Windows and Layers

Part of my exploration into my development of how I’d Josephine’s stage to appear, I want to look further into how the scenes that I set can create a greater atmosphere and add more to the story. Coming out of a tutorial with Chris, I decided that I’d like to look at the effect of emphasising the depth and changing my pages from being 2D to 3D.

In order to explore this I took two scenes to develop into 3D sets that might add a new level to the story telling aspect of the scene. I love how this adds a new perspective on my work, as it allows the scene to be more active in the story and can show a greater insight into Josephine’s train of thought and experience; in addition to adding a level of the surreal that can allow for a more detailed exploration of both the scene and Josephine herself.


An Very Eventful Life.

Having spent a great deal of time doing a large amount of research into the intense and sprawling live of Josephine, I found myself a bit over faced with the shear amount of things that I could cover. If Josephine’s where to be translated into any art form, I feel it would work best as a musical, the events of her life lend themselves to this dramatic style enough with very little needing to be done to it bring her life to the stage; Josephine lead a very fast-paced and life, in which a lot happened. A lot thats pretty much all interesting enough to  warrant illustrating, but is far too big a task to cover in it’s entirety. Her character, the way she manipulates and conducts herself around the incredibly volatile Parisian social scene, is such a big part of her life and how the events in it play out, that I feel it needs to shine through it my work. Though I’m still playing with a way in which to effectively do this.
In the work that I have been producing at the moment has been focused the aspect of her life that makes it quite theatrical. So far this is what I have most tried to emulate, the works that I was done so far are focused in the idea of making a sort of set or stage for Josephine’s life.

When setting up these photos I wanted to play around with the perspective and deliberately alter the way in which the two basic paper caricatures show the contrast in both stages of Josephine’s life. To do I played with both the positioning of the two figures in the photo and also used my cameras’ focus to further draw attention to this. I wanted to use the back drop, which shows a section of the Prison des Carmes (where Josephine was held after Alexandre de Beauharnais’ -her then estranged husband- arrest), like a stage set for the two figures of past and feature Josephine.
Most recently I’ve been giving serious thought to what period of her life I’d like to cover, and in how much detail I can do that; having such a broad experience to document, I feel like I’d be able to show more of her character though a more detailed account of a smaller period in Josephine’s life than to cover a larger period in little detail. So I started by looking at her arrival in France, her arrival into the Parisian social scene and the build up to her stay in the La Prison Des Carmes; so far this first section of her life seems to be both the lest documented and the most logical place to start, as these are the experiences that space Josephine’s future the most.

During this time, she has her first and most harsh lessons in the social expectations of Paris, she grows up very quickly as a woman to face these expectations and then goes through the most traumatic period in her life in which she is forced to face her own mortality for crimes her estranged husband committed. Josephine comes out of this forever changed and it’s this change that I think I’d like to focus on next. Though I feel as though I’d like to change my format a little, I like the back drops that I have but they are quite flat and am not quite setting across the atmosphere that I’d like to achieve.

Josephine Bonaparte: Great Lives.

When asked to do an illustrated biographical piece, on the life of Josephine Bonaparte, one of the first places that I checked for easily accessible research materiel was on BBC radio archives, as they often have a great deal of resources to look though. Being a fairly avid radio four listener  (contrary to their usual demographic) , I knew that at the very least, there would likely to an episode of ‘Great Lives’ about the life and times of Josephine. As always, it didn’t disappoint.
‘Great Lives’ is a biographical series in which guests choose someone who has inspired their lives. The show is a great starting resource for any biographical piece, as the guests and the researchers that feature on the show are always great authorities on the lives of the featured historical figure and they’re enthusiasm for the lives of these figures usually means that they know facts about them and their lives that would otherwise be considered to trivial for the history books. An example of this would be the an interesting detail that when Josephine arrived in France, to marry Alexander de Beauharnais, she took with her a suitcase filled with her favourite dolls, illustrating just how much of a child She was when she was sent away from home to marry.
In addition to this, the podcast also gave me a much more clearer look into Josephine’s adult life before Napoleon, for example; her many affairs with various senior members of the rebellion and even the debouched parties that she and, her then lover, Paul Barras (one of five dictators who controlled the French republic after the execution of Louis XVI). This particular detail lead me to an illustration by James Gillray (English caricaturist and printmaker famous for his etched political and social satires), of Theresa and Josephine dancing naked for Barras behind a transparent curtain, with what looks like Napoleon looking in from the side:
This work differs so much from the many oil paintings that will fill most google searches, when looking for images of Josephine herself, and also shows a much different side of her than shown in any of these paintings. However, it is of course highly doubtful that the illustration has much actual accuracy; simply because it is likely that Gillray had never met Josephine or seen anything other than paintings of her and Theresa. Also, while it is true that it was Barras and Theresa whom introduced Josephine to Napoleon, I’m sure he would not have been as guest at one of Barras’ ‘parties’; as prior to meeting Josephine, he was woefully inexperienced and socially inept.
Though I’m sure it gave me a somewhat sugar coated view, using this podcast was a starting point for my research into Josephine, and was extremely useful in giving me good first impression of her character, as both a person and as an influential figure. It also opened up a new direction in which to take my illustration, as Gillray offers a much more interesting approach to the likeness of Josephine than the countless oil paintings had previously offered.


Boudicca v.s Pussy Riot

Developing this project proved to be very tricky, while I liked the concept and the two main subjects that I was basing the project on, I really  struggled to get any traction in my ideas and struggled to keep focus on anything that I felt I could build into a finished piece; I spent much of the project not doing much and throwing around dead-end ideas. this was quite disheartening and it didn’t take long for me to become disinterested and completely loose my focus. Ultimately I think that I didn’t like this project because I felt far too direction-less for the majority of the project and I felt like I’d made the wrong choice at the very beginning in choosing the wrong brief to tackle from the start. But hindsight can be a real pain and sometimes you just have to roll with the punches.
From the beginning I’d not truly known what direction to head in, and had ended up  meandering around quite a lot through out the project. This produced a mixture of work that I both liked and felt didn’t really add anything to my project, I found myself producing work for works sake just so that it looked like I’d done more work that I’d actually done.

Once I’d finally gotten my act together and finally began to identify an idea and a concept that I’d like to expand on and explore. I began to play around with the idea of telling the story of this introduction without the use of people in the narrative, I felt like my focus on the human form and the idea of human character was holding me back and forcing me to focus on the human aspect more than the actual idea and the project itself. So instead I decided to focus on the idea of inanimate objects and the symbolism used in the concept of modern feminism. I began to look at symbols of feminism and how they can characterise feminist ideas and themes. One of the most obivious symbols of feminism being the modern bra, as both a symbol of oppression and outspoken femininity. Using one of my own old bras, I looked at how powerful this image could be, and played with the idea using this powerful association as a form of character.

I also looked at objects that could be used to represent Boudicca, namely I wanted it to be a historical reference, in order to make it as accurate as possible; as I’d done a fair amount of research into Boudicca as a person and as a figure in history, but found very little genuine evidence of her appearance and of her character outside of her revenge fuelled attack on the Romans. However, I did find a historical reference to her in the form of a coin that was issued in 61ad. that featured a likeness of her profile on one side and a Celtic horse on the other. This became the symbol that I chose to represent Boudicca’s character in my work, because I felt it was the most accurate depiction of her that I had been able to find, other depictions all having being rough estimations of what she might have looked like, based on historical descriptions and sensationalised depictions of Celtic women worriers that would not have looked out of place in a video game context.


The final concept for this project was then inspired by this concept of depicting Boudicca as an inanimate object. Placing her character in the context of a modern feminists space and mindset then became a much easier task; as a coin is much easier to place into a situation that an actual person is.
What arose from this was the idea of seeing this coin version of Boudicca exploring the world of a feminist, the easiest and most condensed depiction of this world being that of a bedroom. A place which we often personalised to a much greater degree than any other personal space. This therefore gave me a lot of scope to insert the feminist images that I’d been contemplating in a context where their mere presents might speak for them.
The narrative that I decided on revolved around the concept of Boudicca, represented by the historical depiction of the coin, exploring this feminist space and being introduced to the feminist way of thinking and their many modern forms of protest through both these symbols and the story of Pussy Riot, as shown in ‘A Punk Prayer’.

While I’m quite happy with the outcome of this project, for the most part, it is not completely finished, as I ran out of time. Had I had more time to devote to it I might have developed it into an animation or possibly continued the story to show more of the reaction of Boudicca. But unfortunately other commitments got in the way of doing this and I feel like, had I continued this project, it would not have been an effective use of my time, as animation is something I’ve never done before, and would require a lot of work to not only build up to, but to also produce a final piece as well.

Personal Response to Field: Boudicca meets Pussy Riot

As my personal response to field I chose to explain a modern concept to a historical figure; my concept being Modern feminism, focusing on Pussy Riot, and the legendary Celtic Queen Boudicca. I chose these two because I felt that their struggles in many ways mirrored each other; both being primarily about their fight to not only be taken seriously as women and also their fundamental dislike of the patriarchy.
Boudicca was a Cetic Queen most famous for her riotous rebellion that raged through many Roman settlements; starting at Camulodunum (Colchester) and ending at Londinium (London), were She is reported to have killed herself in Roman captivity before she could be publicly executed for her crimes. Boudicca fought for her right as the Queen of the British Celtic Iceni tribe to keep her land and her people safe from Roman rule. after the death of her husband, Prasutagus, who had ruled as a nominally interdependent ally to Rome, he left his kingdom jointly to both his daughters and the Roman emperor in his will. However, after his death, the Romans did not take any notice of the will and anexed the kingdom. Boudicca was flogged and her daughters raped, as Roman financiers took their land and called in their debt to the Empire. Boudica’s rampage was justly caused by this injustice, as the Romans had blatantly violated both her personally and her people also. Rome being a patriarchy, likely did not see her or her army as a threat, so when Boudica’s army fell on the poorly defended city of Camulodunum and  they destroyed it, besieging the last defenders in the temple for two days before it fell. Archaeologists have shown that the city was methodically demolished. The future governor Quintus Petillius Cerialis, suffered an overwhelming defeat. His infantry was wiped out—only the commander and some of his cavalry escaped.
This first crucial victory was hugely important, as the crushing nature of the Roman defeat showed just how much of a force Boudicca was. I like to think this was an important lesson to the Romans, showing just how bad an idea it was to think that they could get away with what they did to Boudicca, that simply because her husband had died, she was venerable and an easy target. That because she was woman she would not fight back. Well, they learned how wrong they were the hard way, and Boudicca will now be a permanent black mark against their military history.
This is where I think the most important similarities between Boudicca and Pussy Riot begin.
In February 2012 Pussy Riot made a stand against their, heavily church involved, Russian government by performing their own ‘Punk Prayer’ in protest at the church of ‘Christ the Saviour’ in Moscow. They felt the control of their own patriarchal government and the female oppression of the church, and fought it in a much more modern but equally as shocking manner. In the same sense that Boudicca challenged the preconceived assumption that she was a vulnerable woman who wouldn’t fight back, Pussy Riot, when arrested, proved to be a much bigger problem than the Russian government anticipated; by the time they were sentenced August 2012, Pussy riot had gained international fame, and the support of many feminists and human rights activists world wide. The controversy that Pussy Riot caused there to be a lot of criticism of both the trail and the sentencing. The criticism that this subsequently brought down on the Russian government and their involvement with the Orthodox church supported their cause so much more than these woman could have amassed on their own, due to this there was a lot of speculation as to how legal the court case actually was, questioning the nature of the crimes and weather or not these women were simple excessing their right to protest.
Pussy Riot and Boudicca share similar driving force in their fights, their right as women to not be underestimated. I feel like if Boudicca were a modern woman, that she’d be a hell of a feminist and in full support of the Pussy Riot movement, in the same way that I feel Pussy Riot would be in full support of Boudicca’s plight. In contrasting modern and historical feminist figures, I feel they are a near perfect match, with both the performing violent and controversial protests respectively.

Reflection on Constellation Year 1

My expectations of constellation and what it actually was, could not have been further apart, as it turned out, constellation was much more open and broad than I had been anticipating. When I’d been told that my course involved a section on ‘constellation’, by way of broadening our subject bases and to add another layer to our work that we could then reference; I’d assumed that this meant that we would have an ‘art history’ side of the course. Instead, constellation provided a much more comprehensive subject choice than I’d anticipated, this was a pretty nice surprise. The capacity for discussion and the multitude of connections and comparisons, in terms of other subjects and interests that can be incorporated into your personal studies was far greater than I’d expected coming into the course. However, as usual, I was far to organised to truly take advantage of this. As happens far too often, and is undeniably always my own doing, I missed the deadline on sign up for the courses I’d intended to put down a preference for. This worked out in my favour, possibly better than it might have if I’d chosen the subjects that I was going to choose, as they were quite different from the ones I was given. Though it’s still never I good idea to allow something that carries such a high percentage of your final grade to come down to chance. In the end I was assigned ‘Architecture of the Unseen’ and ‘Creative and Cognitive development’ which turned out to be two really interesting courses with plenty of essay potential.
In ‘Architecture of the Unseen’ it took a while for me to find my feet, as the concept for the subject, that I was studying in the first term, was unlike anything I’d studied before and was therefore a little hard to wrap my head around; it also didn’t help that I wasn’t sure how to explain it too other people, which confused my parents no end. However I did grow to really enjoy ‘Architecture of the unseen’ (once I finally understood what it was about); studying such a conceptual subject brought be back to how I used to work when I studied philosophy and ethics in sixth form, it reminded me how much I love to learn and question higher concepts, in addition my prior knowledge helped me to understand and get back into the correct mind frame to do so. While it took me a while to initially get into the subject and fully understand the implications, once I’d it worked out how to go about writing about it on the blog (roughly, I’m still not great at blogging), it really helped to get to grips with the material and the ideas that Martin was talking about.  The concepts of agency really peaked my interest, and the ultimately became what I based my essay in. I’d never really considered this as a factor in my work, but now looking back on my own creative processes, it became obvious how this had featured my making and creative mind-set in the past. Once I finally got to write the final essay for that term, I’d been able to work this to a subject and personal interest that I could both investigate and enjoy writing about. Working with the concepts of agency and how outside factor and self-inflicted limitations could affect how your work in different ways, I linked my essay to my own interest in costume and body mods, linking in the idea that constricting clothing and body mods could affect your creative processes. The fact that I could work in my own personal interest into the essay made it much easier to write and engaged me in the subject with a better level of understanding and enthusiasm that I’d not expected coming into the course in September.
The following term, having really enjoyed the previous term and gotten good feedback on my work, I was ready to really get straight into ‘Creative and Cognitive Development’. The cross over in the two course made them a really good combination and I had a much easier time getting my head around the underlying concept behind it. I’d never really looked into the development of children, not really having much of an interest in them; but I do have never ending list of why I’m not really on board with the modern schooling system and its rejection of the arts, so this provided me a new perspective I’d not really considered. I grasped pretty quickly onto the concept of cognition and the argument over steam v.s stem, and again the cross over between last term and this term helped a lot in terms of understanding the key thinkers; also having already warmed me back up with the waffling way that psychologists and philosophers love to write their otherwise quite simple concepts. It didn’t take me long to find another general interest, and in this case old vendetta, with which to carry my interest in the subject, preparing me for the essay at the end of the term. I decided pretty early on the if I chose to do an entirely new essay, as oppose to continuing the previous terms, it’s be heavily based in how I’d developed my own creativity and cognition through doodling, something my teachers had never appreciated or encouraged during my time in formal education; this would give me plenty of inspiration and a lot of material to work with.
Being able to work my own interests into my constellation work made it much easier to understand. Constellation on the whole has been a pretty positive experience and allowed me to project my own passions into a more academic context. It also reminded me how much I’ve missed essay writing and academic study, since I’d not had to sit down and do any large amount of writing in well over a year, having sworn off them after doing three essay intensive subjects in sixth-form. Both tutors, Martin Woodward and Sarah Smith, where great at presenting and explaining the work, as well as providing great resources and feedback on work. Overall, I’ve really enjoyed my experience of constellation this term. However, I need to work on how I incorporate into my work in illustration, the amount of cross over in the two sections of my course, written and practical, it not as good as it should be and I’d like to work on this.