Χάος (Chaos) – Novel and Accompanying Artwork

A recent project I have started is a fiction novel entitled Χάος: The Chaos Engine (working title). After meeting the artist LADOZA I was inspire to get into making prints, and saw this as a great opportunity to create some visuals for my novel.

I have so far created 3 plates that match to parts of the story and display the timeline of the entity Χάος (based on the Greek god Chaos, written about by many Ancient Greeks, but my version is mostly focused on the poet Hesiod’s point of view – although I have interpreted it into my own fiction and the “figures” below present a beginning a middle and an end as far as the book is concerned).

I hope to further these 3 figures and create some real prints and experiment with methods and kinds of paper. I also hope to create more figures to accompany the book. More of this will evolve as the book does and my research into Greek mythology and fictional worlds continues.


The visuals came about by drawing tree roots. I used to struggle with grasping how to get the roots overlapping and splitting to be illustrated effectively, but with some practise I filled a small semi-circle with pencil illustration.

I scanned that pencil drawing, printed off a very faint version and went over it very roughly in pen in a sketchy style to make it look a bit dirty and jarring. I then scanned that into illustrator, live traced it and had this dirty looking root composition.

After playing around with the paths I had this jagged and dirty root formation in a clean vector.

My intention was to draw the tree branches in, but as a time saving method I attempted duplicating and rotating the piece, turning the roots into the branches. It struck up imagery of a haggard city from afar which I loved. I tightened up the middle joint a little, added some text and left it at that.

I tried the same thing process, but this time with the cleaner pencil lines. This gave a very similar, but smoother effect. The only issue being the slightly off centre so I exaggerated the twisting connection and that became the tree trunk.

Then after some manipulation of the second tree figure (reversing the angles) I ended up with the egg timer looking figure 2 had this dual fire/egg timer looking thing that appears to summon images of two phoenix on a playing card.

The meanings I’m attempting to reinforce through my triptych follow a combination of Greek mythology (mostly Hesiod’s point of view) and my own fiction.

Fig. 1: Chaos in its purest form, infinite and changing.

Fig. 2: the entrapment of chaos into the engine (part of the story). I intend to useuse this as the symbol of the (yet unnamed) governing body in the book. I want to tie in some meaning using some of the Eros and Nyx imagery of the two gods as birds as a fictional propaganda, enforced by the governing body.

Fig. 3 is the release of chaos back to its natural form, having potentially learned from the goodness in earth, but ultimately leaving it behind to reclaim its formless chaos.

 


I was massively inspired by the artist Vasily Kafanov who created a plethora of background artwork for the Smashing Pumpkins’ concept album Machina/The Machines Of God who creates incredibly detailed paintings, rich with context and background, be it through the mysterious symbols, the incredible use of space and contrast, or the relevance of its purpose (ie. to accompany a concept album like Machina). His use of the complex over midtones and dark washed, almost crayon-like textures tell a thousand busy stories in every piece.

“Ring of the Serpent. 39″ x 39” Image for the Smashing Pumpkin album MACHINA, Variation ” A” 1999″  https://www.kafanov.com/#/medium-paintings-kafanov/

“The Chemist Brings Spark. 30″ x 30” Image for the Smashing Pumpkin album MACHINA. 1999″ https://www.kafanov.com/#/medium-paintings-kafanov/

 

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Ladoza

Ladoza:

“My work plays on the not so straight line between abstraction and narratives, a visual language and dialogue influenced by landscape, nature, emotion and experience. I experiment with lots of techniques and media as I find the practical process vital in exploring how best to create my ideas and concepts.” – (http://www.ladoza.co.uk)

Ladoza is a multi-disciplined artist whose work comprises of abstract paintings, films, music and prints in many different forms. All his work draws influence, in part, from the outdoors, particularly from the Moors in Sheffield where he attended Sheffield Hallam University to study Fine art.

Totem Red

(https://www.ladoza.co.uk/abstract-paintings?lightbox=dataItem-ih0ds0p3)

His print work ranges from boldly coloured (often black and white), soft vector shapes (such as Totem Red, above) to complex, abstract, earthy coloured paintings with a dragged, feathered, dripping paint visual quality to them. The latter abstract work draw on colours from the outdoors, rocky greys, earthy browns, grey clouds and muddled dark watery blues. He appears to layer large quantities of thick paint to give the painting a 3D quality and texture.

Peaks Painting 16F

(https://www.ladoza.co.uk/abstract-paintings?lightbox=dataItem-ix9a9jgf)

This texture is reminiscent of the feel of rock faces; another source of inspiration he draws from is rock climbing, a hobby of mine as well. A lot of this is displayed in his photography works. 

Esteban Taylor on Steep Traverse 2

(https://www.ladoza.co.uk/climbing-photography-and-artworks?lightbox=dataItem-it7k54fb)

My main inspirations come from music (playing, writing, performing, listening and creating), art (particularly that of the Sublime and abstract paintings that have a detailed quality to them, though I am also interested in minimalist vector styles that I am still exploring), climbing, walking and the outdoors. Ladoza stands out to me as an artist who has combined these elements into a coherent series of works that don’t limit his options for expression. I am intrigued to find other artists and draw from this mentality that allows an artist to create vastly different works, but with a cohesive mentality and visual quality that, whilst dissimilar, share a mood.

Ladoza creates these and captures these moods well by either exaggerating landscapes by bringing them to life with vector style doodles, or creating a hands on, immersive landscape that you could almost touch and be transported there.

His work draws from a lot of the peripheral inspirations that inspire me. I admire his hands on approach to the process, allowing the medium and immediate work to dictate the final product.

I will be attending a showing of some of his work at the Bloc Galleries in Sheffield. The exhibition is named “It’s Complicated” and will also include work by Sheffield-based artists Richard Bartle, Nick Grindrod, Iris Harris, David Jones, Rita Kaisen, Janie Moore, Jubby Taylor, Stephen Todd, Helen Stokes and Sean Williams.

http://ladoza-uk.blogspot.co.uk

 

Semiotics

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Semiotics and Rock Music:

The “ram skull” or “the horns” symbol made with hands that signifies rock, allegedly created by Ronnie James Dio. Despite the fingers having no real connection to rock music, the hand gesture is a symbol that has come to represent rock music through convention and vague association to musicians. It is a sign that promotes togetherness, loud music.

The sign itself is said to represent the horns or a ram skull and its associations with satanic rituals involving skulls. A lot of the music that the creator of “the horns”, Ronnie James Dio, was producing touched upon these subject matters. So, whilst the two protruding fingers may be seemingly completely symbolic, its roots are in many ways linked to the signified, suggesting it is in fact an index type of semiotic rather than a symbol.

Semiotics and Film Posters:

To instantly place a Hollywood film in space, to set a scene, the most common way of doing this is with a black backdrop with white twinkles in it, perhaps even larger circles. This, of course, represents stars, space and planets. This is an example of a semiotic icon that immediately represents space by resembling it. Without even having to focus on constellations or any particular pattern, white dots on a black background means space.

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https://uk.movieposter.com/poster/MPW-43055/Lost_in_Space.html

We can then build on this by using index semiotics such as spacesuits and cold, glowing blue lights. These two link to space without objectively representing it. Much like smoke signifies fire, spacesuits signify space travel and communicate that information without us having to ask what the suit is for etc. In this way the function of the semiotic sign is to set the scene very quickly, so as to address more in depth points about the story without having to incessantly reinforce or re-explain the setting.

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Challenging Semiotics:

 All of these semiotic methods serve a purpose, be it an evolutionary association to avoid danger or just for the purpose of visually communicating the setting of a scene very quickly. However these associations, links and signs can be manipulated and used quite vindictively.

The tabloid media are infamous for their slander towards Islam. In many ways it can be seen that newspapers such as the daily mail have abused semiotics and viciously reinforced terrorist imagery with the peaceful religion of Islam.

When a newspaper with some imagined authority and an incredibly wide audience continuously reinforce a negative association of a minority of a culture, many who don’t question their sources find it hard to ignore, and root themselves in what they are being told to fear, hence the rise in Islamaphobia in the UK. Even in spite of a muslim mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, a semiotic approach to propaganda from tabloid and other right wing news can be used to spin hatred via signs and association.

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http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2097108/Abu-Qatada-release-Osama-Bin-Ladens-ambassador-Europe-free-days.html

Visual Value

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Formalism: 

  • Roger Fry – With the rise of interest in photos, the need for photorealistic paintings was becoming more and more obsolete. Roger Fry pioneered Post-Impressionism which took this change of mindset into account and began to look beyond just a piece of art’s accuracy to give it value; rather its qualities relevant to its specific form, thus originating Formalism

River with Poplars c.1912 Roger Fry 1866-1934 Presented by Mrs Pamela Diamand, the artist's daughter 1973 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T01779

River with Poplars (http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T01779)

Instrumentalism:

  • Guerrilla girls – An anonymous group of feminist, female artists devoted to fighting sexism and racism within the art world. They are a prime example of Instrumentalism, which involves giving “agency” to a work of art to make a real world impact; in this case, changing attitudes through feminism through art.

Situationalism:

  • Rebel Clown Army – Breaking the line between artist and activist, the clown army protested peacefully in full clown attire. This meant any controversial acts the police commit to the protestors would be photographed and seen in the context of the police attacking a clown; an absurd and juxtaposing piece of art.

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(http://www.tacticalmediafiles.net/articles/3546/Clandestine-Insurgent-Rebel-Clown-Army-Manifesto;jsessionid=FCDD12E6ED0C39345D7ED7FE1B95F2A7)

 

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Music

Globalisation:

Def Leppard: 

Nowadays we think of Def Leppard as an AOR band with a sound airbrushed for American radio by Robert John “Mutt” Lange on the albums Pyromania and Hysteria. It’s as if they had the same sort of relationship with metal as Blondie had with punk. But they didn’t start out like that, and their debut single on their own label, Bludgeon Riffola, helped kickstart the whole NWOBHM movement. https://www.theguardian.com/music/musicblog/2016/sep/07/the-new-wave-of-british-heavy-metal-10-of-the-best (Tim Hall)

Formed in 1977 in Sheffield, Def Leppard achieved medium success with their early releases. In 1987 their critically acclaimed album Hysteria topped album charts in the  USA thus proving that bands from Yorkshire could translate beyond their hometown.

And it’s interesting to see how, when a band like Def Leppard who started out with a sound very true to themselves, slowly disregarded that to appeal to a wider audience. This becomes the point where we have to look at the effect increased globalisation has on our British identity.

We become very self aware and begin to realise that our culture is not our own. A history of appropriation of culture and invasion from the British empire, leaves us with a history of mass globalisation with a compilation of cultures which then leads us to our fear of not belonging, which in turn results in an increased, quite introspective, sense of regionalisation.

We seek to find something within our immediate surroundings that makes us who we are, beyond what our small, but seemingly large, country has stolen and made ours. We then drive to identify ourselves as being from micro-communities, within Britain. For example, many from Sheffield, when asked, won’t describe themselves as “British” they will identify themselves as “from Yorkshire” and therein is our national sense of pride and patriotism. Be it political or historical, “British” has become somewhat of a taboo, especially recently due to events such as Brexit and the scandal dating back to the British Empire, our identity comes from our immediate, social and regional celebration of identity

The Cult:

Now in their 33rd year, the Cult went through several metamorphoses in their first five years, as they hurtled from Love’s psychedelic goth to Electric’s Rick Rubin-produced hard rock. The reinventions aren’t as dramatic now, but they’re still not standing still. Their 10th album darts from brooding postpunk to old-fashioned heavy metal and back again. At the heart is still the curious chemistry between gruff-toned, cosmically inclined singer Ian Astbury and his polar opposite, down-to-earth Mancunian guitarist Billy Duffy, the Cult’s own human riff. Duffy’s glorious, free-flowing playing fires Dark Energy and Avalanche of Light, two of the strongest Cult songs in years. Not all tracks hit such bullseyes, but Birds of Paradise finds Astbury unexpectedly and emotionally crooning, Tony Bennett style. He takes this approach further with confessional closer Sound and Fury, an epic voice-and-piano ballad that echoes Bowie’s Wild Is the Wind. As ever in Cultworld, ch-ch-ch-changes find them at their best.

(Dave Simpson https://www.theguardian.com/music/2016/feb/04/the-cult-hidden-city-review-ever-changing-rock-veterans-still-on-the-move)

Regionalisation:

Arctic Monkeys: 

A Yorkshireman’s Guide To Arctic Monkeys

“On the verge of being five albums old, it’s easy enough to brush over the prolific career that has taken the Arctic Monkeys from being the first ‘Myspace band’ to Mercury winners, to where they are now: comfortably the best British guitar band for a generation.

There was nothing spectacular about their sudden rise in popularity in Yorkshire, seeing local boys turn good is something we take immense pride in around these parts. However, via the internet, word of mouth and largely their undeniable ability to endear, it wasn’t long before the band were popular in every corner of the country.

Over the past eight years since their debut record was released, my generation’s Fab Four have grown as both men and musicians. The shy teenage boys that once reluctantly faced the media now take Glastonbury headline bookings in their stride. A uniform of Fred Perry polos and bootcut jeans have been replaced by leather trousers with sequined jackets and their Sheffield homes may well have been vacated for mansions in America, but the charismatic personality that propelled the Arctic Monkeys onwards has never been lost.”

http://sabotagetimes.com/music/a-yorkshiremans-guide-to-the-best-arctic-monkeys-songs

Everly Pregnant Brothers:

Describing themselves as “a power house of parody fuelled on best bitter, pork pies and raucous gigs”, the Everly Pregnant Brothers regularly play to sell out crowds in their native south yorkshire and are rapidly growing a cult following far and wide. They are an 8 piece ukulele parody band that cover well known songs but add a Yorkshire twist.

They boast a lot of what Yorkshire is about, singing in a broad Yorkshire accent, including all the regional slang where appropriate and illustrating the honesty the people of Yorkshire.

Their humour and language is as broad as their lead singer Big Shaun which is all part of their charm as is the sing-a-long nature of their gigs. They manage to evoke nostalgia and a genuine emotional impact on Yorkshire crowds by reminding them of many of the unique quirks of Yorkshire in years gone by.

“Our song ‘Oyl Int Road’ can be an emotional subject, singing about walking through town with your nan as a youngster. It’s certainly enough to get a lump in your throat. We try and encourage as much singing along/chanting at gigs because it can be a real cathartic experience.” – Pete McKee

 http://www.exposedmagazine.co.uk/music/in-session/everly-pregnant-brothers/

They draw their inspiration from classic Yorkshire imagery like the old Hole In The Road, pies and Henderson’s Relish.

Notable songs:

No Oven No Pie (No Woman No Cry – Bob Marley)

Hendo’s (Yellow – Coldplay)

Sheffield Calling (London Calling – The Clash)

History/Yorkshire Mood

Human League:

The Human League were formed in 1977 and are to this day one of the most influential synth-pop bands to come out of Yorkshire.  “Founder members Ian Craig Marsh and Martyn Ware, both computer operators from Sheffield, originally found little success with their brand of atmospheric sounds but upon hiring Phil Oakey as a singer the band found both single and album success with 1980 LP Travelogue.”(http://www.bbc.co.uk/southyorkshire/sense_of_place/sy_people/human_league.shtm)

https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2001/jul/13/artsfeatures1

It was around this time in the UK, Yorkshire in particular and Sheffield where The Human League hailed from that Margaret Thatcher was closing thousands of steel works and coal mines; important job opportunities for

Modern Relevant/Places/Event/CURRENT AND NOW

FourthCity:

When it comes to music in Yorkshire, you don’t have to look much further than a small, faux-Tudor looking building on Sheffield’s West Street. Independent company Fourth City have almost single handedly revived the Yorkshire music scene for up and coming bands at the venue West Street Live, by hosting unsigned, breakthrough acts of every genre from rock to grime to acoustic almost every night for the past 4 years.

Since founded in 2012 they have become a fiercely independent promotions company, record label, apparel company & art collective. CEO Mat Hume has become a renowned figure at the centre of most of these eclectic nights. By embellishing them with his Yorkshire sense of sarcasm and wit, he creates a warm and welcoming atmosphere which has brought together the Sheffield music scene to its most promising since the 80’s electronic boom of bands like the Human League and the early 2000’s phenomenon Arctic Monkeys’ broke onto the scene.

“Once a tacky 80s bar, now arguably the odd pub out on Sheffield’s main thrust of white shirts and short skirts. Behind the mock Tudor façade lurks the stripped brick styling of a New York hang-out. Take your eyes off the corner stage where you’ll find unsigned talent playing free gigs most nights of the week and the walls are littered with enough signed plectrums, famous rock props and drum skins to keep eBay’s servers busy for a good while.” – David Dunn

https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2008/may/01/uk.bars

Cadavers:
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http://louderthanwar.com/in-conversation-with-cadavers/

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Visual Language

Shape Theory:

Certain shapes can convey immediate impressions on the viewer. Much like how body language works, we pick up on slight differences and begin to form an opinion, a perception and this all shapes our approach to a subject or a person.

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Responses to common shapes give them personalities and assumptions that are barely thought about consciously, but are assumed immediately.

These can be as simple seeing the shape to bring across an assumed mood ie. authority and potential danger.

givewaywhtborder0189

(http://www.signspotters.hobbiesplus.com.au/regulatory.htm)

Or they can be used to bring across a point and draw attention in an important way. These columns can bring across an authority in print media and backs up the importance of what is being said.

screen-shot-2016-11-17-at-15-18-46

(https://uk.pinterest.com/pin/381680137144599248/)

It is interesting to draw attention to how our minds have evolved to make these snap judgements. Has the world we live in shaped these perceptions, by forcing us to associate certain shapes with these characteristics.

For example, we can look at the shape of a mountain. This triangular form is, by nature, one of the strongest standing natural structures associated with our planet, which backs up the idea of nature shaping our perceptions and expectations of shapes.

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(http://7-themes.com/6910735-mountain-landscape-wallpapers.html)

However, our historical, human developments may also have shaped our way of processing immediate data. Columns were a key aspect of classical Roman architecture and became a symbol of solidarity and structural solidity and this shapes our perceptions further.

10400882-three-ancient-columns-stock-vector-column-roman-greek

(http://www.123rf.com/photo_10400882_three-ancient-columns.html)

Understanding this means we can elaborate on these ideas. By combining shapes we can visually communicate complex ideas by implementing emotional response. The Parthenon sculpture from Rome (seen here in a recreation of the style in Nashville) combined the visual elements of the commanding triangle, supported by a combination of horizontal beams and vertical pillars, creating a composition of recognisable dominance and trustworthy power; which is a lot of what the Romans stood for, visualised in a building.

screen-shot-2016-11-17-at-15-42-12

(https://dhogle.wordpress.com/tag/parthenon/)

(Mention cars/bottles/products etc.)

Colour Theory:

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The colour red appears to advance. A room with red painted walls will feel as though it is closing in around you.

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Orange produces quite calming, warm feelings. In visual language, it is synonymous with 70’s camera filters giving a warming, retro orange glow.

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Yellow produces a youthful, innocent tone. It reminds us of colouring the sun as a big yellow circle as a young child with pencil crayons. The yellow of daffodils in spring reminds us of rebirth.

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Green is a colour that has taken on its own meaning; green means “to be good to the planet, to recycle, to eat well, to be healthy and environmentally conscious”. This comes from its ties to nature, neutral pH balances, grass and health foods.

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Blue, opposite to red, has a distancing effect ie. a blue painted room will feel like it is expanding. Blue is also the colour things at a distance begin to appear. For example, when you see a mountain (a grey composition of rock) from a distance it will almost always appear blue. The same happens with city skylines.

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Indigo is associated with religion and riches, due to historically being very hard to come by purple fabrics/dyes/clothing around the middle ages. There are also lots of ties to the occult, again probably due to this historical taboo of witchcraft around the same time.

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Pink brings back a warmth to the colour spectrum, with a lot of ties to sensuality.

Referencial Imaging:

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Initial Guardian Supplement Ideas

I began gathering ideas for style and content by researching the current regular Guardian supplement, G2. The covers, whilst appearing very different, have many common themes, the main one being the G2 logo (in the guardian font) remaining a constant size, with a constantly transparent “G” outline. One thing that isn’t constant is its placement which moves around, with respect to the central image.

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Other constant themes are the left hand side bracket that features “the guardian” logo and the date of release and issue number. There is also the 5 part grid, split, black strip at the bottom which features 5 subject headings and a small tagline dictated by hierarchy of font.

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Image topics are varied and don’t seem to follow any common, specific style, be it photography, vector images, pixel art etc. but they do follow a theme of only having one image, that isn’t too busy or loud, with accompanying text supporting the main body of the inside text.

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I then looked at the Guardian newspaper’s demographic and stylistic themes. The closest font I have been able to find and download is the MerriWeather font that emulates the Guardian logo and titling style.

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The only real difference in styles is the official Guardian font (below) appears to have more slanted serifs and a few, barely noticeable increased width curves.

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My attention then shifted to the format and subject of my Create Britain issue, and the proposed series as a whole. My attention immediately shifted to music as its a topic that interests me and, being an active member of my local music scene in Sheffield, I wanted to focus on the regionality of British music.

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Focussing on the regionality, I wanted to think about how I could bring about my idea of Britain as a state of mind, a driving force of creative mindsets, rather than stereotypical imagery.

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I brainstormed ideas of bringing in other creative topics beyond music. I wanted to look at artists, creative businesses, engineering as a creative output, actors, comedians and everything that has perpetuated a modern, regional culture that helps to accumulate Britain as a creative and relevant leader in this modern world.

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I had to decide whether to split the issues between topics or region. Focussing around the regions meant I could use the visual representation of a map and link topics to the locations very literally. However I feel like this would spread each issue a little thin and give less room for discussion, background and elaboration on topics.

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Thus I decided to keep each issue region specific. For this brief I will produce the Yorkshire issue, as it is the region I am most familiar with. I will, however, aim to mock up a thematic front cover for all the proposed issue, centred around a common theme.

I brainstormed the first regional creatives that came to mind and began to link up common themes of regionality, such as industrial language used, comedy styles, musical influence and origins of fashion,

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Tracing a UK map and drawing focal points away from the centres of each region to create triangular vector shapes. I will use these to form the basis of my visuals and to shape how each issue will look ie. highlighting the specific region for each issue.

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