Blog 5

Multi-culture & Making

Research & enquiry

I have been lucky enough to travel to a number of countries recently, last week I went to Austria, it was interesting being in Vienna for the 100 Centenary of Armistice. I saw an exhibition about Austria politics and history of the city during the war. The city is steeped in history. I went to The Albertina and the Mumok contemporary art galleries. Mumok standing for museum moderner kunst stiftung ludwig wien.



Last weekend was a time for reflection on the many men that lost there lives, it was a world altering conflict, countries were divided. 100 years later and it feels as though these dangerous nationalist traits are rearing their ugly heads once again, along with the misuses of fake news circulating. During the exhibition in the MUMOK I saw nazi propaganda illustrations and another exhibition on non conforming contemporary music which was very interesting. At held an exhibition of contemporary art they hold in there collections made in the second half of the twentieth century which had displays of Warhol, Picasso, Braque, Edvard Munch, Rudolf Hausner, Franz Sedlacek and many more. They had fantastic displays at The Albertina with Monet, Chagall, Picasso, Richter. Going to new places and seeing art before my eyes always injects me with creativity.

I have been making a series of illustrations as part of my practice 1 keyword project, stemming from the word ‘multi’. Each of these drawings have been taken from my day to day living, things I have noticed, seen, experienced, heard or read. Each drawing has parts that have been made at different points across the day. Showing multiple times in one image, a visual diary.


The airport is always buzzing like a hive of bee’s. How many cultures are evident in how an area feels like and looks like. Austria had more history than I realised because the city itself is beautiful, it was littered with fountains and grand buildings of a gothic style, there was an abundance of stoneworkers in times gone past I can only imagine. There is history of their of the Austrian empire lining the streets reminding me of mixture Rome and Berlin.

My idea of drawing certain parts of my day from my experience of Vienna has made time stamping with what I’ve seen, creating layers.


Marks associated with sounds and vision whilst soaking up the city.

Scanned Image.jpg

davThe drawing above with the shadow of ideas was about my time spent inside the Mumok galleries, some of the amazing contemporary art inside and the structure itself. I like to play with scale and the idea of a picture within a picture. You might be able to see the smaller framed drawing with the ladders and then the larger picture frame going around the whole drawing.

After all a lot of these sketches are drawings within a drawing. Confusing right? I mean at certain points along the day I will stop at something that interests me, make a sketch on an area of the page then carry on. At a later stage of the day I will stop again and add too it with something else I see of interest. By the time I go to bed the one page of drawings and writing is like a slightly disjointed time lapse of my experiences and reflections.


This drawing is combination of my time at a train station in the north of the city shown in the picture above and my reflections at seeing people staring out of the train window many looking lost in thought.


The drawings above is a Mozart quote because he was literally everywhere in Austria and I went to watch an orchestra with some of his beautiful music combined with the 62 metre Ferris Wheel that is a popular viewpoint for the city which is shown in the picture earlier on in the blog.




Vienna time painting

I have made more illustrations but I won’t upload all of them and completely bombard. I have also made drawings like this from a visit to Madrid  and a few other places, that have all been extremely interesting, experiencing different cultures helps personal growth. Unfortunately we can’t travel all the time, I work at The Wilson Art Gallery & Museum in Cheltenham, England, it gives me opportunities to interact with different people all the time and invigilate galleries whilst exhibitions are on interacting with visitors. This plays well into making these daily drawings too. I have documented things with pictures when I can to have references for parts of the drawings. I have drawn some of them on a diary book with lined pages because it has become a bit like a diary in a way, a diary of images, words, sounds buildings and streets.

I like that there is a certain amount of ambiguity in the images, leaving a little to the imagination of the viewer. They can even attach their own narratives to the images. I have started using wording within my drawings lately because words are powerful, they can be anyway. They can resonate, connect or distract a viewer.  Being open to more than one interpretation works well for my Keyword ‘multi’.

An artist that I have looked at that has influenced me in my mark making is William Kentridge and his fantastic charcoal drawings and stop motion animations.

Image result for William Kentridge images

Cambio, 1999, mixed media.

image source – https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/kentridge-cambio-p78560

William Kentridge, Stillbild från 7 Fragments for Georges Méliès, 2003 © William Kentridge

7 Fragments, 2003, Charcoal on paper

image source – https://www.modernamuseet.se/stockholm/en/exhibitions/william-kentridge/7-fragments-for-georges-melies-journey-to-the-moon/

There is a brilliant video made by William Kentridge on his desire to create and the meaning behind the process of his work. Please use the link below to watch.


He opens by saying ‘The films don’t have meaning that gets drawn, the films come out of a need to make an image…the meaning emerges along the months of the making of the film. So the only meaning they have in advance is for the film to exist’. What I love about his work is the history of the mark, you can see some of the charcoal marks made then rubbed away, then worked in to then rubbed away. That has influenced me with my mark making during my daily drawing project. It’s okay not to be a defined finished image, that is not the point the point is to record, to be free and to reflect on what I have experienced. Sometimes that creeps in to my head when making and I find it suffocating “oh it doesn’t look perfect or it doesn’t look polished” so embracing this way of working has been freeing and helped me.

So whilst thinking of multi, I wanted a different way for someone to experience a sketchbook drawing. So having looked at the illustrator & graphic designer Chritoph Neimann in a previous blog I wanted to make my own 360 degree sketchbook pages. I am still experimenting at how best to do this but have some early stages examples on my fb art page below, click on the images below and they will take you to the examples ….

I would like to experiment more with this way of presenting work/experiencing work. I can image that experiencing stories in VR headsets, being surrounded by the illustrations would be very enthralling, add in more layers of sound and audio description even more so.











Collaboration in Illustration

Research & Enquiry

Blog 4

Collaboration in Illustration & Art

In my previous blog I briefly looked at brothers Rob & Christian Clayton and their fascinating process of making work. In this blog I would like to peak further into collaboration in Illustration. The idea of more than one artist working on the same piece of work is fascinating. In almost all other creative fields it is a collaboration, a collective but the role of an artist or an illustrator can be a solo journey at times. 

It also links to my Keyword project exploring the word ‘multi’ meaning more than one.

I recalled reading an article about this chap that coloured in his daughter’s doodles, and I remember seeing them and thinking that is bloody brilliant. A child’s imagination is a special thing, unaffected by adult conventions and not influence by what you ‘should’ do or ‘shouldn’t’ do or say. It’s a free spirit, you can’t help but laugh at the things they can come up with.

Here is the link to the article below –


I really enjoyed the playfulness of the images, taking it back to drawing for the fun of it. That should be the essence of making work in my opinion, its good to work towards projects but if you can’t have fun and enjoy it along the way then why do it.

Clayton Brothers

I want to look more at the Clayton brothers and their collaborative approach to creating images. It is quite unique to hear of high level artists functioning in this way, collaborations are not rare there are often exhibitions or specific projects that take collaboration to create. However it is rare to see a continued, developing relationship through painting over a period of years and decades. Having multi: more than one person working on the same piece must be a brilliant yet challenging way to work. Perhaps constant dialogue audibly and visually is what makes there work so fantastic, the push and pull between the two.

I recently watched Bohemian Rhapsody depicting the rise of the legendary rock band Queen, and at a point Freddy Mercury decided to leave the band, saying he was tired of the constant process of working as part of the group, with each idea being challenged; argued for or against. So he decided to do two solo albums only to realise that people doing exactly as he said in production and writing was actually a problem, the music was not on the same level. The push and pull of ideas and different minds seeing different things was part of the magic that made them, and him so good.

On the Saatchi website they describe the Clayton brothers process as “Working from their Californian high street studio, the Clayton brothers draw inspiration from their immediate environment, incorporating local businesses, neighbourhood regulars, and snippets of overheard conversations as subjects for their paintings. Composing their pieces conjunctively, motifs, gestures, places, and figures reoccur within different works, creating inter-linked dramatic scripts. Set on collaged canvases, the physical layering of their surfaces reflects their condensed tableaux. Approaching painting as a visual representation of pure energy, everyday scenes explode in vortexes of blinding colour, animated movement, and product placement, giving the effect of viewing every frame of a film simultaneously. Through presenting a locality, the Clayton brothers relate the personal to the global. Offering a vision of America-as-it-is, they celebrate and share all its diverse, spectacular, and solitary splendour.”

Source – https://www.saatchigallery.com/artists/clayton_brothers.htm

Brace Together Spin Spin
Brace Together Spin Spin, Mixed media on stretched canvas, 2006.

image source – https://www.saatchigallery.com/artists/artpages/clayton_brothers_brace_together_2.htm


image source – http://www.woostercollective.com/post/new-work-from-the-clayton-brothers

I like there finished work because they involve the community around them, it has a busyness about it with its vibrancy that leads your eyes around the image. It has characters painted within that makes me wonder who they are and what their story is, is it a depiction of there local laundrette? Or is it something more once you scratch beneath the surface.

The nature of collaboration can be looser, their can be a direct collaboration of two artists working specifically on one piece. Or the indirect collaboration, working in a shared studio space with other artists, each discussing their work sharing ideas and bouncing of one another. I have experienced this. Only once I had stepped away from the environment later on did I see the influence it had on some of my work and development.

Another manner of collaboration is between a book illustrators and the reader. Charles Vass writer of Getting to Know, p78, Knowledge Quest made the point “Respecting that readers imagination is one of the most important tasks at hand for either the illustrator or the writer.”

I have been collaborating with my environment, making drawings along the route of my day. Everything on the page is a visual representation of things I saw, listened too or day dreamed. I work in an art gallery & museum so I see different things everyday and meet different people passing by on their travels, these things influenced the images.


I would like to mix over these hand drawn with digital. It ties in with my keyword multi as it is an illustration drawn from more than one moment. Sequential can be displayed numerous ways, I have been thinking about knitting together to create a 360 degree sketchbook page making it multidimensional. If anyone reads this and wants to collaborate on any illustration please comment on this blog post.





Let Your Imagination Soar: Getting to Know Graphic Novels, p78, Knowledge Quest wrote, Charles Vass.


From traditional to digital and beyond

Research & Enquiry

Blog 3

For this blog I will be looking at what are the pros of using modern illustration techniques over traditional techniques and a continuation of how illustration has developed over the decades. To start out with I would like to state this is not a what is better, modern vs traditional shootout. It is a debate to discover how modern illustration techniques are helping to push new boundaries. The aim is to research what is paving the way right now. I think this is particularly helpful to me, coming from a traditional background. Traditional meaning non digital, painting, drawing, charcoal, chalk, paint etc., the physical act of making things with your hands with no digital interface. I am still learning the amazing opportunities given as a result of using digital programs to create art and illustrations. It has actually been reinvigorating, new methods naturally lead to new ideas. I am sure there are a lot of people out there that are having similar experiences or flipped the other way from using predominantly digital to exploring traditional. That’s not to say I will abandon my previous practice, but I would like to expand and combine the best of both worlds. That idea really stimulates my creativity.

Why will I be looking to see what benefits a modern illustrator has compared to more traditional methods, to see if I can learn from this research how to expand my practice.

Having a physical connection with what you are making is one of the finest aspects of using traditional methods. Laying ink onto paper with a pen, making a mark with a brush coated in paint, there is a wonderful connection. Having recently started using a Wacom tablet to draw digitally I have found it strange, a slight disconnection, especially using a tablet with no screen that you plug into an iMac. Looking up at the screen whilst your hand is not in your line of sight is very unusual at first, disconnected. So I am looking to purchase a tablet that you can look at whilst drawing.

However there are real benefits, you don’t need to keep buying supplies, you will never run out of ‘paper’ & you can change paper textures in a second, images can be scaled up or down to what the project brief desires. I am currently using a wonderful program called Rebelle 3, a watercolour program that holds all the characteristics of using real watercolours. When making a mark it bleeds through the paper, it can be angled so drips can run in any direction you wish. The big plus for me is you don’t have a wait for drying time, a click of a button and hurrah. It is flexible allowing you to lay pencil, charcoal or oil paint affects over the top of watercolour, which would be very difficult, messy and the paper would fall apart in real terms. There are pros and cons to both approaches.

Here are some experiments using the program to get used to the feel and transition.


Interestingly recently in the news a portrait made using AI (artificial intelligence) was created after uploading over 1500 portraits from the past 300 years to shape the algorithms within the computer program.  This is the portrait below…

Image source – https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/25/arts/design/ai-art-sold-christies.html

What do you think? It sold for $432,500. Incredible that someone thought, “yeah, that is worth more than the price of a house”. In a way it makes me sad, there is no connection between someone that has learned a skill for most of their life, researched, developed or injected any soul into it. It has all been made through crunching numbers in a box. I understand it was probably bought as an investment, one of the first AI created paintings, and may be worth ten times that amount in the distant future. What does this mean for the role of a creative person in the future? Will we all be replaced by machines, turning art into a conveyor belt of manufacturing? It raises seriously interesting thoughts for where the future of art, illustration and graphic design will go. How far can they take it? No one can know for sure, but I can imagine as soon as quantum computers have been fully enabled, meaning processing speeds billions of times faster than the fastest computers in existence right now, then peoples jobs will be at risk, the money men and corporations will do anything if it means faster production and more profit.

On the flip-side perhaps it will push human creativity to a higher level, competition can drive rapid development, as shown numerous times in history. The space race for example, do you think the desire for mankind to reach the moon in the 60’s was done out of curiosity? No it was a race, a competition of two contrasting superpowers hell bent on being the first to explore space. Perhaps competition from AI could reap similar benefits for human creativity.

In my previous blog I looked at Modernism, the period of art development from 1900 up to the start of the Second World War containing many movements, Cubism, Constructivism, Dada, Bauhaus & Futurism, focussing mainly on Surrealism and its influence on modern day illustration. All these movements rejected historical styles, exploring original uses and experimentation with line, colour, design and layout.

Constructivism was important for design according to Megg’s History of Design written by Alan Tate, on page 341 it reads, “In 1922 & 1923 Berlewi worked in Germany and began to evolve his mecho – fakurta theory. Believing that modern art was filled with illusionistic pitfalls, he mechanized painting & graphic design into a constructed abstraction that abolished any illusion of three dimensions. This was accomplished by mathematical placement of simple geometric forms on a ground. The mechanization of art was seen as an expression of industrial society”. Henryk Berlewi was a Polish graphic designer and artist that lived from 1894 to 1967. He was reacting to a changing world with his ideas of design and illustration. Here is ‘Mechano-Faktura’ made in 1924, you can clearly see the reflection of his ideas and his ties with Constructivism, that too have had a great effect of graphic design developing. And now with how close graphic design and illustration has become in the digital age there is a binding influence on both.

Image result for mechano fakturaimage source – http://www.sothebys.com/en/auctions/ecatalogue/2017/israeli-international-art-n09638/lot.83.html

resource – http://eyemagazine.com/opinion/article/remembering-berlewi

I am looking at traditional approaches before I move on to modern digital approaches, to see how things have taken shape, for my own understanding and to enrich my practice.

The Memphis Group was a group of furniture and architectural designers from 1981 that produced bold designs, with strong colours and striking lines, geometric patterns that went against traditions. They were led by Italian designer Ettore Sottsass who spearheaded the postmodern textiles and designs for furniture. The group disbanded in 1988 but there innovative work has influenced illustrators and designers of today. Here a few examples of their work.

Yellow-Brown Scarf - Memphis Milano
poster for “The Memphis Group” Exhibition
The third image is from an exhibition at Koenig & Clinton gallery in New York of which they describe, “Three decades on, Memphis continues to influence the visual language of designers and artists working today, and has once again been embraced by mainstream culture. While for one generation it may remain associated with a high postmodernism that equated stylistic eclecticism with ‘the end of history’, Memphis now enjoys a revival in the digital age. Galvanized by post-Internet design, Memphis is celebrated for its definitively sculptural, three-dimensional, grafted character and offers a refreshing reprieve from the flat, one-dimensional visual space of screens.”

Image Source – https://www.memphis-milano.com/collections/ettore-sottsass/products/yellow-brown-scarf



Lowbrow & Pop surrealism

The next phase of development I would like to look at is lowbrow and pop surrealism, starting in the 1970’s and into the 1980’s this phase started out of the gallery and museum scene, the traditional approaches.

Lowbrow borrows inspiration from a wide range of cultural sources such as punk rock music, tattoo art, Surrealism, pop culture, underground comics, skateboarding. Artists would combine styles, narratives and characters to create drawings, illustrations, paintings and media with subversive undertones. The La Luz Jesus Gallery opened in Los Angeles in 1986 and was one of the first galleries to host pop surrealism for the public.

In the online article hosted on create.adobe.com entitled, “Looking back to look forward: Illustration styles of the past 30 years” written by Terry Hemphill, he quotes Mark Heflin, editor and director of American Illustration who says, “it really changed things, it blurred the lines between illustration and fine art”.

The erasing of the lines between commercial and fine art is one of this movement’s most significant contributions.

One of the artists that grew from this period was Gary Baseman, his website tells us, “Los Angeles-based Gary Baseman explores the, “beauty of the bittersweetness of life”, through painting, performance, film and fashion. Recent projects include a collaboration with COACH; a documentary “Mythical Creatures” about his family heritage; and a traveling retrospective that featured hundreds of his paintings, photographs, videos, and toy and costume designs.

Baseman’s multifaceted career includes illustration for clients including the New York Times, Rolling Stone, and the Wall Street Journal and the bestselling board game Cranium; as well as animation for which he created the Emmy and BAFTA award-winning ABC/Disney series “Teacher’s Pet.” He is a frequent speaker at international conferences on graphic and multidisciplinary arts and visual communications.”

Source – https://garybaseman.com/about/

Here is some of his work –

For the love of toby – Acrylic on wood panel, 24 x 18, 2005.

Image source – https://garybaseman.com/work/for-the-love-of-toby/

Toby’s desire, mixed media, ephemera, 2005.

Image source – https://garybaseman.com/work/for-the-love-of-toby/

Speaking in tongues, Acrylic on ephemera, 2005.

Image source – https://garybaseman.com/work/the-garden-of-unearthly-delights/

Brothers Rob and Christian Clayton also took influence from this scene, they had a very interesting practice of work, both would work on the same piece of work, but not simultaneously and without discussion. They take turns to work into an image that would create layers of fascinating imagery. It became a vivid, conversation of imagery. I am a big fan of their work and how they create it. I wish I had a brother that I could bounce work off, that is part of what makes their work unique.

Sensing Needs, an illustration by the Clayton Brothers Sensing needs, 2007. Mixed media.

Image source – https://www.instagram.com/clayton_brothers/


The growth of digital art, and its reputation since the 1990s is stratospheric. The development of technology has made this possible. For me and the millennial generation it is all we have known. Technology is so ingrained in society now that it is difficult to imagine it without it. So it makes sense to capitalise on these developments in technology to try and break boundaries and create forms of artistic work with it.

I have been looking for pioneering illustrators right now, I would like to look at these two below. Rob and Christian Clayton certainly fall into that catagory but there are of course others.

Craig Frazier works in refreshing ways by combining media, he blurs the lines between illustration and graphic design using digital designs over initial hand drawn ideas to animate conceptual images into gifs. He has made static work also but the styling is interesting and the concepts behind the images are fascinating often having wit, optimism and simplicity. He often works for the NY Times, Harvard Street Journal and has created ten children’s illustrated books among other notable achievements.

Here is some of his work –


All images taken from his website and instagram –



Christoph Niemann is a storyteller, illustrator, author and artist working in Berlin. He is experimental and pushes boundaries and has won numerous awards for his work. His work about the Korean demilitarised zone where he created a 360 degree sketchbook is amazing and I like it because it is original is a great example of using technology to create new ways of communicating. It’s a fascinating account of his visit to Korea, his thoughts and reflections on his experience in one of the most heavily militarised and culturally tense parts of the world. I enjoy the way he has combined music which is playful and juxtaposes the tense environment, with audio description of what he learned from his guides leading him around the area, with drawings of the scenery that you can scroll around 360 degrees. It’s amazing work, the drawings remind me of a child’s book illustration and reflects the bizarre contrasts, that it has almost become a tourist attraction for edgy people that want to explore beyond the standard disneyland holidays.

You can see the DMZ 360 degree sketchbook here – https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/02/17/magazine/christoph-niemann-north-korea-dmz.html?rref=collection/sectioncollection/magazine

What have I gained from this blog? It has given me a deeper understanding of the development of illustration and an insight into current illustrators that are pushing boundaries. Particularly Christoph Niemann, I am so glad to have come across his work, and how he has used technology to communicate his work in new ways. This can only positively feed into my ideas for my keyword module in the MA illustration study. For the pros and cons of tradition or digital work once you get past the romantic notion of the ‘feel’ of physically laying material onto paper, there are really only positives, new possibilities and excitement at embracing digital technologies into ones artistic practice. If you are reading this blog and illustrators come to mind that I have not mentioned please do drop me an email or comment on this blog.

Has surrealism influenced modern day illustration?

Research & Enquiry

Blog 2

How has Surrealism influenced modern day illustration?

For my second blog I would like to explore how Surrealism has influenced modern Illustration. Why, I hear you ask? I am transitioning from my previous fine art study to illustration, and I want to stitch together influences and connections to give me a rich tapestry of research to launch me in to this illustration study.

Secondly why Surrealism? Well, the Dada, Cubism, Surrealism, Futurism, Constructivism period from 1910 up until the start of World War II is my favourite period of modern art because it was a sustained period of accelerated development and was the beginning of graphic design and illustration being conceptual and not simply representative. Also I have always found Surrealism aesthetically and conceptually interesting, enjoyable, confusing and like a riddle you need to work out, I like that. I have been reading “Illustration a Theoretical & Contextual Perspective”, and “Meggs’ History of Graphic Design”, and have noticed some ties between these periods and modern illustration.

It makes sense to look at the original definition of what surrealism was, in the first Manifesto of Surrealism, published in Paris in 1924, Surrealism’s founder André Breton, defines Surrealism as “psychic automatism in its pure state, by which one proposes to express – verbally, by means of the written word, or in any other manner – the functioning of thought.”

Initially it was based on investigating subliminal thinking, hidden meanings, dream states and untamed thoughts, as time has passed it developed to being conceptual representation of the bizarre. Salvador Dali’s paintings as fantastically wacky and dream like as they, were actually very technical, highly skilled, compositionally complex, tone building with carefully portrayed perspectives. So by making the work in that way it partially bypassed the untamed nature of the original thought outlined by André Breton. It wasn’t automatic, he had clearly put a lot of thought into constructing those images. Despite that I have always loved his paintings, the uncanny image was a skill surrealists developed, making unforgettable images. However what it did do as a movement was create a development in conceptual imagery, that seeped into western culture. 

Image result for The Persistence of Memory

image source – https://www.moma.org/collection/works/79018

Having been to the Salvador Dali museum in Bruges, and having seen exhibitions of his work in Berlin, I found his printmaking a closer portrayal of André Breton’s ‘psychic automatism’. The process of printmaking is much quicker, less over-thought, compared to his hand painted dream photographs, more raw, less defined and instinctive. However his paintings are fantastic, his exploration of dreams and subliminal symbols are fascinating.

Looking at the creative techniques the surrealists developed, it might seem on the surface to escape the harshness of post world war life, but surrealism positioned itself not as an escape from life but a revolutionary force, a movement aimed at the wholesale liberation of the individual aesthetic. Unlocking the subconscious, unaffected by external influence. Sigmund Freud was a big influence for them, his writing exploring the unconscious parts of the mind.

To find ways of creating work from the unconscious they developed a collection of strange and wonderful techniques.

  • Collage was a technique developed by the Dada movement but was also popular with surrealists assembling different items to make a whole. For example “The Hat Makes the Man” made in 1920 by Max Ernst.

                   Image source https://1stwebdesigner.com/modern-surrealism/

  • Cubomania was a technique developed by surrealist Gherasim Luca where an image is diced into squares and then randomly reconstructed to create a new image.
  • Fumage was a technique using fire and candle smoke to create impressions onto a canvas.


image source – http://awilliamson18weebly2.weebly.com/techniques.html

  • Grattage was a method that involved scraping paint of a canvas to show imprints of what laid beneath.
  • Decalcomania was a technique of layering chunky slabs of paint onto a surface and placing foil on top whilst still wet then peeling away leaving a pattern that would form the base of a painting.
  • Esclaboussure was a method of splatting turpentine down onto wet oil paint, leaving random marks.
  • Automatic Writing was an important technique, answering questions at speed by disengaging the filter of the mind.

What links have I noticed between Surrealism and modern illustration? The development of conceptual representation in imagery is a link. Conceptual imagery and Surrealism described in page 68 of “Illustration, a Theoretical & Contextual Perspective” written by Alan Male as, “a generalised definition of a visual metaphor might suggest the description of an image that is imaginative, but not literally applicable. When applied to the discipline of illustration, it is commonplace to describe this form of imagery as being conceptual. This implies a way of depicting content by utilising a number of ideas and methods of communication, illustration, symbolism and expression. This type of visual stylisation started to evolve during the 1950’s in the United States when issues and themes, as publicised in magazines, were becoming more critical and complex. There seemed a need to present the viewer with much more enigmatic and ambitious images that invented deeper interpretation. Up to this period, illustration was more or less dominated by explicitly literal and vividly realistic drawing and painting.”

Male goes on to say, “whilst this particular language is still successful and appropriate for dramatic reconstructions across all contexts of illustration practice, the need to express deeper ideas rather than portray verbatim scenes has meant that conceptual illustration is now the dominant style.”

It appears that surrealism perhaps instead of having a concrete influence, was more of a door opener for conceptual image making that has seeped into popular culture. What exactly is the visual language of conceptual illustration, and broadly speaking what does it look like? Rene Magritte the Belgian surrealist painter seemed to be a more transferable source of Surrealism. Iconic images that live on today such as his “Son of Man” painting depicting a floating apple in front of a man with a bowler hat have been recycled many a time in modern culture. The amazingly simple yet effective idea of having a painting within a painting in “The Human Condition”. The clever playful nature of his and other surrealist ideas played its part in post modern reflective thinking.

In page 68 of “Illustration, a Theoretical & Contextual Perspective”, Alan Male explains, “Rene Magritte…has had a considerable influence on early conceptual illustration…Magritte presented a clearer, though enigmatic, symbolic visual language that illustrators found could be applied to contemporary themes and issues as commissioned by the commercial marketplace.”

The Human Condition, 1933 by Rene Magritte The Therapist, 1937 by Rene Magritte

Rene Magritte, The Human Condition, 1933. image source – https://www.renemagritte.org/the-therapist.jsp

Rene Magritte, The Therapist, 1937. image source – https://www.renemagritte.org/the-human-condition.jsp

The Son of Man, 1946 by Rene Magritte

Rene Magritte, The Son of Man, 1964. Image source – https://www.renemagritte.org/the-human-condition.jsp

Magritte said of this painting, “at least it hides the face partly. Well, so you have the apparent face, the apple, hiding the visible but hidden, the face of the person. It’s something that happens constantly. Everything we see hides another thing, we always want to see what is hidden by what we see. There is an interest in that which is hidden and which the visible does not show us. This interest can take the form of a quite intense feeling, a sort of conflict, one might say, between the visible that is hidden and the visible that is present.”

“These types of illustrations have been…commissioned to promote, comment and give identity to issues related to the economy, politics and society.”

source – Page 68, Illustration, A Theoretical & Contextual Perspective. Alan Male

This also links in with my continuing exploration of the keyword ‘multi’ as conceptual meanings are not necessarily obvious in representation, there are conceptual layers to what is being put across aesthetically. The surrealist intention to tap in to a raw state of mind, using ‘more than one’ technique. I can also look at adding this to my own practice, the emphasis on more experimentation.

Watch this video to see more on how surrealism held stylisation in its time leading up to World War II and how it has influenced todays imagery.


What modern illustrators can I find that have been directly or indirectly influenced by Surrealism? With digital technology now a key component in illustration, there are even more ways to create. There is no need for traditional paint on canvas, if one so wished, photographs can be manipulated to a greater degree than ever before. Here are a few artists I have come across that have clearly been influenced directly or indirectly by Surrealism.


Faceless Composition by Lara Jade. Image source – https://digitalmediamarketingblog.wordpress.com/2013/02/09/modern-surrealism-faceless-composition-by-lara-jade/

Image result for Madalina Iordache , digital manipulation

Madalina Iordache , digital manipulation. Image source – https://madalinaiordache.myportfolio.com/rain-spell

Elliott Earls, Cranrbook Academy of Art poster, 2008. Image source – https://designobserver.com/feature/a-dictionary-of-surrealism-and-the-graphic-image/37685

M/M (Paris), theater poster, 2005. Image source – https://designobserver.com/feature/a-dictionary-of-surrealism-and-the-graphic-image/37685

Rob Gonsalves, Arborael Office, 2011 image source – https://huckleberryfineart.com/product/arboreal-office/

One of the traits that flowed into Surrealism was the ability to conjure up the marvellous, to make the image slightly unsettling, unforgettable, being one of its central concepts. Rick Poyner is a writer, critic, lecturer and curator, specialising in design, photography and visual culture. He founded Eye, co-founded Design Observer, and contributes columns to Eye and Print and is Professor of Design and Visual Culture at the University of Reading. Conjuring the marvellous is an elevated plane of thought, he writes, “the moment when reality seems to open up and disclose its essence more fully.’ In the first Manifesto of Surrealism, André Breton writes, “the marvellous is always beautiful, anything marvellous is beautiful, in fact only the marvellous is beautiful” and,  “Surrealism offered a psychic mechanism to gain access to a superior reality.”

Surrealism as a movement had an important impact in culture, art, literature and politics. It is best summed up as a creative act of endeavour towards liberating the imagination. It is still alive to this day in that sense. Plenty of artists across this planet are influenced by Surrealist techniques, ideas and styles.

How can I use this research to influence my work? Surrealism has seeped into my practice before but it is interesting how it can provide different approaches to making an image. I will try some of their techniques devised to facilitate creativity.

It is worth mentioning that the Dada movement was a huge influence on Surrealism and that Dada also influenced graphic design so there are ties across the board with illustration and graphic design overlapping at times with the use of typography, photographic manipulation and collage.



Andrew Darcy MA Illustration Blog

Illustration / Research and Enquiry

Blog 1


For the first module for the MA Illustration I have to choose a keyword, that informs the start of my research and enquiry module. After consideration I will be exploring the importance of the word ‘multi’. I have chosen the word multi because I have an ongoing interest in the multiverse. This theory originally made by Hugh Everret III states that the many worlds interpretation is an interpretation of quantum mechanics that asserts the objective reality of the universal and denies the actuality of wave-function collapse. Many-worlds implies that all possible alternate histories and futures are real, each representing an actual “world” (or “universe”). In layman’s terms, the hypothesis states there is a very large—perhaps infinite—number of universes, and everything that could possibly have happened in our past, but did not, has occurred in the past of some other universe or universes.

However after further analysis I thought it would be better to start with the different factions and contexts of ‘multi’. It will give me a solid base, also a broader base from which to learn more about the connotations and relevance it has in illustration and ties it has to the wider world.

According to the Oxford dictionary the definition of multi- is meaning more than one: many. It’s origin as a word is from Latin, multus ‘much, many’. As I am researching the importance of the word multi it is only fitting to get more than one definition. According to the Collins dictionary ‘Multi- is used to form adjectives indicating that something consists of many things of a particular kind’.

Here is my initial mind map for the chosen keyword –

Scanned Image.jpg

However, using ‘multi’ as my keyword has a deeper meaning; my interest is in the direction a collated number of perspectives, previous decisions, outside influence and interest has on a person making a choice or decision. So you could make one decision or the other, there are always multiple decisions you make that will lead you in to a certain path. For example, the decision I made to enrol on this Illustration MA course and all the other students starting this semester, had I not decided to, my life would be different, and may be a lot different in the future. That’s where my interest starts in multiverse, the many worlds, those alternates exist along side each other. The exponential opportunities we all have each day, and what we choose to see, what we indirectly choose to be ignorant of, then go forward with, affects where we could be tomorrow, five years or ten years from now. Going down to minute interactions that happen all the time with objects and people, that create a plane of time which we live through.

So how important is multi, using more than one, in terms of illustration? That is something I will explore through this module. By choosing the keyword multi, it allows me to explore a greater depth of smaller elements that are relevant, to my practice, and illustration as a wider practice. Whilst thinking over the use of multi, there are many ways it can be applied to illustration; in particular the idea of using more than one medium in an illustration, is one I found interesting and would like to look further into. Why use more than one medium? To what benefit? To be different? Or, to have a tangible effect? For example the combination of traditional drawing, painting, printmaking, photography and digital editing, digital overlay with traditional effects.

I have an interest in illustration for books so narrative is important within storytelling. Each story can contain more than one narrative, it could be more than one character narrative, many narratives operate with a substantial level of allegory, depending on how it’s interpreted to reveal a hidden message, typically moral or political. That initially grabs my interest along with the use of playful language with more than one meaning, the use of homophones, homographs, homonyms, so I will explore this further in future blog posts.

We have then been asked to find three images, the first an image which describes your keyword in the literal sense – something which is the first thing people associate with your keyword. The first image that came to my mind was Andy Warhol’s work called Campbell’s Soup, made from synthetic polymer paint in 1962.


Source – https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-merseyside-29950247

It came to mind because it is very literal, more than one. It also happens to be one of the most famous images in modern art whether you like Andy Warhol or not.

The second image would be an image which shows an abstract representation of your word. For this I chose…


This image, Mandora, was made by Georges Braque in 1909. It is an abstract representation that I can link to my keyword ‘multi’ as cubism was based on the idea of a subject from multiple angles and perspectives painted on to one image, which at the time was groundbreaking stuff. Out-stripping the traditional approach to what a painting should be. Now, cubism as a movement is long gone however, it has influence over how imagery is explored and has helped things to progress into what we see today.

Cubism as described on the Tate modern website – “By breaking objects and figures down into distinct areas – or planes– the artists aimed to show different viewpoints at the same time and within the same space and so suggest their three dimensional form. In doing so they also emphasized the two-dimensional flatness of the canvas instead of creating the illusion of depth.”


The third image needed to be a piece by another artist which represents your keyword (this can be as abstract or literal in its connection as you like!). For this image I chose David Spriggs work Axis of Power made in 2009.

Multiple layers; the use of more than one layer to form an image is standard when using digital programs like photoshop, each literal layer builds up an image, which you can take away or re-add to see the appropriateness. The physical adding of multiple layers in a painting, but those layers are permanent, you can’t go back once it’s been laid down with your brush. Layers of colour or shape, line or tone. David Spriggs is a great example of an artist that uses multiple layering in work.



Source http://sharjahart.org/sharjah-art-foundation/people/spriggs-david

David Spriggs, Axis of Power, 2009, immersive installation.

source http://volume-digital.blogspot.com/2012/03/david-spriggs.html

David Spriggs uses multiple layers of carbon fibre sheets, each come together to create this wall of sensation. His work is remarkable and he is one of my favourite contemporary artists, the impact the layers create is on par with music in a strange way. There is a physicalness that I enjoy, you can see all the layers, and it creates a depth and an immediate presence, it’s robust yet dream like. If looked at from different angles you can see many things, from the side the slim sheets hang, from the front you get consumed by this multidimensional image. By using three dimensional aesthetics it adds to the work, Axis of Power reflects global climate change and its volatile state. It is part cinema, part painting with the atmospheric lighting. He uses up to 400 sheets and he has coined the term “Stratachrome” for his work, ‘Strata’ meaning layers in Latin and ‘Chroma’ meaning colours.  “Unlike in linear-perspective where the illusion of depth is created by a vanishing point, strata-perspective is created with multiple image planes in space that collectively give depth. The viewer becomes the vanishing point to the images which now have infinite ways to see them, it is a sort of reversal of linear perspective.”

I am looking forward to looking at more artists to build up research. I am aiming to explore more elements, in greater depth, that applies to my keyword ‘multi’. I hope it can lead me to discover offshoots into areas not previously thought about that can influence my practice.