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

Assignment 4

Updated: Sep 21, 2021

Building Stories

In exercise 4.4 I had used a sketch from a day trip to the Design Museum. Sitting in the park, I had taken to an entrance with benches available for the perfect watch point of those who pass through the park. Foot traffic is one thing, but the park cleaning was another, which made for some challenging speed drawings of the small vehicles that would shuffle around the entrance as they cleaned the floor.

One of my favourite drawings was the first sketch I had done of the park itself. I did want to also draw beyond the park to capture the tall rise building behind it, but the park was nice and so remained within this boundary.

The original sketch

This was going to be the starting point to Exercise 4.4, and continued through this Assignment.

To recap, in exercise 4.4 I had turned the above drawing into a colourful sketch, picking on the different times of the day. Here are the results.

From here I took a turn in the possible narrative of the scene by transforming the central tree into a giant bird. An idea that excited me, one I could instantly feel I could create a story from.

The story was going to take a mystical direction from here. I had a sense of the old BFG or some whimsical fairytale, or perhaps even a folklore tale that had lost its magic with the modern world, but the truth is still living amongst them. The ideas all felt similar, of course this was going to be a tale, a charming tale that might ignite the magic in a child imagination.

So I started scribbling some notes and ideas, and even a base that might be the opening to the story.

At first I was thinking to make a very simple, quite boring story of with a rather magical creature. I thought it would be fun that this giant bird would do something as basic as feeding the birds that roamed in the day. Kind of a bird keeper, or mythical divine one that would protect and feed. I had a few options noted in my book to begin, but not a real plan. So I started thinking of the Eight Point Arc, and how I could fill in the gaps with the ideas.

1. Stasis

Big Emu like magical bird disguised as a tree.

2. Trigger

emerges at night

3. Quest

Finds purpose. Wishes to use magic but dances instead. Lights the night sky

4. A surprise

Finds a ribbon stuck to her, no one had done this since magic was not wanted.

5. A critical choice / a reaction

Realises her tale has not been forgotten, someone knows her story and believes in her.

6. The Climax

The town starts believing in her again, allowing her to use magic.

7. The Reversal

People know she's there

8. The Resolution

People leave ribbons on her, she dances with magic at night.


There's a Bird in the Garden

In the day she's a tree,

No one knows she's there.

This is how she likes to hide,

No one seemed to care.

She brings beauty to the garden,

with her green and purple hair.

She's the only one of her kind,

so mystical and rare.

There's a bird in the garden,

but everyone see's a tree.

If only people knew,

If only they could see.

At night when everyone is a sleep,

She emerges from her disguise.

She unroots her giant feet,

and her head begins to rise.

Her eyes are orange,

and her beak is too!

She's tall and she's fast,

Just like an emu!

There is one thing she likes to do,

when everyone is a sleep.

She once was able to use her magic

but now dances in the street!

One night that she woke,

something peculiar had happened.

Stuck to her hair,

was a little pink ribbon!

Just like that her magic was back,

and her hair began to glow

Someone had remembered her,

it was just like years ago!

She thought the world had all moved on,

That people had forgotten

There was no place for tales no more,

and magic was deemed as rotten.

She watched the world grow and grow,

Until the garden was all that's left

Her magic was kept a secret,

it was only for the best.

She decided to hide away,

and pretended to be a tree

But secretly she hoped to find,

someone who would believe.

She kept the ribbon for herself,

a reminder to never hide.

It was time the world could see again,

that magic never died.

There's a magic bird in the garden,

everyone knows she's there

In the day she remains a tree,

with ribbons in her hair.

The end.

Ok, so I made the story! I started scribbling in my sketchbook a storyboard for the images that would fit the narrative. I gathered the other sketches from the same scene and decided to include a few elements to build the stasis of the story.

I wanted to build on the idea that this garden that she lived in was now surrounded by concrete. It was to be a small garden in the middle of a city. In the moment where she remembers how it was, and that she had seen the world grow, my intention was to show that maybe she had been there for centuries, and she remembers a time where the landscape was mostly nature. but as the world developed and became more modern, her magic died along with the tale. Less people knew the old tale, and so It all just became grey for her. The only way she could express herself was through dancing when no one was watching.

There is a small space in London that feels to have a magic about it. Having only been once, I used the internet to pull out images of the area. It would be a perfect source of inspiration to reimagine the home for this mystical bird.

St Dunstan in the East

Google Maps, 3D city view:

I liked the idea of including an arial shot in the storyboard. Perhaps it can emphasis the scale of the city built around, and how small it has made her, and the garden she lives.

After revisiting this location, I wondered if whether it was quite right. Nature appears to be growing over the concrete, the opposite look to what I was hoping for. Though even just from the found images, you can easily imagine a magical feeling within the space. It shows time has moved by, it feels abandoned but full of life.

I took the original sketch and changed the camera view. I wanted to add perspective in to the mix to add interest.


After my first draft of the story I had developed, new ideas were coming to me on ways to improve. I liked the simplicity of the story style but felt it lacked a legend tale for why the bird existed or what any of the story meant. Although I didn't think the story needed a reason for why a mystical bird existed, questions of existence will always live without true evidence to prove otherwise. Instead I felt it need an explanation for certain elements, such as why ribbons? How did this bring her magic back? Where did her magic even go?

I had also found new inspiration for the visual styling of the story, which had influenced the direction a little. Rather than going straight into the story at a point that the bird is surrounded by tall rise buildings, I was wondering how I could take it further back, nearer the beginning of the tall tale.

I wanted to make this a short tale for children, to grow imagination and traditions that can be carried on and on, passed through generations despite the modern changes in the world. I didn't know what magic the bird would have, but did that need to be important? She was magic, that is all that needed to be said. But maybe she saved someone, a villager, and since then people left ribbons as a thank you for her magic that fateful day. By leaving ribbons it became a mark of belief, it warmed the birds heart and in return of a beautiful ribbon locals would be able to take a leaf / feather from her tree and plant it in their garden. It was said to bring luck to their crops and bloom the flowers each year. but as concrete cities took over and time had passed, the myth was picked away one communal garden at a time. People lost interest in made up stories, as technologies developed people were able to get perfect gardens and crops without the help of magic.

This all felt like a possible story, but I was beginning to get caught up on trying to make it a poem. I find stories that rhyme are so engaging, digestible and clever, and for some reason I can't stop making rhymes when I start! However on this occasion, I was definitely trying too hard to make a made up myth rhyme, rather than think how I can illustrate a narrative story. The second challenge I created for myself, was how can I condense the story to fit only 6 tiny pages!

I was making the story bigger, but needed to make it shorter to fit within 6 pages. Did I have the space to make a rhyming story about a legend and illustrate it? Or was I well out of my depth on this idea and needed to approach this assignment with a different concept? Needless to say, I was already deep in the idea. Changing it now would be very difficult as I couldn't move away from the idea. I was, however, open to changing the style of the story to better fit the pages.

I set out on the task to improve the story and to compress it into 6 small pages. Scribbling lines on lines across A3 pieces of paper, I managed to reach to a conclusion for the story. The outcome resulting in something a lot less complicated which I'm really pleased with.

First thing was first, I needed to make my folding 'zine' for a reality check. To do this, I used an A3 piece of paper, slightly thicker than typical printing paper.

Once I had created the zine, I was greeted by the 6 wonderful pages I knew I would have to face eventually, which were the size of a passport - 8 if you would include the cover and back. Reality hit, my imagination for seeing how this could be was slightly worried, but I carried on.

I marked out the 8 pages in a row and made a rough note of what would be on each page. With it being very limiting space not only did I have to consider the length of the story, but I had to really think about the layout for the text and how it would fit with the illustrations as well.

I definitely wanted to create a title page for the cover. I had the idea of making the writing to be the feathers of the bird, bold lettering over a sunlit garden where the bird lived. I hoped it would add mystery for a bird that you would never see, at least not knowingly. The second idea was to play with the shape of the lettering to warp them into the shape of the bird. The tree would be large in the centre with leaves growing out of the lettering.

I had in mind the style of Studio Ghibli. In almost all of the classic anime films by Hayao Miyazaki the scenery were always looking magical and enchanting. Beautiful illustrations with gorgeous lighting and colours were to be the inspiration of this story. Not only did I find inspiration in the Japanese anime, but the folklore that is a huge part of the Japanese culture. It felt that it would be a great fit for my story.

I had a rough idea of what I wanted on the cover, which to be honest, was not far away from the original sketch above.

I started with painting the front and back cover. I had a few images for reference which are free to download from Studio Ghibli.

Front and Back Cover. Acrylic and Oil Pastel.

Once I had the painting ready, I took a photo and placed it into to Photoshop. I was nervous to paint text over everything without guides and so decided it was safer to explore the ideas digitally first.

Option One

Option Two

I think the first option better suited the style of the cover, it felt more whimsical and magical.

Once I had the outside covers sorted, it was time to move on to the inside pages. I had already made a start on designing the bird, giving it some character for the moment it is exposed. It felt good to have a visual on the bird whilst making the story, and even if it wasn't to be seen so much in this part, the bird could later be introduced in full form.

I really love how the bird came out, it has a sort of punk styling to it which makes me laugh. Inspired by an emu, so that it could easily transform itself into a tree during the day.

Next, I took a photos of the inside pages and moved those into Photoshop, like I did the cover. It felt easier to work directly on the 'zine' but going digital meant I wouldn't make any mistakes, and I could work true to the sizing. Plus it was much easier to move text around or change scale of drawings, basically experimenting with out the mess. Now was the time to add text and illustrations together.

I think some text will change when moving on to cleanup, but over all it works! I progressed one of the pages from the above layout sketches, and added text in a font that I thought would suit the mythical / fairytale theme.

I decided to colour it digitally, as I wanted to achieve a similar atmosphere as of Studio Ghibli's work. I really like how whimsical it looks and I hope I was able to give an idea for how the rest will look.

I'm so excited by this story, it feels a shame that I had only 6 pages to work with because I know there is much that can be added. Perhaps I could have worked on a bigger piece of paper so I could get more folds. I definitely didn't want to make the pages smaller by folding it even further. That said, I'm really pleased with the way this came together, and I love this story! I feel this can be a nice introduction to the magical bird, part two can be next, giving insight on how the developed world left the poor bird behind. Feeling forgotten in a concrete jungle. I could explain the ribbons that locals would tie, and why it encouraged the bird to continue growing their crops. Perhaps the bird would find that it is not the only one of its kind?? I'm excited.

What is so rewarding about this story and the overall assignment, is that it all started from a sketch that I had done on location one morning. The previous exercises sparked my imagination and from this a magical bird disguised as a tree was born. It is certainly a process that I have enjoyed, and will absolutely use again in the future. Finding narrative in the simplest things and producing a full story in doing so could help me finally pursue a path of storytelling.



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