Wednesday, 20 May 2015

We Want Your Tampons

Me and my flatmate/Graphic Design student Tara knocked together a poster asking for food bank donations and I thought it was worth sharing, because it looks kinda cool for something we had half an hour to do, and also because I want to spread the message, tampons and sanitary pads are really important to give to food banks and shouldn't be forgotten about. Also donating them to homeless shelters because there is literally no budget for it, we've all heard of the Homeless Period by now, so there's something you can do about it other than sign a petition! 

Banner Making

Unfortunately I was actually super hung over on this day and on a 5am train to London from Hastings after their May Day festival, so I missed getting to make banners, but my fellow Gender-ers made some really great stuff, we had Scout style little scarves and sashes which are so adorable and make me think of a mature politically motivated Moonrise Kingdom. The concept of the main grey banner is that all the different parts that make up the symbol are made of velcro and so you can move and change it as you see fit, in keeping with our own opinions about gender fluidity etc. We did a whole procession through Camberwell to the pub, which felt very foolish, but the pints helped my hangover (I did manage to turn up for the end, I'm in the background of a photo yawning).

Independent State of Peckham Square

Our end of year project is forcing all of us to actually leave the university grounds and get involved in the space around us. It's pretty scary because we all feel a bit like tourists (or colonials) but really interesting as well. Our first task was to establish the "Independent State of Peckham Square", we had to organise ourselves into ministries and basically stage some sort of event there together where we "claimed independence". It feels a bit immature and patronising, but this is the stuff we get marked on so we deal. I formed a part of the Ministry of Gender, and we decided as our claim for independence we wanted to get more information about any gender issues specific to Peckham and Camberwell. So we made these very attractive sandwich boards and flyers to ask people to give suggestions and explanations about what gender meant to them. This is us all getting ready to go smash the system.

We all had to be outside on Peckham Square from 4 until 5, it went so quickly though. I ended up getting mauled by thousands of small children wanting to draw boobs and stuff, but we also got into some really interesting discussions with the public and got loads of images and suggestions (although some were illegible). These are photos taken by the Graphic Design tutor on the day (who by the way watched me getting attacked and looking extremely panicked and didn't intervene and instead walked off, leaving me to drown in a sea of infants. I saw that Rob.)

And so this is just a sample of some of the awesome stuff we got back, from children, parents, art students, and other random strangers that came by. It's pretty cool I think.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Guardian Witness

Our upcoming project at Camberwell (starting Tuesday, I am so ready to get back to work) is about politics and the upcoming election, as well as the idea of independent states. We've been kept very much in the dark about what we'll be doing with these subjects but we were all told to enter a competition the Guardian newspaper was running, designing an alternative election poster. I've been keeping up to date with most of the run-up to the elections (despite missing a lot of debates because we don't have a telly license), this is the first election that I am old enough and knowledgable enough to actually hold an opinion, but at the moment my opinion is just confused and frustrated. I feel extremely underrepresented by the main three parties. It feel ridiculous because I think a candidate that I felt represented me personally would be extremely easy, I'm not exactly a minority, it wouldn't require any "token diversity" or whatever you'd call it, literally just some one non-Etonian who doesn't need to be photographed eating a bacon sandwich to prove he's "one of us", so if that's how I feel there must be people out there ready to tear their hair out.

So I made this poster to recognise my frustration. I think it's important to voice frustrating and even boredom, and not just give up and let it happen. Whilst doing my research the prevailing thoughts around the green party is "Well they've got good ideas but they'll never get in so why even bother" which is such dangerous thinking. People should demand more, vote to abstain, vandalise their voting slip, something. 

The thing that really irritates me about the candidates, at an art student aesthetic level, is their faces. I can't help but think of ham that's been left in the sun when I see them on debates, there are no sharp angles anywhere. I didn't realise when you became a politician you had to have a facial structure like warm brie. So that's why I gave my poster background a quite disturbing beige hue. 

So here's a link to the competition where you can see all the other entries, I'd say a large portion are fellow Camberwell students and they're very good, stalk all my other illustration students (and some Graphics students, for flavour)

Monday, 20 April 2015

Signed and Numbered

So this is the final part of my process for this all-consuming edition that took over my life in March. Below is the final composition I ended up with, each image was drawn separately, inked and scanned in, then fitted together. I couldn't afford big paper so that's why I decided to do each individually, and I also wanted to do them separately to help my head deal with the different characters and so I would be able to cope with any mistakes easily. Some of the characters in the image are the same person photographed in different outfits, but I don't think that matter especially, particularly as most of my work is based around how drag can make you into a different person. I didn't want to commit fully to "pure" drag (as I don't think this is a thing, it's a varied and rule-bending culture by definition) so there are obvious girls in the picture as well as fairly obvious boys and some that might lie somewhere in the middle. There is a nice fluidity of gender, this also makes me feel more confident about not offending any actual drag queens or anyone in general, which I have had concerns about before. This way I'm not picking out a specific kind of person, it's more of an expression of multiple definitions.

So I took this image and separated into three layers on Photoshop, intending to print it black, grey and gold. Because of the painterly manner in which I use ink it was going to be a struggle to translate effectively into a screen print. This was pointed out to me in a crit where it was every suggested I redraw each layer manually, with two days until the deadline, which was not what I wanted to hear at all, but you know, constructive criticism and that. The idea with the grey layer and black was that hopefully between the two I could capture as much of the range of tones as possible, and I also printed each layer as a bitmap to help this further. So after 6 hours of screen printing and a small meltdown I had 9 prints that were decent enough to sell, which doesn't seem like much but it was extremely difficult to get ink to print evenly on each layer, and my print had such specific details that registering each layer in the right place was a nightmare. Coming out with nine was if anything a miracle.

This is the final print at the Edition Fair at The Peckham Pelican (taken from my Instagram, which you should obviously follow). The grey and black was the best thing to do, you can still see my brush strokes and the range of tone has been preserved. The gold is proper metallic shiny gold so it looks opulent and worth the £25 I'm selling them for. I priced myself out of the student budget, but students aren't the type to buy large prints particularly anyway, being a student is a transitory period so I wouldn't buy anything like this that I might have to store. I did sell one print at the fair though, so that's my very first sold work, this baby is going up in some random's home. The fair was a great experience anyway, and although only one got sold my work got loads of amazing attention which was nice. It was nice to have actual polished professional work as opposed to messy things in sketchbooks that seem a bit irrelevant. 

So this is what the edition fair looked like with everyone else's stuff as well (photo credit to fellow Illustration student Arthur Wandeur, give him a Google). And if anyone wants one of my prints for themselves perchance I'm an email/comment/carrier pigeon away.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Dragging On...

Ha ha. Puns.

Okay so this project has actually been and gone and completed but it took up literally all hours of the day and was physically and mentally exhausting so it's only now, a week after the deadline and on the last evening of a holiday in Antigua with my mum that I'm ready to go back to that dark time in my life and write it all up. I didn't bring my hard drive with me so I only have a couple of bits to put up now, when I return I can do another post rounding it off. This works out fairly well as this is basically what I walked into my interim crit with where I had to propose my edition and essentially prove it was a good idea.

So this image is vaguely traced out from a This Is England movie poster I was talking about in a previous post, I took the body language and stances of all these aggression looking 80's skinheads and made them into my drag characters, which was actually lots more difficult then it sounds. This scrap of paper is actually very small, so I blew it up to close enough the size of my finished print (it actually was much bigger but I count that as a positive because when I did drawings from it and then had to shrink them down slightly they had even more detail and fidelity). I'd spend the last week getting back in contact with all these people and asking them how they felt about wearing drag and got loads of fantastic insights into peoples drag experiences, positive and negative. I really wanted to use this information in some way because it gives my project a more personal and intimate viewpoint,  and I think that's what makes my work interesting, the fact that I am immersed in what I am documenting.

During my crit I explained all this and it was suggested that maybe I could set it out like an old classic Western movie poster, where each character had a name and an introductory phrase next to them, giving each one a separate personality and angle. I've always been slightly wary of using text in my work, I feel personally that if you need to resort to literally spelling something out it means that your work isn't strong enough to speak for itself, but I gave it a go and cracked out the Letraset. I think this would have worked if I didn't have quite so many different characters, it makes the whole composition like an assault on the brain, there's far too much information. Plus I'm not entirely sure some of the people I interviewed would be especially happy with having their opinions blown up and sold...
I was also getting a bit nervous about making a large scale print, it's extremely intimidating, and I was worrying because I would have to sell them for a price out of my own budget that I wouldn't sell any. Basically I wouldn't spend that kind of cash on my own work so why should anyone else? The answer is because not everyone is a dirt poor student like me, but I brought up possibly changing my outcome into a concertina zine, sell it for slightly cheaper, and it would be less of a commanding object, therefore terrifying me a little less. But even speaking about it in the crit I knew if I didn't go for a big print it would be a decision made out of fear and lack of confidence, so even though in the crit people thought that might be a good plan I decided to stick with the original plan. I wanted to do something big and flamboyant in keeping with the aesthetics of drag, to shrink down my work would be taking a lazy way out.
So that's a round-up for the first half of my process for this project. It's been really testing having to actually consider audience and pricing and actually putting your work into the world for the first time, but that is supposed to be the end game of this degree. And it's quite exciting as well to be honest.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Research: Gang Culture in films

To get an idea of how to visually represent gang culture I've been looking at a couple of films and music videos. I've never seen The Warriors but it's been recommended to me a thousand times by different people, the over the top dark counter-culture vibe is everything I'm into. The separate gangs all have their own uniform for identification and allegiance, and I think this is really interesting and important, from the trailer I saw gangs wearing orange suits or baseball uniform and all sorts of other things. The opening line of the trailer "these are the armies of the night" made me laugh because it's so over the top but the world that exists in the film is so enticing because of the fantasy of being a part of this brutal famous gangs. I think that's the kind of response I want from my work, simultaneously intimidating and attractive. This sort of culture is visible in so many other movies, This Is England for one, the entire movie is based around this supposedly threatening thuggish gang of teens that are actually welcoming and tender inside (until it all goes wrong but I dunno watch the movie). I actually used the poster below as a rough template for sketching out my characters because their poses were exactly what I wanted, they're all leaning about but still maintain a direct eye contact so theres a contrast of comfortableness and aggression. 

My favourite example of this gang culture is a short film made by the band Best Coast in collaboration with Drew Barrymore. Whilst playing several songs from Best Coasts album a whole narrative following two opposing gangs and a Romeo/Juliet romance being created between them. I think it's purposefully filled with cliche and cheesiness and that's why I like it, and it definitely references The Warriors with the respective uniforms and general trashiness of the whole output.

Whilst not exactly gang culture I was also told my by tutor about The Molly Maguires, who were a real society in the 19th Century of Irish coal-workers who would commit acts of sabotage and activism in Pennsylvania in America in response to local concerns and grievances. Sometimes when they committed these acts of vandalism they would dress as women in order to remain undiscovered. Personally I find the image of a dirty Irish coal worker hilarious but it's an example of how dressing as a woman can be useful or empowering in some way. There's also a movie with Sean Connery that I should definitely watch soon.