The purpose of this exercise was to use research and analysis to identify and respond creatively to the different needs of an audience.
Key words from the brief:
- Create a mind map to explore the different ways you could be classified as a member of wider audiences.
- Move from the general categories such as gender or identity to more niche areas.
- Choose three areas from this mind map and find corresponding pieces of illustration and/or graphic design that target these areas.
- Develop your own visual responses to the examples you’ve chosen.
At the time I started the exercise I came across the ideas of Amy Walsh who runs a creative consulting/coaching business called The Bureau of Tactical Imagination (https://amywalsh.net/). The purpose of her business is “to help change making small businesses make visionary brands, to both propel their visibility and success in business, and make meaningful change in the world” (Walsh, Amy).
She has a broad definition of brand: “Not just visuals, but all of the ways you show up in your business, tell your story and connect with people” (Walsh, 2020)
This is interesting because building a personal brand sounds very similar to developing a personal voice. It involves alignment of who you truly are with the work that you make. The result is both authentic work and an authentic personal brand.
Walsh teaches a self-discovery process involving a series of steps.
I used two of the exercises from the first phase of Walsh’s process (the ‘Listen’ phase), to research my past so that I could arrange my cultural influences and areas of interest into a number of categories and key findings.
I used the following process:
I created two mindmaps prompted by the following questions:
- As you think about your whole life, who were you as a creative being?
- Who have you been throughout your life as a cultural receiver?
This process took several weeks to complete. I created the mindmaps and came back to them repeatedly as new thoughts and ideas emerged. I realised I’d forgotten a lot; exploring cultural influences and ideas that engaged me as a teenager and during my twenties was really interesting, and I began to notice threads emerging that started during my formative years and weaved their way through my interests and attitudes right to present day.
I have not reproduced them here because they are very personal.
I organised the mindmaps into decades of time e.g. 11 to 20, 21 to 30 etc. The chronology made it easier for me to place what I was doing with what I was interested in during a particular period of my life.
It generated a lot of material.
Your audiences are generally connected to you. Generationally, thematically, subjectsWalsh, A (2020)
Using my research outputs as prompts I gathered images in Pinterest boards that I found interesting in some way.
They formed into three categories:
- Visual influences – Mostly the work of artists and illustrators
- Cultural influences – Derived from the popular culture I was exposed to and resonated with me in some way
- Personal identity – Groups/subcultures that I felt part of or was influenced by
This generated a lot more material and the biggest challenge was knowing when to stop.
I analysed my research using the following question: “What was it about the ‘thing’ that made it interesting?”
This allowed me to ‘code’ the research into categories which became the basis of my key findings:
These characteristics overlay closely with the observations I made about my practice in 1.1 Writing a personal statement, and provide a different lens/insight to view my work.
I condensed the coded analysis into two statements that I could use to describe my work:
- Pictures that bring characters and stories to life using a rich expressive visual language, sometimes intriguing, dark and strange.
- A way to explore difference and complexity.
At the same time as my research I went to see an exhibition of work by David McKean at the Adam’s Gallery in Reigate and was blown away by his drawings and silkscreen prints. I knew him as a writer/illustrator of graphic novels but had never seen his original artwork.
The visual dynamics and quality of line are exquisite and in a medium I relate to.
I carried some of this into my own illustrations (particularly illustration 3).
I used the two statements I’d written as a response to my research as a way to sharpen the focus of ongoing projects.
Pictures that bring characters and stories to life using a rich expressive visual language, sometimes intriguing, dark and strange
I had been exploring the combination of mark resist and silkscreen printing as a way to generate prints that retain an expressive line and a strength of colour. I like the medium because it’s very immediate and the results are close to the original intention of the mark. This is unlike many other forms of printmaking where the original act of making a mark becomes removed from what ends up on the page.
A rich expressive visual language
I wanted to build on the use of mark resist and try working at a fairly large scale. I built up the flower image using three layers of mark resist which would form three different screens.
Before going to print, I photographed each layer and mocked up what they might look like in Photoshop.
Although I quite liked the drawing I wasn’t convinced it was strong enough to print. Additionally there were logistical problems (such as having large enough screen to take the image), that prevented me taking this idea forward.
Instead I used an existing drawing as the foreground, and created a new mark resist background using Posca pen, poster paint and Inktense watercolour pencil.
I printed the image at Ochre Print Studios in two 4-hour sessions.
The finished print:
Illustration 3 – Fortunella cafe
A way to explore difference and complexity
I enjoy drawing in cafes. People stay still and lose themselves in contemplation or conversation. I realised this is becoming a bit of a theme.
I worked up two images. The second is the one that most closely aligns to my audience statement.
Both images were based on photographic reference not direct observation. What I like about this process is that it gives me more time and control to experiment.
The first drawing was based on an experience I had over a sandwich lunch at a National Trust property. I smiled at the irony of me observing someone my own age, who would have grown up with the same ‘alternative’ musical and cultural influences, (evidenced by Joy Division tee-shirt and tattoos), indulging in expensive National Trust sandwiches; the essence of middleclassness.
The second drawing was also based on reference taken on an iPhone over breakfast in a Kingston cafe. The characters intrigued me.
I experimented in my studio with different scale, line weights and textures using drawing ink and liquid watercolour inspired by David McKean’s drawings.
I enjoyed freeing myself (somewhat), from conventional rules of scale and perspective and I will to push this much further in a series of future drawings/prints. The freedom allows for a whole new layer of illustrative meaning.
The personal discoveries I made during this exercise led to an important insight into the motivation I have in my work. By taking a voyage of discovery into my past I was able to make direct connections between cultural influences from childhood and teens that flow through to who I am and where my work comes from now.
If developing an authentic personal voice (or personal brand) is one of the objectives of my OCA study, then what I learned in this exercise is important.
I will use it to strengthen and develop my portfolio and make clearer choices about the type of work I do going forward.
Additionally, the Pinterest boards and mindmaps contain a wealth of reference for me to explore and work with.
Walsh, A (2020) The Bureau of Tactical Imagination At: https://amywalsh.net/ (Accessed: 09/08/21)
Walsh A (2020) The Bureau of Tactical Imagination At: https://amywalsh.net/ (Accessed: 09/08/21)
List of illustrations
Figure 1 – Hadfield, H (2021) Research and analysis process [Sharpie and Promarker pen on paper] In possession of: the author
Figure 2 – Hadfield, H (2021) Coded research findings [Mindmap] In possession of: the author
Figure 3 – McKean, D Nitrate The Gold Rush [Ink on paper] At: https://www.adamsgallery.co.uk/imaginingsmckean (Accessed: 03/09/21)
Figure 4 – Hadfield, H (2021) Dark promenade [Silkscreen print] In possession of: the author
Figure 5 – Hadfield, H (2021) Still life constructed using layers of mark resist [Photograph] In possession of: the author
Figure 6 – Hadfield, H (2021) Black tulips [Silkscreen print] In possession of: the author
Figure 7 – Hadfield, H (2021) Fifty somethings check social media over a National Trust sandwich [Ink and liquid watercolour and pencil on paper] In possession of: the author
Figure 8 – Hadfield, H (2021) Fifty somethings check social media over a National Trust sandwich [Ink and liquid watercolour and pencil on paper] In possession of: the author
Figure 9 – Hadfield, H (2021) Late Sunday breakfast at the Fortunella Cafe [Ink on paper] In possession of: the author