Visual Research: The Process

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1.THINKING: How can the concept be communicated in visual terms? First step is to think logically of which images or pictures could represent this theme and to list them, or better yet, sketch them quickly because a visual answer is what you’re seeking. At this point you don’t need to necessarily decide on one idea. But it’s better to narrow a broad list to a few ideas worthy of development. Choosing a visual image is only the first step. How will you use your choice?


2. LOOKING: Observing both nature and human artifacts, including art, design and common objects. We do not create our art in an information vacuum. We have the benefit of an abundance of visual information coming at us through a variety of media, form, books to television, websites and films.

Looking is a complex blend of conscious searching and visual recollections. This searching includes looking at art, nature and the vernacular images from the world around us, as eel as doing formal research into new or unfamiliar subjects. What we hope to find are the elements that shape our own visual language.

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Henry Moore noted he had a tendency to pick up shells at the beach that resembled his current work in progress. In that way he recognized in nature a resemblance to forms he was already exploring in the studio. His sculpture of a mother embracing a child, for example, resembled the protective wrapping of a broken shell he found. In turn the forms of nature he collected came to suggest possibilities for new figurative pieces.

3. SOURCES: At times it seems that visual training demands a retraining of looking on slower, more conscious terms. ‘Look Again!’ and ‘see the relationships’ are often heard in art class. Part of this looking process involves examining works of art and considering the images of mass media that shape our culture. Many artists actively address these issues in their art by using familiar images or quoting past artworks. Although this may seem like an esoteric exercise to the beginning student, an awareness of the power of familiar images is fundamental to understanding visual communication. Studying from all periods, regions, and cultures introduces you to a wealth of visual creations, better equipping you to discover your own solutions.

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4. DOING: Starts with visual experimentation. For most artists, this means thinking with the materials. Trial and error, intuition o deliberate applicatin of a system set into motion. At this point an idea begins to take form whether in a sketch or in final materials.

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5. DOING & RE-DOING: The ‘doing’ step in the design process involves continuous looking and thinking. Sometimes revision allows for an idea to grow beyond an obvious or familiar starting point.

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