Exercise 4.4 Layers – background tests

28th March 2020

For exercise 4.4 we are asked to experiment with ways of making layered imagery. We are specifically asked to use photoshop for the creation of our images. Although I will use my iPad apps for layered work as this is the current method that I am using, but I will also revisit Photoshop layers for this course and add to the existing skills I have already learnt.

Photoshop has just been developed for iPad, where it use to be Photoshop Express we now have a fully working Photoshop app, so I will be re-learning on my iMac and learning new skills on the iPad at the same time.

All of the photographs that I have used are my own.

Self-portrait: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

The following link will take you to the contact sheets for the images. The apps used were Sketchbook and Photoshop and the names of my finished images are, ‘The Gig’, ‘On Tour’, ‘In Hiding’, ‘Faith No More’, ‘Growth’, ‘The Story’s in the Eyes’ and ‘Take A Chance On Me’. These all are part of the same series that come under the heading ‘Self-portrait: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly’

Two of the photo montages are positive, they show something that makes me happy and makes me feel alive, that thing is music. Music, both listening to it at home and going to gigs is the ‘good’. However these are contained in a separate part of me which is accessed literally when the time is right. To cope with my triggers into anxiety, the sounds and the pushing of the crowds I have to put on one of my masks. I dress ‘cool’ (apparently) have my hair sprayed in a specific way and have makeup and jewellery on, my daughters and friends report that I also have an abundance of spark like energy and I am very confident, so different to the studious me who is sitting here now writing up a blog, half dressed, no jewellery and no make up, depressed and partly phased out in my head (foggy feeling).

The remaining photo montages represent the ugly, how I see myself inside and out, my loss of faith, the silent screams and the hidden. The bad for this series represents the ex fiancé.

The completed series and the order in which they are to be placed on a wall can be seen below.

Left side of hanging composition
Right side of hanging composition

The images below show how I would hang the works on one long wall. However the gap between the two sections would be larger to allow the viewer to have a pause so that they do not move on quickly to the second section. This gap acts as a thinking space where one can stop and relook etc… and then move on.

I did think and I still keep revisiting the idea that the second section should be split as well so that the ‘bad’ portrait and the ‘screaming mouth’ would be viewed separately, however I didn’t want the series to be split up so much because I wanted the concept to flow with overwhelming messages and visual stimuli. This would show how I feel all the time, chaotic and over stimulated and everything messed up and needing to be revisited. Perhaps I would need to express this on some exhibition blurb so that people realised that even the way images are hung for exhibition, their formation and the presentation are part of my work to overwhelm the viewer and to make them feel as I do, the victim.

Would this be too much?

Would it put viewers off the work without them knowing that it was purposeful to the concepts?

The diagrams below show why I have placed the images in their particular order within their sections. The red arrows show how the viewers eyes are led and how specific images entice our eyes to move to a specific place next. The last two images on the right of the exhibition composition are stand alone images, they are what I term fall stop images and the eyes should linger here longer.

The Images

The Good: The Gig and On Tour

The good music images use photographs from gigs that I have attended this year. The only image that isn’t connected with the gigs is the Shard building in London. This image was added to represent London which is the other part of England that I go to for gigs. This is why this image is called ‘On Tour’ as I see myself on tour when I go to visit London for a gig, silly really but it makes me smile.

The Gig

The first image ‘The Gig’ emphasises the confusion of colour which the flashing lights cause and the energy that is present on stage. The other feeling I was trying to capture was movement and catching fleeting glances of part of the musicians. When I go to gigs I am always predominantly up the front so I am able to take in a closer view of the stage and the artists, and also focus on things like their hands playing instruments or the instruments themselves.

I have two ongoing projects when I go to gigs. Although I obviously take photos as it is just a cool thing to do as well as being something for the memory, I actually always take photographs connected with the lights and peoples feet, those feet on stage and those around me. The lights cause amazing shapes and colours within the room and on people and include excellent shadows, the type which can be seen in one of the images below.

For this image I also used a black and white image as I wanted it for the bottom layer so that the details would show through the energy that I was trying to create.

The Gig
Layers used

On Tour

The second good image is ‘On Tour.’ I am not as happy with the final outcome as I would have liked to have been. I feel that having the image all conveyed in blue missed the point that I was trying to emphasise which was connected with the lights again. Sometimes within the show the lights hit a specific colour and everything – the details, highlights and shadows – turns into different hues connected with that specific colour.

In this instance I chose blue for my colour to blend in with the cool blue of the Shard photograph. Where this has let me down is that some of the finer details are lost and the overall final image becomes abstract. The image is constructed of bolder blocks of colour, shapes and lines which if I had spent more time on could have stood out more in their own right. I had, in one trial included some lighter violets which appeared in the background and pushed the central triangular Shard and stage lights forward but I changed this area to blue as well and it didn’t work as well.

When designing the composition for this image I was predominantly working with the Shard as first layer due to its dynamic triangle shape which appears in the centre of the picture plane. From here I put the second layer on top which had a distinctive triangle of the stage light above and around the singer. I therefore enlarged this image cropping tightly inwards so that the light matched the shape of the Shards sides and it was these two images that I built my composition around.

On Tour
Layers used

30th March 2020

The Ugly: In Hiding, Faith No More, Growth, and The Story’s in the Eyes

In Hiding

For ‘In Hiding’ I wanted to convey the idea that not all wounds are visible. This means that they can be hidden beneath makeup and clothes but also the wounds can be deep within because when you are abused your mind, soul and heart are also abused, hurt and terrified.

I have already made a couple of collections of postcards, over 50 all printed for a future exhibition that I hope one day to have. These postcards are all my own design and contain either just bold colour and text or a pattern background and text. The text is connected with sayings like the one included within this image, ‘NOT ALL WOUNDS ARE VISIBLE.’

One of the images within this work shows me vulnerable and I appear low down in the picture plane, and I look downwards. This photograph was taken for one of the exercises for this course and represents vulnerability and what is hidden within the dark. The image with me putting on make-up, another photograph from this course, represents covering up outside skin bruises but for me personally it is about hiding the inner wounds by making yourself look good as though everything is OK in your life. By putting on make up this way you are putting on a mask in which to hide behind and it gives you confidence as well and I become someone else, not the wounded one.

The hole in the wall represents the damage that an abuser I know well would create where he would head butt walls, doors, floors and furniture in anger. This is one of the holes he made with his head in a wall. He often smashed through walls with his head in anger and it terrified me as he often used it in threatening way. On one of the last days I had with him he head butted my laptop to smithereens while he stood at the bottom of my bed, I was trapped, frightened and was watching a monster head butt one of my possessions, so out of control.

In hiding

Faith No More

When you suffer from mental health no matter how big or small your condition is, you feel screwed.

Firstly I took a photograph of the darkness around me. Then I placed the word Darkness on the image, multiples of times to represent its strength and to make it visible, because darkness does have a feeling attached to it, it is not just visual to me. This represents me being enveloped by black, the secrets, danger is in the darkness around me at night, the unknown, the hidden and the darkness of depression.

The crucifix within the peace globe represents two things. The salvation that I want to find, the strength and love that there could be coming from God and protection, the protection that God is able to give to me. However being merged into the layer with darkness it now represents how the negativity of the church when I attended, smothered me, it represents the way I feel punished and outcast by them and they have eaten my hope from my inner soul and left me with ‘Faith No More.’

The screaming mouth for this image represents a couple of things. Firstly it represents the silent scream, my silent scream. I have been to the Drs and asked for help so many, many times over the years as I knew something was not right. However it was always dismissed as depression and acute anxiety. All the blood tests I had undergone for pains and ailments showed nothing as they were all related to Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I felt as if no one listened to me, they dismissed me and helped my illnesses take hold.

The open mouth also represents a tomb, my teeth bones stacked against the tombs walls and my tongue the floor within. It was the tomb in which I felt trapped and I often thought of death and ending my life.

The last image has been taken of people clapping and screaming at the end of a gig. In the middle, one man looks at me. looks out from the crowd and singles me out too. I used him to represent hope, hope that one person will hear my screams and help me. The claps and the people’s cheering faces are facing the crucifix and the light off that cross beams down upon them.

Faith No More
Layers used


This one is a simple symbolic reference of the journey from screams to another new me.

The plant represents the growth of me as a person, a living organism and the new change it has brought.

We know the screaming mouth and what it represents, this is the beginning of my growth, that from which I am moving away from.

I have been able to step forward this time thanks to the invaluable help and support that I have received from friends, family, the police, organisations such as Lighthouse Women’s Aid, Waveney Domestic & Abuse Forum, my support worker at Victoria House and my Counsellor, Sue Parker Find Yourself , a counsellor that I have just started to work with and who has helped me more in couple of sessions than loads of people put together over a long period of time.

One book that I was asked to read by my support worker was ‘Why Does He Do That?’ this is seen in the image below and is from a series of work that I again completed for this course. This book along with other suggested readings and my counsellors help has moved me from strength to strength in understanding what has happened to me, and my physical and mental responses to events. This has helped me get to know myself better and to move forwards in strength.

The last image is quite a discussion as it is a new me and I am not sure if I have developed a new mask because I have come out from a dire situation and into a new world. I don’t know the answer only that this one is the me that goes to gigs, actually gets out of the house dresses up and feels and thinks differently and enjoys music and ‘being’ in the music with people?? I have grown from a victim of abuse into a survivor of abuse.

Layers used

3rd April 2020

The Story’s In The Eyes

It has been said that our eyes are the windows to our soul. I know that when I was in the abusive relationship people knew something was up by my eyes, my eyes had given clues to them and many have said that they looked ill and very sad. However my masks did create a false ‘OKness’ to people but the eyes gave it away.

These photographs chosen simply reflect my eyes at different stages in my recovery, one with tears (bottom right), two in bed when I refused to get up and the bottom left was a photograph taken when I began to go out after two months of locking myself away. I added one photograph however which is a cross-app photograph and shows my scared eyes, even terror maybe?

The cross-app image is constructed by adjusting the original photograph in stages, from converting to black and white and then adding an Inkwork app layer on top which I manipulated until I gained the image that I thought was the most powerful. I wanted to add a cross app image because the lines would add an interesting abstract feature to the finished image. Without any other details it would act as the dominant image within the composition and catch the attention of the viewer and hopefully give the feeling of unease to them.

The story’s In The Eyes

The Bad: Take A Chance On Me

The bad one. I actually felt anger when I was creating this one because it triggered off awful memories as I was processing the layers. Anger is good for me, well I think it is because this is the first time in a couple of years I have acknowledge what he did to me. Before I would make excuses for him, even the night he had his hands around my neck I apologised to him while sobbing, apologising as though it was my fault he could have killed me, now that is victim bonding.

I have used the plant photograph again in this image. Firstly it was used to link this completed work with my Growth image. However, for this work I turned the plant upside down so that it becomes the opposite of growth, growth represents an increase in amount, value and importance. I am growing for the good. The other person in this equation isn’t growing but withering, and decreasing in size and importance. His actions have never changed and he has a long life history of the same manipulation and bullying, therefore he has not grown and has not blossomed but becomes less of a human being.

The women’s toilet sign represents how he treats and looks at women. At first he builds you up but then he watches and ogres other women legs and bottoms in front of you, his excuse was ‘every man does it!’ I told him it was disrespectful to me but he just continued to treat me as less than a women. His attitude to women is purely sex which included him visiting brothels as well and also trying to have affairs with any women he could chat up. So the toilet sign represents how he thinks and treats women, like shit.

The mask is part of a totem pole that I found in the front garden of Great Yarmouth Columbia Restaurant (Toniponis Taverna) while I was just casually walking the streets with my camera. The part of the totem pole that I used within my work was situated at the bottom of the pole, I converted it to black and white so that the image was bold and direct in symbolism. He wore a mask while we were socialising with people, he charmed people and he lied to them. It was horrific as I was caught, they all think he is wonderful and I the women who sits quietly and says nothing is anti-social. Little did they know that he would tell me who I was allowed to talk to and where I was to sit or stand when we were out. I was a victim even when we were out but I actually looked like a sulky old bag, I was trapped.

The last image is an outline of his chin, nose and left side of his face and the lines that formed a shirt. I took out all the details to render him unidentifiable, just like a blocked out memory that you cannot remember, and instead I used parts of other photographs to reconstruct his face. An example of the reconstruction is the mouth which is cleverly constructed from the sculptures own mouth.

On this image I had crossed out his eyes so that it represents his inability to see me and then I added text. The text was firstly applied by typing and then I had hand written inside it to make it more personal. I then wrote ‘I hate you!’ above the bold yellow text.

I placed the photographs in a very specific place for more hidden meanings which can be seen in the diagram below.

Take A Chance On Me

I really enjoyed working on this series although yet again it has taken me longer to complete this exercise because I have completed more research and made more work than was needed.

I didn’t plan the work step by step on paper as I always work inside my head, even with my sculpture and graphic design. It is a great and easy method for me but I know evidence in this day and age is of paramount importance when studying. It has its good and bad points working this way. The good point is that my work is fresh and real the bad point is that sometimes mistakes are made and things could have been stronger if they had been planned and thought through.

Much of the layering of images is achieved by my intuition and visual recognition of compositions that work to my eye. From here I begin to think about colours and leading lines within the composition and as you can see from the contact sheets I may make a few mistakes before I achieve the desired result.

What I would actually like to do within my practice is strengthen my planning techniques. Although I have always worked by intuition it would be great to record my working outs in stages like other artists and photographers do. It is difficult though when I see images in my head I need to get on and work, but because of my additional needs I am often unable to put my thoughts down on paper as I work due to the fact that my thoughts are chaotic and fast because of my CPTSD.

Because of this dilemma which I know is a downfall of my working method I have begun to look at working methods of other photographers and I have just purchased the book, ‘Photographers’ Sketchbooks‘ which I hope will just encourage me to be more proactive in the earlier stages of my ideas, from visual thinking to paper and then to construction of and completion of images and therefore the end result would be to strengthen my creative process.

I will write a post about this book and link it in here.

I now have to experiment with layers in iPad and on my iMac within Photoshop. I will write a seperate blog post for this and the link to the post will be linked in here.

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