Assignment 1: Say hello

I made a mind map about myself, my interests and inspirations. From that mind map I made an initial sketch. It was quite narrative based and so is my final piece. If someone asks me to draw myself, I will draw myself as Red Riding Hood, I have even made it my logo in the past. I am on a quest to move from the dark to light, from fear to love and find spending time being at peace and at one with nature helps this journey and also inspires me creatively. I also see my creative journey going from dark to light, from being too scared to pursue a dream to getting myself on the path towards it. I have included a few things I have mild obsessions about! I would love to have a pet crow and love anything with a pointy hat. The piece shows the materials I enjoy working with and I think it also reflects some of the exploration I have completed during unit 1. It is mixed media, using watercolour, pencil, pastel and pen.

This is my original sketch from my mind map and sketchbook pages where I was exploring techniques. I originally intended to create bushes using leaf printing but once I started and had put the woods and back layer of grass in, I decided it wouldn’t work with the rest of the style.


Once I had completed my initial spider diagram for this piece, (not shown here due to being personal) an image formed in my mind which I did a quick sketch of. I then immediately began to proceed with exploring techniques and materials. As I said in my refection for the getting the gist exercise, this is something I tend to do but it is really limiting my options for composition and content. In my future work I am going to explore each subject in more depth and make more use of thumbnails to conjure a broader spectrum of compositional ideas.

Moving forward my tutor has suggested I start experimenting with size and scale. I usually work at A4 size so this will definitely develop me and give me the opportunity to be more free and expressive in my strokes. She has also suggested use of digital techniques. I have a basic understanding of illustrator and photoshop, of how to use layers etc. but currently find working on scanned drawing difficult because my understanding of using paths is limited. I actually prefer hand created artwork to look at, so as an illustrator will probably stay ‘analogue’ but not wanting to be accused of contempt prior to investigation, I will have a go! In addition to this though, I would still like to keep exploring materials. I am keen to have a go with oil pastels, develop my use of acrylics and delve more into collage and printmaking. I will also continue drawing from observation and researching other illustrators.

The Key is Communication

Exercise: Getting the Gist

For this exercise I needed to choose an article and highlight words and phrases central to conveying the meaning of the text and then jot down words that summarise the content overall. From this distilled information I was to create an illustration. I decided to choose subject matter that would challenge me as an illustrator rather than stay in my comfort zone. I found the words that resulted were quite difficult to illustrate and I was worried about creating a stereotypical or clichéd image. I think at this point I started to lose mojo for this piece which is evident in the illustration which actually isn’t finished. When I first posted this exercise here on my learning log, I didn’t write a reflection. This has been a real learning curve though because being an illustrator is about solving problems, and I will come across briefs that challenge me or don’t excite me as much as others but it will be my job to find an answer.

After receiving feedback from my tutor, and from starting Part 2, I have realised that more idea gathering through spider diagrams and more thumbnails would certainly have helped me. I need to move from letting ideas swirl around in my head to getting them down on paper. Often, once I get one idea, I picture the image in my head, then that is what I create. However this means that I am limited in composition choices. I am definitely going to use more thumbnail sketches to generate a broader range of ideas in the future. This will also help develop my understanding of hierarchy.

Beatrice Alemagna

I chose Beatrice Alemagna as my contemporary illustrator. She is a picture book maker originally from Bologna, now living in Paris. “Her picture books have been translated into many languages and have won numerous international awards.”(Irish Times) Examples of her work are shown below.

I have long admired Alemagna’s work, her visual storytelling is impeccable, the story, characters and settings are brought so vividly to life that you feel like you know them. The word I always use for her artwork is sumptuous, it makes me want to jump right in! There is so much to explore too. Her use of varied media and techniques make each illustration a feast for the eyes, I love trying to work out how she achieved each effect.

“Her graphic work combines a rare depth of visual literacy with a gentle poetic humanity and a fearless approach to experimenting with media and materials.” (Children’s Picture Books: The Art of Visual Storytelling by Martin Salisbury and Morag Styles.)

Having studied literature and graphics rather than drawing and illustration, Beatrice took to exploring materials and media to find her own way of doing things and this is evident in her work. “Yes, I felt that I suffered a lot through not studying the techniques of drawing, not knowing how to use acrylics or watercolours and so on. But in the end I realised that like to invent my own techniques.” (Beatrice Alemagna in Children’s Picture Books: The Art of Visual Storytelling by Martin Salisbury and Morag Styles.)

I did the mind map below to record the media and techniques I could see in her work and to start gathering ideas for my own experimentation.

Buildings, foliage and people feature a lot as subject matter so those were the areas I focused my exploration on. I tried out all techniques I could see in her work and started to invent my own.

In the picture on the left I experimented with acrylic and sponge printing. I particularly liked the effect I got by loading the paint brush with black and white and applying it with the tip of a flat brush without mixing the colours. Applying strokes in different directions also gave a good effect, like bricks in a building or a stone wall.

My pink and green explorations were experiments in layering of different media: Unmixed acrylic (as previously described), dry brush acrylic, pencil and pen over watercolour, watercolour pencil and pencil over acrylic, watercolour over dry brush acrylic and pastel, layers of pencil, pen on acrylic, pastel on gouche, acrylic ink on watercolour. I also tried printing with acrylic.

The sketchbook page on the right was an experiment into creating mixed media foliage. Pencil over Sharpie pens worked really well to give a really bold, colourful effect and pencil and fine liner pen over watercolour is good for creating texture. I tried to collage a tree using photos of plants but I don’t think this worked. I will need to explore collage more in the future as it does interest me.

I created the piece below to combine and practise the media and techniques I have explored.

I feel that my use of acrylic for the mountain stone has worked well, I think I have managed to convey a general shape and structure while maintaining a sense of freedom in the strokes. The trees are all mixed media and I used sandpaper for the wall. I think made this small amount of collage work!

Beatrice Alemagna’s books often feature children in which her artwork supports the text perfectly in creating a totally endearing character that we all want to love. I wanted to explore creating a drawing of a child. below show some initial sketches I made from photos but there was no story behind them, there was no endearing quality.

To achieve the endearing quality, I needed to create a story for the drawing and the easiest way of doing this was to use my daughter and an image of her that sticks in my mind from when she was 18 months old. I made two attempts, I think they both show an endearing little girl! The top was done in watercolour and pen for the spots while the bottom was watercolour, pencil and pen. I think the top looks more polished but the bottom looks more contemporary and much more in the style of Beatrice Alemagna.

There are similarities in the work of Beatrice Alemagna and Edward Bawden. Most obvious is their use of mixed media and collage. Another similarity though is the sense of place they portray through their artwork. To create the town in ‘The Marvellous Fluffy Squishy Bitty’ Beatrice Alemagna “spent years taking photos of the most beautiful shop windows during my trips around the world.” (Beatrice Alemagna on

In ‘A Lion in Paris’, Beatrice captures the city as she sees it, “ I wanted to show real places in Paris but reinterpreted in my own way, showing the city as it is, but also as I see it.”

I believe that they both use line effectively. As previously discussed, Edward Bawden was a master of it. I also think Beatrice is too. Although her perspective is not always technically accurate and her buildings often seem distorted, it works! The illustrations below show the similarity between them both in their use of line and creating a sense of place.

There is a stark difference in their use of colour and detail. Bawden’s colour palette was usually limited to a few colours while Beatrice uses the full spectrum. Her artwork is also much more detailed.

Edward Bawden's Characters

It wasn’t just architecture that Edward Bawden represented in his illustrative work. In his work for companies such as Fortnum and Mason and Penguin he draw many humorous characters, both human and animal, often with the animals in human like poses. His work on Aesop’s fables (example far right) was imaginative and amusing. The same wizardry and simplicity of line is evident in his depictions of people and animals.

I used a mindmap to explore ideas for further exploration and chose the two images below (My Cat Wife and The Travelling Kangaroo) as inspiration.

Below are sketches made and characters created in my exploration of line to depict basic form of faces as Bawden has achieved in the artworks above.

This process really gave me an understanding of the main features and form in a human face and I was able to then experiment with this to create different characters.

For my drawing in the style of Edward Bawden I wanted to produce a humorous linocut similar to ‘The Travelling Kangaroo’ as I think it incorporates the styles and skills I have been practising. Below are initial sketches.

Above are my linocuts entitled 'It’s Me or Him’. This is the order I printed them in, gradually adding more ink and applying more pressure. My favourite is the third because it shows the details clearly but still has some of the dappled effect which I like. This was much more intricate than my first linocut of the building and I feel my skill has improved.

The History of Illustration

To explore how illustration has evolved over the last 50 years I chose to look at the work of Edward Bawden (1903 - 1989). I was instantly captured by his linocut work, the line, the detailed simplicity and the contrast in colour. I think it was meant to be because there is an exhibition of his work on at Dulwich Picture Gallery at the moment.  What better way to research an illustrator than an exhibition! I took copious amounts of notes and sneaked the photo of the entrance (left) as no photography was allowed inside. 

Edward Bawden was a painter, illustrator and graphic artist.  Working as a commercial artist  he illustrated for books, booklets, posters, menus, diaries, cards and more. He was also a war artist.  

Watercolour seemed to be his preferred medium in the early stages of his career. However I can see that his use of a limited colour palette, more body colour type paint and attention to the simplicity of form paved the way into the printmaking he would adopt later in his career.  Hyde Park (1926) is painted mainly in green and brown with touches of blue and red.  The shades, tints and tones of each colour are also limited.   Likewise in Francis Bacon's Garden (1928) colour is limited to black, white and green. I think his limited colour choices make those watercolours seem almost contemporary.  There are many illustrators choosing this technique, for example Daniel Gray Barnett in 'Grandma Z' or Alison Colpoys in 'The Underwater Fancy Dress Parade'.

To me, the watercolours he produced using different shades, tones and tints look outdated.  An example of this is 'Christ! I Have Been Many Times to Church'.  Some of his pre war watercolours including 'Rain' (1926) and 'Untitled Landscape with Sunset' (1927) use ink which makes them seem more modern.  When Bawden's time as a war artist was over, watercolour was beginning to be considered as old fashioned, so himself feeling the need to modernise and reinvent his artwork, started to explore lino cut. 

Edward Bawden's lino cut and lithograph illustrations are perhaps some of his most famous.  He could become absorbed in the sense of a place and a lot of his work depicted places.  I also get lost in the spirit of  places so this was probably another reason for me picking Bawden to study.  I love the way he reduced an exquisitely and intricately designed piece of architecture to its simplest form.  He was masterful in the use of line and so clever at being able to pick what needs to be included and what doesn't when creating an illustration of a building.  Below from left to right: Covent Garden Market (1967), Poster for London (1952), Liverpool Street Station (1960) and Brighton Pier (1958)

I used the journey home as an opportunity to start exploring the Bawden style by looking at the basic form and perspective of a place and try to represent it with line.  The first in the train carriage and the second is Bromley South Station.  I think I managed to get the perspective right on the train roof, but I have lost it on the door and the rail.  I haven't been able to capture the 3d element well enough.  Again with the second sketch, I think I have captured the platform well but I have lost all sense of perspective with the track.  I think I have managed to simplify both scenes to their basic forms though.  

I had previously drawn this art deco house at the beach and thought it would be a great image to try out use of contrast and limited colour.  I tried to create a lino cut 'look' with pen alone.  I think it looks more effective and gives the drawing more depth than the original sketch. I then tried to add one colour to further give depth but I don't feel it worked especially the upper part of the building in blue.  This could be because I accidentally blacked out a line in the centre part of the building.

I took my sketchbook out and made these sketches of majestic buildings on Dover seafront.  I tried to represent just it's basic form.  Later I reduced this down further (first two drawings on the right) Although the essential parts of it are still there, it has lost its sense of grandeur in the second drawing.  I then found myself playing about with perspective, trying to make the building look more convex.  I think this worked at the top of the building but I didn't carry it through to the bottom.  

I'm eager to try out some printmaking techniques as this was such a huge part of Bawden's work.  

linocut sunflower.  Briony Dixon sketchbook
Lino cut buildings.  Briony Dixon sketchbook.
I like the idea of a house upside down.  My use of coloured pencil to add colour wasn't successful here because there isn't enough contrast with the black.  It also isn't in keeping with Bawden's style who used a limited colour palette and often stuck to the primary colours plus green.  

I like the idea of a house upside down.  My use of coloured pencil to add colour wasn't successful here because there isn't enough contrast with the black.  It also isn't in keeping with Bawden's style who used a limited colour palette and often stuck to the primary colours plus green.  

Leaf printing is evident in some of Bawden's work.  In particular in an unfinished piece we saw at the exhibition.  I used the leaves to explore laying one colour over another.  I found that contrasting colours and partial prints work most successfully.  

Rather than applying colour with a second linocut, I wanted to experiment with other materials.  None of these created a dense enough look so I tried kitchen towel which I have used in the pieces below.  

The effect I have created in the second building is one that I will explore and use further.  I like the linocut effect and the use of partial printing when adding colour.  I feel I arrived at after a good deal of exploration and feel I have echoed a little bit of Edward Bawden.  Being able to create a linocut effect without actually using the technique means I can use more detail in my illustrations.  I won't have to reduce it down so far that I am losing it's essence.  

The effect I have created in the second building is one that I will explore and use further.  I like the linocut effect and the use of partial printing when adding colour.  I feel I arrived at after a good deal of exploration and feel I have echoed a little bit of Edward Bawden.  Being able to create a linocut effect without actually using the technique means I can use more detail in my illustrations.  I won't have to reduce it down so far that I am losing it's essence.