The project I am embarking on spans across my final year towards my degree and I have decided to share that journey with you here in the form of a research blog! This will be a space to document all of my scribbled down ideas, sketches and research all the way through to the development of my concept and final outcomes. I have titled my project ‘Comfort in Continuity’ as this felt like a very apt theme for the current times we all find ourselves in. I hope it can bring a little bit of comfort to those who come along on this journey with me!
Project title: Comfort in Continuity
Subtitle: A project exploring the comfort that can be drawn from realising and embracing the constants in our surroundings with a view to considering how a focus on what can’t be stopped can bring comfort in an increasingly restrictive world.
Aims: I aim to explore the constants in our environment which can be held onto regardless of anything else happening in the modern world. This would be done with a view to encouraging positivity and mindfulness by recognising the continuity, freedom and movement within nature and the environment.
Objectives: In order to do this I will carry out a range of reportage-based research. This will be done as a means of documenting the elements of our lives that cannot be restricted or taken away from us in the way we have all experienced in recent months. I could also use questionnaires as a way of gathering information about what a range of individuals have taken comfort in in recent times and consider how I could illustrate this to encourage and share this comfort with others.
The Brief: Produce a tangible object which exhibits a range of illustrations, in an interactive way, in order to engage the public with the idea of finding comfort in continuity. In order to do this a range of research on themes such as mindfulness, nature and movement should be carried out. This should be done by gaining an understanding of the impact of mindfulness and self comfort on mental health as well as gathering a range of views on what brings comfort to the general public in trying times. A wide range of reportage should also be complete in order to document movement and continuity in the environment of Portsmouth in order to explore the impact of encouraging the audience to observe and interact with an unstoppable environment.
Medium: I would explore mediums which lend themselves to fast gestural images which convey movement, such as ink, pen, watercolour, gouache and graphite. These mediums could then be adapted digitally for a more refined style to feature on an outcome which could be a tangible, interactive object.
Initial research sources:
Oxford Mindfulness Centre https://oxfordmindfulness.org
Mindfulness: Where It Comes From And What It Means – book by Sarah Shaw
Comfort Theory and Practice: A Vision for Holistic Health Care and Research – Katharine Kolcaba PhD, RN, C – Springer Publishing Company, 30 Dec 2002
For this self directed project, I have given myself the title Comfort in Continuity. I want to use this project to explore the elements of our lives which cannot be restricted, as we have all been experiencing during these Covid-19-driven times. To do this I am beginning my research by considering themes such as mindfulness as well as using reportage as a method of observing people and how their movement, creativity and connection with nature cannot be stopped.
To underpin my ideas I have been looking into the concept of mindfulness as well as it’s origins and role in mental health.
The Mindfulness Book by Martyn Newman
Upon the advice of my lecturers and peers I decided to try sketchnoting as a method of visualising the information I gather through my research. Here I used it to look into the psychological side of mindfulness in order to get a grasp of how the ideas of mindfulness could be used to further my project. I found lots of information in Yi-Yuan Tang’s book ‘The Neuroscience of Mindfulness Meditation’ which has made me think about how the mind can be cultivated through, what are essentially, very basic techniques.
The Neuroscience of Mindfulness Meditation by Yi-Yuan Tang
When reflecting on some of my initial reportage this image stood out as something that resonated with me and made me think. I wondered what this man might have been thinking about as he sat alone looking out at the sea. So I took the image to procreate, added a dash of colour and put my mind to all the things he might have been thinking about. I played with quick, jotted typography to display a range of possible flickering thoughts and used block colour to physically separate them from the sea which could act as an object of sensory focus to distract from the thoughts.
Having considered ideas of mindful meditation and its reliance on attention control (focus on an object via the senses) I explored how the sea could be an object of focus in this process. I looked at research suggesting the sea has a positive impact on mental health. I considered Wallace Nichols’ ideas of ‘blue mind’ which suggest, as humans, we have a deep biological connection to water which allows it to trigger positive, anxiety-reducing responses. I then created a visual response exploring how sensory focus on the waves could allow someone to pause and reflect on their thought processes.
Blue Mind by Wallace Nichols
I have researched preoccupation as a means of understanding the current issues people are dealing with that could potentially begin to be addressed through mindfulness. This is shown through studies such as The Mental Health Foundation’s Mental Health in The Pandemic study. I also asked some questions to my instagram followers to get an idea of their current worries as well as things that help them and make them feel calm.
Here I explored the responses to the questions I asked on instagram. I tried working larger with this experiment to make it more expressive and impactful. The deepest area features the responses about what people are worried about at the moment. I did this as a way of displaying them as waves of these thoughts crashing in and disrupting our lives. However, the waves dissipate and soften out as the responses to things and places ,which are calming, come into the picture.
To provide visual inspiration for how typography could be applied to my work, I
looked at the work of Corita Kent. I took influence from her use of scale and layering when creating experiments with hand lettering. This is something I would like to take forward and refine within my project.
Experimentation with Lino to explore wave formation. This would be a relatively easily reproducible format for an outcome, however it may be too time consuming for this project.
I am beginning to explore how creativity can act as a means of nurture in these trying times. I have used images of myself and my mum creating with calming colour schemes in order to play with this idea.
Exploring the elements of our lives we can hold onto despite anything else going on.
Having researched the Artists’ book as a genre I feel I have gained an understanding of its context and purpose for an artist. Therefore, I have decided it would be a suitable platform for my ideas. The nature of this art form allows the artist complete control over the outcome, yet it is still something I could reproduce for more people to experience. I think this would be perfect at this point in my journey as an Illustrator as it will allow me to create a full collection of pages which show who I am and what I am capable of creating as I near the end of university.
Therefore, I have experimented with different structures and book binding methods. I am also considering how the metaphor of the sea as a catalyst for calm (as previously established in my research) could be portrayed through the physical structure of the book. However, I need to continue to experiment with this as I don’t want this to undermine the structural integrity of an outcome.
Having decided on the Artist’s book as an apt platform for my ideas, I decided to write a book description in order to figure out exactly what I want the book to be about and what I want it to achieve so that I can keep this in mind going forward with my work.
An experiment with how the structure of waves as a metaphor for calm could be portrayed through hand cut pages.
Initial ideas in procreate for how hand lettering and illustrations could be applied to the structure. However, going forward I may need to adapt this to create more space to explore the images.
I created a prototype to explore how it could function at full size. I have also started to create pages in this landscape design which suits the structure and images more. The feedback I received based upon this prototype was useful in giving me confidence in the concept. It was also suggested that the cut out elements could be further refined by experimenting with different materials, so I will explore this further.
I have developed more of my ideas into pages for the book and have received positive feedback on the style and calming colour schemes. Therefore, from here I will continue to develop all of my ideas into pages and refine from there.
I have explored all of my ideas visually as pages for the book. Based upon feedback, it is clear some tweaks and adaptions to typography should be made.
Based upon the feedback from my prototype review, I have experimented further with the structure. While the cut out cover created a pleasing aesthetic, I have made the decision to adapt this as I have not been able to create this in a way that doesn’t feel to fragile and I want the book to have longevity and be able to be flicked through time and time again. Therefore, I have also introduced a spine to the book cover in order to maintain and protect the more delicate wave structures within the pages.
I have created another prototype to explore how the pages and structure would all come together. I am pleased with this way of doing the cover as it allows that cut out element and a peak into the intricate paper cutting within, but still holds its structure and protects the book. I also feel this binding method allows the binding to become part of the design and complements the waves, rather than just solely being a means of holding it together.
I also feel that seeing the pages all slotted in and in order has given me an idea of the flow of the book and I think the randomly dotted nature of all these little waves works perfectly to catch all types of people’s attention and regular intervals.
Here I have used the cyanotype process to apply a design to cotton cloth which can cover the book cover. I think this is a successful method to take forward as it maintains the soft, tactile experience I want from the book due to the cloth. It also suits the metaphor of the waves running throughout the piece. However, going forward I will add my name to the cover design and ensure it is applied more centrally.