This assignment is one that requires a triptych to be created of three montaged images with the subject of “Self”.

‘Self’ Research

The initial research will look at the philosophy, psychology, religious and cultural elements of ‘self’. This will be followed up by research into a variety of digital image montage artists work. This second element of the research could be an influence on the final piece of work that is created.

Philosophy of Self: Cassam (2016) says “In philosophy, self-knowledge usually means one of two things: knowledge of one’s particular mental states or knowledge of one’s own nature.”

This to me means that a person is aware of one’s own self-existence and values within society and being.

Psychology of Self: Cherry, K (2018) states “Psychology is a broad field that encompasses the study of human thought, behaviour, development, personality, emotion, motivation, and more.”

This could be said to be the human factor that makes people act and react in certain ways to different situations.

Cultural Self: This is the factor which creates the part of the human self via interaction with elements all around. These elements could be other people, music, sports and team affiliations, education, working environments, hobbies etc. This could be seen as being a more physical aspect of what goes into one’s self.

Religious Self: The belief or non-belief in religion can have a huge effect on the human self. This is because of the strong beliefs many people have for or against it. These beliefs impact on people’s lives, usually in a positive or negative way, and can be attributed to being the cause of many of histories wars and conflicts, such is the power of religion upon people’s actions.

Artist Research

John Stezaker

John Grenville Stezaker is a contemporary English conceptual artist born in Worcester in 1949. His work is often in the form of collages using found pre-existing images such as postcards and publicity shots of classic film stars. These images were arranged in various ways, from simply laying one image over another, to using a scalpel to slice various images up in order to put them together in a way that created a new individual image.

According to artnet.com, Stezaker has said of his work, “My ideal is to do very little to the images, maybe just one cut: the smallest change or the most minimal mutilation,”. This can be seen in some of the bodies of his work such as “Marriage” (2006) where he would cut up an image of a classic film star man and an image of a classic film star woman before putting them together in a juxtapositional way to create a new piece of work. In today’s social fight for sexual equality, Stezaker’s work for his “Marriages” series is quite fitting as neither the male nor female character in any image appears to be dominant over the other.

As mentioned above, Stezaker prefered to keep this body of work simple. Another of his series of work was titled “Masks”, which saw him simply lay an architectural or landscape image over a portrait picture in a juxtaposition giving the impression that parts of the architecture/landscape were parts of the face within the portrait image below it.

John Stezaker’s work could be easily recreated within Photoshop and is a style that could be considered to be an influence for this assignment.

Peter Blake

Sir Peter Thomas Blake was born in 1932 and is an English pop artist who is, to many, best known for his work on the Beatles’ “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Bands” album cover.

As can be seen from the image above, this is an image that many people think of when the word “montage” is used. It has been created by bringing in images from various other places to cut out specific parts of them (the individual famous people) and placing them all into this one piece of work.

Another of his famous works was for another famous piece of music; “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” by Band Aid which was a single written by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure and released in 1984 to raise money to help end the famine in the African country of Ethiopia. Blake also created the poster image for the Live Aid concert which was held to raise more money for the cause.

There’s a definite style to Peter Blakes work that can be seen through all three pieces above. He has an interest in placing figures from popular culture within his pieces of art and his body of work saw him knighted in 2002 for his services to art.

 Right up until the present day, Blake continues to create his montage pieces. The image below is titled “Rupert the Bear and Friends” and is a piece created in the same way as the previous works looked at on here but using some more up-to-date celebrities and well-known BBC characters.

A limited edition print of this work could be yours to own for the price of a mere £1500 from CCA Galleries. The piece shows BBC characters from a few recent decades in front of the now repurposed BBC building ‘Soho House’. This would appear to be a nod to the characters who were made famous by the corporation from within that building.

This piece is part of four new works by the artist, all featuring the old BBC building and famous characters in his recognisable collage style.

Tom Chambers

Tom Chambers is a photomontage photographer born in 1963 and raised in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He completed a B.F.A in graphic design with an emphasis on photography in 1985 from The Ringling School of Art, Florida. His work is held in collections all over the world, including Sir Richard Branson’s personal collection and various museums.

According to Chambers, on his website, his process of getting to the final piece of work can take a while:

I initially sketch a concept or idea which I have for an image. Then, I photograph each piece of the photomontage using a Nikon D800. The greatest challenge is in making sure the light intensity and direction are similar in each of these shots. The process of creating a photomontage may take a month or more, depending upon how quickly I am able to get all the shots and sort through them, selecting the ones which work best together. “Pieces” of the final image may include the landscape or background, often shot in sections, as well as the sky, a human figure, an animal, or another object. I use Photoshop software to combine each “piece”, thus creating the final image. Lastly, the photomontage is printed with archival pigment inks on cotton rag paper.” (n.d.).

The montage/collage work of the previous artists were more obvious with what they are, whereas Tom Chambers’ work, in many cases but not all, is trying to be a more complete picture. For his “Still Beating” series, Chambers says:

“My photomontage is narrative art which additionally uses magic realism. Magic realism creates stories which seem both true and believable, but likely are improbable.” (n.d.).

He uses the term “magic realism” a few times throughout the explanations of his different bodies of work, and there is a definite feel of fantasy and make-believe to his photographic art.

The images above are just two of the thirteen from Tom Chambers’ “Still Beating” series of work.

Another series of his work is titled “Illumination” and was inspired by a trip he took to Italy where Chambers noted the “metaphysical nature of Tuscan light” (n.d.). On his website, Chambers states that:

Illumination, a series of photomontages, illustrates stories about personal beliefs and seeing things in a different light.”

The two images directly above have seen Chambers put female figures into a scene he took during his visit to Italy.

Justin Peters

Justin Peters is a young artist who sources his images for manipulation from the many stock image websites that can be found online these days.

From the “About” page on his website, we find out that:

Justin Peters is a German Digital Artist & Photographer who merges reality with his own imagination using Photoshop.

“Everything you can imagine is real” by Pablo Picasso is a quote Justin lives by, especially when creating his work: Painting his own dreamworld where everything is possible through the unexpected and unique imagery combinations and photo manipulations.

The same source tells us:

He hopes that the viewer perceives a new and different world, one which they can dive into to prove that everything is possible when you open your mind.

His work is certainly one that deserves attention and more than a quick glance. Some of the pieces are simply aesthetically pleasing whilst others can take a moment to get to grips with in terms of composition.

The two images above are good examples of the two kinds of work he produces. The procedure is the same, but some take a moment longer to get to grips with.

The image below is another of Peters’ work that is a good example of montage work. This image is titled “Cloud Whale”.

Assignment Triptych Background

This assignment calls for a triptych to be created based upon one or more of the types of “self” mentioned at the start of this post.

A triptych is a series of 3 images that are placed next to each other and are linked in some way to create one piece of work. To complicate things even further, this assignment also calls for each of the 3 images to be a montage, hence the reason for the previous artist research within this post. Unlike the work of the artists mentioned above, this assignment needs to be completed using only photographs taken by the person creating the triptych!

The piece of work that will be done to go along with this post will be based upon ‘cultural self’ and ‘psychological self‘, and will be based on the artist’s geographical background and the history of that geographical region.

The region in question is in the north of the UK; Lancashire and Yorkshire. The conflict in question is the Wars of the Roses.

The Wars of the Roses were a conflict for control of the throne of England between the rival royal Plantagenet houses of Lancaster and York.

History.com tells us that:

Waged between 1455 and 1485, the Wars of the Roses earned its flowery name because the white rose was the badge of the Yorks, and the red rose was the badge of the Lancastrians. After 30 years of political manipulation, horrific carnage and brief periods of peace, the wars ended and a new royal dynasty emerged.

The Wars of the Roses was a bloody war that saw tens of thousands of men killed as the squabbling families of Lancaster and York vied for power. One of the bloodiest of all the battles was fought during a snowstorm in a field in Towton, North Yorkshire. According to History.com:

It’s believed over 50,000 men engaged in brutal fighting and around 28,000 died.

The Battle of Towton was the bloodiest one-day battle in England’s history. The Yorks emerged victorious and Henry, Margaret and their son fled to Scotland leaving Edward King of England.

The image above shows a fatal blow received by a soldier at the Battle of Towton, North Yorkshire during The Wars of the Roses. The image was created by Christopher Maudsley who describes himself as a ‘historical media creative’ and is based on skeletons found in a grave of some 43 people found near to the site of the bloody conflict.

The rivalry between people from Yorkshire and people from Lancashire continues today although, thankfully, not to anything like the degree it did in the mid to late 15th century. Today it is more akin to a bit of banter than much else.

Because of the nature of the Wars of the Roses, the people of the time, and indeed today who still let the whole Yorkshire/Lancashire thing influence them, could be said to be psychologically affected by this brutal time in the history of our nation. This is due to the psychological self behaving in an emotional and/or motivated way, as per the descriptions of the various ‘selfs’ at the start of this document. By this, it is meant that the people letting this history influence them are motivated to behave in an emotional way towards those they see as being on the opposite side of the rivalry to themselves.

It could also be said that this triptych reaches into the ‘cultural self’ from the descriptions of the different selves. History has a habit of influencing elements of the regions it affected, such as the people and their affiliation to one side or the other. These affiliations can get passed down from generation to generation and is why we still see rivalries today from events that happened some seven centuries ago.

The Process of Creating the Triptych

To get this montaged triptych going, it was necessary to capture images for use within it as that’s a big part of the assessment criteria (which will, hopefully, be enforced and taken into account during the grading process!).

To get the required images, separate trips were arranged for visits to the Richard III visitor’s centre in Leicester city centre and the Bosworth Battlefield visitor’s centre near Market Bosworth, Leicestershire.

An array of photographs were taken at both venues, with several being used in the final piece of work. Below is a gallery of the actual photos taken which had some part used in the making of the final montaged triptych, as per the assignment brief.

Click on an image for a larger version.

This montage was created in a Peter Blake style (see above), with various aspects of different images being cut out using the ‘Quick select tool’ plus a ‘Mask’ within Photoshop. Once they’d been cut out in this way, the edges were tidied up with the use of the ‘Brush tool’ to remove anything from around the edges that the ‘quick select tool’ had missed. The remaining element of the image was then dragged from its window into the window of the triptych image that was being created via the use of the ‘Move tool’. Once the item was in place, it was rotated until in the final position required.

This process was repeated with all the elements you see within the final piece.

Once all elements were in place, it was decided that the roses of the rival houses had to stand out more from the shields and emblems of the families involved in the wars. This was achieved through the use of ‘Levels’ on each element that needed adjusting. To affect just the element the level adjustments were intended, just a few steps were required.

  1. Use the ‘Move tool’ to select the element by clicking on it within the image. This was preferred to trawling through the ‘Layers’ list within Photoshop.
  2. Once the layer was highlighted, the ‘Levels’ icon was selected from the ‘Adjustments’ tab in the box above the layers box. This put the ‘levels’ adjustment directly above the element’s layer in question.
  3. Press and hold the ‘Alt’ key (a PC was used to create this triptych) whilst left-clicking on the ‘levels’ layer.
  4. Move the newly created downwards arrow to the layer for the element requiring the levels adjustment and release the left mouse button. This now ensures that any levels adjustments made, whilst clicked on this levels adjustment layer, only affects the element intended.
  5. Adjust the levels until the desired effect is achieved.

For this triptych, it was intended to have the shields with their family emblems slightly see-through. This gives them a ghostly look as the Wars of the Roses took place hundreds of years ago, as well as ensuring that the roses themselves stand out more.

Simply adjusting the opacity of the elements didn’t give the desired effect due to each element coming from different photographs taken in differing environments, of which some had very bad lighting. Using the ‘Levels’ tool gave more control and a wider degree of adjustments.

Setting the Triptych Up

The initial setup for the triptych was done by creating three separate A3 sized sections within the Photoshop window that were all linked together to allow for it to be created as one large image but easily cut to create the triptych when done.

This was done by:

  1. Creating a pane of A 3 size (297×420)
  2. Drag a line from the ‘Ruler’ on the left of the workstation window to the opposite side of the created A3 pane.
  3. Going to ‘Image’ in the top menu, followed by ‘Canvas Size’. In the pop-up window, hit the left arrow in the ‘Anchor’ section, followed by selecting ‘Millimetres’ and typing in 594 and 420 into the width and height boxes within the ‘New Size’ section. The 594mm is 2x the width of 297mm (A3 width).
  4. Repeat parts 2 and 3 for a third pane to be added but instead of typing in 594mm, it needs to be 3 x 297, which is 891mm.

This process gives you the three A3 sized panes that act as one for creating the image but can be easily ‘cut’ to three individual A3 panes when the image is done.

So, What’s It All About?

So, what does the final triptych actually represent in terms of the image itself and it’s relation to the ‘Self’ requirement of the assignment?

As far as the image goes, it’s pretty straightforward. The Wars of the Roses, as mentioned previously in this post, was fought out by the Houses of Lancaster and York for the throne of England. The House of Lancaster was represented by the red rose and the House of York was represented by the white rose. This is how the name came about for this bloody period of British history.

The triptych has the House of Lancaster represented on the left panel, whilst the House of York is represented on the opposite right-hand panel. The middle panel represents what they were fighting over (the crown), whilst also displaying the shield emblem of the House of Plantagenet, which they all came under no matter which side they fought. The white zig-zag down the middle of the Plantagenet shield represents what the Wars of the Roses eventually did to the House of Plantagenet as it tore it apart and destroyed it completely. This would see the start of the rule of the Tudors over the kingdom.

The various shields arranged around each rose are those of some of the major players fighting and scheming their way through the period, and who played big roles in the Battle of Bosworth which would see the end of King Richard III and the start of the Tudor reign.

The two shields that appear on the middle panel are of the Woodville and Grey families who, basically, couldn’t make their minds up as to whose side to be on. They started off on the Lancastrian side before turning to the Yorkist side. They ended up as being generally confused.

The shields on the Lancastrian side are those of the Percy, Beaufort, Savage, Talbot, Northumberland and Oxford. The shields on the York side are of the families of Thomas Stanley, William Stanley, Strange, Ratcliffe, Norfolk and Neville.

A decision needed to be made with regards to which side of the triptych to put three of the shields. This is because of the scheming and side-swapping that went on during the final battle of the Plantagenant reign, The Battle of Bosworth.

The families in question were the two Stanleys, plus The Earl of Northumberland. The Stanleys came to the battle originally on Richard III’s side but they didn’t engage during the early part of the battle. They instead positioned themselves off to the side of the two opposing side’s formations whilst they deliberated on which side to fight. The decisive moment in the battle, and indeed the reign of the Plantagenets’ over Britain, came when Henry VII (Lancastrian) made for the Stanley armies for a chat about them joining him. Richard III saw this and charged Henry VII before he could reach his destination. Richard III nearly reached and killed Henry but was double-crossed by the Stanleys as the closed in behind him, cutting him off from his forces, after they’d made the decision to join the Lancastrian side. This was the first betrayal of Richard. The second betray came from another part of his army led by the Earl of Northumberland. This came in the form of none commital by Northumberland to help his king who was now surrounded. Northumberland’s men were in prime position to charge into the back of the Stanley armies and halt their attack on Richard’s cavalry but decided not to and instead turned to leave the battle. This is said to have been done as the Earl of Northumberland wasn’t happy that Richard III had taken some of his power from him in the north of England.

Because of this scheming, it would have been fair to put these shields on either side of the triptych. The Stanley shields have been left on the York side and the Earl of Northumberland’s on the Lancastrian side.

All this scheming and backstabbing is what saw the demise of Richard III after he was nearly successful in his attempt to kill Henry VII. Had it not been for certain families and their armies turning against King Richard III, we might not have seen the Tudor period within British history.

How Does It Relate to ‘Self’?

As already mentioned, the conflict between the folks of Lancaster and York could come under the heading of ‘Psychology of Self’ as that deals with the likes of motivation, emotion and behaviour. Even though there wasn’t really an out and out winner of the Wars of the Roses due to both Houses uniting through the marriage of King Henry VII and Elizabeth of York after Henry’s victory at the Battle of Bosworth, there has been a rivalry between the geographical neighbours ever since.

Even after the end of the Wars and the uniting of the Houses, people still tried to reignite the feud but to no avail as Henry was a strong, well-liked ruler. Speaking as someone who has both a Lancastrian and Yorkshire parent, it’s safe to say that the rivalry continues today. Obviously, it’s not to anything like the fierceness of old but is, rather, more of a banter-maker.

This triptych could also be put into the ‘cultural self’ column due to its geographical nature. The feud between the two counties continues through the likes of sports, particularly football where things can get heated due to both the game and the history of the rivals.

 

The Final Triptych

Summary

Once the idea had been had for this triptych and the process started, it was an enjoyable assignment to do. The trips to the visitor’s centres of Richard III and Bosworth Battlefield were fun and educational as well as allowing for lots of images for use in the final piece. Many more images were taken than were used but it was felt that many of them just made the piece look messy.

The final piece submitted appears to be clean, crisp and colourful. The work done through Camera Raw and Photoshop to bring the images up to a useable level has made all the difference to the final piece. Most of the photographs had to be taken in environments with very low lighting or very bright spotlights, so it’s been an education to see just what the software can do to images that would previously have been thought of as unusable.

What has been learnt from this assignment will go on to be used in the creation of movie-style posters for other personal assignments currently being worked on, meaning this has been a very worthwhile experience.

Bibliography