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

The History Of Illustration

Updated: Aug 1, 2019

For this exercise I chose to focus on the works of Edward Ardizzone and Jim Field.

I wanted to find two artists that had similarities yet are also very different. I wanted to show the modern children's book against a classic, by exploring the different generations and their attention span, and how this reflects in todays society.

Starting with Edward Ardizzone, I began with understanding his style by looking as far back as his early work, through to the war illustrations, the commercial work and lastly, his children books. I felt excited when researching his work, partly because of the rich library of works available, but mostly because there was life in his illustrations which felt expressive, loose and yet detailed at the same time.

A few pieces caught my eye in a way that I felt like I could see modern art within them, as if famous work today had taken huge inspiration from him. For example, the commercial piece Ardizzone created for the Guinness "Gives you strength" campaign, immediately took me to the famous Red Bull story and illustrative style with the quote "Gives you Wings".

Not sure how I cam to the conclusion that these were similar. I guess it's the whole branding of Red Bull which resinated. Although the illustration is more cartoony, the simple lines and colours used felt familiar when looking at Ardizzone.

I focused on "Sarah and Simon and NO RED PAINT". It reminded me of a time my dad would make a joke by asking me to look for a spotty paint in the art shop! The children in the story are drawn in a simplistic style, their features hardly defined. The background is also simple in some places, where lines are minimal and shading is cross hatched. Yet the tactical use of lines almost build a detailed environment which gives a real sense of time and place. The use of watercolour is suggestive and soft, giving hints of character throughout the book.

Illustrating in Ardizzone's style felt natural to me. The line work is fluid and sketchy, with layers he creates details which faintly outlines a scene. A pattern in a few of Ardizzone's books was the use of 2 main characters, normally a little boy and girl.

For my own piece, I kept the theme similar. A young boy and girl exploring their local area with Douglas the dog, perhaps also on a mission to help their dad find spotty paint. On their travels they discover a huge amusement park, which of course they were excited about and had forgotten all about their mission. Without thinking they ran to join the queue.

I had noticed with Ardizzone that almost all of his illustration had the same recipe. The use of the long shot view is a consistent theme, making sure an entire scene is visible. The children remain at the same distance throughout, which I believe makes it easier to keep facial features minimal, almost without identity.

Children books today are far more dynamic. The different angles used purposely draw you in, the characters have distinct features, the settings are stylised, the action is fast paced, and also the text of the story is often part of the illustration. It is a fact, however, that the attention span in todays society is dramatically different. People today find it harder to keep their focus on something if it isn't engaging. Like films, I think a book also reflects this as they become more and more like a storyboard, perhaps this is the reason for the change in style and dynamics? Illustration in books now also consider the design, from colours to layout to typography, questioning how will it engage with the reader? Will this book grab the readers attention? Is it a book they will read again?

Instead of following the same recipe for each page, the dynamics are more flamboyant. The illustrator has less time to keep the reader interested, decisions are made and in a way, the illustrator is able to control the reader. Of course if the author is someone else, then this becomes a collaborative effort to make the story engaging. Jim Field, the second illustrator I am studying, is a good example to demonstrate the change in energy through children books.

The Person Controller, written by David Baddiel and illustrated by Jim Field, is a story I wanted to focus on because of the line work. I could see similarities between both artists with this book alone, but clearly show a distinct difference with generation. Jim Field's illustration are very stylised and perfect. By this I mean the lines are very graphic, when looking closer you are able to see each line used to colour in, and also the direction they go in. I think it's fascinating to see how a change of direction in the lines gives a different tone.

I also chose this book for its layout, or page design. The book is broken up with different illustrations, some full page, some half. You have the full illustrations as seen below, where an entire environment is being presented with details that not only speak of the main characters, but also the characters in the background. You're learning behaviours and personality through the details in which Field has shared. The lighting illuminates the areas you should focus on, yet allows for your eyes to scan across the picture.

You feel like you are being introduced to a lifestyle here, the children come home from school and spend the evening playing video games, whilst the parents are also sat in front of a tv, showing no interaction between the two. The little detail of the tea cup the mum is holding also shares that information about the lifestyle. If all you had was this image and title, I think you can already get an understanding of where this story was going, something tells me it's going to involve the outdoors.

You then find pages with a pure white background, where focus is primarily on the characters. Again showing signs that Field is able to engage with the reader through dynamic design, he's aware of the time he has to draw the reader in, and by removing the background completely he has successfully saved time. The reader doesn't need to scan an entire page which could distract from the action, instead their eyes go straight to the information.

For my interpretation of Jim Field's work, I kept the story going from the Ardizzone piece. The brother and sister have now totally abandoned their mission, and have taken to the biggest ride in the amusement park. It seemed like a great idea at the time, but Courtney is now regretting the decision to join her brother, "what on earth am I doing up here?! I wish I stayed with Douglas!" She thought, just as their cart reached the highest point before plunging into super speed around the tracks. Through the loops, twisting left and right - Christopher was loving every second with both hands in the air, which didn't help Courtney relax at all.

Having explored both styles, I'm not sure I was completely successful with working in Field's style, though enjoyed the results nonetheless. I think it would have been more successful having stuck with a pencil. I feel like its a style that needs practice, to be understand the powers a pencil can have. With that said, I have learned more about the design in children books through this exercise by comparing a classic story to one of today. That relation between author and illustrator has always been a strong bond, the collaboration on deciding how they would like to engage with the reader. The classic recipe is still a popular method in today, however more and more stories do use the dynamic approach. Each book is like a short animated film, more design is involved with characters, the environments and the expression. There's a huge variety of books available now, and all are competing against the consumers attention span. There is now only seconds to make an impression, especially with children.

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