Category Archives: Parallel Project

Part 6 – The Video – Parallel Project

I have experimented with a number of approaches to making a video as a ‘drawing’ arising out of my parallel project. These have included looking at a ‘stop-frame’ animation of the process of drawing on paper, a video of a drawing developing, and videoing media in movement during drawing, for instance dropped into water or dusted over melting ice or water. I have also videoed flames, burning and smoke.

I have created a suite of small video clips from which I have selected a few which I feel work together and combined into a single video using video editing software. The video needs to be very short for assessment and most of my material has been rigorously edited away. The backbone of the video is the process of ink dispersing in water, which creates a complex sequence of ‘found drawings’ in motion.

 

I think that this video is a bit chaotic on the eye with the different elements appearing and disappearing. They have been accumulated in this way to maintain interest and to link the elements, but, ultimately I think the movement of the veils of ink is by far the most interesting and mesmeric part of the video. It brought to mind this work by Kader Attia in the Tate.  My video has been remade with just that one element and the level of enlargement has been reduced to address poor resolution issues. 

I have selected this final video as my assessment submission because I can imagine standing in one of those walled off corners in the Tate Modern watching this on a loop and seeing new shapes and details in the ink every time I watched it. I think that it would look wonderful projected over a complete wall so that the ink cascaded down towards you.

Analysis

I have enjoyed discovering video as a form of drawing. This has involved a complex learning curve using several video editing suites, manipulating histograms, fades, contrast etc. The final video represents approximately 15 minutes recording with the speed of replay gradually increased through the video to achieve a sensible length and maintain interest. I think it may still be too long for assessment, but played at natural speed in a gallery setting, over a whole wall, I think that it would be compelling and hypnotic, as ink very slowly rained down on the viewer.

My dslr camera used for video offers limited control over depth of field and the limitations of resolution are obvious. If I want to pursue this further, I will need to hire or buy the proper gear for this specialist macro video photography.

My original idea for this work has been simplified and simplified and I am concerned that it has become almost too simple.

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Part 6 – The Artist’s Book – Parallel Project

For my proposed artist’s book, I have been making lots of small, sample drawings. Some I have been video-ed in progress, such as ink in melting snow, or pigment spreading in water. Others are an exploration of ideas from which I expect to select for the final work. I have tried to revisit the mark making techniques which I have found most successful through the course, but now creating marks which explicitly consider traces, boundaries and changes of state.

Not all of these are successful and they vary in size from A3 to a couple of inches. Although I want the book to be monochrome, these different media often have a colour cast; warm black or blue-black, say. A set will have to be selected which works together, both in scale, colour and feel. I have explored, in my sketchbook, various formats for my book and made small test pieces. I need to consider not only my visual purpose but also the feel of the book, its presentation (slip case, box etc) and the practicalities.

 

I have decided on a landscape format which fits the sense of boundary layers and suits most of the drawings. The size was decided by considering the size of the human hand, the golden section and the size and scale of the drawings. The number of pages has been arrived at by selecting drawings sufficiently interesting but also sufficiently different.

Small sample books have been made to test out techniques, such as how to manage two layers of paper over a fold (don’t). This has resulted in some small books made from left over drawings.

Considering how to present a selection of small books and one larger book, I decided to put them in boxes, as this will protect them in transit, allow me to label the box, rather than the books, and present them to the assessors as a kind of gift. Thinking about how to make lids fit, I have converted this idea to a clam-shell case. I want to make opening them an act of discovery.

I do understand that established artists, with a strong commercial demand, recruit into their workshops to allow them to delegate technical tasks, and these clam-shell covers are certainly something I would have liked to delegate. However, I find that during the process of making and handling these books, I have taken small design decisions at each stage. If I had designed the works at the outset and handed them over to someone else to complete, the end result would have been quite different, less intellectually textured.

Since I have to write my name, course etc somewhere on the pieces, I have lined the cases with relevant drawings and written on these, under the books.

Each case has been topped with a drawing to indicate which way up it should be opened.

In the smaller box, I have brought together the earlier monochrome books, which I made for my parallel project in Part 5 of the course, with several new, small books in a similar vein arising out of, but subsidiary to, my final work, contained in the larger case.

The cases are designed to be presented to the assessors, one on top of the other, so that opening the boxes and viewing the books is a cumulative experience which builds towards a sort of grand finale, almost a performance.

Opening the larger box:

The interior of this case is lined with digital prints taken from the video.

The final book is concertina construction, but with ribbon forming a back hinge and a front tie, for stability.

Analysis

The book is titled ‘At The Boundary’ and is, on a superficial level, an exploration of how media react at an interface. More fundamentally, it is grounded in my metaphysical enquiry into changes of state, possibilities, traces and the duality of presence and absence.

I am pleased to have made a culminating work which brings together so many strands of my  research and experimentation through the course, from melting ink in ice in Part 3, through visiting the Rauschenberg exhibition and seeing his transfer prints, to experimenting with drawing on a silkscreen. The book represents and records my enquiry into drawing as a mark making experience and also my quest for non iconography and ambiguity.  The only iconography I have allowed myself is the transfer drawings of Inuit people, living at the boundary, which is intended to be a mildly playful moment in what might be considered a sombre book.

Presenting the work effectively so that it unfolds for the viewer has been a major consideration, and, in general, I am pleased with my solutions. The clam-shell boxes suffer from being the first I have ever made and not everything is entirely square. However,  I wanted the final result to look hand-made, rather than commercially-produced, but with a close attention to finish and detail. I think this balance is about right.

I would have liked all the drawings to be the same size on the page, and I could have selected drawings to achieve this, but I decided to select on the basis of variety and quality of mark instead. For instance, melting ice with soluble graphite resulted in a very buckled support, so I compromised on the size.

During the process of completing the book, a large stack of paper has been reduced to 16 pages. It has come as a surprise to me how much I have enjoyed the act of curation and how creative a process that can be. The course has radically broadened my ideas of what an artistic process can encompass.

Part 6 – Parallel Project Statement

My choice of parallel project arose out of work produced in Part 2 of the course when I considered the loss of my father when I was young and his continuing presence in my dreams after 40 years.  The project became about memory, and the duality of absence and presence. Initially, I was producing works with sentinel, shadowy figures, but, in a search for diminished iconography, the work has moved towards boundaries and changes of state from one thing to another or one place to another. This has linked spiritual and metaphysical ideas with explorations into media and the interaction of materials.

I was already looking for ambiguity in my work, but my research into Anish Kapoor focused the realisation that the less explicit a work is, the more it allows for possibilities in the mind of the viewer. My own impulse for creating a work does not have to be spelt out; the viewer is free to make of it whatever serves their own needs or interests. The work both signifies possibilities and allows possibilities.

The final works are an artist’s book and a video. The video is, of necessity, very short for assessment. It is not how I initially envisaged it but I enjoy the fact that a work evolves in response to its making. The artists’s book is, I think the more successful of the two. It is designed to be discovered through the process of handling. It is significant that both works are small and personal, and I hope the viewer will find pleasure in their quiet detail.

Part 6 – Artists Book Ideas and Parameters

I have been considering the options for an artist’s book as a culmination of parallel project work, in conjunction with a video. I have drawn up a list of objectives for the book:

  • it should require some time from the viewer and not reveal itself instantly
  • it should be a significant artifact in the hand
  • it should combine techniques and materials in a multilayered, textural way
  • no text, except, maybe a title
  • high quality of finish
  • limited colour palette
  • not too small, it needs to have a physical presence for assessment
  • the book and video should link by sharing some media and/or content

These lead me to some conclusions. The book cannot be a simple concertina book. Concertina constrains size but is also consumed in a single glance unless it includes internal pamphlets, windows etc, a possibility.

I need to consider what papers would support what media. I would like to include some of the techniques or media experiments I have been exploring, for instance the movement of gouache in water or with watercolour. This requires heavy paper. Other techniques have worked on 35gm Japanese paper, such as salt water in ink or mixing digital images. My book design should ideally allow me to mix paper types. This means that a colour theme will be important to draw the pages/images together into a unified whole. Given most of my work has been monochrome, I think that is the way to go. However, black is rarely the same colour across different media, and, if I want to layer things up to create complexity, I will have to either use different blacks, in different media and intensities, or else colour, say reds or two process colours. I might also want to use burning, rust or clay, so earth colours are a possibility. I need to do trials.

Ideas for layering up:

  • drypoint drawing over painted or printed background
  • monoprint with removed ink over painted or printed background
  • collagraph layer (melted tyvek etc)
  • drawing in charcoal or pastel over monoprint
  • encaustic monoprinting over drawing
  • rust and burning together
  • or any combination.

Strategy – make a number of printing plates of the same size with melted or flowing materials which can be inked in different ways and combined with backgrounds. Make a number of backgrounds capturing flux to try with the plates or which might stand alone. Make lots so that a set that works together can be selected. If possible, video materials in flux to incorporate in the video.

Thinking about all these parameters, I have selected to make a narrow rectangular book, with each image being a double page spread of about 38cm by 10 cm, yielding a book about 40cm by 11 cm. Some light weight papers may not support themselves at this and need to be mounted. It does mean that each page will have a centre fold with stitches showing but I hope that this will not be visually intrusive. More trials!  I need to aim for about 10 to 12 images over double spreads.

Addendum

Following my tutorial for assignment 5, my tutor has clarified some things for me and this alters my objectives for this piece of work. She tells me that my work is at its best when it is simple but playful.  I have therefore decided not to layer up but to make each page a simple statement of media in motion or the surface altered. She particularly liked the way I presented my earlier books in slip cases so that they become like a gift for the assessor to unwrap, so I shall definitely do that. I am also considering how I might present a small stack of books, in slip cases but then all contained together in a box, say.

She says that she thinks the concertina structure is especially successful as it unfolds in a sculptural way , so I may reconsider how I can do this rather larger. I am very pleased that, as an audience for my work, she got what I was trying to achieve with my artists’s books.

 

Part 6 – Parallel Project Review

I have been reviewing my work through the parallel project and considering how I present it, or a culmination of it, for assessment.

My original thoughts for a parallel project arose out of a workshop I did at West Dean. The original plan was to produce work based on my garden but as abstractly as possible. My tutor talked me out of this on the basis that I would very easily slip into the banal.

In Part 2 of the course, I produced some work about the loss of my father and this became the seed for my parallel project.  The project became about memory, absence/presence. In a serach for diminished iconography the work has moved towards boundaries and changes of state from one thing to another or one place to another. This has linked spiritual and metaphysical ideas with explorations into media and the interaction of materials.

I have been considering how I can make a video of a drawing in progress and animate it, in the way of William Kentridge. This process would inherently address a change of state, but I want to make that my subject also. Along side this, and in case the video is un-realisable, I want to make an artist’s book addressing the same subject.

Parallel Project – Absent and Present Media

Along side considering meaningful media, I have been considering absent and present media.

I could consider cutting or perforating the support to project light through. This might be particularly effect if I pricked an image into a photograph of another image, overlaying two related ideas. However, this doesn’t fit with my current attempt to escape iconography.

Setting fire to supports always appeals. I could paint a design in negative on to a paper support and subject the support to a heat source which would preferentially burn the dry areas. A blow torch would probably be too hot but a decorating hot air gun would probably work well of I can physically support the paper. Kraft board would probably work for this because it is surprisingly heat resistant. It need carefully consideration of safety and certainly needs to be done outside in a non-flammable area. I like the idea of singeing a design into a support. The action of fire could add another layer of meaning to a design.

I have already experimented with adding and removing charcoal and graphite, but, with an interest in printmaking, adding and removing ink from a plate is another option. This is a standard method of making a monoprint but I want to think how I might use this in my parallel project.

Here I have rolled ink onto a plate and wiped areas into it using scrim and kitchen paper. I have repeated this with three colours, successively printed. White spirit has been spattered into the ink, to create holes in its coverage. This first attempt is too present, with the wiping and drawing not creating enough of a ‘hole’ in the ink. The design is too contrived. This second attempt is much more about the media, how it is applied and how it is removed, and, I think much more successful.

What interests me is that the negative areas are the more powerful. I would like to combine this with other media. It would need to be able to withstand the paper being damped for printing, so possibly Inktense, which is  waterproof pigment, waterproof ink, or acryl gouache. The transparency of the ink is important here and an important consideration when attempting to layer up media.

When I was considering ‘meaningful’ media, I used rust to create marks on paper. A way of having present and absent media would be to remove rust from a surface (now a support) as an act of drawing. Last summer, I collected some rusty sheet from Lyme Beach where the old town dump is being eroded out of the cliff. I have tried drawing on this by scratching and polishing the rust away.

Initial mark making

Development

I think that this has an inherent beauty but it is not easy to present. Like most shiny, metallic or iridescent finishes, it can only be seen at and angle when light is reflected. But oh, rusty, eroded iron is so gorgeous!

I tried adding a more obviously drawn line to another piece, but feels too conscious and contrived.

These are more interesting experiments, if not ends in themselves.  I plan to continue picking up rusty bits of metal and to try layering wiped ink over other media.

Parallel Project – Video Experiments

Through the course, I have experimented with videoing my process as part of my learning log. This has developed into the video become a major part of the outcome of a project. I have videoed the process of drawing but wanted to consider whether it would be possible to animate a drawing in order to have media and marks appear and disappear. This is, of course, how William Kentridge presents his drawings. He talks about his process in this video. He is using ‘stop frame’ techniques to record the changes he makes to the drawing, and it is clear that this requires a very control and restrained working practice, to stop after each mark and take two frames. The fact that animation traditionally uses 2 frames of each drawing seems to be an historical hangover from hand cranked film. Research suggests that a frame rate of 24 a second would be reasonable meaning 12 drawings for a second of video or 2880 frames for 4 minute video. If each mark takes just half a minute, that’s 24 hours of drawing and photographing, and I think half a minute is optimistic. Hmm. Let’s call that 4 days solid work, plus actually creating the animation.

Another major consideration is how I can set up for constant exposure. This is a real issue since natural light is highly variable. I normally use natural light for all photography as the brightest source with the widest spectrum. I would plan to work in monochrome, removing one level of complexity, so light colour should not be an issue, but constant light will be difficult without sophisticated studio lighting.  I can’t use the automatic exposure adjustment within the camera software because this will try to render a scene a uniform exposure in spite of the tonal balance changing.

The set up also needs to be physically stable with the support and the camera never moving and each in the same plane.

My first idea is to use my light box as a uniform light source and draw on it using translucent paper and a camera photographing from above. This deals with the physical setup as the support can be taped to the flat top of the light box, although fixing the light box immovably would take some thought. My translucent paper did not withstand the reworking of marks. I tried more robust tracing paper and recorded 80 frames of fairly random drawing.

The drawings were imported to Microsoft Video Maker, the cheap and cheerful video editor on my pc. The results of blending the frames was poor. I tried various other freebie software (I might pay for something when I know what I want) and got the best results using VSDC at 12 frames per second.

Tracing paper test video

This is pretty crude. The pace at which marks are made would have to be learnt and refined. I don’t like the tracing paper to draw on. To add and remove marks, I really need to use a sturdy support like a good cartridge paper.

Another alternative is to scan a drawing repeatedly. On my scanner, this would constrain the size of the drawing to A4. A quick test showed that this might work technically but isn’t mechanically practical.

This has all got rather techie and nerdy. The experience with editing video has been useful in the course work that I have been doing along side this exploration, but I am not sure where I am going, if anywhere, with this.