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

Assignment Four

Updated: Sep 17, 2020

Magazine Illustration


I sat with the words for a few days wondering which to focus on. The difficulty in this exercise was finding objects for a still life. I had thought perhaps I could just collect images online of what could be an obvious selection for each word, but that felt like cheating. The mission was to find it in my home.


To begin, I was drawn to the word Lost. I didn't want to go in a typical "travel" like direction, plus I didn't have any objects that I could even attempt to relate on this. I got the sketchbook out and made my spider diagram.



My words were strongly leaning towards meditation and wellness, which I had the perfect objects to rustle up a still life for. The next stage was setting them up, I took photos to help with crops and angles which I then went on to work with.


I wanted to include nature, texture and things I associate with meditation. My vision was to represent the word in a way that shows you losing anxiety, stress, depression etc.


I began to imagine the article that the illustration would support. I felt it would discuss the facts and figures of the increase number of people that suffer with mental illness in todays society. Struggling to cope and feeling lost. I felt the article would be promoting self care, and suggesting methods that are proven to decrease stress related problems. I imagined it would be advising a balanced lifestyle, things you can do in your own time and space that cost nothing. Above this it would also promote a helpline for those in need of help.


So with this in mind, I wondered what style would best suit this message.


I started with a need to get a better understanding of the sorts of illustrations you can find in magazines, by checking the titles I was familiar with, and some not so much!


The majority of magazines fell under mindfulness and wellbeing, which reflected my own ideas on the exercise.


Project Calm is a magazine I check often. It's usually full with magical illustrations that seem to fit a theme with each edition. The covers are always so inviting!



Breathe is another beautiful magazine packed with illustrations that really hit the mark on creating a sense of calm. The covers really make use of space. The figure in each of the below covers (apart from Teen Breathe) are surrounded by space and nature. They are set in locations that you know would bring gratitude, a sense of perspective and an overall feeling of calm. The figure in each are pictured in a wide view, allowing the viewer to also enjoy the tranquil space. Each cover is in a different style by different artists, but all share the same distant landscape.


This is something I would like to consider with my own illustration.



I picked out the below magazine, Flow, for the illustration style and contents. The image on the right is actually a still life, it made me wonder whether I would do something similar. I loved the colours and the flatness to the still life, it also looks to be created with traditional mediums.



Brummell Magazine made it to my list because of the graphic style. I loved all of these covers and found them very interesting to look at. They each had a title, and an illustration that perfectly reflected it. They felt smart, and obvious in the same breath.



What I did find interesting when looking at all the above images, was the style in which they were done in. One major similarity that I noticed was how mostly all (apart from the Brummel "Ones to Watch" cover) are done without any outline, be it in black or a softer colour. I wondered if this brought any significant relevance to the contents of the magazine. Does having a black outline make the illustrations too harsh or too cartoony? Are outlines more graphic style illustrations?


The next step of the exercise was to draw a realistic observation of your still life.


 

AFTER FEEDBACK


I came back to this part of the exercise after receiving feedback from my tutor. It did look as though I had skipped quite a big part of the exercise as I didn't really produce a detailed drawing of my still life. Instead I somewhat cheated this by doing a half sketch which was roughly A4 sized in my sketchbook, and then finished it off in Photoshop (this can be seen further down the blog). As I had already completed a version of the original set up and developed ideas for a final illustration based on this, I decided I wanted to try a slightly different set up. Keeping to mostly the same objects, I changed the location for more natural light and stripped it down to feel a little more minimalist. I chose to work in Acrylic paint for this study, as it is definitely my favourite traditional medium and one I feel most confident using!




Taking on board the styles of the magazines I had collected, I wanted a name for the magazine that was simple yet instantly recognisable for what the contents of the magazine is. Having now finished part 5 which included typography, I wanted to use this knowledge when selecting a font. I chose a font that felt curvy, calm and modern, avoiding any sharp edges. I purposefully chose italic to push the relaxed feeling further and to get a sense of flow. The font I went for is called Giulia and I have it set as Light Italic. I threw in a fake barcode and a call out to finish off the magazine details so you can see how the illustration works well with typical magazine cover information. I'm really pleased with the result and feel it would fit comfortably on a shelf with the above magazines.


A connection with using this painting as the cover is, like the research above, that the piece has no outlines. Now seeing the illustration in the magazine format you can see how this style fits the aesthetics of the magazine and the nature of its contents. This must be something to consider when developing a final piece.


 

BEFORE FEEDBACK


Now it was time to "manipulate" the elements from the still life. I began with choosing a focal point of the idea, in this case, and many going forward, my focus was of the curvy lady doing yoga. I love her! I found it easier to work with a central character, and as she was one of the smallest elements in my still life set up, I thought it would be fun to blow her and play with proportions. Although as this little statue is of a female, playing with proportions wasn't all that difficult. It just felt more.. real!



It wasn't a bad initial idea, and actually it is an idea I explore later down the line after finding some pretty cool artists.


Before that, I took the sketch on the left of the above page and threw it in Photoshop. This was my first attempt at creating a detailed study of my still life.


I tried something different with this piece. I didn't want the colouring to be perfect, and in fact, opted to made a very sketchy illustration. It was definitely just an experiment with a charcoal dry brush in Photoshop. Is this a piece I could move forward with and use within my development for a final illustration? Not really.


Now that I created a name for my magazine client, this scratchy and rough effect definitely doesn't fit. It's chaotic and the very opposite of my theme of getting lost in meditation. It's a screaming mess!


I then tried a softer approach. This also became the first stop for a little artist inspiration.



When searching "lost illustration" on Pinterest, an image comes up in the first instance. Often when searching through mental health related illustrations, this same concept is used. The face is usually smudged, distorted. To me, this represents the unmanageable thoughts that overlap in ones mind. It's distressing, it's powerful, and you can lose your mind.


Image from Pinterest, artist unkown

I also get a sense of the artist when looking at work like this. I feel they had a message, wanted to express something but they only way they knew how was via the disruptive brush stroke across the head. There are no words, it's just a visual understanding. It is emotive and expressive. So I wanted to explore this in my still life. Making areas of the digital painting smudged to show loss. Loss in emotion and also identity.



In my own efforts of distorting areas, I really liked the effect however not sure it works for the full still life. Perhaps only the lady?


I turned to my sketchbook to do a mini study using oil pastels. After creating an almost realistic version I tested the pastels on the right to see if I could achieve the smudge. Really all I did was draw the actual smudged lines and then smudged it with paper. It wasn't the technique I had in mind and felt that oil pastels probably wasn't the right medium for this.




A DIFFERENT LOOK


I moved over to the website "It's Nice That" for illustration inspiration where I then decided to search the word "Lost". I was curious what would come up in the results, whether there was any topics associated with the word etc. Here I discovered the artist Ji Hyun Yu. She created a series of illustrations that would see her searching for her lost glasses.



"I mean, who forgets their glasses in the labyrinth? But that’s the point. We keep looking for them as if they are in such a difficult place. In other words, I tried to show the irony, in an ironic way.” - Ji Hyun Yu: Where Are My Glasses? [1]

I went back to the very first idea I sketched out and made a flat 2D digital version similar to the style of Ji Hyun Yu. By this I mean the I sued her colour palette, and used a black outline.



I felt like I was getting closer to an illustration I could potentially use in a magazine.


EXPLORING


I had the idea of making a comic strip. Perhaps I could communicate the sense of losing anxiety through a sound bath process. Almost like leaving your coat hanging on the coat hanger and leaving without it. That blissful moment before realising you've forgotten it is that moment of tranquility. If you've not experienced a sound bath, then I highly recommend. You can be sceptical of whether or not you will be able to meditate, let go of anxiety and stress, or even relax, but the power of the gong and singing bowls can really disconnect you from you. It is magic, and unique. Your experience will be different to someone else.


I find it would be difficult to put the experience into an illustration, as for me I didn't have visions or imagine myself anywhere, it was just empty, all you hear is the sounds being played and you're just lost, who knows where you go! This is where the sense of space like Breathe magazine felt appropriate. It's like a never ending void that you're just in, and it's beautiful.


The cartoon sketch I attempted didn't really express the above. I accept that it was just a visual reference of the idea, but it still felt unclear.

It needed more, but then would it be too much for this exercise? Nevertheless I then expanded the comic strip to give a wider view in the space one can be lost in. It's in the space/void that one can find peace, clarity, forget anxiety and all other stress. I also wanted to show that the character is in a cocoon like hammock.



This felt too busy. I liked the idea of using space to amplify the sense of letting go. The comic above needed another box to show the final stage to the process, actually letting go of anxiety. So I wondered what I could do to simplify and conclude. Could I break the strip down in to 2 or 3 boxes? Maybe I had to return to a different object as the inspiration?


I looked at an artist I included in a previous exercise. I really like her bold style, the simplistic way she uses shape and space. I appreciated the way she would create split artworks like a comic. A normal view, and then a deflated version or similar twist.



It made me think back to the curvy yoga lady I had in my still life. Perhaps I she would be so relaxed in the pose and zone that in the next frame she would be melted. So with this I decided to quickly rough the idea in photoshop.


I loved the colours, the double frame and the concept. But is this saying Lost? By now I really was playing with the idea of splitting the drawing. It felt appropriate to portray the lady in a before and after, my only block was deciding what and how. What is she doing and how to portray lost.


After experimenting with different layers, a came to the conclusion of combining both the melted and solid figure into one. Here is the result.



In this version, I considered the use of colour and layers as a means to create the idea of lost. I wanted the blue to be the result of calm and strength, whilst the red was anxiety melting away. Is it a clear portrayal of the word? That's questionable to the viewer, but in my eyes it does. My whole mission here became a mission to show a journey of meditation, the word lost was the achievement of reaching your personal escape. The baggage you've collected through the week or the even just the day, how to let it go, lose it. This illustration for me shows the before and after, the space in between is the moment you're lost. I took away the complicated elements that just caused confusion. I felt the curvy lady was how I was going to convey my point from the very beginning. I feel I journeyed through this exercise working out how she was going to do that.


A quote I found, but sadly cant find the source, said " Yoga is a movement to prepare the body for meditation. On the way to sitting for long periods, yoga stretches and soothes the body into postures called Asana practises." This line became my imaginary article, and therefore, the above image represents the preparation and the result.


But that wasn't enough. At least not yet.


A common note I found from my tutor was to explore ideas more and not arrive to the final piece too quickly. I tend to do one idea and then the final piece is ready. I already felt as though I had explored a lot in this exercise, but I wasn't clear on the final outcome partly because I wasn't convinced myself. Since the feedback I did go back and add more. I wanted to work more in the sketchbook and be confident with the working out. This meant doing more than a light pencil sketch which is like a whisper in the background of a possible point I want to make. Out came the oil pastels and the pens.


MORE INSPIRATION


A few illustrations I had found in magazines I purchased stood out to me for a few reasons. The style mostly, and the contents secondly. They were humorous and meaningful. The worked really well with the article they supported. They weren't perfect renders of people, they had imperfections that made them perfect.




Jessica Vaughan is the artist above on the right. Her were spoke to me most for the reason being that the objects felt subjective. It felt as though all the elements around those people were there for a reason. They had notes in the background that were blatantly related to the article. The imperfect figures in the article hit a note of body positivity, a style that seem to be a super popular and inclusive trend which is important today - an example being her illustration at the bottom with "how to get better legs + bum" playing on a laptop behind her, this female character has hair on the legs. two fingers up to the beauty industry and the push for perfection females feel they have to abide by, albeit its with a video for getting a "better" figure, but I think the irony is supposed to be there.



The above illustrations are in a totally different style, to me is more graphic. They're a little more complex which goes well with the complexity of our mind. In both of these images I get the impression the article they support would relate to mental health as there is a clear emphasis on the head in both. Image on the left has no defining features, just a simple silhouette with a maze that is present within the frame. This idea is not a new idea on how we perceive mental health, a maze is a great representation on showing anxiety, dead ends and all other triggers for an unstable mind. Lost is certainly a word that comes to mind when thinking of a maze, so placing this within the area that holds our mind, our conscious, it speaks a lot of the state of the mental health. We also see a big transparent red circle in the area of the cheek. Why is that there if nothing else is? Is it because it looks cute and balances out the tones in the illustration, or does it hold another meaning? It's quite dominant in the illustration, it makes me think of the a GPS signal, or the note on a map to say "You are Here" - is that metaphorical in this piece? Probably not, but it's interesting to question.


the piece on the right again is suggestive with the questions being focused around the mind. This time we see features on the figure face, they obviously hold important value to the image otherwise they wouldn't be there. So you look at the expression. eyes are closed, a face of content? Is this suggesting solitude in ones own little world? Peace within? It looks almost sci-fi as if this fantasy world is merging with reality. Her closed eyes is dreaming and the floating circles, which acknowledgment to the use of round edges as opposed to sharp pointed shapes, surround the mind and drifting in a blue sky. Her hair that is within the area of blue sky shape has much smaller white circles, suggesting stars in a night sky. so does this mean the circles around are planets? is this related to space? Finding space for yourself to breath?


I wondered how I could achieve the same level of analytical thinking within my own illustration. Can I create an artwork that included these suggestive points for the viewer to question or relate. Did my graphic approach of the preparation and result achieve this?


Using this inspiration I tried to channel their style and looked at creating a scene for my yoga lady.


What sparked the idea of creating a scene was this sketch of an almost fish eye view from the bed. This drawing came from a moment of despair, when I was truly feeling lost in my own work during this exercise. Stuff was spread out, paper was all over and I was sat in a pile of confused mess. I thought to completely change the objects as I spent more time scratching my head trying to work out the connection to the word in the brief. I visioned a Jessica Vaughan style for this, which actually sparked the concept in the top left corner above. Bring back the yoga lady! and place her in a similar scene as Jessica. There she is on her yoga mat in a room full of positivity. I thought of the maze in the mind from the work I had discussed earlier and got the idea of it being a labyrinth, which when I checked the meaning of the labyrinth, I discovered that this symbol has long been used for meditation!


"A labyrinth is an ancient symbol that relates to wholeness. It combines the imagery of the circle and the spiral into a meandering but purposeful path. The Labyrinth represents a journey to our own center and back again out into the world. Labyrinths have long been used as meditation and prayer tools..." - http://www.lessons4living.com/labyrinth.htm

I explored another more graphic idea with a maze like design surrounding the lady, but in the end wanted to focus on this room idea with a few symbols scattered around, much like Jessica Vaughan.


My first step was creating a convincing space. I used one of my own rooms as inspiration here, and did an observational drawing which I could use.



A lot of plants! Amongst the plants I placed the original Buddha that was in my still life at the beginning. This was to going to be the main backdrop for my yoga lady. Once I was happy with the drawing, I put it in photoshop and built the rest of the illustration up on top.



I really took inspiration from Jessica Vaughan in this final piece, and I'm glad. I'm really pleased with the way this came out, and I'm also pleased with how I manage to include all elements from the still life. Buddha, incense and nature. I managed to get the labyrinth in there plus the title which is the name of the YouTube video she is listening to.


I then mocked this up in a magazine template. Created the title and added in some jargon. To compliment the illustration I brought attention to the labyrinth by blowing this up as a full page image on the opposite page.


Ironically this piece went against my early research of no outlines. It does look cartoony, and perhaps does change the meaning I wanted to achieve from the beginning. Nevertheless I feel as though I stayed true to the brief and manipulated the still life into a piece that told a story.


This has been quite the journey in the end. Working backwards, or mixing things up in different orders really lead to an interesting process. I think a lesson I take from this process is to trust in my own analytical thinking. Allow those questions that come when looking at another artist work to be part of the process in creating my own work. Once I returned to this exercise after completing the course and receiving all feedback from my tutor, I felt as though I had a clearer direction on how to develop the idea. Ultimately this came down to the simple reminder of understanding the brief.


Part four really explored the way of developing ideas. It takes you through different avenues that help an illustrator find the ground they feel comfortable at when working out the final artwork. It shows that the journey is important to getting the result you want. I feel I did use all of this within this exercise and came to a concluded illustration. Even if an idea I explored earlier was stronger than the one a settled on when thinking of the word lost, the decision making through out gave me the confidence to commit and that will help me going forward.



REFERENCE



Magazine Cover mock-up



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