The starting point for my research and practice has been a collection of poems called Crow by Ted Hughes, illustrated by the artist Leonard Baskin. Hughes's gritty poems and Baskin's dramatic wood block prints seemed to drive to the core of something bleak in nature which appeals to my sensibilities. But more their combination also reflected a powerful symbiotic working and understanding that so enhanced the project and questioned the role of illustrator.
I began to try and create my own versions of the crow. I drew using ink as a mirror to Baskin's technique and sought ways of manipulating the crow's image into something obscene, trying to reflect the words of the poems. But on some level this didn't work for me and the illustrations I preferred were very much closer to the original image of the crow and relied more on an aggressive posture of the bird, in the chosen photograph. I looked at other Illustrators experiences such as Lord's A Journey of drawing an illustration of a Fable for insight.
But in what respect did this reflect the status of illustration today? Delving deeper into what Illustration is perceived to be (the book The Education of an Illustrator being of particular interest) and an area that is much discussed today, I recognized the concept of Illustrator as Author and that on some level Baskin was embracing. The boundaries between the ownership, or originality, of the visual imagery of the illustrated words was blurred. An illustrator could quite easily own the visual language of a text more convincingly, than the writer, despite the work being their original concept.
I saw this could create a confused identity for the Illustrator, through my own drawing and reading texts like The End of Illustration by HELLER . When did their work move from being a work of art to an illustration? How much ownership of the visual concepts did they have when working on illustrating a text? For me the prints by Baskin exist separately from the words but so clearly illustrated the meaning of the poetry, which also reflected an unfathomable nature.
I felt like I had to grasp more of the narrative of the poem though text like The Author/Illustrator by Brodner informing my practice and decided that I would try and present a whole poem through one illustration. I produced a series of studies that I combined in one image depicting the poem Crow's Fall by Ted Hughes. I supported the content through walks in the country and a trip to a zoological museum, my own photographs and range of secondary sources.
I stood before the black and white Illustration of the work and felt that something was missing potentially. We then had a workshop with Kerry Andrews where we looked at grounds on to which we might work and I began a series of studies of a range of mid tone papers. I also found the alabaster drawings of Tacita Dean inspiring. I worked up grounds, painting on mid tones and effecting the crow with white paint. For me at this point they engage with the question of what is an illustrator and when does a work become an illustration, but also they reflect something primal that the words of the poem embody.