Monday, 2 April 2012

Death Poster

One of the projects I am working on now is "The Death Exhibition Poster". It is a practical project I am doing instead of writing the dissertation. One of the reasons being was I did not get approved the theme for my dissertation ( I originally planned to write ) by the tutor designated for dissertation writing. The theme was " The death within the continents and cultures ". I planned to research how different nations and cultures understand the cult of the death, burial traditions and rituals and so on. Why it didn't get "go" on this one I don't understand and it was not explained to me. At least my capability of understanding the message of denial was not enough to absorb it. I guess I don't reach such a level of intelligence.
Anyway, since I could reach exactly the same degree by doing the practical project instead of writing dissertation I picked that and carry on with exactly the same theme. I came up with self-initiated brief which contains creating two posters for imaginary exhibition, particularly "The Death Exhibition".
I have to be honest I went through some deep research on death, how different cultures feel about it and so on. But I mainly focused on the christian tradition. The bits of it cover few legends that mainly come from the epidemics from the Middle Ages (plague etc.) such as the legend of "The three living and three dead", "The death and the maiden", "The Dance of the death" or "The Triumph of the Death". Really interesting stuff it is, worth looking at!
I also looked up "The day of the dead" and the cult of "Santa Muerte" in southern America, mainly in Mexico. I loved all the colours and celebrations connected to this, so different to european understanding of death, represented by Grim Reaper, black colour and allt he mourning.
So I started with this, I had an idea in my head: having this portrait of a girl with her face painted in the style of celebrations of the Day of the dead with some meaningful slogan accompanying it. I drew the rough in my sketchbook and it sort of looked like random pretty girl with some face paint on and I wasn't exactly happy with it. But I guess I went through the breking point when I just doodled the exatcly same image ( while having a meeting at work ) from toop of my head. It wasn't perfect drawing, only a biro on a quarter of an A4 sheet of paper, but in a way it gave it ( meaning her face ) some strange weirdness, I could even call it a style, rather than having a straight portrait drawn from reference in front of me. I found I drew her eyes too small and too far away from each other, but in a way I preffered it to the original one. Here it is:

I knew I was going to use a banner to write a slogan ( motto, quotation ) on, so I just drew a default one, only to give me an idea, how would it work. A this point, I didn't know I will come back to the simple one, so I don't overcook my image. I did a research on this sort of banners, looked up victorian ones ( which I found way too complicated and decorative ), some writings from the tombs and gravestones, but as I said, I decided to stick to rather simple one and focus on the girl herself.
Now it was a matter of blowing the image up a bit, trace the shapes so I could get the clean line work, something I could work with further.
Outlines were the most important to me, then I had to start thinking how many colours ( therefore layers) I was going to use. I agreed on 5 layers / 5 colours. Text and outlines were the same layer, eyes, nose and little details on banners was next, then middle tone within her hair, then face paint on her mouth and little dots within the background design, which is the final layer.
This order of layers wasn't the one I used in final screenprinting but I'll come back to it later on.
Now here are the separate layers I had to get ready for the actual silkscreen printing:
Now here you can see all the layers ( the second one is the layer with outlines and text ). All of them are done on mark-resisting film. Now the media you preferably use on this film is black acrylic paint ( it gives you a freedom of painting with a brush of your choice, getting these individual brush strokes, rather han just having a copy of prepared digital image on sheet of acetate ) or for more detailed work or line work you would better use an Opaque pen. With that you can be sure it will get exposed properly when you transfer your images/layers onto the silk screen. The outlines and text layer was however done on regular tracing paper, drawn with regular marker pens. Nice and easy. As long as you are not trying to fill in huge spaces, you get away with it and it saves you some money as well. Who wouldn't like that, right?
For the actual screen printing I started with the background layer, the flowery motive, which is in fact silhouettes of Deadly Nightshade, poisonous plant, considered in some cultures the represantation of death. Then I carried on with the middle tone of the hair. Now I came to conclusion that I didn't plan the whole print as I should and I realized I didn't think of having a register ( or line up ) point for each one of the layers. Now if you feel like you're really good at this, you don't necesarilly have to think of it, but it always makes the job easier. Just so you know where exactly each layer should go and fit within the previous one. Because if you don't it takes hell of lot more work to line each of the sheets up properly. I made few mistakes myself, only because I didn't think about it while I was in a stage of making the actual design before even start of printing.
So I carried on with the middle tone of hair, then the eyes, nose and bits on banners, then the mouth face paint and details on background Deadly Nightshade and finaly the black outlines and text all together.
Now here you can see the lining the layers against each other wasn't exactly succesful. All that because of the lack of preparation, focus and final execution ( I have to say I was well tired while screenprinting this ). I also made only one colour version that day: It's always better if you try more different colours, gives you an idead how to work next and especially how colours work together ( complimentary colours and so on ).

Myself ( and to be honest most of the people I asked ) I prefere this version. The green background  against the red on the face makes the face itself stand out a bit. The previous version just got sort of melted within the tones of blue and you had nothing to focus on ( even though the purple colour is much closer to the actual colour of Deadly Nightshade ).
The text I used I downloaded from the Dafont website, it's called the Gothica Time. I didn;t think I would come up with my own font as I'd be rather focus on illustration itself, than trying to be a typography person.
The quotation is a reference to the "The legend of three dead and three living". Meaning you come to this world having absolutely nothing and you leave it the same way, as you can't take anything with you.
Thanks for reading, I hope that something of this was helpful to you.
I just add more photos of the progress and results.

The exposed stencils on silk screen:
The exposure unit. Used for transferring the stencils from mark-resisting films, acetates or tracing papers onto the silkscreen
The first layer ( floral motive of Deadly Nightshade ) printed. only a starting point so far. Lots of work to go still.
Series of colour versions I did for this design

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