Level 2 Digital Image and Culture Learning Log

Brooke Shaden deconstructing one of her most iconic images

In this Youtube Video, Brooke deconstructs one of her most iconic images and discusses the idea of making work that is iconic to your style. She also explains how she was influenced by the great surrealist artists. it’s both interesting and inspiring and a journey I am feeling quite familiar with.

It is great when your heroes tell you that you are thinking like them it makes the long journey feel worthwhile and like your headed in the right direction.

A new artist discovered

Michael Cheval

I discovered Michael Cheval while researching A5 I was looking for art styles and artists who would serve as an object of homage. I came across Michael, and I find myself quite mesmerised by his work. I am getting a slowly growing series of artists whose work inspires me Michael is firmly joining that list alongside the three I keep banging on about (see previous post)  and the like of Boris Vallejo, Anne Stokes et al.

I have also discovered that what I thought of as a rather wacky form of art has a great deal of potential, the Surreal movement works well in the fantasy genre I have always loved, in fact, the work of Kirsty Mitchel has a surreal undertone alluding to one of the most surreal books ever written – Alice In Wonderland. 

It certainly feels like I am finally getting somewhere in terms of the art I want to make, I also wonder if it is significant I refer to it now as art rather than photography, as I am starting to worry less and less how the pixels were generated.

Timescales and the pressure of a deadline

Digital Image and Culture has honestly been my favourite unit so far in this degree. It is taking me to the places I want to visit in my studies. It is a shame that the deadline is so crazy for this module, having had some pretty significant traumas in life over the last five or six years and some health issues, I find myself backed into a crazy short deadline for this module. Last year I was almost kicked off the course because of the time Landscape took me, but the lovely people at OCA helped me put in a mitigation, and I was given a reprieve.

The only sad bit about this was that the reprieve came with a really tight deadline. I have no problem working to a tight deadline, and I am well on track to get finished.

The sad part is that I am somewhat rushing through a module I would like to soak in and absorb more from.

I have found out more about myself and my relationship with my art in this module than any of the previous ones. I am so glad I chose to do this as I almost took the documentary module, which is my own personal definition of hell.

What is happening is that I am getting much more comfortable with the inclusion of digital 3D modelled content and not being so pure about photography, it is liberating for me.

I have really let go for Assignment 4 and 5 and will be really blending the various skill sets to make what I hope will be some excellent artwork. I have also discovered that I like Surreal art, as well as fantasy and the blend of the two, is an exciting place to explore.

The source of my inspiration

Kirsty Mitchell

Brooke Shaden

Derek Galon

My art and photography have been significantly influenced over the last eight years by three photographers in specific. I have written about this before in previous modules of this course. I was explaining it to my tutor, who said I needed to write it up clearly here as it explained a lot to her about my motivation and my source of learning.

I was going to post some links to the previous comments, but sadly the majority were on my art of photography blog which seems to have been flushed as it was on the wordpress.org server, not my current one.

So I want to clarify the subject here.

My three influences have been:

  • Kirsty Mitchell
  • Brooke Shaden
  • Derek Galon

I came across each of these photographers during my degree studies, and each has had a profound effect on me, in every case, I found myself trying to figure out how on earth they did that.

In my nieve state, I always assumed it was some kind of filter, but the truth is much deeper than that.

Let me start by showing you an image from each photographer:

Kirsty Mitchell

Brooke Shaden

Click on the images to enlarge

Derek Galon

I spent much time studying their work and analysing how it was done, let me cut to the chase and explain where I got to.

Kirsty Mitchel is my set, prop and costume designer, she gets most of her results by spending hours making costumes props and building sets to stage her epic productions.

Brooke Shaden is my painter; she shoots her images and cuts pastes and composites them together using layers and masks and colour grading to create the fantastic images she produces.

Derek Galon is my lighting guru, his images use lighting on each group to perfect Curacao. Derek shot each part with its own unique lighting then composited the groups together. The effect was a photograph that looks like an oil painting.

I have no desire to copy any of these artist work. I simply want to create a form of fantastical art and adopt some of these ideas that will allow me to create my own art and style.

From the beginning of the course, many of the tutors would talk about finding your voice. I think I have wasted too much time looking for my voice or trying to develop it, I am starting to see that I should work with my influences and make work that I enjoy the voice will come by itself when its least looked for.

I wonder if it would be more productive for new students if no one told them about the voice and just let it happen. I think someone told me that years ago but the cork was out of the bottle and once the genie is out you cannot stop yourself looking for that elusive voice.

A3 A Critical Essay

A3 the Critical Essay

I have always found essays to be a challenge, and unusually, it is not the writing that vexes me its always deciding on a topic and finding the supporting research.

For this essay, I took a different approach and started with the research, which is, of course how you are supposed to start, I tend to get an idea and go looking for supporting research.

This time I did it correctly and researched before selecting a topic. I think that the result was so much better. I researched all of the keywords and phrases I could think of based on the wording of the assignment.

My weapon of choice for the research was the UCA online library, and specifically the journals, as I don’t feel I have used this type of resource enough.

I found a rich vein of journals and publications that led me to look at the effect of digital photography and more specifically, the smartphone had on the lives of professional photographers.

Professional photography is a topic close to my heart, and I, therefore, found it easy to reflect on the data I found. I then searched the web for articles and blog posts to support the more academic sources to see if other professional photographers were seeing things as I was starting too.

The UCA online library turned out to be a fantastic resource, especially if you are looking for journals and publications rather than published books. I collected all of the books papers and websites I found in the ‘Cite this for me’ website, which I found an excellent way of preserving everything I found and generating the final bibliography.

This web site also helps you to maintain the correct format for referencing, and has several different systems you can use, I set it to the OCA standard of Harvard referencing and everything was made easy.


A2 in for Tutor review

I have now completed the A2 assignment and sent the links to my tutor for assessment. I finished this assignment at the beginning of April but forgot to post it here. I am now waiting for feedback from my poor tutor who has been ill, so I am continuing with A3 in the meantime.

Below is a link to the flipbook for the assignment.


I received a letter yesterday officially confining me to the house. I am now registered as “At Risk” in this pandemic, a combination of Diabetes and Hypertension means that the NHS has identified me as a person at severe risk of hospitalisation if I catch Covid-19.

I had an email a few weeks ago telling me I had been missed but now its official, I have been shielding myself for six weeks. Still, the official letter brings everything into sharp relief. I find myself knowing several people who have died from this virus and several people who have come through having had a very rough time.

My family are supporting me at this time, my wife and younger daughter are at home wife on furlough, and youngest daughter is working from home. The most significant controversy at the moment is my oldest daughter who has been forced to work by an uncaring boss who does not seem to have taken on board the situation or the changing government advice. Hopefully this will be rectified now we have the official letter.

As far as study goes, this situation is both a blessing and a hindrance, it is useful in as much as it delivers a lot more time to work on my degree and I am fully utilising this. The problems lie with everything being shut so getting support from OCA is harder and takes longer than usual, you cant just phone anyone at the moment. I also discovered my tutor has been ill and is struggling to recover, my heart goes out to her, and I hope she feels much better soon!

Despite everything I am continuing to march on and try to finish this module in record time as I have a short deadline for it. On the bright side, this has been a fun module so far, A2 is in for tutor review, though I am not sure how soon that can happen given the situation I am working on my essay, and I had the excellent news that I passed the Landscape module.

Understanding Comics: Scott McCloud

The Invisible Art Paperback

This book is fascinating and surprisingly readable, by American cartoonist and comics theorist Scott McCloud. It uses the medium of the graphic novel to explain the way that comic work and how they convey their message, and in many cases the not so visible underlying message. This book is particularly interesting as it demonstrates how easy it is to take in concepts using this format and how easy to read it is as you are not assailed with a wall of text. I may be a very visual person which may be why this style of book feels os easy to read.

When looking for the book cover image, I came across the book again on Amazon and noticed that he has written several more books on the subject, and I am more than tempted to read them.


The concept of explaining complex ideas like this is mind-blowing, at one point in the book Scott explains the principle of Plato’s cave without ever mentioning Plato, caves or Susan Sontag or even Roland Bathes. I am buzzing at the moment by the ease with which a graphic novel can pass out complex theory in few words and simple images. This book is well worth a look. I intend to re-read it in more depth and may write a second review looking at the contents a bit deeper, but for now, I am contemplating the message delivery system rather than the message.


An Academic approach to Sci-Fi Fantasy and Marvel

In my recent video conference with my tutor, she advised me that the study of comics/marvel/sci-fi would be a useful and interesting route to take. I have to admit, I was somewhat phased by how to go about studying comics academically, but on advice from my tutor, I started looking for articles on jstor. The first article I found was entitled “It Ain’t Easy Studying Comics” by Greg M. Smith 1, which talks about the problem academics have in being taken seriously studying comics. How film studies have a more substantial reputation, he says we need to consider comics directly in their own right and not make apologies for the medium.

In an article found on Producing a comics, culture2 Brienza introduces a sociological approach to the study of art and literature in comics known as the ‘production of culture perspective.’ This approach argues that all artistic work, including comics “is the product of collective, often routinized, human activity. Therefore, it is not sufficient merely to study the text and/or the artist to whom the work is directly attributed. Rather, to fully understand any artistic work, one must also study the larger social and organizational context of its production and dissemination.2

It struck me that with comics, unlike mainstream art, there is not one single artist attributable to a character.

In contrast, every character in the Marvel universe has its creators often. The paintbrush is passed from artist to artist as is the pen to create the story. This strikes me as quite different from photographs and paintings. We can easily attribute the Mona Lisa to Leonardo da Vinci, or the man jumping the puddle to Henri Cartier Bresson. But who painted iron man or who drew Superman is a more difficult question to answer.

This has led to characters particularly in the Marvel universe being rebooted when their back story is out of date or for sudden plot shifts that become forgotten over time.

I am still not sure entirely how to add an academic slant to this subject, but this post was my first attempt!

1Smith, Greg M. “It Ain’t Easy Studying Comics.” Cinema Journal, vol. 50, no. 3, 2011, pp. 110–112. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/41240725. Accessed 23 Mar 2020.

2Bienza Casey “Producing comics culture: a sociological approach to the study of comics.” Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics, vol.1. no 2 2010, pp 105-119 https://doi.org/10.1080/21504857.2010.528638. Accessed 23 Mar 2020.


A1 Tutor Review

Assignment one Tutor Review

I finished assignment one an sent it to Andrea for her review we had a long chat about the owrk and what went well I was pleased at how much she liked the work on Exercise 1.3 she felt I should persue the style further. She also mentioned doing more in depth academc research into Comics and Scy-fi which I will be looking in to you can reed the feed back in the assignment tab though it is more in the style of bullet notes rather than dascriptive text so a bit hard to read if you were not there.

Finding the Secret Sauce

What is the “THING”

I have been searching for something for a long time now, probably for at least eight years since the beginning of my degree. When I started, I heard tell of the mystical voice we might one day find if we worked developed and practised our art. At first, we all thought we would find this voice quickly that a style would leap to our aid. As it happens, I think I recognised this “Thing” early on I have just never been able to define it describe it or make work that reflected it. This has been a very frustrating time as I know what this “Thing” is when I see it but it is elusive and even when I can show you a picture that has this secret sauce I can’t describe to you what it is about that image that has the Sauce. Trying to Discover this “Thing” is a bit like drinking Worcester Sauce and trying to determine the original recipe.

For the last few days, I have been Identifying practitioners of both Digital and Analogue arts to help inform my practice of assignment one. During this research, I have found quite a few digital practitioners some that I knew of and some new and in the course of studying their work I have gathered many images in a folder and on Pinterest and for the first time while looking at several practitioners together I noticed something but before I get to that let me show you an image that has the secret sauce hopefully this will help you follow along.


The image above titled Ashlieya Lioness by Jason Hahn has the secret sauce there is something about it that I want to quantify and distil so I can incorporate it into my practice. In fact, all of the images displayed in the previous post about digital artists have the secret sauce to some extent.

Understanding this was the beginning of the revelation, I still can’t fully articulate what the “Thing” is I can’t describe the voice I want to develop but I am a lot closer and I have at least identified one element of it.

Coming back to what I noticed, it can be seen in the title image for this post, to explain that it is a set of 100-pixel x 100-pixel cuts sampled from the pictures I have been studying. The reason I did this was to show as best as I could something they all have in common, they all have a kind of film grain to them.

The following image depicts film grain, the sort we used to get from black and white film and I personally used to love (maybe this is a clue).   

Film grain produced a pleasing texture over the face of the image. This effect was considered desirable so we used to use high iso film so that the grain structure would be more prominent and the effect more pronounced. Film grain is an effect caused by the size of the silver nitrate crystals that grew on the face of the film during the development process.

In digital photography, there is a phenomenon that also comes from a higher ISO, but its cause and effect are very different. In a digital camera, the image is captured on a digital sensor instead of on a segment of film. The digital sensor can be set to read the light at different speeds. This setting is called its ISO and performs the same duty as the ISO speed of the film. However, the effect of high digital ISO is digital noise rather than grain. The result is quite different as can be seen here:

As can be seen, digital noise is ugly, it blocks the image and removes detail, unlike film grain which flows with and enhances the detail and form of the image. What I was noticing in all of the images I was studying had grain in them but not black and white film grain but instead, a colour grain that shifted with the pigment of the image rather than being random RGB pixels like digital noise.

I have always been aware of colour film grain, but it is only during this research that I connected it to the “Thing” or the ingredients of the secret sauce, I quite deliberately say ingredients as colour grain is not the entire story but it does feel like the master key that will unlock the problem. In case you don’t understand what colour grain is here is a sample to compare:

The examples above are of one of my old images I took off some of the texture layers so that they did not interfere with the grain and applied a grain filter from the filter gallery these images show the effect ranging from no grain up to a setting of 6. By the time it reached 6, it started to look like digital noise suggesting a working parameter from 2 to 5 all of which look like grain and get more substantial as more is applied. I will need to experiment with this and with several other methods of adding grain to see which yields the best results, but I do feel I am headed in the right direction.

Researching Digital Artists

For Part 2 of the assignment I have to create images using digital methods, so I decided to do some research into artists working in this space I included some of my favourites such as Brooke Shaden and I also found a lot more this was something of an enlightening exercise. Here is my list:

  • Brooke Shaden
  • Jason Hahn
  • Brandon Cawood
  • Adrian Sommerling
  • Michael Herb
  • Erik Johansson
  • Dave Hill
  • Erik Almas
  • Josh Rossi
  • Tim Tadder
  • Ben Shirk
  • Antti Karppinen

Researching Collage Artists

Artists who specalise in collage

I looked up this phrase on google as a starting point and it gave me some familiar names like Hannah Höch and Man Ray, I fount a list that the online art magazine AnOther classified as the top 10 collage artists which looked like a great place to start researching practitioners. The list was as follows:

  • Hannah Höch
  • Kurt Schwitters
  • Raoul Hausmann
  • Man Ray
  • Eileen Agar
  • Joseph Cornell
  • Nancy Spero
  • John Stezaker
  • Jesse Treece
  • Annegret Soltau

I was fortunate to visit the Hannah Höch exhibition in the Whitechapel Gallery in 2014 with some friends from the TV Group at the time one of the other members wanted to see it as it was relevant to a level 1 module he was doing at the time, little did I realise how useful that first hand experience would be in 2020 six years later.

Thinking about Assignment 1

The Discovery of Fantasy

Fantasy has been a passion of mine since I was about 12 years old. My introduction to the genre was by a humanities teacher who was standing in for our English teacher who was ill at the time. As is the usual practice when a teacher takes over for a lesson, he gave us something to do to fill the 2-hour lesson. In this case, it was to read a comprehension and finish the story, and this turned out to be a passage from a book I had not heard of called Lord of the Rings. I came home quite taken by the short fragment of the story and wanting to learn how it ended. I assumed it was a small paperback similar to the books I was reading at that time, so I asked my Mum to buy it for me, when she bought it home it was three rather large volumes.

To cut a long story short, I got engrossed in the story and could not put it down, I also had a rather nasty boil on my eardrum about halfway through and was in bed in the early hours of the morning in agony, my father sitting with me said don’t try to sleep just read when you get tired you will fall asleep. That trick worked so well the book became something very special in my life and on finishing it, I found myself craving more books in the genera. In the span of my life, I have devoured every fantasy book I could find and am more of a fan now than ever, I have read Lord of the rings over 25 times so far.

The Discovery of Boris Vallejo

I first discovered the art of Boris Vallejo in the late ’90s when I was looking for pocket watches for a magic stage act I was developing. I found a fantasy styled pocket watch that was selling for rather a lot of money and it claimed to be the art of Boris Vallejo, and this led me to investigate the name and a 30-year love for his art.

Boris is responsible for the artwork on all of the Conan and Gor books of the ’70s and ’80s he was born in Lima, in Peru and now lives and works in Pennsylvania with his wife, Julie Bell.

My love of the fantasy Gernera in fiction led me to love fantasy art, and I remember as a child seeing the pictures of floating islands in the air and all the covers of the books I was so keen to read. Boris Vallejo hit the spot for me as he was on som many of those covers and was such an inspiring artist, the idea of dragons and sword and sorcery was what took my imagination on wid rides.

For as long as I have been into photography I have been excited by manipulated images, we tried to do this in the late ‘70s and ‘80s when I was learning the darkroom but it was so difficult to make believable art. I have been keen on drawing and painting alongside my photography but have never had the talent for that as I had for photography, this is changing now with the ability to create art in photoshop and 3D model in DAZ 3D studio.

Now I am finding talent for drawing on the screen and creating digital art.

I have gathered a lot of Boris Vallejo images on my pinterest board as copyright would preclude me displaying a large body of work here:

Stephen Barney Pinterest – Boris Vallejo

Linking Fantasy DADA etc to Assignment One

I have spent some time looking at assignment one and thinking about how I might attempt it — the brief calls for two sets of around four images. The first four done in a traditional cut and paste collage style with found images or my images, then part 2 to make four more images digitally with my original source work.

My thinking is to research some of the Dada practitioners like Hannah Höch and use this influence to create a set of four images which I will base on the style of Boris Vallejo.

In Part 2 I will create original digital art but to make this about photomontage and construction, I will shoot pictures of peoples faces use these in DAZ 3D studio to create posable fantasy figures and beasts then shoot or digitally create the fantasy landscape for them to sit in so that I can create images in the style of Boris Vallejo as a counterpoint to the collage versions.

Exercise 1.3 Posted

Created some tongue in cheeck composites for exercise 1.3 based on the killing of Qassem Soleimani while on a trip to Iraq by an American Drone strike sanctioned by Donald Trump. We wait for the backlash now!

The module so far

So far I am finding Digital Image and Culture so much easier to study than the Landscape module, I feel like I am back on home ground, my interests lie in the studio and digital manipulation so a better module could not have been written for me.

The picture opposite titled She Bites was one of my first ventures into the world of digital manipulation, I put it into a camera club competition for a laugh and it got a 10 because the judge said and I quote “Not something I would have done but mostly because I can’t” that made my day and boosted my interest in this kind of work.

I am enjoying researching the field, and while I have already spent a lot of time looking at this field, the module is giving me some avenues to follow I had not yet taken I am sitting down to read “Pictorial Effect in Photography by Henry Pech Robinson” its one of the forgotten Books series that reproduce old texts this one having been initially printed in 1881and now lovingly reproduced as a photocopy of the original. The back of the book says Digitally Remastered Forgotten books classic reprint series utilises the latest technology to regenerate facsimiles of historically important writings.

Careful attention has been made to accurately preserve the original format of each page whilst digitally enhancing the quality of the aged book.

It struck me how appropriate this was to the course, which is all about digital manipulation and related subjects for this book to be a digitally remastered version of an old book.


Henry Peach Robinson, The Brotherhood of the Linked Rings and Pictorialism

In my initial reading, I made a discovery I find rather exciting. I now have a term for myself; at least I think I do I probably need to do more research to ensure it really means what I think.

I have for many years, been wrestling with some of the more conventional ideas about photography. I belong to a camera club where there are a large body of people who think you have sold your soul to the devil if you have used photoshop to edit a pixel. I often listen to judges peering into an image from about 10mm away trying to decide if the photographer changed that bit or not. I always think that it really does not matter, stand back if you enjoy the image it’s a good thing. The number of times I have seen an excellent image marked down because the judge thinks they may have changed that bit of the image and even though it was done well, it’s a change!

I started following the bread crumb on the photographer Henry Peach Robinson who was a very renowned early manipulator of images. I read that Peter Henry Emerson “Violently Attacked Robinson” for his work furthermore he stated that an image should not be altered after exposure. He also did not like the use of costumed models or painted backdrops. Emerson is the kind of photographer that makes my blood boil as I have listened to this sort of criticism for years now when you consider this was taking place in the 1860s it is now 140 years later and we still have the same arguments with the purists.

Robinson joined an English society called the Linked Rings or the Brotherhood of the linked rings which were a society of pictorialist. I was looking for a sharp definition of the word and most of the scholarly places have a rather wishy-washy definition, but the Wikipedia entry(I know not safe) defines it thus:

Pictorialism is an international style and aesthetic movement that dominated photography during the later 19th and early 20th centuries. There is no standard definition of the term, but in general, it refers to a style in which the photographer has somehow manipulated what would otherwise be a straightforward photograph as a means of “creating” an image rather than simply recording it.

That’s it I AM A PICTORIALIST! Well unless there is a more sinister or hidden meaning I am missing more research is required.

The entry says that Pictorialism as a movement thrived from about 1885 to 1915, although it was still being promoted by some as late as the 1940s. There is no mention of why it stopped or why the Linked Rings ceased to be a group. Maybe we should reform it.​



It helps to read on

Ok so had I read the next section before diving off looking at Robison and the Pictorialists the answer to where they went would havw been right there:

As photography developed, confidence in the medium’s intrinsic value grew and distinctive genres began to emerge within the medium. The often backward-looking approach of the Pictorialists eventually gave way to the Modernist movement of the early 1920s which ushered in an intense period of experimentation for photography. Led by the pioneering Bauhaus School and artist László Moholy-Nagy, this group – with their experimental and playful approach to the photographic image – were to pave the way for a generation of digital practitioners who, instead of scissors, light and glue, began to work with the camera, software and the pixel.

Digital Image and Culture

An Initial Meeting

The work has begun I had an initial meeting with my new Tutor Andrea Norrington about the new module. I am really excited about this module as it is right up my street. We have discussed the plans for the module and where the bulk of the work is I have an initial plan that I had to submit for my extension, however, I aim to do the first few earlier to allow more time for the assignments with more work in them.

The submitted time plan id as follows:

  • A1-February  28
  • A2-March 31
  • A3-May 31
  • A4-June  30
  • A5-July 31
  • A6-August 26