Hello, many of you will know me from previous posts that mum has written. I’m really excited to be writing for you today. I’ve been a little MIA just recently due to a never ending stream of university work. Last September, I started my Foundation Diploma at the University for the Creative Arts. I have loved every single minute of it…despite 80% of it being online. In fact, working from home actually suited me right down to the ground. I work best from home and get to spend my days in my lovely new studio doing what makes me happy:
I am about to start my final project of the year and of my qualification…and assuming I pass, I will be starting my degree in September at the same university.
An Untold Story
Anywho, I thought I’d share my latest project with you all. It was five week project on the theme of ‘An Untold Story’. I needed to choose a story that had never been told in print (online or on actual paper) and rediscover it and explore it in an entirely different way. The narrative I chose was a story both my mum and her brother had grown up with since they were little. In turn, my siblings and I were told it when we were young:
I was born in 1944 just at the end of world war 2. My father was a Lieutenant Colonel in the British army and he was awarded an OBE. He returned from the war with bad PTSD and was a very different person to the man who had left a few years previously. My memories of him when I was young were that he drank heavily and swore frequently. I was the youngest child, and very close to my mum, who was registered blind. As a young child I was timid and unsure. Animals and my imagination were my best friends.
I loved fairy tales and make believe. I liked nothing more than losing myself in exciting, happy, magical lands. I truly believed in it all, from Father Christmas (to whom I wrote letters every year) and the tooth fairy…
One Christmas, I had written a letter to Father Christmas and left it for him to collect in the upstairs chimney. On going upstairs in the morning I noticed through the doorways a fairy tugging at my note. I ran downstairs and told my mum and my sister, who followed me upstairs to find the fairy and the note had gone.
To this day, I still believe I saw a fairy.Granny
This was my ‘Untold Story’.
Research, Analysis and Artist’s Studies
I found that the project started slow. I had found my narrative but now I needed to show my tutor why I chose this particular story. The first objective was to research, analyse and compact the narrative to be exactly 200 words long. The research included learning all about what a story is, how a story can be communicated and the differences between a fiction story and a non fiction one. After this had been completed, I needed to do some artist studies. I chose to look at Cicely Mary Barker, the artist behind the well known Flower Fairies (my sister has made a Flower Fairy Quilt if you want some reference to what the Flower Fairies look like) and the Cottingley Fairies (made up photos of fairies by Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright).
Exploring the Narrative
The second week we started on some more artistic elements using words from the original narrative. The first exercise set by my tutor was to take the narrative and rearrange it it in a different way. I decided to explore the possibility that Granny, as a young girl, took herself into her make believe worlds to escape the difficulties in her life:
Following on from this, we had to take pages from a book and find a story within it…like taking an original narrative and twisting it to communicate with an audience:
This process helped us look under the original layer of our narratives and look for any hidden meanings. I didn’t enjoy these exercises, but I did know they were imperative to the project.
Explorative Concept Ideas
Meanwhile, I did some explorative work:
I created a concept board based on fairies and the true mythology. A concept board is full of sketches tentatively exploring the narrative:
I love this part of any project. Art absolutely lights up my world, and mum and dad are always encouraging me to down tools and relax because I often work late into the night. But art. I love it!
Since I got my iPad I have been doing less analogue work and more digital art. However, the concept exploration gave me the opportunity to get back to my roots – a paper and pencil
This was so much fun! I started out with a series of mini thumbnail sketches from which I chose six to recreate as photographs. This was a enjoyable part of the process as it was so free in its boundaries. It gave me an opportunity to explore new practices such as extreme make up and layering photos. I have picked my three favourites to share with you:
The image above represents my narrative from a dead person’s point of view. This gave me the opportunity to play around with the creative element of makeup. I drew a skeleton figure onto my own skin using a variety of makeups and then edited a dark red background to contrast the lightness of my skin. The final element of the image was to add a fairy skeleton which pulled the entire image together and gave it the spooky, horror element that I was looking for.
The image above was supposed to show my narrative from the Queen’s perspective. I wanted to use the current COVID situation in the world to explore my theme. I asked two of my friends to be a part of this, as well as enlisting the help of Charlotte. I had them dress up as Queen Elizabeth the second, Prince Phillip and the Fairy Queen. I wanted to screenshot each image from the skype call and edit them into a typical BBC news report.
The final image was supposed to represent my narrative from the point of view of six year old me. I used an image of Becs when she was six and surrounded her with mushrooms and fairies. The mushrooms and fairies are oversaturated to represent the lucid element to the image.
Exploring Maladaptive Dreaming
Moving forward I looked at the idea of maladaptive dreaming. This was a very heavy topic and I found it quite hard to explore in the depth I wanted. However, I did a couple of quick drawings based on my research. These pieces were quite simple in design but I liked how they added to my project.
The above piece shows a maladaptive dream. The girl is drawn in grey and is kept very bland. There is no colour detail suggesting a lack of colour in her life. Above her is her dream world or dream scape which is in full colour. This suggests that her dreams are a more preferable world than the one she is living in.
The second piece is a gouache piece done on canvas. This piece represents the darkness and sadness the girl is feeling that leads to maladaptive daydreaming and the idea of escapism.
Next, I explored the elements of layout, specifically magazine layouts. This was done using magazine cutouts and printed imagery. I focused on creating layouts in the aesthetic that I liked while considering what I had been taught in my morning lesson:
The final set exercises before completing the final pieces were easily my favourite and I felt very inspired by the outcomes. These exercises involved hardback books, ink, and a scalpel. Now I know what you’re thinking… a chaotic person with a sharp knife doesn’t sound safe! Don’t worry though, I was perfectly safe and I ended up with two fantastic pieces of art:
The above piece is simple and explored depth in art through the narrative. Although it isn’t obvious from the photo, each element is from a peerage page in the book. The pages that I haven’t used have been cut out to create layers in the piece.
The second piece is a pop up design inspired by more negative connotations of the narrative. I absolutely loved how this piece looked and how it it communicated the narrative. I was learning heaps.
The Final Pieces: A Faded Childhood
For this piece I used oil soaked cutouts of fairies, cardboard cutouts of humans and my fireplace. This piece came out so much better than I expected. It is set out in a photo series rather than focusing on drawing or traditional artistic techniques. The idea behind this was of watching one’s childhood fade away. That excitement and belief in magic and things we cannot see and other worlds…all gone in a poof of smoke. It holds a sad element for me as I am now an adult and I remember my childhood being the happiest days of my life. A vivid imagination allows for all these dreams and excitements without worrying about real life and how bleak the real world can be. This series represents this with the fairies burning and disappearing slowly before our very eyes.
Final Piece: Diorama
My second outcome was a diorama made of clay and cardboard. I made the fairies and and people out of polymer clay while creating the surrounding scene using cardboard. This diorama was done to show how the fairies were there in the girl‘s darkest time. The girl is looking through the door, focusing on the fairies and ignoring her drunk father in the dark corner. The diorama acts as an insight into the mind of the little girl, showing her reliance on the world of her dreams to cope with the world of her reality.
Lots of hours of work, but to be honest, it never feels like work at all. What a blessing to be able to do what I enjoy most all day long.