Exercise: Visual play
“Reflect on the visual experiments you’ve conducted through the exercises so far. What have you found particularly relevant or revealing? Look at examples of your own design work and think about where you might benefit from a more experimental approach. For example, do you need to develop your use of colour, the shapes of the visual elements you use, their layout or layering?
Develop an experimental project of your own that allows you to play with the areas you’ve defined. For example, you might decide to explore what kinds of shapes you can use and how these might work together. Develop a series of variations that explores the possibilities.”
Firstly, I would like to develop my ability to experiment with lettering. I’ve just bought some new paints (Aqyla). They were developed in Japan, and I hadn’t heard of them before. They are said to be extremely versatile – handling like watercolour, gouache, acrylic and oil depending on use. Sounds interesting! More importantly (because I’m a mucky pup) its waterbased, so won’t stain. It can be used on many surfaces (similar to acrylics). Here’s my experiments, to see if it works on wood and glass…
As you can see, the colours are very vibrant on glass, the paint flowed well and I would definitely consider using this in a finished project.
Then, I decided to think laterally, and grab the chance to learn about hand printing – by going to my first linocut workshop. As my health isn’t great, I don’t often manage to be at any sort of face-to-face class, so it was particularly special; even better my Mum stayed for the weekend and came too. I felt a bit wistful, as its SO lovely being in a group of people, it really was a fantastic creative atmosphere. The tutor, Luna North, is a professional linocut artist, she was great; very down to earth and encouraging.
Linocut was entirely new to me, and I found it really helpful to understand a little more about this kind of printing method – I’m guessing it is also similar to woodcut, which of course goes back centuries. We all found it surprisingly difficult to visualise which areas needed to be dark or light, and of course discovered just how difficult it is to produce certain types of line.
We were encouraged to draw our designs onto paper, then transfer them to the lino, ready for cutting. I drew from imagination, so this lizard is of course not that accurate but the medium seems quite forgiving of stylised images. (Please excuse the bad quality photo)
It was pretty difficult to get the hang of cutting, and as you can see, the lettering was really difficult. I’m not sure why the letters were harder – perhaps its the increased accuracy required. I now understand why shapes are often simplified, and the effect is intentionally ‘homespun’.
When we had reached the stage of printing, I was really interested to learn how to prepare the ink, and to see the results. In hindsight I would have separated out my areas of pattern as parts of my image are hard to ‘read’. This wasn’t obvious in the drawing stage. Not essential for illustration, but definitely for any graphic design projects in the future.
Its hard to explain but I think it helped the penny drop in terms of traditional printing methods. I felt a real ‘a-ha’ moment. Not only did I have a lovely time, but its also enabled me to think about how I can use this technique again, and indeed cheat by using the computer!
I say cheat, as producing linocut is really time consuming, and although its a shame to use digital, this kind of printing effect is a form of ‘grunge’ which can be reproduced artificially. Thinking about how to use this technique makes me think of logos – as of course they often need to work well in black and white.
I decided to use what I had learnt to produce an image which looks rough like linocut and also has the potential for pattern – another aspect I enjoyed with our recent tasks.
A common symbol for Devon is the hare. They are amazing creatures, and a good traditional subject for my fake linocut! I gathered a few reference pictures, and got to work.
I probably should have sketched on paper first, but I felt reasonably confidant it was a shape I could produce in Illustrator.
Version 1 Here’s the basic shape, and a fill using a custom style I downloaded from the internet. I decided the hind quarters were too stylised and didn’t really work.
Version 2 A hare sticking a bit more closely to basic anatomy!
Finished Work The typeface is Snell Roundhand. I think this piece works quite well, although I’m very aware rendering this lettering would be a challenge with traditional techniques! I think the effect successfully mimics a hand printed effect.
Of course one major difference between the hand made and the digital, is the crisp white background. I could have embellished my work with a border, and added texture throughout the whole artboard. I think its depends where this would be used as the whether you wanted roughness throughout. A logo would probably call for a clean white background.
My aim was to try something charming, in the spirit of the linocut work. I hope I have done it justice, I think this sort of design could function as a surface design or logo. Its not a wildly original image, I understand that, but it sprang from a real life learning experience which has helped develop my understanding of print and I’m glad to have had the chance to do it.