The Common Place Book


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Lecture notes from Amelia Johnstone's briefing to BA (Hons) Illustration students at Cardiff School of Art and Design.

Summer 2012

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The Common Place Book

  1. 1. * The Commonplace Book* Introduction to Year 2‘Drawing Methodologies 2: Personal Identity’ Summer Briefing Amelia Johnstone MA RCA Year 2 BA (Hons) Illustration CSAD
  2. 2. • In this module you begin to establish your individual ‘voice and stance’ in your creative work. This ‘voice’ will speak about what you are interested in, and how you best communicate this interest.• In order to establish this unique ‘voice and stance’, you will explore individual working methods and areas of negotiated personal research in order to identify and develop a personal visual identity and establish your pursuit for content, with a corresponding visual language. This ‘voice’, or ‘personal identity’ forms the basis of future modules in the latter half of year 2 in which you will apply your own visual language to a range of applications and scenarios within your discipline• This module will provide you with an opportunity to stand alone as a creative practitioner within the course, to define you as a unique individual with your own ideas, tools and viewpoint which you will use to make imagery without following any prescribed working methods, or responding to predetermined themes.
  3. 3. * What is drawing methodologies?* What is research?* What is visual research?* How do I research effectively?* What is my question?* What is my aim?* Does research have a preconceived outcome?* How should research be presented/formulated/assessed/used?
  4. 4. * Sara fanelli * Artist/Illustrator/Typographer
  5. 5. „The title of this book, „Sometimes I Think , Sometimes I Am‟, promises much, and in its ambiguities captures the work‟s elusive, riddlingpleasures, poised between wryness and high spirits . It has been borrowed by the artist from Paul Valery who was himself echoing a famous statement about consciousness and existence. There are many more thoughtful, apt, and loved quotations here, and so there is really no need for somebody elseto add anymore words to the images. Still , (I) am very happy to come out for a moment or two from the enchanted ring of listeners and readers andoffer by way of thanks – a few thoughts about Sara Fanelli‟s work.‟From the introduction to „Sometimes I Think, Sometimes I Am‟ Marina Warner 2007
  6. 6. Louise Bourgois
  7. 7. ‘The gates of hell are open night and day; Smooth the descent, and easy is the way: But to return, and view the cheerful skies,In this the task and mighty labor [sic] lies.’ Virgil
  8. 8. * {Find ways of categorising and dividing information i.e. heaven and hell, light and dark, red, blue,magenta, cerise, days, hours minutes, a b c…d e f g (if you are perhaps collecting letters or by letter)}
  9. 9. „The collection here has a feel of a notebook, an album, a scrap book, a treasure drawer, an old shoe box filled with much loved items. It resembles a so called ‘commonplace book’ in which children and adults used to keep quotations and adages and cuttings and mementoes; originally, when someone like the great scholar Erasmus was urging people to keep such records of their thoughts and readings and experiences, the objective was improvement… but gradually „Commonplace books‟ became stores of memories and pleasures, and turned into idiosyncratic personal hoards of private – even secret – instants of recognition and delight.‟ From the introduction to „Sometimes I Think, Sometimes I Am‟ Marina Warner 2007
  10. 10. Commonplace" is a translation of the Latin term locus communis (from Greek tópos koinós, see literary topos) which means "a theme or argument of general application", such as a statement of proverbial wisdom. In this original sense, commonplace books were collections of such sayings, such as John Miltons commonplace book. Scholars have expanded this usage to include any manuscript that collects material along a common theme by an individual.Such books were essentially scrapbooks filled with items of every kind: medical recipes, quotes, letters, poems, tables of weights and measures, proverbs, prayers, legal formulas. Commonplaces were used by readers, writers, students, and scholars as an aid for remembering useful concepts or facts they had learned. Each commonplace book was unique to its creators particular interests.(Wikipedia)
  11. 11. „Collecting is not about what you collect as much as it is about who you are. Possession somehow connotes transference of the object‟s virtues to its owner. Collections are about recollection. Collections exclude the world and are symbolic of it. Writing about why one collects what one collects is a bit like self-psychoanalysis; its hard to be objective.‟ In Flagrante Collecto (Caught in the act of collecting) Marilynn Gelfman Karp (Abrams, New York 2006)
  12. 12. „The pursuit (of collecting) is ambiguous because in the first place it does not necessarily serve any rational purpose.‟From Introduction to Creators Collectors and Connoisseurs Sir Herbert Read (Thames and Hudson London 1967)
  13. 13. „ the poet Rainer Maria Rilke, in an essay called „Playing with Dolls‟, describes play as a process of animation: “really, we invented the doll,” he writes, “a doll was so abysmally devoid of phantasy that our imagination became inexhaustible in dealing with it”. Playing breathes life into playthings; it animates them. The effect is a kind of magic, when things come to life, or take on the life of the person they represent. Drawings that do this have power, the power to charm‟ From the introduction to 5. The Absurd Marina Warner 2007
  14. 14. From „The Wizard of Oz‟ Graham Rawle
  15. 15. „To the man in the street, who, I am sorry to say, Ins a keen observer of life,The word “intellectual” suggests straight away A man who‟s untrue to his wife‟ W.H. Auden
  16. 16. * {Live the fantasy, become the artist. Make your own rules}
  17. 17. „Special powers of synaesthesia are not really necessary to feel that musicchanges colour when it changes key or that moods are tinged grey or golden or that anger flames red and irritability sort ofbrown; the blue‟s singer‟s voice tenses to the edges of lament and turns deep purple on the low notes; military marches match the bright brass and scarlet of Hussars‟and guards‟ splendour, and drab and dismal states come in the livery of dull days. Black and white is the natural habitat of the documentary dealing with harsh realities. Monotony is monochrome.‟ From the introduction to 3. Colour Marina Warner 2007
  18. 18. „The impact of colours escapes words: they are artists raw materials which work only in themselves, and each new state of colour, like the fresh retelling of a story, has to be experienced in itself and nothing can substitute for its material presence: light in action on the stuff of our world. Stuff of our world.‟ From the introduction to 3.Colour Marina Warner 2007
  19. 19. „The monster does not need the hero. It is the hero that needs him for his very existence.When hero confronts the monster, he has yet neither power nor knowledge, the monster is his secret father who will invest him with a power and knowledge that can belong to one man only, and that only the monster can give.‟ Roberto Calasso
  20. 20. „As I was walking up the stairI met a man who wasn‟t there, He wasn‟t there again today, I do wish he would go away‟ Anon
  21. 21. *Making your own cagesrestrictions and rules, taming the tiger!*
  22. 22. * Miscellaneous Collections *{finding an aesthetic through possible content.}
  23. 23. * Graham Rawle * Illustrator/Collage Artist/Writer
  24. 24. * Summer Brief * Drawing methodologies 2 The Common place bookOver the summer I would like you to make your own common place book in a traditional book format.This Commonplace book is to enable you to bring together your thoughts ideas drawings and things which you notice in an analytical, diary/sketchbook type fashion, but most importantly, as a library for your ideas. It is to develop your aesthetic and your stance to help you find your unique voice as an illustrator. It is not about you but of you, it is at this point that your work needs to begin to speak ventrilloquillistically, on its own. This book will be a resource for your narrative projects and drawing projects next term
  25. 25. * Questions to ask your self:• What am I looking at and why?• What is interesting to me about it, what do I see when I look at this thing/these things?• Where will I find what I am looking for, do I need to make a journey, to go somewhere new, to put myself in a strange situation, to wear something different?• How am I going to record this information, am I going to film it, draw it, write it? How can I make the thing more intriguing?• If I am collecting objects what am I collecting them in, are they in a format, photographs filed in date order? Are they 3D objects or replicas kept in boxes, cabinets, envelopes? Do I need to make a vessel to collect the objects in, can I find one that is appropriate, what is appropriate?By asking these questions you will begin to discover, do not just think of a thing and collect it, analyse, absorb and exchange information this way it will grow into something else, not just remain a collection of things. The things may not be tangible, they may not even be in existence yet…
  26. 26. What I would like to see when you return:• A commonplace book: Which starts with an I will and I will not manifesto• It will be compiled of your thoughts ideas, drawings, collections, observations photographs theories quotations etc, designed in a PROFESSIONAL, METICULOUS, CATAGORICAL FASHION.• Back up work, research and working sketchbooks to support this.
  27. 27. „Enthusiasts of unloved things – items without significant or established collectorship – share the potent belief that most of the world is blind to their singular perception. It doesn‟t matter.They may be correct and, in the end, their collections may redeem them from their socially flawed posture. We live and yearn.‟ In Flagrante Collecto (Caught in the act of collecting) Marilynn Gelfman Karp (Abrams, New York 2006)
  28. 28. „…a reality was not given to us and there is none, but we ourselves have to create one, if we want to exist: and it will not be the same one forever, but will continuously undergo infinite changes.‟ Luigi Pirandello