2.3 Developing content

The purpose of this exercise was to carry out one of a number of possible activities designed to encourage you to take creative risks, explore your process and generate ideas.

Key words from the brief:

  • Choose a piece of dialogue
  • Pick a dialogue that includes multiple people, sounds or changes in tone
  • Find a way to visually represent the nature of this dialogue

Context

I selected the dialogue option because finding ways to combine dialogue and/or text based information with image is something I wanted to explore as a reportage technique.

At the same time I wanted to develop my visual language and use of captioned illustrations, pushing forward the areas of interest I’d identified during Assignment 1 Personal statement and combining these with what I’d learned from my artists research in 2.2 The visual language of graphic novels.

Visual language development

The visual language I’d reflected on during Assignment 1 Personal statement, was predominantly developed through life drawing and I used this exercise extend it into reportage.

For example, in this drawing I used lino stamps made for the William Clarkson illustration in 5.4 Finish images to create the repeat pattern in the wall behind the figure.

Fig 1 – Man on bench in March sun (2021)

I extended this approach in Portraits from music, dance and figure drawing session.

Fig 2 – Portraits from music, dance and figure drawing session (2021)

Other drawings made during this period explored use of colour, quality of line and mixed media.

Fig 3 – Supermarket car park (2021)
Fig 4- All Saints Church, Western Green (2021)
Fig 5 – Vase of spring flowers 01 (2021)
Fig 6 – Vase of flowers 02 (2021)

Visual experiments

I answered the brief through a number of experiments.

Experiment 1 – Keyworker drawings & dialogue

Life Drawing Plus ran a life drawing session over Zoom that involved key workers posing to be drawn whilst being interviewed about their experiences of working during the pandemic.

Fig 7 – Digital banner advert for “Drawing key workers and other stories from the pandemic” (2021)

The purpose of this experiment was to test combining rapid drawing of people/figures and hand written text.

The length of poses ranged from 5-minutes to 15-minutes and were all completed in a single 2-hour session.

Words were edited from a sound recording of the event and created using a lightbox and then composited as a separate layer using Photoshop.

Fig 8 – Amanda, Vaccination Centre Volunteer (2021)
Fig 9 – Steve, A&E Nurse (2021)

I tried varying the feel of the handwritten text by switching to upper and lower case.

Fig 10 – Helen, Secondary School Teacher (2021)
Fig 11 – Elaine, Clinical & Infection Prevention Control Scientist (2021)

Splashes of ink were added digitally to the next image as an experiment to see if it added anything to the visual language.

Fig 12 – Liz, Bicycle Mechanic (2021)
Fig 13 – Alan, Vegetable box delivery owner (2021)
Fig 14 – Lindsey, Organic farmer (2021)
Fig 15 – Alan, Courier and art director (2021)
Fig 16 – Agata, Artist (2021)

On reflection I think the most successful images are the rapid 5-minute drawings with the fewest words. I’m not convinced by the others. I don’t think the text works particularly well and wonder whether the fact it was overlaid at a later time makes it look a bit harsh and contrived.

Experiment 2 – Zoom dialogue editorial illustrations

The purpose of the second experiment was to combine portraits and snatches of conversation from various Zoom meetings. I also tested handwritten text in the same style as some of the work of Maria Kalman who I researched as part of 2.2 The visual language of graphic novels.

The images were designed to have an editorial function within a blog about different aspects of software development.

My intention using such an unconventional style of handwritten text was to cause visual disruption. This was because it’s completely opposite to the heavily branded and controlled PowerPoint culture of the organisation they were made for.

Fig 17 – Something smells wrong (2021)
Fig 18 – The business that we’re in is technology (2021)

Both images were created using Sharpies and Promarker pens typical of what I would use in an office environment to capture information onto a flip chart.

I like the visual language in these images and it’s something I plan to push forward and develop, possibly into Assignment 2. The lettering is much more interesting than what I used in Experiment 1.

Experiment 3 – Unlocking lockdown illustrations

The purpose of this experiment was to develop the captioned illustrations approach I’d explored in Assignment 1 Personal statement to create a series of pictures about people in social situations that suddenly became possible through easing of lockdown rules.

I continued testing my visual language which explains the inconsistency between images. I used different materials and techniques as well as focusing on different ways to represent the subjects such as exaggeration and caricature.

Background to my theme

I’d had my Coronavirus jab, lockdown restrictions were starting to be relaxed, the weather was improving and spring was in the air. I started to think about how the pandemic would be remembered in popular culture and what lockdown easing actually meant for ordinary people.

The first restriction to be eased was the ability for up to six people from different households to meet outside, (all the social distancing rules still applied). This meant that certain outdoor sports such as tennis and golf could restart and I instantly noticed this on my daily walks that cut across a golf course. The other thing I noticed were groups of people (mostly men), gathering on a small green outside the local pub which remained closed, drinking and socialising together. As the weather was still quite cold, the site of these picnics was slightly strange but heartening at the same time. A sign of people desperately trying to return to normal.

I thought this period of unlocking would be interesting to record. Initially I was just drawing what I saw but then thought about how to record and add dialogue and/or other written information to the images.

Approach

My starting point was to surreptitiously collect photographic reference on location using my iPhone; there were a number of limitations that prevented me from ‘live’ sketching.

The final illustrations are composites made from one or more pieces of photographic reference.

The benefit of working from reference was that I had no time constraint and had access to all of the materials in my studio, allowing me to develop work in a new direction.

I liked the way early Punch magazine cartoons structured captions and dialogue and decided to use this design pattern in the experiment.

Fig 19 – Punch cartoon “Hero Worship” (1914)

The captions and dialogue were generated using two different approaches.

Approach 1 – Captions created in response to the image

These captioned images reflect something of my humour and point of view.

Fig 20 – Lockdown easing (2021)
Fig 21 – The rule of six (2021)
Fig 22 – Relaxed lockdown rules (2021)

As lockdown restrictions eased I started visiting my parents in Norfolk again. I always stop off in Ely on drive up to get a break and to walk around the magnificent cathedral. Every time I stop off, whatever the weather or time of day, there’s a group of people sitting on one of the park benches facing the cathedral getting drunk.

Fig 23 – The city of Ely (2021)
Approach 2 – Dialogue recorded surreptitiously and matched to the image

I collected random snatches of conversation from different groups of people whilst out walking and then combined these with the illustrations where there seemed to be a fit. This added an element of chance to the text image combination.

Fig 24 – Lockdown easing 01 (2021)
Fig 25 – Lockdown easing (2021)

I like the first approach adding caption to images. The words add a sense of humour that isn’t there in the stand alone image.

The second approach isn’t convincing, at least not using the text layout borrowed from Punch. I could probably get a better text/image match by collecting more source material.

Reflections

I did this exercise over 4-weeks which meant I had plenty of time to develop ideas and try different materials/combinations of media. I learned a lot from this approach:

  • I translated the visual language developed through life drawing into a reportage context
  • My figure drawing was more confident than pre-pandemic (when I last did reportage)
  • I’m excited by the prospect of using the Maria Kalman inspired lettering in future projects. This is something I may take into Assignment 2
  • I like the use of captions and will continue to experiment with them

Areas to develop:

  • Being brave enough to combine words and images directly into the drawing
  • Further experimentation with different styles of hand lettering
  • Continue to rapidly experiment with different materials/techniques – particularly use of colour

References

Bibliography

Drawing Life Plus (2021) Home page At: https://www.lifedrawing-plus.com/ (Accessed: 24/04/21)

List of illustrations

Figure 1 – Hadfield, Hugh (2021) Man on bench in March sun [Pen & ink] In possession of: the author

Figure 2 – Hadfield, Hugh (2021) Portraits from music, dance and figure drawing session [Pen & ink] In possession of: the author

Figure 3 – Hadfield, Hugh (2021) Supermarket car park [Watercolour & colour pencils] In possession of: the author

Figure 4 – Hadfield, Hugh (2021) All Saints Church, Western Green [Watercolour, pencils and Posca pen] In possession of: the author

Figure 5 – Hadfield, Hugh (2021) Vase of spring flowers 01 [Sharpie, pencil and charcoal] In possession of: the author

Figure 6 – Hadfield, Hugh (2021) Vase of spring flowers 02 [Sharpie, pen & ink, pencil and charcoal] In possession of: the author

Figure 7 – Drawing Life Plus (2021) Digital banner advert for “Drawing key workers and other stories from the pandemic” [Instagram screenshot] At: https://www.instagram.com/life_drawing_plus/ (Accessed: 19/04/21)

Figure 8 – Hadfield, Hugh (2021) Amanda, Vaccination Centre Volunteer [Watercolour pencil and fountain pen] In possession of: the author

Figure 9 – Hadfield, Hugh (2021) Steve, A&E Nurse [Watercolour pencil and fountain pen] In possession of: the author

Figure 10 – Hadfield, Hugh (2021) Helen, Secondary School Teacher [Watercolour pencil and fountain pen] In possession of: the author

Figure 11 – Hadfield, Hugh (2021) Elaine, Clinical & Infection Prevention Control Scientist [Watercolour pencil and fountain pen] In possession of: the author

Figure 12 – Hadfield, Hugh (2021) Liz, Bicycle Mechanic [Pen & ink] In possession of: the author

Figure 13 – Hadfield, Hugh (2021) Alan, Vegetable box delivery owner [Watercolour pencil and fountain pen] In possession of: the author

Figure 14 – Hadfield, Hugh (2021) Lindsey, Organic farmer [Watercolour and fountain pen] In possession of: the author

Figure 15 – Hadfield, Hugh (2021) Alan, Courier and art director [Pen & ink] In possession of: the author

Figure 16 – Hadfield, Hugh (2021) Agata, Artist [Watercolour pencil and fountain pen] In possession of: the author

Figure 17 – Hadfield, Hugh (2021) Something smells wrong [Sharpie and Promarker pens] In possession of: the author

Figure 18 – Hadfield, Hugh (2021) The business that we’re in is technology [Sharpie and Promarker pens] In possession of: the author

Figure 19 – Stampa, G L (1914) Punch cartoon “Hero Worship” At: https://thehumourofthegreatwar.wordpress.com/2014/12/04/punch-cartoons-69/ (Accessed: 07/04/21)

Figure 20 – Hadfield, Hugh (2021) Lockdown easing [Pen & ink and pencil] In possession of: the author

Figure 21 – Hadfield, Hugh (2021) The rule of six [Pen & ink and pencil] In possession of: the author

Figure 22 – Hadfield, Hugh (2021) Relaxed lockdown rules [Pen & ink, watercolor and pencil] In possession of: the author

Figure 23 – Hadfield, Hugh (2021) The city of Ely [Pen & ink, watercolor and pencil] In possession of: the author

Figure 24 – Hadfield, Hugh (2021) Lockdown easing 01 [Pen & ink] In possession of: the author

Figure 25 – Hadfield, Hugh (2021) Lockdown easing 02 [Pen & ink and pencil] In possession of: the author