The purpose of this exercise was to creatively develop a range of ideas that explore how my illustrations or drawings would work within the context of street art.
Key words from the brief:
- Think about what media you would use, the scale you’d work at, where you would site your work and what it would be about.
- Reflect on how the contexts you have chosen have changed the nature of your illustrations. What conversation has gone on between the work and the place?
At the time of writing this the Coronavirus pandemic is really taking hold in Europe. Over the weekend it was announced that all football matches were to be postponed for at least a month, Six Nations Rugby and the Australian Grand Prix were cancelled, the US banned flights from EU countries apart from the UK and Ireland and a number of EU countries have introduced travel bans preventing foreigners from entering the country. Infections and deaths from the virus, whilst still relatively few in number in the UK are growing rapidly.
A grim picture.
With this context in mind, my immediate creative response to this exercise was to start to think about ways of how a mural or large piece of street art could reinforce and support the fight against the virus. The key message from my perspective being “Act to protect the vulnerable’, those most at risk from the disease.
However, on reflection, whilst laudable, I felt this wasn’t really a realistic subject for a number of reasons.
- I wanted the work to be large scale so I’d need to find a site in a good location and this was unlikely to happen immediately
- The work would take weeks to create, by which time the message would have been superseded
In other words, by its nature, large scale street art is not an ideal medium for responding rapidly to current events.
My own brief
I wrote myself a brief to help frame my thinking.
- The final artwork would be large scale covering the side of a building or wall
- The subject should juxtapose with its surroundings
- The overall meaning should be positive/optimistic
- It should be something that I would feel comfortable in attempting i.e. not too elaborate
- It should be design to be executed based on known materials/media i.e.if I could find a suitable location I’d be able to actually create the final artwork
I noticed two large floral based mural designs during my street art research in Shoreditch.
I really liked the image of the orchids. It is simple, bold, colourful and elegant. The texture in the background is based on ripples on water and the overall impression is one of peace and tranquility.
Because of their elegance and beauty, orchids have been used as symbols by different cultures across milenia.
One of the major orchid genera is Paphiopedilum which is derived from the word “Paphos” which is the name of the temple where, Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love was worshiped.
In China, orchids are regarded as emblems of integrity, elegance and friendship.
For all of these reasons I wanted to explore developing an idea using flora, particularly orchids as a subject.
A complete coincidence happened. I was looking for places to draw blossom (it’s currently spring time) and remembered Kew Gardens as a location I hadn’t been to in years. I checked their website and discovered that an exhibition called “Orchids’ was closing the following weekend.
I made my way to Kew Gardens the next day with camera and sketchbook in hand.
I arrived and made my way straight to the exhibition which was located in the Princess of Wales Conservatory. There was so much to see I felt that using a camera was the best way to record whatever seemed of interest:
When I’d finished in the exhibition I spent the rest of the day sketching in several of the other glass houses. For reference, these drawings are here.
The other type of research that I carried out was to understand the process and materials used by other artists in making large scale murals.
I found this Youtube video to be very helpful. I was able to learn from this the process and specific materials that I’d need.
As per my brief, I needed the constrain the use of colour. Using what I’d learned in my research I made an assumption that I’d be painting the mural using Molotow One4all inks.
This meant I’d need to limit my colour palette to what is available within the Molotow One4all range of inks.
In terms of scale, I assumed a design that would need to work at an aspect ratio of 8 x 3.5 (a possible location I was investigating was a wall 8m x 3.5m in size).
I filtered the photographs and was quite brutal in reducing down to six different elements. I drew these up using ink pens and scanned them into Photoshop. I used Illustrator to create clear and clean line art and added flat colours in Photoshop.
I created the canvas to the right aspect ratio and creatively played with the different elements to digitally thumbnail out different compositions. At this point I wasn’t concerned with colour.
I tried a ripple effect as a background to several of the thumbnails.
I selected Thumbnail 04 to work up into full colour in Photoshop using the Molotow All4one colour swatch.
Here’s a mock-up of the mural using one of the photographs taken as part of 4.9 Street art research as a background.
Reflect on how the contexts you have chosen have changed the nature of your illustrations. What conversation has gone on between the work and the place?
In my brief one of the objectives I gave myself was for the image to juxtapose with the surrounding environment. The bright, bold floral design is in stark contrast to the slightly grimey and chaotic surroundings of the Brick Lane location. I think this makes it stand out quite prominently.
What went well
- I like that the idea is designed a known scale and known colour palette – so if I do find a suitable I can create this.
- The research into materials and techniques has given me the confidence that I can do this for real, and that the subject matter is forgiving enough for me to not be overly concerned about scaling-up.
- My research at Kew Gardens was very productive and directly fed into the final work.
- The line art drawings, particularly using different line weights translated really well when moved into digital.