(v) to naysay, to catastrophise
In November 2017 I’ve started to prepare my final project for my degree, collected the pieces, formed them the way I wanted them, photographed and edited. My general progress. I experimented with paper and did everything in order to start in March 2018.
However, in February a well-known artist announced to do precisely the same project. I knew I couldn’t go through with it even after all this time and work because I wasn’t able to compete with someone who has 300k+ followers. I was crushed, I slipped into a hole of negativity and darkness questioning not only my project but my work and myself as an artist. For me, the glass was more than half empty I was caught up in my head in this negativity. I found no words for how I felt, didn’t know how to describe to my friends what I was going through. My words got lost in translation.
Some might know that I’m from Germany, and there is a word to describe my feelings, but the expression wasn’t existing in English: ‘SCHWARZMALEN’. When I tried to explain it, I went for the most literal translation ‘drawing black’, but no one really understood.
I asked myself: why not draw it?
So I started to paint the objects from my original project black, embracing the negativity, the pessimistic and depressing thoughts that SCHWARZMALEN described. I drew black for over a month now, and it was the most creative, emotional and personal project I’ve made to this point.
After three weeks of work, I started the fourth and last card, next to ‘Orchid Blossom’ and under the Green one. This card called ‘Lightest Sky’ took much longer to prepare than the others, because it had so many details. The measuring and transferring of the outlines of the rough edges onto the paper took me most of the time.
The second half, the black sections when a lot easier at this point, since they were quite the same in all cards and I got used to the structure and needed less double checking with those elements. As for the previous one did I start at the bottom part and worked clockwise to the top. I decided the card roughly in four quarters and drew in each the most difficult elements first and then the easier ones. This was the best method for me since I needed much more focus for the splatter and brush marks and once I felt tired or less focused, I moved on to the darker areas that were less complicated.
Once I was finished with each of the biro cards, I removed the protection sheets that I have put on each card ones they were finished (to protect the image but also to stay focused). After that, I moved on to the coloured parts.
The third card was the green one next to the ‘Peony’ one. It began the same way as the two previous ones with the preparation, measuring and pre-drawing. However due to the size of the paper and the limited space I had in my flat, was the
only way to draw the other two cards to flip the table top, because I did not want to turn the paper because it was taped onto the table and I did not want to move it.
So instead of working from top to bottom, I
worked from the bottom to the top of the card. However, I have not change the rest of the process, preparation and pre-drawings and then working f
rom section to section.
With the sections with the third one, I had to work again from brush mark to brushmark instead of creases because the card was not divided by any. The tricky point was to stay track of the lines and to spare highlights in the black paint.
A major problem I faced was the time each of the individual card drawings took, and since all the ballpoint parts were mainly black and took me very long. I quite struggled with this aspect sitting on the whole image already longer than 78 hours.
This is when I realised that I could not produce a larger series of drawings (more than two) and focused on the main motive ‘Schwarzmalen’.
Each of the cards started the same way:
I used the photoshop file in the dimensions 1:1 of the paper and measured and transferred the outlines and primary elements with a pencil onto the paper.
The second image was the ‘Orchid Blossom’ coloured one which was under the ‘Peony’ one. I started it the same as the first I worked from top to bottom. I also drew the brush pattern on the edges first in each section to ensure that I would not confuse parts and draw over the edges. The sections of this one where much bigger than the first one, because one crease was in the middle and the bottom part was not creased at all. I would look for significant brushmarks that were darker or lighter to stay focused and draw the right part. But I still used the actual card because even though that I worked from a high-resolution image some parts were to flat and on the real card it was easier to figure out if something went down or up, needed to be darker or lighter.Something I did to all cards was to add a Layer of light circled over the top. This technique made the parts look more like they belong together. It also was a technique to bland the individual brush together and add shadows or highlights. For shadows, I had to build up several layers over each other of highlights I had to leave parts out.
I stated the Schwarzmalen picture with the top left drawing the ‘Peony’ coloured one. I began with the drawing the outlines and details with pencils onto the paper. I based everything one the photoshop file that I have previously created in the dimensions 1:1 to get dimensions right. Once that was done I started to measure each crease, splatter and brush movement of the black paint. After I had finished the preparation and pre-drawing, I started with the actual drawing. I moved from the top to the bottom of the card and from the most out parts to the inside. I worked in sections, I one section began for example at the top of the card and went all the way to the next crease in the paper. I moved like that over the paper all the way to the bottom.
It was, in general, easier to first draw the spatter pattern on the edges of the paint and then to fill in the rest of the drawing. I also decided to finish first all of the ballpoint parts of all cards and then move on to the coloured pencil parts.
Because one of the problems with using a biro for drawing is that it can smudge when the pen did not dry completely, So once I finished a part I covered it with paper to make sure it is protected from smudging but also other things.
Three different papers/brands suited my criteria, all were smooth and hot pressed:
Arches : Aquarelle : Roll : 140lb : 300gsm : 1.13x9m : Hot Pressed
The watercolour paper is acid-free and chlorine free, made of 100% cotton fibres which provide strength and stability. The paper comes in a tube, is scrubbing, scratching and erasing resistant without fading. The paper uses no brighteners and is from a natural white, that will not turn yellow with time. Arches Aquarelle is suited for watercolour, gouache, pen and ink, acrylics and calligraphy.
Both biro and coloured pencil worked very good on the paper, the colours were vibrant, the surface smooth as was the flow of the biro. I choose this paper for the project because it convinced in every category as was it available for order as a roll.
Fabriano : Artistico : Roll : 4.5x33ft : 1.4x10m : 140lb : 300gsm : Hot Pressed
As Arches is Fabriano acid-free and chlorine free, made of 100% cotton fibres. The paper comes in as well in a tube, is scrubbing, scratching and erasing resistant without fading, uses no brighteners, is naturally white, and age resistant. Different from the arches paper is this paper watermarked: “FABRIANO+ARTISTICO” on the short side. The paper is suited for watercolour, tempera, gouache, acrylic, ink, charcoal, graphite and drawing and printmaking.
The paper from Fabriano was very white which I disliked, as well as the fact that the watermark was very dominant on the big sheet and would disturb from the actual drawing. Otherwise was it very similar to the Arches paper.
Saunders Waterford : Roll : 300gsm : 140lb : 1.52x10m : Hot Pressed
Is as well a watercolour paper made of 100% cotton fibre, acid-free and chlorine free, however with more structure than the other two, because is made in a cylinder mould. The paper comes as well in a tube, is scrubbing, scratching and erasing resistant without fading. Waterford uses no brighteners, is naturally white, and will not turn yellow, it is suited for watercolour, gouache, pen and ink, acrylics and calligraphy.
The Waterford paper, which I used for many previous projects where I only used biro did not convince me. The sheet was not suited for the colour pencils due to its rough grain structure even though I chose HP.
When I started to scan the illustrations, I planned to make two Cover designs and decide between the two for one.
When I added the cup to the design template and added all the other information as title, author and book information I was not sure about the size of the cup. I made the cover in two versions a bigger and smaller cup version. For the font, I used Avenir, a geometric sans-serif typeface. The French word “Avenir” means future. The font was designed by the Swiss typeface designer Adrian Frutiger. For me, the word fitted the time aspect that is the main theme in Hawking’s book. The combination of the old cup and the new font is a design choice I did on purpose. Not only do I think the font goes well with the design but also with the meaning, it adds a nearly poetic side to the cover. By using different sizes of the font, I give the content a visible hierarchy—titles and subtitles are bigger than other parts — to make parts stand out.
Before I finished the second Milky Way drawing, I used my test sketch to make a mock-up cover. The galaxy spreads here over the front to the back cover, in the darker areas are the info featured in a Chicago similar font called Silom. Chicago is the sans-serif typeface designed by Susan Kare for Apple Computer. Chicago was the first font to be developed for the Macintosh and is the closest font compared to the one Hawking uses on his, from Intel designs Computer device, which made the font perfect for the cover.
However, when I changed the image for the finished illustration, a problem occurred. There was less black space on the back cover and spine, which is why I had to come up with a solution so that the text is still visible. I added a white, half transparent box under the text, so the text was visible again.
When I finished the second cover I could not decide that I wanted to do as my final piece, so I thought about combining both ideas, and making a cover for both ideas. I started to experiment with both images, taking the cup and adding it to the Milky Way cover. The cup was flying now as an asteroid like piece through space.
This cover was my favourite; it combines both my ideas, are scientific and poetic.
During week three, I focused on finishing the drawings for the cover design:
The dotwork of the Milky Way consumed much more time than I first expected, it was difficult to keep track of the structures, and the sections I already finished. This was mainly due to the point that I was not used to the technique and to the motive itself. I was drawing from several reference pictures because I did not want to work from an image that I have not taken myself. However, could I not take an image of the Milky Way myself, so I had to work from reference pictures.
I finished the drawing the drawing, quite pleased with the illustration itself; I improved what I wanted to improve from my first sketch. The illustration was more detailed and more complex than the first one. The fact that it was drawing on an A3 sheet and not an A4 made it possible to reduce the illustration by 50 percent which made the illustration look even more detailed and finer because the dots got smaller and closer. This made the dots further on edge more look like as the Fogg they where supposed to depict in the first place.
While I was finishing the Milky Way piece, I started the cup drawing with the biro.
I worked from the pictures I made in the second week, using the second cup I broke. I started with the two biggest pieces and then arranged the rest of the fragments around those two pieces. I decided to leave shadows out because I liked the way the pieces seem to float in an undefined space. It made me think of space and asteroids that move through it. I moved the pieces on the paper, so they would fit onto it, however, since I planned to scan the illustration later into the computer was layout and composition not as important at this moment.