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

Assignment Five

Updated: Sep 24, 2021

Application and Context

As I had already mentioned in exercise 5.2, the subject I am focusing on is: People and Places.

To help get the thought process moving, I began with making a brainstorm on the thoughts I had already gathered during part five.

Since restrictions were lifted I have moved around more freely, travelling to places I hadn't been to before, making the most of the "staycation" in a mini camper van. During these trips, I packed my sketchbook and a little kit that covered me for any occasion. As like most situations, you're never sure on what time you will have and what you can do in that time. They can be fleeting moments, or they can be slow. As I was on the road with only a limited supply, I new my camera was going to play an important part in building a body of work that I could reflect on once back home. Not only was my focus on drawing frequently on location, but I needed to remember to document the things I drew for reference later on. The series of drawings were based on the sea, the landscape and how people interacted within those spaces. I really wanted to collect a rich library of content so I could really explore all options.

So far I have used the exercises in part 5 as an opportunity to start generating ideas. I decided to keep all works pretty much in one sketchbook, the All-Media Acid-Free 140gsm Cartridge Paper hardback book measuring at 195x195.

What is interesting, in the first exercise of this course where we discuss sketchbooks, one target I had for myself was to become comfortable using this very sketchbook. I'm really pleased to have finally connected with this pad, and many others since starting! I no longer feel intimidated by the perfect pages, and I'm really happy about that.

So choosing People and Places meant choosing a brief to follow. The options are:

  • A poster to advertise your event

  • A wall mural or design that can be stuck on the wall for a global food restaurant (decal)

  • A window backdrop for a large department store

  • A design that would work on a tote bag associated with your event or activity.

It feels early to decide on what I will focus on. For such an exercise I would like to explore the theme and allow the sketchbook to take me through a journey. What I imagine, is that whatever the outcome of the final work will be, it should suit all of the above. If it's a shop that is launching something new with a display, then they might follow this with marketing tools such as a poster and the tote bag. The design for the window might also be a print on clothing. I see this being very multipurpose.

A common theme I felt that I had included often in the new work, was the buzz around water sports. Be it surfing or paddle boarding, the people participating became a subject of interest, they added an energy in landscapes that I really liked. People bathing and setting up tents or wind breakers was funny, but really the action of doing something that required motion was more interesting.

I found that without those surfing, paddling or even fishing, I was bored of the people in the landscape. Once I had drawn people sitting staring at the sea or communicating between their families and friends, the interest disappeared. People walking in front of you could only bring so much. I still haven't quite mastered illustrating cartoon characters from real life, people walking or sitting will be great when this has become something I have practised more. Until then, I preferred to focus on action.

As mentioned above, I really wanted to make sure I brought home a lot of imagery that I could later return to. For photos I looked closer at the landscape, at the rocks and the textures. To get a feel for the spaces people filled, and the abstraction that nature creates.

I loved how the images came out and some how wanted to incorporate them into my work. From the photos, I experimented with different media to see how I could recreate some of the textures. What I had noticed through this course is my lack of "polished" illustrations. I had filled my pages with very quick sketches from location, using limited supply. What I hadn't done much of is making studies in my books with media I may normally use, such as acrylic. This to me would be a natural step in developing ideas.

I remember the days where using wax on your piece so paint wouldn't stick to the surface, leaving the whiteness of the page. The above images are an experiment using white oil pastel for the lines that mimic those on the rocks. I then washed watercolour paint over it to fill the spaces between the white. The image on the left above is more the tester, using ink and watercolour. On the right I tried to be more direct in the way the paint blended. The original image has sand patches dotted around the stone, to recreate this I use the brown oil pastel. To finish I used black watercolour pencil and ink to add more depth. I'm really pleased with how it all worked together, and feel it is something I would be keen to explore further in this journey.

On the side of building up a sketchbook of works that would eventually lead me to a final idea, I created another journal which included printed photos, and printed drawings I have collected so far that I thought might go together as a narrative. I was starting to get a feeling of what I wanted to create and potentially how.

Still holding on to my new obsession with spray paint, I opted for a darker colour in this series rather than the yellow. Just the outside sleeve alone excited me! I loved how the dark spray paint looked on cardboard, it felt natural, rough and textured. The speckles that spray out on the edges gives it a really nice touch, it also added interest when sprayed across the spine and string. Perhaps this would stop me, I didn't want to ruin it by the contents of this book when the outside felt pleasing. It didn't, and I can confirm further; I love spray paint. Just in case I hadn't mentioned this before!

Inspired by the design element of organising content for the journal, in this exercise and the previous, I experienced a lightbulb moment when photos I had taken and printed were stacked on top of each other by accident whilst waiting to be glued down. Somehow the simple formation had sparked an interest, ideas that I was really feeling would be the ultimate finale for this course.

This is what I was looking at with the photos that were printed:

I was imagining what other images could work in the same layout from my library, but perhaps would add a sense of narrative. A thought I had in regards to a possible narrative, combining the works I had collected throughout part five had been inspired by the barnacles that were covering the rocks on the beach. I had questioned if possibly the behaviour of the barnacles, might also be similar to the behaviour of people, and how they gathered on the beach with zero space awareness. I wanted the layout of the above to be a telescope into the theme; People and Places, it felt right. It also felt like it would lead to the opportunity to creating a few different pieces that I could piece together using different media as I had wished.

The above set of images were tests using images I had already created. It didn't quite hit the same note as the photo montage, but I still felt there was something in the idea. I played with the photos in this layout to see if I could find a format that worked.

After shuffling images around and adding text, I still wasn't completely sure. The results I was getting with different images, didn't give me the same reaction as to the original multi image piece. The combination of the original montage was based on the rocks, almost about their destination, and the relation between them and the sand that divides them. For me the original definitely captured an energy that made sense, I was able to connect this formation of rocks with what I had observed with people on the beach.

I had confidence in the final idea that I was working towards, and as I wasn't going to use actual photos, I wanted to take advantage of the mixed media to create abstraction.

At this stage, I decided to take a step back and assess what I had created so far. I know from my action plan in a previous exercise, my intention was to create work organically. So far the process for this assignment has felt very organic in the way the ideas have developed by accident and through experimenting. I really feel I have taken a different approach through this assignment by looking for ideas from a different perspective. Photos had hugely helped my progression, combined with personal experience whilst collecting drawings on location.

Now I felt it was time to connect with the final outcome, deciding on the direction I wanted to take this final assignment in. The big question; Who am I making this for?

I really liked the idea of creating a piece for a window display. I was exploring ideas in my head of what this could look like with an illustration, and was soon pulling images from Pinterest for inspiration. Naturally my ideas went from just a painting, to a painting AND a mini installation to support the piece as well. I'm really inspired!

The examples collected above show a mix of window artwork, props, and illustrated elements for a variety of different retailers. I'm personally drawn to windows that creatively think outside the box. The huge displays at the much larger retailers, where budgets seem to be endless, can be incredibly inventive on how to elevate engagement through windows. It's magical to see a shop be transformed through the artwork displayed, it's certainly something I would love to see more of! That said, I seem to be seeing a lot of window art, murals and more in retail and food establishments, taking design and illustration to another level with large format.

When it comes to window art, I tend to associate the style with bookshops, especially to launch a children's book. It's a great way to engage with those that pass the window, it's also hugely appealing for children.

Fiona Lumbers

Fiona is a very inspiring illustrator and author working on children books such as Clem and Crab, Luna Loves Art and more. I've been hooked on her style for a few years, with particular love to her sketchbook pages that she often shares on Instagram. Fiona uses mixed media to create incredibly cute illustrations, mixed with a huge understanding on textures and how the medias work with each other. It's from watching Fiona's art (and a few other artists) that I have come to love the use of coloured pencils roughly used over paint, be it watercolour paint or gouache (a medium I have never used!) and other.

Sha'an d'Anthes aka Furry Little Peach

Whilst looking through Sha'an's work on Instagram for works that would support the children book window display, I came across this piece she had created below as part of a series, later in my developments. It was another moment in my journey that stopped me in my tracks, and instantly had me thinking about my final piece in a different perspective, and how I could see similarities in the themes I was wanting to cover.

Based on this, I decided to try a test piece that could combine elements I had been focusing on in my sketchbook planning stage; rocks, wind breakers and waves. Almost similar to this image I made in a previous exercise with the repeated wind breaker:

I feel as though I lost something with the above test. It no longer looks beach like with the dark grey rocks. Although I do like result, I think focusing on just the rocks in this formation doesn't make sense. The quick pencil sketch on the right could maybe work better, however I think it needs to be broken up with other beach elements, like sea and sand. Overall this study has made me less convinced in the direction I had been working towards. I needed to find a balance which made sense even in abstraction, I'm not sure this achieves it.

I think.I prefer close up of one rock as per the previous sketchbook studies. It worked as a textured background, and it isn't suggested.

Combining some of my thoughts, I decided to sketch a few rough concepts for the final piece that would later help me with planning.


To make the final piece I purchased an A2 sized paper, suitable for watercolour. I had cardboard boxes left over from deliveries which I was also going to paint and use as part of the overall look of the window display. It was going to be my way of combining all of the above into one final piece. Before reaching this stage, I scribbled small thumbnails of possible ideas for the installation in my sketchbook. I was trying to figure out what the retailer might be to commission the window, would it be a gift shop beside the sea, or a brand window? My imagination was pushing me to a more high end establishment, a place that would suit abstraction, yet still made sense to the theme of beach, outdoors, nature.

To make the rocks I cute simple shapes from the cardboard. I wanted them to stand freely together so to achieve this I cut strips from the cardboard and added slots where the rocks could slide in and stand. When I was happy with the layout of the rocks, I went ahead and spray painted them, then added the texture on top using oil pastel and pencil.

I then worked on the main painting for the backdrop. Using acrylic paint and pencil.

I was very pleased with outcome on both the painting and the rocks, but then I feel I may have lot my way the idea. When it came to putting it together, my vision of what I was hoping for slowly started to fall apart. Was it down to not getting a good photo with proper lighting, and instead having to makeshift the whole thing? Or were they just two very different elements which in the end didn't come together? Needless to say I continued on with the idea, in doing so I thought maybe a technique from a previous exercise might help influence a new idea.

I opted for outdoor footwear that can be good for walks and more. Balancing them on the rocks was a nod to the way we will climb through the rocks to reach new points. And with the background being a landscape of the sea and cliffs, they footwear would be appropriate.

Looking back I wondered if I should have better prepared the rocks so that the base would be white. Perhaps this would enhance the visual and better connect the two ideas? Thinking more graphic style.

although I wasn't very happy with the result of these ideas together, I mocked up a real window to show how it could look. As I had predicted based on the above photo, the shoes are lost and the rocks.. well they don't really look like rocks. My doubts of going abstract in the end played true, or perhaps it was just poorly executed.

With the painting alone, and maybe the fact it was the finale of my journey in Sketchbook, it had inspired a piece of writing from myself. Often I wouldn't share my words but I felt something more could be done with it, and perhaps I was wrong to be looking at making a window display when rather I could make a tote bag.

The fog falls over the cliff edge,

Erasing the landscape as it descends,

Like a drawing in a sketchbook,

Just a faint outline of what was,


Too nervous to add spray paint over my painting, I opted for making a similar effect in Photoshop, more for experimenting without worry of ruining anything. Sticking with the style I had developed with a can through part five, I wanted to bring the elements together, and add interest to the painting.

Using SCAMPER, I brought forward a few drawings I did on location and placed them as they were into the landscape. I love the yellow from the surfboards in contrast to the moody background. This, to me, feels more successful than the window display. With my short piece of writing, I found a canvas bag mockup and put this new concept together.

I imagined this style bag to be in a bookshop, even though the surfing and landscape may not exactly fit that scene. But story telling belongs in a book shop so why not!

Here is a version of the bag with just the painting and the words:

Despite my misfortune with the way my final idea in the shop window came out, the work created before and after this moment has been a true highlight. I wanted to bring all the learnings from the course and apply them in this assignment, and now that I have completed it, I feel as though it was somewhat successful. I feel I have achieved a huge transformation through this course, and expressing this here has been a huge breakthrough for me.

I am officially happy to say I have connected with my sketchbook. I found a place that I feel comfortable in and I am excited to keep going.



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