Exercise Using Reference~ The Man in The Chair ~ Starting Point
Week beginning ~ 23 March 2015
I started by thinking about the fifties in reality and not the nouveau-celebrity Happy-Days perception that we have of that era. I thought about London and the great changes that occurred. The new wave of migrants, the struggle for working class families, the young who were just discovering freedom and a more egalitarian education. I wanted to find realistic imagery not fly-by-night unimportant frivolity. However, I soon realised the fifties were driven by the new and exciting post war era of globalisation. I thought about the median and so I looked for content that would describe a youngish middle class English person who might be part of this burgeoning modern world and new way of thinking. I grabbed imagery that I thought reflected a socially aware but reasonably ordinary man in his late 20s or early 30s. He may still live at home with his parents and family or maybe he has a wife and a home of his own. Anyway with that in mind I cobbled together a few moodboards based on the list required by the exercise.
For the first set of moodboards above I sought realism and some quirk. I found really lovely objects that I recognised from similar 60s and 70s products that were still around when I was a child. The National Health milk powder really struck me. I remembered my mum having the orange juice concentrate that was also from the welfare foods department, she told me that she had the milk powder too. Receiving these items was a given after the war and the tail end of rationing. I loved the Marmite advertisement, it was so whimsical. At the time Marmite was heralded as a health spread to every mother and family in England. Of course now its considered too high in salt and is recommended with caution… The literature was also focal point for me as I consider it to be an era of open discovery. I think the seminal novels of the era, for example Jack Kerouac’s ‘On The Road’, really shaped the upcoming sixties and its relative permissiveness. However ‘Fahrenheit 451’ by Ray Bradbury speaks volumes of a brutal reality that evolved from world war two and remains with all its pernicious deceit in this second millennium.
In this second set of moodboards I looked for both the ordinary and the idealistic. I chose Alfred Hitchcock as he was such a visual character both through his films and his eccentricity. I had picked out one of Saul Bass’s Hitchcock posters in the Graphics set which reminded me to include the man himself as he often did in his own films (by the way, Saul Bass was a genius)… I stuck Eisenhower in there too, as American politics had such profound effect on the west in the 50s. I wish it were not the case as I indicated previously, however there it was loud and clear US popular culture and political dominance in its most profound form… In the set of Film images I tried to be eclectic I picked some seminal movies including one of my favourite films from my late teens, Orphee by Jean Cocteau. It was so hipster really, the film was just one long gorgeous french fashion parade. But what I really loved most in this second set is the Transport board. The little London bus tickets were still in operation until I was about 20 and the underground map graphic hasn’t changed much even though new lines have been added over the years…
So with all this and more in mind I set about creating the man in the chair….
Week beginning ~ 30 March 2015
I grabbed a large sheet of reasonable cartridge paper and I began by sketching the objects that appealed to me most, first came the Marmite jar. I was fascinated by the slow packaging transition from the late 19th Century to the present day. I thought the Fifties version was really whimsical and the advertisement for it even more enchanting (click on the moodboards for detail and use the zoom tool ~ they’re fairly high res).
The sheet above came mostly from the transport and Architecture moodboards, I really loved the tube map, I loved Edward Johnston’s typographic design and Harrys Beck’s info graphics in my old graphic life. still think together they produced organisational visual genius. I knew I wanted to include the underground map alongside the marmite and the the crockery I chose to sketch. The two little squares with squiggles were for surface reference, as I needed a chair and a table. I had chosen the kitchen as the most likely room to convey my musings from the collective research. I also drafted some other elements in my sketchbook. I printed out my mood boards tore out relevant bits and stuck them in my sketchbook along with imagery I found of dudes sitting around in the fifties, plus my new favourite bit of fifties furniture, the kitsch wall clock.
Week beginning ~ 06 April 2015
I now had a collection of elements and I needed to think about the composition. What, where and why?
At this point I headed off to digital land. I scanned in all the components and tried out some compositional layout. Then I printed off a few variants and started to sketch,copy and trace… I composited a mash up of some interior shots and my sketches that I warped into perspective. It is a rather with a peculiar composition. From that point I did the usual scribbly on the back and transfer through thing that I often do. I think it gives me a bit more confidence to keep going once I have made some kind of mark or something akin to that anyway…
I played around from here, since I had the weird mash up image (which is an A5 size). I thought the best way forward would be to tile the image up and draw or trace from there. Just some minor adjustments on the way…
Week beginning ~ 13 April 2015
Realising the Exercise
I got to doing that old thing of overlapping and tracing again, going back into my marks and working over things. I think it makes me believe that I can come up with a solution. Anyway I tiled up massively, overlayed two bonded sheets of layout paper and proceeded to trace using a fineliner, a brush pen and a fountain pen…
I really wanted The Man in The Chair to be a sort of beatnik who wasn’t quite able to go the whole hog, but could have maybe watched films like the Seventh Samurai and possibly read authors such as Steinbeck, Kerouac and Boroughs. He lived normally (cue Cornflakes, Marmite, Milk Powder etc…) but with a little spirit, perhaps he preferred jazz to rock n roll, but still had boring job, not much money and he definitely understood the reality of life… I wanted to place him among simple things, the crockery has a very definitive common but considered design. I chose Enid Seeney’s Ridgeway Homemakers Design, I think it was the first crockery wear that bowed to the Habitat/Ikea world that burgeoned in the 60s and 70s. I think The Man in the Chair or his wife would have had this level of taste and consideration. He symbolised a new world, a way forward, a sort of choice even if it was bit keep-up-with-the-Jonses. I’m finding that what I seek is slightly intangible and I don’t really have final image as such because I went through a fair few iterations to get to this point…. I really enjoyed the research and the imagined nostalgia that it created. I would have liked to try out a more ‘vintage’ approach to the production. It probably could have more Bawden/Piperish look. I’d like to return the image in the future to complete to my vision of the piece…