Reaching Retirement

(Part 2/Ideas/Meaning in imagery/Reaching retirement)

Exercise – Reaching Retirement

What is a visual metaphor?

Here are some examples of visual metaphors, some of them quite famous. These are all modern but there have been visual metaphors for as long as people have been recording information. Here is an example from Salvador Dali and another from Magritte, two of my favourite artists.

I have chosen ‘Reaching retirement’ for my subject.

This is quite an emotive  subject as for some people it is a long-awaited exciting moment and for others it is dreaded and the opposite.

For the purposes of this exercise I have chosen to use the positive outlook and design something cheerful. Below are a series of examples of retirement cards taken fro the web to show the mood and attitude of most people towards retirement.

It is mainly viewed as a good thing where people look forward to either having nothing to do or just doing what they want. There are a couple also which see it as a beginning and the start of an adventure.

What is a visual Metaphor?

Visual Metaphor

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

Richard Nordquist

Updated February 03, 2018

A visual metaphor is the representation of a person, place, thing, or idea by means of a visual image that suggests a particular association or point of similarity. It’s also known as pictorial metaphor and analogical juxtaposition.

Use of Visual Metaphor in Modern Advertising

Modern advertising relies heavily on visual metaphors. For example, in a magazine ad for the banking firm Morgan Stanley, a man is pictured bungee jumping off a cliff. Two words serve to explain this visual metaphor: a dotted line from the jumper’s head points to the word “You”; another line from the end of the bungee cord points to “Us.” The metaphorical message—of safety and security provided in times of risk—is conveyed through a single dramatic image. (Note that this ad ran a few years before the subprime mortgage crisis of 2007-2009.)

Examples and Observations

“Studies of visual metaphors used for rhetorical purposes generally concentrate on advertising. A familiar example is the technique of juxtaposing a picture of a sports car . . . with the image of a panther, suggesting that the product has comparable qualities of speed, power, and endurance. A variation on this common technique is to merge elements of the car and the wild animal, creating a composite image…”In an ad for Canadian Furs, a female model wearing a fur coat is posed and made up in a way that is slightly suggestive of a wild animal. To leave little doubt as to the intended meaning of the visual metaphor (or simply to reinforce the message), the advertiser has superimposed the phrase ‘get wild’ over her image.”

Examples of visual metaphores

Further examples from newspaper of visual metaphors – political in this instance

Above is a very large painting which I did some years ago as an entry to the John Moores painting competition.

It is called Feed the World and is another example of visual metaphor. The table is set with a plate full of condoms suggesting that they would be more use to the women of the world than feeding unwanted children.

The table cloth is pink to signify the image is about women -something of a cliché but it works.

The background shows a dark ‘sky’ with hundreds (implied) pairs of eyes shining in it . The eyes are meant to be women’s eyes and they are watching and waiting to see what happens next.

Above : Sketch page showing spider diagram to aid thinking about Approaching Retirement.

Below:  Sketch book page showing initial thoughts on how to portray the message, running and throwing away a clock, reaching the end of a race, sitting in bed and throwing clock out of window, good things about retirement v bad things re work.

Sketchbook page with further ideas; persons back to back thinking work and retirement; person arriving at the top of a long stairway to idyllic cottage, aged couples dancing for joy showing different poses.

The chosen concept was ‘Approaching Retirement’. The ideas I have looked at so far have really been about arriving at’ retirement, although I guess the getting near the finishing line is on track.

Definition of ‘approaching’

approach verb (COME NEAR)

to come near or nearer to something or someone in space, time, quality, or amount:

We could just see the train approaching in the distance.
If you look out of the window on the left, you’ll see that we’re now approaching the Eiffel Tower.
I see it’s approaching lunchtime, so let’s take a break.
In my opinion, no other composers even begin to approach (= come near in quality to) Mozart.
The total amount raised so far is approaching (= almost) $1,000.
He’s very active for a man approaching 80 (= who is almost 80 years old).

More examples
Slow down as you approach the corner.
Under no circumstances should you approach the man.
The traffic lights turned green as we approached the junction.
With exams approaching, it’s a good idea to review your class notes.

Looking at the above definition, I am thinking that a universally recognised symbol for ‘approaching’ is a warning road sign.

All these signs and many others warn of what is approaching. So it seems logical to use my leaping, dancing retirees in a road sign.

We are all familiar with the two elderly people sign so a pair of elderly people dancing and leaping with joy is only a small step from there.

Below is my first effort. They are dancing but could be fighting, I guess. I will try other positions.

Trying out a different dancing position to fit better into a triangle. They don’t  really look as if they are dancing or leaping. My family, when asked, thought they were having a punch up in the first example and then doing some physical exercises in the second example.

The sketch is pencil line drawing filled in with a black Sharpie pen.

Below I have altered the relative positions of the dancing couple I used on the previous page digitally so their antics look a bit more like they are dancing rather than fighting! Also they now fit better into a triangle shape.

Finally I have finessed the road sign and added appropriate lettering to the finished Visual Metaphor.

My Reflections on Part 2 – Ideas

This was a most enjoyable part of the course and a valuable learning experience.

Writing a brief was familiar territory having worked as a Garden Designer, there are many parallels. I am familiar with Spider diagrams having used them in previously.  Considering my feelings about Spider diagrams was interesting.

I enjoyed ‘Destruction’ , I approached it from several different angles making imaginative pictures to illustrate it. I was particularly pleased with the destruction of a credit card.

I have never previously explored moodboards but as a natural ‘hoarder’ I am not short of things to include. Bringing together things which are normally disparate and located separately was interesting as a theme does evolve – colour, texture, similarities etc.

I remember the 1950’s. I have lots of ‘material’ from that era. I was pleased with the drawing of the room and enjoyed doing it.

I have covered ‘mark making’ many times as an artist and teacher of small children. It was fun and I managed to think of different ways of doing it. I made it more interesting and took the same butterfly to recreate in different media. I enjoyed pin pricking corrugated cardboard.

The objective and subjective drawings were useful illustrative practice. I did them whilst on holiday. It took a while to get back into pencil drawing mode to produce the picture of the party shoe. I tried to get the sparkle effect by using a rubber which worked in the end.

The subjective drawing took more time in the deciding what and how to do it than doing it. A useful exercise in imagination.

I went slightly astray on the black and white section but realised I should have chosen a more simple image. I was pleased with the final effect which I was able to carry through to the next exercise which I further developed at the end into a minimal black and white shape as a portrait. I would really like to further explore this technique at some later point.

Visual metaphors have always been a favourite. I used Banksy’s  reappropriating images’ theme in an assignment last year. I like Dali and Magritte. I was keen to emphasise in the ‘visual metaphors’ that both words were important; ‘approaching’ as well as ‘retirement’. Retirement is easy to portray but I found ‘approaching’ a more difficult concept. However, I felt finished image answered the brief.

This ‘Ideas’ section has helped enhance my creativity and provoked lots of ideas and directions for my further research. I have had the opportunity to improve my visual and technical skills learning more about communicating through images. I have been able to look at and consider the works of artists and illustrators of whom I had not previously heard. In addition I am now much more alert to items of news referencing illustration, such as an interview with Liz Pichon on TV today.


Banksy, Wall and Piece, Century, London, 2006
Ed, The Art Book, Phaidon, London 1994
Hall A, Illustration, Lawrence King, London, 2011
Heller S & Weidemann J, Ed. 100 Illustrators, Taschen, Cologne, 2005
Hyland a, Ed. The Picture Book, Lawrence King, London, 2010
Male A, Illustratio, Bloomsbury, London, 2017
Martin T, Essential Surrealists,Dempsey Parr, London, 1999

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Visual metaphor



Holy ward metaphor