Artists – Emily Jane Bruce

A trip to the New Ashgate Gallery in Farnham always leaves me feeling inspired and in awe of the beautiful, thought-provoking works that my fellow humans beings can create.

Today we saw the ‘Rising Stars 2018’ exhibition, an exhibition of  emerging makers from crafts and applied arts programmes across the UK.

One artist that stood out for me was Emily Jane Bruce and her captivating ceramic creatures. These strange little characters were both innocent and endearing to look at but also rather dark and disturbing. There was a sense of the Gothic fairy tale about them. I was fascinated and intrigued by them and felt a strange conflict of mild disgust but also pity for these strange, innocent creatures.

They certainly left an impression!

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Part 5 – Research Point: Publishing House Design Styles

It took me a little while to understand what an ‘imprint’ is.. Wikipedia defines it as follows:

“An imprint of a publisher is a trade name under which it publishes a work. A single publishing company may have multiple imprints, often using the different names as brands to market works to various demographic consumer segments.”

For example, the publishing house PanMacmillan encompasses the following imprints:

Imprints, particularly those that are smaller and more niche, typically have a particular style of book and cover design.

I collated a selection of book covers for various imprints on Pinterest:

For example Tor publishes science fiction and the book covers all have a very identifiable style, which to me looks a little old fashioned and  ‘cheesy’… you can almost hear how the opening sentence of a book like this reads.. “Z’lot sighed as he stood watching the double setting Zaloovian suns from his 358th floor skypartment..” or something like that. Interestingly, as I was researching these book covers I noticed in the news that a science fiction author whose book was published by Tor, had got into a spat with the Illustrator of his latest book after announcing on Social Media that he thought the cover of his book was ‘Laughably Bad’:

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/feb/26/terry-goodkind-book-cover-shroud-of-eternity

Two Hoots publish children’s books with quirky, modern children’s illustrations with a slightly rebellious feel – I love these! Compare these covers to Virago children’s books whose covers are quite traditional, romantic, innocent, more old-fashioned-looking and to me, rather twee. As a child I don’t think I would have been drawn to the covers of any of these books.

Bello publish young adult fiction and their covers are quite modern, striking simple and graphic.

I can’t quite put my finger on ‘Hodder’s’ cover style, except to say that it looks like what you might find in an airport. Easy holiday reading not requiring too much brain power.

Farenheit Press print crime novels and their covers are dark, broody, quite masculine, with images that are often quite indistinct, hinting at a scene or clue.

Part 4 – Research Point: Legibility

Collect as many newspapers, newsletters, magazines and brochures as you can. Start by going through them and dividing them into the ones that immediately look easy to read and those that don’t. Is this due to the typefaces used, the way the type is laid out – the number of words per line and the column width, or its alignment?

Work out from your examples what the designers have done to make things more legible and readable.

Examples of Printed Material Which is Difficult to Read

Craft & Design Fair Flier

There isn’t much text on this flier but I find the whole page quite difficult to make sense of.  I find the mix of colours quite jarring. The image styles are also incongruous, mixing an illustration with two photographs – these two styles do not work together and for one image I can’t tell what it is (a table top?).

The mix of colours of the fonts also doesn’t work for me. I am also questioning why just the words ‘Christmas Contemporary’ are in a serif font. The text on this flier is printed small and is cramped into the bottom of the page, with all points running one after the next. For me, the design of this flier is so chaotic and jumbled that I don’t have the energy to read the text.

Restaurant Menu

The front cover of this restaurant takeaway menu is too busy with too much information crammed onto it. There is some consistency with most of the text being in different weights of the same font but the different colours, font weights and sizes, images and decorative backgrounds all make the page look too busy. Information is broken up over a series of centre justified lines but I think  the lines of text are too close to each other. I find that my eyes wander over this page without actually taking anything in.

Veterinary Financial Information Page

This document provides a lot of quite technical information. Text is broken up with bold headings and bullet points, and the most important information is in red which makes it stand out. My main difficulty with this document is that the text is too small. This combined with the fact that the paragraphs are quite long just make this document feel like a chore to read. It doesn’t help that I know that financial information is already going to be a dry read.

Fortnum and Mason Christmas Flier

The main message on this flier is illegible!It is printed in reflective gold foil and the very cursive typeface used is printed directly over a really busy background illustration. Its a beautiful document but it would have been better without the ‘Together we’re merrier’ (or is that ‘terrier’?) printed on it.

Examples of Printed Material That is Easy to Read

Financial Marketing Brochure

There is a lot of text on this page, the subject matter is quite dry and the body text font size is very small but, despite that,  I do find this document quite legible. Even though there is a lot of text, it is broken up into short paragraphs with a generous line break between them. The information is broken up into sections with bold headings and the text is further broken up into three columns, so the lines of text are quite short. This all makes the text much less daunting to read. Only two typefaces are used and the colours on the page are a harmonious dark and light blue and shades of grey so that the graphics don’t distract.

Craft Fair Flier

The key informaton on this flier is printed in large font sizes and is centre justified. There are only two images on this page which are quite large but they are positioned symetrically which makes the design feel balanced. There are quite a few colours being used but they work well together and more importantly, there is a logic to their use. The two events on this flier are being differentiated by the use of colour with one in gold and one in purple. Because the colours are harmonious and the layout balanced, I am much more inclined to read the text.. I didn’t even notice the single use of the serif font at the top of the page!

Waitrose Magazine Article

Interestingly, I find it is the image here which is really contributing to the legibility of this article! I like the illustration and am intrigued by it which is making me want to invest the effort into reading the article.

There is quite a lot of small sized text on this page but text only fills the bottom third of the page. The text is split into short paragraphs, there is no line break between them but the first line of each paragraph is indented. The text is further split over two columns making it more manageable. Key pieces of information in the text are in bold.

The title of the article is printed in a large font and is easier to read, and serves as a good introduction to the text. The line drawing, white space and tiny hints of colour give this page a calm and balanced feel.

Summary

Based on my analysis of various documents, text on a page is more likely to be legible if:

Text does not require effort to read. It is not an issue if the text size is small  but breaking the text up into short paragraphs which are easily discernible and splitting larger blocks of body text across columns, so that the length of the line that the eye needs to scan is shorter, all help .

Images add to rather than distract from the text. I am more likely to invest the effort into reading text if I am not being distracted by confusing images with jarring colours. It also helps if the image placement on the page is balanced.

White space is used to allow text to ‘breathe’. Rather than cram text onto a page, text is more readable if it is broken up and de-cluttered with white space.

There is a logic or harmony to the use of typefaces and fonts. I was more comfortable reading documents where the use of fonts had a clear purpose, such as a sans serif font for headings and a serif font for body text. More chaotic or unstructured use of type was confusing and more challenging to read.

Text is not overlaid on a busy background. Text on plain backgrounds (with good contrast between the background and the text colours) was easier to read.

Part 4 – Research Point: Modernist Typography

The opening chapter of the book ‘Type & Typography’ by Phil Baines and Andrew Haslam, includes the following statement:

“These theories form the basis of what is known as structuralism. The belief that meaning could be constructed by the transmitter of language was a natural extension of Saussure’s analysis. Through speech and writing, the architect of meaning was the author.

Saussure’s ideas, and those of his structuralist followers, influenced the development of modernism and have been embraced by practitioners of architecture, industrial design, graphic design and type design. What appealed to modernist thinkers was the belief that authors or designers could transmit fixed meanings through constructed forms.”

I didn’t understand a word of that, so I decided to use this as a basis for some research. I specifically wanted to find out:

  1. What is structuralism?
  2. What is modernism?
  3. How did structuralism influence modernism?
  4. How did modernism influence type design?

What is Structuralism?

Ferdinand de Saussure developed structural linguistic theory in the early 20th century. This theory put forward the idea of the ‘signifier’ – the sound or written letters that represent something, and the ‘signified’, the thing being represented. Meaning does not come simply from the ‘sign’ but in its relationship with other signs. Meaning is generated from the collective groupings of signs, i.e. it is the structure of language that conveys meaning.

So,

the word branch on its own is ambiguous

‘Your local branch’ makes it clearer that we are not talking about a tree..

‘Your local branch of Sainbury’s’ – clearer still..

‘Your order will be delivered to your local branch of Sainsbury’s’ – now the meaning is clear.

Similarly, superfluous or unnecessary words will confuse or detract from the meaning.

‘Structuralism’ became the belief that meaning was constructed by the author, i.e. the graphic designer had control of the meaning of the message and could communicate a fixed meaning through a constructed form.

What is Modernism?

Modernism is a general and loosely applied term that encompasses various overlapping art movements from approximately 1905 to 1960. It broadly reflects two general art movement trends:

  • the abstract and non-geometrical style of expressionism, dadaism and surrealism
  • the more functional, geometrical styles of cubism, futurism, purism, suprematism, constructivism, de stijl and Bauhaus.

A Brief History of Moderism

1890 – 1905 Art Nouveau

Towards the end of the 19th Century, a number of artists and designers felt that Industrialisation had left the urban world without beauty. The Art Nouveau style emerged in response. Often used in relation with entertainment and the arts, the style was ornate and decorative. Modernist art movements emerged in response to this overly ornate style by simplifying their designs.

1905 – Sachplakat (Germany)

The move towards modernism began partly as a result of Art Nouveau simply starting to go out of fashion,  other industries wanting to use more deliberate design to communicate with their consumers and the impact of WW1.

In 1905, Lucian Bernhard developed a very simplified advertising poster design for matches that removed all non-essential elements and left simply the company name and the image of two matches. The focus was on the product and on the clarity of the message. This simplified style of communication became known as ‘Sachplakat’ (“Object Poster”).

Continuing this trend in 1914 and the outbreak of WW1, posters were designed to be simple with very clear messages.

1916 – Dada

The Dada movement was started in Switzerland by a group of artists that used art as a protest against the war. The Dada style was surreal and ridiculous and challenged how Europeans could claim to be rational and enlightened when so many of them were being slaughtered in the war.

1908 – 1912 – Cubism

Picasso and Braque work together to develop a new art style called cubism which reduced and abstracted a subject to a series of geometric ‘cubes’. Gradually the cubist influences made their way into graphic design with the poet Guillaume Apollinaire creating poems where the visual structure of the text was designed to complement the words.

Designers who incorporated the stylistic elements of cubism and other related art movements into their work were known as modernists because of the way they integrated modern art into their work. Initially, there was not much call for these new styles of working but one of the first outlets for modernist designers was the London Underground.

1909 – Futurism

A group of Italian poets, musicians and painters got together, called themselves ‘Futurists’ and called for Italian society to move any from its classical history. The Futurists were interested in influencing wider society and so developed experimental typography and graphic design.

1920 – Purism

Towards the end of WW1, the style of Purism emerged which aimed to harmonise the past and the future. Purism saw the emergence of the ‘machine aesthetic’ – a style that is influenced by the smooth, polished shapes of machines and an admiration for industrialised society.

1920 – Art Deco

Art Deco was a general term used for designs of geometric abstraction which played on the styles of cubism, futurism and purism into a fashionable style used for general consumer goods.

1917 – De Stijl

A Dutch art movement that brought together artists and architects to develop a style of reductive goemetric abstraction influenced by the concept of universal harmony and the machine aesthetic. The general belief was that limited elements could represent abstract ideas.

1915 – Supramatism (Russia)

In 1915, Kasimir Malevich developed a style of art which he called ‘Supramatism’  because it represented ‘the supremacy of pure feeling in creative art’. The style is a form of reductive geometric abstraction influenced by cubism and the machine aesthetic.

1921 – Constructivism (Russia)

Constructavism developed along side the growth of communism and featured a rejection of self-expression combined with a commitment to industrial materials. Works were created to serve a practical purpose and included practical goods such as propaganda posters. Graphic designers became more important. Photomontage became an important technique for constructavists.

This research needs to be completed

How did structuralism influence modernism?

How did modernism influence type design?

 

Research and Reflection – Photomontage

Some notes on Photomontage and prominent photomontage artists..

Photomontage was borne out of the Dada movement in Berlin in 1916. Dada was started in Zurich Switzerland where a small group of artists and activists had gathered during the first world war. They used their creativity to to protest against the war, using irony, satire and improvisation to shock the public into recognising the contradictions of ‘civilised’ and ‘rational’ Europeans slaughtering each other in war. Dada art typically shows contempt for the established order and is often called ‘anti-art’.

Berlin dadaists were more politically orientated and had revolutionary social change in Germany as one of their main goals. John Heartfield (originally called Helmut Herzfelde) created one of the first photomontages for the cover of catalog for the ‘First International Dada Fair’. Photomontage was subsequently used a lot by Dada artists.

Photomontage was also used a lot by Russian Constructivists. The Russian Tsar was forced to abdicate in 1917 due to failures during the first world war. The Bolsheviks, led by Lenin, took control in late 1917. Russian civil war followed from 1918 – 1920, between the Red Army (the Bolsheviks) and allied governments supported Whites. The Whites ultimately failed and the Bolsheviks established a communist state (maintained through the suppression of dissent by violence and intimidation).

The Bolsheviks used propoganda posters to ‘sell’ communism to the people. New artistic styles were required for the new utopian society. Constructivism built on the previous abstract style of Suprematism. (Suprematism was devised around 1915 by Kasimir Malevich and used blocks of colour a ‘non-objective’ style of baring no representational relationship to the natural world. The term suprematism relates to “supremacy of pure feeling in creative art”).

The Constructavist style tied art to the industrial world, rejected self-expression and therefore fitted well with revolutionary propaganda. Graphic designers became artistic leaders.

Constructavists such as Varvara Stepanova and Alexander Rodchenko produced propaganda posters, designs for workers clothes and designs for government buildings.

In Russia, photography was revered because of its ability to produce depersonalized images which married well with communist collective ideals. Photomontage was therefore a natural tool for the Constructavist artists.

 

John Heartfield

One of the Berlin Dadaists but best known for his later political art photomontages created from 1930 to 1938 exposing facism and the Third Reich.

   

 

Hannah Hoch

Hannah Hoch was another Berlin Dadaists who used Photomontage. Höch explored the concepts of gender and the ‘New Woman’ in Germany society, presenting complex discussions around gender and identity.

Hannah Höch. German, 1889-1978
Cut with the Kitchen Knife through the Last Weimar Beer-Belly Cultural Epoch in Germany (Schnitt mit dem Küchenmesser durch die letzte Weimarer Bierbauchkulturepoche Deutschlands). 1919-1920
Photomontage and collage with watercolor, 44 7/8 x 35 7/16” (114 x 90 cm)
Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Nationalgalerie
© 2006 Bildarchiv Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin,
© 2006 Hannah Höch / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, photo: Jörg P. Anders, Berlin

Marlene (1920)

Alexander Rodchenko

A Russian Constructivist of the 1920s who used photomontage.

An advertisement for the Lengiz Publishing House sometimes titled “Books”, which features a young woman with a cupped hand shouting “книги по всем отраслям знания” (Books in all branches of knowledge), printed in modernist typography.

Varvara Stepanova

A Russian Constructavist.

On the lower left of her poster, under the phrase “through red glasses” (i.e. the world as seen by Bolsheviks), she drew three figures dressed in her prozodezhda (workers) costumes. The gender of the central, female figure is discernible only by the rounded line of her jaw and the slight fullness of her short hair. Their four anti-revolutionary white counterparts appear on the right side, dressed in upper-class clothes. Here the lone woman is strongly differentiated from the men, with round breasts, a tiny waist and wide hips. The female icon of those who see through red glasses is a productive worker no longer confined by conventional signs of femininity.

Later photomontage was adopted by surrealists who brought together disparate images to reflect the workings of the subconcious mind.

Linder

Untitled 1976 Linder born 1954 Purchased 2007 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T12498

Untitled 1976 Linder born 1954 Purchased 2007 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T12501

Annagret Soltau

– Mutter/Tochter – mit Großmutter und Urgroßmutter

“In these pictures I unite four generations of the female line of my family, who represent a female chain. I began with my daughter and ended with her great-grandmother. As a contrast to the patriarchal system of inheritance, I wanted to show the matrilineal connection and the interaction between the generations: the young girl already has the old body, and the old woman still has the young body inside her. The aim is to ensure that this painful process remains visible.”

 

Exhibitions – World Illustration Awards 2017

This was the first time I had seem an exhibition of illustrations and I was quite bowled over by it! The range of styles and techniques, the riot of colour, the humour and wit was all amazing! I was struck by how, in daily life, I am surrounded by these incredible illustrations and I barely notice – there were images on display that had been created as editorial work for newspapers which probably would have been glanced at by most people before the paper was tossed into the recycling.  I now have a whole new appreciation for illustrative work!

For me, it was also a great privilege to be able to read a little about how the artists created their work and the techniques they used. It was particularly noticeable how much of the work was wholly or partially digital.  I particularly enjoyed watching a timelapse video of a digital illustration being created, starting with a hand drawn pencil sketch that was scanned in and then coloured in using Photoshop. Something I am going to have to try myself!

These were the stand out pieces for me:

Tony Rodriguez – Bill Murray: Mark Twain Prize

I particularly like the pen and ink style of this illustration, in particular the creation of texture on the skin using fine pen lines. I also like the ‘busy’ background. There are more details about the image are artist here.

Richard Allen – Wave

This image was created as a cover image for Sunday Telegraph Money section. It took me a little while to understand what I was looking at but when I realised it was  Trump’s hair taking the place of Hokusai’s Great Wave – I thought it was genius! Given how Trump’s bellicose rhetoric  is threatening the stability of the Korean peninsula at the moment I thought this was an incredibly clever and witty image.

Oivind Hovland – Skaanevik Fjord Hotel

I really liked this child-like illustration of life around the hotel. I liked it’s ‘busy’ nature with  lots going on and lots to look at. I also really liked how there is so much detail packed into the image but it is using simple shapes and a simple colour palette. More details here.

Alice Yu Deng – Tashirojima: The Cat Island

I have to confess that I probably really like this because I like cats and I like Japan 🙂 That said, I do like images where there is quite a lot going on and I enjoyed looking at the sunbathing cats in their different poses. I also thought this was a very clever way to depict the Japanese ‘cat island’ where cats and people live in harmony. More details here.

Sam Pierpoint – Visit Bristol Christmas Campaign

This model wasn’t actually on display at the exhibition but I saw it on the website and thought it was beautiful. More details here.

 

Exhibitions – Hokusai: Beyond the Great Wave

The Hokusai exhibition at the British Museum (seen August 2017) displayed works from the last 30 years of Hokusai’s life when he is considered to have produced some of his most memorable works. Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849) is widely regarded as one of Japan’s most famous and influential artists, producing works right up until his death at the age of 90.

About Hokusai

At the age of 18, Hokusai was accepted into the studio of Katsukawa Shunshō. Shunshō was an artist of ukiyo-e, a style of wood block prints and paintings. Shunshō, focused on images of the courtesans and Kabuki actors who were popular in Japan’s cities at the time.

Upon the death of Shunshō in 1793, Hokusai began exploring other styles of art, including European styles he was exposed to through French and Dutch copper engravings he was able to acquire. Hokusai also changed the subjects of his works, moving away from the images of courtesans and actors that were the traditional subjects of ukiyo-e. Instead, his work became focused on landscapes and images of the daily life of Japanese people from a variety of social levels. This change of subject marked a significant change in the ukiyo-e style and in Hokusai’s career.

Hokusai was known by at least 30 names during his lifetime. Although the use of multiple names was a common practice of Japanese artists of the time, the numbers of names he used far exceeds that of any other major Japanese artist. In 1820, Hokusai changed his name to “Iitsu. It was during the 1820s that Hokusai reached the peak of his career. His most famous work, 36 Views of Mount Fuji, including the famous Great Wave off Kanagawa, dated from this period. Among the other popular series of prints he published during this time are A Tour of the Waterfalls of the Provinces and Unusual Views of Celebrated Bridges in the Provinces. He also began producing a number of detailed individual images of flowers and birds.

Hokusai had a long career, but he produced most of his important work after age 60. His most popular work is the ukiyo-e series Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji, which was created between 1826 and 1833. His ukiyo-e transformed the art form from a style of portraiture focused on the courtesans and actors popular during the Edo Period in Japan’s cities into a much broader style of art that focused on landscapes, plants, and animals.

My thoughts on the Exhibition

It was wonderful to see Hokusai’s beautiful prints ‘in person’, especially the very famous ‘Mount Fuji Seen Below a Wave at Kanagawa’ (smaller than I thought it would be!).

However, for me the stars of the show where the pieces that Hokusai created at the end of his life, particularly the ‘Old Tiger in the Snow’ and the dragon emerging from storm clouds. Although there is some speculation that his daughter Oi may have assisted in creating these works, they are incredibly delicate and detailed. His tiger seems to be full of joy, bouncing through the snow, and his dragon, emerging from storm clouds, with it’s almost human face, is full of life and movement.

I also particularly liked all of his images of birds and animals as they were full of life and personality.  For example, in the image ‘Weeping Cherry and Bull Finch’ the finch is not sitting passively on the cherry branch but is hanging almost upside down.

What really stood out for me with a lot of the works on display, was the sense of fun and joy in the images. I was quite surprised to see images of laughing ghosts and cartoon-like ‘manga’ figures. The images were all beautiful, delicate and a joy to see.

http://www.katsushikahokusai.org/the-complete-works.html