I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t felt a bit lost since finishing uni, although it was a frustrating (although very rewarding) first year, I’ve been really unsure of what to spend my time doing. So I tried brainstorming some ideas for a bigger project with something that I feel would develop my art style with an actual result… a graphic novel.
Say what you will but this idea excites me, the possibility of having a physical book that I could hold of art I did myself, showing a story I myself wrote.. it gives me goosebumps!
The issue I’m having is coming up with an actual solid story I would want to tell. I just have a lot of loose thoughts, so I wanted to play on that and not really have a story at all, a journey yes, but sort of a thoughtful thing? Anyway I did some preliminary concept art for characters or figures in the idea I’ve been developing.
Without spoiling anything, I just wanted to use different artistic approaches towards showing God-like figures that will interact with the protagonist. It’s all early on in the process so there’s lots to do yet, hopefully this gives an idea of the themes at least.
As the first year in my Fine Art degree comes to a close, I figured I would do a year in review type deal where I go over some of the stuff I’ve been through, whether it helps people considering a fine art degree, helps me in the future reflect on my education or is just some text out on the internet, this is helping me procrastinate so I’m happy.
It started out fine, but that was mainly because I had spent the summer painting, so I thought I would be an excellent fit in a fine art degree, full of painters, sculptors and drawers. We had a lot of workshops to begin with to induct us into the various rooms around my uni. So printmaking and film photography, stuff like that. My class bonded and we got to know each other and kind of where we stand in all the mediums etc.
My first project I felt a little bit lost, but we were encouraged to do a wide range of work so I ended up with kind of crummy oil paintings, sketch drawings, half a sketchbook and a bunch of A1 charcoal drawings to show for my first 3 months. I passed and it was all good.
My second project was where I struggled. We had to fill half a sketchbook again, needed a few experimental pieces, and contextual and visual research folders. It was the actual pieces I think that pulled me back, it was very rushed because I was too busy trying to find my footing with inks and water colour. My whole theme was doors and windows, and I honestly have no idea how I got to that point? I think I was starting to think maybe I’d made a mistake choosing fine art at all and I should have gone for illustration. It certainly didn’t help that I didn’t even pass. I got an extension and did it the second time around, but my grade was capped at 40%.
After a long talk with my tutors, I took one main quote away which drove the rest of this year. “We’d much rather you do loads of illustration work than no work at all”. I mean after what.. 14 years in education? I kind of understand how the criteria works. It’s not very rigid and I realised that actually, I could do all of this course just doing illustration work as long as I show an awareness of contemporary art.
I wrote my next brief for my third and final module of the year as broadly as I could. “Cynicism and Satire in ink”. I was angry at my own confusion and wanted to know where the line between Illustration and Fine Art were drawn (get it), and I wanted to do that using illustrative methods but presented in a fine art context. I would stick this one through to the end, and although I had planned on much more creative presentation, I ended up with more or less what I expected.
I decided to explore what I could satirise, and ultimately came to the conclusion that politics would be the easiest. This was more of an effort to focus on my practise rather than subject matter so I had no problem with choosing something easy. Although part way through the module I was struck with the unexpected influence of the comic industry. I had been a big fan of graphic novels for years but I had never really looked at actual comic art, and something in my brain clicked and I finally did. I collected dozens of comics pre 1980s and have been admiring the art and structure since. This shone through to my final pieces as 3 out of 4 of them are pieces shown as a comic page.
There’s a lot to it I suppose, and there’s a lot to learn with any avenue of art, especially fine art, but I feel that it’s taken this entire year to finally ground myself in something I enjoy, feel comfortable with and am good at. I have a sneaking suspicion the second year will be a little easier for me.
So all in all my first year has been really good, I have learned a lot about art, myself as an artist and even myself as a person. Although I considered switching to Illustration, I have decided to see this through to the end mostly because of the crazy amount of freedom they give you, I mean you literally write your own module briefs! Of course people rip into me about going to art school and all that, but at the end of the day I’m happy and I’m learning, and if you’re passionate about art of any kind, I would definitely consider a fine art degree. It’s a fight at times and it’s very hard work but nothing worth fighting for ever comes easy.
My final 4 pieces for my final project. I showed one with Trump but I’m hoping it makes more sense in context to the others now?
The first being America, second being Russia and third being North Korea. All of whom are the basis for global nuclear panic, the topic of these pieces.
The idea is each of them have exactly the same panel layout and essentially the same thing going on in each, which can really be seen in the side profile of the faces (each of which has the respective countries leader (or at least my stylistic rendition of them)). The originals are simpy black ink on white card, made using fine liners and a brush pen.
This is the first time I’ve done a series of pages like this, and although they are not great individually and I could’ve done a much better job, I’m pretty happy with how they ended up AS A SERIES. There is however another piece I’m actually kind of still working on. 2 days before my assessment, and incredibly smart move.
I’ve had this exact design (minus the clock) drawn out since the beginning of this project so it’s quite nice to finally see it come to exist. It’s just the line work for now, but I’ve scanned it and everything just in case it gets ruined. I only plan to do a wash with this grey, slightly yellow, watercolour to highlight subtle shading. I worry there’s a bit too much going on in this one, I guess that’s why I want it to be A3? So there’s not so much going on in such a tight space.
The Korean means “Collateral”, also the name of the piece. I’m sure you can kind of work out what it’s trying to say if you have a close look.
To kick start the final works for this final module, I did a comic page about the one and only Donald Trump. It’s the first time I’ve used speech bubbles which was odd but I’d like to work more with it.
The plan is to make 2 more comics essentially the same but instead of being from the point of view of America, have one from the POV of Russia, with the words written in Russian and replacing stuff to match it, and the same again with North Korea. It’s supposed to be satirical, but if I actually have to explain it, maybe it’s not quite done it’s job.
So I went to my local comic book store (I know, in England?!) and had a little peruse. I had a bit of disposable money so thought considering my art is leaning very heavily towards comics and graphic novels I might as well own some for myself. I’ve always been a fan of the old stuff so I managed to find a few things from the 70s (even going back to ’69) and 80s, with a few funky covers and pages, picked them up for a couple of quid each and haven’t looked back.
Old action comics stuff, the spirit, swamp thing, most of the great names I was looking for. Will Eisner and Alan Moore in particular. The art is gorgeous, I can’t wrap my head around the use of colour? I want to look into silver age comic colour palettes because wow, love it.
I’ve accumulated a few graphic novels in the last couple of years, incredibly slowly, I only have 4 but I love them, they’re excellent and I would definitely recommend each of them.
Moore and Gibbon’s WATCHMEN is a historical turning point for comics and graphic novels. The writing is superb and the art is there to match it. Unrivalled by anything I know of, it is a must have in a book collection.
Hewlett and Martin’s TANK GIRL is the peak of punk art. Commonly better known as the artist for the Gorillaz, Hewlett’s story of rags to riches through fanzine art has always motivated me.
Otero’s WHO KILLED KURT COBAIN is an excellent read for fans of Cobain, and the art is beautifully messy, suiting the tone of the story very well.
Canales and Guarnido’s BLACKSAD combines stories of the hard boiled Disney-esque anthropomorphic detective cat Blacksad and I can’t get enough.
In short pick up watchmen. You won’t regret it, and if you have a chance, pick up the oldest comics you can find because there’s nothing quite like them anymore. The art in each of these books are gorgeous. It’s important to read and look at other peoples work, especially if it’s similar to your own, discover what they do right
I haven’t done nearly as much art as I probably should have but I’ve been enjoying an Easter break in Cornwall, I still managed to pump this out though.
Not my favourite piece, I’m starting to see too much of a formula in what is often supposed to be a “randomised” comic page so I’ll have to try and push myself to work outside my comfort zone a bit more.
Also I went to a witchcraft museum which was pretty cool, some funky art inspiration to take some lessons from.