I haven’t posted for a while now, mainly because I have been very busy doing this:
Here are a few pictures of my completed window installation for Just Imagine Story Centre. (https://www.facebook.com/JustImagineStoryCentrehttp://justimaginestorycentre.co.uk/). I installed her today and am very pleased with the result; I think you can see I really enjoyed creating her.
What I think is interesting is how her character formed a little more each time more detail was added. After the initial struggle with practicalities, (how big, how to create her body, what to ‘weight’ her with and by how much, colours etc) I worked with certainty about what I would need to do next for each bit. It seemed logical to use parcel string, to dye it with tea, to find the right buttons for her eyes and to use parcel tape to create hair ribbons, to have paper-clip hair grips etc. Her first shoes weren’t right, neither were her feet. I had to do them again, they had to be bigger. It seemed OK to have real buttons on her shoes, but not on the dress. Was it OK for her body to be made of fabric and not her dress? Should she be made entirely out of paper mache? Why was it was important that her skirt appeared to be ‘cut on the bias’ (I think that’s the correct term) using the paper’s lines as a kind of weave in the ‘fabric’? These and other aesthetic questions are constantly being weighed against practical considerations such as the material’s limitations or time. It’s a very enjoyable state to be in when things are going well.
I wasn’t sure that she was going well until she had hair. And all that dying in tea and drying on the radiator at home – well it took time. I thought three balls of string would be enough, but oh no. Which meant more string, more dying, more drying.. But once she had hair, well – then I knew I was safe, she looked nice, like someone I’d be proud to have given ‘life’ to; only then did I know I was on the ‘home run’. I think that’s what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is talking about when he describes what he calls a ‘flow’ state.
People ask me about the ‘idea’, where it came from (see maquette below). And the honest answer is that I don’t know, well, not really. It does come from within oneself, informed no doubt by other stuff that is ‘out there’, but lead by a kind of inner sense. I hope one day that I will be able to illustrate books in that same, intuitive, flow-like way.
For the time being though, it was a rediscovery of what I really enjoy, the combining of materials, the finding the right ‘material’ for the job. I think I am better at that than say, mixing the right colour. I like the limitations that having to ‘select’ from found materials places on the creative process, I like seeing the material for what it is. When presented with all the possible colours in a paint box, there’s too much choice, it’s easy to become overwhelmed.
Now, how do I find a way to work like this with my imaginative drawing? Maybe this paper-parcel girl, this ‘up-cycled’ rag-doll child will have a story? I certainly plan to do some work with her for this Semester’s ‘Sequential Image’ project. Alexis Deacon (who is a visiting lecturer on my MA course and author-illustrator of Slow Loris, Croc and Bird and others) advised me to allow the character to emerge as I draw… so lets see what happens. Hopefully she will be seen here again! There is, in my head, a sort of modern-day Pinocchio story to her existence, but this semester is not about discovering an amazing story – it is about creating a sequence of images around an idea, a sequence with thought, meaning, possibly atmosphere and drama, maybe humour. A sequence that convinces, has pace, narrative, flow… do you get the idea about how hard that is? There will be some wrestling, there will be frustration and failure, and still I really want to begin!
Below are a few images showing the process of creating ‘Ingrid’ (as I have named her).