Assignment 2 – Text & image

The purpose of this assignment was to identify and explore areas of interest and test out new ways of working through developing a body of work that creatively explored the use of text and image.

Background

When I was 15-years old I started a summer job working at Barry Island Fun Fair, part of a seaside town in South Wales. In my first year I worked on kids rides, by the second season I was working the dodgems.

The subject has intrigued me ever since.

I touched on this seaside town theme (Hunstanton on the North Norfolk coast), as part of my reportage response to Responding to a brief – Assignment 2: A sense of place. The comments in my closing reflections from that assignment are relevant:

  • I was frustrated that I didn’t get more drawings of people from the Hunstanton promenade. I think this was mostly due to the fact that I don’t yet have the visual vocabulary or experience to very rapidly draw groups of people when they’re moving. This is an area I am continually developing through practice.
  • I will come back to this subject at some point because there are many angles to explore.

This assignment picked up from where I left off and continued to develop and explore the same people and place.

What’s this project about?

Hunstanton is a Victorian seaside town on the North Norfolk coast replete with a promenade, sandy beaches, cafes and amusement arcades. It is close to where my parents live and somewhere I remember from childhood.

I used a mindmap to revisit my interests and ideas about the place and the people.

Fig 1 – What’s interesting about Hunstanton mindmap (2021)

I created an ‘elevator pitch’ to further sharpen and clarify my thinking.

Elevator pitch

I’m making a series of illustrations about different aspects of ‘traditional’ kiss-me-quick English seaside towns. What’s interesting is that these places have a distinct set of characteristics. In the holiday season they are sunburned overweight holiday makers, teenagers hanging out, retirees by the sea, ticky tacky, chip shops, amusement arcades, cheap thrill fun park rides, iced cream, candy floss, mini golf, walks along the promenade, caravans and static homes and of course the beach and the variable weather. Off season they become empty grey and desolate with peeling paint, shuttered shops, empty caravan parks; a bleak forbidding landscape.

Making approach

My approach to making the work used experiments to explore different ways of combining image and text and ways to extend the visual language I’d developed through figure drawing into a reportage context.

Experiments provided a framework where I felt safe to fail. (There’s no failure, just feedback).

Extending and building on Responding to a brief – Assignment 2: A sense of place allowed me to reflect on my personal development since carrying out the original work (just over 1½ years ago).

It also took the work in an unexpected direction.

Where I started from

I carried out secondary and primary research.

Secondary research

Visual research

I used 2.3 Visual research as one of my inputs and used a visual mind map to clarify how I’d apply what I’d learned.

Fig 2 – Inspiration mindmap (2021)

Subject research

I used the internet to:

  • Access market research to understand the socioeconomic profile of the Hunstanton tourists and their likes and dislikes (Destination Research, 2017)
  • Collect local newspapers for stories, background information and a source of texts for collage
  • Understand the history of the place (Hunstanton & District Civic Society, 2021)

Primary research

My primary research was conducted over a two week period.

I visited the location four of five times and recorded what I saw using my iphone and sketchbook.

Contact sheets from my original assignment in 2019 and my current assignment:

Reportage sketchbook drawings were made across 2-pages of an A4 sketchbook using Sharpie pen and watered down indian ink. These materials were very portable and easy to use.

I liked the visual style and feel of the drawings.

Fig 5 – Hunstanton Fun Fair closed sketch 01 (2021)
Fig 6 – Hunstanton Fun Fair closed sketch 02 (2021)
Fig 7 – Hunstanton Fun Fair closed sketch 03 (2021)
Fig 8 – Hunstanton Fun Fair closed sketch 04 (2021)
Fig 9 – Hunstanton promenade sketch 05 (2021)

I did several paintings on heavier mixed media paper experimenting with combinations of bamboo pens, dip pens and watercolour paint.

Fig 10 – Hunstanton promenade sketch 06 (2021)
Fig 11 – Hunstanton promenade sketch 07 (2021)

Practice research

Images from my practice research from 2.3 Visual research are repeated here for context. As part of that work I made two images that directly fed into my visual approach in this assignment:

Experiments

The problem

Key words from the brief:

  • Use an existing text to generate a series of illustrations (choose one approach from the six different options suggested)
  • Explore how you develop your ideas through a process of making, testing and critique
  • Produce your final artwork in a format that’s suitable for its intended purpose

I drew a picture to visualise how my research and visual material would come together.

Fig 14 – Diagram showing the four elements that came together in a series of visual experiments (2021)

I used this to define the experiments.

Experiments

After reflecting on my practice research from 2.3 Visual research, I decided to run a series of experiments using silkscreen printing as a way to combine my disperate layers of research together.

I had done an introductory silkscreen printing course during Printmaking 1, but hadn’t followed up on it, instead focusing on relief and intaglio techniques.

This assignment seemed like an excellent opportunity to explore the medium in quite an experimental way.

Part of what got me thinking about a silkscreen/mixed media combination was learning about the collaboration between Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol where a mixture of techniques is really interesting.

I framed three experiments:

  • Experiment 1 – inspired by the curiosity and connections of Maria Kalman
  • Experiment 2 – inspired by the intuitive approach of Jean-Michel Basquiat
  • Experiment 3 – inspired by the visual style and social commentary of Lara Oldfield-Ford

1.0 Experiment 1

Inspired by the curiosity and connections of Maria Kalman.

Endlessly curious, always making connections and tying subjects together in sometimes obtuse but fascinating ways.

The digressions are more interesting than the topic” (Kalman, 2010)

How do I combine this writing and this art to say as much as I can with as few words as I can” (Alam, 2018).

1.1. Making approach

Technique

  • Silkscreen print – this image will be made as part of an induction to the print studio so will be one colour only.
  • Use mixed media techniques such as collage and back painting to add colour and content to the image.

Content

  • Words derived and recreated from primary research, combined with observational drawings.

1.2 Hypothesis

  • I will become self-sufficient enough with the print process to use the open access studio without support.
  • Silkscreen printing will give me a method of extending my drawings and effectively combining mixed media layers into a single image.
  • The results will be interesting/have potential.

1.3 Expected results

  • I will learn the end-to-end silkscreen process and feel confident enough to repeat this independently.
  • I’ll gain an understanding of mixed media techniques – what works, what to avoid and what to explore further.
  • Silkscreen printing is a way to directly extend my observational drawings into another media without losing expression through mark making/line weight etc.
  • Using Sharpie pens to do the observational drawings will translate well into silkscreen printing i.e. the line weight will not cause any loss of fidelity.

1.4 What happened

I hadn’t made a silkscreen print for a number of years so had to do a half-day induction at Ochre Print Studio in Guildford that has open access for studio members.

I created artwork for a one-colour silkscreen print layer from one of my Hunstanton promenade drawings.

Fig 15 – Black and white artwork using photographs and gradients to test use of halftone (2021)

I layered in two dog walkers from one of my reference photographs. My original idea had been to directly collage in the people so that I could experiment with halftone, but decided that using a line drawing of the people was a better visual solution.

I redrew the two figures from my photographic reference in the same style as the reportage sketch and overlaid handwritten text in the visual style of Maria Kalman.

Fig 16 – Black and white artwork (2021)

The visual dynamics and image design worked well.

I prepared five different mixed media backgrounds in advance using collaged newspaper cuttings from Lynn News, the local newspaper, overpainted with acrylic paint.

The pink and cream colour swatch was derived from one of my reference photographs.

Fig 17 – Candy ‘n’ Cream shop front colour reference (2021)

The induction covered the end-to-end silkscreen process, from cleaning and degreasing a frame, screen coating, using the exposure unit, preparing the frame for printing, screen registration and printing.

The process was closely watched and supported by the print technician.

I pulled five prints. The print quality was variable and I accepted that this was part of the learning process.

1.5 What I learned

  • I learned how to do the end-to-end silkscreen printing process although I’ll need to do several more sessions before I feel confident.
  • I learned that it’s going to take time and practice for me to become proficient enough at the print process to produce good quality results. I particularly struggled to apply a consistent speed and pressure when pulling a print.
  • Using an acrylic painted background adds colour and texture to the image in an interesting way. I’ll explore this further in the next experiment.
  • The silkscreen process easily copes with the fidelity of the original artwork and I like the quality of the Sharpie drawings.
  • My registration technique for adding a dark pink ‘spot colour’ to character’s jacket in the foreground was really successful and I could easily extend this to more elements within the print.
  • The results of the experiment are interesting enough for me to develop.

1.6 What I’ll do next

  • By not cleaning off the artwork from the screen I have the option to do a re-print of the same image to get a crisper line. However on reflection I don’t think that is necessary for this experiment and would actually cost me unnecessary time and cost.
  • Become a member of the print studio so that I can continue to use the open studio facilities.
  • Build on my learnings from Experiment 1 by carrying out Experiment 2.

2.0 Experiment 2

Inspired by the intuitive approach of Jean-Michel Basquiat.

Intuitive, words, pictures, visual language, layers

2.1 Making approach

Technique

  • Silkscreen print.
  • Build on learnings from Experiment 1.
  • Introduce halftone

Content

  • Words derived and recreated from primary research, combined with observational drawings

2.2 Hypothesis

  • The quality of the silkscreen print layer will be an improvement on Experiment 1.
  • The results will be interesting/have potential.
  • I’ll independently complete the end-to-end print process.

2.3 Expected results

  • My confidence in the silkscreen printing process will grow.
  • Using halftone will require trial and error and may not be successful.
  • I have no idea whether using an ‘intuitive’ approach to creating the background layer will work or how it will change the meaning of the image.

2.4 What happened

The black and white line art was created in the same way as Experiment 1 using a combination of reportage drawing for the fairground and figure drawing using my photographic reference.

I decided not to attempt halftone because given my lack of experience and the fact I was attempting the next print without support of a technician meant that I wanted to stick to a proven formula.

The final image layout was constructed digitally in Photoshop and printed at A3.

Fig 18 – Black and white line art (2021)

I placed the A3 image onto a lightbox and carefully added A2 registration marks using masking tape so that the mixed media background layer would align to the foreground line art.

Fig 19 – Black and white line art mounted and registered on lightbox (2021)

The intuitive part of the process inspired by Jean-Michel Basquiat’s approach to painting was creating the mixed media background images.

Fig 20 – Hand painted backgrounds using liquid watercolour and Inktense colour pencil (2021)

I booked a 3-hour session at the open print studio and hoped that would be enough time to clean, prepare and transfer my artwork onto a screen and do a short print run.

It wasn’t.

What happened was that I didn’t wash out the emulsion from the screen sufficiently enough, so the image transfer was ‘blocky’. This meant the ink didn’t flow cleanly and the prints were patchy and of generally poor quality. This was probably exacerbated by the hot weather which meant the ink dried more quickly than usual on the screen causing further blockage.

Fig 21 – Example of poor quality print with patchy lines (2021)

I ended the session slightly frustrated but determined to get it right next time.

I booked my next session the following week.

During the next session I took the advice from the technician and started again, this time paying much closer attention to cleaning the screen and washing out the emulsion thoroughly. Additionally I added four drops of acrylic retardent to the ink so that it wouldn’t dry so quickly.

The exposure time when transferring the artwork onto the screen was 8.

This time the process was much smoother and the screen printed cleanly.

The print sequence was:

  • Flood the screen directly after a print
  • Flood the screen again just before taking a print
  • Make the print in one pass
  • Repeat

I created three good quality prints:

2.5 What I learned

  • I could be more assertive with the power washer when reclaiming the screen.
  • I noticed the difference between a fully washed out artwork transfer and one that was only partial.
  • The poor quality of the previous print was due to the quality of the transferred artwork not my printing process/technique.
  • The hand coloured pre-prepared backgrounds worked really well and there is plenty of scope in that approach for me to develop further.

2.6 What I’ll do next

  • Take the experience and learnings into Experiment 3.

3.0 Experiment 3

Inspired by the visual style and social commentary of Lara Oldfield-Ford.

Words have a direct relationship to the imagery so need to be placed so there is a connection between the two.

About intuition and being pulled by curiosity or desire about a certain place” (A ‘drift’ with Laura Oldfield Ford, 2013).

3.1 Making approach

Technique

  • Silkscreen print and mixed media.
  • Use halftone to combine collage and line art.

Content

  • Photographs/drawings/words derived from and recreated from primary research.

3.2 Hypothesis

  • The quality of the silkscreen print layer will be an improvement on Experiment 2.
  • The results will be interesting/have potential.
  • I’ll independently complete the end-to-end print process.

3.3 Expected results

  • I’ll be able to repeat the end-to-end print process with more speed and confidence.
  • Transferring artwork to the screen will be ‘right first time’.
  • The quality of the final print will improve.
  • I’ll have three different mixed media approaches to reflect on.

3.4 What happened

I used broadly the same techniques that I used in Experiment 2, but this time added a text layer into the silkscreen print artwork. I again decided not to risk halftone at this early stage of my development.

Fig 22 – Black and white line art before the text layer was added (2021)

I used a combination of acrylic paint, Posca pen, pencil and handwritten blocks of text from reference materials to create the mixed media background layers.

The printing was done in a single 3-hour session.

3.5 What I learned

  • I carried out the end-to-end process without support and produced a good quality result. I’m gaining in confidence.
  • I need to test any text layers with other people to see whether they work as intended.
  • Posca pen is bold, bright and fast way to add colour and texture to the background layer.

3.6 What I’ll do next

  • If I want to make further screen prints I need to buy my own screen.
  • I was advised to buy screen with a mesh size of 90T initially, and possible go to 110T if I need to produce a print with fine detail later. The disadvantage being that the finer mesh will block more easily.
  • I need time to reflect on if/how these experiments have been successful.

Reflections

How successful were the experiments?

  • I found framing my response to the brief as a series of experiments gave me the license to take creative risk without fear of failing. I tried out a number of different mixed media techniques rapidly and learned quickly.
  • This was a form of practice research that covered creative approach, technical approach and becoming self-sufficient in a new medium.

How did the artist research add value?

  • During 2.3 Visual research I worked in the style of the artist and this really brought the research to life and gave me more insight that I could experiment with. For example, it was really interesting for me to understand how they made the work and not just focus on the end results.
  • This inspired me to try new creative and technical processes, for example silkscreen printing combined with mixed media.

Were you able to express a personal voice in the work?

  • My personal voice is there but needs refining and focussing. The way I’ve portrayed the subjects is okay as a starting point, but with further practice and experimentation could be considerably strengthened.
  • The combination of techniques has great potential to develop further.

How successful were the three images?

  • One of my objectives was to extend my personal voice by applying my newly found visual style (developed through life drawing), within a reportage context. I’m undecided as to how successful I feel that has been. I need more time and more experimentation before I come to a conclusion.
  • I think the design of two of the three prints is strong, and the combination of reportage drawing and figures drawn from reference works. I’m undecided as to whether the figures are expressive enough and/or whether this matters to me.
  • I like the hand lettering in Experiment 1 and will develop this further.

What did silkscreen printing provide?

  • An interesting way to combine techniques and media.

In what ways have I developed since the last time I’d used Hunstanton as a reportage subject?

  • I can see definite improvement in my observational drawing, particularly figues. I’m now using expressive hands and expressions as tools to help tell a story.
  • My recent images have a stronger sense of design.
  • I’ve extended my range of drawing tools considerably and I’m taking more creative risks.

What are you going to do next?

  • Frame further experiments to establish whether silkscreen printing is a technique I should be investing time and money in. Ref: Mark resist experiment
  • As Covid 19 lockdown restrictions lift, I need to practice my reportage drawing a lot. I see there is potential in what I’m doing but I’m falling short of where I’d like to be.
  • Consider developing this strand of work further in PART 3 Working with an audience.

References

Citations

Alam, R. (2018) The singular magic of Maira Kalman. At: https://www.thecut.com/2018/04/profile-maira-kalman-author-and-illustrator.html (Accessed 25/04/2021).

Hunstanton & District Civic Society (2021) A short history of Hunstanton [Website] At: http://www.hunstantoncivicsociety.org.uk/history/history.htm (Accessed: 19/06/2021)

Inktalks (2014) Maria Kalman: What I choose to illustrate and why [Video] At: https://youtu.be/oOs5e_nkdfk (Accessed: 16/04/21)

The New Art Gallery Walsall – A ‘drift’ with Laura Oldfield Ford (2013) At: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5KEtKSzNwRM (Accessed 01/05/2021)

Bibliography

Destination Research (2017) Hunstanton Visitor Survey Report of Findings At: file:///Users/hughhadfield/Downloads/hunstanton_visitor_survey_report_february_2017__1_-1.pdf (Accessed: 19/06/2021)

List of illustrations

Figure 1 – Hadfield, Hugh (2021) What’s interesting about Hunstanton mindmap [Pen and ink drawing] In possession of: the author

Figure 2 – Hadfield, Hugh (2021) Inspiration mindmap [Pen and ink drawing with watercolour] In possession of: the author

Figure 3 – Hadfield, Hugh (2019) Hunstanton photographic reference [Digital photographs] In possession of: the author

Figure 4 – Hadfield, Hugh (2021) Hunstanton photographic reference [Digital photographs] In possession of: the author

Figure 5 – Hadfield, Hugh (2021) Hunstanton Fun Fair closed sketch 01 [Sharpie pen and indian ink wash] In possession of: the author

Figure 6 – Hadfield, Hugh (2021) Hunstanton Fun Fair closed sketch 02 [Sharpie pen and indian ink wash] In possession of: the author

Figure 7 – Hadfield, Hugh (2021) Hunstanton Fun Fair closed sketch 03 [Sharpie pen and indian ink wash] In possession of: the author

Figure 8 – Hadfield, Hugh (2021) Hunstanton Fun Fair closed sketch 04 [Sharpie pen and indian ink wash] In possession of: the author

Figure 9 – Hadfield, Hugh (2021) Hunstanton promenade sketch 05 [Sharpie pen and indian ink wash] In possession of: the author

Figure 10 – Hadfield, Hugh (2021) Hunstanton promenade sketch 06 [Pen and ink with watercolour] In possession of: the author

Figure 11 – Hadfield, Hugh (2021) Hunstanton promenade sketch 07 [Pen and ink with watercolour] In possession of: the author

Figure 12 – Hadfield, Hugh (2021) Hunstanton seaside in the style of Laura Oldfield Ford [Illustrated collage] In possession of: the author

Figure 13 – Hadfield, Hugh (2021) Sweet as a razor using a making approach based on Jean-Michel Basquiat  [Sharpie and Posca Pen] In possession of: the author

Figure 14 – Hadfield, Hugh (2021) Diagram showing the four elements that came together in a series of visual experiments   [Sharpie and Promarker pen] In possession of: the author

Figure 15 – Hadfield, Hugh (2021)  Black and white artwork using photographs and gradients to test use of halftone   [Sharpie and collage] In possession of: the author

Figure 16 – Hadfield, Hugh (2021)  Black and white artwork   [Black & white digital print] In possession of: the author

Figure 17 – Hadfield, Hugh (2021)  Candy ‘n’ Cream shop front colour reference  [Digital photograph] In possession of: the author

Figure 18 – Hadfield, Hugh (2021)  Black and white artwork   [Black & white digital print] In possession of: the author

Figure 19 – Hadfield, Hugh (2021)  Black and white line art mounted and registered on lightbox  [Digital photograph] In possession of: the author

Figure 20 – Hadfield, Hugh (2021)  Hand painted backgrounds using liquid watercolour and Inktense colour pencil  [Digital photograph] In possession of: the author

Figure 21 – Hadfield, Hugh (2021)  Example of poor quality print with patchy lines  [Mixed media silkscreen print] In possession of: the author

Figure 22 – Hadfield, Hugh (2021)  Black and white line art before the text layer was added   [Black & white digital print] In possession of: the author