Welcome to Night Vale Listening Party

Allow me to use my blog to shamelessly promote a local event that I’m co-hosting:

The Welcome to Night Vale Listening Party is happening THIS SATURDAY! You don’t want to miss it. Hosted by Matthew Carr and myself, hang out and listen to the 2 latest episodes of WTNV on the stellar sound system of the Lovecraft Bar. There will also be a raffle of official WTNV swag.

graphic design by Valerie Herron

graphic design by Valerie Herron

 

A bit of background info for those of you scratching your heads: Welcome to Night Vale is a brilliant podcast. Influenced by the writing of H.P. Lovecraft, conspiracy theories, and community radio, WTNV is a hilarious and beautifully written production. Narrated by Cecil Baldwin as the Night Vale community radio announcer, WTNV illuminates the strange happenings in the desert town of Night Vale. I recommend it highly, so highly that I think you should listen to it in a group setting!

The Lovecraft Bar is Portland’s own “horror-themed” bar. With tentacles and sigils on the walls, this is the best place in town to get a drink or pot of tea, in my humble opinion. Matt and I thought it was the perfect venue for a WTNV Listening party. So go check it out. What a perfect way to punctuate the romance or disappointment of Valentine’s Day! See you all there 🙂

 

 

The Allegories of Subjugation

Ok, I’m going to finally embark upon the daunting task that is creating a blog post about my thesis work. I didn’t make this easy for myself when attempting to explain the work in a concise fashion for my Thesis Defense presentation, so the idea of summarizing the work even further into a blog post has been giving me nightmares for weeks.

Let’s make a deal: for those of you who would rather not wade through a dissertation on the work (nor be inundated with my politics) I will set up a slide show of the final images so you can FINALLY see the images that I’ve been bitching about for months. However, if you are left with questions about my process, choices, or are just confounded by the imagery, I will include a lengthy (yet distilled, trust me) explanation of the work.

Without further ado, here is my thesis project The Allegories of Subjugation:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

About the Work

I have always been moved by the use of allegory in art and literature, from classical literature like Lorris’s Roman de la Rose to contemporary graphic novels like the Sandman series. The word “allegory” feels outmoded. It evokes a feeling of antiquity, though it is easy to demonstrate that we still make use of allegories such as Lady Justice, national symbols such as the eagle, and even our super heroes (Superman is the most transparent allegory for the good ol’ USA.) Even old allegories are largely relevant in our modern society, not only conceptually, but our cultural vocabulary is steeped in these sorts of images.

Personally, I find that the allegories that really resonate with humanity on a deep level so much that they persist thematically in contemporary art and literature and even permeate our popular culture are those allegories that speak of human suffering. The very first example that comes to mind is the classic Seven Deadly Sins. Pictorial representations of these sins require no explanation, as when we look upon images of horny devils and slothful friars the bigger concepts behind these characters read loud and clear.

I think what separates these images from more contemporary visual narratives would be in the approach to the subject of human suffering. The seven deadly sins are essentially cautionary tales to the individual, i.e. “Greed is bad, don’t give in to personal greed because it destroys your character.” Where as in more modern allegories talk about human suffering in the context of society, i.e. Lex Luthor is very greedy, and it is very bad for the people outside of Lex Luthor. Probably one of the best examples of contemporary allegory would be HBO’s series Game of Thrones (based on A song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin, for you purists.) In these narratives, suffering is explored outside of the individual, and themes of ethics, morality, and social responsibility are recurring.

Considering these ideas, I was very interested in communicating the concept of social responsibility on an individual level as well as a societal level. Allegory allowed me to have a narrative to show a progression of societal issues and show the cause and effect relationship between them. Each piece in my series is a reaction to the previous one, creating a narrative to show how these issues can be connected. What I attempt to say with this series is that human suffering is not a string of isolated incidents: they are realted through cause and effect like people are connected through society, and there is a level of social responsibility inherent in response to human suffering whether it is acknowledged or not.

I was interested in taking on the challenges of creating poignant imagery to expound upon these timeless, human afflictions. My goal was for these pieces to speak with my personal artistic voice but, I want them to be as universally relatable as possible. While I talk about the work here, you will notice that I am mostly spending time unpacking the visual symbolism of these allegories in an attempt to demystify the the allegorical mechanism at work for the viewer. I have included a list of sources I used in my thesis paper when exploring these topics if any of you are interested in further reading on the themes presented in the work.

Endurfæða, digital-media, © Valerie Herron 2013

Endurfæða, digital-media, © Valerie Herron 2013

Before I dive into the work itself, I would like to illuminate the horned serpent in this series, as it is a vital component. The ram-horned serpent is an ancient motif found in bronze age European art. It is viewed in contemporary Paganism to be a symbol of vitality, and personal soveriegnty. This is a symbol that has always resonated with me as a personal symbol of strength in spirit and regenerative creativity. I have chosen it to represent myself in this work, but also as to represent where the viewer comes into the work, as well as the common, everyday person in relation to the issues expressed here.

Brutality

Brutality, digital media, © Valerie Herron 2013

Brutality, digital media, © Valerie Herron 2013

The first piece in the series is called Brutality. I chose this title because the piece is not about violence, but specifically human violence. As people, we accept violence is a way of life. Our concept of history is essentially the story of war throughout the globe. Violence is no longer a byproduct of evolution but is now a chosen way of life and a means for domination on a small and large scales.

In this image, we can first see a Woodwose attacking a deer.  The Woodwose is a fictional creature from medieval European folklore and heraldry. They were beastmen that lived in the forest, comparible to sasquatch. I chose the woodwose to be the symbolic embodiment of brutality. He is impulsive, reactionary, violent, primitive with total disregard of what damage he inflicting.

The deer is symbolic of a person in their natural, maybe perfected state, and as the series progresses you see the deer symbolizing a person in the state of suffering specific to the theme of the image. This is a scene of castration in the Fruedian sense of the word, the deer is mutilated and thus rendered powerless. Violence is always used as a means for dominion. Violence always conversely disempowers people.

The horned serpent is pictorially frozen in a state of limbo. Is it recoiling in horror and becoming party to this scene as a bystander, or is it about to strike and take a stand against the scene, furthering the cycle of violence. This is choice given to the individual.

Repression

Repression, digital media, © Valerie Herron 2013

Repression, digital media, © Valerie Herron 2013

The second piece is titled Repression. This is the effect that society has on an individual when they possess any form of otherness. We often repress our nature in fear of some form of brutality. Also the precedence for a need for dominion and power to be free of suffering is set in the brutality piece, making this state of  submission to be unbarible. The animals are not only locked up, but are on display in these carnival wagons. By this I am conveying the urge to suppress our otherness as we feel in our culture that our actions are always being watched and judged, as we are raised to judge those around us. Examples of this would be instances where people feel they forced to hide their sexual orientation, or when people feel it is dangerous to revel their status as someone of a minority culture or faith. By repressing the vital and inevitable components of who we are, we are put in an unnatural state of restriction which leads suffering.

In this piece is introduced the character of the Wolf. In this series the wolf is symbol of a predator within society and/or our own predatory nature. The wolf is essentially is a victim in this piece. His potential for danger in his nature was not addressed, no attempt to domesticate him was made. He was simply locked away in the hopes to contain him as a threat rather than attempt to fix or change him. With no other recourse, his nature over comes him: he mutilates himself to get out of that situation. He enacts his own brutality upon himself to escape a situation where he is powerless.

Desecration

Desecration, digital media, © Valerie Herron 2013

Desecration – digital media, © Valerie Herron 2013

The next piece is called Desecration – I chose this title because it is usually used to describe the violation or damage of something sacred. This piece is about sexual assault and abuse, the acts of violence that leave unhealing wounds in the psyche more than the physical body. As a reaction piece to the events in the Repression piece, the wolf unleashes he predatory nature. The wolf has become this Lycanthropic figure, and this is a nod to the history of the werewolf in folklore, as it has always been a symbol of our undesirable or criminal impulses, and the fear that they will take us over and be unleashed on those around us.

Unlike the Woodwose, the wolf is not wrecklessly violent. He is calculating in his nature, he choses a victim, specifically someone who can in no way fight against him. So he maliciously attacks this female figure. She is representative of victims to these kind of violations. She is an allegory for the survivors of violation, it be in the form of literal sexual or domestic violence. It is largely women and children that are the most vulnerable to these sorts of attacks, it is they are left with lingering psychological ramifications.

Her pet rabbit is the part of her which is sacred and innocent which she is trying desperately to protect, that psychological aspect that she is trying to maintain despite this attack. Last I want to talk about the tapestry. This is an acknowledgement of many current events and the idea of rape culture: the notion that societal attitudes toward women is conducive for these attacks to happen.

Neurosis

Neurosis, digital media, © Valerie Herron 2013

Neurosis – digital media, © Valerie Herron 2013

This is a piece that speaks about mental illness, from more common disorders such as clinical depression and anxiety, to more severe conditions such as agoraphobia or schizophrenia. As a reaction to the events of the Desecration piece, the girl is engulfed by the emotional trauma she is left with. We can see that time has passed since the wolf’s attack, as her body has matured and the wounds the wolf inflicted on her have become scars.

Like a fish out of water, but the reverse scenario, she is in an unnatural habitat and this presents imminent danger to her. She is in an idealized female form, as our culture glamorizes damaged women much like it vilifies strong women. Women are taught the virtues of self-sacrifice and that behavior that is demonstrative of inner or outer struggle is not acceptable, so she is in a martyr’s pose. This is the portrait of a person who is giving up. She gives in to the dysfunctional impulse to drown.

What awaits her are her phobias, anxieties, psychoses which are encroaching upon her in the form of the ink. It is a threatening, nebulous material that is creeping up on her, near impossible to grab and therefore difficult to combat. The ink also takes form as the wolf: torturous memories that haunt her and threaten to consume her. The form of the horned serpent is also present, acknowledging the cultural stigma of mental illness and the critical response of society and the self to emotional struggle.

Avarice

Avarice, digital media, © Valerie Herron 2013

Avarice, digital media, © Valerie Herron 2013

The word Avarice means extreme greed. This piece is about the effect of avarice on the common place individual, how personal greed becomes societal greed.

Here the girl has managed to escape the water she was drowning in, though she is still wet so we know not much time has passed. Her rabbit has died, and she implores the Emperor for assistance to fix this tragedy.  Gigantic and surrounded by opulence, the Emperor stands in judgement over the girl. He questions why he should aid this girl who he doesn’t know. The desperity between the Emporer and the girl is obvious.

Upon examination, it is clear that the Emperor himself is just a straw man or a host for a greater system of greed, represented by the monstrous mouth at his core. The mouth is the mindless parasite of consumption, the fervent obsession with growth and acquisition. Preventing the girl from approaching the emperor, the woodwose intervenes as an armed guard. Greed often breeds brutality, a connection we don’t readily make when it isn’t in front of us. And last we can see that the deer and the serpent are being help in captivity, they are pets for the Emperor, dependent upon him for their basic needs for survival. The deer is swift and could run away, the serpent could bite the hand that feeds, but considering the enormity of the emperor and the woodwose at his disposal, the fear of reprisal out ways their dissatisfaction and they stay where they are.

This piece not only speaks about how society often lacks the empathy to help people in honest need, but how common place individuals are stuck within this system that encourages personal greed. In a capitalist society, greed is a biproduct of perceived scarcity, experienced through our basic choices of where we purchase our goods and necessities to our ideas about social welfare and how wealth is distributed. We learn that the more you acquire the more free you are. This all creates an endless cycle of greed.

Addiction

Addiction, digital media, © Valerie Herron 2013

Addiction – digital media, © Valerie Herron 2013

The last piece in this series is called addiction. It is a reaction to the last piece in that avarice can often lead people to this position. The girl is here, incoherent and amacieted. Her rabbit is nowhere to be seen, as she has either discarded it or forgotten about it completely. She is stained with ink, which is now the substance of her obsession. It is the same ink from the Neurosis piece, and she willfully consumes her own nightmares, hates, and shadows, an immersion that she thinks makes her free of them. She is reveling in her dysfunction. When people feel that society gives no solutions to their problems, they will often form addictions as a form of escape.

The Octopus is the last character to be introduced, and like his many arms imply, he is a complex character. Clearly, he is the pusher in this scenario, but he also the enabling friend. He is also innovater – unlike the deer and the serpent in the avarice piece, he is not willing to be at the mercy of the Emperor for survival. He takes his cleverness underground to support himself, and perhaps even loved ones, outside of these restrictions. Ironicly, he still gives in to his personal greed as he takes advantage of the situations for his own benefit. He denies the responcibility that he has toward the girl in her vulnerable state, as a fellow creature in this societal struggle.

The deer is dead (deer skull), we indulge in addictions to numb and escape our emotions and we kill our inner nature in the process. The serpent is pickled, and this is a reflection of how addiction kills our vitality and out relationship with the rest of the world.

Redemption

Stepping back, this appears to be a very bleak series. I think it is very important to point out that the potential for redemption is in every one of this pieces. The key to the redemption in these pieces is choice. The characters in this series have the choice to act differently. Even in areas where no choice for individual characters is present, the choice for societal intervention is always present. I don’t want this series to appear as a portrayal of a dire reality or an inescapable cycle of victimization, but more of a mirror for examination, why these things needs to change, and where the potential for change lies.

Before the onslaught of hate mail arrives, I would like to point out that I acknowledge that am neither a sociologist nor a political scientist. I certainly do not claim to have any answers to these monumental problems. These pieces reflect my experiences as a working class US citizen, a female, and one who falls into many categories of being “other.” I claim no real authority or expertise in the massive social issues that I bring up in this series. My goal for this artwork is to contribute a different perspective to the dialogue already in place around these subjects.

Process

My process for this series was fairly experimental for me. My work has been moving in the direction of a synthesis of digital and traditional work, and I decided to continue that evolution with this series.

What I didn’t expect initially was how much work was going to be put into the conceptual phase of this work. I felt like I initially had these ideas mapped out pretty thoroughly, but what I discovered was that I made the concept way too expansive. Because I am covering a number of pretty diverse and loaded topics, I really had to work to figure out what precise things I wanted to say about each subject, and how to be concise and remain on topic for the overarching goal of these allegories. The range of topics still remains all over the freakin’ yard.

Initially, these images were going to be involved portraits of elementals or spirits which were going to be the representation of each theme. But then I realized that it was more important for me to show an interaction between characters in these allegories to convey the social ramifications of these issues.  Also,  when I approached these subjects personified by elementals, it was too easy for this project to go into religious and dualistic territory. I wanted to approach this conceptually from more of a sociological point of view, as well as a complex one showing culpability on all accounts instead of vilifying one side or one character. So coming up with these characters and this loose narrative allowed me to accomplish of this conceptually.

The physical process of the work was something I’ve developing since the beginning of this school year. I developed thumbnail compositions of each piece by sketching the basic composition first, deciding upon the palettes for each piece, and then creating photocomps by collaging images together in photoshop. I used to primarily be a collage artist, and this is still the way of making a composition that comes the most natural to me.

photocomp

photo-comp for Brutality

After the photocomp, I would then draw all of the componants for the piece separately. For example, in the Brutality piece, I drew the background, the deer and the woodwose, and the horned-serpent separately with graphite on paper. Then I would scan all of the  images and collaged then together in photoshop to create the linework for the image.

At this point, I would print out the linework, and from the basic shapes in the linework, I would create a textural painting with ink on a piece of arches paper. These were very basic ink paintings, that conveyed the value differences in the images and with the use of various media like salt and soap, I created different textures that I wanted to incorporate into the texture of the final image.

I would then return to the digital image file, and paint underneath the linework in photoshop. This was the part of the process that took the longest, each piece on average took a few weeks of digital painting, and I worked on several at a time. Once the digital painting was finished, I would change the linework from black lines to colored lines at various levels of transparencey to create a more painterly feel to the image. And last I would scan the textural paintings, and work them into the image.

Once all of the images were finished, I printed them out a million. I did small and full scale test prints to figure out what paper I wanted them on, I looked for any light and color correction I wanted to make to the images files once they were printed because images always look different on screen. And also, once I printed them out this big, I looked for all the tiny flaws and mistakes in the images that I may have missed when they were on screen. And then, when I thought I was done with printing everything, my cat ate my prints, and so I had to print them all out again at the last minute.

My personal style of work fluctuates a little bit between painterly, photo realistic and illustrative. I chose this illustrative visual style to make this series in because I wanted to continue the visual dialogue in allegories that has been set by graphic novels. It was graphic novels that first introduced the idea of allegory to me at a very young age, and it was this illustrative style that I first attempted emulate as a kid teaching myself how to draw. Being that this is the style that I have been developing all of my life as an artist, it is the one that is the most personal.

I see this work first living in a gallery setting. After thesis, I will be having a solo show for this work at Violet Star Gallery in North Portland for the month of September. One thing that my panel pointed out after my defense is that these images definitely yearn to live with text. I plan to write a little something (maybe some prose) to accompany the images for the Violet Star show.

I have toyed with the idea of creating more allegories for this series and releasing them all in book form. I do a lot of creative writing, and I’ve definitely considered the idea of deepening the narrative present in this series. These images will definitely end up in my portfolio, I think they are applicable to a lot of illustration work that I would like to pursue, such as character design, conceptual design, and graphic novel work.

Graphic from my Thesis Oral Defense

Graphic from my Thesis Oral Defense

So, that (plus a 50 page thesis paper) was my thesis. If you have read this far, you are a saint. Thank you so much for taking an interest in my work, and I’m happy to answer any questions you may have about my project.

Bibliography

 Amanda J Green, Animals in Celtic life and myth, London: Routledge, 1998, 227–8.

“Allegory.” Merriam-Webster.com. 2011. http://www.merriam-webster.com. Accessed  11 May 2013.

BBC News “Bangladesh building collapse death toll over 800,” BBC – Homepage, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-22450419. (Accessed May 8, 2013).

Bender, Hy. The Sandman Companion. New York, NY: Vertigo Books, 1999.

Bentham, Jeremy. An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation. Oxford:           Clarendon Press. 1907. Library of Economics and Liberty. [Online]             http://www.econlib.org/library/Bentham/bnthPML1.html#Chapter I, Of the Prin   ciple of Utility; accessed 11 April 2013; Internet.

Caroline A. Jones. “Post-modernism.” Grove Art OnlineOxford Art Online. OxfordUniversity Press, accessed May 8, 2013, http://www.oxfordartonline.com/subscriber/article/grove/art/T069002.

Chase, Truddi, and Robert A. Phillips. When Rabbit howls. New York: E.P. Dutton, 1987.

“David Gibbons.” Comicbookdb.com: The Comic Book Database, Accessed May 7, 2013.  http://comicbookdb.com/creator.php?ID=54.

Eligon, John, and Michael Schwirtz. “Todd Akin Provokes Ire With Legitimate Rape Comment – NYTimes.com.” The New York Times – Breaking News, World News & Multimedia. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/20/us/politics/todd-akin- provokes-ire-with-legitimate-rape-comment.html (accessed May 7, 2013).

Encyclopædia Britannica Online, s.v. “Alan Moore” accessed May 07, 2013,         http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/1537634/Alan-Moore

—–, s.v. “Buddhism,” Accessed May 07, 2013,       http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/83184/Buddhism.

—–, s. v. “Constitution of the United States of America,”   accessed April 09, 2013, http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/134197/Constitution-of-the-United-States-of-America.

—–, s.v. “Christianity,” Accessed May 07, 2013,    http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/115240/Christianity.

—–, s.v. “Cronus,” accessed May 07, 2013,             http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/143926/Cronus.

—–, s.v. “dukkha.” Accessed May 07, 2013,           http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/173322/dukkha

—–, s.v. “Four Noble Truths,” Accessed May 07, 2013,     http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/214989/Four-Noble-Truths.

—–, s.v. “Hinduism,” Accessed May 07, 2013,       http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/266312/Hinduism.

—–, s. v. “Holocaust,” accessed April 09, 2013, http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/269548/Holocaust.

—–, s.v. “Lilith” accessed May 07, 2013,     http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/341009/Lilith.

—–, s.v. “Neil Gaiman,” accessed May 07, 2013,    http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/1000207/Neil-Gaiman

—–, s. v. “personification,” accessed May 08, 2013,           http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/453037/personification.

—–, s. v. “Tiananmen Square incident,” accessed April 09, 2013, http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/594820/Tiananmen-Square-      incident.

—–, s. v. “United States,” accessed May 08,            2013, http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/616563/United-States.)

—–, s. v. “United States,” accessed May 08,            2013, http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/616563/United-States.)

—–, s. v. “werewolf,” accessed May 08,      2013, http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/639825/werewolf.

Fatal attraction. Directed by Adrian Lyne. United States: Paramount Pictures, 1987.

Frank, Anne. The Diaries of Anne Frank: The Revised, Critical Edition. Translated by David Barnouw and Gerrold van der Stroom. New York: Doubleday, A division of Random House, 2001.

Gombrich, E.H. The Story of Art. New York, NY: Phaidon Press Limited, 1995.

Harper, Douglas. “allegory.” Online Etymology Dictionary.             http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=allegory (accessed April 19, 2013).

Heidegger, Martin. The Essence of Truth. Translated by Ted Sadler. New York, NY:          Continuum, 2002.

InterAction Council, “A Universal Declaration of Human Responsibilites.” Proposed        September 1, 1997. Accessed May 7, 2013. http://interactioncouncil.org/universal-declaration-human-responsibilities.

Kieth, Sam and William Loebs. The Maxx, La Jolla, CA: WildStorm Productions, 2003-     2006.)

Knowles, Elizabeth. “woodwose.,” The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable,    2006. Encyclopedia.com. (May 7, 2013) http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O214-woodwose.html

Lack, Sarah. “Smith, Kiki.” Grove Art OnlineOxford Art Online. Oxford University Press, accessed May 8, 2013, http://www.oxfordartonline.com/subscriber/article/grove/art/T096666.

Mitsis, Phillip. Epicurus’ Ethical Theory: The Pleasures of Invulnerability. Ithaca, NY:     Cornell University Press, 1988.

“Modernism.” Grove Art OnlineOxford Art Online. Oxford University Press, accessed May 8, 2013,http://www.oxfordartonline.com/subscriber/article/grove/art/T058785.

Moore, Alan. Watchmen. New York, NY: DC Comics, 1987.

Oppel Jr., Richard A.. “2 Teenagers Found Guilty in Steubenville, Ohio, Rape – NY         Times.com.” The New York Times – Breaking News, World News & Multimedia.             http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/18/us/teenagers-found-guilty-in-rape-in-            steubenville-ohio.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0 (Accessed May 7, 2013).

Parrish, Graydon. “Graydon: Bio.” Accessed May 7, 2013.             http://www.graydonparrish.com/Graydon_Parrish/Bio.html. “The Cycle of Terror             and Tragedy: September 11, 2001,” New Britain Museum of American Art (blog),   September 10, 2010, http://nbmaa.wordpress.com/2010/09/10/collectionhighlights-the-cycle-of-terror-and-tragedy-september-11-2001/.

Pirie, Madsen. 101 Great Philosophers: Makers of Modern Thought, (London: Continuum International, 2009), 29-30.

Popper , Karl Raimund. The Open Society and it’s Enemies: Volume 1: The Spell of Plato. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1971.

Spiegelman, Art. MetaMaus: A look inside a Modern Classic, Maus. New York, NY: Pantheon Books, 2011.

Strieder, Peter. “Dürer.” Grove Art OnlineOxford Art Online. Oxford University Press,   accessed May 7, 2013, http://www.oxfordartonline.com/subscriber/article/grove/art/T024180pg1

The Wire. Directed by David Simon. New York: HBO, 2002-2008.

United Nations, General Assembly, “Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” Accessed April 11, 2013. http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/index.shtml.

Vandenbroeck, Paul. “Bosch, Hieronymus.” Grove Art OnlineOxford Art Online. Oxford University Press, accessed May 8, 2013,  http://www.oxfordartonline.com/subscriber/article/grove/art/T010250

X-Men and Philosophy: Astonishing Insight and Uncanny Argument in the Mutant X-Verse. Edited by Rebecca Housel and J. Jeremy Wisnewski. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons Inc. 2009.

Full Blown Thesis Insanity

Hi folks! This is officially the last two weeks I have to work before I present my thesis project. A biproduct of this is that I haven’t been able to update my blog here until now. So first off, here is the finished product of my obsession illustration:

Obsession Digital media © Valerie Herron 2013

Obsession
Digital media
© Valerie Herron 2013

 

And here are some details on my thesis painting progress. I’m so close to being finished! Wish me luck on the home stretch of my studio work for this project.

 

Midterm Review and Thesis Progress

I made it through Midterm!

The midterm review was a little intense. I had to present my thesis concept to a panel of professionals (my panel consisted of art directors from the design, comics and gaming industries, and one freelance artist.) I also showed them my process and my work in progress. Here is a glance of the process behind my Brutality piece, the first image in the series. These are just a few of the items that I presented:

The panel thought my project was very strong conceptually, and they really responded to the work itself. I was thrilled. I also presented my current portfolio. Why yes, that is gold leaf!

The panel seemed excited about my work. They were all very nice, and gave extremely thoughtful feedback. This was definitely the help and encouragement I needed to push forward into the rest of my studio work over the next 6 weeks. And I must thank my amazing thesis mentor Annie Heisey once again. She knows exactly when to push me and when to not freak out! It’s a crucial balance that I think I need from all the people in my life, but she has been especially helpful this semester and I’m sure I’ll gush about her awesomeness a few more times before all of this insanity is over. Thanks, Annie.

Valentines, Thesis, and The Star Goddess

Hello, Friends! I hope the Year of the Water Serpent is treating you well so far. Things continue to get busier and busier for me here, but as thesis progresses I become more inspired and excited about my project.

ecmajor-the-black-water-snake-of-the-new-year

I survived the dreaded PechaKucha. It wasn’t too painful, everyone seemed to feel equally unprepared and unsure of what they were supposed to be presenting. The good news is that it did really help me determine a direction for my research.

“In this paper I will consider why people need fictional allegories to empathize with the reality of suffering. I will explore the connection between allegory and social responsibility, as well as the ways that some find empowerment and catharsis through allegorical devices.”  – current thesis statement

I am examining historical and contemporary artists that utilize violent and tragic allegory to convey social and political messages within their work. To bring my paper back into the realm of contemporary illustration, I plan on dissecting a few relevant graphic novels that speak with the same vocabulary.

research materials

research materials

 

I finished the last bit of conceptual groundwork for my thesis project and created comps for all six pieces. This week I start actually working on the art, and I couldn’t be more excited. I will continue to post updates throughout the process.

a comp for one of the six pieces

a comp for one of the six pieces

 

Phase one of my book cover commission is complete. What Christine requested was an image that would evoke the imagery of Starhawk‘s Star Goddess creation myth:

“Alone, awesome, complete within Herself, the Goddess, She whose name cannot be spoken, floated in the abyss of the outer darkness, before the beginning of all things. As She looked into the curved mirror of black space, She saw by her own light her radiant reflection, and fell in love with it. She drew it forth by the power that was in Her and made love to Herself, and called Her “Miria, the Wonderful”.

Their ecstasy burst forth in the single song of all that is, was, or ever shall be, and with the song came motion, waves that poured outward and became all the spheres and circles of the worlds. The Goddess became filled with love, swollen with love, and She gave birth to a rain of bright spirits that filled the worlds and became all beings.”

– Starhawk, The Spiral Dance

Christine wanted something more anthro and less pin-up, but sensual none the less. I was up for the challenge. I started out with some very loose sketching trying to design shapes that would be appealing for the composition.

sketches

sketches

 

I then created six variations of silhouettes to see which I liked best. I decided that the second and sixth had the most potential for a pleasing composition that met the client’s criteria

silhouettes

silhouettes

From there I created some final thumbnail comps in photoshop to get an idea of how the silhouettes would look in the form of star clusters. I imagine the line work will be created out of stars (white light/linework) and the line/star clusters will dissipate the further they move away from the goddesses’ kiss. The same would go for the misty looking nebula color which I plan to paint in. To mimic that, I made the shapes/nebulas more transparent moving from the center outward in all of the comps.

As much as I think there is potential for lovely shapes with the full-body nebulas, the client doesn’t want the cover to resemble a pin-up in any way, so the faces definitely are less problematic in that sense. I also appreciate the possibilities of conveying intimacy in a more subtle way through facial expression with the face nebulas. Between the two comps that feature the faces, I prefer the third. It is the better composition, it contains the potential for key facial details, and it gives more room to show off the fading effect of the nebulas and line work. So this is the composition that I proposed for the book cover. Christine seems pleased with that decision, so the next step is creating the line work.

For all of you who celebrate, happy Valentine’s Day and a joyous Lupercalia to you! My boyfriend and I exchanged gifts early, since his work week starts tomorrow. More traditional gifts would include jewelry and chocolates, but we are far from traditional. (Bragging time) He got me my favorite candies, a big bag of tea lights, and the Wildwood Tarot, which I have been coveting for a long time! I got him a locally made set of runes – carved from white tail deer antler – complete with a handmade leather bag, and a Chinese zodiac pendant. And of course, a sappy, sappy card.

nerdy love

nerdy love

 

Vile Kirby and What the Hell is a PechaKucha?

You can not tell me that my blog titles aren’t enticing. Whether the blogs themselves deliver, who knows. Here’s some more art!

I just finished my first assignment in Advanced Illustration. This one takes some explaining:

For the 1st assignment we were supposed to pair up with a classmate and interview them about their work. Depending on things that they wanted to explore, their portfolio was missing, or things that they absolutely hate doing, we then were to create an assignment for them, being as mean or helpful as we wished.

My buddy Josh Burd (you may remember him from this assignment) came up with a pretty hilarious assignment for me. Because I don’t have a lot of packaging design under my belt, and because I never do anything “cute or fluffy” Josh thought it would be a good exercise for me to design a new variation of Kirby as a character, and the box packaging for its inevitable collector’s toy. Josh named him “Vile Kirby” and instructed me to create him in my style. And that was it.

If you are unfamiliar with Kirby, he is a cutesy Nintendo character that has been featured in a number of different video games, including Kirby’s Dreamland and Kirby’s Epic Yarn. He even has his own bizarre cartoon.

Nintendo's Kirby

Nintendo’s Kirby

 

So this proved to be interesting challenge. Vile, by definition, means extremely wicked or unpleasant. I needed to create a Kirby that possessed those qualities, but retained some of Kirby’s cuteness and some key, recognizable characteristics. I sketched out some ideas and came up with a Kirby I really liked.

IMAG0066

 

I designed the typeface for Vile Kirby’s name and started to design the actual packaging from a box template. The final result was this:

 

Vile Kirby, digital media© Valerie Herron 2013

Vile Kirby, digital media
© Valerie Herron 2013

Vile Kirby box packaging, digital media© Valerie Herron 2013

Vile Kirby box packaging, digital media
© Valerie Herron 2013

 

Then I made a prototype box.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

My cat Naharra jumped in there to model and demonstrate scale. Thank you, darling. I’m not sure if I’ll use this in my portfolio or not, but it was a lot of fun to make. Thanks, Josh 😉

I’m beginning to write my big, scary, thesis paper. I was happy to discover that the paper doesn’t have to cover all of the conceptual territory that the project encompasses (thank all of the gods, my project is way too ambitious) but it is required to be a lengthy research paper that will shed some light on the project. I finally narrowed down all of the research possibilities to this thesis statement:

In this paper I will consider why it is that people need fictional allegories to empathize with the reality of suffering. I will explore the connection between allegory and social responsibility, as well as the ways that some find catharsis and empowerment through allegorical devices.

The first step into research required by my thesis writing class is to construct and present a PechaKucha. What the hell is a PechaKucha? It is a painful exercise of indeterminate pronunciation (my professor thinks it’s either Peh-chuh-Koo-chuh or, hilariously, Peh-chatch-kah) where you must give power point style presentation on a complex subject, limited to 20 slides, 20 seconds each. The idea is that the presenter will be forced to distill their subject matter and will only present salient information. Making the exercise even more fun, we are limited to 4 minutes or less, 10 slides.

So I have to figure out how I will be defining all of my terms, presenting valid examples, and tying it all into my work in 4 minutes or less. Oh, and we will be merging classes. I will be performing this train wreck for two classes total. I suppose after my thesis proposal, this can’t be that painful. We will see.

 

 

 

 

I’m Back! Get ready for consistency!

Hello! I am back from hibernation and I am now forced (via Advanced Illustration) to provide weekly updates here. Hooray! I’m actually glad I’ll be getting back into the habit of updating this blog, I love sharing the process of my various projects and keeping in touch with everyone.

Thesis update: I managed to create a solid thesis proposal, and I think I did a good job delivering the presentation. The amazing Annie Heisey agreed to be my thesis mentor, and I couldn’t be more thrilled.

So that was last semester. So far this semester I have been doing a lot of ideation on my thesis, and I am just now starting to rework the visuals. The conceptual aspect of this project is in a major distillation period, and things are really starting to come together. Stay tuned for updates on the process of my thesis project.

As a follow up to my last post, I completed the cd cover illustration and the cd packaging design for the Hermetic Library’s 5th anthology album. John Bell (the Librarian) was really great to work for. He was very nice, knew specifically what he wanted, and has great design sensibilities. All of these things make a world of difference when trying to communicate with clients via email. I would love to do more work for The Hermetic Library in the future. Here’s the final cover piece:

Cover for Magick, Music, and Ritual 5 Anthology Album.Illustration and Design© Valerie Herron

Cover for Magick, Music, and Ritual 5 Anthology Album.
Illustration and Design
© Valerie Herron

“For the cover art of this anthology, I wanted to create something that was in the spirit of the Hermetic Library project, as well as something that honored this time of year. Autumn is the season of rot, and the process of death and decomposition is apparent in every direction. Leaves wither off the trees, the days grow darker, and the chill of encroaching winter begins to creep into our lungs. The veil between the worlds is receding, and the gaze of otherworldly things is palpable. I wanted to interpret this seasonal ambiance into a dark composition accompanied by the simplicity of line.

A grim icon that truly seems to resonate with people right now is the deer skull. I have seen it in numerous places lately, appearing to have surfaced from the collective unconscious with great purpose. I felt it was an appropriate memento mori for this image. The bind rune is a glyph that is representative of the mythical Wild Hunt: a phantasmal cavalcade, tracking and claiming the lives of mortals. Lastly, the leather book texture is a nod to the Hermetic Library itself.” – My statement about the cover art, from hermetic.com

I was happy to end the semester with one of my favorite illustrations that I have ever made. I created it for my Advanced Illustration class, it’s and homage to American Gothic literature, which I was inundated with at the time:

American Gothic, digital media© Valerie Herron

American Gothic, digital media
© Valerie Herron

If you are on tumblr and Pinterest, I have new accounts on both! This is the tumblr page for my art, and here is my Pinterest page. Follow me on both!

I’m happy to announce that I will be having a solo gallery show this summer! I will announce the details closer to the date, so stay tuned. Second, I am working on my first book cover commission. Also, I am honored to be creating an jacket illustration for Christine Hoff Kraemer‘s newest book. I don’t think she’s promoted it yet, so I’ll keep the title under wraps. I will post the developments of these projects as they unfold.

Last, my internship for Faerieworlds LLC continues as we are gearing up for FaerieCon West. If you are in the Pacific Northwest the weekend of February 22nd and you are interested in a giant fantasy convention complete with two Masquerade Balls, a slew of vendors, talks/workshops by a ton of rad people, you should check it out. I will be there all weekend doing media stuff. Here’s the official website for details: http://faeriecon.com/west/

That’s all I have for now. I’ll be back next week 🙂