5.1 Research

The purpose of ‘Research’

Research involves creatively exploring the subjects, ideas and concepts derived from the brief. The objective is to understand more about the problem and to explore and capture anything and everything that may be of interest in finding a solution.

The scope, methods and outputs of the research in the Research brief that can be found in 5.0 Understanding the problem.

The Research brief specifies three type of research:

  1. Artist research
  2. Practice research
  3. Subject research

Each type of research is covered in it’s own section below.

Artist research

My artist research was desk based and involved reviewing my list of reference artists first created as part of Responding to a brief, relooking at my Pinterest boards, looking through art magazines and graphic novels, and my Instagram feed.

After reflecting on my selection, I selected the following X for closer examination and comment.

The overall objective of this assignment is for me is to work in unconventional ways and take creative risks in order to produce a surprising and diverse range of visual responses rather than produce finished artwork. I wanted to use my artist research to find examples of visual approaches that I could use as inspiration to support me in meeting this objective.

The work of individual artists and how I used this as input into my developing illustrations can be found in the later stages of the process, notably 5.2 Generating ideas and 5.3 Design.

Practice research

The scope of practice research was to test four experimental visual approaches, to learn how they work and whether they could be used in the design and development of the Brookwood Cemetery illustrations.

The four processes were:

  1.  A visual chart (stage 1 of the process only)
  2. A chart to trigger lateral thinking (stages 1 and 2 of the process only)
  3. Intuitive brainstorming with colour
  4. Intuitive brainstorming with media

It should be noted that other processes explored during PART 2 Visual approaches could also be used in the later stages of the project, but these are not tested here because they’re already known and understood.

The purpose of each test was to learn just enough so that a judgement could be made over whether they’re suitable to use.

Each process and the outputs of the test are described below. The processes that were tested were taken from a chapter in A Companion to Illustration: Art and Theory (Male, 2019) written by Sue Clarke titled: The Illustrator as Visual Problem Solver: A Deconstruction of Conceptual Strategies for the Contemporary Illustrator (2019).

Visual chart

Instructions

  1. Draw a grid on a sheet of paper 6 x boxes by 6 x boxes of equal sizes
  2. Extract the six most important themes from your topic or text. For this exercise, the topic was Fricis Freiensbergs, one of my Brookwood Cemetery subjects
  3. Write these down the left hand side of the grid
  4. Create rapid thumbnails in response to each subject heading in turn
  5. Duration of exercise 1-hour

Test execution

Before starting the chart I familiarised myself with my research materials and had copies to hand as reference.

Fricis Freienbergs visual chart text

A higher resolution version of the image can be accessed here:

What I learned:

  • It’s clear where there are gaps in my research – for example I couldn’t generate any thumbnails related to the theme ‘Graceful decline’. I don’t think this is an issue. Each subject has strengths and weaknesses in different areas.
  • The more I went on, the more connections I was able to make.
  • New avenues of research opened up. For example, I was prompted to look more closely at the symbolism and folk tales related to sailors and the sea.
  • By the end it became clear to me that the lighthouse symbol, which is also the shape of the headstone that marks the grave of Fricis Freiensbergs, needs to be one of the central visual components.
  • Using the plot shape (the location where the grave is located), to contain or frame the image could be a way to provide consistency across all images. It could also be a device to allow for a text element.
  • I can also see a number of other strong elements that can be developed further.

Chart to trigger lateral thinking

Instructions

Stage 1

  1. Select three key words from your topic/brief
  2. Draw a table with three columns, and use these three words as the header for each
  3. Beneath each heading, add a list of words that relate to/correspond with the heading

Stage 2

  1. Randomly select one word from each column to create a group of three words
  2. Repeat this process again to make at least 8 different combinations
  3. Create rapid thumbnail sketches in response to each word group Note the test will finish here but there are two further steps
  4. Use these thumbnails as the starting point for more focused development
  5. Reflect on the more developed thumbnails, and select the strongest idea and image to develop into a consolidated illustration

Test execution

I continued using my Fricis Freienbergs research to provide the inputs into this process.

Word list generated using a thesaurus

For the second stage I used a random number generator to create the eight random word groups.

Word groups created using random number generator

I then used the word groups to generate 10-minute thumbnail images.

10-minute word list thumbnails

I didn’t use any reference material and ideas came and were drawn from memory, although subjects that I’d drawn in the previous exercise resurfaced.

What I learned:

  • What I discovered was that this method resulted in more inventive visual combinations and ideas. I think combining the strongest ideas from each process should give me a fairly broad set of components to develop and a number of different approaches.
  • On reflection, the thumbnails almost function as a narrative sequence; perhaps this is one presentation format to explore.

Intuitive brainstorming with colour

Instructions

  1. Write down several descriptive words summing up the theme, mood, pitch of the topic/text/brief
  2. Create a colour palette to express these descriptive words. Consider how colour could be used to evoke a atmosphere to symbolically i.e. red with anger, a black mood. Note that the test will end here although there is one possible further step.
  3. Explore the colour palette alongside outputs from the other visual approaches

Test execution

For some reason I found this exercise hard to start and ended up timeboxing the activity to 1-hour just to get it done.

I could have used any number of media or collage to make the colour but chose acrylics because I have a good range of colours that I could mix easily; this wouldn’t be so easy with coloured pencils or pastels for example. It also allowed me to record the colour ‘recipe’ for each colour.

Intuitive colour swatch – acrylic paint on watercolour paper

Intuitive brainstorming with media

It was at this point that I decided to explore the visual style of Jonathan Twingley, particularly his Graffiti Drawings (see artist research above).

So the media mix I wanted to test in this experiment was:

  1. Use of ink pen to generate different textures and marks
  2. Use of very basic monoprint/collotype printing techniques to create textures
  3. A combination of both of the above with both black and coloured ink(s)

Instructions

  1. Write down several descriptive words summing up the theme, mood, pitch of the topic/text/brief
  2. Think about what media could be used to express these descriptive word (these could be linked back to the Artist research)
  3. Explore this media through mark making or image making related back to the topic/text/brief

Text execution

Use of ink pen to generate different textures and marks
Word inspired test strip using a fountain pen and black ink to generate marks and textures

What I learned:

  • I’ve experimented with media in numerous other OCA related exercises, and it reminded me of the importance of spending the time to extend my visual vocabulary
Use of very basic monoprint/collotype printing techniques to create textures

These are techniques I’ve used in previous OCA exercises but not quite in the same way.

What I learned:

  • The paper texture pays a big part in the overall effect. The paper I used had some grain.
  • It felt good to be starting to utilise some of the skills learned during Printmaking 1.
Combination of techniques

I combined my learning and research into a test image.

A combination of fountain pen mark making, acrylic texture using a print roller and textured wallpaper with the sea colour added in Photoshop using a colour overlay. Original artwork on A3 watercolour paper

What I learned:

  • I felt pleased with the test and think it’s what I’ll use for the worked-up artwork

Subject research

The starting point for the subject research are the names of people that spark some level of interest in me, either because of who they were, what they achieved or some other aspect.

I used ‘An Introduction to Brookwood Cemetery’ (Clarke, 1992) as my starting point. This short book provides a brief history of the cemetery and then lists 62 famous or interesting graves, many with accompanying photographs.

My initial selection included:

  1. Sir Luke Fildes
  2. Arthur Hacker
  3. Charles Warne
  4. Lieutenant Andrew Wood
  5. Alfred Edmeades Bestall
  6. Fricis Freienbergs
  7. Arif Bey
  8. Mary Pitcher
  9. William Clarkson
  10. Edith Thompson

My initial task was to carry out just enough background research on the ten subjects to narrow down to six, which I would then develop further.

I started by carrying out desk research on each person using the Internet and OCA Library resources. The process was engaging and I started making interesting connections and surprising discoveries. 

Through this process I was able to identify plot numbers for each grave and I marked these up on the Brookwood Cemetery plot map in advance of a trip to the cemetery

Brookwood Cemetery plat map marked up with grave locations

Initial research

Sir Luke Fildes

Dates1843 – 1927
Plot No.Plot 36
SummaryPainter, illustrator of books and magazines (including some of Dickens’ novels)
Fildes held a belief in the power of visual images to change public opinion on subjects such as poverty and injustice. He worked on The Graphic, in a social realist style.
Turned to oil painting from 1870.
Facts, links, referencehttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luke_Fildes
Significant works:
The Casual Ward (1984) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Applicants_for_Admission_to_a_Casual_Ward
The Doctor (1891) – (on display in Tate Britain) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Doctor_(painting) – A library of books written in your honour would not do what this picture has done and will do for the medical profession in making the hearts of our fellow men warm to us with confidence and affection”
Lived in Woodlands House, Kensington: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Woodland_House
The house was subsequently owned by Michael Winner (Death Wish) and then Robbie Williams
Sir Luke Fildes contact sheet

Charles Warne

Dates1802 – 1887
Plot No.Plot 30
SummaryArchaeologist. Specialising in the pre-historic and ancient remains of Dorset.
His grave in Brookwood Cemetery is designed to resemble a prehistoric barrow with the upright stone being made from serpentinite (Serpentinite is a rock composed of one or more serpentine group minerals, the name originating from the similarity of the texture of the rock to that of the skin of a snake)
Facts, links, referencehttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Warne
Warne’s collection of sepulchral urns and other relics from barrows went to Dorchester Museum.
Copies of his books available from British Library
Charles Warne contact sheet

Arthur Hacker

Dates1858 – 1919
Plot No.Plot 27
SummaryPainter, studied at the Royal Academy and in Paris. Travelled extensively in Spain and North Africa. English classicist painter
Facts, links, referencehttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Hacker
Significant works:
The Annunciation (1892) on display Tate Britain
The Temptation of Sir Percival

Inscription on grave:
Peace peace
He is not dead
He doth not sleep
He hath wakened from
The dream of life
Arthur Hacker contact sheet

Lieutenant Andrew Wood

DatesDied 1787
Plot No.Plot 30
SummaryInscription on grave:
Accidently drowned when carrying dispatches in an open boat to Lord Cornwallis’ fleet.
Buried in the Wood Mausoleum
Facts, links, referenceThe date of his death indicates he was involved in the Maratha–Mysore War (1785 – 1787) – Siege of Bahadur Benda, January 1787
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maratha%E2%80%93Mysore_War
Lieutenant Andrew Wood contact sheet 01
Lieutenant Andrew Wood contact sheet 02
Sketch looking across the ‘Ring’ towards the Wood Mausoleum

Alfred Edmeades Bestall

Dates1892 – 1926
Plot No.Plot 100
SummaryWrote and illustrated Rupert Bear for the London Daily Express, from 1935 to 1965.
He created the most beautifully crafted illustrations in the Rupert Bear annual publications.
President of the British Origami Society – remember origami appearing in the Rupert Bear Annuals?
Lived in Surbiton – 58 Cranes Park – Blue plaque
Facts, links, referencehttp://www.britishorigami.info/lister/rupert.php
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_Bestall
Alfred Edmeades Bestall contact sheet

Fricis Freienbergs

Dates1892 – 1941
Plot No.Plot 122
SummaryCaptain of the SS Katvaldis. Died on the North Sea in November 1941. Buried in the Swedish section
Facts, links, referenceThe SS Katvaldis was part of one of the many convoys made up of merchant shipping protected by the Royal Navy, Royal Canadian Navy and United States Navy as part of the Battle of the Atlantic.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_the_Atlantic

The history of the ship is here: https://uboat.net/allies/merchants/ship/2083.html

It is unclear how Freienbergs died but I did find reference to the fate of the SS Katvaldis:

World War II: Convoy ONS 122: The cargo ship was torpedoed and sunk in the Atlantic Ocean south east of Cape Farewell, Greenland (48°55′N 35°10′W) by U-605 ( Kriegsmarine) with the loss of three of her 43 crew. Survivors were rescued by Stockport ( United Kingdom).[215]
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_shipwrecks_in_August_1942

The U-Boat commander was Herbert-Viktor Schütze
U-605 was Sunk on 14 November 1942 in the Mediterranean Sea north-west of Oran, in position 36.20N, 01.01W, by depth charges from a British Hudson aircraft (233 Sqn RAF/B). 46 dead (all hands lost)

https://uboat.net/boats/u605.htm
Fricis Freienbergs contact sheet

Arif Bey

Dates1882 – 1926
Plot No.128
SummaryA young Turkish Officer sent for training to Woolwich – The Royal Military Academy by Sultan Mahmoud.
Grave next to the Turkish Airforce plot
Facts, links, referenceAn account of his death and picture of the original grave at Woolwich downloaded from JSTOR.
His remains were moved to Brookwood Cemetery on 1962
The oldest Muslim burial in Britain

Inscription on grave:
Under this stone is interred the body of Arif Bey, a young Turkish officer sent to England by Sultan Mahmoud the Second to receive military instruction.
He died at this place on the 10th day of August 1836 aged twenty years.
Let no man disturb the remains of the stranger!!
Arif Bey contact sheet

Mary Pitcher

DatesDied 1856
Plot No.119
SummaryA fascinating early headstone – could use the inscription in some way
Facts, links, referenceApart from photographs of grave unable to find any further information

Inscription on grave:
Married was I
9 children had I
3 infants died, 6 survived I
Lord be pleased to give them health
Until you call them to I
Mary Picher contact sheet

William Clarkson

Dates1861 – 1934
Plot No.Actors’ Acre – Plot 44
SummaryWilliam Berry “Willy” Clarkson (1861 – 12 October 1934) was a British theatrical costume designer and wigmaker.
In a 2012 book, author James Morton suggests Clarkson was one of “the more notorious of Soho’s blackmailers of the interwar years” as well as an accomplished insurance fraudster – 11 of 12 premises he occupied burnt down.
As well as making wigs and costumes for actors, Clarkson also made disguises for detectives at Scotland Yard and, allegedly, murderers Hawley Crippen and Jack the Ripper. He is commemorated with a blue plaque in Wardour Street, Soho.
A colourful character – plenty of material to work with

Inscription on grave:
In affectionate memory
of
William Berry
Clarkson
Died 13th October 1934
Aged 74 years
This green plot shall be our
stage
This hawthorn-brake
our tiring-house
Facts, links, referenceIn the 1920’s, he was the owner of the Duchess Theatre in Catherin Street
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Willy_Clarkson
A public lavatory in Soho’s Dansey Place was known locally as Clarkson’s Cottage
he foundation stone of Clarkson’s Wardour Street premises (then Wellington Street) was laid by the actress Sarah Bernhardt – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarah_Bernhardt (“the queen of the pose and the princess of the gesture” – drawing by Toulouse-Lautrec)
William Clarkson contact sheet

Edith Thompson

Dates1893 – 1923
Plot No.117
SummaryWikipedia extract explaining her arrest and wrongful conviction for murder of her husband.
At the police station the following day she was distressed. She was unaware of the fact that Bywaters was already a suspect: he was arrested that evening and taken to Ilford Police Station. The police confronted her with Bywaters and one of the inspectors, Frank Hall, misleadingly told her that Bywaters had already confessed. She then admitted to the police that she knew who the assailant was and provided the police with details of her association with Bywaters
The police investigated further and discovered a series of more than sixty love letters from Edith Thompson to Bywaters.
There was no other connection.
Bywaters stated that Edith Thompson had known nothing of his plans, nor could she have, as he had not intended to murder her husband.
The two executions occurred simultaneously at 9.00 am
In July 2018 an exhumation order was granted by the Ministry of Justice to René Weis, Edith Thompson’s executor and heir. On 20 November 2018 Edith Thompson’s remains were exhumed from Brookwood Cemetery, and on 22 November 2018 she was formally buried alongside her parents, in accordance with her mother’s wishes, in the City of London Cemetery.
. The new grave (in plot 117) remained unmarked for over twenty years. It was acquired in the 1980s by René Weis and Audrey Russell, who had interviewed Avis Graydon (Edith Thompson’s surviving sister) at length in the 1970s. On 13 November 1993, a grey granite memorial was placed on plot 117, and dedicated to the memory of the four women buried there.

Quote from love letter:
“All that lying and scheming and subterfuge to obtain one little hour in each day – when by right of nature and our love we should be together for all this twenty-four in every day”.
Facts, links, referencehttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edith_Thompson_and_Frederick_Bywaters
https://edithjessiethompson.co.uk/
Edith Thompson contact sheet
Pen and ink sketch of The Colquhoun Family Mausoleum drawn on a research trip

Reflections

I found this part of the process hard to do and a bit cumbersome. For some reason it lacked the spark that I usually feel when I start working in an assignment. I have a feeling it was because the approach was outside of my comfort zone. In any case it felt laboured.

I attended an OCA ‘Keeping up momentum’ workshop (12/09/20) where a Level 3 photographer, Bev Duckworth, shared some of her experiences of completing the course and gave some tips. What resonated with me was when she described the period at the beginning of Level 3, where the course asked her to take creative risks, as being to most difficult period, but in hindsight the time where she discovered the thing that allowed her to focus and hone her practice. She also explained how she can trace back the learnings from her period of experimentation directly into her later work. I take encouragement from this.

References

Bibliography

Clarke, Sue (2019) The Illustrator as Visual Problem solver: A Deconstruction of Conceptual Strategies for the Contemporary In: Illustrator Male, A. (2019) A Companion to Illustration: Art and Theory. (s.l.): John Wiley & Sons. pp. 199-227.

Citations

Clarke, J. (1992) An Introduction to Brookwood Cemetery. Brookwood Cemetery, Surrey: Necropolis Publications.

Farmer, H. G. (1955) ‘A TURKISH OFFICER’S TOMB AT WOOLWICH’ In: Oriens 8 (1) pp.94–95.

Male, A. (2019) A Companion to Illustration: Art and Theory. (s.l.): John Wiley & Sons.

McKeon, C. (2017) Pirates, murderers and body-snatchers: Six villains (and one innocent) buried at Brookwood Cemetery. At: https://www.getsurrey.co.uk/news/surrey-news/pirates-murderers-body-snatchers-six-13943304 (Accessed 30/08/2020).

PORTFOLIO — Jonathan Twingley (s.d.) At: https://www.twingley.com/work#/the-graffiti-drawings/ (Accessed 25/09/2020).