Practice 1: Art and Design (Distance Learning)


Illuminated #1

The Martian Chronicles: Illuminated Practical Project

Prelim Sketch #3

I chose ‘Illuminated’ as my keyword for my research and practical artwork modules for the MA. This was taken straight from my original statement during my application, and formed the basis of my research practice as outlined the previous blog post.

After some reading and research on the subject I understood the term ‘Illuminated’ to mean the embellishing of books with strong colour and inks, especially with gold and silver leaf.

I decided to ‘illuminate’ a contemporary book. In this case a fiction book, one of my favorites as a child, ‘The Martian Chronicles’ by Ray Bradbury.

This book has already been widely illustrated, however I was looking to capture a different aesthetic, influenced by the hand-worked aspects of illuminated artwork without ignoring the substantial art movements that have been a factor since the printing press arrived.


The Martian Chronicles: Ian Miller

My direct influences in a contemporary sense included graphic novel illustrator Ian Miller (for his extremely detailed, anarchic and archaic take on science fiction, see above), and also Frances MacDonald,


Frances MacDonald : A Pond 1894

a Scottish artist profoundly influenced by the tradition of illuminated manuscript, especially the Celtic examples such as the Book Of Kells.


I looked at numerous examples of illuminated manuscript, Byzantine, Irish and Scots Celtic illuminated texts, as well as more recent artists that were influenced by this long standing and historically fascinating artistic tradition.There are numerous classifications for these texts. Late Antique, Insular, Carolingian, Romanesque, Gothic, and Renaissance manuscripts.

Book Of Kells

The Book Of Kells

I have been looking at a number of online resources for illuminated manuscripts and examples in this tradition.

I much preferred the Celtic tradition of illumination, which fused a number of different influences into on tradition.

Although the images themselves can seem somehow rough, askew and over complicated they also have a particular beauty in their detail and human touch which I enjoyed.

I even got a book about how to make illuminations and a letter stamp set to experiment with, as well as light board, as much of the images I have worked on so far have been reworked on tracing paper.

Illuminated #1

I settled on this basic design Prelim Sketch #4(see left) which shows one of the more moving passages in the book, in which an alien Martian confronts a human astronaut that has colonised his world. They soon realise that to each other they are ghosts. The Martian sees a vibrant, alive culture and beautiful cities. The human sees only ruins and emptiness, an ancient civilization long dead.



The pencil drawings below initially showed both the Martian and the human, however as it has developed only the Martian dominates, fused with his strangely organic city, a ghost merging into the structure itself. After finishing the basic design I now  looked at ways to illuminate it. I decided on gold and silver ink after thinking about LEDs and back-lighting.  I also did some outlines in pen, however I am not sure if I can make this work for a whole illustration.

illuminated Sketch #3

These drawings and designs are still very much a work in progress so please watch this space. Any comments are welcome.


László Moholy-Nagy, Lumia and the Light-Space Modulator



Light-Space Modulator, László Moholy-Nagy

The first written assignment for this MA in Graphic Design was a critical analysis, and the submission of an annotated bibliography of research and reading examples.

The deadline for the critical analysis was drawing near and I had yet to find anything to critique. It was also a good while since I had written any kind of essay. I had decided on a key word for my initial studies, ‘Illuminated’, which was taken from my initial statement when I applied.

But ‘Illuminated’ means so much, with so many different connotations and meanings. I started by looking at illuminated manuscripts – I had seen some fine examples of pre-printing press illuminated manuscripts earlier in the year at the Hungarian Gallery in Glasgow. I was interested in the history and cultural significance of these methods of producing books.


Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery @RCJPhotog

However, most of the literature I was finding on the subject was archaic, dry, academic and not particularly controversial or of interest from an analytical point of view. Also, books on the subject were hard to find locally and extortionate on Amazon. I could not find much I could say at this point on that subject. So, I moved on to something of equal interest.

A number of subjects sprang up as I searched through the university’s library of articles and notes.

Edit Toth had written an essay on one of the early twentieth century’s most intriguing sculptures – Bauhaus tutor and artist László Moholy-Nagy’s  ‘Light Prop for an Electric Stage’. I had seen the sculpture in person earlier this year when visiting the Bauhaus Archiv in Berlin (or at least a close replica of the original).  It made an immediate visual impression.

Bauhaus Archiv

Bauhaus Archiv, Berlin @RCJPhotog

What grabbed me about the essay was both the subject matter and Toth’s arguments, not all of which I agreed with. The academic way of phrasing arguments in the essay made critiquing it accurately difficult for me, especially as I was so out of practice. I had not had to write an academic essay since I graduated from Napier in 2000. However I still managed to submit on time, and was moderately please with the results.

I became aware of a whole different world of light art, including lumia, and light manipulations as a source of new forms and structures in creative design. It made for an interesting week, learning more about the sculpture, its creator and chatting about the Bauhaus over dinner, as well as writing and re-writing this assignment.

You can read my final submitted assignment here and, by all means, offer constructive criticism or some thoughts of your own.

Now I just have to await the results.