Before commencing on the final set of ink drawings it was important to consider the layout of the whole set using photocopied versions to check that the impact was going to be as intended but also to identify any weaknesses and new drawings that would enhance the outcome.
I initially experimented with a chequerboard style layout as shown in the four options below. The thinking here is that each drawing would have four potential connections with those drawings around it. But also the appearance replicates a game of draughts so we are introducing a game between two battling parties which has many extra layers of meaning. So I played with different connections and some interesting narratives jumped out:
- In the first layout, the bomb falling on the Durex as if extinguishing future generations in quite comical – causing a break in the passing on of family history
- In the second layout, I enjoy how the V sign is caught between the child and the vicar – is the child seeing off the enemy in the sky or that of the constrained formality of village life?
- The third and forth layouts intended to show narratives going down different pathways – on reflection these arrangements impose pathways too strictly and leave little flexibility for the viewer
The irregular shapes of these arrangements are quite appealing in that they look ‘exploded’ but how we would hang these drawings would be another matter altogether. So more options are considered below.
Next I evaluated landscape grid layouts. This arrangement replicates the shape of the opened family photograph album which has instant appeal, as if we peering inside to find hidden memories.
What is interesting is how different separations of the drawings affect the interpretation. In the top layout, the drawings seem to all merge into one and impact is lost. This is more of a messy collage than a canvas that invites connections to be made. The second and third layouts encourage our eyes to look in all directions to make connections. My eyes can move freely along the lines in all directions and I find myself pausing on each image before moving on. A very subtle but important different to the top layout.
I enjoy the formal intent of this grid layout as it also portrays more of a confident statement than the earlier random arrangements. The landscape layout of three drawing high is working as well, again it has an ‘album feel’ but also fits in with a pleasant field of view as the eyes pass across it.
The final experiment was to expand the above idea with blank drawings. Why do this? One of the important aspects of this outcome is the idea of forgotten or blurred memories. So here I have split the family and war memories to the left and right and inserted random blank squares. These represent the lost or purposely forgotten memories. I find myself wanting to turn the blank squares over to see what they show. Have we found that extra layer of meaning here? Potentially, as with the perfect arrangement we could provide the blue touch paper for the viewer to add their own family history or simply ask “Why is that missing?”.
The actual layout used is clearly critical. The two below differ slightly but I think the top version is more balanced with less blank squares. We will determine the actual layout later but a few combinations are working well below:
- The bomb surrounded by the lottery crossed fingers and ‘play here’ works best of all through combining horror and trivia
- Blank squares surrounding my mother as adult (lower layout) introduce the aspect of memory loss in older age
- The baby reaching up with its arms (top layout) seems to seek comfort from family members above it – one of whom is in the armed services
- The child with its fingers in its ears sits well with the air raid siren and the planes flying overhead
Conclusion & next steps
A grid layout for the drawings is showing the most promise as it has an allegorical link with the formality of the treasured family photograph album. It is this that we are wanting to disrupt so it seems most relevant to include a metaphor along these lines. The inclusion of blank drawings adds an extra layer of lost or erased memories in amongst the visuals. The idea of a photograph album of truths that has been specially curated for our viewing (some memories should never leave our family!) is quite potent so this idea will be pursued.
The next stage is to mass produce the ink drawings and then consider the final layout.