Part 4: Assignment 4

Assignment details

All of the assignment 4 options seemed to have quite a dark and negative nature to them.   Out of the bleak choices, I was drawn to DISASTER.

For this assignment I set out with the intention of producing something quite raw and emotional.   The idea of a mildly thought-provoking still-life (based around the theme) wasn’t going to be satisfying for me.  This assignment piece had to come from more subconscious and more vital depths within me (as encouraged in previous tutor feedback).  I knew immediately that the image I was going to produce was going to be have topical meaning:

I’ve been upset by the human tragedy of the disaster and destruction of Syria.  This illustration I wanted to make is about the pain of Syria.  The illustration I’ve produced is as a result of those newspaper and magazine articles accounting the anguish of mothers who have seen their homes destroyed and their children killed in the civil war.

I’ve done quite a lot of digital work in part 4 so I also set out with an intention of producing a drawing or painting.  Also I also decided to push myself, and to make this piece entirely from a subconscious place and not use any reference material.  I didn’t want to copy buildings, figures, etc.  These things had to come entirely from the depths of me – I needed to feel something “deeper” and straight to paper/canvas.  Not copy from any secondary sources.

Exploring ideas

Below is my sketchbook page where I was exploring my ideas.  As part of my exploring ideas I produced a line visual and then a more worked colour visual (which I then took forward as the final illustration).  I initially conceived of three figures, but I felt this weakened and diluted the intensity that I was after.  So between the line visual and the colour visual I reduced to have a focus on just two figures:

Final Illustration

Producing the image

The illustration is mixed media – coloured ink (Derwent Inktense), Indian ink, coloured pencil and soluble graphite on heavy watercolour paper.

As first steps I laid down a wash of ink colour and soluble graphite, blocking in the main composition.  This was then worked more directly with the ink pencils and coloured pencil to produce the detail, and finally the dark Indian ink were applied as the main final stage.

The composition broadly conforms to a rule of thirds arrangement with the faces roughly at the intersections (points of interest).  There is a strong leading diagonal driving the eye up, and across, from the bottom left corner.    The warmest colours are the faces of the women – these come forward, whilst the blues and greys recede in the visual hierarchy.


Although there was some research and ideas development process to this illustration, it has been a mainly subconscious production.  This image has come entirely from the depths of my mind without any kind of visual or photo reference.  I think for this reason it is quite primal and rather surreal.

When I think of the word disaster I equal it destruction: to disjointed and distorted normal life.  I’ve tried to capture that distortion visually in my artwork; the emotion of everything you feel and see around you (in Syria), out of place, disjointed and gone.  I don’t think what I’ve produced is an easy image to look at.  I makes me somewhat uncomfortable.   For instance, I haven’t got a clue why it felt right for the eyes to be triangular, but I felt a very strong need to show them that way.  If I were to intellectualise my decision, I could say that the distortion of the limbs, the eyes and removal of facial features on these two women is about dehumanisation. And perhaps that visually reflects the dehumanisation of the destruction of life and property in Syria.   The twisted and surreal limbs, and physical distortion, perhaps visually represent that utter pain and dislocation of one’s normal self when suffering trauma.

There are obvious visual influences at play in this work, e.g. the woman on the left has some of the look of Edvard Munch’s, The Scream, about her.  Picasso’s Guernica was also there in my subconscious as an influence.  Also the day before I produced my illustration, I’d seen Merlyn Evans’, The Lock (1942) in a Pallant House Gallery, Chicester.  And I was captivated by its disjointed figures and muted colour palette:

I think some of the mood and aesthetic of this painting was in my mind as I was producing my watercolour.


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