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.