Saturday, April 25, 2009


Click on the image for full sized version. Preferably on a different tab than the text below.

This is the work process that I went through. The initial reference was this:

But as you can see I didn't trace it or follow it too much, actually. I just wanted to reference a real space to avoid specific issues of depth perception that would reduce the effect of feeling like you're actually in the back seat, I didn't want to fake a higher skill level than I actually have.

Generally, tracing an image is in my opinion bad form. However there are exceptions. The next shame image I am going to do is going to be a full-fledged trace of a photograph. I will discuss why it's not alright generally and why exactly I did it when that image is done and on the blog.

Using an image just as visual reference however, is as important as the artist feels it is for the viewer to directly recognize the minutia of a scene as apparent, fitting objects. Had I not used a photo of an actual taxi as reference and just went from imagination, I'd have probably completely forgotten about the voicebox, that is I think even a stronger visual confirmation of 'this is a taxi' than the running meter. However as you can see I wasn't shackled to reality here and I enlarged and simplified the meter and put it in a place where it would contrast white against darkness so as to drive the point home. Hopefully not many viewers has problems realizing this is a taxi, and the character we're going to be following is in the back seat of it.

Here I am trying to diffuse certain problems in the first small shame image where some viewers did not realize the thoughts were coming from a viewer on the street and not the sitting man himself. On the street it's difficult to implicate the viewer simply by having a vantage that befits the normal height of a human being (as I did in small shame part one) because viewers are used to these vantage points in movies all of the time and they certainly not always mean 'you are looking from the first person'. In the taxi situation however, almost all movies and comics and other visual media that employ this shot convey that the protagonist is in the back seat. So here I hope I've been more candid about what I'm going for than in the past image.

On A you can see how I space and sketch things out. Recently I've sorta abandoned working with broader, freehand brushes when setting up a scene. I have come to dislike the ambiguity of where a final line will be when you have a fat thick brush stroke that means 'here is an edge, somewhere'. There are too many potential final lines in a big fat sketch stroke, and it seems to affect my spatial relations between my various objects too much. And perhaps even worse, it seemed I had began to ink with too fat lines on the computer as compared to my hand-inked work to try to follow these ambiguous sketches, which I didn't enjoy. So I've sorta 'devolved' into working with straight, thin but strong lines for setting up a scene.

On B you can see what effect A has, with the two layers overlaid. I made various mistakes about judging the eye level of the driver and position of the steering wheel that I had to fudge around with. I'd prefer if in the future I didn't make these sort of errors, they just waste time and diffuse the clarity of the piece. On other parts of the image the inking remains very close to the sketch version, which is for my intents, a good thing.

On C we have the final inks, before I put on any gray tones. I debated leaving this piece at this level as there was something appealing about the way forms were dictated by smaller or bigger lines according to how close things were and I knew I would only hurt this effect when I laid on the gray tone. However, as you will see two steps below on the final image, there was an emotional effect that I wanted to convey that was worth the damage to the linework.

On D you can see the first layer of tone and grain. Again I could have stopped here but I felt that the scene was lacking a bit of weight and layer clarity so I added more dark grain in specific places to separate the levels. Note that I removed the insignia of the car brand on the steering wheel. I feel that any benefit the work would enjoy by using brands - in that the viewer will immediately feel this is a realer place because they recognize them - is offset unfavorably by propagating the mentality that brands dictate a realer world. They do not, the whole marketing mechanism in fact rests on the assumption that if the buying public (for the term 'people' does not occur in their lingo) integrate brands into their daily lives on the instinctual level they would be more successful in peddling their shit. There is a lot of semiotic dissonance that occurs for every human being that has to suffer through this process just in daily life, getting from place A to place B while under constant attack by brands and I'd rather not encourage it further, even if it hurts the realism of my work somewhat. The merit of the work will survive and I'll sleep better.

On E, the final image, the emotional effect I had to add is now hopefully apparent. The white glow of a beautiful day is bleeding through the edges of the glass, onto the spectral speech bubble of the driver. I can't exactly explain why this effect was so important but it came to me about midway when working on the inks and it really felt important to include. A strong separation between outside (bright beautiful and promising) and the guilt-ridden thoughts in the inside, conveyed in black and grain, the apologia of the letters in startling contrast, sharp against the forgiving blur.

One fear I have about the final image is that I might have described the car just a bit too much and instead of functioning on the emotional level the image looks a bit like a car commercial. That's ironic given my rant about branding, but I couldn't think of a different way to convey this shame without very very clearly showing a taxi in naturalist detail.

Also, I forgot to add arm hair to the taxi driver. That's probably a bigger hit on the intended realism than anything else.



Solar said...

First off, great to see the concept deconstructed. There is great value in witnessing some of the steps in a creation.

Re: Branding
The only value in brands is for the product-consumer relationship. The only form of 'brand' you should use is your own: your style, your thoughts, your YUS?

Re: Realism
The car is real enough for me, and I definitely thought it was the passenger talking. Although shame to me I did not think it was a taxi! For some reason I thought it was a radio tuner. Hmm perhaps that shows how few taxis I've been in.

I've also no problem on tracing or referencing real world examples. For a start everything is referential anyway and second lots of art actually uses photos or real objects anyway (think a good example is Dave Mckean's work)

Re: Emotional bleeding glow
Now a bit of colour could set this right off ;)

Helm said...

I try not to think of a relationship between a reader and myself as that of a consumer and a product. I do not see why this is the only way it has to be even if a monetary transaction occurs between the two of us. I try not to think of the Yus bird as a 'cereal mascot'. Perhaps I'm deluding myself and I'm doing the same thing I criticize, but I just cannot allow that type of thinking when it comes to something so vital for my emotional stability as outputting my art.

Hehe it didn't occur to me that in various countries other than greece some people might have not even used taxis regularily. I understand they're a luxury on many parts of the world. In Greece due to the inhumane public transportation system, they're a daily necessity for some of us.

I'll address the reference or tracing issue on the next post.

Thank you for your comments.

Nick said...

Hah, again the first impression i had was that the person was sitting in the front seat, but that probably has to do with the fact that I always sit in the front sit when i enter a cab (if i am alone). Sitting on the back seat makes the driver feel like... a taxi driver . ;>

Nick said...


Of course u can notice that these is no person visible in the co-drivers seat.

As for realism, the car seems very real indeed.

Solar said...

Sorry Helm! Didn't mean to suggest we were just consumers.

No, the artist-reader/observer relationship is much more dynamic, engaging and fulfilling than that of a pure consumer, devouring for the sake of devouring. Although I may buy your book to support your work, the process of reading it and talking about it here has much more value than the possession of your art, or the generation of money. I don't see your style, thoughts or YUS as methods of advertising, but they are defining aspects of your work that as a reader I feel comfortable celebrating and identifying with (your brand of work in a broader sense). YUS is definitely no cereal packet mascot, for me he's a personification of grumpy angst and discontent with the world. I love him for that. He certainly doesn't motivate me to buy your work, or your cereal for that matter.

Sorry if my associations to branding were uncomfortable. I only meant, in agreement with your decision, that you should continue as you are without incorporating other brands.

Each artist is known for their style, the way they lived, how their art makes people react. This is their brand in a looser sense of the word, not a corporate design with consumer motivations, but defining parts of their work that an audience associates with.

PS: I also thought the observer might be in the front seat initially, but as a series, having reflected on the previous piece, I realised that each image is the view of the observer. I think as a collection this makes perfect sense, in a less intentional and dependent way than 'The house' but sense none-the-less.

Helm said...

Yeah no worries it's just that I have a very narrow etymology for 'brand'. You know that guy, the one that says stuff like "we're all selling something after all and if you're shouting you're not selling anything, you're selling your not selling anything"? I don't like that guy.

rnd1 said...

Second last image is best - you changed your areas of black on the last image to its detriment.