Creative Journal: January 2023

You should as a creative person constantly experience as much as you can so that when a brief comes you’ve got some inspiration already. The whole world gives you stuff to call on. Immerse yourself in the world of culture- both high and low.

Liam Gibson, art director

Happy New Year blog readers!

We are now reaching the end of January and it has occured to me that I can’t not record my creative activites and inspirations from this month. I will be reflecting and collecting my ideas in this blog post.

Ideas and inspirations are likely to float away if I don’t make an effort to catch and record them. This is a lesson I learnt during semester 1 of this academic year.

I’ve began a physical folder of collected printed material. It’s being filled with anything I like the look of. This might be the technique, material, colour or typography. Why didn’t I do this before? I didn’t know I came across so much printed material in my every day life, but this has been disproven. It’s filling quickly!


This month, I’ve been excited to start a printmaking course at City of Oxford College. I’ve decided to create a separate blog post for the coursework progession. Expect to see this in February.

Wood carving this month at City of Oxford College

I’ve picked up another hobby and with some regret- it’s an all consuming activity! Hours go by in a soothing hypnotism.

In my first project, I used satin stitch on a canvas paper. This stitch is used to fill in solid areas of colour. It isn’t a stitch I was confident in beforehand. With practice, I found the number of threads used in a single stitch made the greatest difference:

Beginning satin stitch

I am experimenting with different ways to fill in the areas, between solid single colours and varying the colours in an area. Also varying the direction of the stitch shows me what difference this makes to the overall piece.

I was inspired by the hand-lettered type used for posters by Sam Piyasena. I based this embroidery piece on What the World Needs Now. I used another designer’s design because I’m only at an emboirdery level of a beginner and therefore needed to practice the stitches before working on my own designs.

Further practice, following instructions from this youtube video.

This traditional practice allowed me to explore the various types of stitch (I can’t remember their names.)

Sketchbook Update

Recently, I’ve been mainly using my sketchbook to experiment with mixed media.

1 – Mark – making from printing ink and cut – out collage pieces

Below, I used scraps of paper from a printmaking session where I had placed the inky brayer down and accidently made these markings. I liked the textures so much that I thought it a shame to throw them away. In my sketchbook, I combined these marks with images from a magazine.

2 – Acrylic paint and cut-out collage pieces from magazine

3 – Exploring the concept of home

What makes a home? Is it simply the space you occupy.

Furniture pieces dissasembled and reassembled. I used white acrylic paint to represent spaceand the newsprint transfer technique. I used thicker paint for this piece.

4 – Trying this technique again with a thinner coat of the same paint

A thinner coat of paint transferred the newsprint more effectively. The aim of this piece came from a set project in the book Approach and Language, Ambrose/ Aono-Billson. The purpose was to create an image based on a set word-pair. This pair being ‘Hair-Suite’. When considering this brief, I looked at the different definitions of ‘suite’. A musical suite is a collection of musical pieces written to be played in succession. I followed this idea.

I used stitiching, collage and paint to illustrate a woman considering different hairstyles or reflecting on the various hairstyles she has had or will have.

Life Drawing @ Thursday Night Life

It was a pleasure to join the sketchers at Magadalen rd studios for the weekly drawing session. The studio had a warm and friendly atmosphere; providing boards, easels, advice and biscuits! I would highly recommend this group to anyone. I again used a mixture of materials to depict the model (who was impressively still). This is my usual method of switching up drawing tool constantly. I now wonder if this is a way of me avoiding dedication to one tool and stitcking with the challenges of that material. I usually like to see my drawings in different colours and textures out of curiosity.

Creative Writing

Hidden Spire is a creative collective based at Arts at the Old Fire Station in Oxford. For the first writing session, we took inspiration from the poet Marechera. I prefer appreciating and analysing literature than writing itself. This is only because I don’t feel talented or confident in my own writing. I was impressed to hear the prose poetry written by my fellow group members. Their individual voices came across and each with a different message to share, despite being given the same brief. Being part of a group discussion is something I greatly enjoy.

We looked at segments of Marechera’s work (below). I noticed that he expresses a state of day-dreaming which suddenly collides with the reality around him. This conflict seems painful for him. I like the clear imagery and honesty in his writing.

70’s song lyrics (David Bowie and Prince) helped to inspire us and get our minds into the era when Marechera would have been writing.

For encouragement, we were told to ‘write anything’. This helped me let go of self-critism. (Below) pages from my sketchbook.

Human Animals

Donna Mann’s exhibition at the Old Fire Station gallery captured my attention. Can you guess why? …Mixed media.

This show expressed our interconnectedness with all of life. I liked the element of things being hidden and things being revealed across the space. I felt that I was seeing the expression of life within its smaller details, such as the moth. My eyes made connections across the various elements of life that were placed beside one another.

The carbon of the stars became life on earth. Mann’s installation traces an exploration of healing, friendship and transformation.

Carbon love.

From dark matter to light.

Arts at the Old Fire Station
Victoria & Albert Museum

I took a trip to London and headed for the V&A for the Beatrix Potter exhibition. I took photos of the posters along the walls in the tunnel betweeen the underground and the museum. These are the designs that most appealed to me:

The V&A has a photography section which I visited first. From having completed the Exhibition Visual System module last semester, I took notice of the design of the exhibition. For example, the metal type used for the title of the exhibition (below). This was a perfect choice, since the exhibition focuses on industrial photography.

Artwork by Donna Ruff

Photos from the Beatrix Potter exhibition:

Graphic Design Reading Material

Reading novels is an automatic activity for me. (If you’re wondering, I finished The Buddha of Suburbia this month and have moved on to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein)

But this month, I have intentionally made more time to read a small selection of the many graphic design books I have laying around. Reading them carefully instead of dipping in at random allows me a greater understanding of the subject and helps me pick up ideas I would have otherwise missed. Reading about specific designers, their work and methods gave me the most satisfaction.

Wolfgang Weingart

The radical father of the New Wave movement, Weingart taught his students to move beyond the rational swiss typography of the time. ‘Weingart reacted to existing standards by pushing typography to the limits of legibility and beyond.’

Wolfgang Weingart
Crystal Goblet Analyogy

The essay The Crystal Goblet by Beatrice Warde is an articulate piece of writing describing good design. Warde illustrates this idea using the metaphor of a wine glass. She suggests that we use a wine glass to be able to see and therefore appreciate the appearance of the wine as part of its enjoyment. An opaque cup would hide the appearance. Good design highlights the message and content. A well chosen type means we wouldn’t notice the choice of type. An ill chosen type would stick out awkwardly.

Poster, Ausstellung Europäisches Kunstgewerbe (Exhibition of European Applied Arts), 1927; Herbert Bayer; Lithograph;

I really like this bold and obvious use of the modular grid.

Fabien Baron

Editorial design in different publications. I really like his use of type and the way it merges into being illustration as well as the heading. Images from this page.

Rachel Anderson

Rachel Anderson is a young designer based in Florida. I like her designs based on the work of Tibor Kalman. The design was inspired by his work.

Thirst/ Rick Valicenti

Rick Valicenti’s design combines the weapon and the effect of violence in these powerful images using skulls.

Stop the Violence (book and trailer) by Rick Valicenti

Castle/Dream Factory

One nice way to spend a Sunday: strolling around town and visiting an exhibition. After a year of living in Oxford, I had never seen the castle. I thought there were maybe a few ruins but I didn’t expect to see the full building (below left) in all its ancient glory.

Why have I just discovered the castle? I was on my way to the OVADA art gallery. My only visit to the gallery previously was to see it empty between exhibitions. This time the building was full of art, how good this was to see.

The fact that it was so hard to find, only made it more of an adventure.

I caught the end of the 3-day exhibition, Dream Factory. This exhibition presented work by BROOKES MFA students. While I may not be able to credit each artist individually, here is a list of the artists involved (below right).

(below image) The OVADA warehouse is a unique space. It’s interesting to see the work in these surroundings. It gives a totally different feel to art that’s presented in a plain white gallery space. Sometimes the art blended into the roughness of the warehouse and with other pieces there was a bold contrast that I really liked.

Dream Factory Exhibition, OVADA gallery
video installation by Alamelu Annamalai (@alamelu24), projected onto book pages.

I loved the way the type moved across the page, just long enough to grasp.

Artwork by Deborah Pill

I felt these slates represent us. ‘The blank slate’ being the possibilities of everything we could be. Deborah has used sand to represent the things that happen to us. The shifting things we have no control over. The life changes we all face, but more recently the covid pandemic.

Paintings by Yolande Wyer

I found Yolande’s paintings amazingly light and delicate. This impressed me because I can see the patience and gentleness needed to paint them, which is the opposite to how I approach drawings. The way the light shines through the cellular structures is so beautiful to me.

Sculpture by Emmett Casley.

(above) Don’t they look so at home in OVADA? Emmett is inspired by the weathering of forms over time. I was drawn to the strength of the material and the colour of rust which is one of my favourite colours. I saw this piece as a representation of a person growing from a small child into an adult and the effect of that journey emotionally and mentally.

Lastly, these colourful squares were beautiful. The artist used a combination of reflective, iridescent, transparent and matt surfaces within the work. I loved how each tile was tilted at a different angle, creating chaos. I wanted to be in a room full of them.

Artwork by Siobhan Cooney.

I didn’t photograph every artwork, but the rest were equally impressive. Every work felt like it belonged, even though they came from different minds.

London Design Museum- Waste Age: What can design do?

First a bit of London…

Looking at Gothic architecture in Kensington. These elaborate buildings are based in the same area of London. The architecture makes me want to explore the inside of the buildings.

Downstairs in the design museum, I found the exhibition Waste Age: What can design do? At first, I was not sure what connection the exhibition would make between the climate crisis and design. I was not disappointed.

It was an emotional experience, but equally insightful. This exhibition forced me to think about the origins of the objects we see around us everyday and what happens to them after they are thrown away.

I was happy that I had seen Designer Maker User before Waste Age because I first was focusing on the designs rather than the affect of the materials on the planet. If I had seen Waste Age first, these ideas would have influenced the way I looked at the objects upstairs.

Everyday objects were placed on a plinth in the centre of the room, upon entering the exhibition.

It was overwhelming to be surrounding by so many familiar objects that are made of plastic.

This poster was originally in a magazine, advertising polystyrene cups. It was shocking to see that their disposable quality was their selling point.

Textile woven from industrial waste. (above and below)

One section of the exhibition displayed many objects made from recycled materials. Also on display were designs which aim to lower our impact on the planet. The exhibition is about re-thinking how we design, then make and use objects. A video showed us interviews with people in the design industry, discussing changes we could make. One person commented on the fact that human’s behaviour goes against nature. Where other animals do not leave behind waste that can’t be broken down or re-used, we do.

My first response when seeing so many objects made from recycling materials, is ‘why isn’t this done everywhere, since we know it is possible?’

These prints are made using waste ink. I really like the designs. They are clever and eye-catching. The words visually get across the meaning by the way they are laid out on the page.

One thought I was left with after the exhibition:

Plastic has only come into use during my mum’s lifetime. In such as short period we have done so much harm. But people are working on the solutions every day. For the short amount of time plastics have been in use, an even shorter amount of time has been spent researching technologies and designs to help us undo the mess we are in. We may need to go back to some of the old ways. People turned to throw-away design solutions for convenience. During the Covid-19 pandemic, public health and hygiene has been the reason for creating even more waste. We have something to overcome which is a mental attitude of how we approach the problem. It is the responsibility of designers and users. But we also need data. The data to figure out which is worse: throwing away a plastic cup or producing recycled cups which takes energy to manufacture.