Exercise 4


This brief asked me to create images by being experimental, using words like ‘spontaneity’ and ‘fluidity’, encouraging me to embrace mistakes and mess in this process. As I’m getting closer to my final assignment, I think the purpose behind this was to loosen up and play around a little. The brief also stated I could use images from other parts of the course, but I liked the idea of a day of random creation and seeing what I could work with.

The brief also talked about embracing ways of working that result from mistakes, or from repeatedly trialling certain materials or methods. I had all my materials around me so that I could test out different approaches and pursue the ones I felt were successful. I also wanted to keep things free and try as many different methods and materials as possible.

To give this creation process a bit of a focus, I went onto randomwordgenerator.com (accessed 10/04/21) and printed out lots of words as creative prompts. I cut these up, folded them and placed them into a container, so I could pick one out and create some imagery from this. Again, I didn’t intend this to restrict me – I just wanted some inspiration and direction so I could mess around with materials and imagery.

After a day of generating images, I scanned these ready to play with digitally. Here are some photographs before I scanned them in, along with my list of words:

During this process of active experimentation, I found that some words prompted me to create something more abstract, perhaps textural or simply blocks of colour. The ‘twilight’ and ‘entertainment’ and ‘sea’ prompts were all very messy, abstract splotches. One of my accidental discoveries was that the kitchen roll I was using to blot my paintbrush looked really interesting – I decided to use this as a piece for the ‘twilight’ prompt. My wrapping paper collage is one of my favourites – I mainly used off-cuts and went where the shapes took me.

Other words gave me something specific, and I often instinctively wanted to choose a biro or fine liner for these. I pushed myself to experiment with paint, collage, crayons and other materials too. I mixed up materials – like the apple, using permanent marker and paint, or the pointing hand, using paint, biro and fine liners. I think the more I combined materials – often messier with refined – I found this produced the most pleasing and interesting results, so I pursued these combinations further.

My continuous line drawings were an active form of experimentation too – I did one drawing of a frog, then tried another with more colours because it had worked really well.

At this point, the brief lists some questions to consider:

  • What order will the images appear in?
  • At what size?
  • How will the image appear on the page?
  • Which paper will you use for which image?
  • Do you have a particular image in mind for a particular piece of paper?
  • Will you try printing the same image on different pieces of paper?

I started by considering narrative and order. How was I going to bring all these random images together somehow cohesively? I played around with a few ways I could contrast man-made with natural, which seemed like an interesting route to take. However, I then had a spark of information when reading through my random words again. I started writing a poem-like narrative, kind of like a thought process really, that incorporated each random word. It seemed like a fun way to do things, plus I have been so inspired by some of the poetry I’ve been reading lately, including Victoria Bean and Sam Winston, as well as Rupi Kaur, one of my favourites.

With this idea in mind, I began playing with page layout ideas – very basic thumbnails – considering how I could use my random images and words to create the 16 images to print. Gathering these ideas together, I sketched out each page – kind of a quick flatplan – with the image positioning and the text I was going to use. I wanted to refer back to these ideas, but I also didn’t want to stick to them religiously, as I often find I can stumble across something better when I’m experimenting with digital methods.

I altered the size of images, considered hue, brightness, contrast, saturation and other adjustments too, as well as using my words as imagery themselves (especially on the education page, with ‘abc’ in the background). My only consistency in the images is the type choice – I felt like I was throwing enough variation at the pages and didn’t want it all to look like a total mess, so I stuck to one type. I chose something sans-serif, fairly round and friendly, but also quite modern – I guess because my thought ramblings seemed like quite a modern piece of poetry. It looks digital, rather than traditionally printed, which was also a deliberate choice to clash with the tactile, handmade images.

All my final images were created as A4, mainly because my printer is set up for A4 and most of my paper that I collected earlier was A4 too. In hindsight, it makes the rambling seem like a school sketchbook or notepad, with doodles surrounding them.

As I created the images, I thought about which papers I might use for each one. I was excited to try printing on tracing paper, and I had several other samples from the earlier exercise, included squared, graph and lined paper, rougher sketchbook paper, wrapping paper, brown paper, card, coloured paper of varying weights and a few others too. The ‘flow’ and ‘sea’ images seemed like good choices for the tracing paper – the cloudy translucent quality would fit nicely with the theme of the image and words, reinforcing the message. The wrapping paper had to be used for the ‘wrap’ image! I liked the rougher, more natural papers for the images containing leaves or creatures. The lined, graph and squared paper remind me of school, so I knew I wanted to use one for the ‘education’ image. My notes are below.

When printing, I only had one real error – surprisingly, because my printer is notoriously difficult! The shiny yellow card was too thick and got jammed, so I didn’t end up using this. Everything else printed well!

My favourite papers to print on were the tracing paper, the lined, squared and graph paper, and the brown wrapping paper. Just to note, there are some lines on most of the images – potentially my printer getting low on ink or not being at its best (certainly not a professional job!)

Tracing paper – I loved the cloudiness and translucency and how this worked with the images. Holding them up to the light is a real joy – the colours come to life and this adds something to the experience. I also like the texture; it feels almost waxy and more fragile, which I felt suited the first ‘message’ page quite nicely.

Lined paper – Good quality paper to print on and a nice thickness overall. The lines instantly make me think of school, so it pairs well with the ‘education’ page. I also like how the holes mean that some of the image is missing.

Squared paper – Again, good thickness and texture. The ‘unfair’ image is probably one of my favourites – I chose the square because I thought about unfairness in terms of education, representation and statistics, but also it worked perfectly to show conformity in neat rows and columns which clashes with the protesting fists and the falling letters of the word ‘unfair’.

Graph paper – A little thinner, with fainter lines – not intrusive or very eye-catching, but an interesting effect. It works quite nicely with the arrows and ticks in the ‘preference’ image. I also pictured lots of people pointing to graphs and charts. The thin texture gave the ‘flow’ image a similar effect to tracing paper – I thought the contrast of graph paper with ‘flowing’ would be interesting to look at.

Brown wrapping paper – Lovely, crinkly texture and quite thin paper, which adds texture and sound to the reading experience. I chose it for the ‘belt’ image because it seemed to match colour-wise and I also think of ‘buckle up’ as quite an old phrase (not sure why!) so the brown felt appropriate. The images printed really well on this paper too – hardly any imperfections and really strong colours (although this image was rather minimal in colours).

Coloured paper – Some of the coloured paper worked well, but some was perhaps too dominating for the image. I think the purple with the ‘heavy’ image is appropriate – it reinforces the idea I was trying to get across. It’s also pleasing to have the texture of kitchen roll printed on this rough, heavy paper too. I wasn’t so keen on the orange for the ‘entertainment’ image, but I did rather like it for the ‘long’ image – it has an effect on the image you print, by bringing certain colours into the foreground and completely changing others. For the long image, most of the colours could hold up against the strong orange or be enhanced by them – this wasn’t the case for the ‘entertainment’ image. The green page for frog leap worked well – the green was not as strong as a colour, and I mostly had green images and text on the page anyway, while the reds and oranges contrasted.

Wrapping paper – I like the texture of the wrapping paper – it’s a little smoother and kind of shiny too. I printed on the blank side. Mostly it printed fine (and the colours work perfectly with the back of the page!) but there are little marks where the ink seems to have slipped or the paper got stuck for a fraction of a second. Perhaps this is reflective of the smooth surface – it didn’t have enough grip to move through the printer consistently. There are a few little marks where the wrapping paper was previously folded too.

Brown kraft paper/thin card – This worked perfectly and I was pleased with my choice of the ‘small’ image for this colour. The greens work really well with the brown paper. It has a bit of texture too which gives it a natural feel.

Sketchbook paper – Printing on this paper worked quite nicely, with a lovely textured look and feel, but still quite strong blocks of colour. Printing my ‘pavement’ image with the ring-binding holes at the bottom of the page was definitely a mistake – this makes the text even more difficult to read (I felt like having the text ‘spring up’ from the bottom, but this actually makes reading the phrase odd and not at all easy to decipher). I think if I were to design any image again, I would go back and change this one to make it simpler to follow.

I also printed on my normal white A4 printer paper, which is 75gsm. This worked well, with strong colours and no real marks (apart from some lining). It was interesting to compare this to the other pages – some had more texture, which resulted in the images being slightly more textured, while others were smoother, which sometimes caused issues with printing.

I really enjoyed the fun, playful experimentation that was required of me in this exercise. It was refreshing to create something random and see how the different images worked with the various paper samples. My appreciation for the feel of a page has definitely increased and I am more aware of how a paper can help communicate a message; I hope I demonstrated that with some of my choices here.

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