NEW NEW NEW FOUND
AN IDEA BOOK, ILP FIRST YEAR 2017-2018 BY LAILA
BEING A BOOK ABOUT MY FIRST YEAR IN THE MICA MFA ILLUSTRATION PRACTICE PROGRAM, 2017-2018
CONTENTS INTRODUCTION SEMESTER ONE
IMAGE HARVEST RISOGRAPHY PAPER CUT/ENGINEERING CERAMICS SWAP SEWING DIGITAL FABRICATION ART MARKET SKETCHBOOK PROJECT PERSONAL WORK
ANIMATION HAND LETTERING SWAP PATTERN SELF-DIRECTED
5 7 8 14 20 32 36 38 46 50 54 59 60 68 74 81
INTRODUCTION Before arriving in Baltimore, I lived in Philadelphia for a year. I had moved there to institute change in my life; change in physical location, community, and career. The aspiration was to try freelance illustration; I had completed a graphic novel for my employer the year before and working freelance did not seem out of reach. I left a good job in Boston working with creative people because I wanted a change. How wrong I was about achieving my goal-in Philly I lacked motivation, regular practice, peers, and most of all, felt crippled by my unemployment and negative cash flow.
At that point I was ready to throw in the towel. I have always had trouble reconciling my intellectual and artistic sides--I am sure that diaries from high school and my undergraduate degree include the claim â€œI am not an artistâ€? multiple times. I lacked confidence in my skills and portfolio and because of this I put off applying to an MFA program--something my mother continually pressed me to do, but for which I never felt ready.
(Above) Portrait as a miserable swing state voter
(Left) Portrait of the artist after her first graduate exhibition
As things turned out, I felt ready for further education at the moment I lost faith in my creative abilities and my artistic practice. But the degree to which I applied was a Masterâ€™s in Arts Administration, my path set on building skills for a profession I would be willing to endure for a regular paycheck. Around the same time I met with an Illustration Practice alumna, Sarah Jacoby, who sent me an email shortly after New Yearâ€™s 2017 telling me my portfolio was strong enough to gain admission to the program at MICA. She had also gone to a liberal arts college for her undergraduate degree, and I think she understood my imposter complex about practicing art. How happy I am that her words persuaded me to apply to the MFA in Illustration Practice here at MICA. I have never experienced such a feeling of finding my compatriots as I have had here, and for that I am grateful. Since beginning the program, I have been saying yes to my artistic practice; yes to calling myself an artist; and yes to my newfound home in this studio.
SEMESTER ONE AUGUST-DECEMBER 2017
IMAGE HARVEST RISOGRAPHY PAPER CUT/ENGINEERING CERAMICS SWAP SEWING DIGITAL FABRICATION ART MARKET
IMAGE HARVEST SEPTEMBER 2017
(Above) A still from La notte (1961), dir. Michelangelo Antonioni
Revisiting the same themes is not new to me; in fact, a lot of my creative projects have returned to the same topics over and over again. However, I had trouble coming up with ten sketches for Image Harvest that reused old ideas and felt like they would be a step forward in my practice. I was reluctant to consider some of the ideas that I included, including the one that I decided to bring to final following our group critique. Two of the sketches that I presented related to the 1960â€™s movies by Michelangelo Antonioni that I had explored in my mini-comic
Drawing Antonioni in 2014. My love for his movies is what motivated me to revisit this idea, rather than the thought that I could bring anything new to it. Based on the responses during our critique, I decided to pursue an animation centered around watching the movie La notte. It was one of my more challenging proposals since I had no prior experience with animation. I made all of the assets traditionally using gouache and ink and pieced them together digitally, then animated it using Photoshop. Arushi gave me a half hour crash course in using Frame and Timeline animations and then it was off to the races.
(Clockwise from top) Reference photo for bedspread; two frames of the left-hand character; drawn pieces for movie and speech bubble; second iteration of background; two frames of right-hand character; first iteration of background. (Opposite) Grid of ink drawings of movie frames.
Despite the visual appeal of the traditional media, it made the entire process take much longer than if I had made digital artwork.
EXECUTION I could not complete enough frames for the onscreen movie before the Image Harvest show opening. As a result, the animation was too short, and this was emphasized by being on the same projector with Kaixinâ€™s stop motion short. The heart of Asleep Again is in an experience of
time that my viewer should have parallel to the character. It is an attempt to show a non-moment, a moment that the character chooses to let go. It did not achieve that in its first version so I drew 35 more frames for the movie to extend the sequence before my final critique. Although I was satisfied with the piece in September when I first completed it, I am not as happy with it now. Having made some GIFs in my spare time since then, and having completed the stop motion animation workshop, I feel that the piece for Image Harvest can be considered an animated sketch at most. It lacks the pacing, refinement, and visuals that would make it a much more successful mood piece. But for the first animation I ever made, I see it as a good stepping stone to more ambitious work.
Excerpts from the exhibition wall text...
THE PRESENT PROJECT COMBINES MY DESIRES TO TREAT THE SUBJECT MATTER AS A SINGLE IMAGE AND TO INCORPORATE MYSELF AS THE PASSIONATE VIEWER. THESE DIFFERENTIATE THE ANIMATION FROM MY MINI-COMIC IN FORMAT AND BECAUSE THE COMIC FEATURES A MALE PROTAGONIST. BY DEPICTING MYSELF AND A FRIEND WATCHING THE FILM, I WANTED TO REFER TO THE EXPERIENCES THAT DROVE ME TO MAKE THE MINI-COMIC IN 2014. HOWEVER, BY ANIMATING IT, I HAVE ADDED A LAYER OF MEANING THAT POINTS BACK TO THE SOURCE MATERIAL AND DEEPENS MY ENGAGEMENT WITH THE MOVING IMAGE.
RISOGRAPHY WORKSHOP SEPTEMBER-OCTOBER 2017
Of all the first semester projects, the risography assignment most closely aligned to my prior experience as an illustrator. In that regard it felt the easiest to me to work on and execute, and I used it as an example in a comics workshop I taught in my GTI class with Matt Rota that semester. Before coming to MFA ILP, a couple of my mini-comics were printed in risograph, but since I had never operated a machine before, I found file preparation and printing an invaluable learning experience. After a small group critique discussing some of the ideas that I had brainstormed, I settled on a narrative of particular psychological import to me at the time, sleeplessness. I developed a dummy book of the sequence to show Kim at midterm critiques and she pushed me to keep refining it, and to think about how the comic would best make use of the risograph and color layers. Following these comments I did not drastically alter the visuals making up the narrative, but I did add elements to the compositions on each page in order to exploit the layering that risograph printing affords.
I used a clock motif on the interior pages of the comic to play with color overlaps and to further press the feeling of anxiety related to sleep struggles. On the back I made a single absurdist image to present a kind of a climax or resolution that the circularity of the folded comic does not provide. My peersâ€™ and Kimâ€™s reactions to that single image during the critique were mixed, but I stand by my choice to include the image. I rarely include gags in my comics, so it felt like a triumph to me even if the gag was opaque.
(Opposite) Sketchbook scans showing initial brainstorming; dummy that I presented to Kim at midterm critiques; further color development; printing process. (Above) Sketchbook pages with ideation of sleeplessness comic and planning the visual sequence.
The reverse side of the comic featuring my one and only gag.
During the final critique of the semester, Kim did not respond to this comic as much as to an Inktober drawing in which I addressed a similar idea in a single image. I was happy with the comic although I did not think it was my best narrative work. I think it would be beneficial to my comics-making process to understand why the Inktober drawing was more successful than the comic.
(Left) The Inktober drawing in question.
PAPERCUT/ENGINEERING WORKSHOP OCTOBER 2017
Though I am familiar with paper cutting and have made pieces in that past that incorporate cut paper, paper engineering was new to me. Because I had not tried it out before, I insisted on using paper engineering for my response to the workshop. This decision gave me more grief than I had anticipated, and I struggled to conceptualize a narrative or idea that compelled me to use pop-ups and folding. At the beginning of the project, I decided to limit myself to simple mechanisms combined into something more complex. Going off of a recurring theme of my sketchbook, the character was both woman and wolf. At first my sketches incorporated a lot of layered animals and body partsâ€”I fixated on one sketch in which an explosion of upset or dead animals emerged from the womanâ€™s body in the center. I was not sure how to use paper engineering to realize the idea, but some kind of pop ups seemed most fitting. This made it into my response piece, but I forced it into the narrative that I eventually pursued just because I liked it aesthetically.
After fixating on this “animal explosion,” as I named it, I also decided that I could try to use the method of folding the popup letters that Colette showed us as a vehicle for making pop-up figures. Developing this in relation to my wolf woman idea, I thought that I could add extra folds to the figures to divide the body into wolf and human parts. At first I likened my concept to a Jacob’s ladder, although material tests quickly persuaded me to abandon the idea of one long folding item and turn to sequence instead. Making several fragmented pop-ups could be a good way to show the transformation of woman into wolf--more and more of the folded sections would turn to wolf fur, limbs, and claws. Moreover, I decided that placing each pop-up in a differently sized paper panel, I could try to regulate the viewer’s speed going through the sequence, in the same way that the size of comic panels affects a reader’s speed. 22
(Right and below) An idea I debated pursuing, before deciding to make the sequence of pop-up figures.
I combined my two ideas by adding the animal explosion to the end of the transformation sequence. In reality the sequence and the image are unrelated and I was forcing the animal composition into the piece just because I liked it aesthetically. I should have let go of that idea and stuck to the narrative--or vice versa.
My peers noticed the disconnect between the sequence of folded figures and the animal explosion at the end; some students attempted to rationalize my decisions but they were right to be dissatisfied. They found the sequence of figures lacking as well, asking for a more explicit narrative or meaning to the sequence. Several students associate the piece with the female body experience by referring to the moon and menstruation as an explanation for female werewolves. However, I felt that their responses were missing the mark because I was 24
not trying to make themes about menstruation or womanhood evident in the piece, nor did I make an effort to make the visuals convey this. On top of this, no one understood my decision to try different sized panels and it does not seem to have had the effect on reading the images for which I was hoping.
The frustrations of initial development, technical obstacles, and an unsuccessful critique made me dismiss the paper engineering work afterward. For the end of the semester, I wanted to re-do the project from scratch, allowing myself to work in paper cut rather than using paper engineering. I wanted to pursue the same theme or character of the wolf woman, and I was interested in trying to translate the structured feeling of paper engineering and my original folded character into the new piece. This point initially slowed down my ideation process, I was not sure how to incorporate the structure that I wanted. Then it occurred to me that I could echo the architectural structures of the panels in Dalbert Vilarinoâ€™s mini comic Apartment View, which I had bought a month earlier at Comic Arts Brooklyn.
(Above and right) Two spreads from Apartment
View by Dalbert Vilarino.
(Left) Two stills from Last Year at Marienbad (1961), dir. Alain Resnais
Looking at Vilarinoâ€™s mini opened up an exciting new idea that I came up with in what felt like a tenth of the time I spent trying to develop my first response piece. I combined the wolf woman with the physical location and tone of a 1960â€™s French film that I had been thinking about a lot, Last Year in Marienbad directed by Alain Resnais. The film is a fragmented examination of a sexually manipulative relationship between two guests at a resort in a mysterious unidentified European manor house. I dressed my wolf woman in dresses reminiscent of the film and using arches and other borders, I played with scenes and disconnected single images to start to tell parts of a story. I was so excited about my new idea that I completed the papercuts in one evening, using found materials from the studio. I think that the new project was much more successful than my first, even if it is still a disjointed or incomplete narrative. They also feel more true to my previous paper cut work than the failed paper engineering project.
CERAMICS FACULTY SWAP
Ceramics was a medium with which I had no experience before coming to MFA ILP and I was looking forward to trying it out. Perhaps I have been too influenced by recent trends in the illustration world, but I wanted to try my hand at making clay forms. Unfortunately, this workshop was not as freeing as I had thought it might be. Whitney asked us to prepare an idea to unify the pieces we made during the workshop, and I got hung up on my chosen subject matter—personal imagery inspired by Latvian heraldic designs. Evie May Adams’ illustrated ceramics inspired me to take this route, but while she executes her folksy designs in bold colors, the painterly quality of the glazes that we used did not support the graphic quality I was going for in my own work. Focusing on programmatic image compositions and elements also discouraged me from having too much fun with the forms of the pinch pots that we made in class, unlike my peers. Overall, I think that focusing on my central idea and not being willing to make changes on the spot prevented me from improvising with the materials.
(Far left) Map of Latvia with heraldic city shields. (Left) A selection of Evie May Adams’ ceramics.
I found that many of my classmates positively responded to the clay, whereas I became frustrated with its crudeness, the difficulty of shaping it, and my inability to translate my sketches into satisfying 3D pieces. Whitney had some extra pieces of clay which I tried to shape into figures tangentially related to my concept but these attempts did not end successfully, either.
I am glad to have tried hand-building but I am not sure whether I will set much store in it as a viable part of my practice in the future. I wonder, though, whether I would respond more enthusiastically to a form of ceramics that involves more controllable processes, for example, wheel turning; or whether I should have tried coil-building as a way to make forms.
SEWING WORKSHOP OCTOBER 2017
Perhaps by this point in the semester, some of Kimâ€™s advice had finally sunk into my brain, or else maybe I had less energy to invest in the thought processes behind all of my projects, but I did not spend a lot of time thinking about the concept of the sewing project. At some point, the image of a plush hand popped into my head, and I decided to try sewing one as part of my response to the workshop. Unlike any of my other projects this semester, this project did not involve any sketching whatsoever--everything moved directly from my brain to the object.
I started sewing it by hand, without putting much thought to its length or the size of the fingers. As a result, my plushie turned
out small, with uneven, spindly fingers. I wanted to try dyeing fabric and I choose a red dye to emphasize its creepiness. After dip-dyeing the hand, I turned it inside out, stuffed it with filler, and sewed it onto a piece of backing fabric that I had also dyed red. Once it was on there, it looked lonely to me, so I made a second hand using some black jersey I had bought for my art market project. I placed the black hand under the red one to be the first handâ€™s shadow. Afterward I decided to add texture and visual interest to the piece by embroidering the backing fabric. Unfortunately this process took much longer than I anticipated it would and I did not embroider as much surface area as I had expected to.
To be completely honest, since I was following a more intuitive decision making process, I had not anticipated or thought of this as a possible interpretation, and I was not sure what to do with that response. By the end of the semester I had determined not to revisit the project, however, so it will remain in this associative limbo.
During the critique I realized that the pairing of the two hands gave the piece some ambiguity. Kim suggested that the way in which it is displayed could lead to a racial interpretation.
DIGITAL FABRICATION WORKSH SEPTEMBER 2017
The timeline from training to critique for digital fabrication was the longest of all of the fall semester workshops, giving us two months to gestate and change our plans for this project. I took full advantage of the allotted time by sketching, preparing vectors, and laser cutting my first idea before changing course in the last month of the project. From among the uninspired ideas that I brainstormed for laser cutting, the one that I decided to try out was a series of masks inspired by different objects from nature. Mountains, flowers, and sticks would each adorn a mask that I planned to assemble from multiple layers of cut chipboard. Layering the pieces would add depth and dimensionality to what I otherwise planned to be flat piecesâ€”thus they would be decorative, rather than wearable masks. I considered wetting the chipboard to bend the pieces to better fit the human face. However, I did not pursue the project far enough to actually try this method. Even though I made vectors for these masks and cut chipboard pieces from which to assemble them, they did not excite me that much. The idea was only something palatable to me that would employ the laser cut technique, not something with much personal or aesthetic interest to me. Writing this now it seems clear that I should not have pursued the idea, but with so many balls in the air, laser cut was a project I was willing to let slide into a banal and aesthetically un-offensive territory.
HOP (LASER CUT)
In the middle of this process, I attended a lecture by the graphic designer Jessica Svendsen. Svendsen showed a poster for the Yale Symphony Orchestra in which she laser cut white Y, S, and O letters many times over and layered them on top of one another. The simplicity of this approach--repetition, layering, and a single color--struck me and I immediately began drawing layered mountains not so different from the upper part of my planned mountain mask. Mountains have interested me for many years as aesthetic objects, spiritual symbols, and icons in different kinds of imagery. I thought that I could apply Svendsen’s approach to my own laser cut project. During that lecture I was not quite sure what I wanted to do with the mountain idea. Thinking about it reminded me of Ed Ruscha’s word paintings. I took inspiration from his pieces and decided to incorporate a question my mother had recently asked me: “Will you stay with him.” This question could assume different interpretations once divorced of its original context. I wondered whether some viewers would understand the question in a religious context, due to its combination with a spiritual symbol. When I prepared my mountain vectors, I put individual words into different pieces so that I would have to layer the mountains to spell out the question.
At this point I laser cut both my original mask ideas and many copies of my mountain vectors so that I could pursue either direction, but I never did anything with the mask elements. I immediately jumped into the mountain project instead. I spray painted them white, but I still did not know how I would assemble them into a final piece. I tried making images from the mountains layered on top of the scanner beds in the studios, but this did not satisfy me. So then I built mini mountains by gluing together the cut out pieces. Still I was not sure what to do with these assemblages. Ultimately I decided to scan them and assemble them into a poster, going back to my source of inspiration. But it felt like a cop-out, uninspired, driven by the need to have something to present at the final critique. While developing the poster, I started to play with the cut-out letters from the mountain pieces. With the limited selection and number of letters, I started to make found poetry. After trying different variations, I settled on a poem which I assembled and scanned to incorporate into the poster together with the mountains.
(Below left) Ed Ruscha, Pay Nothing Until April, 2003, acrylic on canvas. (Below right) Ed Ruscha, La Brea, Sunset, Orange, De Longpre, 1999, acrylic on canvas.
(Left) Jessica Svendsenâ€™s poster for the Yale Symphony Orchestra.
(Top) One of my scanner bed images. (Above) Gluing one of the mountain pieces together.
FINAL I was not overjoyed with the poster that I presented since it did not feel like a resolved piece, but I was happy with how experimental I approached the process once I abandoned my lackluster mask idea. I especially enjoyed the playfulness of making poetry out of an unintentional product of laser cutting. Some of my peers made intriguing suggestions about playing with the idea of a voice in the mountains, echoes, and incorporating audio in addition to the written poem. I did not pursue these suggestions but I may keep them in mind as I move into my thesis year.
ART MARKET OCTOBER-DECEMBER 2017
I have never considered my work to be particularly commercial. There are many reasons for this, one of which is that most of the time I do not work in a style that is cute, witty, or attractive to impulse buyers. And rather than trying to make a product that naturally came out of the way that I work, I pursued an idea that is very different from the rest of my work but that could be more sellable. That being said, the product was something that I cared about, so even though the aesthetics were not my own, I felt committed and happy with what I was making. After an initial brainstorming and prototyping period, I put aside my ideas to make something out of sculpey or clay and decided to make sachets filled with calming herbs. As someone who self-manages her anxiety, I find that chemical interruptions are the most effective, for me usually manifesting in odors or imbibed spirits. Two years before coming to Baltimore I experienced a very stressful period in my life and found that burning lavender candles helped me to control my anxiety. I wanted to bring that aromatherapy into a small sellable product, one that I would make into various cute shapes to attract a buyer.
And so the â€œPocket Hug Aroma Pillowâ€? was born. After critiques and discussions of my product and the pitch, I added two other herbal options to give buyers a choice of flavors: lemon verbena and balsam-cedar in addition to the original lavender. In sketching ideas of the shapes of the pillows, I considered both comforting and non-comforting forms. I eventually decided on making toasts, socks (of various plaid colors), cute skulls (white and black), and pine trees (which would exclusively be filled with the cedar-balsam scent). I designed a cute logo for the packaging that would emphasize my targeting a young adult audience who appreciates cute cartoons and plushies. The most intimidating part of the process was producing the edition, since I had to familiarize myself with the sewing machine as well as embroidery and applique processes that I had not used before. There were a few false starts and mistakes made along the way, and many hours spent cutting fabric, sitting at the machine, and pulling out threads that I had somehow ruined. Eventually I made 31 aroma pillows which I packaged to sell at Art Market.
FINALS All of the lavender pillows sold, while both lemon verbena and balsam-cedar sold at around 50%. Toasts and socks did the best in terms of sales, both selling about 80% of my stock, whereas the skulls sold about 60% and the pine trees only 40%. Overall I felt pretty good about these sales because my prior experience tabling at zine and comic fairs has indicated that my self-published books do not do so well. This is true of Art Market, where only two of my zines sold and 21 of my aroma pillows sold. I found the results gratifying but I do not think I will make products for Art Market again next year, unless I find the time to make something small and fun.
SKETCHBOOK PROJECT AUGUST-DECEMBER 2017
My sketchbook has always been a place to put hasty drawings, to test or develop ideas, and draw from life. I am not much of a doodler nor do I strive to make my sketchbook pages look nice—I prioritize using up as much space as possible, so as not to waste paper. The pages I made as part of the Sketchbook Project reflect this part of my practice—most of the images are half-thought out and, compared with my classmates’ work, not as visually impressive. There are a few images, though, that I think are worth remembering.
OF (Portrait of an artist?)
SOME PERSONAL WORK
(Above, top) An inktober piece. (Above, bottom) A waxed trace monotype I made in November, working off of the Inktober piece above it. (Opposite) This ink drawing was recognized as a runner-up in Creative Quarterly 51.
(Above) A GIF I made exploring architecture-human combinations to express emotional narrative.
SEMESTER TWO JANUARY-MAY 2018
ANIMATION HAND LETTERING SWAP PATTERN SELF-DIRECTED
ANIMATION WORKSHOP FEBRUARY 2018
This collaborative experience was fruitful for me, because of the work that Peco and I created, the relationship that emerged between us, and because it pushed me to consider different ways of generating ideas. In fact, I think it was my favorite workshop of the entire year. I really appreciated the fluidity and freedom with which Peco combined ideas for our animation. Normally I think through every project so that my visual and narrative decisions support an overall concept or meaning. Unfortunately this makes me stress whether my ideas are strong before I try to pursue themâ€”so that I rely on mental pre-judgements rather than discovery through process. Collaborating with Peco and the short time frame forced me to relinquish my need for conceptual quality. It opened me to a looser narrative based on feeling and images rather than on causal sequencing. I think our different ways of thinking paired well, in that Peco provided poetic inspiration and direction to which I added structured images and narrative sequences.
I am very happy with how the project turned out and since then Peco has come to me to discuss her other projects, especially those of her studio elective. I’m honored that she regards me as a creative confidante of sorts. During our conversations, she reminds me of how tight and controlling I get in my process and I’m encouraged to try loosening up again in the future. To initiate our collaboration, Peco and I fulfilled a few drawing prompts from Kim. Of these prompts, I responded the most to one which asked that we copy our partner’s existing drawings. Peco and I exchanged sketchbooks from the first semester. It was both challenging and liberating to copy her drawings; challenging because I could feel that her way of drawing was slow and measured, unlike mine. Liberating, because I find it so difficult to change my drawing style, and making these move-
ments broke me free of my way if only briefly. In one of my studio electives this semester, I made final work that emulated other artists’ techniques and have realized that process is very helpful in pushing me out of my comfort zone in a way that might change my illustration practice. On the first day of the workshop, Peco and I tried sand, cut paper, painting, and drawing stop motion techniques. The experience did not indicate too much about my and Peco’s working relationship other than that neither of us came up with very good ideas while working on the spot. Both of us preferred the cut paper method and later that
night we met up to plan our animation and cut as many pieces as we could to prepare. Brainstorming for the animation refreshed my viewpoint on ideation. Peco approaches projects in a more associative and poetic way than I do. She began our evening session by asking what is important or interesting to me. She wanted to explore fire, and
(Above) Cut paper pieces that Peco and I made the evening before we shot the animation. (Opposite top) A drawn and collaged background for scene one. (Opposite bottom) Peco placing cut pieces during the shoot.
with each new idea, we thought about how to relate fire to it. For example, I told her mountains were important to me, and her response was to think of an image of a path of fire on a mountain. She began by saying the home was important to her; so I started to suggest different examples of fire in the home. Under her influence, I suggested images that were surreal or absurd, including the image of fire on empty plates that begins the animation. Once we had planned our sequence, execution was smooth; we cut paper ahead of time and on the following day, spent the entire session shooting.
HAND LETTERING FACULTY SWAP FEBRUARY 2018
I found the first day of this workshop delightful, as browsing through Whitney’s type books reminded me of any appreciation for type and letterforms. Since leaving my job at Candlewick Press two years ago, I’ve missed designing and though this project did not involve any active design, it put me back in that mindset. As I think of which electives to take in my second year of ILP, I think it could be worthwhile to take hand lettering so that I can incorporate it into my professional work after leaving MICA.
The part of the workshop that I enjoyed the most was inventing a letterform to complement a hand lettered sign I found in Edward Fella’s Letters on America. The sample letters in “La tienda Garcia” did not provide an entire alphabet so I took on the challenge of making a letter S to print with my block stamp. Inventing a letterform in the same style was fun and I carried this playfulness into the three prints I made by adding layers and a stamped snake. Whitney’s challenge to apply a four-letter F word to an open fan was frustrating and not as enjoyable or professionally applicable as a poster or alphabet project may have been (though I understand our workshop was shorter than in previous years). After an initial struggle I came up with a concept using the word “foil” and playing with its meaning of “something that contrasts with and enhances the qualities of another thing.” I decided to incorporate two types of letterforms to spell “foil” on the fan, one legible and the other distorted. In
(Above top) Original inspiration from Edward Fella. (Above bottom) Carving the S stamp. (Right) Sketchbook development of S letterform and stamp test printing.
other words, the two letterform types would act as foils to one another. Keeping with the other meaning of the word, I decided to spray metallic color onto the background of the fan; but in the absence of a can of silver paint at the art store, I chose copper instead. These photos document my process for the distorted letterforms (casting a shadow, tracing the shadow, using a scanner to distort the image further). I created the legible letterforms with masking fluid on the fan before spraying it, and once I removed the mask I printed the distorted letters with stamps.
PATTERN WORKSHOP FEBRUARY 2018
If someone were to ask me, I would not venture that my work is suitable to pattern or surface design in either “style” or content. Nevertheless, I had been looking forward to the pattern workshop ever since our conversation with Jordan Sondler during Illustration Week in November. Hearing Jordan describe her work with maps gave me a different perspective on how I could channel my interests into surface design. During that meeting, it occured to me that my cinematic obsession with 1960’s Italian and French movies (seen before in my Image Harvest project) could translate into a pattern made from movie stars.
I approached our in-class sessions with Claudia Pearson with an openness and optimism I would not have expected of myself for something related to pattern. I enjoyed both the day of drawing from life and the obsessive labor of creating and perfecting a technical repeat in Photoshop. I think the two aspects of the pattern process speak well to two sides of my personality.
Shortly before the workshop, I thought that it would be fun to make a pattern out of Soviet Latvian candy wrapper designs. Although their bright colors are a stretch from my comfort zone, they connect to my other work since they are Latvian and allow me to study good design.
(Above top) Pattern made from in-class drawings. (Above, clockwise from top left) Laima company clock in RÄŤga, Latvia; Monica Vitti; Anouk AimĂŠe; Rigonda chocolate, made by Laima.
I pursued the actors and candy wrapper ideas knowing I’d make it difficult for myself to present a collection of patterns during my critique. They are not visually or narratively related to one another, even though they are both forms of my nostalgia for a Europe I never knew. This made it difficult to invent my third pattern, since it needed to bridge the gap between
1960’s Western European actors and Eastern European packaging design. In the end I drew an assemblage of cups, glasses, ash trays, and plates from images of Parisian sidewalk cafés. As a unifying pattern for the “collection,” it was a stretch, and Kim noticed this in my critique. That being said, I am glad that I pursued subjects that were of visual interest to me rather than forcing myself to choose content that was less compelling but more coherent.
(Left page) I drew originals for the candy wrapper pattern with gouache. (Above) I drew originals for the actors pattern with brush pen.
(Above) I drew originals for the cafĂŠ pattern with graphite.
In response to Kimâ€™s comments about the incoherence of my three patterns, I decided to make a fourth pattern to try to tie them all together better. I decided to make the pattern about cinema that would incorporate some of the bright color palette of the candy wrapper pattern. I think it could work pretty well as a visual stepping stone, nevertheless, it does not make my patterns into a legitimate collection!
When making my fourth pattern, I also adding a bit of blue tint to my movie stars pattern. With the addition of more color, I think it fits more naturally as the end point in a progression starting at the candy wrappers.
SELF-DIRECTED MARCH-APRIL 2018
In the spring semester I took a half-credit studio elective focusing on monotype and monoprint printmaking techniques. I registered for the course so that I could continue the investigation of architectureâ€™s relation to the human form that I had begun with some personal pieces in the first semester. My focus in that class shifted to relating personal narrative to domestic architecture, so when I began to think about self-directed, I thought I could pick up the European history/cityscape/human figure exploration again. I was particularly interested in using this theme to try a suggestion that Kim had made to me in my final critique from the fall semester. She responded very positively to the Inktober pieces, wax monotype, and ink drawing that I shared as extra material, and in particular, the evidence of my hand in the work. My laser cut, on the other hand, felt too mechanical to her; so she suggested that I draw objects and live trace them in Adobe Illustrator in order to create vectors for laser cutting that felt more organic. I wanted to try this with drawings of buildings, since I had started thinking about making large scale building facades for my thesis using laser cut or CNC cut wood pieces. In the first week of the project, I started to assemble an image bank replete with architecture and artworks depicting architecture; and I drew two buildings that I would laser cut using a traced vector.
Then, on the Friday night of that first week, a car hit me from behind while I was biking home from the studio.
A bystander called an ambulance and I spent the whole night in the emergency room, waiting for the results of a CT scan and numerous X-rays of my shoulder, hips, knees, and lower legs. The doctor diagnosed a fracture in my left fibula, with no bone displacement. That was good news. What wasnâ€™t good was that the hospital did not have a medical boot and the doctor had to wrap my left leg from the foot to over the knee in a splint. I went home on crutches.
TO BE FULL OF STRENGTH AND VIGOR ONE MOMENT AND VIRTUALLY HELPLESS THE NEXT
(OLIVER SACKS, A LEG TO STAND ON, 21)
As most sudden and traumatic events may do, this accident changed the focus of my work. It began with an itch to write about what happened to me, which I did frequently in the fortnight after the event. I became fixated on the sidewalk where I lay as I waited for the ambulance to arrive; and on the tree well where my body was located. I could not remember there being a tree in the tree well, and the thought of this presence or absence fascinated me. I started to imagine that the tree that had been growing there was now gone, but its ghost remained and had watched over me that night.
(Above) Approaching the site on Google Street View; I did not return in person until over a month afterward.
PROCESS My fixations compelled me to make two parallel streams of work: a cardboard model and ink drawings of the sidewalk where my accident occurred, and a series of hand-drawn GIFs about the ghost tree and its interaction with me. As I made these separate pieces, I struggled to think of an overarching structure to contain them all. However, when I finished my first GIF, I viewed it in a Safari browser window and this gave me the idea of placing my GIFs and still images into a grid. I pursued this idea for the final presentation, using the grid to combine ink drawings, collaged text from Oliver Sacksâ€™ book A Leg to Stand On (1984), and four GIFs, the last of which suggests the accident without literally showing the impact between bicyclist and car.
(Above) A spread from Anne Carsonâ€™s book
Nox, which inspired me to include collaged text in my project.
IT IS AS IF THERE IS A MOMENT MISSING FROM MY MEMORY—THERE IS “BEFORE” AND “AFTER,” BUT NO “IN-BETWEEN.” (OLIVER SACKS, A LEG TO STAND ON, 21)
(Above) A still of the video that combines my drawings and GIF animations.
Although I think my peersâ€™ responses during the final critique were restrained since the piece did not fit into a conventional understanding of illustration, afterward I heard good feedback from second years Diana and Ryan. Both of them responded to the emotions in the piece, as did my classmate Minjoo. As I said that day, I think it was a good exercise to try to construct illustrations centered on peripheral objects and moments without explicitly telling the narrative itself. One of my goals in the ILP program was to attempt less conventional approaches to narrative, since my background is in comics. Iâ€™m glad that I tried it in this project and I personally feel satisfied with the work that I did, regardless of how well my viewers connect to it. I am not sure whether I will spend the summer pursuing conventional methods of narrative again in a backlash to this project, or whether I will continue some of the things that I began here.
To Kim Hall, for your indefatiguable emphasis on process and letting go of perfection; to Whitney Sherman, for steering the ship that is ILP; to Ryan, for your unwavering support and caring; to Olivia, for welcoming me with your friendship and making this place feel like a home; to my parents, for their support both from far and near; to my first and second year ILP classmates and friends, for becoming my community and my family. Laila April 2018 email@example.com www.lailamilevski.com
An account of my ideas and process during my first year of the MICA MFA Illustration Practice Program, 2017-2018.