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VaroomLab Journal issue two



VaroomLab Journal issue two Spatialising Illustration

Issue Two contains papers submitted and peer reviewed from the above call for papers for the Swansea Metropolitan University/VaroomLab Spatialising Illustration symposium held at Swansea on 24/25 January 2013.  The symposium explored the ways in which we encounter space and place through illustration, roaming beyond seeing illustration solely as a commercial discipline and exploring it as a visual language inherent in many artistic activities: a medium that evokes ideas and narrative, and one that offers subtle messages about worlds we encounter.

ISSN 2052-1820

Download Issue Two: VaroomLab Journal IssueTwo


Keynote Speeches

Laura Carlin The Space Between my Work and Myself

Chris Aldhous Architects of the Invisible Idea

Nicola Davies Story Space

Simon James A Place for Picture Books









Peer Reviewed Papers

Mitch Miller Illustrating Space as Collaborative, Socially Engaged Practice: The First Report from the DRAW DUKE STREET Residency.

Nick Dodds Control of Time and Space in Graphic Narratives

Sharon Beeden Utilising Spatial Positions to Promote Idea Generation

and the Enhancement of Creative Thinking Processes within Illustration Contexts

Rachel Gannon Being There: Conversational Drawing in a Non-Place

Bella Kerr Word Room

Richard Levesley & Marc Bosward Illustrated Worlds

Allan Walker Alternative Traditions: Flat as a Way of Visualising Space


Presented Papers

Paul Edwards & Carole Burns The Space Between: The Relationship between Image and Narrative in ‘Imagistic’

Geoff Grandfield Illustration and Narrative as a Spatial Experience – The Jewel House at the Tower of London

Roderick Mills Illustration for the Internet Space

Chloé Regan The Set




Abstracts of peer reviewed papers:

Sharon Beeden

Utilising Spatial Positions to Promote Idea Generation and the Enhancement of Creative Thinking Processes within Illustration Contexts

This paper seeks to demonstrate the use of physical spatial areas as a strategy for creative thinking, and the subsequent, resultant creative process.

Adapted from a Neuro-Linguistic Programming, (NLP), strategy devised by Robert Dilts, relating to the working methodology of animator, Walt Disney, this approach when used within the early stages of a live commission or college project brief, focuses on the interrelatedness between three different perceptual states inherent within the creative cognitive process – the Dreamer (the visionary, highly creative state), the Realist (the planning and organisational state), and finally, the Critic state, (the constructive fault-finder and problem-solver).

In recognising that every experience has a structure, by means of decoding the way in which we think and consider the possibilities within a specified context of a brief or goal, in association with the use of designated spaces within the studio, college or work-based environment, this exercise has broad-ranging applications.

The intention of this paper is provide a greater insight to this creativity strategy, and to share action-based practice research findings within a range of contexts and subject specialisms.

The work of NLP participating students – Fingerprint Club – can be found here.


Richard Levesley & Marc Bosward

Illustrated Worlds

The practice of the contemporary illustrator is no longer exclusively defined by the traditional orthodoxies of the commissioner and illustrator relationship. Contemporary Illustration has expanded the parameters of the discipline to include toys, games, animation, collectable objects, fashion and other forms of media and merchandising. This multi-disciplinary and authorial practice is often predicated on the creation of an identifiable, virtual ‘world’ that is manifest across an illustrator’s output, independent of variations in audience, purpose and subject matter. This paper will explore the illustrator’s use of visual language in constructing virtual, illustrated worlds.

Drawing from a range of contemporary examples, the paper will explore the capacity of illustration to generate a virtual world that engages and absorbs its audience. The paper will argue that a sense of place established through non-representational approaches can address the actual, socio-historical world through the interpretation of the constructed world’s diegesis. The paper will also consider how a world is realised across personal and commercial outputs and the interrelationship and interface of authorial and commercial imperatives.


Nick Dodds

Spatial Poetics: Control of Time and Space in Graphic Narratives

Deceptively simple on the surface, under close analysis the comic strip page is something of a paradox, a complex and multi-layered structure. For the artist, the formative layout of a graphic narrative is both a conceptual and spatial activity, involving a high degree of reasoning in the selection and placement of any textual and visual elements. In reception, the effectiveness of any narrative depends on the readiness of the reader to recognize, synthesize and decode the linguistic and visual information at hand, in short; to navigate spatial relationships and make meaningful connections between one panel and the next in the strip sequence. For this reason, graphic narratives offer up tremendous potential for textual analysis: for studying at close quarters issues pertaining to spatial design, visual literacy and the breach between expression and readership. This paper will address the formal and spatial apparatus of the comic book, with reference to selected examples of theorists and practitioners, focusing on i) page composition and spatial orientation, ii) the dynamic between text and image, iii) the utilization of panels as temporal markers and iv) connoting a sense of socio-geographical setting.


Rachel Gannon

Being There: Conversational Drawing in a Non-‐Place

This submission proposes the presentation of a practice led project. At the centre of this project is a month long drawing residency (in 2012) at London Luton Airport. These drawings, made in situ at the airport over the busy summer period, document and record the travellers (and airport staff) that pass through this self-contained non-place every day. Marc Augé states, in his analysis of supermodernity, that Airports are concerned with standardisation and are often remembered in very generic terms. This provides an interesting dichotomy as the drawings address a highly personal narrative; seen, imagined and remembered. The stories of these journeys, both dreamt and recorded, emerge from the drawings, creating a palimpsest of both rumour and fact. It is the experience of these transient moments that is documented and displayed in the subsequent exhibition.

The word drawing can be defined as both gesture (verb) and object (noun). This research is concerned with the former; the act of drawing or drawing as process. It does not look at drawing as a distinct discipline or an outcome but as an experience. It takes the phenomenological position of ‘Intuition in Action’ – Deleuze and Guattari; drawing as an experience that is felt. It is, in action, during the experience of drawing that we think; addressing drawing as thinking not as thought. This is concerned with a space where thinking is presenced not presented – drawing as a tool to extract memories and heighten experience. John Berger states that photography stops time whilst drawing encompasses it. There is a significant urge to stop time, to pause and return to the scene over and over again. However, this urge can be resisted (as is attempted here) and the process of drawing is seen as the intended outcome. This project addresses drawing to encompass; a practice that is both conversational and immersive.


Bella Kerr

Word Room

The low ceiling sloped down on three sides, the slant being interrupted on the east by a single square window, swinging outward on hinges and held ajar by a hook in the sill. This was the sole opening for light and air. Walls and ceiling alike were covered with a yellow paper which had once been very ugly, but had faded into inoffensive neutrality. The matting on the floor was worn and scratchy. Against the wall stood an old walnut table, with one leaf up, holding piles of orderly papers. Before it was a cane-backed office chair that turned on a screw. (Cather 1925: 16)

Perched at the boundaries of domesticity, the spare utility of this study is the location for the essential exchanges of Willa Cather’s novel, The Professor’s House (1925). The text in one way provides a simple drawing of the room, but, like a pocket into which the whole can be folded, the novel’s narrative is tucked within the meanings and patterns of the word’s sounds and shapes.

‘The low ceiling sloped down’ drops as we sound it in the internal voice that reads with us, confining and curtailing the attic room. Alliteration hisses awkwardness into ‘sloped down on three sides, the slant’, as does ‘interrupted on the east’, throwing up hard ts in words that unsettle. Single, swinging and ajar continue the sense of lop-sidedness, a state of imbalance and indecision, while square window supplies completeness, drawing single to its side, with hinges and hook to anchor the reader in the solid and material world. Sill is sensible enough, as are walls, floor, chair and table (building the room as we read), but its sibilance connects it to the slippery sounds above and offers a threshold, the place of change from interior to exterior. Outward and light and air see and breathe, wide and far, with good reason in the context of the narrative – if lost, all is lost. The piles of orderly papers tell us where we are, the Professor’s study, orderly and office restoring our belief in ‘o’, as an indicator of wholeness, echoing outward and opening in a quiet reverberation across the paragraph. Three words for singularity, ‘single – sole – one’, signal the Professor’s solitary state and anticipate his possible desire to leave life and family.

The words are their own illustration, the ‘slide show’ a gentle re-choreographing of the word dance on the page, as patterns and sequences appear and sink back into the text.


Mitch Miller

Illustrating space as collaborative, socially engaged practice: The first report from the DRAW DUKE STREET residency.

This paper reflects on DRAW DUKE STREET, a residency at Glasgow’s Market Gallery between early October and December 2012. This formed a case study inAHRC-funded PhD research into ‘the dialectogram’ (a word made from adding dialect/dialectic to diagram). Dialectograms are large documentary pen and ink drawings of places/spaces in the city of Glasgow, made on A0 board. They borrow from but do not conform to, the conventions of illustrative journalism, cartography, Psychogeography, architectural drawing, ethnography, oral history and sequential art to understand, and interpret, urban spaces. The aim of the residency was to draw as much as possible of a stretch of Duke Street in Dennistoun (where the gallery is located), documenting how this shared space is used, perceived and imagined by residents and local businesses. The drawing was created through the efforts of a team of local volunteer researchers who will assist me in gathering information and interviews, and through operating my workspace (in the gallery itself) as an open ‘surgery’ to gather further insights and ongoing input into the drawing as it develops. The final results were presented in a strip mimicking the shape of Duke Street, pieced together from A0 panels added as they are completed.

This process was carefully recorded and scrutinised through an action research model. Of particular interest were issues of social engagement in illustration, collaborative working and the use of insider/outsider perspectives in creative research. This paper is an early opportunity to report on emerging findings, share insights on the experience and show some examples of the work produced. It should be of interest to those engaged in socially-engaged practice, spatial illustration, illustrative journalism/documentary illustration and practice-led research.


Professor Allan Walker

Alternative Traditions: Flat as a Way of Visualising Space

Two narrative traditions are analysed in this critical examination of 19th Century images from Japan and the Plains Indians of North America. Although at first glance comparison between such different cultures seems unlikely, both have long histories of making visual chronicles and areas of common ground emerge in their treatment of subject matter and pictorial space.

Plains Indian drawings were traditionally produced as winter accounts of events in the life of the tribe in relation to warfare, hunting, religion and courtship. Following increased contact with soldiers and settlers during the mid-19th Century, the Plains Indians began to use bound ledgers drawing on the military or trading inventories using pencil, ink and watercolour. In Japanese woodblock prints, the influence of European perspective had been absorbed in the 18th Century and the ‘opening up’ of the country during the Meiji Period ushered in a period of frenetic print production using the foreigners as subject matter. Despite this, the contemporary artist Murakami considers that the defining quality of Japanese art and culture is the feeling of flatness.

This study compares the treatment of space in two examples from these cultural traditions and provides insights into the construction of graphic flatness in narrative art. Both artists have created highly versatile surfaces on which to convey representational and symbolic meaning and there are many similarities relating to the composition of space and depiction of movement. Contrasts also emerge principally in the application of orthographic and other systems for representing space in two dimensions. Although the influences of American Indian and Japanese art on Western art have been well documented, the physical and psychological dramas revealed in these examples identify relevant vocabularies for contemporary picture-making in the graphic arts and it is hoped, the study will enable practitioners to see and ‘read’ these images afresh.

Design by Luke Davies – Swansea Metropolitan University


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