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

Assignment Three

Nine Panel Grid

A Chance Encounter

I want to believe that all chance encounters are magical moments with positive outcomes. I quickly take this exercise in one direction following this belief but know that chance encounters can also be negative. There's too much negativity in the world, I won't be adding to this!

Let's get started.

Quite often I associate a chance encounter with a potentially romantic outcome, all thanks to the many, many scenarios found in the movies I've binged from teen to adult. Ideas that involve some kind of small accident such as bumping into someone and dropping stuff on the floor (whatever that might be) are typically successful plots in feel good romantic narratives. Other types of chance encounters could be with nature, or extraterrestrial! Like coming face to face with a wild animal and it didn't lead to death or injury, or if you're the Spice Girls, meet a group of aliens in the woods.

I guess what I understand as a chance encounter, is a really rare moment experienced by chance that could lead to another or be completely unique in its own short moment, and with an overly inspired imagination, that chance could lead to friendship, romance or even a job. I think the main association of these type of encounters would be a positive outcome, though I suppose it is possible for bad results as well. I just don't feel like focusing on those today.

For this exercise I wasn't sure which direction to go in. I didn't feel qualified to create an extraterrestrial sci-fi, and I thought romantically would be a cliche. That said, I can be a bit of a sucker for a good romance, and maybe this would be a fun challenge.

I started with scribbling ideas down as a bit of a thought bubble. I was thinking about chance, and how it is often in the least expected places. I thought about narratives that involved exploring new territories, which in response leads to unexpected moments or encounters. When going outside the places you know, your senses are more alert, you observe more, navigate differently taking in the new landscapes, and in all you are open to possibilities. Like the Spice Girls jumping off the bus to go outside in a forest at night, of course this behaviour is not typical in their routine, and thats when chance finds them, strange as it is.

Instead of "bumping" into someone quite literally, I thought of ways around this synopsis. Considering a chance encounter as meeting someone new, in a modern world where chance happens to be matching with someone on a dating app, I saw this as a possible starting point, perhaps the reason for exploring unknown territories. It forces someone to try something different, in a way forcing them to look up, see the world, and in this moment is struck by a real chance encounter.


I liked this direction, reminding people of human interaction and how we can miss so many of these rare magical moments when we spend our time with our heads down in a fake pixel powered view of the world. They say the art of meeting people naturally is hard to come by nowadays, finding love is difficult and can only be sought through an app of likes and dislikes. It's sad, as really this is just a brilliant marketing plan that has become a form of true reality.

In brainstorming ideas, I had one reoccurring thought which I struggled to shake. I didn't know if it would be successful, nor did I really know how it would progress as a story.

What if this someone had come to a breaking point, in desperate need of life and adventure. Breaking the cycle and decides to escape the rat race for a weekend amongst nature. I had the idea that possibly this person would be going through a break-up or possible burnout with work, which is constantly chasing them via phone. In this trip, I wondered whether this person might find comfort in their freedom, realising the race brought nothing but emptiness. I was drawn to the idea being at a cliff edge overlooking the waving sea. Returning to the theme of exploring new territories leads to unexpected moments, this particular idea on the cliff edge opens all senses, sort of waking up the body from a long slumber. It couldn't be more further away from the repetitive safe zone this person was trapped in, shifting the mind set into an awakened state.


Reflecting on the exercises throughout part three, I was still inspired by introducing characters and narratives through an instant close up shot. My thoughts here lead to an idea for the first frame. A way to enter the story so that it could be the beginning, or it could be an extract to a larger story.


With an idea in mind, I went on to research styles that I thought would be work well.

I decided to not really focus on how I wanted to draw this comic, but perhaps more the design of it. I liked the above examples for the way they used colour. The image in the middle with "Over Print" on the t-shirt had sparked this collection for its use of the blue and red. I then collected others that had a similar way of using colour. All of which I felt was useful inspiration.

Whilst on this trip of colour, I came across an illustrator who creates futuristic themed comics. I'm quite drawn to the delicious finish in Risograph Printing, and the illustrator I discovered works heavily in this. I love the way colours look in this printing process, it's really inspired.

Wren McDonald - Utopia - 2020

This 9 panel comic by Wren McDonald felt like the perfect example to research for this assignment. As disturbing as the story appears, what I loved most was the way the story progressed in just 9 panels. Each frame felt like a big leap in time, yet also feeling urgent and fast paced. It helped me to think how I could move time along in a limited amount of panels, also without any form of dialogue. I like how each frame is a new view of the world, but the green that is drowning the city moves in from the left of each frame. You get a real sense that every frame matters, and with only 9 panels, they really do matter.

Could this help me to structure my own 9 panel comic? Could I create a narrative so clear that dialogue isn't needed? What I see in this piece by Wren, is that in between each frame could easily allow for more action packed frames. The story could be a full comic, yet it has been so well diluted that the impact is achieved within the limited frames. Understanding what key frames can help move the story along without needing others to back it up, would help hugely in achieving an impactful comic. So how to do it, I ask.

So far I had created this:

I wasn't completely convinced in the panels so far. Something felt a bit off, or perhaps needed replacing with something else.It wasn't terrible so far and as a whole I did think the layout was nice. I liked how the colours felt balanced when the panels were together. I did think it might need a moment to show the phone falling into the sea after it had been thrown. I also wondered whether zooming in on a few frames, or reversing the look to be opposite might make it flow better.

I drew a water splash moment and added it in. With a few other amendments I could see some frames definitely needed fixing. Here's with minor changes with existing drawings:

Once moving frames around, I felt I had lost the nice flow in the colour scheme. I flipped a few frames to see if this would help the flow, but I don't believe it did. Despite this doubt, I was considering the final two frames and used colours to help navigate. Did it need to be a green scene or a sky scene, what would help balance the colours through each frame.

Once I added in the water frame, I wondered if I might have created too many frames that didn't progress the story, only added details. Did I now need to make cuts as well?

Above image is a screenshot of my view on Illustrator. I tried to shorten the frames on the left, to see if the story would work just as well. Sadly, I'm not so sure it did, but it wasn't far from working. I think I need to know how the final frames would look, or at least what direction it was going to go in after the first meet. At this stage I was also debating if I could make it a silent comic, or should some dialogue be included.

I think originally, my idea was that a stranger would appear from no where, make a funny comment about the signal being bad to make light on seeing the person throw their phone in the sea for whatever reason. Of course it wasn't bad signal, but it made for an opening line. Thoughts I had on how this would help progress was that maybe the final frame would be a retrospect, saying "the signal wasn't bad that day." Or to add a lame joke about exchanging numbers. I know there was something in this idea, but I wasn't able to nail the delivery. Or maybe I needed to rethink it.

Again, I tried to think about the colours in the last three panels and how they could balance with the whole comic. Once I had this, I thought the middle row could be tweaked slightly so that the green on the left panel would be cut out.

I liked how the colours looked in this version, however I think the cliff edge needed to be shown, to give a sense of the vast empty space surrounding her. So I scrapped this crop, but it was worth seeing it to know I what I wanted.

Thinking of different ways to end this 9 panel comic, I thought of changing the final frames. Perhaps there was a way to make this a silent comic after all. With a terrible pen doodle on Illustrator, I visualised a different scenario that would unfold after throwing the phone.

I think this felt simple and possible. It was a moment of sharing a space with a stranger that understood. Much needed company at a highly stressful time, a way to distract and just be present in the space. I think the silence of this idea helped create an atmosphere that felt mutual. If I could illustrate a sense of the feeling that I wanted to convey from this sketch, then this really hit the spot with the idea I was trying to unravel. It would feel enough for 9 panels yet also make for a perfect start to a slightly longer story. For now; this was enough.



I hadn't really made any plans on how the characters would look in the story. I didn't go through a development stage in designing the characters, I just drew them on the first attempt and stuck with it. what I quickly noticed is that wasn't keeping consistency in each frame.

I thought it might be good to look back on those and maybe develop them further. Perhaps this would help with consistency. The panel that I was most happy with in how the characters looked was in this frame:

Using this as the base, I sketched out a new main character. I defined some details so that it would be easy to distinguish the two, such as creating an outfit for the main character and slightly different hair. Once I had something I was happy with, which again didn't involve much development, I proceeded with finalising the comic.

Returning to the comic, I was still a little bit stuck with the idea on how it will finish. I liked the most recent idea which would allow it be a silent comic. I liked the tranquility that was suggested with the silence and the peaceful surrounding. I just felt it lacked an action of some kind, even if it was a small gesture. With a quick tea break, the simple idea came to me.

With it being a "chance encounter" I felt something had to be slightly random with the story. Someone appears from no where was random, but was it enough? I felt it needed an arc of some kind. So I thought the small gesture of pouring a tea would be nice. It felt like it was a way of healing, connecting and possibility for more story to continue.

To help create the frames, I turned to setting up my own reference photos. Although I was successful in finding reference from Pinterest, I did feel it lacked the exact poses I wanted. It made the process so much easier with my own reference!

To finish it off, I added a little noise effect over the image so that it would have a Risograph print feel to it. I'm so pleased with the result in this, and I'm really glad that I stuck with it and finally completed it. It took several hours / late evenings to complete it, which I think was worth it in the end.


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