Why do we make?

It was an interesting day. In today’s lecture, I’m introduced with what I recognise as ‘Design’ is rather more like ‘Growth’. I understand better when I get the chance to do experiment in order to prove a theory. So my lecturer gave each of us different materials to make something with. I was given craft wire, the others got clay in variety of colours and wooden sticks. While in the process of making, Dr. Martyn played us an instrumental music. After ten minutes or so he changed the music into a different one but still an instrumental/acoustic sound. So here is what I made at that moment:

cat made of wire by me

cat made of wire by me

I’ve made a cat mask. At first I wanted to do a star shape and then the music came on. The music made me think of a cat. And I remember a cat was the last image I saw in the morning before I went to Uni. In the second session of the lecture, my lecturer explained to us that the music he played for us was an acoustic music made by Highland gypsy acoustic group who like to travel into the forest. The ‘artefacts’ that we all made somehow resembles with the flow and rhythm of the music. The sound of the music sort of influenced my hand movement. After ten minutes, a similar music played and it made my hand movement more flowy in accordance with the music. Surprisingly the forms of the the artefacts resembles nature (sun, wave, river current, tree, and fire). Colour has also gave input into the mind of the creator, e.g. someone has made a form that looks like a sea wave based on the colour of the clay which was blue, and someone made a fire based on the red colour clay. I found that the environment influenced the creator when making as well as the material; and in my case I also input my own memory into my artefact.

So in conclusion, creativity is more complex than just following a step by step plan or instructions. What we recognise as a ‘Design’ is actually rather more like ‘Growth’. The practitioner’s movement, the environment (conditions) and materials/properties and resistance of matter are all influence each other which create a mutual involvement.

Can the forest paint itself? – An ‘enworlded’ practioner

We are always perceive by things around us (William Beckett)

A phenomenology of painting. Can the forest paint itself? This was quite a hard subject to grasp. After the lecture is finished, I made time to read the weekly slides/presentation twice to understand what it’s trying to inform me. My habit in processing information is quicker when I use or presented with example. So, when I was reading the slides, I try to capture word(s) that sort of describe the intention of the lecture. The words I got are process of creativity.

The example presented by my tutor was Andre Marchand’s ‘Forest’ Painting, 1942, Oil on Canvas.

Andre Marchand, 'Forest, 1942, Oil on canvas. Source: http://www.askart.com/AskART/photos/JPB20131230_80107/98.jpg date 24/02/2014

Andre Marchand, ‘Forest, 1942, Oil on canvas. Source: http://www.askart.com/AskART/photos/JPB20131230_80107/98.jpg date 24/02/2014

In a forest, I have felt many times over that it was not I who looked at the forest. Some days I felt that the trees were looking at me, were speaking to me …. I was there, listening …. I think that the painter must be penetrated by the universe and not want to penetrate it. . . . I expect to be inwardly submerged, buried. Perhaps I paint to break out (Andre Marchand, cited in Merleau-Ponty, 1964, p. 129).

His activity reminds me of one of important elements in illustration process which is observation. As an illustrator, I’m train to observe the environment surround me, whenever, where ever. This is to train all my senses in capturing the moment, what is front of me and what it’s trying to tell me. The observation would be materialised through recording/documenting or sketching the object or moment, the sound, the smell, the atmosphere, the materials  and the environment as a whole.

Existential of mind and perception

We speak of “inspiration,” and the word should be taken literally. There really is inspiration and expiration of Being, respiration in Being, action and passion so slightly discernible that it becomes impossible to distinguish between who sees and who is seen, who paints and what is painted. The painter’s vision is an ongoing birth (Merleau- Ponty, 1964, p. 129)

I use inspiration to motivate me, to take and explore ideas and design from in order to make new artwork that contain my own perception.

We are not separate from the world

Flesh of the body extends into the flesh of the world. Body is a thing amongst things. Things are an annex of prolongation of itself. It sees itself seeing. It touches itself touching (p.124-125).

An ‘Ecology’ of mind

The mental world – the mind – the world of information processing is not limited by the skin (Bateson, 1973, p.429).

I agree with this statement because I think that the way we give response through our movement, actions, language, expression or feeling and e.t.c have to go through some kind of process of digesting information using all our senses and perception. I also think that the response is not the end result because somehow the process is repeated back to start again and again.

my illustration of information process cycle

my illustration of information process cycle


Not the idea of ‘form’ but ‘form-giving’

Extensions in the air and space and within soil are interdependent, just as in developed organisms the functions of nutrition and respiration are interdependent. A broader nutritional base may give rise to large respiratory organs, while greater breathing-space may enlarge the nutritional organs (mutuality, reciprocity). (Klee, 1964, p. 31)

Giving form –> process of creativity (movements, action, life) –> ‘Form’ (form is not the end result but rather as a genesis, growth, essence). All things are connected with process of creativity like materials to paint, the paper, the pencils and e.t.c.

Movement is the true generator of form (Klee, 1964, p.29). Creativity are both from internal and external of the artist. Lines and drawings are themselves not so much ‘drawn’ (as a copy of the world) but ‘grown’ – through form-giving processes that extend from the body of the artists into the ‘nourishing’ forces of the environment. ‘fixed’ through movement and gesture.

Painting/drawing is a process of ‘capturing’ forces. The task of painting is defined as the attempt to render visible forces 9and energies) that are not themselves visible (Deleuze, 2003, p.56). He also said that matter has energies or ‘force-fields’.

Experiment conducted by Leonardo da Vinci to see how shadow were made from lights that hits the face. Lights can change the shadow because of obstruction (e.g. covered by another object).


Melting together of environment and the artist expression.

[Painting] gives visible existence to what profane vision believes to be invisible […]. This voracious vision, reaching beyond the “visual givens,” opens upon a texture of Being of which the discrete sensorial messages are only the punctuations or the caesurae. The eye lives in this texture as a man in his house (Merleau-Ponty, 1964, p. 127)

In regard with illustration, we are suggested to make the ‘moody’ to feel more ‘moody’. To dramatise a movement, matter, life by depicting through gesture within the narrative or painting/drawing.


Defamiliarization or Making Strange

Ostranenie: (n) encouraging people to see common things as strange, wild or unfamiliar; defamiliarizing what is known in order to know it differently or more deeply (English-Russian).

Defamiliarization is an art technique of revealing multiple possibilities to interpret the world through making objects or things or people strange by presenting them through different points of view so that the viewers would see the world in a different way or strange and unfamiliar way in order to break the reality. It will also give possibilities of better understanding and experiencing the world around us.

According to Viktor Shklovsky, we are so familiar to everyday objects it formed how we see the world and we can not say anything significant about it (Shklovsky 1965, p.13). What is become habitual become automatic. We “see” not the process or activity we’re engaged in, but rather the (all to familiar) outcome.

[A]rt exists that one may recover the sensation of life; it exists to make one feel things, to make the stone stony. The purpose of art is to impart the sensation of things as they are perceived and not as they are known. The technique of art is to make objects “unfamiliar,” to make forms difficult, to increase the difficulty and length of perception because the process of perception is an aesthetic end in itself and must be prolonged. Art is a way of experiencing the artfulness of an object; the object is not important. (Shklovsky 1914, p.13)

‘Rotation’ of a familiar object

The artist need to detach the object from familiar associations or the domain of life for it to become an art by describing them from different or strange points of view, or for the first time which then reveals other possible sides of the object that may remain hidden through conventional presentations. One of the practice that I implement into making narrative is by changing the perspective by placing objects into different composition, position, and points of views from a third person/objects/things.

in order to teach people to see from new viewpoints, it is necessary to photograph ordinary, familiar objects from completely different points of view in order to give them their full representation. (Rodchenko, The Paths to Everyday Photography, p. 33)

In term 1, Subject-Personification ‘Trenches‘ project, we were asked to illustrate a poem of World War I. We built our own set of WWI trenches so that we can get better understanding of the feel and emotions of the poem. The set or ‘stage’ has also helped us to look at different point of views in narrating the poem by using camera to take shots from different angles; to think like a film-maker. This also applies when I make storyboard.

I am also interested in looking into more artist artworks that use the ‘rotating’ objects technique. I had actually (unknowingly) applied this technique when I ‘reversed’ the character of Woody from Toy Story into a zombie killing hero for my college work. I took the reference from David Mach’s ‘Grizzly Little Fucker’.

David Mach’s starting point was to view the relationship between human being and animals. His intention is to suggest alternative way to think about living creatures, questioning their place in our society and the idea baout cohabitation that might inspire the world of the future.

‘Unfamiliar’ viewing positions for the viewer

 [T]he film in the spectator’s head is more important than the one on the screen. The space between the shots belongs to the viewer [not to the film], to make associations not only with other parts of the film, but with his or her own life experience. (Lutze, 1998, p. 162)
I need to break the viewer position by making the illustration strange so that it allow a different perspective for the viewers to put their own experience onto what is being presented. Few ways of making strange are:
  • Montage jumps from point to point
  • Presents the least important aspects of the scene
  • Puts the viewer in strange positions
  • Extends the length of the scene for no reason
  • Shot reverse shot
  • Out of order sequence of narrative
  • Rotate objects

One example of extending the length of the scene for no reason is a scene in Steve McQueen’s film ‘Shame’ where Michael Fassbender run for more than two minutes. It seems that it’s a waste to spend two minutes long just to show the main character running but actually the director gave the viewers time and made them think therefore put their own perception on what is going through the mind of the character while running. Here’s the clip:

Constructivist perception

You had to know what might be said in order to hear what was said. Expectation created illusion. (Gombrich, 2002, p.171)

I found the second week of Expressing the unseen lecture to be very interesting. We looked deeper into perception of symbolic material, transmission and reception of communication that inform us in building our perception of what we see, hear, express or feel in art.

Physiology of Perception (c19th century)

The psychic activities that lead us to infer that there in front of us at a certain place there is a certain object of a certain character, are generally both conscious activities, but [also] unconscious ones. In their result they are equivalent to a conclusion, to the extent that the observed action on our senses enables us to form an idea as to the possible cause of action (Helmoltz, [1962] 1924, p. 4)

Psychology of Visual Arts

E.H. Gombrich (Art and Illusion – A study in the psychology of pictorial representation)

(Visual) perception is ‘indirect’ to external stimuli, always functioning as a projection of prior experience and imagination (expectation)- it is constructive. The perception of everyday natural life and images has a ‘potentiality’, actualised via the imagination (expectation) of the beholder. Recognising the ’potentiality’ of images allows us to describe the creative, collaborative nature between artist, work and beholder. This is made all the more explicit within ambiguous images.

Gombrich argues that this ‘incompleteness’ of an ambiguous image is incomplete as it must also include the beholder’s psychological experience (what is expected based upon prior experience) that is projected onto the image to be actualised. Painting and statues had no voice, and art had to be satisfied with working its wonders within its own medium and within its own isolated world. Genuine illusion held its own. Incomplete painting can arouse the viewer’s imagination and project what is not there. (Gombrich, 2002, p.174)

Few things that are stated by Gombrich in his book that I like to take on board when planning a drawing, painting or storyboarding are:

  • To understand the art of comic strip and posters that use familiar forms and symbolism (e.g. London Transport posters by Robert Harding, E.C. Tatum or Raymond Tooby).
  • A poster function is to attract attention by the improbable (unlikely to be true or to happen) and hold this attention by extending the process of reading.
  • If an art did not exist to amuse and intrigue us, arts of this kind would hardly be so popular.
  • To study the playful transformation through context and expectation that is provided by the advertisers in making use of stereotypes and identical symbols.

Ambiguity in Saul Steinberg illustration

There is a limit to what pictures can represent without differentiating between what belongs to the picture and what belongs to the intended reality.

In Steinberg’s drawing hand draws a drawing hand which draws it, we have no clue as to which is meant to be real and which the image; each interpretation is equally believable, as such, is consistent.


The first week of Winter/Spring Term began with an induction to Expressing the Unseen: Embodiment, Form and Art & Design. We would be looking at the theory, philosophy, practice and design of our understanding the body shape. The investigation of understanding the body will be through history, film, painting, anthropology, archeology, design, architecture, philosophy and phenomenology.

The tasks for the term are:

  • Choosing a philosophy as a toolkit to present our opinion on 27th of February, 2014
  • Document any interest and findings related with our subject on sketchbook
  • Essay (2500 words) and PDP by the end of term – 15th of May, 2014

By the end of term, we are expected to have more understanding to answer these key questions:

  1. What do these conceptions of body and embodiment have to do with art & design?
  2. How do these ideas shape how we think about our practice?
  3. How can we utilise such ideas within our work?


How do images mean what they mean? Can emotions be made visible? These questions has been explored by an artist, Kandinsky and his peers who were searching for an art that somehow unite the senses.

Philosophy of Mind: Embodiment

“The best biology, psychology, cognitive neuroscience, and phenomenology available today teach us that our human forms of experience, consciousness, thought, and communication would not exist without our brains, operating as an organic part of our functioning bodies, which, in turn, are actively engaged with the specific kinds of physical, social, and cultural environments that humans dwell in”. 

Mark Johnson, 2009, The Meaning of the Body, p.1

He believed that the brain controls the body and how we see the world or our perception of the world.

He also said that “Mind/body dualism is so deeply embedded in our philosophical and religious traditions, in our shared conceptual systems, and in our language that it can seem to be an inescapable fact about human nature” […]

“We postulate a “higher” self (the rational part) that must seek to control the “lower” self (body, desire, emotion)” 

Johnson, 2009, p. 2

There’s a dichotomy; divisions into two parts, kinds sub division into halves or pairs; division into two mutually exclusive, opposed groups that involves system of perception, attitudes and beliefs. A person’s ability to meaningfully engage their past, present & future environments and connect it with rational. How one thing connect or relate to one another by experience and monitoring our emotions. There’s a continuity which brain operates experience and consciousness.

Art makes visible the invisible processes of embodiment (e.g senses and feelings) visible through its creation. The viewers then be able to see the embodiment through perception of the work.

The Biological roots to arts

“Both strong and weak responses, such as uneasiness, anxiety, tingles down the spine, increased heart rate, and sweaty palm, can be evoked by art. I propose that art uses many of the same releasers that are present in natural stimulus situations to evoke these responses”

Aiken, 1998, p. 109

The theory was based on Charles Darwin’s primal senses as he studied the expression on animals and men. Artists would use lines to express the perspective of the image by speed, pressure, angle or flow.

“Zigzag lines, as sharp and pointed shapes, are likely releasers of fear. Early work indicates that pointed lines have an emotional effect that differs from curved lines. For example, in 1924 Poffenberger and Barrows had subjects match adjectives to lines and found that sad, quiet, and lazy were matched to big curves, merry and playful were matched to small and medium curves and small and medium angles were matched to agitating and furious”

Aiken, 2013

There’s a connection between ‘Words to draw by’ exercise in my subject course and embodiment theory. In ‘Words to draw by’ we were asked to try to express or describe words in forms of drawing, painting and collage. The exercise is to practice the art of expressing artist’s perspective of the words and try to communicate it to the viewers. Emotions can be made visible by uniting the senses. Emotions is projected through quality of line (mark making) base on speed, pressure, angle or flow.

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I personally think that both Johnson and Aiken theory naturally work better together. In order to understand the whole picture, I use my senses, experiences and memory which build my perception of the things I see, hear or feel.