Assessment Piece 10 - Assignment Five: Seven Days

The brief for this assignment was to create one or a series of images to illustrate the title ‘Seven Days’. The choice of content was totally open. I had previously written a children’s story and I thought an abridged version of this would work well for this assignment. The story was fairly easy to abridge because there is a natural break part way through so I used that as the end of the story. My next step was to consider the events in a seven day format so I could work out text content for each page/ image. Before starting the illustration process, I looked into the relationship between word and image in children’s picture books. Martin Salisbury describes ‘In picture books, the relationship between words and pictures is a unique and sometimes complex one. The respective roles of each need to be considered and balanced, complementing rather than duplicating each others statements.’ Salisbury, M (2015)

Randolph Caldecott is considered to be the pioneer of this relationship between word and pictures that is described by Maurice Sendak as ‘rhythmic syncopation.’ I looked for examples of this in children’s books. The example below left is from ‘The Immortal Jellyfish’ by Sang Miao. The text is very limited giving only a brief description of what could be seen through the door. The rest is left to the illustration. The text tells us they ‘discovered a great and beautiful world, bursting with life’ but it is the illustrations that show us what that life is. It depicts an amazing cavernous setting full of plant, fungi and animal life. In the example below right the reader is shown how the character is feeling about his Grandpa’s death through the image not the text. The text tells us about the death and the text adds the extra information.

Similarly, the text and picture shown below work in synergy with each other with the words describing his thoughts and fears about how other people would react to him and the picture showing us exactly how they do react. The reader is then able to work out that the Lion’s thoughts and fears were unfounded.

While writing the story I had been very mindful of not telling all events through text so that inferences can be made using the pictures.  As a teacher I know this is an important skill for young readers to learn. Therefore there was a lot of scope for the illustrations to do the talking and provide extra information to complement the text.  

My brief:

Create seven illustrations to represent a seven day period.

The seven images should illustrate a seven day period in which Magpie learns a lesson and changes her ways.  

The illustrations are for a short story picture book. 

The audience is 3 - 6 year old children.

The illustrations should be created in a square format 25cm x 25cm.  The artwork can be produced to scale.

The images must be in sequence and varied compositions must be used to maintain interest.  

The illustrations should complement the text providing extra information for the reader.

Typography should be hand drawn.

Choice of media is open. 

I started my idea generation by brainstorming initial ideas around the text for each day, then followed this with a visual mind map. This second step enabled me to make initial choices about what to include in each image to ensure I was complimenting the text and providing the reader with extra information rather than decorating it.

Once I had chosen an idea for each of the seven images, I used thumbnails to work out composition. In this first image I wanted to include the magpie and a dressing table littered with jewels in the foreground with an open window and the outside beyond. In my thumbnails I played about with cropping to include different amounts of the dressing table and window. I also tried depicting the window at different angles eventually choosing one at a slight angle and cropped so that only one side of the window is shown.

Originally I wanted to include two ideas in the illustration for Day 2. Both were images of magpie stealing something shiny. In my thumbnails I explored ways of doing this including depicting each idea on opposite sides of a tree, as vignettes and cropped at each corner. None of them looked right and eventually I decided to choose one idea to focus on. Once chosen I drew that thumbnail alongside the one for day 1 to ensure it followed on well from the first and that the compositions didn’t look too similar. This also gave me the opportunity to check that the illustrations were complementing the text and providing the reader with the information needed to understand the story.

Having decided that I wanted Magpie’s stash of shiny things to be depicted as a tall pile in order to emphasise just how much she has stolen, my thumbnails for this image 3 focused mainly on the position of Magpie and where I would leave space for the text. The image for Day 4 was to depict the other side of the nest with the woodpecker at the door. At this stage I thought this would work well as a double page spread.

The text for day 5 required two images on the same page. ‘My love for glittering gems had put me in a dark, lonely place. With a lot of time to think about where happiness really comes from.’ The reader needs to be shown how Magpie initially feels about being in jail, then what she does to find that inner happiness, and I thought the best way to do this would be to use vignettes. My thumbnails explored composition of these.

For day 6 I needed to show the reader that Magpie is still in prison but is marvelling at the beautiful night sky and I thought the best way to do this would be to show her looking out of the prison window. My thumbnails explored how cropped I made the window. Thumbnails for day 7 explored composition of a full page spread depicting Magpie flying amongst the stars while others are also enjoying the night sky. This was the most difficult composition to work out because I wanted to give a sense of distance while keeping things in proportion.

Once I was happy with a thumbnail for each illustration I drew them out together to check the sequence and ensure pace in the illustrations. Adding pace and drama is discussed by Martin Salisbury, ‘The pace of the narrative is critical in keeping the young reader interested in the story. This is controlled in various ways:by varying the size of the images, by changing the viewpoint or by altering the actual design of the image on the page. These changes create an ebb and flow and enhance visual interest. Cropping tightly on the image can also add drama and can be used as a means of punctuating the story.’ Salisbury, M. (2015)

I could see straightaway that I needed to change the direction the characters were walking in image 2 because it looked as if they were walking into the window. This was easy to change as it was just a simple flip. Putting the thumbnails together like this enabled me to check whether I had managed to create interest and drama while still maintaining visual continuity. I think I included different viewpoints with front facing in the first image; side in the prison and nest images and from above in the final image. My page design is also varied as I have a mixture of full page illustrations, vignettes and part page with content positioned on the left and on the right. The text position is also varied appearing at the top, bottom, left and right.

My next step was to create the characters. I started by drawing magpies from observation then distorted to create a character which I then drew in different positions. Likewise, I drew the woodpecker from observation, then redrew as a character. I knew what position I needed the woodpecker in so to save time I didn’t sketch him in lots of positions.

When drawing up my visuals I made some slight changes from the thumbnails.  In the image for day 2 I wanted to create drama and movement. Drawing the loop created the movement I wanted in order to depict Magpie swooping down to steal the tiara but I also wanted to create movement in the other characters.  I thought back to my research into pace and drama and tried cropping part of the mother character so that it appeared as if she was walking off the page. This creates the drama I wanted because to the reader it looks as if she is hurrying her daughter along.  

I had originally intended to have day 3 and 4 together to make a double page spread but when I came to draw it up I realised it would then look like one day rather than two separate days within the seven.  This change also enabled me to have the right side of the nest showing in image/ day 3 leaving more space for the text on the left.

Before creating these visuals I quickly sketched items I would need in my illustrations from reference.

In my brief had specified that the typography would be hand drawn and I looked at some examples of hand drawn lettering in children’s picture books before starting. Timothy B Ering’s typography in ‘Frogbelly Ratbone’ is scratchy and quirky in nature which goes perfectly with the visual and textual content of the book. The letters are not completely uniform and don’t sit on a straight line. Isabelle Arsenault’s lettering is more uniform but she uses lots of devices to create interest and further complement the illustrations. She places text underneath each other almost in list form and uses upper case and boldly drawn letters for emphasis. In the photo below, she has used a slightly larger uppercase for the word ‘OUR’ to emphasise it and used big bold letters for the onomatopoeia of ‘BUZZ’. Although not hand drawn, I looked at some of Lauren Child’s lettering because she is very creative with it. In her books you will often see the text swirling, forming shapes or in a loop. She also uses completely different styles of typography as shown below. All photos: Briony Dixon

I wanted my hand drawn text to be slightly quirky, not to the extent of the scratchy font of Timothy B Ering, but just with a small variation in the position of the letters in a word so they don’t all sit in a completely straight line. I practised my font then started to think about adding it to the visuals in order to get an idea for exact positioning. I started this process by writing out the font on layout paper over the image but quickly realised that this didn’t give me the opportunity to play about with how many words I put on each line, unless I wanted to keep writing it out over and over! So I made the decision to explore typography options digitally on scanned final artwork , then when happy I could add my hand drawn lettering using the layout I had decided on.

To choose a colour palette for the final artwork I used a Dulux trade colour palette. It has a huge range of colours and I am able to compare in order to see which work well together. I wasn’t happy with my use of colour in the festival piece in an earlier exercise and have been trying to tone down my use of colour since. Through research for that exercise I found that bold bright colours aren’t actually necessary for children in this age group. I chose the palette shown below right so I still have colour, but it is more subtle than I have used before.

When it came to the final artwork for the woodpecker scene, I started colouring the nest in brown but it didn’t seem right. It didn’t fit into my colour palette.

I then started thinking about the shiny objects that I had yet to colour. They would be silver and gold which gave me the idea to use grey for the wood of the nest so it ties in with the silver. I used a graphite pencil for this and I am happy with the effect. I also used the graphite in other images to create continuity. The other media used were gouache, coloured pencil and metallic acrylic paint. I have been able to experiment with using gouache on this project which was one of my aims at the start of Part 5. I used a mixture of opaque and transparent and have tried different ways of applying it using different brushes. All experiments are in my supporting sketchbooks with a snapshot shown below.

Final artwork

The final artwork after adjustments made in brightness, contrast, hue and saturation in photoshop.

When I started exploring text possibilities on Illustrator I came across a font that I felt looked slightly hand drawn and suited my images. I made the decision then to add the text digitally rather than hand writing it all. In image 2 I kept the two sentences separate. I placed the first at the top of the page because the text leads the content. We then see what sort of things Magpie’s wanting to have more looks like in the illustration before coming to the second sentence below which leaves the reader with a question. In the image for day 3, I used a different font to emphasise the word ‘pretty’ and on day 4 I used uppercase to communicate the loud noise of the door knocking. On day 5, I positioned the words' ‘dark, lonely place’ in a downwards slope to symbolise her fall from grace. The text for day 6 is a lot of short sentences with the final two starting with the same words. I thought it would be effective if these sentences were placed in list form rather than continued in order to emphasise the directness in them. The change in Magpie is occurring, these are very definite steps in her change and I wanted the text positioning to reflect that. I think my text positioning works well, it can be clearly read on each page and I have considered the hierarchy between text and image. As discussed before, I think I have been successful in ensuring my illustrations added to the text rather than duplicating it.

Once I had all my pages completed I made a book in Indesign and exported it to PDF format. Please click on the link below.

Seven Days

I feel that I met the brief I set for myself except that I changed from hand drawn to straight typography. This I feel was a good decision though. I have learned a huge amount over the course of this unit and I do feel that I have demonstrated a lot of it in this final assignment. Having said that, I still kept exploring new techniques and media possibilities while completing it and have explained how I want to take this forward in my reflection on Part 5. I would have loved to create a front cover for this but unfortunately ran out of time.


Salisbury, M. (2015) Illustrating Children’s Books: Creating Pictures for Publication. 8th ed. London: Bloomsbury visual arts, p 82,- 84