Visuals

Exercise: Viewpoint

I chose the word summertime around which to make my collection of objects and made a mindmap to start the exercise.

The beach and seaside theme was strong in my mind mapping so I chose to use items from a toy miniature beach scene. I arranged them together to make the scene and took photographs from different viewpoints.

Once I had taken photographs from different angles, I then positioned the frame differently so only part of the deckchair is visible. In the first photographs above, I didn’t think too carefully about where to place the objects but cropping out some of the deckchair made the arrangements of the other objects more important. I reduced the number of objects so prevent the image looking too cluttered. I placed the objects at differing angles to the lines of the deckchair to explore variation in shape. I think this is most successful in the first photo (top right). However, I also rather like the line of the flask running parallel to the lines of the deckchair in the 2nd photo. Perhaps I could have explored this further.

Next I zoomed in on different items in the collection. I think this worked well in creating hierarchy in the image. The bucket and spade are the more ‘action’ part of the scene, while the deckchair is lazing in the background.

I then repeated the process of exploring viewpoints by drawing thumbnail sketches of my summertime items.

I found it difficult to decide which of the viewpoints most conveyed the idea of summertime but eventually chose the one above right. Compositionally, I prefer the viewpoints that crop out part of the deckchair and this thumbnail also has the icons of summer, the bucket and spade, in the foreground with enough of the deckchair visible to be clearly understood. I also think this viewpoint has a narrative. A parent could be relaxing in the deckchair while children make sandcastles at their feet. Some of the other sketches just looked like a collection of objects arranged in different ways.

I then drew my chosen design in a larger size with the scale proportional to the original thumbnail. The exercise asked for this line drawing to be descriptive, but I wasn’t sure how descriptive it needed to be so I just included enough line to make the elements recognisable without adding any unnecessary detail.

I then made a second drawing which was still just the basic outlines but had a little more character in the illustration. I found it easier to deal with the scaling up by drawing the objects more realistically first before creating a second more stylised version. I prefer this second drawing but am still unsure whether I have made it descriptive enough. It could benefit from some sort of background or horizon line. I did think about adding a wavy ‘sea’ line behind the deckchair but decided to keep it focused on the objects.

It wasn’t part of the exercise to add colour to my visual but the simplicity of line made it perfect for trying out a more graphic approach to colouring. For a first, very quick attempt, I think it is quite successful for the majority of the design. I don’t think the round bucket works though. This is an area I would like to explore further.

Diagrammatic Illustration

Exercise: Giving Instructions

From the three choices given for the diagrammatic exercise I chose to illustrate ‘A map to my house’.  I chose this because travel and map illustration is an area I am particularly interested in. Alan Male describes a diagram as “an illustration that depicts the features of an object, a system or a manufactured or organic process by way of an exposition that goes far from pictorial reality. The visual language can comprise graphical or symbolic representation and contextually does not work unless the information or message is clearly elucidated. “ Male. A (2007) . It is important that illustrating diagrams clearly depict what is intended but there is scope for stylisation. The images do not have to be realistically accurate, as long as it is clear what they are intended to represent.

With the definition clear in my mind, my next step was to research map illustration. Due to my interest in this area of illustration, I have previously collected reference images of illustrated maps on Pinterest.  There are a range of different styles. Some, like Benoit Cesari, (image 1) use mostly text in their maps. Josie Portillo’s illustrations of each feature are very detailed (image 2) while Libby Vanderploeg (image 3) uses more graphic images.  Some maps like image 4 by Lucy Letherland are focused on depicting one particular thing, in this case, dinosaurs. All have a very pleasing aesthetic while also providing the viewer with information about the features that can be found in a place, and where in that place they can be found. The icons they use to represent the features are a mixture of images of actual landmarks and images of things such as an item of food, to show that that can be found there as shown in image 5 by Livi Gosling.

I came across an article in which illustrators were giving tips about illustrating maps.  https://www.digitalartsonline.co.uk/features/illustration/30-brilliant-tips-for-creating-illustrated-maps/ . Something a few of the illustrators spoke about was use of colour, particularly choosing a limited palette for clarity.  Daniel Gray (image 1) is well renowned for his use of a limited colour palette, both in maps and children’s books. Liz Mosley’s map of Manhattan (image 2) depicts the subject very clearly using a limited palette.

For my own map, I started by using google maps to ensure accuracy in my illustration in terms of directions. This helped me decide that the starting point for finding the way to my house should be the train station.  I then drew the area between the station and my house. I drew this out a number of times to see which way the map would look most visually appealing.

After working out what landmarks I would need to include, I went out and took photos so I could draw from observation before illustrating.  I would have drawn outside if it wasn’t so cold! For some of the features, I decided to draw the actual building and for some, an icon to represent it. For example a teapot and cup to represent the tea rooms.

In the article previously mentioned, a few illustrators spoke about using colours linked to the place being illustrated.  I live in a place called River so I chose a bluish green colour palette as a starting point.  

Most of the maps I looked at include lettering but the brief said to keep this to an absolute minimum so I decided not to include any on mine.

When illustrating from my observational sketches, I tried to simplify the image while still leaving it recognisable.

Once I had made roughs of all my icons, I drew out a rough layout for the whole map put together with my intended colour palette at the top. I kept the greenish blue colour palette running through the icons but I did also use brick and stone colours to try to keep the landmarks recognisable.

From this I was able to see that I had created a map of River, rather than a map to get to my house.  There were lots of features on there which were unnecessary and complicated the directions. So I drew out more layouts focusing on just the area from the station to my house and reduced the number of features on the map to only include those important for helping someone find the way.  The image below shows two layouts.

I decided that creating the background, road layout and each icon separately and assembling on photoshop would be the best way of working on this.  That way I could continue tinkering with the layout and positioning once I had all parts ready.

The first map I made had all the features of a similar size making the map look quite uniform.  It was clear and easy to follow, but seemed a little boring. I didn’t really like the roads coming to the edge of the background either.  

While I haven’t used text, I have included the house number as I thought this was necessary in a map to my house.  The other option would have been to draw all the houses in the street and make mine bigger but I think this would have made the map look cluttered and lack clarity.  The next two versions were quite similar to each other, the only difference being the size of the trees. In the map on the left I have left more negative space and the road can be seen more clearly. The trees in the one on the right obscure part of the road but do make a barrier over the part not to be followed which I think actually makes the map clearer to follow. I find it more aesthetically pleasing too. However it still didn’t seem quite right and I didn’t want to have to use a house number.

I tried out landscape to see how well that worked. This was really interesting because it made the map look almost 3d. The scaling looks weird though because I made the church smaller than the house because it is not such an important part, but it is in the foreground so should be bigger.

I wanted to explore this more 3D look further so I made another version with the scaling more ‘correct’. I actually don’t like it as much. The train is too big in the foreground and was not drawn for this layout so is at an odd angle. With the collection of houses big in the foreground, the way to my house is not really clear enough. I decided to go back to the portrait versions but I found this really interesting and is something I would like to explore further later.

Creating the landscape version above made me realise that the collection of houses need to be less prominent in order to make the destination of my house more clear. So in my final version, I made that icon small and put trees in front of it. Aesthetically, I do think text would look nice, but it isn’t actually needed because I think this clearly shows the way to my house without having to use the house number. I think I mostly kept my illustration style consistent. If I was to do this again though, I would add flint texture to the church to make that more synonymous. I also wouldn’t use the sandy colour on it. It was on my original colour palette, but I don’t think it works in the actual piece. I would keep the stained glass windows to blue and green too. I would also change the train icon. Although it is blue, the darker shade doesn’t work well with the rest of the palette.

I really enjoyed this exercise. I have learnt a lot about position and layout, careful colour palette and consistent illustration style and am even more interested in this area of illustration for the future.

Visual Properties

Exercise: Image Development

The photo I chose on which to base my work for this exercise was taken in New York. It is of a tiny park hidden in the area under Brooklyn bridge. I chose it because it has a range of content; Manhattan bridge in the background; Brooklyn bridge over the top; the summer house building that sits just in front and below; the garden and trees in front of that. The left side of the photo contains different content to the right side.

The task was to make edited versions of this image using a viewfinder, to crop in different ways in different formats. The compositions this activity gave me fell into groups. The first group, shown below, kept the summerhouse as the main focus. With some of the background cropped out, the image could have been taken in a back garden. This is especially so in the image in which the bridge is cropped out and the shed and birdhouses left in.

In the next set, I cropped out even more of the surroundings. Removing this and part of the summerhouse gives it a mysterious quality, because the areas like the path that suggest a public place are no longer there, leaving the summer house looking abandoned. With the spring daffodils also taken out, the winter vegetation makes it look almost overgrown and untended. There is a lot more drama and narrative around these images.

Below are a set of images cropped to focus on the Manhattan bridge. Framing it so it is centre but just visible through the trees shown in ‘majestic’ makes an interesting composition. In ‘elevated’ I cropped the top lower which made the bridge appear elevated, hence the name. ‘Bare’ is the tree from ‘tangled’ turned round to appear upright. This set of images looks totally different to the others as the subject has changed from the summerhouse to the bridge and trees.

The final set of images focused on the shed. Again, the content in these is different to the others. It feels like it has been taken in a different season with the spring flowers contrasting with the bare wintry branches in the images above. These images also suggest the presence of people tending the area more than in the rest of the original image. The shed, pots and bird houses could be in anyone’s back garden.

I then chose words that reflect the feeling the content of the cropped images gave me. This was easier for some than for others so I made a mind map and asked someone to add to my ideas. Mine are in black with his in green.

The next part of this exercise was to choose one of the compositions to make an illustration of that could be used to make a poster. I started by making a sketch of one of the images from each set. The sketches were made of: Intriguing, sweet, elevated, quaint. These are shown below in that order.


When there, the place had a feeling of seclusion about it; it was a small haven in a large city. So that was the angle I wanted to take my illustration. Therefore having the Manhattan bridge in the background was important to indicate the city ‘outside’ the secluded haven. To include both the majority of the summer house and the bridge would make the illustration landscape. The photo is landscape. But posters are usually portrait. So I needed to problem solve and started to play about further with the composition, moving the bridge closer to the summer house to try and make it more portrait. I also brought the tree on the right in closer thinking this helped create more of a sense of seclusion.

The first sketch still wasn’t portrait enough so I drew out further versions and added the area for the text to be placed. One contained more foreground to elongate it and featured the text vertically along the right side. The other places the text at the bottom, serving to elongate the illustration.

I still wasn’t happy with these though and looking back at my cropped images and their sketches, the one titled ‘intriguing’ caught my eye. It is portrait in layout and suits its title really well because the way it is cropped adds to the intriguing feeling. The viewer is led to wonder what the surroundings are, what is on each side. It arouses curiosity.

Having made a collection of posters on Pinterest to reference, it is clear the most effective ones are graphic in style. This type of illustration lends itself well to creating eye catching visuals. Below are some I am particularly drawn to.

I am looking to experiment more with graphic illustration during this unit but was quite unsure how it would work with the image I had. There is a lot of detail in the image that I couldn’t see working in large graphic shapes. Then I found the poster below, by Carson Ellis, one of my favourite illustrators. The design for this poster is much more detailed than the others. Although quite intricate, it still uses bold lines and contrast to make it eye catching.

My next step then was to try to make my image more graphic. I focused on the dark and light lines and made them bolder. I zoomed in on the original photo to draw ivy from observation before drawing my own simplified, more graphic version.

While attempting a more graphic style, I also needed to keep my chosen word in mind. Intriguing. The colouring in the original photo is mainly green and brown with a blue sky. To add intrigue, I decided to use a purple colour palette in addition to green and brown. This would also make it more eye catching. I chose a watercolour wash for the background because the translucent nature of it suggests intrigue. In contrast to this, I used gouache to illustrate the body of the summer house because I wanted a more graphic feel with bolder flatter colour. I find gouache difficult to work with but it is a medium I want to make more use of and intend to practise. The door, roof and windows are again in watercolour to create intrigue about what is inside.

The think the colour palette works well in communicating the word intrigue. The detailed nature of the illustration meant that I found it quite difficult in terms of layers. I found I was filling in fence colour through the foreground foliage I had already put in. A learning point from this is that next time, I will either plan and mask the the layers more effectively or complete each separately and put together in photoshop.

I adjusted the colour and tones slightly in photoshop next. Below are the results. The top is the original artwork. In the second, I added highlights which made the colour pop more. In the third, I adjusted the brightness and contrast. I don’t like this effect, I looks too dark and foreboding, not intriguing. The bottom one had its hue changed. I like this one, it certainly looks intriguing!

Now I had the completed artwork, I needed to add the text to make it into a poster using Indesign. In all of the examples below, I added the text horizontally at the bottom of the image. It seemed to make most sense in that position. I tried out a few different fonts. Firstly I tried Sans serif fonts because they are bold and easily readable. However they didn’t say intriguing so I went for a script instead. I used kerning to add space between the letters and make it more readable.

I also tried placing the text in a different position but I don’t think it has the same impact. To make the text vertical I had to type on a text path and I can’t work out how to remove the line. Something to work on!

My final chosen poster is below. It uses the image with highlights added to make the colours more vibrant. I think that the poster does reflect the word ‘intriguing’. The purpose of a poster is usually to tell people about something, to coax them to attend or use something, and I think mine definitely arouses that curiosity, makes them want to find out more. It didn’t end up being particularly graphic in style, but I think the textures I used emphasise the word intrigue and the feeling I wanted to create. I will continue to explore graphic design and experiment with a more graphic style in the rest of this unit.

Hierarchy in the Image

Exercise: Reading an image

The focus for this exercise was to ‘read’ the image by Mark Oliver below.

The majority of the image is taken up by a huge red sleeping dragon who appears to be guarding treasure. He has his whole body wrapped around jewels and other golden objects. There also appears to be a throne perched on the top of the treasure, possibly for his master or mistress to sit in. Perhaps he is a dragon owned by a king or queen, there to protect them and their possessions. On the left side are two children, one of them carrying a torch of fire which provides the other ‘hot’ part of the image. The whole scene appears to be set in a cave with the torch providing light. On either side of the children are piles of armour and weapons, including shields, swords and daggers. These could belong to the children, or they could be a collection, trophies from all the other warriors who have come to try to defeat the dragon.

My initial thought for the story was that the children were trying to steal the treasure, however the poses of the children suggest a few other possibilities. They appear to be attempting to wake and lure the dragon away. The girl looks like she is addressing the dragon, while the boy is pointing at the way out. This may be the reason for the children putting down their weapons and armour because they want to appear friendly. Another possibility is that they have stumbled across the dragon by accident, the boy is scared and pointing behind them to suggest they go back the way they came. The positioning of the girl’s hand doesn’t fit this idea though.

This image is from the book ‘Tom’s Clockwork Dragon’ written by Johnathon Emmett and illustrated by Mark Oliver. I am aware of the book but haven’t read it.

The colours used in the image are bold and bright. the eye is immediately drawn to the bright red of the dragon, then round to the torchlight. Hot colours such as red, orange and gold are used in both these areas. The dragon is main subject of the narrative and the use of hot bold colour ensures this is conveyed in the image.

The cooler areas in blues, purples and dusky greens appear secondary to the heat of the dragon and the torch. Only after the eye has seen these hot areas does it search and explore the rest of the image. The torch creates shadows in the cave which are darker in hue. I was particularly drawn to the purple used on for the shadow on the right side of the dragon. Although it is shadow and darker, it is still a warmish colour. The use of purple around the dragon and cooler blues around the children further develops the hierarchy establishing as the visually dominant subject.

The cooler areas of the image background are more textural and detailed, for example, the floor around the children is more detailed than the shadowy floor behind the dragon. This is because detail is more evident where there is more light.

Composition and Viewpoint

Exercise: Illustrating visual space

This exercise was intended to be done with images printed out, photocopied at different sizes then arranged to form different compositions, but due to lack of printer ink I decided to use Adobe illustrator to make my designs. Working on the computer worked really well allowing me to manipulate the subjects however I wished. It also allowed me to look at all my compositions together so I could make comparisons. A tree, building and child running were the required subjects for my designs and the images I used were silhouettes, chosen for their simplicity. I didn’t want colour and detail to detract from the focus for the exercise.

I started off simply, by creating a horizontal design with each element in relative scale to each other. The house is slightly in the foreground placed in front of the tree with the child slightly behind running forward. The elements placed horizontally like this creates a ‘normal’ looking scene with a child running around his home.

Next I placed each element vertically with trees creating a horizon and the house in front of them. Making the child large and placing him in front of the house suggests that he is running away scared from something in the house (it does look a bit haunted!). Positioning the subjects in this way creates an eerie, dramatic feel as the viewers eye is led through the image wondering what has happened to make the boy run away.

I experimented with this effect by trying out the tree in front of the house. It didn’t make sense with the tree directly in front of the house so I moved it slightly to the left and added a horizon ‘hillside’ line. Although the objects are still essentially positioned vertically, the diagonal hillside gives it distance and space. The viewer’s eye is drawn diagonally from the left corner up the hill then back to the boy. This, together with the smaller house means this composition doesn’t look as menacing as the previous one.

Similarly, the design below uses a hillside horizon and diagonal positioning to create distance. The small house makes it looks less threatening making the boy appear to be leisurely running down the hillside.

In the design below I used more trees gradually reducing in size to create distance and perspective. The eye is drawn from the boy up through the trees to the spooky house. This does create an eerie feel.

Next I created a more playful design. By rotating the boy and positioning him over the tree I was able to make it look like he is swinging upside down. By cropping part of the house and placing the tree slightly in the foreground I have created a happy scene in which a boy is playing in his garden. Adding a horizon line would stop the house from looking like it is floating.

In my final design I put all objects at non vertical or horizontal angles. This created a sense of chaos because nothing is grounded. It looks like everything has been whisked up in a tornado!

Looking at the images next to each other enabled me to make comparisons and choose which composition I think is most successful. The biggest learning point for me during this exercise is how composition directly affects the narrative in the image. Consequently, choosing the most successful image depends on the story I am telling. To tell a story about a boy running from a haunted house, I think the design fifth from the right is most successful. I like the perspective and sense of distance created by the trees together with the drama created by the large figure positioned in the foreground.

If I was telling a story of a carefree child running around happily, I would choose the design on the left. I love the diagonal positioning and the distance it creates.

Image sources:

Tree - 123RF.com

House - vexels.com

Child running - TopPNG