Constellation Reflection

My reflection on what I have learnt from the constellation module at university.


What I Have Learnt

During this constellation module; Smells Like Teen Spirit, I have learnt many things about analysing work and making connections. I have learnt how to effectively analyse other work, and my own, and use theories from authors and academics to back up my analysis. This has helped me to explain creative decisions within my own work and the contexts behind these decisions. It has also enabled me to understand how messages and ideologies can be conveyed through people’s work and in turn it has enabled me to consider how I could convey messages through my own work. I have learnt how to unpick aspects of my work in order to effectively explain why I have chosen to include certain colours, figures or motifs within my work.

By using different subcultures as mini case studies I have learnt what each subculture can teach and inform me about my own practice. From looking at the gothic subculture I learnt that you can take inspiration from other styles and influences in order to inspire your own practice and that inspiration can come from a range of different mediums. For example many aspects of the gothic style is inspired by gothic literature.

From looking at the hip-hop subculture I have learnt that objects and possessions can be combined to create new meanings and political statements and this can then be applied to my practice. I also learnt that the context in which you use or include objects can create new meanings. I also learnt from this subculture that history and heritage can influence design. For example the inclusion of traditional African clothing within the hip-hop subculture not only brings two cultures together but it is also used as a political statement about African-American history.

From studying the punk subculture I have learnt that my practice can be a way to ask questions about the norm and it can be a way to challenge it. I also learnt about “re-signification” (Clarke, Hall, Jefferson), how objects can be modified or used in a different way to give them a new meaning or function. I also learnt that I shouldn’t be afraid to break the mould when it comes to my practice. For example punks changed the meanings of safety pins when they used them as facial jewellery, as well as changing the meaning of the union jack when they wore it on their clothing or when it was used on posters.

I have also learnt many things from attending the keynote lectures. For example the lecture ‘Teenage Kicks’ taught me that every object has a cultural CV and a cultural biography. It also taught me how meanings can be applied to objects and how connotations of objects can change over time. I also learnt that objects have social lives and that there are stories and culture embedded in them. This has been able to inform my practice as I can now consider this idea that all objects have a cultural biography when including them in my work. Using this information I can convey information just through the use of objects and I have learnt that the context that these objects are in can also change the way that they are interpreted.

I have been able to use what I have learnt from this study group in my own practice, Illustration, as I now consider what I want to convey in my work more carefully and how I an convey it. For example, in my work from last term, The Fake News Machine, I considered the materials I used more carefully as different materials carry different connotations. I also put more consideration into the font I chose for my animation because I wanted it to convey a particular meaning of boldness and prominence. This module has allowed me to become better at communicating ideas and stories through my work which is an important part of illustration. It also encouraged me to question why I was doing certain things which in turn allowed me to explain my creative decisions at the end of the project when I had to present my work.


How I Learn

During my first term constellation module; The Body, I found it difficult to use theory to back up my arguments and statements in my first essay. I didn’t know how arguments and statements from authors and academics could be used effectively in my writing to support what I was trying to say. During this second constellation module; Smells Like Teen Spirit, I was presented with an effective way to analyse my work or others and and a way to easily include theories in my analysis to support what I was saying. This technique called ‘Cath’s Columns’ given to us by our lecturer Cath Davies was a simple yet effective way to analyse a piece of work in detail also allowing you to easily include the theory needed to support our arguments. This technique is made up of three columns, in the first column the image you are analysing is described, for example, the colours used and other details of the image and the visual motifs are identified. In the second column the connotations of these motifs are explained. In the third column quotations from books and papers are included that support the connotations that you have linked to the different aspects of the image. This system helped me immensely when analysing my work.

The university experience has developed me as an individual as it has encouraged me to question more when looking at my own and other people’s work, it has also allowed me to expand my way of thinking when considering why I have made certain design decisions within my practice. Constellation has taught me to question things which has made me more inquisitive as an Illustrator. It has also taught me to be more analytical when looking at my own work and others. I have also learnt how important theory is when it comes to my practice and how it can help me to explain my work to others.

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