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

Research 3.5

Visual Research

Answer these questions in your learning log:

• How does the character of the sketches relate to the final illustrations?

• Are there any texts or stories you have encountered that relate to any of the drawings you

have produced during this section of the course?

Lob, Linda Newbery & Pam Smy. Published February 4th 2010 by David Fickling Books

It was a delight to view the works by Pam Smy along side her own commentary in respect to the process, from initial research to final works. There is always a sense that illustration is sometimes like magic, how the trick is performed is a magician's best kept secret, much like an artist. That said, more and more do we see an artist process, and it is always fascinating to learn another artist technique. It's an added bonus when you can hear from the artist themselves how they come to the final destination and what turns they had to take to arrive there. Pam is no exception. This article is a great insight into Pam's process, and I love how she communicates her research in the Empty Common allotment in Cambridge as she gathers an array of content to help develop her illustrations for the book.

I love the concept behind the story the Green Man, and how both artist and illustrator came to the agreement of representing this mysterious man, Lob, as a figure that is neither here nor there in appearance. Playing on the idea that his existence is of the imagination, and only a rare few can ever catch a glimpse of his presence. Whilst reading the article I found myself familiar with the idea, and how it made me try and reflect on my own experiences of perhaps seeing the Green Man. Alas, I'm not sure I have been so fortunate, but the idea is completely charming. What I love, and also makes me chuckle, is how each person that may have come into contact with such a being have all given such varied descriptions, or have different names they've each given him, something that perhaps reflects on the people and the imagination.

When looking at the sketchbook illustrations that Pam had collected as a huge part of the research, the charming illustrations that make it to print feel like a real, well-observed place thanks to the time spent observing. They're inspired and real, and certainly homely. From one sketchbook spread, title "Men and their sheds" you can already get a sense of how Pam is going to bring the mysterious green man into the book, without it being obvious. The scenes Pam has sketched are peaceful and tranquil, the figures hiding in sheds, in the overgrown foliage are natural and almost as organic as the allotment.

Figure 6: Cornelius and Lob is a beautiful example of how those initial sketches from "Men in their sheds" inspired such a scene. It's fitting that grandpa is sitting beside his shed resting with his companion, Lob. It feels tired but pleased with perhaps a good day gardening, or perhaps the story in this particular illustration supports text that is proud, whilst they watch little Lucy, the apprentice, grow to love nature and gardening. It's a beautiful slice of the story, and very well composed to leave suggestion for the reader. The figure of Lob is well hidden, and at first glance is almost unnoticeable. It is this that makes the early meetings between author and illustrator a huge success in creating magic behind the character that is Lob. Not defining the character to a certain appearance, just a looming shadow that takes a moment to recognise, to me this is such a great way to inspire a child's imagination, which would be encouraged even more so if the parent or guardian is not able to see it. What an incredible feeling the young readers must have when experiencing this story and seeing the illustrations for the first time.

Not only is it evident in the illustrations for the story of the Green Man, but much of Pam's work also brings a strong sense of place. Using the allotment for research looks to have helped Pam compose the illustration, creating frames with foliage, and making each image feel familiar. They don't feel farfetched or unrealistic in any way, in fact the final illustrations feel as though they have been closely observed directly, as if they are part of reality. They feel to be as much of an observational drawing as the sketches from the allotments. With the figures being present naturally in the scenes.

I think my favourite page shared is Figure 9: The man who walks the roads. Homage to Linda and the inspiration behind the manuscript. I love how the text, so simple and touching, sits together with an illustration that feels like such a fleeting moment. It's rural, peaceful and strangely makes me feel sad.



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