Visual Research - Part One - Exercise 1

Initial Ideas

1.1 Identify your initial ideas

Book Design
Narrative/Story Telling
Natural Forms
Abstraction/Lyrical Abstraction

1.2 Analyse your previous projects

1 - Year 2 of degree - Print Processes

For this project I looked at bio-luminescence and plankton.  I have a strong link to sea life (I worked in the bio unit at Weymouth Sea Life Centre while studying a Marine Conservation degree before switching to Illustration and pursuing my art career).
We had bio-luminescent plankton in the sea where I grew up and I liked the idea of developing on from simple printing processes and expanding in to luminous papers and UV paint.

I then developed this idea further and designed a room that could be at an aquarium to teach children about bio-luminescence.  The cute characters would be all over the walls, but unseen when they enter the room.  Once settled on to bean bags and all safely sat down, the lights would turn off and the plankton would glow while a voice over or the tour guide would talk about this effect in the sea.

I made a mock up (scaled down) to show my idea.

Here is the view from above once glowing under the black light.

I think this idea has potential.  Not just in the glowing way I approached it before, but with a link to well being, it could be a 'sensory' room.  I could think about different textures and interactive things to help calm people down, take their mind off things and trigger different, happier emotions.  I like the idea of a room with a purpose and something that is installation art.  It would be on a much bigger scale than I am used to working in.  I also like the idea of sensory art.  Something that encourages interaction, which most of my work does.

2 - Year 1 of degree - Up-cycled Book

I have looked at this project in my Advanced Practice and 'Amended' it in to a new outcome that is developed on from where I initially was.

However I still really like the idea of book making and up-cycling.  Stitching the pages together and experimenting with collage textures gives such a beautiful outcome.  I really want to make a story book so maybe I could re-focus on this and try and evolve it in to a publishable book?

3 - Year 1 of degree - House of Fairy-tales inspired books

Our first trip during our degree was to a travelling exhibition that was in Penzance at that time.
They have the best website too:

I found this trip completely inspiring.  It was an old house full of the most random and bizarre oddities.  There was no reason or rhyme to what they had on display.  It ranged from preserved specimens, to Chinese puppets to bits of old cars.  I adored it's jumbled approach and did a lot of observational studies whilst there.
My favourite thing had been a selection of bug bodies (mainly bees and beetles) that had tiny, sculpted human heads and were then frozen forever in resin.

I don't really know how (my brain makes such strange leaps from one thing to another) but when we started book making back at uni, this led on to me designing a range of books based on some anthropomorphic bugs.

I loved hand making books and the idea of an ABC.  Whilst showing these to my students recently they asked why I hadn't made each bug a species that started with the letter it was holding.  I told them this was good feedback and something I may consider in the future, so that could be an avenue to explore.  Or a bug themed activity book using this style?  I also prefer the watercolour mock up to the final photocopied version.  So watercolour designs and 'lift-the-flap' style books are something I'd like to explore more.

4 - Year 1 of degree - Print Processes

My Foundation Degree was titled 'Illustration and Print' and therefore we spent a lot of time in the print room.  At one point we developed a design and took it through all the processes available: Lino, Etching, Dry-point, Laser cutting, Screen printing, Flock and foiling etc.  I really enjoyed this project (I do a similar printing workshop project with my year 10 students but with lino, collagraph and mono print) and I was particularly happy with the tribal mask design that I created for it.

It's more the style of this project that interests me.  It's one of my more detailed designs and I progressed it on to do some totem pole work with stack-able wooden brooches and mini plush (which had been screen printed). 

I could revisit the idea of a totem pole and this tribal style and develop something a bit more 3D?

5 - Year 1 of degree - Resin Model Making

One of our lecturers who was completing his PGCE dabbled in resin model making in his spare time and when they offered a choice of mini modules, he said he'd show some of us how to do it.  I opted for this as I was really drawn to the 3D aspect.

During the 10 week module I learnt how to sculpt, mould and cast my own resin figures.

Before this I had been making plush toys (with a mental health theme) and selling them in my online store.  So I decided to mix the two medias together and made some art dolls.  They were featured in a magazine  and it was in doing this project that I started to research the Designer Toy Industry and discovered Chris Ryniaks' work:

As well as forming a connection with a man who was in the process of organising a designer toy show and invited me to take part.  I have never looked back.  I am firm friends with the people I met that night and love being a part of the designer toy industry.

I do this as a sideline to Teaching Art full time and I adore every aspect of that industry.  I don't tend to mix plush with resin as much these days, but it is something I have considered re-visiting.  So this could be a project that I have another go at and design a range of characters.

6 - Year 2 of degree - Final Outcome

During the last year of my Foundation Degree I was challenged to create a final outcome.  I wanted to incorporate my personal work in to this and decided I would try to bring some of my 3D characters to life.  I made 5 plush characters with arms so they could move about more (they didn't tend to have arms for my shop work) and visited a selection of locations around Plymouth to take photos of them in scenarios.  I put the whole thing together and had a book professionally made.  My lecturers weren't keen on the result.  They said I should have made things more whimsical or out of proportion or added hand drawn elements (like some of my earlier work).  Sadly they never suggested any of this to me during the actual project and after the hand in is too late to make edits.  It really put me off re-visiting this sort of work again.

However... last year I had my first solo show at ONCA Gallery in Brighton

I created a selection of 'dwellings' that represented our subconscious minds where we might house our feelings.  This was a development of The Feelings - a range of emotion monsters I have been creating since 2009 and bought to life that aspect of where they might actually live.

Each house was unique and hand made.  Each house had a very different theme, to try and show that we are each individuals and very different.
Image of Subconscious Dwellings: PetrichorImage of Subconscious Dwellings: Flotsam

Above are two examples of these 'dwellings'.
I was thinking about how fun it could be to make some more and make a 'town' of sorts.  I could make a set up for a background and then have a selection of houses and shops that could interchange.  Making it seem like the characters are moving about, when actually the buildings are the part that is moving.  If I did a stop motion style story, it could be quite a nice idea and make my little Worry characters seem alive; which I know the people who follow and collect my work would love!

I would make the houses from cardboard and then individualise each like I did for the show.  I think having them with shop/house fronts but then open backs so you can show the characters inside the houses as well as walking down the streets would be good.  I could make tiny furniture again and use real lights like I did for my show.
The photos could be used for a children's book also.

This would also develop on from using 'found scenes' like in my FD by actually making my own mini 'sets'.  I could make foliage and use whimsical/surreal/abstract shapes and colours to show it is within a subconscious mind rather than set in the real world.

1.3 Identify your strengths and weaknesses


S - I am hardworking, I am visually experimental, I am organised and manage my time well.
W - I take on too much, I can get stressed, I give myself too many aspects to approach and struggle to narrow things down.
O - I know many practitioners which could lead to interviews or collaborations, I would like to exhibit my work again, I am active within the art industry as a practitioner and a teacher.
T - Self doubt and low confidence are my worst enemies, I have financial constraints due to being in the process of buying a house


P - I have a strong theme of raising awareness of mental health and raising the question of 'what is normal?' this is something I want to continue with as it is making a difference to those who follow my work.
E - I have financial constraints due to being in the process of buying a house.  I have a bulk of resources at home and work and will need to plan work that fits in to these aspects.
S - I could do with more research around mental health awareness.  My solo show was fantastic as I had a huge number of people turn up just to talk about their struggles and it gave me a much bigger insight.  I have my own experiences as well as the people I interact with to draw from.  I recently completed a qualification in expressive arts for trauma patients and this sort of 'Art Therapy' aspect is one I explored in my previous school but have no scope to do so in my current position, so could hopefully offer more of through my personal practice.
T - I already use Adobe Illustrator (basics) and Photoshop (average skills) to edit my work.  I'd like to develop my InDesign skills for book layouts. I may need to purchase these later on.  I own Photoshop but use my work Illustrator currently.

Mind Map - Initial

Mind Map - Conceptual

1.4 Identify a specific area of interest

I really struggled with the initial mind mapping of ideas because I seemed to get stuck on just one or two things that are personal projects I have wanted to do for a while.  I found these actually became a wall and stopped me getting any further.
So I sat with my Year 12 students and while they created mind maps for possibilities for their Personal Investigations from all my prompts, I too made my own mind map of all the things that personally appealed to me from the same, huge selection of prompts, that I gave to them.

I am now going to start making links between these words to see if I can come up with a selection of investigation topics.

Talking trees – stories – magical creatures – creepy – folklore
Native American – ancient – talisman – totem – emotions – tarot cards
Found objects – ceramic – water – lost things – ancient civilisations – made up cities
Solar system – beat – jazz – sculpture – unreal cities - maps
Mermaids – ocean – sea life – magick – lost things – swimming - lighthouses
Mini beasts – distortion – perspective – derelict
Nature spirits – ancient spirits – recycling – tarot cards
Magical recipes – magical creatures – poetry – instruction books
Dragons – monsters – folklore – mermaids – magical creatures
Emotions – positive – wellbeing – mental health – totems – talismans
Clowns – creepy – circus – emotions – mental health – old places - figments of your imagination
Butterflies – motherhood – inside out – abstract - journey

The ones that speak to me most are:

Talking trees – stories – magical creatures – creepy – folklore
Native American – ancient – talisman – totem – emotions – tarot cards
Nature spirits – ancient spirits – recycling – tarot card
Magical recipes – magical creatures – poetry – instruction books
Clowns – creepy – circus – emotions – mental health – old places - figments of your imagination
Found objects – ceramic – water – lost things – ancient civilisations – made up cities

To narrow it down a bit...

Talking trees - creepy - folklore - Ancient - talisman - totem - emotions - tarot cards - nature spirits - ancient spirits - magical recipes - poetry - circus - old places - imagination - ceramic - lost things - ancient civilisations

These words in particular talk to me and get my brain whirring on how I could join them all together to make a project.  I have a range of characters from my personal work called 'The Feelings' which are characters based on emotions and presented as totems.  However, I always felt people missed the point slightly as they often see them as 'negative' because the characters are named after the emotions they represent (Worry, Anxiety etc) and I like the idea of re-visiting this idea but using only positive words/emotions.
This could tie in nicely with Native American style totems/talismans which would have been used for protection etc (Zuni Fetishes) and with the ancient religion of Paganism.  Also with ancient Egyptian and Greek cultures.  These characters/representations could also be transformed in to tarot cards.  So there could be a 2D and 3D outcome.  The talking trees/folklore/imagination part can be the back story/narrative to these totems.  Maybe presented in poem form.
An extension of this could be an instruction booklet with 'recipes' to support each emotion.  For example if a character is called 'Focus' and encourages you to focus your mind, a recipe could be for chamomile tea to help you actually focus your mind too.

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