B. Initial Refinements

     Visual Phrases. The thinking drawing or conceptual sketch provides a motivation for the design of a more refined figure model. Now we begin to create an enhanced design-model by developing a vocabulary of element forms and a refined visual phrasing of the image. Each basic conceptual element is given a form character that shows what it is and how it operates. These forms function in the figure as words do in a sentence. These elements may be as simple as labeled boxes and unlabeled lines. They may be borrowed from already existing graphic languages, or they may be designed from scratch, and then tested to ensure their effectiveness in typical phrases.

Box SK.

    For example, an early sign lexicon or iconography was compiled by the Kuchka for their conceptual graphics (Box SK). Some of these elements are more memorable, or easy to remember, than others. Check out the flow icons as an example. The flow icons represent movements or pathways. Propaganda is an especially potent type of information flow. When phrased in a graphic statement the flow metaphor for propaganda can represent cause to effect relations. Figure CM (Censorship Moiety) shows a few of these subject elements in action. Most of the elements here are hybridizations of words (moderate to high level abstractions) and icons. As can be seen from laying Figure CM between the two pages of Box SK, the flow icons are anchored in the subject icons of imagination (cloud icon), cultural capital (info storage icon), switches (partially-collapsed-box icons), the consumer-producer (coffin hexagon), and chaos (the heat sink).

Figure CM.
Figure CM. Censorship Moiety. Kuchka nd, unpublished.

    In Figure CM self censorship and censorship by an authority are represented as embodied in (1) the individual as a pathological consumer (the coffin-like hexagon) and (2) the authority as a pathological institution (the double-walled coffin). Taboos are represented by adherent storage icons. The individual is influenced by a variety of information switches, and a strong propaganda source emanating from Paranoia. The organic (non-mechanical) nature of paranoia and fear are expressed in the style of the freehand lettering.     On the side of authority, the central motif is the censored word, here portrayed as a censored book. The nightmarishly gaping quality of the hand-drawn image lends the emotive secondary communication (double language) to the graphic. The censorship of the written word sets up a feedback loop, and increases (via paranoia) the voluntary and involuntary isolation of the individual.     The central lower part of the figure, with its shaded diamond shape, represents a dimming of the light of awareness in exchange for an increased flow of dark information and energy. This is driven by high energy inputs from the authority power subsystem.     Figure CM accompanies an entry on censorship in the Encyclopedia Dystopiae. The graphic is intended to be suggestive and evocative, so not all of the functional connections or implications are shown. The reader is thereby invited to enrich/modify the figure as part of the discourse.     In the refined model, spatial organization provides visual cues for semantic structure. The various form structures and space are integrated into a comprehensive design to create a graphic statement. Communicative aim provides the frame of reference. For Figure CM, the communicative aims include showing some of what is normally unseen, including organization of a dark logic. The moiety simultaneously shows the two basic units that make up the whole. The character and position of the hybrid elements create visual phrases that convey additional meanings. Bowman recognizes three primary modes of visual phrasing (Box VPB). The three primary modes of association, dissociation, and dominance/subordination can be seen in Figure CM.

Box VPB.

    Multi-Space and Realism Illusions. But how flat is the form given to the world visually depicted in Figure CM? How flat is the world of censorship?     In graphic language the form of the figure exists on a surface. Physically this is simply the page that we work on. But from the point of view of the design model, and apparent visual experience, there is also a picture plane. In this regard spatial organization can be on a single flat plane, in apparent multi-planed space, or in illusionary continuous space. Bowman provides examples and an introduction to techniques for creating these (see Box SOB).

Box SOB.

    Most of the individual icons in Figure CM appear as flat objects on the page, but portions of Figure CM are multi-planed. Multi-planed space creates the illusion of two or more separate planes. The focal cloud of paranoia in Figure CM uses overlapping or superimposed forms, unequal line weight and texture, dissimilar focus (blurring), and surrounding form elements that are disintegrated in terms of compositional relationships. The effect is multi-plane space with an uncertain (but small) number of parallel planes. Here one communicative aim is the appearance of the unworldly, a moiety-land of madness.     Continuous space is volumetric in appearance. The page is seen as an imaginary plane, like a pane of glass, and the volumetric form is seen through the window pane rather than on it, thus creating an illusion of spatial mass. Escher’s penrose illusion of the Drawing Hands (Figure EH) uses a number of planar and continuous space techniques to visually puzzle the viewer, playing with and educating us to the illusionary capability of visual realism. Escher represents 500 years of technical progress in the service of apparent realism.

Figure EH.
Figure EH. Maurits Corneille Escher (1898-1970): Drawing Hands (1948). Escher was a Dutch graphic artist who composed ironic visual riddle-like works that play pictorially with the logically impossible. This penrose illusion illustrates the gestalt of alternating (bi-stable) interpretive viewings. Escher’s work can be seen as the sophisticated culmination of 500 years of post-Medieval visual ‘realism’ in the new illusionary arts. Escher heightens our awareness that the techniques of apparent realism create illusions. As he put it, his intentions were more cerebral than most of his colleagues. This image of Drawing Hands is from Thé (2000): original photography by Iwan Baan; copyright held by the M.C. Escher Foundation, Baarn, The Netherlands.

    The design models of the Kuchka seldom attempt volumetric forms that create the illusion of mass, not for lack of desire, but because of: (1) lack of training in techniques of illustration; and (2) an alternative desire not to perpetuate the post-Medieval infatuation with visual illusions in the service of nominal realism.     The most convincing illusions of continuous form and space are achieved when all available spatial cues are used together within a linear perspective. The techniques of linear perspective were developed by Florentine artists in the Italian Renaissance. During the 1800s, following the Italian Renaissance tradition, elite fine arts training in the French Academy was devoted to anatomy, perspective and the figure. In the Salon des Refusés of that time, and in the works of publicity artists such as Salvador Dali in the 1900s, the emphases on perspective and the figure remain. During the democratization of fine arts in the American academy during High Modernity, usually only the figure remained. But oblique perspective, the most difficult of the three linear perspective techniques, was reanimated in the adolescent male power fantasies of the mainstream American superhero comics of Post Modernity. These comic artists studied the technical drawings of anatomists to give anatomical power to their figures. In viewing Escher’s figure of the Drawing Hands, how does anatomy and linear perspective contribute to his explicit multilayered illusion? We might call his superhero THE HANDS. Just imagine the supernatural capabilities of those hands.

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