5.6 Reflection

Reflections on Assignment 5

  • This was my first completely self-directed project and putting structure around how I’d approach the work was a really helpful first step.
  • The open and experimental nature of the brief (make something that’s never been seen before) had me flummoxed for a while. It was almost like I couldn’t think that far out of the box and it took me a while to get going.When I did start it was great to have the permission to experiment and to fail.
  • The turning point came through literary research when I came across a series of experimental process driven techniques. At that point I was able to make a connection between my Brookwood Cemetery subjects and an interesting set of new experimental visual approaches.
  • Setting myself creative risks for the different stages of the project and measuring the success or failure of these was an excellent learning experience.
  • I found the Research stage difficult and cumbersome to do, but with hindsight it really established the scope of work and how I was going to approach it. I spent more time researching as a proportion of this project than on any previous assignment. This really paid off.
  • The experimental process exercises generated a large number of ideas that tested and retested before narrowing down on an idea.
  • I was pleased with how the artworking went. I tried a number of new techniques, notably the use of masking film and the incorporation of basic print techniques.

Did I answer the brief?

To answer this question I’ll refer back to the Problem statement and Elevator pitch created during 5.0 Understand the problem.

Problem statement

Illustrators that I admire are able to produce narrative illustrations that combine creativity, abstraction and invention to create unconventional visual languages that communicate meaning in unexpected and innovative ways. The problem is that, to date, my range of creative responses have been conventional/literal interpretations, and I want this assignment to push my work outside of that narrow thinking

I think I responded well to this problem statement because the visual approaches and making approaches I worked with were experimental and pushed me outside of my comfort zone. I certainly felt some of the experimental lateral thinking processes enabled me to process my research in new and unexpected ways; for the first time I felt like I had too many ideas and possibilities and had to filter down.

Elevator pitch

I’m making a series of images based around different aspects of Brookwood Cemetery using a set of predefined rules and making approaches. What’s interesting is that unlike previous assignments, the objective 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. Within this context, failure can be seen as success.

The approach I took to the subjects meant I was able to come up with a diverse set of visual responses. However, they are not unconventional, and I didn’t feel I failed spectacularly which probably means I didn’t take enough risk.

What has been really interesting is, how within my personal work, particularly life drawing, I’ve really actively been taking creative risks with a much higher failure rate and some interesting successes.

This is an interesting development because I can see that this more abstract visual language with an emphasis on mark making over realism should feed back into my OCA work.

I’ve also started collaborating with other OCA students as part of a ‘Keeping up momentum’ initiative facilitated by OCA tutor Bryan Eccleshall, on a piece of work that uses chance to combine different visual components. At the time of writing this is work in progress, but I will write it up and publish it here.

Visual Exploration – final reflective statement

I completed Visual Exploration in 6-months during an exceptional period. The coronavirus pandemic was at its height and I was furloughed from my job. This allowed me to focus fully on OCA coursework.

In parallel to my coursework I maintained my You are Here pandemic diary (at time of writing I’m currently on Day-202) and was producing at least one image or more a day. Occasionally there was cross-over with my OCA work, but mostly this was independent. So, all in all I produced a lot of varied work, almost all of it observational.

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Because of these factors, and the experimental nature of the course, my visual language and technical confidence have developed a lot and I feel ready to take this newfound approach into the more self-directed work within Illustration 3.

I did find the very first part of the course hard work. With hindsight I think this was because it introduced me to new ways of working that challenged my comfort zone. There was also a lot more research that, again with hindsight has been very valuable, but at the time felt like drudgery; “just let me get on with the practical exercises”.

The artists research has been particularly valuable, and during Assignment 3 I was surprised to find myself drawing inspiration from renaissance artists such as Caravaggio or the beautiful Abraham Tapestries in Hampton Court Palace. I also discovered a number of contemporary Russian illustrators through Instagram whose work is nothing like what I see in the UK in terms of visual style.

One of my objectives coming into the Unit was to embed practice research onto my practice, and I think this one of the reasons why I feel more momentum in what I’m doing. Starting a backlog of research so that all potential research items are captured and acted upon has been a key part of this process.

The way I framed the course was about taking creative risk and moving myself out of my comfort zone. The first part of the course for me was about play and experimentation. I enjoyed the process driven approaches and the results that were sometimes unexpected. What I struggled with was how to reconcile process or chance driven approaches with the need, as an illustrator, to maintain control in order to shape a specific outcome.

The second part of the course was where this new learning was applied to increasingly more self-directed projects. My eureka moment was during Assignment 3 where I realised that I could use experimental processes as a means to an end, not just as an end in themselves. Rather an obvious statement to make in hindsight.

I consolidated my learning in Assignment 4 and Assignment 5 and was able to identify themes and subjects to develop.

I feel as though I still have a way to go to develop and innovate my practice, but my experience and learnings from Visual Exploration have given me the tools and approach to take me onto the next step. I feel ready and excited for Illustration 3.