One of the series I’m most proud of is the series of large format collage prints I worked on late last year. I had only made two up until this latest project, and now with this latest addition I feel like the trio is completed.
There was an overwhelming feeling that there was still space to grow the project, taking what I had learnt from making the first two, and getting a lot more experimental with what shapes I could pull. Beyond visuals though, thematically these allow me to focus on a specific topic, be it family, mental health or relationships. The text brings a depth to the images, and helps create a narrative. This was really the birth of the Paper Detective, searching for meaning in the world around us, and using it to contextualize our own experience.
I worried when I installed these two works that they didn’t really talk to each other in a significant way. From my perspective of course, I understand intimately how they align. Giving myself the opportunity to talk about substance abuse, interpersonal relationships, and social anxiety.
There is always the fear that people engaging with the work won’t see the intended narrative. But fighting against that seems futile, of course people are going to have a different understanding of the work. Instead I’m aiming to make work that has a clear theme, but also allow space for the viewer to have their own reading.
This is the last blog post I’ll write for my bachelor and I find myself lingering. It’s been a blast, but I’m glad it’s coming to an end. Something I was warned about early on was that it’s understandable to use university to give yourself a sense of structure, but you need to maintain that same structure independently if you want to succeed as an artist. I find myself attempting to create distance from academia, believing that if I feel separate then that independence will flow naturally.
Only time will tell if I’ll be successful. While it is up in the air, I definitely feel like I have a lot of opportunities that will make this experience worthwhile.
At the behest of an unnamed friend, I’m going to explain how I constructed my zine. This is a technique that can be found not only online, but just the other day I found a zine explaining how to make itself!
Using whatever photo editing program you prefer, divide an a4 page into 8 even rectangles. Four along the long edge, and two along the short. Arrange your visuals and print this out, making sure to get rid of any guide lines you may have used.
Fold along the long edge, and then fold again in the same direction.
Peel back one fold, and then fold along the short edge.
Peel back one fold again, and cut along the fold bisecting the folded edge of the paper.
Unfold the zine back out, and fold in half along the short edge.
This is where it gets a little tricky to describe.
Orient the folded zine with the inside of the front page being closest to you, one at a time pull each fold down and make sure they’re crisp.
We’re all done, hopefully that helps you make your own zine. It’s not a complicated process, but doing it a hundred times can be a little time consuming.
Put on a podcast, or some techno and get in the groove!
I always knew the last semester of my bachelors would be difficult, but I didn’t expect the feelings that I’ve sat with these last few months. A heady mix of hope, disappointment, shame, and relief, sloshing about like an oil and water toy. My understanding was as the degree went on, pressure to perform academically rose. However the importance of getting this degree seems to have faded. I can’t shake the feeling that outside the walls of academia, this all means relatively little.
People keep saying I should be proud of what I achieved, that fonishing at all is the achievment, I can’t help but feel unsure. I look back on my approach to school, and feel pangs of regret. I should of studied more, made more art, reached out more, made better connections with my classmates. Regardless, it’s the end of something huge, and I do feel proud.
I know this is all a little ‘woe is me’, however I’m predisposed to a good little ‘woe’, and if I can’t ‘woe’ on my own blog where can I!?
So what have you been making this last month?
Wow great question; I feel seen and valued.
Ok, so, initially for my final project this semester i was a little ambitious! It involved websites, interactivity, programming, live interaction, and maybe even a little AI. It was a project born out of a desire to escalate, to take what I had made these last four years, and crank up the complexity. I put a lot of pressure on myself, and after a few unfortunate events, a devastating break up, my number 1 dropping out, and some mild mental health kerfuffle’s, I realized I needed scale back in a big way.
Initially I wanted to keep the same thematic skeleton, talking about the internet, and it’s effect on masculinity and social norms. Instead of a website and computer interface, I was going to have people fill out a physical survey, aiming to bridge the gap between the IRL and online worlds. Unfortunately, or maybe in hindsight fortunately, I couldn’t get passionate about the internet as a subject. The idea of putting my energy and effort trying to decode something as all consuming as the internet seemed not only futile, but reckless considering how online space takes so much time from me already.
I ran the idea of rebuilding my project from scratch past my year coordinator, and was met with understanding, and a request to submit a new project proposal. I’m ashamed to admit I never wrote it (sorry Richard!), I tried a few times but I couldn’t really put into words what I was feeling, or what I wanted to do. I had an overwhelming feeling that I just needed to try and make something, to not feel hemmed in by a project brief or subject, to make work expressing a really difficult, tumultuous time in my life.
I returned to collage, a medium that’s always felt really comfortable and reliable to me. Looking back on the work I’d made so far, what was really speaking to me was the idea of found text. Batman comics from the 90s had a poetry to them, they took themselves seriously even though it was essentially children’s entertainment. So I went about cutting out as many little thought boxes as I could.
It was a wonderfully monotonous experience flipping through old comics and slicing out these tiny thoughts, monotony gets a bad rap, there’s something soothing about it. After collecting hundreds of clippings, I started to try and reconstitute a story from them, in the form of little poems. I thought I could arrange them with images, similar to my previous works, but this end up giving a Pinterest vibe, very “inspirational” and corny.
I think overloading the page with text cheapens the imagery, with my other works it’s usually a single thought box, but here it’s a whole poem. I also found it hard to build a story with the images when I had laid out the story so clearly within the poem. The world of the poem can become so big so quickly, which really is the appeal of working with words for me.
I then decided to create several smaller poems from the clippings, and see if they could stand on their own. This is roughly how the works appear in the final zine, some small tweaks to order, but basically I had the bulk from the first session.
From this point it was simply arrange the poems on my A4 page, do a series of test prints for group crit, and then arrange to have them printed. I really like the idea of getting them riso printed, which is like a printer that replicates screen-printing. Old 90s comics were printed on very cheap paper, and you can clearly see the halftone in a lot of them, riso helped recreate this aesthetic. I got a quote from the lovely people at Glom Press, a Melbourne based riso printer, and they helped me adjust the layers so they would work better with the process.
Finally we have the finished zine!
100 editions, on 150 gsm paper, all hand folded and titled!
I’m really happy with the finished work. Sometimes you make something and it feels like it just exists, not that you hate it or anything, but it’s not really a bit of you. This feels like a bit of me.
I’ve always been aware of zine making as a really flexible way of disseminating your work, but had never really attempted to make one till now. I did try to write one when I first got sober, a small comic series about the night I last drank, it is unfortunately lost to time. Thinking about it I actually did attempt to make another, about a man who raises slugs that people use to get high, again I’m unsure as to it’s whereabouts.
The ease of making zines really lends itself to making more, kind of like the itch to get more tattoos. Over the last few weeks I’ve been approaching my more creative friends to find out whether they’d be interested in making zines with me, and most have been receptive to the idea. The biggest joy for me is letting go the idea that I need to do something illustrative in order to make a zine, something that’s been rattling in my skull for decades.
I’ve also rediscovered my love of poetry, few artforms lend themselves to the specific kind of melancholy I love. Conspiratorial as it may sound, I firmly believe there’s no such thing as a good poem, just the right time to read it.
Having said that, I hope you’re in the mood, because here’s a little poem for you!
I am the paper detective, a soggy wad underfoot, a crumpled fiver pocket bound, looking through receipts for clues.
I am the worm, a wet clump scraped hastily, a compost heap sat soddenly, wincing and twisting in the dirt.
I am the reformed man, a lofty ideal strived for, a mark missed willingly, trying and failing and trying and failing.
When I find you, I hope it’s in a charitable mood, that it’s Thursday and 24 degrees, some time around noon.
Collage is a more complicated process than people give it credit for, with one of my biggest issues being each cutout can only be used once. This was something I wanted to address when I started delving into collage last year, eventually constructing a method of non destructive collage. This would allow me to reuse cutouts, and produce multiples of each collage.
Books to cut up
Cutting tool (box cutter, scalpel, scissors)
1 piece foam board (a3 or a4 depending on scanner size)
1 sheet acetate firm (same size as foam board)
1 piece thin hard cardboard (Slightly large that foam board)
Collect: My process for this was mainly to trawl through second hand shops, looking for anything with a lot of pictures. As I started to produce more work through, I began to understand what works better for me. Comic books and any artist books containing picture inserts were top of the list, while still leaving room in the budget for anything I thought could be interesting later. This year I purchased bulk comics from gumtree, which I think is probably the best way to build up a collection fast and for cheap.
Plan: Cutting images out can take a long time, I usually like to sit down in front of the tv, put something on I can half pay attention too, and start browsing through my haul. I like to look through everything first, so I can prioritize what images I want to focus on. Paying attention to the back of any page you’re cutting out, I’ve made the mistake too many times of destroying a great images while cutting out an okay one.
Cut: There are a lot of tools you can use to cut, but personally I enjoy using a box cutter the most. Scissors are great for long straight lines but don’t handle detail well, and while a scalpel might sound the best for this, often the blade is too flexible to remain steady. Don’t panic over perfection either, it’s always better to cut too loose than to tight at first, as you can always trim down.
Construct: Place you acetate flush on your foam board, with two small tabs of tape, connect the two together on one edge, creating a hinge that lets you raise and lower the acetate. We’re going to assemble our collage on top the foam board, and use the acetate as a flap to hold everything in place.
Assemble: It’s important to remember with this method you get unlimited tries to get the collage looking right. After assembling lower the acetate flap, be careful as it can get quite staticky, which can lift the cutouts out of place. There is a bit of fidgeting with things that goes on to get things perfect, having a knitting needle or something similar to move cutouts around without lifting the acetate up too much is helpful.
Scan: Place your hard cardboard over the acetate, sandwiching the work between the cardboard and foam. Now is the tricky part, we want to flip everything upside down, place it face down on the scanner bed, and slowly pull out the cardboard. This has given me the best results in keeping my work looking correct while flipping. Preview the scan so you can make sure everything is looking good, much like photography sometimes it’s wise to save the shot anyway even if you’re not %100 happy. When you’re scanning the final images, you want to scan as higher resolution as possible, I would recommend a minimum of 600, but personally like to shoot for 1200. This gives you the most flexibility with scaling and cropping your final works.
Process: This part is highly dependent on how much digital intervention you want to have with your work. My first step is to get the image to look as much like the original cutouts as possible, as the scanning process lightens up a lot of the darker areas. From here you can either get it print ready, or adjust the colors however you want. Personally I enjoy simply trying to replicate the original cutouts as close as possible.
Print: Using an Inkjet printer will give you the best results. Hopefully you’ve maintained a high resolution on your files, to give the best possible quality in your print. The choice of matte or gloss paper is up to you, I find the matter better represents the collage qualities, and accentuates the overlaps in paper without the interference of gloss.
I made this work for a recent art auction with the RMIT print student union Open Bite. It’s a great example of the kinds of images I’m looking for, and the benefits of non destructive collage.
Comic books, especially those from the 80s and 90s are a goldmine for overly dramatic, and high mindedly ideological pieces of text. Divorced from there ‘comical’ context, the words can have new meaning. Where they once referred to a villainous plan to spread plague, they now can speak to addiction and withdrawal. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t to say comics take themselves too seriously, in fact I love that something so silly can contain these complex themes. Instead its about elevating the words, to a form that they might be given more time and respect.
The woman that takes up most of the frame is Ellen Terry, painted by George Fredric Watts in 1864. Over Terry’s mouth is an image of a young woman smoking a cigarette, taken from the New 52 run of green arrow. These kind of serendipitous pairings of images that align perfectly feel too powerful to ignore. In this case, the implication of the pairing speaks to the representation of women through the last 200 years of art. I have no choice but to except this reading as a part of the work, and the inevitable implication of my male gaze in the process. Beyond this though, the meaning I choose to build around the pairing of images, uses a duality of identity to speak to the complex nature of addiction.
Finally the background image, taken from a 90’s batman comic book, is as the title might suggest, an advertisement for Coca-Cola. Balance and composition is as important in collage as any other medium, though as you lack as much control in collage, getting it right can be difficult. Something that helps the smaller pieces stand out is large flat areas of color, and the vibrant Coke red does that for us here. Coca-Cola is a product many see as addictive, with a high sugar and caffeine content. It’s presence in the work sets a baseline experience of addiction, as most can understand consuming sweets until you’re sick. This contextualizes how the viewer can start to think about the structure of smoking, drinking, and other addictive habits.
Old 52 is a simpler work than Drink Coca-Cola, in concept and form. At it’s most base level, it functions as an example of that serendipitous connecting of two images. Some of the images used in these were cut out over a year ago, and only finding a partner after sitting dormant in my binder, waiting for another image to click with.
The stoic image of Le Condottiere is overlayed with an intense visage, a pious man having his hand removed, at his own request. How we represent violence and the men who perpetrate it, is often in conflict with reality. Men who wage war presented as devout, disconnected from the wars they’ve waged, and lives they’ve ended. Unlike Drink Coca-Cola, there is no narrative built around the intertwined images. The subject has no voice, no inner monologue, only screams and the Rum-Rum-Ruuumm of some abhorrent device.
I have a lot more tattoos than most people expect, I lived with my current housemate for around 2 years before they realized I had a complete(ish) back piece. There’s a stereotypical question that seems to be on everyone’s lips when they see a tattoo, “What’s that mean?” I get it less these days, but it’s something I had to think about when I was in my tattoo getting prime.
Here’s what I settled on, and it’s the same answer for pretty much every tattoo.
I pick images that look good, and fit. More than that though, each tattoo caries emotional weight, I remember what my life was like at the time, and how I felt the months following each. What I mean to say is that a tattoo for me acts as a landmark in my life, to measure my mistakes, triumphs, and relationships along the way.
Art can be kind of the same. You make something new, only for it’s completion to coincide with a life altering event, creating a unbreakable link between art and life. Old 52 is one of those, an uncomfortable, sad, and confusing landmark.
This lockdown has been the worst of all the lockdowns, and it took me a while to pinpoint why exactly. We headed into lockdown six of the back of the short-lived lockdown 5, imbued with a confidence that it would be a cheeky two, maybe three week lockdown, some time at home away from work and stress, totally manageable! Yet here we are some months later, with protests and a government in turmoil, as we simply try to eek whatever little joy we can from each day. It’s taken a heavy toll on my mental health, impacted my relationship, and drained my will to study, but I’ll have a sick vaccine card in a few days, so that’s something?
Maybe this is where the obsession with creating a digital fantasy world has come from? In these lockdowns I have reverted to my teenage self as have a lot of people. For me this has meant a lot of video games, and immersing myself in gaming culture. I want my own place, a city, a temple, a kingdom that is all mine, disconnected from tech giants and social medias.
I can’t remember exactly what made me want to return to illustrator, my current theory is some part of my brain didn’t want to waste all those years studying design. I made the image above, thinking a lot about how we interface online, in this latest lockdown I’ve been very into twitter and political streamers / content creators. I wanted to go about making a world that represented my image of what the online world would be if it was physical. I wrote a proposal for this project, so if you want to hear me say this with 50x the words you can read that here!
I made these next three images, just really trying to flesh out the world, and the aesthetics. I don’t honestly have much interest in explaining my intent with the imagery, not that it’s personal or complex, just that part of the joy with this kind of work is building the universe in your own mind. There’s more that a few articles talking about how the video game franchise Dark Souls conveys it’s story through more subtle methods, and this is something I want to embrace. The story in the viewers mind is more impressive than anything I could create.
So what actually am I building?
The goal is to create a world, this world will live online at www.hallsofgaleria.com, and will be expanded over time. I want the world to move deeper and deeper with each update, and never really try to be resolved, to be more of an experimental playground. When someone arrives on the site they will be greeted with an entrance to a building, and they can then move through the world through a simple point and click system.
The second half of this project is the real world component, tickets, flyers and posters that serve as entry points to this digital world. Above you’ll see the templates for these posters, which I then transferred onto lino, and printed at home. Thankfully QR technology is forgiving and the codes still read perfectly fine!
To print the lino block I used a machine called a cold press laminator, something @witch_print put me onto. Basically they’re used to adhere things together under pressure, so sticking photos to backing boards, or stickers on flat surfaces, probably even laminating?? But I don’t use it for any of that, a blog post by artist Alexia Wibler describes how it can be used in a similar fashion to a regular printing press, and I have to say it really does do the trick! It’s very forgiving, though can feel a little clunky at times, but I think that’s just part of the charm.
I’ve chosen to print on cheap recyclable printer paper, as these are meant to be pasted up on the street instead of hanging on a wall. I want to print of a hundred of these, and once the website is complete distribute them as a way of entering the Halls of Galeria.
My plan now is to focus on building up the Halls of Galeria over the next month, and to make it worthwhile visiting!
Before outlining what this project will entail, I think it’s important to consider the current social climate we find ourselves in, and the restrictions placed upon us. When approaching this project, due to the uncertainty brought into our lives these past two years, I won’t provide a clear-cut output. Instead I want to spend the proposal outlining my initial image creation, my principles and my thoughts, heading into this project.
As a child I lived my life online, racing home from school everyday to spend my time in digital worlds, video games, chat rooms, and forums. As Australians have become more digitally literate, acceptance of internet culture has been growing, and with everyone locked down for the last two years, the concept of inhabiting digital spaces is now secondary to most people.
As I’ve spent more time online as an adult, I find myself increasingly divided on the benefits and dangers of having access to everyone, all of the time. I find myself enamored with the thousands of career options it presents, the endless wells of knowledge I can draw from, and that I have been able to exhibit my work to people all around the globe. This constant global connection though also leads to endless, cyclical arguments, and we can see them play out in real time, on twitter, in youtube comment sections, and in endless forums. It has also led to the polarization of political opinions, as well as giving extremist ideals space to take root and grow.
I am taking inspiration from modern interactive entertainment, and traditional tapestry storytelling methods for my designs. My intent is to personify online interactions we experience every day, using an aesthetic that harkens back to what we thought the internet could look like in the late nineties. Mixing this with the alegria design sensibilities, those blocky, gangly, flat figures set as the representatives for many a tech company. A grim take on corporate memphis and the utopian ideals fed to us by Silicon valley.
My intent though isn’t necessarily to skewer or parody these companies, or this particular artstyle. I intend to harness it’s ubiquity to create work that toes the line between familiar and unsettling. I want to take this style of corporate memphis, or Alegria as it is known in the industry, and use it as a tool for art, repurposing an overused commercial tool for a more meaningful artistic purpose.
Designs will be created in adobe illustrator, using the same tools as designers gives a sense of authenticity to the work. Illustrator also lends itself to a very specific art making process, and works well whether remaining digital or being screen printed, allowing flexibility. I studied graphic design in my early twenties and had a great love for Illustrator, but it is something I haven’t touched since I began studying fine art.
My work will be digital first, physical second. These are works that are born from internet culture, and as such belong to it. I want to appreciate the internet for what it can be at its best, when it embodies the ideals of print. While commenting on the more toxic behaviors and ideals the internet can harbour.
Artists who will influence my work include Jess Johnson, or @flesh_dozer as she is known online, her work creates digital worlds, full of fractal repetition and fleshy depictions of human bodies. Brian Tessler or @cool3dworlds also creates 3d worlds, but with a more disturbed, distorted approach. Both these artists have created living worlds through their images, attempting to capture the absurd reality of the internet, and digital space.