Part Four Reflection

It was an aim of mine during part 4 to continue exploring different techniques and media while also developing my style. I explored cut paper in the museum posters and menu card exercises and newspaper collage in the assignment. I also tried gouache and pen to make flat colour. I’ve experimented and made up different techniques such as lifting paint off with cotton bud and making wax crayon rubbings over white pencil imprints. In the character design exercise I explored layering media to create depth in colour.

This part of the course has been very varied with opportunities to respond to completely different briefs. Despite the variation I think I am able to see a style developing, particularly in the actual drawing. Not so much in the way I create the final artwork though, because I have been trying different things. I want to continue exploring and trying out more combinations of media together in Part 5 and hopefully my style will continue to grow.

One of my areas for development from part 3 was to ensure my illustration and graphic design processes work together. The museum poster and children’s book cover exercises were great opportunities for me to practise this and I I think I have improved in this area. I also made more use of Illustrator and Indesign as well as Photoshop to design my outcomes.

I have really enjoyed part 4 and feel I have learnt a lot. I want to take this learning and build on it through Part 5. As I’ve already said there is so much more I want to explore in terms of technique and media. I feel that the more I explore, the more I feel there is to explore! After enjoying the assignment piece so much I would like to experiment more with using completely different techniques in one artwork. I also want to make more use of a sketchbook for exploration in addition to observational drawing alongside my course sketchbook.

I feel that I have started drawing too self consciously, especially when drawing people. I found some character sketches in my first sketchbook and think they are more naturally drawn and resemble poses more accurately than the ones I produced in the character development exercise in this part. I hope to draw free from fear more in Part 5 and will make it a focus of my practice.

Assignment Four

Magazine Illustration

The brief for this assignment was to create a still life illustration for a magazine based on one of the following words: lost, discovery, guilty secret, disaster. I started by making mind maps for each of the words. I also asked other people to add their ideas in order to get different perspectives.

The two words I was most interested in were discovery and lost. There was a lot of potential for still life for the word discovery because by its very definition there can an element of found objects. I left my mind maps for a day or two to give myself time to think more about the two words and it was lost that I kept coming back to and thinking about more. I liked the idea of lost souls, lost magic, lost youth and childhood, lost in translation and lost in conversation. However some of these could be too enigmatic or esoteric for a still life. There would be a danger that the objects I chose wouldn’t be understood by the readers of the magazine. So I settled on lost magic and in particular lost seaside towns because there is iconic imagery I could use. Before choosing the objects to include in my still life, my next step was to do a bit of research and make another mind map about seaside towns to ensure I explored all ideas. I also thought about how I could make the objects appear forlorn and lost.

From this I chose to include fish and chips in newspaper because it is an iconic seaside tradition and the newspaper is a thing of the past, a tradition lost. I decided to include a punch puppet because although Punch and Judy does still exist, it isn’t the ubiquitous sight at the seaside it used to be and seems to be saved for special festivals. I also think Mr Punch is engaging and will capture interest in a still life illustration. The popularity of seaside towns was at its height during the Victorian times when Londoners would take the train for a seaside holiday. With the present day obsession with cars and air travel for holidays abroad , the idea of taking a train to a holiday at the seaside is a thing of the past. For these reasons I thought that having a torn Victorian train ticket would add to the feeling of lost magic. Buckets and spades and seaside rock are other seaside traditions that I thought are visually indicative of a time gone by.

I didn’t actually have any of these objects to create a still life with so I collected some objects that resembled the shape and appearance of them instead. I then made different arrangements of these as I did in the previous viewpoint exercise. The king puppet is Punch; the flower pot and scraper are the bucket and spade; the plastic tube is the rock and the sponge and crayons are the fish and chips! The photos below show just some of the compositions I made from different viewpoints. In all of them I chose to have Punch lying down to create a lost and discarded feel.

I then made thumbnails from these photos.

I immediately decided that the views from above didn’t have the impact I was looking for. I liked number 4 because of the prominent view of Punch and all elements were included. I also liked number 11 but felt that Punch’s head next to the bucket might result in a clash of detail. Number 15 is similar to 11 but has the bucket and spade at the other end meaning no clash of detail. I still couldn’t decide between number 4 and 15 though so I drew objective drawings of them both. These were line visuals. I gave Punch a sad face because he is no longer the superstar he once was.

From these drawings I chose the second composition and made a tonal version of it which I created using graphite pencil and charcoal pencil. I varied the pressure but also the type and direction of stroke in order to create the different tones and used a putty rubber to lift off to create lighter areas. I used long pencil strokes on the newspaper to give a slight impression of text but I think this also works because it also shows the direction the paper falls into folds. The chips were the most challenging because I needed to make sure each was defined and that they didn’t blend into each other. I started by shading the shadowy areas darker but this didn’t leave enough definition so I used hatching strokes making sure the direction wasn’t the same on any two adjacent chips. I imagined the light source coming from the very front so that is why Punch is left quite light. I like the effect created by shading the outline rather than the object and wish to take this into future illustration.

Between creating the initial objective sketch and making this tonal version I decided to emit the seaside rock. I didn’t feel that it added anything to the image in terms of conveying the idea of lost and it just looked awkward in the composition.

While looking into contemporary still life art, I had come across a still life artist called Jean B Martin who creates hers using mixed media. What struck me about her artwork is that she creates compositions with the objects in the foreground and a building or place depicted in the background. I think this is a unique twist on the conventional still life and thought it was an idea that could work well in mine.

On my initial seaside mind map I had jotted down Victorian seaside piers but didn’t initially think a pier would work in a still life. However, after being inspired by the artwork above I thought it could work brilliantly as a backdrop to the objects in the foreground. My initial thought was to create a collage from old photographs, but before committing to that I decided to have a go at drawing it first. I searched for old photos of Victorian piers to use as reference and found that Brighton West pier is no longer there. This made it a must for use in my illustration. The fact that the pier no longer exists meant that using it in the artwork would convey that real sense of lost seaside magic.

I couldn’t find any photos of it from the side but wanted a side view for my illustration so I improvised from the photo above, changing the angles so it would fit around the foreground. I tried out colouring using charcoal pencils to give it an old fashioned sepia kind of look. I was happy with this drawing so decided to draw it on the final artwork rather than use collage.

It was important that to convey a sense of lost I needed to show lost versions of the objects I chose to include. I doubted that Victorian buckets and spades looked like the plastic ones we have now so I did some research and found that they were quite different. The spades were a different shape, much flatter, and were made from wood or metal. The buckets were generally made from metal, probably tin. Most interestingly of all, they were illustrated with pictures of children having fun at the seaside.

The colours used were primary colours with black outlines. The illustration style was similar to that of Kate Greenaway and Randolph Caldecott depicting idyllic childhood scenes using minimal line. I wanted the bucket in my still life to feature illustration in this style to further enhance the idea of a lost time. On most of the buckets I looked at, the colours were quite washed out so I chose watercolour as a medium. Using white wax crayon under a watercolour wash, I was able to create simple clouds and waves. When drawing the bucket I made it look slightly dented to further enhance the feel of old and lost.

I was then ready to create a line visual ready for my final artwork. The pencil line is quite faint so I didn’t have to do lots of rubbing out before adding colour.

I wanted the Punch puppet to have some detail on his clothes so I tried out some patterns and techniques with different materials. I discovered that making an imprint with white coloured pencil then using wax crayon over the top makes a great effect and is one I used as decoration on Punch’s hat, shirt and trousers.

The final artwork is shown below. It is a mixture of collage, charcoal, pastel, watercolour, gouache and coloured pencil. I really enjoyed working in this mixed media way. I had a local Margate newspaper lying around so I cut out the text from that to make the fish and chip paper. This was great because it meant I could find words that would exaggerate the message of lost seaside magic. I cut out very small sections of relevant text and pasted them in different directions to show the direction of the folds in the newspaper. I also used white writing on a black background to create the darker areas. The tonal version I did of this piece really helped with creating light and shade and in determining the direction and is something I think I will make a habit of before producing a final artwork. I chose some words from the newspaper that I thought should be bigger to help describe my theme of lost.

The tonal version I did also really helped when creating the fish and chips because I knew where to create light and shade. When looking at photos of fish and chips I had noticed that the batter is sometimes bobbly and bubbly so I used painted dots to represent this. I went through a stage many years ago of painting whole pictures in dots after being inspired by Georges Seurat and the pointillism movement. I later refined this to parts of pictures and thought I might try a little of it here. The dots feature as pattern and decoration on Punch’s clothes in addition to the white pencil and wax crayon technique I explained earlier.

Red and white stripes are synonymous with seaside and Punch and Judy so I chose it as a pattern for the surround of the still life. I used pastel to create a loose, smudgy bygone feel.

Finally I made a slight adjustment to the contrast in photoshop.

I think my artwork does convey the word lost. The objects I chose all had a hey day that is now lost and I added features, detail to each to further enhance the idea such as Punch’s sad face, dented, illustrated bucket, torn rail ticket and newspaper with highlighted words. The pier in the background also adds to it as previously described. I really enjoyed creating this artwork. I enjoyed creating the tonal version, the mixed media approach and incorporating collage and wish to make all of this part of my future work. I also fell a bit in love with the Mr Punch character and decided to make a model of him. I have been wanting to try making a model for a while and thought this would be a great opportunity. I used super sculpey and acrylic to decorate. I really enjoyed this too!

Character Development

Before creating my own characters I looked at a range of characters and thought about how they are illustrated, what has been used to describe the character to make the viewer see it in the same way the artist does. I looked at characters from different categories.

Young children

Noi from ‘The Storm Whale’ by Benji Davies.

Noi is a young boy living with his dad in a house by the sea.  He often only has their six cats for company while his dad is off working hard as a fisherman.  Noi is visually depicted as having fairly large head, with his body only being about two heads high.  Accurate proportions have been slightly distorted to increase the child like presence of Noi. From his appearance, he looks might he might be 5 years old, possibly younger.   He doesn’t have a neck which also creates a younger child look. Although it is short when related to his head, Noi’s body is in proportion with itself.  The arms and legs are the correct length and width and he has quite small feet. He is always shown wearing a snood type garment on his head which covers his ears and hair leaving just a round face shape.  Two dots are used for his eyes and a single line for his nose. He is never shown with a mouth which I find really interesting. Despite his facial features being limited to just two dots and a line, accurate expressions are created through angle of head, his body pose and the visual narrative.  Noi is often lonely and has sad moments such as when he has to let the whale go. The lack of mouth and smile gives him a sort of doleful look, one that makes you want to give him a hug!

Eddie from ‘The Marvellous Fluffy Squishy Itty Bitty’ by Beatrice Alemagna

Eddie is a fiercely independent and determined little girl.  Like Noi, there is some stylisation in the proportions of Eddie.  Her head is slightly too large for her body although not to the same extent as with Noi.  She appears slightly taller than him with longer skinny legs. She wears a neon pink oversized bodywarmer which gives her a real comical look but also suits her independent nature.  Young children often assert their authority over a piece of clothing they particularly like, regardless of whether it is appropriate, like only ever wearing wellies for example! The pink of the bodywarmer was also probably chosen by Beatrice Alemagna to match the pink of the marvellous fluffy squishy itty bitty.  She is quite excitable which is reflected in the way her hair is drawn. It is often flying in different directions as Eddie runs from shop to shop. Her facial features are simply drawn. A curved line for a nose with two dots for the nostrils accompany and simple line for her mouth. Her eyes do vary in how they are drawn, sometimes being just two dots while at other times an oval eye socket is drawn with the pupil.  Her ears are two curved lines on the sides of her head, often not level and not in the ‘correct’ proportion. Like Benji Davies with Noi, Alemagna uses body and head positioning that match the narrative in addition to the simple facial features to create Eddie’s expressions.

Older children

Pippi Longstocking illustrated by Lauren Child.

Created by Astrid Lingren, Pippi Longstocking is a fearless, adventurous and imaginative child.  Lauren Child depicts her with the the red pigtails we’ve come to expect from this classic character but draws them at crazy angles which accentuate the crazy side of her character.  She is drawn mostly in correct proportion for a child of about ten. She is quite skinny, especially her legs which also seem to be positioned in ways that make her look a little awkward and kooky, the latter of which again matches her personality.  Her facial features are fairly simple with a line for the mouth and simple ovals for eyes. The positioning of the pupil helps add expression. Lauren Child doesn’t use eyebrows to add expression .

Swatch from Swatch: The Girl who Loved Colour. Written and illustrated by Julia Denos.

Swatch is a colour loving wild girl. She is energetic and fearless, dancing with and hunting colours. Her wildness is reflected in her appearance. Her hair is black, long and untameable created with loose brushstrokes. She is always covered in paint of all different colours. Her body is drawn in a very loose almost impressionistic way with long sweeping strokes for her limbs and minimal use of line for her hands. Her eyes are vertical ovals with large pupils while her nose and mouth are created with just an impressionistic smudge of pastel of paint. Additional details such as a tongue sticking out are also used to create expression.

Elderly people

Quentin Blake

There are similarities between most of Quentin Blake’s elderly characters.  They tend to be quite skinny as in the case of Grandma from George’s Marvellous Medicine, Grandpa Joe in Charlie and the CHocolate Factory and the BFG.   The skinny appearance gives them a sort of frail look which suggests elderly. Lines are used to show their age with wrinkles depicted in the neck, across the cheeks and along the top of the lips.  The way he draws eyes varies a little, with the BFG having dots while Grandpa Joe has eye sockets and pupils. Hands are made to look bony by drawing long, nobbly fingers.

In contrast with Quentin Blake’s elderly characters, Benji Davies creates Noi’s ‘Grandma Bird’ without drawing any lines on her.  Instead he uses the clothes and body position to hint at her age. She wears a granny scarf on her head leaving just enough grey hair poking out to tell the viewer she is older.  She wears glasses and a woolly cardigan. She is quite short which could have been done purposely because people can shrink as they grow older.

Hector from The Bear and the Piano, the Dog and the Piano’ by David Litchfield.

Like Grandma Bird, David Litchfield’s elderly character Hector is created without using lines for wrinkles. Instead he is mostly bald, white moustache and a big nose. All of these features are used to show his age instead of the wrinkles.


For this group I looked at non fiction illustration.

Suffragette by David Roberts

David Roberts paints quite detailed characters. Generally they all have similar shaped eyes, horizontally oval with variations in iris size, colour and position depending on the character he is trying to create. He places the pupil carefully to reveal an expression or show where the character is looking. Noses are often long in his depictions of adults and tend to be attached to eyebrows. The characters often have rosy cheeks or red skin under their eyes. He is quite good at uglifying characters by giving them wonky eyes, eyes that are too close together or with huge bags under the eyes which which gives them a comic feel. HIs use of distortion is generally present in facial features rather than bodily which tends to be in proportion. He uses a lot of detail in hair, clothes and accessories to add to the character.

This is New York by Miroslav Sasek

Like David Roberts’ depiction of adults, Miroslav Sasek keeps his generally correct in proportion. The addition of clothing is central to depicting a character in Sasek’s illustrations for this set of books. The clothes tell us what type of person they are and what they do for a job.

All photos: Briony Dixon

The first character I wanted to create is one from a story I have written an outline for. Ki is an eight year old girl living in a slum who copes with life and keeps a smile on her face by creating a dream fantasy world all of her own. She is creative and uses scraps of material and other recyclable bits and pieces she finds to make art, clothes and costumes. She is skinny and often dirty but has beautiful big, soulful eyes.

The idea for my story about Ki was originally sparked by an image I came across which is shown below. The girl in this photo is younger than Ki but I still chose to use it to make an initial drawing from because I wanted to draw from observation before illustrating. My first attempt shown at the top of the page below was all out of proportion, I has squashed all her features up and made the area from brow to top of head too long. My second attempt was much more in proportion with the eyes midway between the chin and crown of the head. I didn’t capture the likeness though, I think because I found the mouth so difficult to replicate. From this initial drawing, I then used some distortion to create my illustration of Ki. I made her eyes big and slightly shortened the length of the forehead to create a wider head overall. I still struggled with the mouth but at this stage thought it was because I was drawing the faces in isolation without a narrative behind them.

When I added colour I was really happy with her face, even the mouth. I had managed to give her a smile that looks a little anxious, a little unsure. A smile someone would have if they are trying to make the best of things as she is. Her eyes have a depth and a longing.

From here I tried to draw her from the side which I really struggled with. All of my attempts seemed to make her look too old. She didn’t look eight years old in any of them, the lips made her look pouty. In the end I decided to try drawing the body, thinking that putting her in different positions would create a narrative which would help me draw her in profile.

I started with a front view and a drawing in proportion. In the book, ‘Drawing People for the Absolute Beginner: A clear and easy guide to successful figure drawing’ by Mark and Mary Willenbrink, it stated that a child’s body should be five heads high. I used this book to help me make an in proportion drawing of Ki before stylising her. She looked in proportion but so tall! Maybe because she is skinny. I decided that I wanted her to be shorter, to be out of proportion without looking ridiculous and depicted as eight years old. I tried her two and a half and three heads high but she looked too young.

In the end I went back to my mindmap to help me visualise her in my mind. What might she be doing that gives us a front view? How would her body look in that pose? I thought that she could be showing one of her creations, her dress. Having this story in my mind, I was able to just draw her without trying to adhere to number of heads high. It worked! This told me that I work better when drawing to a narrative and by feel, deciding what looks right as I go along.

I then imagined her in different situations and drew her positions. For some I asked someone to take a photo of me in the position for reference.

One of the big things about Ki is that makes her own clothes from scraps of material she finds on the rubbish dump. I wasn’t sure how this would look in my illustration of her so I decided to get in role and play about with some textiles, stitching and creating as she might. From my creations I was able to work out how I would show this in 2D. I did think about using collage and this is something I may do in future development of Ki as a character but I had decided on an orange colour scheme and I didn’t have any orange materials.

I wanted to explore using a limited colour palette for the artwork and I chose orange as the predominant colour because it is a symbol of hope, endurance and motivation, all qualities Ki has. Like I did with the kitten in the previous exercise, I decided to use a bright colour, in this case orange, as a base colour. In the first front view image of her I think this works, particularly for the face. I left areas free of added colour to act as the lighter areas of the face and added pastel to create the darker areas. I used pastel, oil and soft, and coloured pencil to create her rag dress using dark outlines to differentiate each piece as I did with the feathers in the vulture tattoo illustration. In terms of her pose, she looks like she is nervously presenting what she has made which is what I wanted to achieve. I’m not happy with the left arm, it is too wide and I completely ruined the hand. Hands are an area I need to improve.

I am also happy with how the side view below turned out and think I definitely improved in drawing hands! I think it is clear she is the same character and have kept the proportions the same, with the head slightly too large for the body. To improve this I think I need to work on her expression. There is an element of her looking happy about finding a piece of pretty pink material in a world of orange but it could be made more. Perhaps turning the corner of the mouth up more and/ or drawing the cheek pulling the mouth up would solve this. Perhaps a different pose with the other arm coming towards the material would make her look more enthusiastic about her find.

The next one was a really difficult pose. I wanted to draw her sitting down, looking downwards at some ribbon she has found. I think she looks like a gremlin! I’m not really sure why, maybe because I put lids on the eyes to portray her as looking down, maybe it is the angle of the face, or both! I had to remix the orange I used as the base and couldn’t get it right. It is too dark here. Learning point: Mix up LOTS of a colour to keep consistency.

Ki watches the birds and thinks how wonderful it would be to be able to fly away from the horrors of where she lives. Engrossed in her imaginary world, she makes herself wings from material scraps. Although I like her pose, I think her head is a little large in this illustration. Her eyes have the dreamy look I wanted but I haven’t caught it in the mouth, I really struggle with mouths.

My final illustration was the back view. This time she is reaching up to hang the ribbon. think I have captured the pose quite well in this, but again the hands need work. I gave her rag dress a less defined look in this one.

Overall I am fairly happy with my development of Ki as a character however I feel there is long way to go. I definitely want to come back to her, try her without the orange and experiment with using collage. This exercise has really taught me about the role the body pose of a character has in determining expression. It doesn’t need to be all in the face. For now, this has been a good start in drawing of figures which has definitely never been my strength and is an area I will keep practising.

For my second character, I had an idea but it wasn’t as formulated as with Ki. Based loosely on my grandad, I wanted to create an old man who is a mobile greengrocer. His name is Wilfred.

My first step was to draw lots of old men from observation. Unlike with Ki, I didn’t have a clear visual idea of what Wilfred looks like so wanted to explore lots of different looks. The first two thirds of the page are drawn from reference while the bottom third was more me experimenting with different nose shapes and jaw lines.

Looking at my drawings, I was drawn most to the one of the man with a beard in a hat. I thought this kind of look would work perfectly for Wilfred. I tried drawing him from the front and side then remembered about distortion. Old men seem to have large noses and ears so I drew him again with these features exaggerated . I really liked him with a larger nose but felt that with the ears enlarged too he looked too caricatural.

To draw his body, I made some quick sketches of ‘elderly’ poses and positions. I wanted Wilfred to have a slight stoop and pot belly so I included these characteristics in the sketches. Then I started thinking about Wilfred in action as a greengrocer. I thought about the different positions he might make. For front view I imagined him slightly leaning forward, partly due to the stoop and partly because he is leaning towards a customer to find out what they would like to buy. I also imagined him leaning casually on his greengrocer van, then changed it to leaning on a counter. I pictured him handing goods to the customers for side poses and made quick scribbles of these before making larger, more developed versions.

I then explored colour. I wanted to explore the bright base colour idea further and thought a bluish purple might work well. He is a greengrocer so I felt that green needed to be predominant colour.

I don’t feel that this first illustration (below) is very successful. Although I like his pose, I think his head is too big and his eyes too small. I used purple as a base colour to further explore this idea but after completing this illustration I wasn’t sure about this either. As with my illustrations of Ki, I struggled to create the right expression with his mouth. I think I have added too many wrinkles because some of the lines are unnecessary. The elderly characters I looked at at the start of this exercise are drawn either without wrinkles or are minimal but very carefully placed.

So I tried another front view. This time I used a conventional flesh colour for his skin and gave him bigger eyes. I gave him less wrinkles and made his mouth and laughter lines turn upwards more to make him appear more jovial. I think his pose depicts him as having a stoop and leaning forward. Out of all my character illustrations so far, I think this is the most successful.

Not wanting to put the purple skin to bed yet though, I tried agin with the side views. I am happy with these and think the think the purple works well. I particularly like the pose in the first image although I think the pupil needs to be directed down further at the tomato. In all of my illustrations of Wilfred I played about with layering of colour using coloured pencil and pastel. I enjoy creating a depth of colour by mixing and layering hues.

During this exercise I wonder whether I was too worried about making sure my characters are in proportion and look real enough. I feel that I could have been bolder and taken them further in order to portray their character more strongly. In order to combat this shackle, in future assignments involving figures and character I will try to be more confident to draw them without reference and use reference to check and edit.

Visual Distortion

This exercise was all about visually distorting something in order to create a stylised image of it. I started with a photo of a kitten from the internet and made an objective illustration of it. I think I managed to capture some of the essence of ‘kitten’. They are naturally playful and mischievous and this kitten looks like he’s been caught doing something naughty and is trying to appear innocent, like butter wouldn’t melt. Kittens also always seem to be all ears because their heads seem to start small and gradually grow to match the size of their ears. This quality is a good one for stylisation.

The next step was to draw the kitten using no more than 5 lines. I used one line for the head, two for the eyes, one for the body and one to make the nose. The one for the nose involved going back over a line already drawn but I didn’t take my pencil off the paper so it counted as one line! The first kitten I drew is top left on the left hand image. The kitten is in quite good proportion. But this exercise was about visual distortion so I then repeated the drawing playing about with distorting the eyes and ears which I think are essence of kitten. Making the eyes and ears bigger really exaggerates these qualities and gives the kitten real character, despite being drawn with only 5 lines. Making one ear bigger than the other gave him a sort of wonky look that I think is quite amusing. The version I chose to create a collage from is the one top right of the right hand image. He has one ear bigger than the other and his body is much smaller than the head which helps make him look more like a kitten than a cat.

To make a collage version of my kitten character, I looked through magazines to find interesting textures that would push the visual distortion further. I used mountains and moth wings for his ears and cheeks. When I was looking for material to use for his eyes, I came across a tea light holder and pot of sauce in a food magazine. They weren’t the same size but looked brilliant and added to his wonky, slightly confused look and character. His nose was made with a bit of glittery tablecloth and vegetable pasty while his body was made from a bit of painted fence, castle wall and a lambs head. I tore the paper rather than cutting it to create a furry, less uniform look.

From this collage I made an illustration of my kitten keeping the distorted features. On rough drawings of him I tried out different ways to draw the eyes and gave them quick colour washes. The colours all looked a bit boring for a visual distortion exercise so decided to use a technique I came up with while working on a personal project recently. Using a bright colour as a base, I build up colour over the top, leaving some of the colour showing through to act as either the dark or light parts. I really like creating images in this way and think it looks effective.

When coming up with a narrative to put my kitten into, it had to be somewhere he could be causing havoc in. I didn’t really want to use one of the more cliched scenarios where kittens are playing with wool or scratching up the curtains. I had a bit of an urge to paint some plants so thought I could put him in a greenhouse type shed where he could be causing mischief amongst the plants. I added other kittens to further the narrative.

I decided not to use my technique of bright base colour in this illustration because I didn’t know how it would work when part of a larger scene. I wish I had though because I actually think it would have worked well with the pink of the cactus flowers. I made a lot of mistakes with this piece. I accidentally coloured the wrong part of kitten’s eye black which I don’t think works as well as the green and black I used previously. I then made the decision to give all the kittens the same eyes to ensure cohesion which made it worse! I do quite like the eyes of the kitten who has broken the pot though. I am also pleased with the expression created with the mouth, as I am with all the mouths. I made other mistakes with the plants too.

If I was to create this piece again, I would explore more compositions through a more comprehensive use of thumb nails. I would also have used the same watercolour and gouache technique used for the window underneath the bench. I would change their eyes and use bright base colour! This exercise was about visual distortion though and I am happy overall with the stylised kitten character I created.

Later I made some changes in photoshop, mainly with the eyes which I do think look better than the original.

Areas of Illustration

Exercise: A tattoo


Mummified skin, ancient art and archeological finds of possible tattoo tools suggest that tattooing has been practised since Neolithic times. The tattooed body of Otzi the Iceman is said to be the earliest discovery which dates between 3370 and 3100 BC. Other tattooed mummies have been found all over the world.

In many countries, tattoos were used to mark or punish people. In China, Persia, Greece and Rome, tattoos were used to mark prisoners, criminals and slaves. Despite being initially practised for spiritual and decorative purposes in Japan, a tattoo became the mark of a criminal. Tattooing was banned altogether in 1868 in Japan.

Tattooing has long been a tradition amongst indigenous tribes around the world. For these people, religion, spirituality, ritual, nature and myth were all bound up in their tattoo culture. For some tribes, tattoos were used to ward off evil spirits. The photo below left shows an Ainu woman of Japan tattooed for this reason. Photo:

The photo on the right shows ‘Kayan woman with hornbill, ‘shoots of bamboo,’ ‘guardian spirits,’ ‘dragon-dog,’ and tuba root motifs that are all believed to repel evil spirits. Floral imagery, symbolising spiritual powers and relationships, permeates every facet of Kayan life. Plants are regarded as a major kind of living thing, sharing the same fundamental properties of life and death as humans’. Krutak.L

The Mentawai tribe of Siberut Island believe that by decorating themselves in imagery of beads and flowers, they ensure that their souls will wish to stay inside their bodies in order to be surrounded by the beauty.

For people suffering from medical complaints, tattoos were seen as a healing balm. “In the northern Philippines, tattoo artists tattooed markings on the throats of patients suffering from goiter or other markings on the backs of individuals plagued by skin disorders.’ Krutak.L

In Papua New guinea, women were adorned with ritualistic tattoos from head to toe, while men had them on theirs chests to show conquests in head hunting. The motifs used were mostly animistic, ‘The tattooed tribes of coastal Papua seemed to prefer abstract motifs of natural subjects, and those of falling objects (stars), flying birds, especially predatory birds (Frigate bird, hawk) or other creatures associated with movement and predatory habits (like centipedes, serpents, and crocodiles) were quite common.’ Krutak,L. (2005). All photos:

The word ‘tattoo’ comes from the Tahitian word ‘tatau’ and is said to have been introduced into the English language by Captain James Cook after seeing tattoed indigenous tribespeople on his voyages to Polynesia. Botanical illustrator Sydney Parkinson documented some of these tattoos for Cook, and in particular, ‘show us how the Mãori, with their traditional Tã moko tattoos were seen.’ Hardy.L. (2017) The images below show some of his illustrations, which are thought to have had a certain amount of artistic license used.

As more and more was discovered about indigenous tribes, so the interest and fascination in their tattooed bodies grew. Tattooing became a tradition amongst British seamen and sailors and became fashionable in the upper classes during the Victorian era. Since the 1970s, tattoos have continued to become more and more socially acceptable in the UK.

Tool and Techniques

Hand tapping was one technique of primitive tattooing. Tools for this technique varied greatly between tribes. the photo on the left shows carved tools in the style of those used by tribes of Borneo. In the centre you can see a simple tool made from wood and bone and the photo on the right depicts some modern replicas of traditional hand tools from Bali. All photos taken from the book ‘Tattoo. An Illustrated Miscellany’ by Lal Hardy. In addition to examples like these, hand tapping tools were made from thorns.

Another form of tattooing was skin cut tattooing in which the skin was cut with iron tools and a pigment rubbed in. Tattoo pigments were made from natural ingredients such as plants and oil from animals.

Hand tattooing is still practised in areas of the world such as the Pacific region and Asia and demand foe it is growing in western cultures. Most contemporary tattooing however, is done by machine.

In India, which has a rich and interesting tattoo tradition and culture, city tattoo studios create beautiful artworks, however the price of a tattoo in these studios is too high for most people. For them, a visit to one of the hundreds of the roadside tattooists is a cheaper alternative. these tattooists use hand made machines and often work in unsanitary conditions. The photo below is of an Indian hand made tattoo tool and is taken from the book ‘Tattoo. An Illustrated Miscellany’ by Lal Hardy.

The Artwork - Tattoo styles

Traditional western/ American - This style is characterised by thick black outline and bright colours, usually the primary colours plus green. The imagery is typically skulls, roses, daggers and eagles.

Traditional Japanese - This style is similar to traditional American in that is based on solid black outlines and bright pops of colour. Japanese mythology and folklore is often referenced in the imagery which typically features dragons and other mystical beasts and warriors. nature also features heavily with images of tigers, waves, flowers and Koi fish.

Realism - Art in this style is much more realistic than the two previously mentioned. The black out line doesn’t feature and there is a lot more colour shading in a wider variety of hues and tones. Black and grey is a form of realism in which tones of grey are used to create depth and shading. Portraiture is usually done in a realist style.

Illustrative - This is a mixture of traditional and realism and uses black outlines and lots of colour.

New school - This is an illustrative style on steroids! It is typically highly caricatural and animated.

Bio- mechanical and bio-organic - Both of these forms use pattern to mirror body flow and inner working. organic tattoos combine imagery of earth elements, animal and human anatomy while bio-mechanical features the anatomy of humans and machines. If depicting human anatomy, the tattoo is often placed over that part of the body. These tattoo styles seem to combine illustrative and traditional styles in their use of black line and colour.

Lettering - There is a huge range of lettering tattoos, from very simply lettered to hugely decorative and stylised. Some incorporate lettering and images. Although a more traditional form of tattooing, lettering is still a popular style, perhaps because it has the power to communicate so much meaning.

Neo traditional and Neo Japanese - Both of these styles are modern twists on the traditional American and Japanese styles. They incorporate more realism with the use of more colour and shading.

Surrealism - Influenced b y surrealist painters, this type of artwork has different images meeting each other, intermingled in totally bizarre and unrealistic ways.

Polynesian - The Polynesian tribal tattoos I referenced earlier are still sought after. Th photos shown below show some modern versions.

Watercolour - These tattoos use watercolour instead of the traditional tattoo ink. They are bright in colour and a large part of their effect is the way in which the different pigments blend with each other. They look particularly effective when coupled with black ink. Imagery is often of animals and flowers.

Henna- Henna tattoos are made from the dye of the henna plant and painted onto the skin. They are not permanent. Henna tattoos are most commonly associated with India where the artwork and piping style is called Mendhi. They are also common in Arabic countries where the designs tend to be softer and more floral.

The brief for this exercise is to design a tattoo based on the word ‘mum’. Before I started generating ideas, I wanted to look at the history of the ‘mum’ tattoo which has become quite iconic! It is said that the mum tattoo can be traced back to sailors during the traditional western tattoo era. during the 19th and early 20th century, mum tattoos tended to be memorialistic as shown below left. It grew in popularity throughout the 20th century even featuring on a New Yorker cover in 1993. Traditionally mum tattoos are centred around a heart with the word ‘mum’ written in a banner across it.

Contemporary mum tattoos are a lot more varied.


Hardy, L. (2017). Tattoo. An Illustrated Miscellany. London. Robinson

The tattoo based around the word ‘mum’ for this exercise is for a friend who also wants to make the image into a Mother’s Day card. There is no indication of the likes or dislikes of the friend’s mother which makes choosing content for my design tricky. I could do my own version of the traditional mum tattoo, base it around the lettering of the word ‘mum’ or something completely different connected with mum. I made a mind map to help generate some ideas. I thought about motherhood and what it means to me. I also researched animals that make good mothers and symbols of motherhood.

Once I had generated some ideas, to help me choose one, I thought about the style of tattoo I would like to design. My illustrative style lends itself well to watercolour tattoos and the illustrative style tattoos. Watercolour tattoos tend to be quite feminine in content and design. The content tends to be of birds, animals, floral and magical. The pigment is applied in a loose manner that creates a floaty quality. Black ink is used, but it tends to be to indicate the shape, rather than outline everything.

With this in mind, I chose a blue tit and bellflower as the content for my watercolour tattoo. Blue tits are considered very good mothers and the bellflower is a symbol of unwavering love which is something mums have. I thought these two elements would work well together to create a tattoo in this particular style.

I started with some quick observational drawings of blue tits and bellflowers, then made some thumbnails. These helped me work out how best to position the bird and flower to create a flowing movement through the design. I found that it looked most effective when the line of the blue tit’s wings and tail followed the line of the bellflower stalk.

From there, I created a colour visual. This enabled me to practise some technique in applying the watercolour in a way that would resemble a watercolour tattoo.

To create the final artwork, I used Indian ink to provide some black outlines. I kept these to a minimum because I wanted the watercolour to be able to move freely without boundaries.

I used the wet on wet technique to add the watercolour and allowed the different colours to merge into each other. I also use paint splattering to add movement and life. The watercolour didn’t come about as vibrant as it does in watercolour tattoos so I made some adjustments in photoshop. Two different versions are shown below.

In addition to the watercolour tattoo, I also wanted to try out a more traditional style, somewhere between traditional American and Illustrative. Looking back at my mind map, I chose to include a vulture and yellow cactus flower in the design. Traditional American tattoos feature harsher content than watercolour, often depicting things like birds of prey, wolves and daggers. They also use a lot more black ink and outline everything.

Although the content is harsher, I didn’t want to depict the vulture in a scary way . I chose it because an image of a vulture was the Egyptian hieroglyph for ‘mother’ so I thought it important I depict it as such. I chose the yellow cactus flower because it is a symbol of motherhood. I used a photo for reference for the position of the vulture and added the flower in to look as if the vulture is looking after or ‘mothering’ it.

I chose coloured pencil as the medium for the final artwork because I thought I could achieve effective black outline and shading and I think it did work well.

The other part of the brief was that the design would be used on a Mother’s Day card. The photos below show my designs made up as cards. (The yellow is not supposed to be there, the printer was playing up.)

The blue tit design fits a portrait card perfectly while the vulture design is a more unique squarish landscape card. I think the blue tit design definitely works well as a Mother’s Day card. They often have things like birds, cute animals and flowers on them as shown below in some designs I found while researching (below). The vulture perhaps doesn’t work as well. Although my research on motherhood led me to the vulture, a buyer isn’t necessarily going to know the meaning behind it. The nurturing pose does indicate a motherly quality but perhaps this card has a more limited audience.

Areas of Illustration

Exercise: A menu card

The brief for this exercise was quite short but had a lot of key words in it. To ensure I produced something that fulfilled all the criteria, I started with a mind map of the key information from the brief.

My initial research then stemmed from this. I wanted to look at some menu illustration from restaurants similar to the one described in the brief. I looked into European chain restaurants but these tend to be fast food places, not sophisticated, quality restaurants and there didn’t seem to be any seafood restaurant chains.

America has some seafood chain restaurants so I looked at some of their menus online. ‘The Red Lobster’ has photos along the top of their website and no illustration. ‘Joe’s Crab Shack’ has no visuals at all. The website of ‘Bonefish Grill’ isn’t available in the UK but they do have an illustration of a fish as their logo that was visible. It is a simple line drawing of the bones and head of a fish. It appears as a gold, black or white outline in different versions of the logo.

None of these restaurants appeared to be sophisticated so I then researched some European seafood restaurants. Although not solely serving seafood, ‘La Maquina’ is a chain of restaurants in Spain that serve a lot of fish. They have photos of food on their website and a plain menu as shown below.

I looked at various other European restaurants that look sophisticated and quality on the basis of their websites and recommendations by food writers including ‘L’Epuisette in Marseille, ‘Les Fables de la Fontaine’ in Paris and ‘Fiskebar’ in Copenhagen. All of these have photos and plain menus.

As this line of research wasn’t yielding any results, I decided to look into non specific menu illustration. This was rather uninspiring though with a lot of it being variants of generic shutterstock images as shown below. All of these are line drawings, either graphite or ink, and inverted digitally in the case of the one on the black background. The illustrations have quite a bit of detail, but because they are line drawings, they remain clear. The food doesn’t actually look appetising to me though, perhaps due to the lack of colour.

At this point I decided to look at food illustrators instead, with different parts of the brief in mind. The illustration I had to produce may possibly be used as a logo in addition to being on the menu meaning it needs to be simple and clear. The restaurant has a modern, bright and contemporary design. With these points in mind I analysed the work of some different food illustrators.

Below are illustrations created by Emma Dibben (photos from her website, Her food illustration is very detailed and have an almost vintage quality to them. They are well observed drawings without stylisation and the colours are kept life like. The splashes of watercolour or ink around the food give it a sense of life, a vibrancy. Although beautiful and very appetising, I don’t think this style of food illustration is simple enough for a logo. I’m not sure it is contemporary enough either.

Like Emma Dibben, Louise Morgan also uses splashes of paint to add life to her illustrated food, however she is different in that she outlines in black ink and adds colour more freely. Although slightly more contemporary, this style is not simple enough to meet the brief. Images from

Margarete Gockel’s work has similarities to Louise Morgan’s in that she uses black ink, and her application of colour is non conformist. It is a lot more contemporary though, perhaps due to the very thick, bold black lines, ink splodges and addition of texture that can be seen on the belly of the fish. The food doesn’t look as appealing to eat, but this style would suit a restaurant with a modern, bright contemporary design and is simple enough for a logo. Images from agent website,

Felicita Sala is an illustrator I have previously referenced and is one from whom I draw inspiration. I feel that her food illustration strikes a perfect balance between making the food look appetising and being contemporary. Her complex use of colour add a mystique to the food, it makes you want to look even more carefully at to see all the wonderful colours in it. She stylises the food just enough to make it modern looking. Images from

The last illustrator I looked at was Ryo Takemasa who reduces the food to its basic form to create very graphic style illustrations. The contemporary nature and simplicity of this style would suit the brief very well. Images from

Moving forward to making my own artwork, I went back to my mind map to check I was fulfilling all parts of the brief. Another aspect of it was that the restaurant uses fresh ingredients and this is something I wanted to portray in my illustration. I wanted to show the cooking of fresh ingredients in a simple clear way. I looked at images of different types of seafood and chose a few to sketch that I thought would work well in my illustration. I chose the red mullet for its colour, it is bright and vibrant and I think the yellow in it ties in well with lemon which I also wanted to include in the image. I think mackerel is aesthetically beautiful and the green in its skin works well with the green of dill which is a commonly used fresh herb when cooking with fish. I chose the prawn for its shape. With two long fish shapes, I wanted to provide contrast with the curve of the prawn.

I made some thumbnails to work out composition of my elements and decide on colour palette. I felt that the ‘flying’ nature of the ingredients into the pan made them appear alive and therefore fresh. For the same reason, I wanted to keep the colours bright and vibrant.

To ensure the artwork was simple and clear enough I reduced the food down to its main form and used colour to provide the detail. I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to explore the technique of scraping which I had discovered when exploring tools and materials on this course previously. Referring back to that work, I decided to try out scraping away of watercolour or gouache with tools. I tried scraping away the top layer of gouache with a sharp tool to reveal colour beneath. I think this would work well to depict mackerel but could end up being a bit detailed for a logo. I was really pleased with the way removing gouache with a cotton bud in simple criss cross lines created a great scaly pattern on the red mullett. I felt I was able to add detail while still keeping it simple. This method also worked well with the lemon. In the end I decided to keep it simple with the mackerel and allow the patterns to be formed by different colours of paint intermingling.

My first version of the final artwork was done on mixed media paper. I was fairly happy with the result but felt that the areas that had been scraped away weren’t clear enough. I then tried again on acrylic paper because I thought the criss cross effect would add to the artwork. The scraped away areas are much clearer on acrylic paper.

I then scanned the artwork in and explored colour backgrounds in photoshop. Light backgrounds looked better because they provide more contrast although I don’t feel white is quite right. In the end I decided on a pale grey.

I then played about a bit with adjustments on photoshop. Black and white, auto tone, threshold and auto colour.

Once I was happy with my adjustments, I opened the file in illustrator and vectorised it so the restaurant can use it as a small image on their menu or large on their vans. Below you can see my vectorised image large and small.

In addition to this, I also created a cut paper version in which I put the artwork off centre which I think works just as well as being in the centre. I have included a black and white version of it here to show how the restaurant could manipulate the design as they wish.

Despite a slightly frustrating research process at the beginning of this exercise, I enjoyed this brief. I feel that I have been able to fulfil it while exploring my style further. I have been able to use my love of colour as detail and make it work in a really quite simple design. I think I have created a simple, clear and contemporary design which portrays a modern bright ambience akin to the restaurant. I think it tells potential customers that fresh ingredients are used in their cooking. I’m not sure whether it could be considered sophisticated enough as a design though. Perhaps a more graphic look would fulfil that part of the criteria better.

Areas of Illustration

Exercise: A children’s book cover

The brief for this exercise was to produce a cover illustration for a natural history book for children aged between seven and eleven entitled ‘Animals from Around the World’.

It seems to me that there has been an explosion of beautifully illustrated non fiction books onto the children's book market in recent years.  They are perfect for bridging the gap between story books and information books, encouraging all children to enjoy non fiction whether at home or in school.  In his book ‘Illustrating Children’s Books: Creating Pictures for Publication’ Martin Salisbury writes this introduction to non fiction illustration for children, ‘Although some people may think of non - fiction illustration as being a lesser or more prosaic art form, it can be a highly creative area that demands both technical, problem solving skills and aesthetic vision. The best non fiction illustration can be both informative and visually stimulating.’ Salisbury, M. (2004) Illustrating Children’s Books: Creating Pictures for Publication. London. Bloomsbury Visual Arts

In order to create a book cover for reference book called ‘Animals From Around the World’ I wanted to start with analysis of some covers from natural history books for children from the past in addition to more contemporary ones.  Below are the covers of ‘The Animal Kingdom’, by Charley Harper and Brian Wildsmith’s ‘Wild Animals’. Both were published during the 1960s.

The following is said about Brian Wildsmith in an obituary to him in the Guardian, ‘In his arrestingly powerful series on the natural world, which includes Birds (1967), Wild Animals (1967), Fishes (1968) and others, his vibrant illustrations are matched by a minimal text: “a stare of owls”, “a school of butterfly fish”. Despite the simplicity of the words, the books are sophisticated visual feasts containing images that encourage children to look closely, to imagine and to tell the story for themselves.’ Eccelshare, J. (2016)

The cover for this book has the text running along the top in black on a white background for maximum contrast. The illustration features two large tigers in the foreground with a smaller one some way behind. Of all wild animals, a tiger is a well known and loved animal, therefore perhaps chosen to engage children. The tigers are looking directly at the viewer but aren’t scary which is also important when appealing to children. Brian Wildsmith’s artwork is so textural you can feel the wild emanating from the cover.  You can just see the tiger’s legs coming through the layer of green paint over the top giving the impression that they are walking towards the viewer.

In contrast to Brian Wildsmith’s textural animal illustration, Charles Harper reduces the form down to the fewest lines and shapes as possible while still capturing the essence of the creature.  “When I look at a wildlife or nature subject, I don't see the feathers in the wings, I just count the wings. I see exciting shapes, colour combinations, patterns, textures, fascinating behaviour and endless possibilities for making interesting pictures.”

This is clear to see in the illustrations for the front cover ‘The Animal Kingdom’ which are minimalist and stylised.   Although stylised though, the animals are recognisable which is important in a non-fiction book. The colours used are realistic but vibrant and engaging. He has made much use of pattern in the illustration with spots being a common pattern connecting the different animal types featured.   

Harper chose to represent all animal groups on his cover which I think is important in a book with the title of ‘The Animal Kingdom, especially as it has the subtitle of ‘An introduction to the major groups of animals’.  He has created movement in the image by depicting all the creatures moving in the same direction with most facing in that same direction. Only the cheetah faces the viewer. The cheetah has been positioned in the centre of the image and is what the eye is drawn to first.  I think this is a clever device because it captures the initial attention, then the eye is free to move around the rest of the image.

The artwork on the cover is set on a white background with the text positioned at the top, in the contrasting colours of red, with black used for the subheading.  

Owen Davey and Dieter Braun are two contemporary illustrators who appear to have been influenced by Charley Harper.  Both have a minimal realist style, depicting animals through basic lines to indicate form.

Owen Davey has illustrated a series of books about animals shown in the images below. All photos except ‘Crazy About Cats’ from Crazy About Cats image from

All books have the same design aesthetic, it is clear to see that they are from the same series.   The text is always placed within a ‘bubble’ to ensure it stands out from the complex arrangement of the items in the image.  This approach enables the text to be part of the image while remaining clearly readable. All covers depict different species of the the focus animal in various positions.  He also includes elements from their habitats and other objects linked to them such as a magnifying glass in ‘Bonkers About Beetles’. Despite the similarities however, each book has its own ‘look’ largely created by colour choice. He tends to use a limited colour palette for each cover.   ‘Smart about Sharks’ has hues of blue and pink, ‘Bonkers about Beetles’ is turquoise, yellow and green while shades of yellow and orange are used for ‘Crazy about Cats’.

The latest in this series is ‘Fanatical About Frogs’ so I will use that to analyse in more depth.

Different types of frogs are shown from different angles, the poison dart frog at the top left of the design is shown from above, with a front view of the tree frog and the common frog depicted from the side.  A tadpole and frog spawn have also been included, together with elements from their habitats such as lily pads and trees. All of this is placed on a pond background. Although the illustrations themselves could be described as simplified, the arrangement and composition of each element is not!  The eye is initially drawn to the tree frog because, like the cheetah in Charley Harper’s cover, it faces the front and appears to be staring at you. My eye was then drawn up to the top with the tadpole helping to guide you round and down to the bottom right. The colour palette is limited to shades of green, yellow and black.  The black helps to create contrast in the design and prevent all the greens merging into one.

Like the books from Owen Davey, Dieter Braun’s series of two, ‘Animals of the North’ and ‘Animals of the South’ has a design aesthetic which makes it clear they are part of the same series.  Each book features one large animal who is looking slightly up at the viewer. The animal chosen for each is indicative of the region the book is about. In both, the text is large is placed at the top of the book, laid over the body and top of the animals head.  White is used for the text to create contrast with the colour and pattern of the animal. The geometric shapes Braun uses in his illustration make the animals look 3d, as if they are coming off the page which I think would make children want to grab it off a shelf to read.  

Another contemporary collection of children’s non-fiction about animals is the series by Yuval Zommer pictured below. All photos: Briony Dixon

His illustration style is more like Brian Wildsmith’s than Charley Harper’s in that he uses a lot more detail to create his realistic looking creatures.  He has a kind of trademark eye that he gives his creatures which gives them real personality and character. Like Owen Davey and Dieter Braun though, it is clear that his books are part of a series due to a similar design being used across all.  The text takes centre stage covering the whole cover, with animals being used almost to decorate the text. They walk on top, peek through holes and hang off it which creates a comical feel. These books are for a slightly younger age range than the other books mentioned for whom a more characterful approach works well for. The text is hand lettered, whereas the text on the other covers are type faces.

The title ‘Animals from Around the World’ is quite wide in terms of content and would include animals from across all different groups, much like ‘The Animal Kingdom’ previously mentioned.  To begin with I felt quite overwhelmed by the choice so I made a mind map of animals from each continent. The list mostly contained well known animals with some more obscure ones included.  I tried to include all main groups but think I ended up weighting it heavily on mammals. The age range the book is intended for is 7 -11 years so I didn’t want to choose animals that are known really well.  With the title being ‘Animals from Around the World’, it was my intention to include an animal from each continent if possible. With these two factors in mind, I started to make lists of possible animals I could put together in my design. This was time consuming though and I couldn’t visualise it properly leading me to the idea of creating a visual mind map of observational drawings of animals.  This was also time consuming and didn’t really get me any closer to working out what animals I wanted to include.

I then realised that I could start thinking of design ideas rather than choosing the animals first.  I knew I wanted to focus on the around the world part of the title so I started thinking about how I could portray this in the design.  My first idea was to fill the sea on an outline map of the earth with sea animals and the land with land animals.

Halfway through drawing out this idea though, I started to wonder whether it was a problem that the whole world wasn’t represented by the map considering the title of the book. The animals also weren’t placed in the correct habitats and the whole thing looked a bit chaotic. To try and correct these issues, I thought about showing the earth on a map rather than a globe, but that would make the book landscape and I’m not aware of many children’s non-fiction books being produced in landscape format. So I redrew the earth slightly distorted to fit the whole world in. I then chose a few animals, just one or two that live on each continent, to ensure it didn’t get cluttered. I used layout paper to explore text positioning which at this stage, I felt looked most effective running in an arc around part of the earth.

All of my colour visuals on this course so far have been created by adding colour digitally, so I wanted to make the visuals for this exercise traditionally. I thought it would be a good opportunity to practise some technique. Using watercolour and gouache for the land and sea, I allowed the two mediums to intermingle to naturally create darker and lighter areas. For this visual I coloured the animals in with coloured pencil for speed but for the final artwork I would use gouache so they work in harmony with the background. If creating a colour visual traditionally again, I will create colour thumbnails first to explore the right colour palette before making the final visual. The colours I chose seemed too dark. I think subtler shades of blue and green would work better or even completely different colours altogether.

When I started to build the cover on Illustrator though, the dark background seemed to matter less. In fact the artwork worked really well behind light coloured text giving me the idea to make the text large and placed over the top of the image. I like this look because I think it looks modern and the title of the book is clear, capturing initial attention with the artwork behind inviting further investigation once picked on the shelf. I tried the text all the same size and with the important words larger and I think having the important words larger has more impact. I did try text in other positions but don’t think it has the same visual dynamism.

I had some trouble with removing the background from my artwork in photoshop. The background is partially removed but there is still a shadow present. I don’t normally have this issue so am a bit baffled. This is an area I need to work on.

My second idea was to create a layered image showing an animal from each continent in its representative habitat. I started making thumbnails but found it difficult, I seemed to be rubbing areas out more than creating new thumbnails each time. I thought about using tracing paper but it wasn’t a case of just moving animals around. I was trying them out in different bodily positions.

I couldn’t seem to make the transitions in the habitats work either because it all seemed slightly disjointed and messy. So I simplified the idea and decided to show just a small amount of habitat with each animal. When drawing the animals, I wanted to strike a balance between giving the animals enough character to engage children, but not so much to make the cover appear story like. I was also mindful that the age range is for slightly older children.

With this idea I made artwork for two different colour visual ideas. The first (below left) depicts animals from around the world cropped with a space in the centre for the text. I think this looks unbalanced though because the koala is too small and uncropped. Cropping it and moving it down to give the toucan space would have looked much better. This colour for this visual was flat colour gouache with coloured pencil used to add the detail I felt was absolutely necessary.

I feel that the second idea (right) is much more balanced. I was still able to represent animals from different continents with less animals leaving more negative space. It also has all the animals facing forward, looking at the viewer which I think engages a potential buyer. I used this opportunity to practise a different watercolour technique , allowing different shades and colours mix naturally to add colour to this visual. For final artwork, I would use coloured pencil and pastel to add detail.

I started by trying different fonts positioned in the centre of the animals, but as with the first visual, the text looks most effective when placed over the top of the artwork. Once decided on this, I tried out many different coloured backgrounds. Again the photoshop issue caused a problem, this can clearly be seen on the versions with darker backgrounds where I made edits in photoshop before removing the background, which then didn’t remove properly.

I used what I had learned from making the other two visual when building the final idea. Again I chose the place the text over the artwork and tried out different background colours.

After making a decision about which thumbnail to use as the colour visual for each design idea, I checked whether it was a good decision by referring back to an article I read on the publisher Penguin Book’s website. It shares six essential things to consider when designing a book cover.

‘Think about the target market and who you want to pick up the book as the cover needs to appeal to them.

What do you want to tell the buyer about the book? What kind of genre is it? What do the other books in that genre look like that it will compete with?

You need to have read/have an understanding of what the book is about, so you can instantly visually communicate the story, characters, message, settings and ideas.

Make sure the author name and title are readable.

Identify what the key symbols and motifs are that run throughout the book.

Try to create something that captures someone’s attention and makes a strong first impression, whether that’s through the tiny details, typography, choice of colour or imagery.’ Palmer.R & Wakefield.L (2017)

I think the genre of the book is clearly indicated through the image and text and the title is definitely readable because it is in white on a dark background. There is space for author, illustrator and publisher name at the bottom. I think the animals have enough character to make them engaging for a child. I think the modern look this cover has due to the text taking centre stage creates a great first impression.

The genre of the book in this design idea is clear, as is the title. I think the light text contrasting with the background captures the initial attention and the artwork invites children to find out more. I think it will definitely engage the more curious child who wants to find out more about animals around the world and where they live.

I think this is the least successful of the design ideas. While the genre and title is clear, I don’t think the animals are engaging enough. Showing a mixture of forward facing and side views didn’t really work, there is no unity.

I really underestimated the amount of work involved in this exercise. To think of multiple ideas, create thumbnails and visuals for each is very time consuming. I would still like to explore some of the ideas I had here in the future.


Exercise: Museum posters

I chose to design posters for a museum local to me, Dover Transport Museum, so I started with a visit to become familiar with the exhibits and take photos for visual reference. It is a fairly small museum but is packed full of interesting transport types from the past from bicycles to fire engines. In addition to this there is a working model railway and vintage shopfronts displaying items from bygone days. With so many exhibits, I took copious amounts of photos to catalogue the artefacts according to audience type and have included just a few for each on this blog.

Child aged 5 - 9

Having taken my own child, niece and nephew and my class on a school trip to this museum, I have a good idea which exhibits children of this age group like best. They tend to love the model railway, toy cars, the buses, steam train and fire engines.

Teenager 13 - 16

This was a little more tricky, I haven’t really seen any teenagers whenever I’ve visited so It will be a challenge marketing to them! I think some would like the extensive collection of model sports cars and the vintage scooters and motorbikes. Some who are particularly interested in history, mechanics or engineering would enjoy all of it. Having asked a couple of teenagers, they both said they are interested in how transport has changed. I don’t actually think it is age dependent, instead relating to personal likes and dislikes, therefore I think the poster for teenagers will be focused on visual style rather than the type of exhibit.

General Adult Audience

Similarly to teenagers, adults will be drawn to different exhibits dependent on personal taste. However there is much more of a nostalgia element for them, particularly older adults who may remember the types of transport and vintage items in the shops.

I then researched existing posters for Dover Transport Museum. I couldn’t find any for promotion in general, only for special events. The first and second posters both feature photographs and a lot of text.

On the models and miniatures poster, there are example photos of the exhibits with labels next to them. This area is quite cluttered and the eye is a bit bamboozled. There are large sections of text at the top and bottom giving extensive information about date, time and admission. The text at the top is quite clear to read due to the contrast between the red and white, however it is more difficult to see the black. On the second poster, the use of an art deco font matches the theme of classic motorcycles well and the text is clear to read in white on the maroon. As with the first, there are extensive details in text and photos of what can be expected to be seen at the event.

The Halloween poster features illustration rather than photos. The illustration is focused on Halloween though rather than the museum. Most of the poster is covered in text giving details about the event, with a banner illustration at the top and two other smaller ones in the main body of text. The writing on the yellow background is clear to read with the brightness of the background itself being very eye catching.

The ‘Drive it Day’ poster is quite different from the others featuring a large illustration and limited text. It is much more appealing and engaging. The illustration manages to visually communicate not only the special event but also the museum and its vintage exhibits as well. Textual details are kept to a minimum which I think is more suitable for a poster, especially when further information can be looked for on the internet in an instant. English art collector Joseph Thacher Clarke said in 1894, ‘Undoubtedly the commercial poster still exists in France, but the most astute advertising agent, looking at the matter from the commercial point of view, finds that the really artistic work pays better in cash results.’ (Timmers, 1998) . The artwork on this final poster makes it much more intriguing than any of the others and I imagine will be the biggest draw.

Some of the most artistic and influential transport imagery is artwork used in posters for London transport, so this is where I took my research next. “I feel like London is the only city in the world which is instantly recognisable by its transport images,” says Elizabeth Scott, head curator at the London Transport Museum. “The tube map, the roundel, the red bus – they’re all symbols of London itself.” (

The tube map is so iconic as a design that art is created from it, ‘[the] Tube map cover series brings art to everyone…putting art into the hands of millions of people everyday.’ (London Transport Museum. (2016) . Some of the cover series designs are shown below.

I have included some of my favourite vintage posters here. All photos: (courtesy of

I was first attracted to the first two posters because of the movement and vitality they portray. Both have the activity shown diagonally, transporting the viewer’s eye from one corner to the opposite one. In Roy Meldrum’s poster, the eye follows the activity to the edge of the page, then turns round and comes back to the left to start again a bit higher. It is like you are actually on the escalator, horse or boat with the people in the poster. It has a different angle to the other two posters in that it portrays all the exciting things you can be doing if you travel by underground or tram, things you definitely don’t want to miss out on. The limited, but bold colour palette gives the poster vibrancy which perfectly compliments the content and message.

I think Alfred Leete’s poster is so successful because it makes you feel like you are missing out if you don’t do what it is suggesting you do and the sweeping visual narrative makes you want to follow the crowd. The more realistic colour palette used helps make this seems like a normal things to do. A must. Both of these first two posters have a very clever slogans that match the imagery perfectly. Both have the slogan running along the bottom of the artwork.

Charles Frederick Herrick’s poster incorporates the text within the artwork a lot more. “It’s cooler below’ is placed underground, where it is cooler. An engaging rhyming couplet is positioned with the lines either side of the train imagery in an arc suggestive of the shape of the earth. This line is continued further up in the colours in the sky only to be broken by the sharp triangular edges of the burning sun that you must escape at once!

A more contemporary illustrator commissioned by London transport is Virginie Morgand. Her posters for the Brightest London campaign are shown below. Photo: Like the vintage posters previously discussed, these all exude life and vitality with the frame filled with activity. They are mostly flat colour, bold and vibrant. The posters have a brand, a design theme that is the same in each with the text positioned at the bottom in a banner in the same font.

I couldn’t actually find many posters advertising the actual transport museum in London, mostly they advertise London transport or London by transport. I wanted to look at some for the museum itself because it could be seen as competition for Dover. The poster below by Tom Eckersley does advertise the actual museum. Photo:,uk

It features an image of the iconic steam train and the bold shapes used are instantly eye catching. The flat colour and graphic style make it look contemporary. ‘Eckersley frequently used a limited range of strong colours to create designs that were simple to read, appealing directly and effectively to a wide audience.’,uk

Inspired by Tom Eckersley’s work, I drew a range of vehicles from the museum from photos taken on my visit.  I picked out the main lines needed to show the form of each without adding unnecessary detail.

Before starting thumbnails for the different audiences,I made quick mind maps to jot down ideas, influences and inspirations for each one.  

One of my ideas for the poster for children aged 5 - 9  was to make the poster look like a train track set up or road layout with different exhibits included as toys being played with.  Initially I found creating a road layout difficult because I was unsure what I was trying to achieve in composition in terms of position and direction.  Making smaller thumbnails to try out different road and track layouts without including the vehicles helped keep it simple and enabled me to decide on a layout which I thought could work well in a poster.  I wanted the road and track to work together but struggled incorporating them until I came up with the loop which enables a seamless transition from one to another.

Once I started adding vehicles and other elements however, it all got a bit cluttered. The text would not have stood out and there wouldn’t be much negative space to make the poster appear balanced.  The brief asked for one exhibit to form the main part of the poster and this did not hero any of them. In addition to all of this, I was worried that it may not appeal to the upper part of the age range.

After referring back to my mind map, I decided to take a more narrative approach.  I liked the idea of children being ‘in the driving seat’ so decided to use this as a basis for the design.  I chose an iconic looking vintage bus and car and put children driving them, no handed! After drawing a few thumbnails with the vehicles standing straight, I realised that I could make the image more fun if they looked like they were swerving or skidding, as if the children were racing them.

I chose to use photoshop to create my colour visual so that I could explore different colour options.  I started off very bright and bold to make it fun and eye catching for children but the colours just clashed.  I then chose less vibrant tones but then the sense of fun was lost. In the end I chose tones of the complementary colours orange and blue which I think is a much more appealing palette and the fun element is maintained.

The bus in Dover Transport museum has Dover Transport Museum in its destination panel so I thought it could work well if I mirrored this in the poster.  This didn’t seem enough text though so I tried adding the website address in different positions. There still didn’t seem enough so I looked at the leaflet for the museum on which they have the slogan ‘Driving the past into the future’.  This seemed perfect for helping to get the ethos behind the museum across. I thought placing the text in an arc to act as the road marking would be fun and work well with the design aesthetic of the poster as a whole. Initially I used Indesign to add the text but I couldn’t work out how to create the arced text so I switched to Illustrator which was much easier.  

To appeal to teenagers, I wanted to create a contemporary graphic visual style.  The drawings I had made at the start of this exercise had minimal lines to represent the vehicles so they worked well as a basis for a poster for this audience.  After scanning each one, I coloured them in photoshop maintaining a similar colour palette to that used in the children’s poster, in order to keep a consistent look across all posters.  I then started to make different thumbnail arrangements of the buildings to explore compositions. I originally wanted to arrange lots of the vehicles onto the poster with possible overlapping, hence the digital approach to the thumbnails.  Solely line drawings would get confusing. Once I had coloured in photoshop, I switched to illustrator because it allowed me to move the objects off the artboard but still see them.

I quickly decided against the idea of having lots of vehicles because I couldn’t seem to arrange them in a way that looked cohesive.  I explored different amounts of vehicles before settling on three because it looked most balanced on the page. I then made thumbnails of different arrangements of three vehicles to work out which had the most pleasing visual aesthetic and which worked together effectively in which order.   Below shows just some of the arrangements I tried alongside the text. I wanted a sans serif font for a contemporary look and after trying a few, settled for the one shown in the thumbnails.

Although using just three vehicles creates the contemporary minimal look I intended for the teenager poster, I began to think it was more suitable for the adult audience, especially as the age specified is the lower ages, 13 - 16 years.

Another idea on my initial teenage mind map was to show a vehicle split into two halves with one half from the past and the other from the present day.  Teenagers I spoke to said the change in transport was one of the most interesting things about the museum. While researching posters, I had come across some for the Natural History museum showing different exhibits morphing into each other.  This is the effect I wanted to create.

For the idea to work I needed to ensure the two halves worked together cohesively but look clearly different from each other.  Initially I kept them the same colour but then realised the colour needed to be different to create the contrast with similarity in shape creating cohesion.  I kept the colours the same as in the poster for the children but with brighter tones for the cars. As before, I used illustrator to arrange the cars and text to find the best layout.  

When working on my original idea for the teenage audience I had included text in my thumbnails as part of the composition to fully explore the most effective position. I decided that the text worked best at the bottom because I think it looks more contemporary than elsewhere.  I had also discovered that the name of the museum works better running the full length of the poster rather than on two lines. The design I chose for the visual below seemed to be the most balanced with the two side views of the cars facing alternate ways.

For the adult group I began to explore an idea based on nostalgia.  I wanted to bring in an element of the old railway posters but render it in a mid century style similar to the artwork of Miroslav Sasek.

In addition to vehicles, Dover Transport Museum also has vintage shop fronts full of items from bygone days and I thought using one of these in an illustration alongside a vintage vehicle would capture that nostalgia well.  There was a great exhibit of an old railway kiosk so I chose to use this alongside a steam train and made a quick observational drawing from a photo. Old train stations often have beautiful arches in them and it was another photo of this that gave me the idea for the arch that then creates a tunnel.  

The thumbnails show me exploring the positioning of the kiosk and train to ensure maximum impact was achieved. In order to make text and illustration as one, I also tried out different text positions. Placing the text at the bottom made the poster look more like the old railway posters but I finally chose to have the text added as if it were a sign painted onto a brick wall in white.  Before I got to make a colour visual though, I abandoned this whole design idea because the aesthetic would be very different to the posters for the child and teenage audiences, and I felt it was important there was a continuity between them.

Instead, I returned to my original idea for the teenage group that I had felt was more adult.  Looking back at the thumbnails created for this poster and after much deliberation, I chose the design below as my colour visual. I like the simplicity of the design and think the positioning of the text being the same as in the teenage helps continuity across the posters.