Exercise 13

Visual metaphors

Exercise 13 – Visual Metaphors

Literal – Free from exaggeration or embellishment.

Metaphorical  – Expressing one thing in terms normally denoting another.

Receiving the brief

Choose one from the phrases and create a drawn visual list of objects and subjects which could be used to symbolise them:

Reaching retirement                      Dreams of romance                        Broken relationship

Censorship of the press                High achievement                           Economic catastrophe

phrase chosen:  Censorship of the press

Identifying key words

press – paper, media, printing, conveying information, expressing opinions, exchanging views, covering stories

censorship – prevention, not permitted, suppression of free speech, public communication or information that may be deemed harmful, sensitive or objectionable by another body, institution or government.

Responding to words

Press – journalists/papers/black & white/ truth seekers/uncovering/travel/exposing/war reporters/paparazzi/cameras/pencil and paper/researching/bigger picture/exploring possibilities/shutdown

censorship – stopping/cease/prevented/shut up/violent/covering up truth/preventing communication/control/power/governments/dictators/negative/people/denied/harmful/preventative measures/glorified/unnecessary/necessary

Using images that were taken from a google search of ‘censorship’, I put together a sample board of those posters, impressions and images that stood out to me.



The quotation coupled with a strong image of a powerful hand squashing the masses shows us the leverage and control expressed through censorship, while the image of the typist pokes fun at the ‘people just doing their job’ because they were told to.

Ai Weiwei, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ai_Weiwei, is an artist and a political activist from China.  After the earthquake disaster in 2008 he led an investigation into the worst hit areas in a bid to uncover the names of the student victims and compile a list of all those who perished.  His blog revealed a number of issues with the governments transparency around naming those that died.  In 2011 he was arrested and held without official charge for 81days.  His work reflects so many aspects of the restrictions in his country and he constantly pushing the boundaries and limitations in a bid to have freedom of expression.

The cartoon illustrations stood out because they poked fun and I liked the humor and dry wit in them that commented on censorship.  The badge and statue of liberty poster stood out as the badge was witty and played on the meaning in a great way while the poster was commenting on the technological aspect of censorship rather than the paper aspect.

The statue of Liberty being watched and covered up so that she can’t see, hear or speak is a great metaphor for the American people being watched in their own country.  The use of the colours in the poster also lend to a very stark image and echoes that of a Soviet Communist propaganda poster – http://www.sovietposters.com/

http://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/press-freedom-new-censorship in this article it mentions that countries like China and Iran are perfecting the art of online censorship, with some journalists having to resort to cryptography to avoid censorship. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cryptography

I also collected a lot of visual metaphor examples through pinterest – https://www.pinterest.com/Superhilbo/exercise-13-visual-metaphors/

Drawing ideas up


I had a few ideas sketched down that were going from the traditional form of a hand over a mouth to a person sitting at a computer with ‘no access’ sign on it.  These were quite common and even the 3 monkey symbol of ‘hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil’ was coming up a lot too.  I thought about having a demonstration with placards having their words blackened out so you could only partially see the information.

I wasn’t sure what to create, but knew that it would be either a standalone image without words or a cartoon illustration with a comment in it.  After a few sketches and jotting down ideas I thought the bird cage was the one that appealed to me the most.

Choosing ideas

I wanted to create an image with a bird in a cage with boss cats around it in a menacing fashion.  The bird would be a parrot as parrots can talk, and the bird would be molting and the feathers falling out would have words written on them such as ‘truth’, ‘freedom’, ‘free speech’.  The idea behind it being that the parrot can talk but can’t due to the restrictions around it and the censorship of what it wants to say.  The style could merge the cartoon illustration with some spoken words if I needed while the symbolism in the cage, bird and cats would hopefully be transparent to the viewer.

Fat cat – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fat_cat_(term)

Working within the given format and creating ‘thumbnails’


9 thumbnails were created using the idea of a bird in a cage and a number of ‘fat cats’ lounging around the cage keeping an eye on it.

Considering viewpoint, composition and content

Of the 9 thumbnails created, the ones that I wanted to explore were the 1st, 4th, 8th and 9th.  I liked the idea of a interaction between the body of the cat with the cage, wrapping itself around it like it owned it.

The first and last thumbnails were more about the observation and control of a fat cat on the parrot.  The bird is stuck in the situation and unable to control it fully.  It can speak, but it is restricted and the outside influences can be felt and there is a menacing quality to them.


a chinese paper that was censored.  A Chinese paper successfully censored the stock market crash – http://www.undispatch.com/chinese-authorities-have-successfully-censored-the-stock-market-crash/

Antique wallpaper was used for the texture and a sketch was done of a parrot using a google image of a parrot as loose reference.

Final artwork

I used photoshop to merge all the layers together and then used the multiply and divide to create a layer that blended with the others.  The parrot was layered as an inverse select layer and a loose range of colours were put over it but they didn’t really work.

Instead I chose to allow one of the inverse layers to be normal and then coloured the other to give a slight gradient look to it.  The Chinese newspaper that censored the stockmarket crash was flipped backwards and a layer effect looked like sections of the paper had been removed, giving it a feel of further censorship.


The final step was a layer with a gradient copied and flipped so that the antique effect showed through more.  The layer with the antique wallpaper was too strong so had to be faded out but I still wanted the edges of it to show on the image in some way.  A gradient was the best option.