combined a drawing using Posca pen and liquid watercolour with collaged found imagery. The background reused a section of a painting I’d made of the Barbican Centre as part of Illustration Sketchbooks, 3.3 Illustrative drawings that creates an underground subterranean feel.
The final image was composited together and recoloured in Photoshop…
Have these these processes have offered you something new or unexpected?
This exercise built on the approach I took in creating images in the final two exercises of Illustration Sketchbooks, 5.2 Making connections and 5.3 Constructing a visual journey where I reworked existing images and collage to construct new imagery.
In this exercise I took that process a step further and took the collaged images into Photoshop to composite and recolour them into final artwork.
What went well
- Using colour overlays on top of liquid watercolour grey tones gave a nice painterly effect.
- Working in three distinctly different visual styles was a valuable exercise and got me thinking about the qualities that make a good/effective illustration.
- I recognised when I was getting too precious and just decided to do anything quickly to break the creative deadlock and move on – resulting in Illustration 3.
- I enjoyed reading up on the Greek Minotaur myth – it’s a fruitful area for creative development.
- I find it difficult to draw from imagination so used the Minotaur sculpture as my reference. I may try creating and working from models/mannequins for future projects, a technique I’ve seen used by Paula Rego.
What I would do differently/better
- There were several analogue > digital processes I use regularly, particularly going from line art into Illustrator and then colouring using flats in Photoshop that didn’t feel right for this exercise. The effect would have been too comic like.
- I would like to spend the time developing a series of book illustrations.