Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Illustrative Practices: The Great Editorial Race Megapost

So we've just finished the first half of our Illustrative Practises module, which was a full-on reintroduction to the course; wherein we've spent the last 3 weeks or so looking at and partaking in Editorial illustration briefs.

What can only be described as a swift kick up the buttocks back into illustration, despite feeling somewhat similar to this illustration; which I created as a response to Illustration Friday on the subject of Peace over the summer, The Great Editorial Race has got me feeling like and illustrator and has been a great confidence boost. 

The Great Editorial Race is a scenario set up by the course leaders, which sees students playing the role of professional illustrators; working to several briefs at a time and meeting back-to-back deadlines. These briefs were delivered as templates (page layouts) of articles in magazines and newspapers, such as The Guardian Weekend and Betty Magazine. (More on that particular publication in a blog to follow!) These templates were accompanied by art direction written by the tutors also.

10 briefs were devised in all, two of which were mandatory for all students to complete; however the responsibility of completing the others worked a little differently. As teams of around 7 students, we were to work together as a sort of Illustration unit; deciding through group discussion at least one individual for the fulfillment of each individual brief.

Over the course of the summer, I set up a social media page on Facebook; also I explored developing a personal style through subject matter that interested me; at my own (somewhat slow) pace. This module has brought about a swift and welcome change.

Quite simply the scenario sought to encourage:

Competition - The most effective, considerate editorials would receive points to tally up in the form of 'Illustration Money.' And the most successful team would win a grand chocolatey prize.

Participation - If a group fails to submit at least one response to the brief, that group is penalised; adding some weight to the responsibility of doing your part! As well as this, failure to attend the 'judgment' of submitted work; a group crit of sorts and the reveal of the 'powers that be' or 'art directors' (tutors) choice of best editorial, would result in the winners prize becoming null and void.

Support network - Asked to create a team blog or page on social media as a platform to show and discuss each other's work, developing and improving concepts through the opinions and suggestions of others before submitting to the deadline.

In all I submitted 6 of the 10 editorials, only two of which was I the sole submitter; we had a great, proactive group.

Editorial 1: 'Forever Friends'   Publication: Betty Magazine.   Deadline: 03/10
Art Direction: Illustrate your choice of 'must have' beauty products, ensuring they are recognisable (I.e. brands/logos can be seen and product name & costs are clearly listed)

I was really quite happy with this one and the reception it got. The publication and subject matter don't exactly relate to me; this fact made the brief somewhat challenging, despite being simple in nature. I had to do a bit of research, bearing in mind the audience of the magazine; I tried my best to find affordable products with decent reputations. Thinking about the style of the magazine too, I took some inspiration from 1960s bedroom furnishings and wallpapers. Once I had the products sorted though, I felt quite confident in trying to communicate the materials and giving the products a scene in which to sit. 

Feedback and comments suggest that I should work on integrating the templates odd block of text into the illustration. Personally I'd quite like to emulate the glass effect on the perfume bottle on the two nail varnish bottles also, as well as giving the type in the bottom of the image some focus; in terms of hand-drawn price and general layout. 

Editorial 2: 'Grand Budapest Hotel'  P: Little White Lies  D:06/10
AD: Portrait of Ralph Fiennes as M. Gustave. Initial drawings from film research. Previous publication covers for inspiration. Your cover illustration must incorporate the film title in hand lettering.

Another well received image, although perhaps over stylised. I had come up with a few drawings and sought feedback from my peers, the general consensus was that the heavily stylised was preferred; but perhaps that's because they knew who I was drawing. The elements of the image are reflections of the colour scheme of M. Gustave's suit. The pink and stripes are inspired by the cover of The Society of the Crossed Keys, a selection of writings by Stefan Zweig; which inspired The Grand Budapest Hotel's director, Wes Anderson. I used a still from the film to observe a sign suspended at the hotels entrance in order to come up with the typography.

I will definitely re-work this image to provide a better likeness, going back to some other sketches as a basis. From feedback I know that I can also afford a larger margin for the text down the sides of the page.

Editorial 3: 'Basil on the Moon'  P: Wonderpedia  D: 07/10
AD: Produce a vignette illustration with a limited colour palette of greens and greys.

Evidently I must have been somewhat tired and lacking attention to detail as I rather daftly have drawn the spaceman holding parsnips rather than turnips. That'll be an amendment to make,which will also probably have me looking at getting further asymmetry in the arms. I may also look at ways of modifying the hat and helmet as the combination communicated for some something similar to a bee keepers hat. 

I took inspiration mainly from the Apollo landing space suits, though very much tried to be as loose with the design as possible. The gardener elements come from my Grandad, who used to grow a lot of vegetables in his field. It's rare that he goes anywhere without a sleeveless jumper on. But also from my Dad, who likes to do a spot of gardening. Stylistically this image wouldn't be out of place in a children's book. That style sort of developed from the initial sketch and worked well with the colour palette, it was more a practical decision than one concerned with audience, however I thought the concept is quite fun, so the image should be too! 

Bonus Portrait 1: 'Neneh Cherry' P: The Guardian  D: 13/10
AD: Inspiration: 1980s New York artists Keith Haring or Jean-Michel Basquait

This portrait was a bit of a struggle. In an attempt to aim for a decent visible likeness, the stylistic inspiration became a secondary aspect of the image for me. I decided that I would use Keith Haring as inspiration for decorative elements, taking some iconography from one of Neneh's early music videos. 

The likeness is there in some ways, but there are elements I need to work on. Namely the hair, which could have more volume and the mouth; which is quite large and the teeth need some work. The portrait and decorative elements are totally compartmentalised and I think an effective response to the brief would be to marry the two together. That would enable me to rearrange the portrait to fill the space. 

Editorial 9: 'Anger'  P: Therapy Today  D: 17/10
AD: Inspiration: Christoph Niemann, Paul Blow.

This brief was interesting in that it required both a cover and interior illustration(s), something I was confident I could tackle, but left myself a bit short of time by prioritising editorial 10 over this for a couple of days. The article deals with the subject of anger, somewhat lengthy, it discuss the importance of addressing the emotion, the effects it has on mental; spiritual, physical and social health, as well as behavioral therapies and other methods of treatment. 

Such a weighty article held many concepts and I found it difficult to run with any one in particular. So much so that the concepts became a focus of the brief for me that I didn't consider if there was cohesion between my different illustrations. If I want to use any of this brief as a portfolio piece, I will need to go back to the illustrations and run with a common style and materials. 

Cover: A play on a statistic found within the article; 1 in 10 people have trouble controlling their anger. I had initially intended on producing a more detailed image, with the man in the centre 'blowing his lid.' With the upper section of his head launching away, propelled by steam. Running short of time and energy, I decided to simplify the image after making initial head shapes. Thinking of a recent train-induced study of children's picture books, I thought of Leo Leonni and his simple torn-paper story Little Blue and Little Yellow. 

Comments in feedback noted that the cover is visually striking, but some elements communicate poorly. For example, the shirts and ties were communicating fang-like shapes. I could address this issue by giving the figures more form, separating the suit jackets from the background by using a darker or lighter shade for either. 

Interior: The larger image is a mixture of several concepts, looking into the effects that anger has on health and personality; as well as a play on the phrase 'blood is boiling.' I imagined the arteries billowing with steam as the blood bubbles away. To further highlight that concept, I decided there should be some kind of warning mechanism on a panel of some sort, coming up with a pump-like device. That illustration didn't seem as if it would have enough body on it's own, so I decided to sit it in front of the lungs and throat like a textbook drawing.

 I would have liked to have carried on the water colours, which I used on this image to try and move away from the heavily digital work that I had been doing. As it was a costly process in terms of time, when it came to filling out the rest of the template I moved to creating a digital image.

This second image was to highlight the regret, worry and negative emotions that come after an outburst of rage. The sketch was under-developed, but I ran with it and tried to use a relationship between colour and limited colour palette to evoke the work of Paul Blow.

This is probably where the cohesion of style between the two images matters the most and will be where I focus my amendments.

Editorial 10: 'Sage Concern'  P: The Guardian Weekend  D: 20/10
AD: Source your own article, produce a photoshop template and illustrate as you wish.

I'm a foody at heart, there's no denying it. Much to the disdain of my girlfriend, I love to watch cooking/baking/food shows if they're on. So when I flipped through The Guardian Weekend and saw this article, I settled on it quite quickly. It's part of a series by TV chef Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall, which looks at a particular herb; it's origins, uses and lists a couple of recipes which feature it to. This particular article focuses on sage.

Thinking about the beautiful illustrations of Emma Dibben, I went with my desire to work with water colour. The main image of this double page spread was a lovely big photo, of the recipe discussed to the right of the article. I didn't want to replicate that though, as there us a bulk of text which describes various food stuffs which commonly feature the herb; a few of which were quite peculiar/I had never come across before and felt intrigued to visualise.

My main issue for this editorial was time. I finished it over the weekend, but didn't have access to a scanner, so had to scan and re-size the individual paintings the morning of the hand-in. I thought I had given myself plenty of time, but of course the scanner didn't want to play ball for a good 20 minutes.

However, now with adequate time there are plenty of amendments I can make. Most glaringly is the need to adjust the images so that the white of the water colour paper is the same as the pure background white. I should probably pay more attention to the scale of the different foodstuffs in relationship to each other as well as standardise the size of the text. The illustrations fill the space well, but I could probably have a bit of a fiddle to try and minimise the white space separating them.

The second illustration is a caricature of sorts, replacing a photograph of Hugh. I need to edit the levels of the pencil layer on top of the water colours, perhaps even replacing it with pen, so that it is clearer to see. I will also consider drawing some sort of background pattern or implementing a plain background.

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