A beautiful depiction of age and beauty

New Years eve I went along to take part in a annual tradition of seeing the BP Portrait Award exhibition in the National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh.

Tony_gallery+shot_1

[images online] Available at: http://www.jelenabulajic.com/works-radovi/tony-gallery [Accessed 1st January 2015]

Each year offers something new and some portraits, of real intimacy and empathy with the sitter.  This year there is an extraordinary portrait by Jelena Bulajić’s a Serbain artist, which towers over you as you walk into the exhibition. It carries the simple title ‘Tony’.

Tony

Bulajić, J, Tony, 2013, 270 x 200cm, mixed media on linen [images online] Available at: http://www.jelenabulajic.com/works-radovi/tony [Accessed 1st January 2015]

It has a sheen like marble with the layers of smooth wax on it, the layers of wax add a depth and a translucent quality to this beautiful portrait.

The below image is a detail of the portrait of ‘Tony’, the lines remind me of contours on a map, the way the depth of them has been captured and yet a softness to them as well, marking out the rugged landscape of life.

Tony_detail

Bulajić, J, Tony detail, 2013, 270 x 200cm, mixed media on linen.[images online] Available at: http://www.jelenabulajic.com/works-radovi/tony-detail [Accessed 1st january 2015]

Taking a note, I wanted to see more of her work . Jelena Bulajić’s  work brought more than I can imagine to my senses as I viewed more of her amazing portraits. I invite you to look at these images, and notice what thoughts are provoked as your drawn into the details of the paintings.

Marie-Therese

Bulajić, J, Marie-Therese, 2013, 270 x 200cm, mixed media on linen. [images online] Available at: http://www.jelenabulajic.com/works-radovi/marie-therese [Accessed 1st january 2015]

When looking at these portraits it feels as though I am looking at the real person, every mark, line, hair counted for, the attention to detail beautiful yet not overwhelming. They are for me an image that can speak a thousand words, a reflection of life and the beauty of age.

Grozda

Bulajić, J. Grozda, 2014 320x 237cm , mixed media on linen. [images online] Available at: http://www.jelenabulajic.com/works-radovi/grozda [Accessed 1st January 2015]

Although Bulajić’ is not the winner of this year award, she is certainly an artist to watch develop and she won over my curiosity as soon as I walked in through the door.

References

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Rich Kelly

Character design, layout, colour pallet, orientation of page, all these things are important in creating a final piece. I am discovering this more as i develop my work. Rich Kelly is an illustrator who’s work which I really like for a lot of different reasons.

[images online] Available at http://rfkelly.com/Yeasayer [Accessed November 14th 2014]

[images online] Available at http://rfkelly.com/Yeasayer [Accessed November 14th 2014]

‘Yeasayer’ is an intricate design packed full of intricate clues as to what the image is communicating. The perspective of above allows the viewer to see more. A piano that appears to be a computer, played by what appears to be a astronaut child, with corn growing out the top. A farmer with a scythe, stood large and looming, with a determined look on his face. Both characters are connected to a computer mainframe. Taking in all this information , leave the ind to wonder, mine come to a point where i wonder if its commenting on the controlled environment in which we all function and even the natural process of farming is controlled and measured by powers out with control, like  large computer.

[images online Available at http://rfkelly.com/Bonnie-Prince-Billy [Accessed 14th november 2014]

[images online Available at http://rfkelly.com/Bonnie-Prince-Billy [Accessed 14th november 2014]

The image ‘Bonnie-Prince -Billy’ I like the simplicity of it, the colours the use of lines to crete the shape of the character, and the placid look on the bears face, making me think he is saying “really your going to hunt me then decide to drink and take a nap on me!”

In an interview for ‘Sketch & Explore’ (2013) Chris Jalufka talk to Rick kelly about his use of colour

‘RK: I only recently began trying to take bolder steps when approaching color. When I typically start a project, color is the last thing on my mind. As I put my ideas down on paper and start to sketch out possible compositions, I try to place a lot of importance on value and contrast, but only when I start to render the final art do I start to think about colour.” (Jalufka 2013)

[images online] Available at http://rfkelly.com/Dr-Dog [Accessed 14th november 2014]

[images online] Available at http://rfkelly.com/Dr-Dog [Accessed 14th november 2014]

this image ‘Dr-Dog’ reminds me of a man who is very knowledgeable and  has had many experiences in life. What I notice when I look, is the expanse of tattoo’s, what each one means and relates to. It has an essence of an intimate portrait, as he is bearing his chest in what appears to be a private space, a study or a library, a private space, much like his body a private reflection of his life.

References

  • Jalufka, C (2013) ‘Sketch & Explore: Interview with Illustrator Rich Kelly’, Evil Tender Dot Com [online] Available at: http://eviltender.com/2013/08/13/sketch-explore-interview-with-illustrator-rich-kelly/ [accessed 14th November 2014]
  • Kelly, R (nd) Portfolio [online] Available at :http://rfkelly.com [accessed 14th November 2014]

Tattoo’s a silent narrative

 The acceptance of the tattoo has changed, it has become a part of modern culture, adorning the bodies of old and young alike.  The commonality they all hold is that beneath the ink lays a memory an experience that has been etched on their skin for life. Tattoo’s historically were viewed as  antisocial and that people that chose to get them were hitting back at society. What strikes me the most is the clear indicator that it is a way of fitting in, wanting to belong, looking at the history there appear to be groups of people who got tattoos regardless of who they were in society and wanting to gain an individualistic mark, they became part of a group, a group that is inked with emotion.

Woman_with_upper_body_tattooed_1907_cph.3a01441

[images online] Available at ://www.nerdlikeyou.com/sailors-savages-spies-brief-history-tattoos/ [Accessed 30th December 2014]

Gerald Grumet, (1983) wrote a interesting paper ‘Psychodynamic Implications of Tattoo’s,’ the paper although old and a lot of the information is now outdated he acknowledged the significance of the tattoo, over time and as a emotional indicator.

Grumet starts with an overview of the history of tattooing touching on the stone age 12000 B.C stating

“in many savage tribes it was custom to accompany bereavement by slashing the body as evidence of grief and rubbish ashes into the cuts, leaving carbon deposits in the skin. ” (Grumet 1983, p.482)

History-Of-Tattoos-81

[images online] Available at://teulugar.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/history-of-tattoos.html[Accessed 30th December 2014]

Grumet acknowledges the depth and wide spread use of tattoos in many cultures spanning centuries, used to mark

“puberty ritual, religious emblem, or love charm; protection against danger; sign of mourning for the departed;identification with special qualities of a totemic animal or symbol…” (Grumet 1983, p.483)

Using tattoos in my character I wanted, to depict life experience by the sheer quantity of tattoos and how a place and experience becomes etched in you mind, body and soul, and now etched with ink, a visual for the world to see, like seaman who gained tattoos as a visual representation of the distances they have travelled and the challenges they have faced at sea.

history-of-tattoos-2

[images online] Available at://teulugar.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/history-of-tattoos.html[Accessed 30th December 2014]

“… a tattoo worn on the skin for many years often assumes symbolic importance becoming a reservoir of emotionally charged memories and talismanic meanings for its bearer.”(Grumet 1983, p.489)

This illustration by Mike Koubou resonates life and experience though the tattoo’s and the use of the skeletal form.  The way Koubou uses a simple colour pallet and fine penmanship bring the character to life, although he is not.

the_gentleman_becomes_a_hipster_

[images online] Available at ://www.mikekoubou.com/illustration.php [Accessed 30th December 2014]

I believe that tattoos are a visual map to someones life, not always to be taken literally, but if spoken about you might happen upon a story which holds deep significance for the tattoo. Used as a way to mark an experience or a significant life event, each tattoo no matter how it may appear as irrelevant is a visual mark and holds a significant narrative.

The design of the tattoo’s is paramount within the character to depict without the use of words his life experiences.

References

  • Grumet, G,(1983), ‘Psychodynamic Implications of Tattoos’, American Orhopsychiatric Association 53 (3) 482-492

Childhood favourite

As I enter in into FAT2, I wanted to think about where my relationship with picturebooks started.For me as a child I was intrigued and my imagination was captured by the creation of Beatrix Potters characters and stories. Jeremy Fisher, Jemima Puddle Duck, Peter Rabbit and Mrs Tiggy Winkle, to name just a few. The tales of there mishaps and predicaments, that always ended well.

jeremy-fisher

[images online] Available at ;http://illustrationwatercooler.wordpress.com/2009/11/15/helen-beatrix-potter/jeremy-fisher/ jeremy [Accessed 28th December 2014]

35-tb

[images online] Available at:http://www.gutenberg.org/files/15137/15137-h/15137-h.htm Tiggy Winkle[Accessed30th December 2014]

As I sit and think about what drew me to the tales, I know it was the thought of talking animals, the familiarity of Beatrix Potters surroundings that I could relate to, the characters which were brimming over with personality, the way a simple animal could tell such a story. As a small child it captured my imagination and allowed me to escape into a different land full of adventure, and things to see. This for me is the most important part, the escapism, the space for the imagination to expand, the space created by Beatrix Potter for the reader to adjust the story so it felt like each rabbit I saw could be part of peter rabbits family, and the grumpy farmer in the village was Mr McGregor.

peter11

[images online] Available at https://www.gutenberg.org/files/14838/14838-h/14838-h.htm Peter rabbit [Accessed 30th December 2014]

Clements (2013) talks about the relationship between text and image as internaimation and stated

“…inter animation engages the reader’s visual imagination to make connections and provide a shape to what is seen optically on the individual page, pair of pages, entire book; it is, in essence, what invites the redaer to co-create the story.” (p.57)

Holding Clement’s thoughts in mind and my reflections of how the scenes depicted by Beatrix Potter were similar to my surroundings, brings me to think about when working how to create stories where the reader can take it to a place of familiarity for them, they to can “co create” the story and gain a interpersonal relationship with the narrative.

References

Picturebooks without words

Trauma and illustration, picturebooks that explore trauma through narrative, does this narrative require text or is it enough for the illustrations to speak alone to the viewer. In allowing the illustrations to stand alone, does it allow the viewer to create their own narrative, align their own experiences within the narrative of the illustrations, or does the text give them a foundation in with they can build their narrative from and again align to their own personal experiences.

Reflecting on my Art Therapy clinical work, it is focused on providing a space where emotions and experiences can be explored using art as the narrative, as words can be to hard to find to truly express how the client is feeling. In Psychology Today a article Children’s Art as Visual NarrativeMalchiodi (2014) states,

“We now know that non-verbal expressive arts like simple drawing, painting and constructing are effective restorative experiences. Language, a function of declarative memory, is often inaccessible to trauma survivors of any age if the event has been particularly disturbing.”
(Malchiodi 2014)
As I work through these thoughts I feel there is not a definitive answer, as a Art Therapist the client tells their story in their own words, as an illustrator does the same principal remains when creating books focusing on traumatic experiences.
Shaun Tan’s book ‘The Red Tree‘ (2014), depicts a story of a girl’s  world full of dark thoughts and feelings. Tan uses little text or no text, in the book. Text that is used is either interwoven into the illustration or carefully placed on the page pulling the viewer to the image first. Tan expresses his understanding of expressing emotions through illustration
“I’d also been increasingly aware that illustration is a powerful way of expressing of feeling as well as ideas, partly because it is outside of verbal language, as many emotions can be hard to articulate in words. I thought it would therefore be interesting to produce an illustrated book that is all about feelings, unframed any storyline context, in some sense going ‘directly to the source’.”
(Tan, S,  n.d)
red-tree3

[images online] Available at://www.shauntan.net/books.html [Accessed 16th December 2014]

As my works shifts and changes, I am sure so will the use of text, with some work needing more and some requiring less or even none at all. It feels as though it will be subjective to each work produced, and not a exact template for each book or even each page.

References 

Challenging subjects in picturebooks.

Wolf_Erlbruch,_Duck,_Death_and_the_Tulip

[images online] Available at: http://blaine.org/sevenimpossiblethings/?p=2220 [Accessed 14th November 2014]

Picturebooks can often be viewed as books which contain stories that are light hearted, contain a moral or a lesson for the younger generation to learn. Often they do not handle the more challenging subjects, and when they do it can provoke reactions and avoidance from some.

When should children start to learn about the more challenging aspects of life, and what about those children who are already dealing with difficult and traumatic experiences on a daily basis, I wonder what it would be like for them to pick up a picturebook that spoke to them, resonated with a part of their life.

Wolf Erlbruch a German author and illustrator created the book Duck, Death and the Tulip (2007) (German title: Ente, Tod und Tulpe).

The story consists of two characters, a Duck who comes to know Death, and unbeknown to the duck death has been following her all her life.

DDT internals_Page_05

[images online] Available at :http://blaine.org/jules/DDT%20internals_Page_05.jpg [Accessed 14th November 2014]

Duck and Death become friends and talk about life, death and what happens after you die. Sitting in a tree after being diving together they wonder what would happen to Duck’s lake after she dies. The book comes to a close with the death of the Duck, and Death carries her to a river, placing her gently on the water, Death takes the tulip and places it on her,”For a long time he watched her. When she was lost to sight, he was almost a little moved.” 

DDT internals_Page_16

[images online] Available at: http://blaine.org/jules/DDT%20internals_Page_16.jpg [Accessed 14th November 2014]

I can imagine this is a controversial topic for a children’s books, but the way the illustrations depict the gentleness and the empathy of Death towards Duck it handles it with delicacy of Death in a beautiful way.

My work as a Art Psychotherapist working with children I witness children dealing with real challenges more than some adults do throughout there whole life.

I understand this can be hard to contemplate, so when picture books that are created tackling the harder subjects it does cause controversy, but what I pose is, whose need is it to avoid the challenging and hard subjects?

We can not rescue and protect forever, and I wonder is it better to give children an understanding through the use of a medium they know and understand, that can allow for questions to be answered with those who care for them, a healthy exploration into the difficult aspects of life. 

I feel Wolf Erlbruch deals with the emotion of death in a manner which invites a conversation and give permission to talk about something which so many try to avoid, just like Duck not knowing Death had been following her all her life until she turned around.

References

  • Danielson, J, (2013),“You can start having strange thoughts in trees”, Or, Curiously Good Books from Around the World’, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, 13th October 2013 [online] Available at:Available at :http://blaine.org/sevenimpossiblethings/?p=2220 [Accessed 14th November 2014]
  •  Erlbruch,W (2007), Duck Death and the Tulip,New Zealand, Geko Press.