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Helen Capewell
OCA Learning Log
Student Number: 522802
Degree: Illustration
Current Level: 2

Getting The Gist

Updated: Aug 2, 2019


I don't often pick up a newspaper these days, so when thinking of this exercise I wasn't sure which story would stand out. Until I saw this one. It's this kind of story which can inspire a range of ideas, or it can be one very clear image from the start. Which is exactly what happened to me once I had read the story.


I immediately wanted to play with emotion for this piece. This story was heartbreaking to read. These poor whales being confused and lost, stranded on a beach, 3 of which have already died! The story makes me feel extremely sad.


There are a 2 key parts to this story which create an image. To begin with, the number of people involved in the heroic act, and secondly there are 9 whales in total, 3 deceased and 6 stranded. The question I think of when reading this story is, why are the whales there? What's made them travel this close to shore? Is this another sad case of global warming?


Firstly it felt appropriate to do a little bit of research on Pilot whales as these are going to be an important part of the illustration. It is uncertain as to why large numbers of Pilot whales are the most common whale to be stranded, but researchers have said that there are many reasons. Most commonly, it is believed that their given name, pilot, is because a pod is usually lead by a leader. If the leader lose their way and become stranded, the others follow. Other reasons could link to climate change, or when they are sick, but nothing is proven.


After discovering where the name originates, a part of me wanted to explore this exercise with humour. A pilot whale fully equipped with GPS loses signal in a grey area of the sea. He then makes the decision to go it alone, ditch the GPS and try navigate through the depths of the calm sea, without realising he was actually leading his pod in to the shallow waters of the surf zone. Ask for directions his wife would shout! Of course this was out of the question, a pilot always knows the way and never requires assistance. Sounds like an epic journey - I didn't go in this direction. The brief is about the article, to highlight keywords which help illustrate the story, GPS would probably be off topic. However, it was fun to imagine.


I wanted to try explore an illustration which would show half under the sea and half of the surface. I wanted to show an expression on the whales as they realise they've come too close to the shore. What I wasn't clear on was how many people I wanted, if any at all! I know a key point was the amount of people that were involved with the rescue, but I didn't want to recreate an illustration of the photo that came with the story. I wanted it to be emotional, and sympathetic.


Firstly I attempted to go straight in to a big piece using photoshop, which wasn't successful. The sea wasn't right, which made the rest of the composition look off. I had the vision of what I wanted it to look like, and this first attempt fell flat. I couldn't see where to fit people, and where I did add them, just didn't work. I also didn't know in which style I wanted to illustrate the people at this stage. So I went no further with this picture.


First failed attempt

So I began sketching the idea into small boxes to find an angle that felt balanced.



I loved the way the final sketch came out. It felt balanced, I was confident with the sea line between the surface and the illusion of being underwater. I decided to make this the final piece!





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