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Helen Capewell
OCA Learning Log
Student Number: 522802
Degree: Illustration
Current Level: 2

Speaking in Pictures

Exercise 5


Florence and the Machine

Flicking through a few songs that I thought had more narrative in the lyrics, or at least lyrics that didn't feel empty, I was torn between two. With the new release of a very powerful song by Florence and the Machine, I decided it might be interesting to try create visuals based on the lyrics. I felt it could have an abstract feel to it, symbolic and dark. I wondered if it was something that could be translated into a silent comic.

As an artist, I never actually thought about my gender that much. I just got on with it. I was as good as the men and I just went out there and matched them every time. But now, thinking about being a woman in my 30s and the future, I suddenly feel this tearing of my identity and my desires. That to be a performer, but also to want a family might not be as simple for me as it is for my male counterparts. I had modelled myself almost exclusively on male performers, and for the first time I felt a wall come down between me and my idols as I have to make decisions they did not.

The lyrics:

We argue in the kitchen about whether to have children About the world ending and the scale of my ambition And how much is art really worth The very thing you're best at is the thing that hurts the most But you need your rotten heart, your dazzling pain like diamond rings You need to go to war to find material to sing I am no mother, I am no bride, I am King

I need my golden crown of sorrow, my bloody sword to swing My empty halls to echo with grand self-mythology I am no mother, I am no bride, I am King I am no mother, I am no bride, I am King

But a woman is a changeling, always shifting shape Just when you think you have it figured out Something new begins to take What strange claws are these scratching at my skin I never knew my killer would be coming from within I am no mother, I am no bride, I am King I am no mother, I am no bride, I am King

I need my golden crown of sorrow, my bloody sword to swing I need my empty halls to echo with grand self-mythology 'Cause I am no mother, I am no bride, I am King I am no mother, I am no bride, I am King I am no mother, I am no bride, I am King I am no mother, I am no bride, I am King


And I was never as good as I always thought I was But I knew how to dress it up I was never satisfied, it never let me go Just dragged me by my hair and back on with the show

The Visual

Perhaps I was getting a cinematic feel to this. Somewhat inspired by the music video that accompanies this song, but also something more independent arthouse type film. With long holding shots that are abstract, surreal or just dramatic, often without dialogue. I thought about some of the amazing cinematography that is in Arcane, the latest hit on Netflix. I could imagine this level of darkness, the dramatic shots from up close to the long. The low light and smokey atmosphere and strong character gestures.

Arcane - Fortiche, Riot Games, Netflix - 2021

Arcane - Fortiche, Riot Games, Netflix - 2021

The more I reflected on the words, the less I felt I had a vision of the outcome. I soon came to feel that I had bitten off more than I could chew with this song. I was torn with ideas of making this literal, using the the very things in the words to paint a scene, or to look further back and try obscure it slightly. I believe I was trying to look too deep into the song and a possible double meaning, a symbolic meaning, that could make this a dark story. There was action in the words, a change in the tempo, but visually; I was stumped. I also wondered if this was what the exercise had in mind?

I tried to push forward, simply because I had already spent a longe enough time on this idea, literally and mentally. I listened to it over and over, and when not listening I was trying to see it.

I decided to scribble the visuals I would see, flashes of imagery that could accompany these lyrics. I stopped listening to the song, and focused purely on the words. Perhaps with these I could string together a sequence, or pull something more obscure out of them. There was only one way to find out and that was to put pencil to paper.

I started with the chorus:

I need my golden crown of sorrow, my bloody sword to swing My empty halls to echo with grand self-mythology

I took it literal. There is obviously a visual made with these lines and so I began with close up shots of the key objects mentioned. The final two frames pan out to reveal the grand hall of self mythology, which as a "king" I imagined being lined with detailed paintings, but paintings that represented ones own ideas of self achievements, that might be borderline fantasy.

I liked the motion within and how the frames flowed. I felt there was something in the tempo that worked with the song. The only thing that I would maybe change is trimming down the visuals on the sword so that it read as the pace of the lyrics. That said, I liked how it gave a visual story without the words being present.

Once I had these 9 panels roughed out, I had vibes of Kill Bill come to mind, knowing there were iconic poses and sword fighting throughout. It was here that I started creating a reference mood board that would rapidly grow into being everything that I sensed in the story, this concept and my feelings to the song.

Just as I had hoped, once I had sketched out this sequence of images that I was imagining, it lead to a narrative of my own that I felt would be a rich visual of an emotionally charged story. The mood board almost portrays my idea.

Flipping the page, I sketched a large power pose based on the references I found through the Kill Bill searching. From there, my ideas spiralled, and I felt really connected with an idea. I liked the feeling from the image above in the bottom right corner, somehow it felt like the ending to the idea. Being left along with self, and thinking of the last spoken part of the song "back on with the show" so almost sensing it was all a chaotic fight and then silence.

My original narrative still felt right, the first sequence had a place in my vision, but now I could see more. I could see that this was to be the beginning of the fight to free oneself from the expectations created by society. Beside this, I scribbled words that helped build my vision. The more reference images I found the more fuel I was getting. Playing the song over and over in the process, I was beginning to feel as though it was the theme song to an animated trailer.

At this stage, I had decided this was a battle with the self, though in the greater picture, it is against the programmed stereotypes that society is forever pressing on people. How choices lead to different outcomes depending on whether you are a male or a female. For women it is motherhood and marriage leads to sacrifice, which is evidently a loud and an important factor to the song (and possible album). I understood king being the ruler of self, own choice and freedom, to overcome the tired old tropes. Perhaps also being genderless in this stale constant. Genders are labels, much like mother and bride. It is designed to create categories to make people comfortable, and so bringing these words together in this way: "I am no mother, I am no bride, I am king." There is a sense of reclaiming gender that doesn't identify with the expectations. It kind of suggests that women can't have both, and choosing to not become a mother or bride means you are king.

Anyways, I didn't go too deep on my idea after all. I went for a demon that would portray society, who would create visions of having a child or a lover suggesting it was "time". King was fighting

Research to understand the song and possibly the video. (Intriguing, but a slight distraction)

Although this did take a chunk of my time, which may or may not have contributed to my process, it did feel necessary to include the way my mind trailed off.

I started to research the spiritual meaning of some key words of the song, such as crown and sword as they seemed to be like metaphors, especially when considering the video. I wondered if there was other images I could create besides the obvious crown and sword, or mother and bride. I found crown to be most interesting due to the many connection this lead to, all of which quite simply came under the Crown Chakra. This unlocked a possible understanding not only in the narrative of the song and video, but also in the colour choice within the video (which is not evident in the lyrics), and why only one colour really is significant. The Crown Chakra is represented as violet, which in the spectrum of light, violet has the highest vibration, plus it has many spiritual meanings behind it, all of which I felt made sense with the nature of the lyrics.

Another rabbit hole search questioned the use of sorrow with crown. Crown of sorrow, as if it was glorifying the sadness. When searching, I found "Lady of sorrow" and the image used of Mary. The closer I looked at the image, the more I could see reference to love, and of course motherhood. Perhaps even the daggers circling the heart could be understood as the crown, with the shape that it forms with the gold handles. There is a gesture that Florence makes in the early frames of the video, which I weirdly thought to be similar of the heart and daggers from the image of Mary. If I cared to dig deeper on the biblical subject, perhaps there was a connection, but I realised I was very far from the objective here and decided to leave this research there. That said, there was a deeper meaning at play here and I could still imagine a surreal and obscure comic to suit it, something witchy and abstract.



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