Monday, 16 March 2009

A Page from my Sketchbook

The difficulty I had in choosing just one image out of so many demonstrated to me how much I value variation  in my artwork. This a page taken from a sketchbook done during a trip to India and is the result of wanting to find a way of recording particular moments of my experience. With only a short time frame to do it in, drawing from live situations like this always provides me with a sense of urgency, and gives my drawings more fluency, as it requires the eye to analyze what it sees in a split second. Through this particular drawing I noticed how transferable the skills that I am taught in life drawing are: working rapidly from a moving figure in the studio is no different to attempting to capture the sweeping movements of these birds as they filled my surroundings.


What I love about the independent drawing project is the way that not knowing what's ahead and working with the others in the group has been really creative in terms of drawing and storytelling. First of all we spent an hour drawing characters just as they cam eout of our heads -one generated another, so to speak, then we looked at all of this vast parade of people and animals and cast a few leading characters by voting. But that crowd still swim around in our imaginations, along with the selection of significant objects we also elected to our story. After that, as I said in the last blog, taking someone else's character and manually remastering that drawing--internalising it--made the person come to life: it's strange that attempting to copy someone else's drawing faithfully made that character live much more strongly than my own invention. We had already agreed a time (the present) and a setting (rural), so my next move was to draw a page, a fragment or episode of a larger shadowy narrative that was stirring in response to the elements we had agreed (i.e. what is happening between the twins, bad lady, little girl with dog and the key, looking-glass, black hole magnifying glass, etc. down in the country?). This shop was generated by an image I didn't use in the end (a sleazy character looking at their tongue in a looking-glass) but this suggested to me a fat lazy shopkeeper who was too idle to serve two identical customers and then called in his overworked drudge (bad lady) from the unseen fat lazy and vain shopkeeper the whole shop swam into being and its atmosphere of rustic superstition, poaching, and trees creaking in the wind on the village rugby pitch...

I set up the independent drawing project to work with the idea of the fragmentary -to go against the grain of starting with a subject and to allow us to think about how we compose a page, or an atmosphere, or a narrative from drawn marks. At the moment we have just started out: it could go on to form a whole epic. Michelle drew some chilling arctic-looking mountains, whilst Sarah presented a frightening carousel of windows, black holes, and pictures within pictures in which our characters suffered alarming changes in scale and shifts in power. In all the pages we made, the same characters came and went, and in turn these suggested what might happen next. Having written my description of how I've been refelcetin gon storytelling, I'm now ready to give a title to this post in honour of the great Ovid and his Metamorphoses -his sea of stories that grow and evolve out of each other and sweep away in a glorious example of how not to structure an academic essay

Saturday, 14 March 2009


Gustav Klimt’s ‘Medicine’ was one of a series of three paintings commissioned for the ceilings of the University of Vienna. This is a photograph of the original in its final state before it was destroyed in 1945 to prevent it from falling into the hands of the enemy. I am fascinated by the ambiguity and unrivalled aesthetics within Klimt’s paintings, but this one in particular for the narrative that unfolds through imagery, symbolism and metaphor. ‘Medicine’ is a testimony of man’s struggle to break away from birth and death – the suffering in life, the finality of death, and the refusal to accept the concept that birth is merely the beginning of a journey towards death. On the left side of the painting: a woman with a newborn child at her feet represent birth into life; on the right side there is a thick entanglement of figures, within which a skeleton can be seen – representative of death within life. Barely visible amidst the confusion of figures is a Wheel of Fortune which is a metaphor for instinctual life, where one figure can be seen trying to break free. The female figure in the foreground of the painting is Hygieia (daughter and wife of Asclepius, god of medicine). Her full frontal stance not only emphasizes her importance, but also that she turns her back on humankind.
On completion of the work, the Faculty of the School of Medicine were up in arms over the message it conveyed – or failed to convey. ‘Medicine’ communicated an “ambiguous unity of life and death”, and failed to pay homage to the role of medicine or the science of healing, as the Faculty of the University would have expected. Such Professors of Medicine, who would pride themselves on their journey in search of truth, confronted by Klimt’s painting – a mere demonstration that science is no solution for human suffering.

Friday, 13 March 2009

recent drawing

This is a page of recent life drawings done with a calligraphy pen and water. I'm most comfortable working on poses for 5 minutes or less because i'm easily frustrated or become cautious of overworking a drawing. Also because I'm not really interested in making a life like study. I prefer to describe the figure in a way that I can relate to my studio practice.
I often find my most successful drawings are those I can't remember happening, because they have been an uninhibited reaction to what is in front of me. It is important to me to maintain an element of expressionistic mark making. Although they are minimal and I have selected the information I want to leave out, this is an instinctive process and the lines I do use are very immediate.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

"Oor Wullie"

Immediately when I think of successful narrative drawing “Oor Wullie” springs to mind. As a child I used to love reading "Oor Wullie" books and would find myself in fits of laughter or at times feeling sad or sorry for poor Wullie who had accidently ended up in trouble again. For this blog I started to look up the comic strips and I found that even now I enjoy Wullie's adventures every bit as much as I use to. I absolutely love R.D. Watkins illustrations, which are simple yet so compelling and entertaining. Each comic strip seems to capture the essence of the story perfectly allowing the reader to engage with Wullie’s character. Written in broad Scot’s dialect, the illustrations help make the words universal, without taking away from them. The relationship between the words and pictures are so close- I always feel as I read the story that I actually know this little boy who is at heart a little gem but with a naughty streak and inquisitive nature. The popularity of the comic strip in Scotland (Estimated readership of Sunday Post in 1971 just after Watkins death was 3million, 79% of population) reinforces how successful the illustrations and stories are at engaging with all sorts of people of all different ages. No colour appears in the strips and this in no way hinders the drawings but in fact adds to their simplicity and success. Each block is cleverly drawn to give you just enough information to make sense of the story, yet still giving enough way for people to relate to Wullie’s working class lifestyle. I find it quite magical how alive the characters look considering they are simple black and white flat images. There is no denying the look on Wullie’s face when he is sad, happy, fed up etc – something which shows how talented Watkins was as an illustrator. The careful marriage of words and pictures allow a clever balance of information which the brain can comfortably process while also evoking a real mixture of human emotion.


Pictures presented are from pages of graphic novels I loved to read when I was a child and later a teenager. I discovered graphic novels quite early but I'm not a graphic novel reader at all. Those pieces were published in Poland in 80. in times, when country was isolated from "cultural influences" from western Europe. There were very few publications from the west and graphic novels were probably seen by authorities as rather unharmfull and safe. First picture comes from "Yans" by Grzegorz Rosinski (Polish ilustrator working in France) and Andre Duchateau (scenario), second two pictures - page and fragment of the cover come from series Thorgal (Rosinski & Jean van Hame), the last one is Polish graphic novel Funky Koval by R.Polch and G.Parowski. Those graphic novels were probably targeted for older audience, but were collected by younger also because they were a good alternative for infantile books and graphic novels designed for children. Those graphic novels were also more universal, telling stories about heroes, friendship, fight of good and evil. Characters were obviously special and outstanding persons, but not superheroes in fancy suits. Series Thorgal has been published for many years (if is not still in progress) and contained almost 30 books and because of that has even more fans, who grew up with their favourite character. Reading Thorgal alowes to observe how artist style was developing, changing, bringing new techniques (watercolor exchanged by oil-paint looking ilustrations - quality of ilustration - that was a real reason that I liked Thorgal or Yans). To be honest I didn't appreciate further changes in Thorgal's style that much and probably story should end up some time ago. Or perhaps I just like those novels from my childhood and new ones don't atract me any longer. Variety of graphic novels nowadays doesn't atract me either. I read some manga or American "Marvel" style novels, but I guess superheroes with super powers can't really compare with noble Viking warior with bow and sword fighting with evil to protect his family.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Jan Pieńkowski

Jan Pieńkowski is an illustrator most famous for the ‘Meg and Mog’ series, but I particularly like his silhouette work, which is a very different style. He has illustrated a number of fairytales like this; the image shown is a story about Baba Yaga from a collection called “The Kingdom under the Sea” and I think that the swirling, marbled backgrounds give a sense of a magical, otherworldly setting.

On top of the marbled paper are black silhouettes which create dramatic contrast, and are often highly detailed. A good thing about silhouettes for narrative work is that it gives the reader space to imagine the appearances of the characters. (I read in an interview that this style came about when Pieńkowski got frustrated with the facial expressions of the characters and just inked over them before a deadline.)

Although his silhouettes are detailed I don’t think his work ever looks particularly cluttered. In this picture there are a number of narrative elements – I find the chicken-legged house particularly intriguing, and you could probably come up with a story just by looking at this single image.

I owned this book as a child and really loved the sense of atmosphere in the illustrations, some of which were quite dark/creepy. I’d recommend his older work as I think in more recent books the silhouettes are more cartoon-like and less elegant, though it may be that they’re aimed at younger children.

Jean Basquiat

I am of the opinion that within every image, we can find evidence of narrative. Certain artists use it explicitly and one such example is that of Jean Basquiat. His works (and not only the one illustrated here) form the narrative of thought processes, issues of identity, ethnicity and urban life. Throughout his oeuvre, he utilises the simplified form to formulate symbols which are universally recognisable, thus creating an incredibly strong narrative element. He is telling a story of process with his wildly compulsive and childlike mark-making technique. He also tells us of context in his works which are painted onto walls, doors and furniture and his experience as a grafitti artist is made apparent. Simple, black figures deal with black ethnicity and its supposed connection with primitive art. Tying in with that, there is a strong use of primary colours, re-inforcing a primal narrative as well as the disregard of perspective within the pictorial space. This lack of perspective also has a diagramatic effect, which again, coupled with his use of text, is strongly narrative.

Basquiat's work contains a strong sense that his drawings contain a direct and urgent story that needs to be read immediately, however, his deceptively simple use of diagrammatic pictorial space, is not as straighforward as it appears to be and some research and thinking is required if one is to understand the pieces.

1964                                                  1985        

I was not sure what to choose for this blog entry, and started to think about illustrations that I like and enjoy and my mind went to Elmer the Patchwork Elephant, a children´s book that I have read a lot for one of my nephew, has lots of lovely colors and simple forms. The book is after the illustrator and author David McKee Owns, I googled him and then found images from one of his books Two Can Toucan, which is about a South American bird who can carry two cans of paint atop its enormous bill. I absoluetly love this image and need to find my self a copy of this edition of that book.
Its simple and clean lines, but still it´s not so simple the drawing of the flowers have many details. With the use of only red and black it seems more simple that it in fact is, and with the use of solid black in the bird gives him our full attention. This image is from the edition that was published in 1964 but the book was reillustrated in 1985 with more modern effects, I prefer the old version, don´t know about you guys,
 thank you. (above is the old and new versions)


Tuesday, 10 March 2009

An interesting illustration

This illustration from the list of Scholarship Competition of Academic illustration student. Sorry about I don't know the artist's name of this illustraion.
When i looking for the illustration on web, this is the most interesting one which i like. As we aware about this work, flexible line with bold brown ink. The whole illustraion seems bold, however when you focus on the head part in particular it has numbers of fancy details and attractive points. The hair of the girl is looks like drawing quite simple-just several brown parts however it is accurate shows the movement of the hair in wind.
Artist use his/her drawing forms and skills to show the spirit of people. That is the most significant point which i need to learn and practise. The way and effect are quite flexible and harmony.
Another interesting point is the drak color contrast with blank shows a space between legs, stocking and the decorations of her cloth is fashionable. A long cigaret between her fingers indirect shows the spirit the the girl. I quite like this way that i can use a lot in my own work.

Monday, 9 March 2009

Sir David Low Cartoon

This is a drawing by Sir David Low. His cartoons (published in the Evening Standard between 1927 and 1950) are infamous for their scathing attacks on the dicatorships in Europe at the time and British foreign policy. Low's cartoons have always appealed to me because of his ability to depict characters like Hitler and Mussolini in a recognisable but often funny way. I also almost always agree with what his cartoons are saying.

In this image the narrative present is about the incident now known as the Night of the Long Knives (June 29th/30th 1934), when Hitler consolidated his power by getting rid of the SA. We are able to read this thanks to the date above the cartoon (July 3rd 1934). We see Hitler standing with a smoking gun (which he has just used to shoot the soldiers behind him who represent the SA). The piece of paper infront of the army which reads "Hitler's unkept promises" is reference to Hitler's betrayal of the SA. Also, the caption which reads "They salute with both hands now" indicates how the one handed Nazi salute which symbolised loyalty has become a two handed salute of surrender. The narrative in this piece is evident although it does take some piecing together of evidence to get the full understanding of the cartoon.

Storytelling Entry

When you mention storytelling and image in the same sentence then its an easy step for me to think of Tintin novels. I read them time and time again when I was younger and if I pick one up nowadays I still enjoy them immensely.
Part of the reason for this I think is down to the skillful manner in which the narratives are depicted. The line used is simple, and yet so distinctive.
Take for example, this image which is used as a "Tintin logo" with seemingly not too much effort, the artist has created a sense of atmosphere, made the image dynamic through the suggestion of movement and depicted a typical type of scenario that one would often encounter if they were to read the novels.
The atmosphere is created by the inclusion of the distinctive shadow behind the figure, which puts a spotlight and subsequently, all our attention on Tintin. There is no doubt as to who is the hero in this narrative.
The fact that he is drawn mid-dash is significant, as it adds to the excitement of the drawing. It also is reflective of Tintin's character; as during the course of the novels, Tintin is often hurrying in or out of perilous scrapes. This image serves to enhance this perception of the hero.
Finally, these few marks also contextualize to some extent, due to the clothes that Tintin wears. A viewer/reader is able to immediately make a guess as to the type of narrative this character will star in because the clothes suggest reasonably wealthy society and also appear to us today, quite dated.
This type of drawing would pretty obviously be regarded as illustration, however I do not think that it should be at all disregarded for this reason, this drawing is extremely successful in not only creating excitement but also being very distinctive and straight-away identifiable with the recognizable, successful Tintin series.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Although I’m not usually a huge fan of Salvador Dalí’s paintings I am interested in states of consciousness and came across this drawing.  As we are all aware Dalí created work based on dreams and premonitions.  In this drawing filled with Dalían props, such as the piece of tongue like meat draped over the harp, or the lobster and apple that rest on Harpo’s head, the viewer has no option but to allow their mind to engage and wonder about meaning and intended narrative.  The props suggest Dalí’s early interest in themes such as edible beauty, cannibalism and the legend of William Tell.

The subject of the drawing is Harpo Marx of the Harpo Brothers whose film (Animal Crackers) Dalí placed “at the summit of the evolution of comic cinema”. Dalí likened their humorous antics to his own practice and singled out Harpo “whose face is that of persuasive and triumphant madness”.  The two of them became friends resulting in Dalí sending an elaborate harp made from barbed wire, teaspoons and forks as a Christmas present.  Later Dalí went on to create this portrait of the comedian.  This exquisite pencil and ink drawing shows Harpo strumming the barbed wire strings of torture with long, graceful fingers.  The drawing has been painstakingly made with loving detailed illusionism.  I appreciate its compositional aesthetics as well as the contrast between highly detailed, intricate marks and delicately suggested areas.

So, to conclude, so much narrative has been crammed into this drawing that the viewer cannot possibly be expected to read without having some background knowledge of both the artist and his subject.  

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Rob Ryan is a British print maker and illustrator. He mainly works by creating paper cut outs and screen prints. He has collaborated with Vogue, Paul Smith, Liberties and many publishers. His first book of exclusively his own work was published in 2007 called 'This Is For You'. It is an adult fairy tale following themes of love and loneliness. 
For me Rob Ryan's work can be overly sentimental as he likes to write in quite a poetic style, almost always about people and lost love. He likes to feature people, birds, trees and clouds, all surrounded by lots of hearts. Its the tiny intricate shapes I like. The image is initially quite simple  - all one colour and very flat in appearance. But once you appreciate how much care goes into each image, with every part painstakingly cut out, they seem even more special. 
In his book Rob Ryan told a story through a series of images, but I like the way often tells a story through a single image. In his Christmas window for Liberties he created a large scale paper cut out and in the one piece of card told the whole nativity story.

Lost by Adi Oren

This is an illustration by Adi Oren, a fellow student at RISD, from last semester’s Illustration I class. The project was simply to illustrate being lost in however way we saw fit. Adi’s piece captivated me the most out of all the illustrations that were presented. It is a wonderfully unusual concept, executed simply with graphite.

The originality of the idea, combined with the sensitivity of the mark making makes for a very touching narrative. What speaks to me most of all is the expression of the banana. It really is its own character with the saddest little face and I feel that it is exactly how a banana would look like should it be animated. The scratchiness of the pencil marks adds anxiety to the atmosphere, and the space, which not defined also speaks of the “lostness”. This illustration captures a moment in a story and leaves the door wide open for the viewer to imagine all the possible narratives leading to this moment, and onward.

To me, this is an example of how an original concept and the sensitivity by which it is rendered results in a successful and interesting narrative. I wonder if a more abstract, less narrative approach could work as well in this case.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

STORYTELLERS and narratives in drawing

Hi! Frances here with a post for the new topic 'STORYTELLERS'. My idea is to think about whether narrative can or should exist in drawings, and how it's conveyed. -It's also a way of opening up the field away from a fine art/gallery type context and letting in graphic novels, illustration, design presentation drawings, etc.

However, to start out I am posting a gallery artist, Yun-Fei Ji. He was artist-in-residence at Yale 2006 and some of his work and a video of him talking about himself can be seen on

I think I first read about him when he was in an exhibition called 'Dargerism: Contemporary arts and Henry Darger' -or maybe it was during the Yale residency. Anyway, I got interested in him because he said that looking at traditional Chinese painting and using it as and for a political statement gave him 'permission to use narrative' in art. Most of us will have had our work slapped down at one point or another with the put-down that it's 'illustrative', and straight narrative is a difficult area for fine artists, maybe because the pull of the story seduces the artist and the audience into accepting a weak visual statement. So, in short, and for starters, I'm posting this image, the ideas of this artist, and some suggestions about storytelling.

Apart from using the cultural resonances of the technique (mineral colours on mulberry paper) and the contrast between the harmony in landscape normally conjured by traditional Chinese art and the unhappy landscape story pictured by Yun-Fei Ji (the 3 gorges dam, the flooding of vast areas and disruption of society caused by this project), Ji also uses the Chinese perspective constructions to illuminate the story at all places and right across the surface, rather than concentrating in one area which is the effect of Western illusionistic perspective constructions. So Western perspective tends to concentrate attention on one area which creates a kind of driving narrative, analogous in my mind to Western classical harmonic structures that also have a forward driver.


This is the first page from the graphic novel "Jimmy Corrigan: Smartest Kid on Earth," by Chris Ware, which tells the story of Jimmy's estranged relationship with his father in the context of the Corrigans' wider family history. I have started to really enjoy comic books and graphic novels and I finished reading "Jimmy Corrigan" most recently. The imagery really stood out to me as having a brilliant sense of pace and storytelling due to it's unusual composition and attention to detail; we can see on this page that while we focus in onto the bird in the tree time passes, the seasons change, and the house deteriorates. I feel that this is an interesting use of narrative which borrows alot from film, and for me it is really exciting to see this kind of cinematic storytelling in the context of a comic book. (in the sense tha tthis is definately not an action or scifi comic!) If you choose to read the whole novel, you will notice large descriptive illustrations to describe a setting, coupled with very small, quick sequences of drawings to describe a fast movement, or a hurried moment. Furthermore there is a constant movement in and out of the main storyline, we move to look at Jimmy's dreams, and zoom in and out of the details of his life. Intriguingly, Jimmy even has a "cartoon version" of himself inside his own, cartoon, mind. (Who looks strangely like Stewie from family guy!) While I realise this kind of narrative in drawing is not considered "high art" I would implore anyone who has their doubts about the intelligence or effectiveness of the medium of the graphic novel to read Jimmy Corrigan, it gave me a whole new perspective on the format. (Maus by Art Spiegelman is also great but I love the muted colours in Jimmy Corrigan; for example in the images I have included below; and I guess you can only choose one book at a time!!)

Sunday, 1 March 2009

(Sorry for this being so late) 

Cai Guo- Qiang draws using an unconventional media- gunpowder.  This gives rise to issues of control.  The artist has an idea of the overall image he wants to create but what degree of control does he actually possess?  He says he wants the process to give him problems to overcome and for it to take him where it wants to go.

Guo- Qiang's work deals with cultural issues and takes a lot from Chinese philosophy but on a purely aesthetic level the large-scale  images recall both the abstraction of Western Modernism and the lyrical forms of Chinese ink painting.  I was shocked by the shear scale of these drawings when I came across one for the first time in the flesh last year at the MoMA, I'm interested in the performative aspect of these drawings and Guo- Qiang's sky drawings and the fact that they are spontaneous and cannot be completely controlled by the artist.