The brief for this assignment was to create a still life illustration for a magazine based on one of the following words: lost, discovery, guilty secret, disaster. I started by making mind maps for each of the words. I also asked other people to add their ideas in order to get different perspectives.
The two words I was most interested in were discovery and lost. There was a lot of potential for still life for the word discovery because by its very definition there can an element of found objects. I left my mind maps for a day or two to give myself time to think more about the two words and it was lost that I kept coming back to and thinking about more. I liked the idea of lost souls, lost magic, lost youth and childhood, lost in translation and lost in conversation. However some of these could be too enigmatic or esoteric for a still life. There would be a danger that the objects I chose wouldn’t be understood by the readers of the magazine. So I settled on lost magic and in particular lost seaside towns because there is iconic imagery I could use. Before choosing the objects to include in my still life, my next step was to do a bit of research and make another mind map about seaside towns to ensure I explored all ideas. I also thought about how I could make the objects appear forlorn and lost.
From this I chose to include fish and chips in newspaper because it is an iconic seaside tradition and the newspaper is a thing of the past, a tradition lost. I decided to include a punch puppet because although Punch and Judy does still exist, it isn’t the ubiquitous sight at the seaside it used to be and seems to be saved for special festivals. I also think Mr Punch is engaging and will capture interest in a still life illustration. The popularity of seaside towns was at its height during the Victorian times when Londoners would take the train for a seaside holiday. With the present day obsession with cars and air travel for holidays abroad , the idea of taking a train to a holiday at the seaside is a thing of the past. For these reasons I thought that having a torn Victorian train ticket would add to the feeling of lost magic. Buckets and spades and seaside rock are other seaside traditions that I thought are visually indicative of a time gone by.
I didn’t actually have any of these objects to create a still life with so I collected some objects that resembled the shape and appearance of them instead. I then made different arrangements of these as I did in the previous viewpoint exercise. The king puppet is Punch; the flower pot and scraper are the bucket and spade; the plastic tube is the rock and the sponge and crayons are the fish and chips! The photos below show just some of the compositions I made from different viewpoints. In all of them I chose to have Punch lying down to create a lost and discarded feel.
I then made thumbnails from these photos.
I immediately decided that the views from above didn’t have the impact I was looking for. I liked number 4 because of the prominent view of Punch and all elements were included. I also liked number 11 but felt that Punch’s head next to the bucket might result in a clash of detail. Number 15 is similar to 11 but has the bucket and spade at the other end meaning no clash of detail. I still couldn’t decide between number 4 and 15 though so I drew objective drawings of them both. These were line visuals. I gave Punch a sad face because he is no longer the superstar he once was.
From these drawings I chose the second composition and made a tonal version of it which I created using graphite pencil and charcoal pencil. I varied the pressure but also the type and direction of stroke in order to create the different tones and used a putty rubber to lift off to create lighter areas. I used long pencil strokes on the newspaper to give a slight impression of text but I think this also works because it also shows the direction the paper falls into folds. The chips were the most challenging because I needed to make sure each was defined and that they didn’t blend into each other. I started by shading the shadowy areas darker but this didn’t leave enough definition so I used hatching strokes making sure the direction wasn’t the same on any two adjacent chips. I imagined the light source coming from the very front so that is why Punch is left quite light. I like the effect created by shading the outline rather than the object and wish to take this into future illustration.
Between creating the initial objective sketch and making this tonal version I decided to emit the seaside rock. I didn’t feel that it added anything to the image in terms of conveying the idea of lost and it just looked awkward in the composition.
While looking into contemporary still life art, I had come across a still life artist called Jean B Martin who creates hers using mixed media. What struck me about her artwork is that she creates compositions with the objects in the foreground and a building or place depicted in the background. I think this is a unique twist on the conventional still life and thought it was an idea that could work well in mine.
On my initial seaside mind map I had jotted down Victorian seaside piers but didn’t initially think a pier would work in a still life. However, after being inspired by the artwork above I thought it could work brilliantly as a backdrop to the objects in the foreground. My initial thought was to create a collage from old photographs, but before committing to that I decided to have a go at drawing it first. I searched for old photos of Victorian piers to use as reference and found that Brighton West pier is no longer there. This made it a must for use in my illustration. The fact that the pier no longer exists meant that using it in the artwork would convey that real sense of lost seaside magic.
I couldn’t find any photos of it from the side but wanted a side view for my illustration so I improvised from the photo above, changing the angles so it would fit around the foreground. I tried out colouring using charcoal pencils to give it an old fashioned sepia kind of look. I was happy with this drawing so decided to draw it on the final artwork rather than use collage.
It was important that to convey a sense of lost I needed to show lost versions of the objects I chose to include. I doubted that Victorian buckets and spades looked like the plastic ones we have now so I did some research and found that they were quite different. The spades were a different shape, much flatter, and were made from wood or metal. The buckets were generally made from metal, probably tin. Most interestingly of all, they were illustrated with pictures of children having fun at the seaside.
The colours used were primary colours with black outlines. The illustration style was similar to that of Kate Greenaway and Randolph Caldecott depicting idyllic childhood scenes using minimal line. I wanted the bucket in my still life to feature illustration in this style to further enhance the idea of a lost time. On most of the buckets I looked at, the colours were quite washed out so I chose watercolour as a medium. Using white wax crayon under a watercolour wash, I was able to create simple clouds and waves. When drawing the bucket I made it look slightly dented to further enhance the feel of old and lost.
I was then ready to create a line visual ready for my final artwork. The pencil line is quite faint so I didn’t have to do lots of rubbing out before adding colour.
I wanted the Punch puppet to have some detail on his clothes so I tried out some patterns and techniques with different materials. I discovered that making an imprint with white coloured pencil then using wax crayon over the top makes a great effect and is one I used as decoration on Punch’s hat, shirt and trousers.
The final artwork is shown below. It is a mixture of collage, charcoal, pastel, watercolour, gouache and coloured pencil. I really enjoyed working in this mixed media way. I had a local Margate newspaper lying around so I cut out the text from that to make the fish and chip paper. This was great because it meant I could find words that would exaggerate the message of lost seaside magic. I cut out very small sections of relevant text and pasted them in different directions to show the direction of the folds in the newspaper. I also used white writing on a black background to create the darker areas. The tonal version I did of this piece really helped with creating light and shade and in determining the direction and is something I think I will make a habit of before producing a final artwork. I chose some words from the newspaper that I thought should be bigger to help describe my theme of lost.
The tonal version I did also really helped when creating the fish and chips because I knew where to create light and shade. When looking at photos of fish and chips I had noticed that the batter is sometimes bobbly and bubbly so I used painted dots to represent this. I went through a stage many years ago of painting whole pictures in dots after being inspired by Georges Seurat and the pointillism movement. I later refined this to parts of pictures and thought I might try a little of it here. The dots feature as pattern and decoration on Punch’s clothes in addition to the white pencil and wax crayon technique I explained earlier.
Red and white stripes are synonymous with seaside and Punch and Judy so I chose it as a pattern for the surround of the still life. I used pastel to create a loose, smudgy bygone feel.
Finally I made a slight adjustment to the contrast in photoshop.
I think my artwork does convey the word lost. The objects I chose all had a hey day that is now lost and I added features, detail to each to further enhance the idea such as Punch’s sad face, dented, illustrated bucket, torn rail ticket and newspaper with highlighted words. The pier in the background also adds to it as previously described. I really enjoyed creating this artwork. I enjoyed creating the tonal version, the mixed media approach and incorporating collage and wish to make all of this part of my future work. I also fell a bit in love with the Mr Punch character and decided to make a model of him. I have been wanting to try making a model for a while and thought this would be a great opportunity. I used super sculpey and acrylic to decorate. I really enjoyed this too!