The Wondering Line
Rachel Gannon, Chloé Regan, Fumie Kamijo
Ink Illustration was founded in 2007 by Chloé Regan, Fumie Kamijo and Rachel Gannon whilst studying at the Royal College of Art. The illustration collective work individually as well as collaboratively on a wide range of commercial and personal projects including; curating, editorial work, retail, museum installations, craft work and exhibitions. They continually investigate drawing in its broadest sense through their illustration practice and academic research.
‘The Wondering Line’ looks to interrogate the context for the sketch, both in the work of the collective and its use in commercial illustration. The work was produced for an exhibition at Tenderpixel Gallery in London. ‘The Wondering Line’ was curated by INK and explores a variety of approaches to examining the sketch and its format to further explore its context. The work is supported by short essays on the collectives work and the role of drawing and sketching.
The Wondering Line: the sketch as visual thinking
‘For me, drawing is an inquiry, a way of finding out - the first thing that I discover is that I do not know.’ - Bridget Riley
We think visually and the tangible vehicle for our thoughts is the sketch. The reflective sketch defines our illustration practice, it is not simply a preliminary tool. We are seeing a resurgence of the intimate hand-drawn sketch in contemporary illustration. Internal dialogues, captured through the process of sketching, are used publicly by illustrators as a means of communication. We aim to contextualise why the thinking sketch is a fundamental element of our practice, what it emotes, and how it plays a communicative role in illustration. We have used a combination of practice and theory led research to examine this subject.
In order to approach this subject in relation to our practice we have identified two distinct lines of enquiry. The first area for investigation is the intimate sketch as a public expressive tool. Usually the sketch is private, personal and confined and bound within the covers of a sketchbook. Why is this private drawn thought such a powerful device when searching for a contemporary way to communicate? Marxist and Feminist theories are used to deconstruct this seemingly dichotomous relationship. Here we discuss the ‘genius’ myth it’s intrinsic links with the desire to appear intuitive. We also look at the emotional connections that are formed between viewer and artifact and discuss why this must be a seductive rather than forceful relationship. To remain harmonious and to seduce the viewer, the creative process must be visible.
The second area looks at the ‘wanderer’; the artist traverses the terrain. Drawing in and amongst activity we are reflective observers of modern life (Charles Baudalaire). We think through the act of observing. We respond to direct experience to make sketches, which are full of discovery, searching and autobiographical. Through the process of sketching to observe, we simultaneously use it as a way of learning and making sense of the world around us; sketching to map our personal landscape. It is the incomplete mark or the imperfect trace of a line created on location that encapsulates the aesthetic of the sketch and visualises the process of our thinking through drawing. The sketch communicates experience and thinking beyond words.
Our research will culminate in an exhibition at Tenderpixel Gallery, London running from 28th September to 22nd October 2011. We will exhibit our sketchbooks and diaries physically juxtaposed with quotations and musings taken from our research. These references will span the works of John Berger to Charles Baudalaire and Griselda Pollock to Marshall McLuhan. The exhibition will outline the contextual landscape for our sketches as visual thinking and their role within our illustration practice. It also makes clear why thinking through drawing is effective both as process and outcome. Our research places a new emphasis on the value of the sketch as a tangible method for thinking and the sketchbook a vital repository for thought.
The collectiveIn 2007 I met Rachel Gannon, Fumie Kamijo and Chloé Regan the collective known as INK Illustration, as part of a mentoring scheme set up between the Royal College of Art and the Royal Designers for Industry. Of the four of us, I suspect I learnt the most from the engagement.
They had very strong ideas about drawing, noting, sketching and working collaboratively. These personal and group rules they published as a Manifesto in VAROOM! Illustration, Culture, Society (Issue 10 2009) bravely pinning their colours to the mast. In 2011 their work shows no sign of any surrender.
There are many precedents for groups of illustrators (to use an overly simple description) to form at art school and continue to work together. It makes good sense to perpetuate the critical atmosphere of studentship, argue about one’s discipline (and perhaps to avoid cabin fever by going out to work).
Within this framework, and taking strength from it, Ink Illustration is unusual in the many questions its practice raises. Does Illustration have boundaries? The group has clearly decided that its borders should not be policed. Is there a difference between a visual note, or sketch, and an illustration? After constant dialogue with each other Gannon, Kamijo and Regan have plumped for retaining gesture, showing workings and publishing the originals: warts and all. (I personally find their insistence on the hand-drawn line a challenge but am full of admiration for this stance when it clearly works so well.) Is ‘being there’ important? INK Illustration greatly values observation and recording: the group’s work re- introduces notions of reportage. Can one maintain individuality whilst working within a collective? Can work be collective when made by three individuals? View the evidence in this exhibition.
Rachel Gannon, Fumie Kamijo and Chloé Regan, make a great team of self-described ‘wanderers’ and are well prepared to explore The Wondering Line: they have written the guidebook and can draw a fine map.
Ink is a magical material, visceral, dark, lending itself to drama. At times it is iridescent, indeed some inks were made from an extract of crushed beetles. But its dark substance is not only conducive to rendering shadows and evoking mysteries; when handled.
with dexterity it can be subtle, nuanced and elegant. Chloé Regan, Rachel Gannon and Fumie Kamijo, artists forming the INK Illustration collective, embrace the many qualities that ink has to offer. Of course they work with other media such as graphite, gouache and watercolour, but it is their love of ink that gives their work a distinctive look. Black figures stand out on a white surface. Some of them cast light shadows rendered in a range of washes, suggesting spaces that they inhabit. Not everything is spelt out, viewers are given the freedom to read into the compositions using their imaginations. Sometimes these spaces adhere to the logic of perspective, on other occasions the space is flattened and the compositions take on decorative qualities.
What gives even the most fantastical images their visual charge and credibility is that many of their ingredients are referenced from life. The artists continually fill countless sketchbooks with observations from life: human behavioural patterns, architectural spaces, interiors, domestic objects, plants and animals. With all this material they are able to weave together evocative, often witty narratives. Using their imaginations, working from memory and observation, the INK ladies exert a charm that can only delight and enrich our own experience of life, encouraging us to observe life from different angles. The commonplace and the everyday is not so mundane. In the hands of INK Illustration it is humorous, sometimes surreal and unexpected. Their wondering and wandering lines depict a wonderful world.
, graphic artist, designer, illustrator, writer and Professor of Illustration at the Royal College of Art.
Ink Illustration: The Wondering line
In the digital age there is seldom time for the wandering thought, an explorative journey of an idea, observation, a narrative, or simply a line taken for a walk. Maybe only through the simple act of drawing can one slow down & wonder, to intuitively make a mark whether descriptive or abstract, turning a thought into the visual.
It is perhaps only through a sketch that we have the time to embark on journeys which are undefined, to explore a subject matter without a clearly defined outcome, upon that treacherous path where dangers lurk at every stage. In the sketch we are brave, where unconsciously we express ourselves without thought of audience or client.
Sketches are often unseen. They are the intermediary stage of a work, part of the working process, the immediate thought, the trace of an idea prior to its translation as a resolved piece of work, a visual shorthand, a rhythm of spontaneous marks made across paper or computer tablet induced by an emotional response. The sketch may be a personal space, a place for posing oneself questions in your work, a place to show no fear.
Ink Illustration here exhibits their sketchbooks, diaries & collected material thoughts, personal inner dialogues to show their visual worlds, both real & imagined, at what they dwell upon in their common collective. To reveal there individual journeys with unabashed honesty in an effort to understand & explore the process & philosophy of the sketch.
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Psychogeography The Illustrator as WandererInk Illustration have created a body of work with a nod and a wink to Walter Benjamin’s Arcades project, Psychogeography and the ‘wanderer’. Their common interests concerned with ‘The reflective sketch’ and the role of the sketch within contemporary illustrative practice. Ink’s work has an honest unmediated clarity; refreshing in an industry which often due to over art direction and time constraints doesn’t allow much space for reflection. Too often the integrity and freshness of the original sketch is lost through re-draws or an attempt by the illustrator to ape the immediacy of the hand drawn sketch, by developing a mannered, contrived, and over mediated style.
Fumie's work explores the confessional sketch via her diaristic journals, annotated drawdlings (sic), scribbles, and doodles. Her work explores landscapes of the imagination and internal dialogues in a lyrical whimsical manner, at times macabre, dark and surreal. The sketchbook journal allows Fumie full reign to record the process of her subliminal psychogeographic ambulations and visual thinking through the city of her imagination. Fragments of everyday life are juxtaposed, animate and inanimate couplings culminate in a warts and all visual confessional. Visual thinking at its most striking, complete absolution is conferred.
Rachel’s investigations are visualised using predominantly line and Passages of tone and colour. The sketchbook pages encourage a semi abstract use of composition and negative space. Her characters inhabit an edited personal vision of a city, almost as if seen from river level, an urban swimmer viewing things half seen through peripheral vision, off course in a strange environment similar to one we know but fundamentally different. Animate and inanimate are drawn together in an idiosyncratic manner, seemingly poised to leap across the page in order to create new narratives and relationships. The drawings possess a cinematic sensibility, suggesting narratives played out beyond the confines of the page.
Chloe’s working method is much more explorative, in terms of mark making. There is a sense of discovery, drawing through three-dimensional space. The line possesses an autonomous quality, partly unfinished and incomplete, a palimpsest of half heard, half seen narratives and incidents merging to form new possibilities. The viewer is led through a liminal world of ghostly reportage meanderings, only confirmed by areas of focus characterised by what Bonnard called ‘the state of first vision’. Chloe’s line draws the eye into and around the composition, the use of negative space, minimal colour, and continuous line reminiscent of automatic drawing.
Ink have elevated aimless sketching to an art form, their focus made tangible through the juxtaposition of drawings, quotes, musings and visual thinking gaining them a new perspective on their environment and illustration practice., Illustrator and Senior lecturer in Illustration at the University of the west of England.A Phenomenology of the Sketch1. The sketch as somewhere between anticipation and not quite ready. Before, existing in its own time. Like B.C. Time before Jesus as a sketch, time getting ready, preparing, for the real thing. The sketch as a mark redeemed by the final work.
2. The sketch as a sign of craft, of preparation, training perception.
3. The sketch as observation, as voyeur: two roughly-sketched people looking at a painting, ‘Metropolitan guy impressing girl’.
4. The sketch as a random collection of thoughts. Household objects for example; a kettle, “what’s for?”; a suitcase. “where’s from?”; a fork, “who used before?” The ‘before’ as a way of making sense, this-then-that, the sketch as evidence, the sketch as policing perception.
5. The sketch as dysfunctionality, as dysfunctional craft, not finessed, unpolished. The sketch as a picture of the gaps in our sense of self. Four beers, three shots and a toilet bowl, ‘Oooh please Fumie, can you stop talking what I should not have said!!!” The sketch as picture of self-punishment for being ‘stupid’, thoughtless, as the image of the thoughtless.
6. The sketch as a doodle, a letter from the unconscious.
7. The sketch as a mark in search of a meaning. The sketch of two doorways, side-by-side, indistinct figures inside the doorframes, onlookers parked on the opposite page of the sketchbook looking in, participating in the sketch for us, noting, looking. The sketch as posing the question of ‘readability’, of how to read notes, jottings, scrambled messages, as an open-ended question.
8. The sketch as a series of marks asking the question, who is this sketch for?
9. The sketch as a sign of artistic labour, authenticity, the myth of raw meaning, uncooked a downpayment on art, archive to be redeemed later.
10. The sketch as the aesthetic of awkward, the unresolved relationship of word and image.
11. The sketch as the mark which never knows when to stop.
editor of Varoom Illustration magazine, is a journalist, editor, and copywriter.