Monday rolls around again, with the dull thud of a head hitting itself against a wall. I find myself, out of the house for inspiration, two espressos down, staring at a blank page. Worse, I’m trying to ignore the page to my left, where the attempt I rushed off to try and get an idea started is smirking back at me; basking in the fact that it offends me both as an approach to a new project, and as a reflection of my technical ability. One result of this, is that this will be a (relatively) short post.
This stage of the process is frustrating. I thought I had a handle on the way forward, but it doesn’t feel right, so I need to start again. As I write, I’m trying to decide between rescuing elements I think may have something to add and decreeing a new set of constraints to build something new.
I know I’ll start again with thumbnails. The process of collating all my ideas only really happens when I start to draw out little disasters and I can see little moments of joy, horror or slapstick jumping out. This might be a finished scene, or the sweep of a line, or an expression on a face, or an inkling of perspective, but for me it will start with these drawings: small, cramped, unfinished, generally full of energy and overly complex. But from here I’ll start to take away, to refine, or to edit my ideas, looking for clarification. One of the reasons I like thumbnails is the way I can use frames to compartmentalise ideas or fragments that would become lost in a larger scene.
This compartmentalisation came from creating Diabetes: Year One, which for all the methods and themes I’ve explored, is ultimately about me trying to understand the relationship between illness and the emotional tumult of living. My creative process has always ridden the knife edge between hyper-self-awareness, and the need to get on and do; a process that needs to research and reflect, but one that needs to confront an impending deadline. This interaction between analysing and acting is how I approached type 1 Diabetes – for me to know is to draw, and to draw is to understand. In other words, it’s all very well doing the reading, and checking the numbers and all that, but I only realise what’s going in, when I see it coming out (This feels a bit scatological for a Monday morning, but I’ve spent the weekend with 9 year olds).
After the thumbnails the options broaden out, but in some way I’ll cover the basics – composition, style and colour. How I do it will vary. I drew this calling card sequence [fig.1] to reflect the facets of this process.
The image deals with the interaction between the world around me and the world in my head; the relationships between different media and equipment; the structure that lies beneath my surrealism; and also – cos’ I tend towards melodrama, the excitement that rises from despair. In this case the pencil, and ink drawings are put through illustrator and coloured in photoshop, adding to the slapstick through the Beano-esque line and flat colour style (though the vividness of the colour is all mine), all designed around a cross structure nicked from chapels in the renaissance style (btw – totally comics!).
The final image I enjoy because of the energy, the humour and the absurd that touches on the grotesque, but mainly because I think it takes the various aspects of my work and personality, yet creates a single sequence that is, well… me.