During level 4, I found that the materials that I like to use most, and therefore gravitated to most frequently, where inks and water colours; with the addition of goulash towards the end of the year. I think I enjoyed using these mediums so much because it was my first year really playing with colour and I found them to be the easiest and more direct way of achieving this.
Last year, I was most inspired by the introduction of colour to my work and the concept of personification of objects. These became my main focuses during the year. I was also inspired by the collaborative work last year, which I loved doing, and really helped me to concentrate and communicate my ideas. based on this experiencing I’m really looking forward to collaborations this year.
I really started to explore 3D art and the ways of layering and adding depth to my work through use of a more interactive theme. I always really want to look at the way that text can be introduced into images and how it can change the meaning and the effect on it’s audience. This is also something that I would love to explore and develop into my work this year, combining and working with the mixture of concept.
I would love to try to look into digital art and also into more 3d work and painting; possible looking at the digital work more in my spare time and gradually incorporating it more into my uni work. I would also like to continue my exploration of colour, as I feel the natural progression is to simply change my materials.
A creative activity that I look forward to continuing is my visual note taking, being dyslexic and therefore having a more visual learning process, I really find that taking notes this way has really helped me; both creatively and intellectually.
During my first year the three main challenges that I faced were: my reluctance to move away from my comfort materials, identifying, out of all my ideas for each project, which one was the most prominent and therefore the best to proceed with, and also my time management (which was not helped by my indecisiveness in my projects). I would like to work through these problems during my second year and become more decisive and bold in the way that I work so that I feel more confident in my ideas and more secure in the work that I produce.
I decided pretty early into my project that I wanted to make my own book for the project, partly because at first I had wanted to do a concertina style book, but have to rule this out purely because I couldn’t find a concertina book large enough to do my project in. However, after creating a practice draft in a small rectangular sketch book, I decided that that style of book was much easier to work with and gave me a bit more freedom than a concertina book would, as well as making the book itself more solid and less fragile.
Having done my research into Josephine life and becoming familiar with her timeline, I decided that I’d like to cover the period of her life before Napoleon, as it is less well known and no less interesting.
I started out by picking out some key scenes in her life that told the basic story of events, then sketched them out and picked out background and foreground characters that I’d like to pull forward in the scenes. The first scene, with Josephine and her parents, was easy enough to decide on, pulling the main characters forward and hiding her estranged sister far into the background (born of an affair that her father had with one of the families slaves), hiding her from view, much as the family had done.
From there I chose to show the moment that she got off the ship to first be greeted by the disproving Alexandre (whom took an immediate dislike to her), putting the suite cases in shot, one of which contained her childhood keepsake toys (an obvious sign that Josephine was in no way mature enough to be sent off to be married, least of all so far from home.)
My favorite scene so far however, is the one in which Josephine stands back from the window looking out at Paris from afar, the scene was designed to show how isolated Josephine was during her first year of being in Paris, Alexandre forbid her from leaving their home, in fear of her unfashionable colonial roots destroying his reputation amongst the Parisian socialites.
The act of practicing my scenes like this has really help to solidify my ideas and cement the style of book that I would like to use in my final piece, it made me see how impractical the concertina book would be in creating the kind of product that I wanted to produce. This style of book will also be much easier to make and work with. In addition it allows me to build my my 3D element in 3 layers pre scene with out having to use many full pages, with makes the piece much easier and quicker to make; which is great as I am balancing the time that I spend on my uni work with both my job and my friends over this summer and do not want to rush my work and sacrifice the quality in the interest of time.
When starting a start of my summer project, I decided that the best way to begin was to first have a look at the kind of layered books that where already out there and see if I wanted to draw any ideas from them.
One of the first books that I came across was a piece by Bristol artist Alexander Kozer, who works are made from “boys own adventure’ books from the 19th century. they consist of all the illustrations that already festured in the books and are individually cut out to form a scene that encompasses the whole book. I loved this approach to the book and how it made use of all the individual aspects of the illustration to form one large and highly complex piece that spoke in a completely different way. It was, however, painfully obvious that this process took a very long time and probably several headaches before it could look this good, not to mention that fact that Kozer used a book that already featured all the drawings used predawn. I wanted to take of this the layered individual approach to the 3D aspect of this book, but without having to do it in quite so much detail as Kozer.
After more searching threw the many types of illustrated books for the adult audience, I can across the much more simplified layered style of ‘Igor + Andre’, that has featured in the work of Alexandra McQueen. this work was in a style that I loved, even if it was not technically in book form. Though very stylized, it feelds much closer to something that I wqould like to produce, as I love the use of the 3D element of the paper layers. I particularity liked the way the layers where used in the building drawings, I’d like too look at this layering in my book, though with as bit of a different style and will have too look at how I can use flaps to get a similar 3D effect.
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.
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.
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.