Exercise 5

Reflective practice

This brief asked me to start by reflecting upon the sorts of projects, exercises and assignments I have enjoyed most throughout this creative book design course. I browsed through my sketchbooks and my learning log to remind myself of each section and the tasks and work I have produced. As an immediate reaction, I realised how much I have learnt and how much my process has changed as a result of this learning. I certainly have much more of an appreciation for in-depth research and contextual understanding and using this to inform my own decision-making.

Do you enjoy the creative freedom of working with your own text and images from scratch, or do you prefer working with text and images that are provided to you?

I have had the chance to work with both images and text provided for me or found as second-hand sources, while also creating lots of my own text and imagery from scratch. One of my favourite sections of this unit was when I created both my own concrete poem using ‘Tango with Cows’ and a book version too, using imagery inspired by the text (this was also a chance to use some photos from a free online source and alter them to suit my work). In the three exercises – concrete poetry, sequencing images and collating and binding – I was able to both generate my own images and work from scratch, while also utilising words and images provided or found.

A recent example of a task where I created content from scratch was the printing exercise in part 5. I loved the freedom of using random words to generate imagery and then this led to me writing a rambling, poetic narrative – like a stream of thoughts or consciousness – to tie the images together.

Overall, I think I like to have a source of inspiration – whether this is a simple word or theme or another piece of work by someone else (or myself from the past) – and then use this as a starting point to generate imagery and words myself. Considering the final assignment coming up, I would like this to be a chance to generate my own imagery and words.

Do you prefer working in a ‘hands-on’ way, physically manipulating paper and materials, or do you prefer working digitally, laying out the pages and page elements on-screen?

Over the course of this unit, I have discovered that I prefer a mixture of hands-on and digital approaches. This has come as a surprise as I hadn’t had much experience with digital methods at all before beginning creative book design, however I have found that I love experimenting with the different tools and effects I can create, especially when I bring my own physical scanned work into digital software.

Another of my favourite exercises was experimental typography, where I played with the words from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. I had lots of fun physically manipulating the words and experimenting with hand-drawn typography, but I also tried out some digital methods too. It was brilliant to see the effects I could create and learn these new transferable skills.

I also enjoyed playing around with the double page spread exercise – my favourite part of this was, knowing the rules of grids and layout, being able to break them with experimental layouts. I gained more confidence using DTP software here, after lots of thumbnail sketching in my sketchbook.

The altered book was a huge task, where I think I showed my love of hands-on art methods. I enjoyed painting, cutting, folding, sticking, drawing and so many other methods to change the In the Garden Sara Midda book. Even in this task, I used some digital methods – I scanned in my drawings and made copies of these with different effects (saturation, brightness, contrast, hue etc.) so I could populate the pages more quickly.

In conclusion, I feel like a combination of both hands-on and digital methods can result in exciting book design. I hope to use both approaches in my final assignment.

Which of the subjects covered in this unit have interested and engaged you?

After going back through my work and looking at the research tasks and exercises, I have identified a few favourite areas – some of which I have already touched on in my previous answers:

  • Typography: I did not expect to become so interested in typography, but as soon as I began researching it in the type samples exercise, I’ve enjoyed learning more and more about it. Every task that has involved words, the manipulation of letters and words and sentences, has been thoroughly enjoyable, including the concrete poetry exploration, the good and bad typography books, and the experimental typography task.
  • Paper manipulation and collage: As something a little more specific, I have enjoyed working with paper – whether this be learning more about it and why paper choices are made, or folding it, cutting it, tearing it, burning it and sticking pieces together to form a collage. The experiments I did in the alternative publications task in part 1 were really fun and I have found that I am drawn to artists and their artists’ books that use collage in their work. My zine and the experimental typography task had elements of ripping things up or cutting text or images into pieces then assembling images. Of course, my altered book also used lots of cutting and folding too. I discovered the Turkish map fold in my collating and binding exercise in part 4.
  • Artists’ books and book fairs: Out of all the research I’ve done, I have been particularly drawn to artists’ books and book fairs. I like reading about the concept behind the book and I’ve been lucky enough to get my hands on a few as well. Some memorable examples include Ron King’s collaged Punch and Judy story, Sam Winston’s A Dictionary Story (a recent purchase) and Jean McEwan’s zines, which I found when exploring book fairs. They’re all so cleverly thought out and a joy to look through.

Next, the brief asked me to consider all the linked topics and elements of the five listed areas – contextualisation, typography, colour, paper, and printing and bookbinding – and also note down what I enjoyed the most and the least. Here are some notes I made for each area in my sketchbook:

From this, I had to identify a specific topic within one of these subject areas that I could look into in more detail. Using these notes and, also, from my previous reflections, I instantly knew I wanted to research visual or concrete poetry further; this has, without question, been one of the most interesting areas for me during creative book design. Some of my extra research and responses to tutor feedback has already linked to this area, as my Sam Winston blog post and my exploration of The Lost Weekend online book fair shows, but I want to explore some other examples and make this the theme of my final assignment.

I also have identified that I enjoyed exercises where I experimented with analogue and digital methods, so I feel like this has to be my approach for my final book too. It would be nice to combine some more traditional image creation and perhaps even text creation too (handwritten type perhaps) with digital methods. My research highlighted that I am drawn to artists and designers that use a mixture of methods too, so I can use their work as inspiration.

I’m very excited for this final assignment; I can’t wait to dive in! I’m sure it’ll be eye-opening to go through the whole process of producing a book from start to finish.

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