Andrew Kulman in Ahmedabad
Ahmedabad is one of those cities that speaks a thousand languages, its what you want from it and what you make of it. On my first visit I found that everything I had imagined of the place was true yet it could not be summed up in cliched misunderstandings of the culture. Everywhere `I turned was a beautiful photograph yet to be realised. ‘Stop the car i want to take a photo of that!’ you hear yourself thinking if not exactly saying, the textures of the seats of the rickshaws that defy the logic of normal transportation..you assume there are rules to driving but these are simply never followed. The walls are peeling to reveal history upon history, theres a patina of dirt and dust covering most surfaces yet street cleaners attempt to sweep the detritus from our sight only for a further wave to emerge to cover up their footprints. My Swiss friend Pierre suggests we need to reconfigure our whole notion of order and rules and understand that India is not ever going to be the same.
Andrew Kulman in the Market at the Old Town
House of illustration/ Folio Society Book Illustration Competition
Reading Ghost Stories
Why did I set myself the challenge of illustrating three ghost stories, let alone a design for the cover? Partly to show our Level 5 Illustration students that we lecturers are able to join in and in some ways to encourage them along the way. ‘What did you make of the stories?’ ‘Did we like them or did we even finish them?’ In some ways this seemed an easier challenge than Heart of Darkness ( 2013/14’s book from the same competition) if one ghost story writer didn’t do it for me then the other two might? The Treasure of Abbot Thomas by M.R James In many ways James being the ‘classic’ author of this genre and in this instance the best known ghost writer, this should have been the story that impressed most. It took two readings to really grasp the essence of the story. So for the benefit of those L5 students who are working on this project here are some thoughts…
- Its easy to focus on the toad like creature but I would steer clear as it would spoil the reader’s imaginative horror.
- Consider the depth of the well, the rancid damp walls, the glints of moonlight…the moments before the ‘horror’
- Avoid providing simple visual description and look for capturing the peculiar atmosphere inherent throughout, a sort of ancient evil, unleashed.
The Upper Berth by F. Marion Crawford This story lends itself well to interpretation without explicit reference to the ‘creature’. There’s the actual bunk bed, the curtains, the porthole, the sea itself, all these elements could be focused on to imply fear.
- Your task is to maintain consistency with the first story, the same medium must be used, almost the same emotive visual language. Look for repeating the qualities of the first story of the three.
- You could look at doing this image from the viewpoint of someone/ something out at sea looking towards the vessel?
- Like in the first story I would avoid featuring any of the protagonists as capturing the Victorian/ Edwardian costume and making a disturbing image are very difficult challenges.
A Tale of an Empty House by E F Benson Perhaps for me the best of the three and this is because it genuinely made me feel disturbed. The context of the story being told is relatable and there is a sense of evil throughout plus the sense of not wanting to return to the house. Plenty of great material to go on.
- So if I were to approach this story there would be several things I would consider developing. The sense of an isolated cottage is the obvious image but I’d prefer the possibilities that the interior has, shadows and doors opening. On this occasion an isolated haunted figure staring out from within.
- There are possibilities for shadows to depict the lame killer, there is also the imagery of a desolated interior, torn curtains, broken furniture. Again its as much about implying the sense of disquiet than showing people attacking each other.
- I have to emphasise that the three images must work in conjunction with one another so whichever story you choose to illustrate first, the other two must be consistent in approach and style.
The Cover Artwork This is the difficult challenge. You can’t show a specific story or refer to a specific incident, therefore you need to find a generic approach that captures the atmosphere and mood and then can be translated into a graphic cover. Its suggested that the cover remains simple but don’t be put off working in the medium you’ve worked your other images in. Last Thoughts… Be true to yourself, you’ll not do yourself any favours trying to second guess what the judges are looking for, but by all means refer to previous short list and winners. If you work in collage, stick with this medium. Personally I think a subtle collage treatment would work well. Everything I refer to and suggest is only my opinion and you would be wise to take this on board but act independently, so if you have an approach which you’re keen to try then do so even if it goes against my advice.
E is for Explosion
In a continuing progress review of a joint venture with www.sarakulmanpaperplay.com I’m explaining the process that led to a limited edition image and card engineered folder.
Having cut the card on the Silver Bullet machine, sara then set about folding it into a shape that not only contained the image but also gave hints as to the content within. This was a cleverly considered device, meant to compliment and enhance but not to distract from the print.
The original intention was to make a complete artefact and to post it to a leading designer. so the work needed to have elegance as well as functioning as an example of combined craftsmanship.
The red card was inserted into the inside to allow the text to be read once the card was unfolded and at the same time providing an ‘E” on the upper cover. The ingenuity of the design meant that the letter form on the front became incorporated into the overall design and an integral element.
The insertion of the print itself added the final touch and what we had were three distinct colours working in unison and providing a dynamic integration of type, card engineering and print. This was a very successful collaborative project and the end result will hopefully make an impact.
E is for Explosion
The decisions were soon made, Sara used the Silver Bullet machine to practice on 220 gms paper,The idea was to find materials that would compliment the engraved image that was printed on fine Japanese paper. Sara tried a range of colours before it was decided to settle on a black folder with a red under layer. The discussion had as to what text should appear and where it would be placed led to the decision to simply label it E for Explosion. This title referred to the image but also gave it an instructional feel.on one hand it was obvious but the mood of the work called for a statement rather than a poetic or ambiguous piece of text.
Seeing the card folder develop and the design emerge really brought the work together.
Black card with E removed
Red paper with black type
Andrew Kulman and sarakulmanpaperplay.com join forces
E for Explosion is a collaboration demonstrating husband and wife team work. Andrew produced a series of wood engravings over Summer and asked Sara to design a folder which could contain four small engravings. The theme was explosions, inspired by Vorticist images and Paul Nash’s wood engravings of the Great War. Why explosions? Andrew suggests that there was irony in taking something almost impossible to depict visually and engraving it in fine lines across small block of Lemon wood. What you achieve is an impression rather than anything that can be called objective.
Sara’s contribution was a series of innovative folders, using the dynamism of shapes and angles to make a visual response in card to the theme of explosion. What originally started as a folder for four images became a folder for one particular image. The first considerations were centred on materials and colour. Particular weights of card and paper needed to be decided. One of the factors was whether the Silver bullet card cutter could handle the materials?
Sara preparing the card on the machine.
So what were the main considerations? Well firstly a project that combined both sets of skills, printmaking and paper engineering, but also a real joint venture that came together as a whole rather than two discrete aspects. Should colour appear in the print, how should it be used on the actual folder, would there need to be words, how large was the folder and how large was the edition?
ARU studio in Cambridge
On arriving at Cambridge and departing the station you’re faced with a large collection of bicycles all locked and secured to trees or themselves…it’s such a collective and collegiate statement. Then if you’re walking make sure you’re not run over by the fast cyclists, if you’re driving don’t knock them down. I’m sure there’s an unspoken rule that this is a city of two wheels, not four! This time I’m down among the dreaming spires to examine a Practice Based PHD, it’s one of a number coming out of Cambridge School of Art’s centre of excellence, the Centre for Children’s Book Research. Under the leadership of Professor Martin Salisbury, postgraduate and Higher research has really developed over the last 10 years, the postgrad course has produced successful graduates who on graduating are often met with a publishing contract or two, indeed it’s not uncommon to find students half way through the course working on a book deal of one kind or another. Dare we bring up the Macmillan Prize?, the annual student award for children’s books, it’s becoming par for the course for students studying to win the award, but to also take all the runners up prizes as well, leaving other colleges in their wake. Why is this the case I’ve often been asked? and perhaps as a past examiner on their Postgrad course I’m in a better position than most to offer up comment. Well the first thing I’ve observed is the location, cozy and literary at the same time, the perfect combination for anyone embarking on a career in children’s publishing. Secondly the teaching staff are extremely well versed with all the aspects of children’s literacy as well as being adept illustrators/artists themselves, plus the range of top drawer visiting tutors, many from the capital. Then the students themselves, often having come from a range of different disciplines or being mature students re-entering education from time in industry and with clear ideas of what they want to produce. If that was not enough, the drawing studios are inspiring, large yucca plants wind their way over mezzanines and the natural light makes you think at once of Kettle’s Yard, the Jim Ede residence across town or St Ives itself or even for that matter Antibes.
This occasion will be a somber examination but on the back of my mind will be how I can take some of this inspiration back to Birmingham and use it to create our own centre of excellence.