There was just enough time this weekend to go out into Falmouth and enjoy the last of these summer days and nights before the Private View opens tomorrow evening. All the work is done now and it's almost over. All that remains is to enjoy the moment. So this weekend, with the Tall Ships visiting Falmouth, the sun shining,and the evenings still warm, I took a few days to relax and reflect a little.
It's the last few days before the deadline on Wednesday and I'm putting the final few details into my installation for the exhibition which starts on 2nd September (PV 6-9pm). I am absolutely knackered but have loved just about every minute of creating this thing, from its conception over a chat and a cuppa with my (slightly barmy) man in my garden to my emerging awe in myself that I have actually pulled this off!!! I never want it to end (Well, maybe I do a little as it will be nice to have some kind of life again!) and it's hard to believe that in less than a week all the work for my MA, work I have been immersed in for 2 years now, will be all done, handed in, and ready for the final assessment ahead of the final exhibition. What a journey this has been, both personally and creatively. A most incredible, wonderful two years.
This will be the final entry on my blog/journal before I hand in all my research to my tutors tomorrow so although I will be continuing to document my work leading up to the exhibition, this is my final 'official' entry. With this in mind, I am now reflecting on my recent work and my reasons for creating an installation as my final piece of work, and where I see myself taking my work forward post graduation.
When I began this final project I knew for certain that I wanted to create a finished book, which is now almost completed. I also knew that I wanted to create something a little different and a little more immersive for an audience, although I wasn't sure for a long time what form this was going to take.
One of my early influences, and something I have gone back to again and again, is the work of Davy and Kristen McGuire, in particular this piece here entitled 'The Paper Architect'. What I love about this, apart from finding it a most beautiful and enchanting piece of storytelling, is the use of live action mixed with animation. Is it theatre? Is it illustration? Is it installation? I suppose it was my ultimate goal, to try and create something which would transcend the traditional view of what illustration is and pull an audience completely into the world of the story.
My installation piece is therefore a stage set, or the re-creation of the world of the old sailor. Within that space an audience can be fully immersed into the action, surrounded by the sounds he hears on his boat and a witness to the memories playing inside his head. Whether or not it will work as well as I intend remains to be seen, but it is my hope that the audience experience will be a meditative one, that it will invoke the memories of the viewer and make them reflect on their own lives and the things or the people they have loved, lost and found.
Thinking of a way forward, it is my intention to continue to make personal work, to continue with my themes of memory and fairytale and to continue to find ways of realising and interpreting those themes. Bookmaking will always be my first love, but from those books I have found that it is possible to bring to life the world within the pages and to create an exciting experience for the viewer which also fulfils my own ambitions to push at the boundaries of what illustration is.
Here is my finished animation, or my 'still-moving image' which will be played on a continuous loop into my installation space.
The idea of 'The Still Moving Image' which I discussed at length in my final dissertation, came from the video artist, Bill Viola, who slows down his images to such an extent that the movement becomes an incredibly intense and intimate experience for an audience to watch. I was stuck for a while just using photography, which I feel is relevant to the ideas within my work in that a photograph represents a single moment in time, a snapshot, a fragment, and it feels poignant to look at photographs for precisely this reason, that it is a moment in time forever frozen and perfect within that single frame. To turn my work into an animation therefore didn't feel quite the right thing to do, until I looked into the work of Bill Viola and started thinking about a single instant in time as a memory replaying on a continuous loop, as 'persistent' memories often do.
So, with all this in mind, my 'still-moving' image plays on a continuous loop into my installation space. The image becomes the persistent memory of the character of the old sailor who is haunted by, or maybe comforted by, memories of the woman.
(This clip is also accompanied by sound, which may or may not be the final version depending on how much time I have left before the deadline!)
With the main build almost completed, I am impatiently jumping ahead to thinking about all the little details which could make my installation really special.
Over the last months of this project I have thought of the many ways that I might interpret my story to an audience, whether that be through the traditional book format, as a series of light boxes, or as an animation. I am also very strongly influenced by theatre and set design. Also, my images are all about light and layers. With this in mind, I have been giving a lot of thought about how my work is translating into this 3D space, and I have realised that what I am infact creating isn't just a 'stage set' on which the action takes place, but a 3D image or a large, fully immersive light box.
Of course, my primary source of light will be coming from the projection of my animation, but I felt that the absent character of the sailor should have a more central role even though he isn't physically inhabiting the space. So, I am giving him his own light which I will be hanging above his seat, just a little spotlight on a dimmer switch which I have created and made especially and which will highlight his space. Hopefully, this detail just gives an added dimension to the drama.
It has been an exciting couple of days in the exhibition space ...
Firstly, I decided that I wanted to 'plank' the sides of the boat, rather than use my original plan which was simply to use a single sheet of board rolled down the sides. I felt that this gave a more authentic feel of being on a wooden trawler, where the sides are planked and quite incredibly for a water-going vessel, gaps in the boards allow light in, which I though might be a nice aesthetic touch in the space. It wasn't that much more work and I thought it was worth it at this point. I have also been painting everything black as I've gone along, which is intended to be a base coat for the more interesting paint effects that I intend to splash about with later. Less optimistically, but a practical consideration, is that if I run out of time, the black still looks pretty good and once the boat is 'dressed' is an effective backdrop on its own.
Other problems I have been resolving are, firstly, the issue with the sound system, which I have done by wiring up some big speakers to my home stereo and trying out the sound inside the space. I still have to finalise my soundtrack, but I feel better now that the technology to play it is in place. And more importantly, I have tried and tested the positioning of the data projector which will project my animation into the space. Fortunately, it works really well and will still allow an audience to venture inside without disrupting the view, as I had initially planned. So, no last minute disasters there either, I hope.
The next step is to finish the roof at which point the build will be completely finished, leaving me around 7 full days to apply ageing effects and to play with the projection and the 'setting of the stage'.
Having spent what seemed like an eternity making ribs and beams out of cardboard whilst miserably listening to the drilling and hammering of the builders working in the rooms above, dust and asbestos falling on my head (!)I have finally and triumphantly managed to construct the frame for the boat. Made entirely out of cardboard, the beams were constructed from carefully planned and measured templates with the four sections welded together with my new favourite tool, The Mighty Glue Gun. It has turned out much better than I was anticipating really, having ditched my original plan to use hardboard, this construction is lightweight and easily moved around, but also very strong and sturdy once fixed in place. The beams are all held together using dowling and the whole thing, once put in place, holds its shape perfectly. In addition, to disguise the cardboard and give the frame even more strength, I have used a layer of paper mache and a top layer of PVA to give myself a good base on which to paint. There is a lot to do still, but I think that this part was probably (hopefully) the most tedious and from now on, exciting things are going to start happening.
So here I have my cover designs, laid out in indesign, complete with a rough idea of what the book cloth will look like down the left hand side. The circles will be 'cut-outs' to an image beneath the main one, which echos the image on the other side of the back-to-back format. Yes, I know it sounds complicated, but it isn't really.
I've chosen to keep my covers dark and dramatic, rather than use the gold which is predominant inside the book. I feel that this gives a nice contrast and it also echos the title page images which are in the more delicate gold. Also, I just like the way this looks as the cover and the atmosphere it suggests.
I'm really excited now to soon have these finished and to be able to share the finished story in its completed form.
So, on Monday work finally began in earnest on my installation. 'Man-Who-Can' Tim Edmonds put together what will be the floor, made out of reconstructed pallet wood, whilst I got busy making the 12 ribs and beams which will hold everything in place. By Friday all the beams and the floor were finished and had been moved into my show space where I was able to contemplate a few more details and begin to get a sense of how it will look when it's finished.
Time allowing, I am hoping to stain the floor a darker colour, and the ribs, which are made quite simply from double-walled cardboard from these guys http://www.kitepackaging.co.uk/ will be paper-mached, pasted, painted, stained and generally played around with until I hopefully achieve the aged and non-cardboardy look I created with the maquette. I am also working with the college technicians who have been assisting me in Tim's absence and I'm thinking ahead to the issues which will need resolving next week such as the placement of the projector and sound system.
There is a lot to do, but all being well, the installation should be built by next weekend which gives me just under two weeks to make it look authentic and convincing.
This weekend I am heading up to the real boat which has been my inspiration for this thing to record the sound effects for the soundtrack.
I am feeling energised, motivated, excited and ... oh yes ... just a teeny bit PANICKY!
This week I had a fantastic bookbinding session with Catrin Morgan, one of my tutors. It has long been my intention to bind 'Siren Vs Sailor' (working title!) as a back-to-back book, a device intended to highlight the duel-narrative of the story, but the construction of the book has given me a lot of problems which needed resolving along the way (difficulties with tracing paper, how to print, using french folds, reinforcing the perfect binding etc etc ... the list goes on ...) So, by the time it came to thinking about the cover, I was almost ready to bind it as two separate books and present them in a slipcase, which seemed infinitely easier, given that I have also chosen to use a hardback binding (you know, just because I wanted to give myself yet another challenge!)
Anyway, for the purposes of the session, I created a dummy book with which to experiment and with Catrin's help, figured out exactly how a back-to-back binding works. Here are the results and I'm very excited to finally have a clear idea of how this book is going to look.
My intention now is to use what is called a 'quarter-binding'. This means that I will be using book cloth on the spine and the rear with a printed image which will take up three-quarters of each of the covers. Don't worry ... It will all make sense very soon now!!!
I have now ordered some gorgeous book cloth in various colours and one or two other lovely bookbinding goodies from these people http://store.falkiners.com/store/ Have a look at their website if you are at all interested in bookbinding and paper. They have some beautiful things and the service is excellent.
Next step? Finalising the cover design ...
It's a fact: I definitely have a fear of bookbinding. The fear arises from the other fact. Which is that I love bookbinding. And I love my bookbinding to be absolutely perfect. Which isn't easy.
So, here I am, having spent a lot of time and investment selecting a beautiful paper and printing all the pages of my book at home, facing the task where it Could All Go Horribly Wrong.
So I have made a 'dummy' book to practice on (That's it there in the foreground of the photograph)and have spent the morning trimming (with an extra sharp scalpel blade) and gluing the spine. I now have two mocked-up book blocks with which to trial-run a cover.
In the background, clamped and glued, are 'The Real Things'. I have trimmed the spines on 'The Real Things' with an extra extra extra sharp scalpel blade, and it was still a very tricky and delicate manoeuvre which almost went badly wrong (I still have all my fingers, thankfully). I will now leave these to dry overnight.
Because the book is french-folded, it has to be 'perfect-bound', which means the spine edges are all loose individual sheets which have to be glued and secured together. The binding needs to be extra strong to make sure it holds, and because my paper is quite heavy, I am employing a couple of tricks to make it super-strength. I found some tips on various kinds of binding, including perfect-bound, on this excellent website: http://www.transientbooks.com/process.html
I especially like the inclusion of thread embedded into the spine which I intend to use myself.
Really can't wait to have this book finished now. With less than 1 month to go and a whole installation still to build, it will be nice to have all the 'sitting-at-my-desk' behind me, so I can get out there and have some fun with hammers and hacksaws (or whatever they're called) ... Ummmm ... Another steep learning curve coming up then ...
I am a ...
... Teller of Tales. A Creator of Books. An Artist, Illustrator and A Boatbuilder. A Professional Daydreamer, Occasional Mermaid, and always The Eternal Optimist.