– – – Under the Skin – – –
For this project, I have chosen to focus on the ins and outs of the human body. I have found myself incredibly drawn to the structure and form of our bodies, the way we are held in one piece and how everything works so well together (and sometimes how it doesn’t). As of recent my focus has taken a new leap, still following in a similar direction, however I am beginning to focus more on the different types of deformities that can interact with our bodies. Whether we are born with them, whether they begin to grow within us or are a consequence of an accident, I am interested how these situations can affect our lives, and most importantly helping people to understand this.
After taking a trip down to London to visit the Hunterian Museum, I found a strangely delightful pleasure when looking at these objects that some may find rather difficult to process. There were a range of things in there, including pre-mature babies, a monkeys head, a babies foot and even a part of the human intestine. In and amongst all of the many jars, I found myself looking at tumours. Now don’t get me wrong, tumours are absolutely awful and they are something that I am sure most people fear. But these tumours that I was looking at were alone, and separated from the body of the living thing, be that animal or human. I found myself thinking it to be rather beautiful. Out of context, it becomes completely harmless, stripped of its danger and fear. I began looking closely at the shapes, lines and textures within it and it actually formed quite a beautiful shape. Cancerous tumours are a good example of what I would like to achieve from this project, however I do intend to explore and focus on the many other diseases that the human body can experience. The fear of these diseases reaching us or a loved one is conscious in everyday life, but I would like to take a step back from that fear and vulnerability and ask the question of, do we really know why this has happened? Outside of the body, do you understand what it is? How it grows, how it lives, how it dies? If you were asked, What is Cancer… could you answer?
With my project focussing on extremely difficult and sensitive subject matter, I would like my work to be able to step in and say ‘calm down’, a reassurance almost. These are difficult topics to discuss and it would probably have a direct effect on more people than not, so this is something I am baring in mind as I work. As of recent I realised how desperately I want to make, rather than to draw or to paint. To approach my project I have decided to stick to very warm, comforting and relaxing colours. Including yellows, oranges, blues and some red and soft greys. Alongside these colours I am working with materials that also hold that same feeling of comfort, for example wool, as I plan to include knitting within my work. I am currently working with stitch and using thick thread in order to gain a soft texture upon the material. By choosing these colours and techniques, I hope to make my work approachable, inviting and comforting- the complete opposite of how that tumour would make you feel, for example. And with that, I hope to offer a deeper and wider understanding of the things we are so frightened of.
In our second professional practice, the focus was on jobs and going to interviews. WE spoke of the best means of contact for the employer to reach us with, and that if we are emailed, to email back as soon as we can, even if that is just saying that we will get back to them later on. It’s also a good idea to set up a signature on your email that automatically appears when you send an email. When it comes to accepting a job and listening to thier brief, we have to be very switched on when it comes to asking certain questions about the job in hand. For example, what’s it for? the budget? what is it? the deadline? and so on. We were told with a solid no, to not ever do pitches.
After some good chatting about what kind of things to expect when we go to and interview and what they expect from us, we went on to pricing and being paid as an illustrator. We spoke a lot about commissions, where the work will go, how they will use it, territory, if they will want to re-use it, our rights (and never to sign them all away), fixed prices. We spoke of the client- who are we dealing with here? are they high profile? middle class? a high profile business? We really need to be aware of who we are dealing with when it comes to accepting a job.
An extremely early start with a packed lunch, a sketchbook, colouring pencils and an eager mind, I set off to London to get myself to the Hunterian museum. I also wanted to drop by the Wellcome Collection as there is a permanent exhibition there called ‘Medicine Man’, but unfortunately I didn’t make it in time! I have been to the Hunterian 2 or 3 times before, so thankfully I knew where I was going and I didn’t have any added stress of flapping around London trying to understand how to use a tube.
Each time you go there, you see something new. I love walking into that building, your eyes instantly roll up and you’re all of a sudden surrounded by so many things in jars. I came here to get lots of drawing done, lots of photographing (even though you’re not allowed) and just generally find myself some deformities (if we’re being honest here). I found everything extremely interesting, some things were pretty hard on the eyes but still interesting all the same. There were lots of cut open animals, premature babies, and then we moved onto funny looking bones, there was even part of a babies faces who suffered from small pox. A monkeys head, a babies foot, a whales vagina. There was all sorts there. I found myself particularly drawn to the shapes of things- I know this is probably the wrong way to go about things as my work is all about context, but I suppose all of these things in jars were deformed in some way as they had been manipulated in order to have them inside a jar. Soon enough I found myself looking a tumours. Something that really caught my eye was a goose with a tumour the size of its head in its neck. Now I know this all sounds really odd, because who they hell would think a tumour is beautiful? This tumour was cut in half and you could see the inside of it, and how it was made up- the shapes, the patterns, the lines, the dots, the lumps. All of these things together make a really beautiful shape and pattern. Cancer and tumours are awful things, and that isn’t what I find beautiful.
– – – AMELIA – – –
I began trying to explain to Amelia all about my adventures to London and finding tumours pretty, she helped me a lot with this sticky subject.
When you take them out of context, remove them from the person, from the animal, the living thing, it becomes absolutely harmless. It is it’s own thing, alone, not trying to destroy someone’s life. Looking at a deformity when it is away from the living body, you aren’t going to guess what it is instantly, because they are so hidden within ourselves we cannot determine what these organisms look like. When they’re out of the body, they don’t scare us. That doesn’t mean they’re easy to look at, because they’re intimidating, they give a face to the name. With these illnesses and deformities comes emotions. We spoke about fear and vulnerability, and how these things can take over our lives, how we fear that we will be victim to them one day. But do we really understand what they are? Do we really understand them outside of the body? Do we know anything other than the fact that they have the potential to take our lives?
THIS IS MY WHY
(Part of it, slowly making my way towards it) I want to help people to understand these unknown creatures that grow inside us and shape our lives without our consent, help to understand why people’s spines may not grow straight, help to understand how a tumour is actually born, what it is made of and why it can hurt us so badly. I want to do all of this in the least intimating way possible, with lots of knitted goodness and beautiful colours to take away the fear we all seem to have. It is the fear of the unknown, the fear of the things inside us we can’t see, and giving these things a voice. Giving that tumour a voice, giving that fear a voice. It still all sounds pretty odd but if you can manage to pull yourself away from that initial (but, tumours?) feeling, you may be able to jump on this bang wagon with me. We spoke of the human being a host for diseases, diagnosis, and how we are not going to live forever, and that’s okay. I was in complete awe and beauty when in the museum and if I could create work that manage to capture the viewer as I was captured then, then I’d be happy. Amelia mentioned a film she watched called ‘The Ecstasy of Wilko Johnson’ which is about a man who gets diagnosed with caner and is told he is going to die. I haven’t seen it but I plan to watch it. Here’s the trailer:
All in all, both tutorials went extremely well and it seems like both tutors are happy with where I am at, which is very reassuring. I think I just seriously need to start making now!
Tutorials have been constant so far and that’s great!! They’re are usually available every week now, but as the time is going along they are getting less but I’m sure they are there if we need them! So every Monday we have tutorials in groups with Amelia and Martyn anyway, but I have been for a sign up tutorial with Amelia and Anna by myself, which have both been extremely helpful.
– – – ANNA – – –
The night before I had my tutorial I had one of those beautiful and inspiring brain clicks. I was just thinking about all the things I wanted to make for this project, and I just didn’t feel very full- there was something missing from my whole shabbang of excitement. Then I realised how much more drawn to deformity within the body than I was just the normal healthy fit state human body. I remember looking at a curved spine and I couldn’t stop thinking how beautiful it was! Now I know, this all sounds a bit weird and intense, but give me a chance here! So I began to think more about the deformities that occur within the human body, those that we are born with, those that are there due to accidents, and those that grow within us. At this point I was unsure of which deformities I wanted to look at, or where this was going to go, but I was still on the same track as before, but now my focus has shifted slightly. All I knew was that this felt good and felt right, and also that I needed to go to the Hunterian Museum (The Royal college of Surgeons) in London, asap.
So I went to sit with Anna with all of this new and exciting information ready to lay it all out and see what she can do with it all. She was happy with where my thoughts were travelling, she listened very closely and gave me some people and things to research. However, something she brought up that I knew would come up again is this whole reason of WHY. I really need to begin to knuckle down and figure this whole thing out. I cannot simple make work about deformities within the body because I think they’re rather beautiful, that isn’t enough. So, Why Heather?
– Here are some of the things I have been researching after coming away from Anna’s tutorial –
– Golbanou Moghaddas –
– Arthur Bispo do Rosario –
– Katie Scott –
So I have began to think more and more about those questions that keep creeping up. The hardest one to answer is Why, why am I doing this work, why does it work, why do I want to do this. But I am not worrying about that too much just yet because I might not know yet, but I will do one day.
With the subject matter I am working with I wanted to be quite conscious of the materials I to work with. There are some people out there who have problems dealing with the human body, they can be squeamish, don’t really like bones or seeing what is actually beneath our skin. To avoid someone looking at my work and feeling the need to wince or look away, I wanted to choose materials and colour schemes that would stop this happening.
I have chosen to work closely with wool and thread, using techniques such as knitting, crochet, and stitching (both freehand and using the machines available to me at university). The reason I have chosen these materials are because they are very comforting materials. Knitting is extremely cosy, soft to the touch, easy on the eyes and most people would have experienced the beauty of wearing a knitting piece of clothing at least once in their lives- its known for being lovely. It also gives me great opportunity to get out of my sketchbook just like I wanted too, and it also gives me chance to work with texture and learn new techniques.
Next came the colour scheme. I was already pretty sure with which colours I wanted to work with! these colours include different shades of green and blue, warmth yellows, oranges and the occasional red. I also would like to work with different shades of grey, but not going too dark. I would like to keep all of my colours soft and light. This is for similar reasons as the materials I have chosen: I am going for a really soft and gentle approach with this project as the subject matter itself isn’t that sort or gentle. The colours are warming, approachable, welcoming, and that’s what I want to gain from the artwork I make. These colours combined with the materials will hopefully take off that squeamish and kinda gross edge. With this I am almost trying to take out the biology side of the subject matter, like the things that we are taught in school, and re-present it in a way purely art based. I began thinking where this work may be seen, and what it might be used for. My thoughts took me to both schools and hospitals. This could be used rather well for educational purposes, helping children to gain a better understanding of the body and by visualising the things within us that we can’t see, and making it approachable rather than off putting has a better success rate for concentration and the feeling of wanting to know what ‘that’ is all about. the same goes for hospitals, or it could just be purely for decoration. It could also be used in some sort of therapy, for example if someone were suffering, my work may pose an opportunity for comfort.
We have started professional practice with Dan now, which happens every Tuesday. I found the first session really helpful and pretty good fun. Equally as scary as it is all about getting us prepared for the big wide world, but lets not dwell on that just yet. So in this session we started off b watching a video from a company that explained all of the different area’s you can go into with in the art industry, there are so many jobs out there that I wasn’t aware of! So that was extremely insightful. The day was split into 2 sessions, one in the morning and then the afternoon, both lasting 40 minutes. The first session we talked about portfolios and what we are expected to take with us, speak about, present ourselves etc.
Smaller portfolios are better full of prints or photo’s of your work, rather that bring a huge case with you and trying to fit it on the table. Also, by having prints of your work this means you can leave something with them if they particularly like something of yours. This is pretty handy because then they have something of you, and they will be more likely to remember you this way (stand out from the crowd). It’s also good to have business cards and leaflets to hand out also. Name and information and so on on the opening page of the portfolio, with a strong piece of artwork as an icebreaker. Sort of put your portfolio into sections, if there are certain pieces of work that flow well into others, order it in that way and be clever and neat about ordering. Only include images of your work that you have enjoyed doing and would be happy to work in that way again. If you put something in that you son’t want to repeat and they ask you to work in that way, you’ll then have a problem. Have your certificates with you also, they might ask to see these. These second part of the day consisted of talking about our websites. We spoke about the AOI for a while, and Dan talked us through what makes a good website, what works and what is appealing to a potential buyers.
Next steps are to get some images for your portfolio together and begin making your website.
– – – The Body – – –
My focus for my first project of the year is the human body. Having recently re-discovered how beautiful it is I knew that this is something I’m really going to enjoy working on. I am only keen to focus on the structure and form of the body; the patterns, the shapes, and even the textures. One thing I am absolutely certain about is that I do not want to work too closely with organs, especially because I find that the organs are too closely related with emotions. They come with so many connotations these days and to put it bluntly, it isn’t my thing. For example, the heart is connected with feeling love, the mind connected with inelegance and so on. I don’t want my work to be about that, I want to show to pure beauty in how we are put together!
– – – Under the Skin – – –
For now I would like to stay rather close to the surface, not diving too into the body just yet. This means I would like to focus primarily on the bones, the muscles and maybe the tendons and veins also. I am as of yet undecided whether I would like to delve into things such as blood cells, windpipe, and all these extra parts of the body we can’t see. But there’s still time for all that as of yet. I needed to get myself some reading and research done, so far I have been looking rather closely at the work of Leonardo Da Vinci, thank you to Jack Alexander for lending me an extremely beautiful book that I have been looking at religiously. I began to do some of my own drawings of parts of the body. One thing that I am also certain of is that I am also not so keen on full body images, I like to take a section of the body, pull it out and focus on that. Having a full completed drawing (for example) of the human body gives you a lot to look at, and I would really like to bring the viewer in to focus on an aspect of our build that they would have may passed by before. This also gives me the opportunity to help people to learn about features of the body that they may not have been aware of before, which is rather lovely.
So here are some sketches to get me back into the swings of things and to remind me that I am an illustrator and I can do this. Something that also struck me over the summer is that if I am going to be working in 2D, although I am trying to pull myself away from it, I would like to also try and pry that fine-liner out of my hand. I have longed to get myself working more and more with coloured pencils for a while now, and recently I designed an album cover and I decided to work with them then, and I fell in love instantly. I am really drawn to their softness, and it almost gives me a huge sense of nostalgia when working with them, as it reminds me of being young and the children’s book illustrations that I used to look at. I really enjoyed how they worked with me. So after doing some drawings in pencil I began to move onto the colours, and I have to say I really liked the outcome, although only being small it is a confident and hopeful gateway into my future work.
I began chatting more and more to tutors and fellow students about these ideas and certain questions began to arrise, such as what materials I’m going to use, How I’m going to get myself out of my sketchbook, context within the work, the audience, and most importantly…