Assignment One

‘Produce an illustration that visually responds to the following extract from Italo Calvino’s 1972 novel Invisible Cities. Try and reflect the visual depth portrayed in Calvino’s writing. Choose how you do this, either by applying the principles of perspective or throwing out the rule book to create an image with its own visual logic.

Thin cities 5

If you choose to believe me, good. Now I will tell how Octavia, the spider web city, is made. There is a precipice between two steep mountains: the city is over the void, bound to the two crests with ropes and chains and catwalks. You walk on the little wooden ties, careful not to set your foot in the open spaces, or you cling to the hempen strands. Below there is nothing for hundreds and hundreds of feet: a few clouds glide past; farther down you can glimpse the chasm’s bed.

This is the foundation of the city: a net which serves as passage and as support. All the rest, instead of rising up, is hung below: rope-ladders, hammocks, houses made like sacks, clothes- hangers, terraces like gondolas, skins of water, gas jets, spits, baskets on strings, dumb-waiters, showers, trapezes and rings for children’s games, cable-cars, chandeliers, pots with trailing plants.

Suspended over the abyss, the life of Octavia’s inhabitants is less uncertain than in other cities. They know the net will last only so long.’


I had a look at images of Chicago. Why? Well, just because it looks like a nice city and it has suitably tall building to create a good skyline if I depict modern buildings…


Elements that caught my eye…water/waterfall, lights, bridges, ferris wheel, boats, trees

View of Chicago River at Wolf Point Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017. | Chris Fusco/Sun-Times

Michael Birawer’s painting of Chicago; you can see the warping does still have a logic and co-herence…Its not entirely random

Wow. Below is The Bean, what a great picture. At this point who wouldn’t get a bit distracted with 5 point perspective??  I had to look it up to even understand this kind of visual distortion. Its really tempting to dive into. So I did.

Castle Neuschwanstein is another slight obsession of mine. I love it that an actual real life king got totally carried away building fairytale castles. Poor chap didn’t have a good end.

More inspiration… Ankor Wat. I was thinking about different religions, architectural styles and building materials

Earth and rock dwellings from around the world – Turkey,

Ancient Anasazi dwellings

Eco home, California

Afganistan  and Syria

Turkish architecture


I mentioned earlier that The Bean sculpture in Chicago inspired me to look at 5 point perspective…I couldn’t resist attempting some rough sketches to try and get the hang of it.

I began wondering if I could combine this method with the brief but Im not sure using fancy perspective tricks is the best fit.

The description includes detail that may be difficult to include entirely in one image, but I had a thought about what essential elements should be in the picture. I found I was veering towards the idea of basic dwellings made from natural materials that have sprung up in an ad hoc way over the years with little money or regard to safety. I knew I needed to include dwellings hanging in the space between mountains, which implies the buildings are suspended rather than supported against the rock face. This led me to a tear drop shape.

Here are my idea sketches, exploring different viewpoints in perspective.

Idea 1: An aerial view directly overhead – not much scope to show the actual dwellings though. Too modern looking?

Thinking about the shape and style of the dwellings and rope walkways

Idea 2: Viewed from the side – I was experimenting with the style of house with pointed roofs and turrets, but the main area consists of earth huts strung haphazardly from the rock face.

Block shaped dwellings

Idea 3: Looking up from the ground – this doesn’t give enough sense of height, and seeing the ground is too reassuring; it doesn’t look precarious.

Idea 4: Looking from above – more dramatic and hopefully gives a sense of the drop below

Next I thought about what materials I would like to use. Im really into learning more about using pen at the moment, here’s some exercises from a book by Alphonso Dunn…I have very little experience of cross hatching and I’d like to give it a try. I want to evoke an old fashioned feel to my image. Maybe it was made by an explorer years ago…

And I would like to incorporate a sepia tone. I could add this in photoshop after scanning in my image, but I ordered some brown card to work on…

I drew out my work based on previous sketches and removed the figure as although it gave a sense of scale I wasn’t sure if a single figure ought to only really be present if its part of the narrative.

But for some reason I decided on an over sized tree which is not working well, its too dominant.

I was also stuck on how to draw the eye to the dwellings – but then I realised I could use tone using dark and light pastel which I think has worked alright.

I scanned my work into photoshop and got rid of the tree to firm up my finished image

My Work








Visual Depth

‘Produce three drawings depicting a room in your house using one-point, two-point and three-point perspective. This is an exercise to develop your understanding of the principles of perspective…

Produce a fourth drawing using isometric projection to represent the room.

Produce a fifth drawing of the room in which you deliberately break the rules and draw the space with its own visual logic and, finally, do a flat drawing… You don’t need to produce finished illustrations for these pieces, though you can if you want to.

I had a blitz a few years ago where I decided I was going to Learn About Perspective (!) Its been really good to return to it, as I felt fairly confidant at the basic theory, but vague on some details which I think come with more practise…

The two books I have found most useful are:

Draw 3D. This is accessible and fun – aimed at all ages and a good introduction to the subject.

Perspective Made Easy. I’ve heard Norling’s book is a classic. Rightly so, its so thorough, and beautifully illustrated. In a few places, the written description is a bit hard to follow – I think its just best not to over think it, then everything goes OK.

I have to say I’m a total anorak with perspective and I really enjoy it. Its really rewarding and quite relaxing being able to follow rules to create any scene you want once you have the hang of it. I chose to draw both imaginary scenes and some from my home to help my learning process more (I know I was being extra swotty!).  I learnt a lot from this exercise; I discovered that I’m a bit vague about common architectural details of a room, when not observing a real one for example. I also became more aware of your field of view in real life and so on.

One point perspective

Imaginary scene: I probably should have used a ruler for the stairs, as I allowed my lines to droop.

This is a digital sketch of my kitchen –  its intended to be one point perspective, but I admit I am looking at a slight angle. (grr!) Ideally the back wall would look horizontal, but I drew what I saw…

Two point perspective

I worked hard to try and maintain the feeling that its the same imaginary room but now in 2 point perspective – I think I succeeded OK. A fun challenge.

A few very quick biro roughs of my house




Three point perspective

A more detailed pencil sketch


Isometric projection

Spectrum Noir Felt tip sketch to add a bit of colour. I used a light box with an angled grid on it, to keep it consistent, but free hand makes for some wobbles!

Breaking the rules of perspective

I’ve never deliberately distorted an image before! I spent quite a lot of time developing this and then colouring it for good measure. It seems a really suitable style for a children’s book.

A flat image

I don’t know why we were asked to do this last? This took me right back to childhood as its obviously the simplest kind of drawing possible with no tricky angles . It felt like ‘cheating’ but it was rather relaxing to do.

My thoughts

Write around 200 words analysing how these different approaches affect the ‘meaning’ of the visual space being represented. When you choose to draw with or without perspective what is this saying?’

I would say that these approaches perhaps effect the mood more than the meaning. I was interested to find that the various approaches made me respond differently to the task – for example, this final drawing – the flat image –  is very restrained and made me work rather tightly. Im surprised to find although it could be a cold style, it has the potential to be oddly charming , the simplicity has a kind of unadorned clarity.

In contrast, working in a way that distorts perspective encouraged me to have fun and enjoy the process. The resulting image says ‘don’t take me seriously’!

As I mentioned, I really found great benefit in rendering both imaginary and observed. It made me think much more carefully about the task and get deeper into the subject.

The difference in viewpoint conveys a range of things: Obviously 3 point perspective can either be a ‘worms eye’ or a ‘birds eye’ view. Having an image loom over us could make us feel various things depending on the scene – awe, fear, the urge to hide and so on.  But it would depend on the subject matter too.

I’m not quite so sure about 1 and 2 point perspective. They both have the potential to be quite dynamic and draw us into the picture.

Using perspective might imply a greater sense of formality, but I don’t think so. There is still plenty of scope to be playful or distort reality within this framework.  Magritte and Dali rendered scenes with accuracy but very surreal elements. Its our world, but a very odd version, which actually heightens the strangeness.

I wonder if ignoring perspective may be a technique that speaks to other illustrators more than a general viewer? If someone comments: ‘Why is that wonky, it looks wrong, I don’t get it’…We won’t be there to explain ourselves! Consequently I would be mindful of a viewer shutting down and pulling away from image because they feel confused or irritated. So I think ignoring perspective needs to be approached with an audience in mind.




Find examples of illustrators who have designed wallpapers, fabrics, wrapping paper or for other flat surfaces that you find interesting. How do their illustrations play with the idea of flatness?

I had a brief look at vector art as it can be quite flat and minimalist in style…Although this is intended to be a digital image, not for surface design.

Stuart Holmes

Vector art from shutter stock

These two clip art pieces must be by the same artist. I love the way the pattern simply runs across the poodle and the vibrant colours

Vector art from 123RF

Superflat art movement – Takashi Murakami

More bright colors and cheeky simplicity

Sara Miller

On to actual surface design –  I can see the possibilities of pattern layering with these beautiful birds.

Angie Lewin

A more subdued but pretty colour pallette. Here the plants are two dimensional and the perspective of the mug is deliberately distorted. A sense of distance is hinted at – like a subtle form of aerial perspective but there are no strict rules.

These are quite intricately designed – particularly in the second picture, where some of the plants do appear to be in front of others.

I struggle a bit with these colours. Do you ever get that 70s feeling? Its ‘I sort of love this, but I also feel a bit sick’??

Sheila Robinson

This is so pretty, and evokes an old style woodcut. I like the space between elements too, and the animals are actually quite detailed.

Emily Sutton

Again, I struggle a bit with certain shades of yellow/gold but this is very bold and highly effective. You can see the distortion on the jug.

Christopher Brown

Im a sucker for a lurcher

Ruth Thorp

I really like the tones in this example. Very simple shapes working well together.

Trois Miettes

Love these bright colours against the muted wood

Karen Vermeulen

I love this, both the pared down colour choice and the liveliness.

Nikita Saami

Very sweet pattern – all the information your eye needs

I love the way this floral pattern serves as backdrop to these dog silhouettes

Another layered look though this gorgeous horse is more realistically rendered and has depth

Jane Dignum

Very effective shell shapes – its interesting to see just how little we need to ‘believe in’ a shape

Samantha Groom

This is interesting because she has mixed flat florals with a suggestion of form with the pattern on the vase.

These are charming but (aw i can’t help it) they do look badly drawn. I feel like I’m not ‘in’ on this, its like you’re supposed to ‘know’ more about art or something.?? My partner glanced over and said ‘Thats a bit crap’. Thats sort of my response if Im honest, as cute as it is.

Cheeky cat

But weirdly Im OK with this – its so obviously stylised.

Selection of design in situ where the flatness is maybe emphasised by the curve of the lampshade

Elizabeth Harbour

Maybe I’m just bit dull, ignorant, picky, I don’t know but I do really like to see skilfully rendered artwork. This is well drawn and I feel on firmer ground when I see this, because it looks like an adult has done it!!! Sorry.

Lovely colours!

See? OK its not flat but its charming and well drawn. I like her stuff a lot.

In conclusion, I can see how various artists have deliberately flattened the images, and how it offers scope to layer various images/patterns in a way that allows all the elements  to interact very effectively. Of course there is no really defined ‘foreground’ or ‘background’ and this way of working allows many possibilities. It can also give a feeling of playfulness, naivety and a charming folksy feel.

Less is more

‘Identify a palette of no more than three colours that could work in combination. Remember that black and white are also colours. Pick colours that work well together, provide some contrast and can be used as dark, mid and light tones.

Use this palette to illustrate five domestic items beginning with the same letter of the alphabet. Try the same exercise again using only two colours.’

Use your learning log to reflect on your experience.

I collected some examples of limited colour palettes

Naftali Beder

What struck me with these was the soft texture. This highly muted   range of colour is extremely effective against the tiny red drop of blood from the thorn.

Each one of these images have a stillness/serentity to them – even this dive is a frozen moment, despite the ‘action’ colour of red.

I love these stylised waves

Again the red contrasts beautifully

Ruth Sanderson

Obviously this is monochrome, I just included these as the texture and use of light is so gorgeous. These are done on scraper board.

Jon Foster

Back to the subject of a limited colour palette. A spooky digital painting in complementary tones.

The same colour palette with more scary looking folk

For a short while I mentally grumbled about trying to think of 5 household objects of the same letter…Luckily a few hours later when I wasn’t thinking at all, they popped into my head and I wrote them down: Soup, soap, sock, saucepan, spoon.

I worked entirely digitally for this task, and I had in mind various things I’d like to work on:

  1. Drawing from memory

2. Improve my skills on the graphic tablet using photoshop

3. Look at texture (as inspired by the images above) and our analogue/digital tasks

This is a photo I’d taken of tree bark, which might be helpful for texture…

Sometimes what I feel inspired to work on might not entirely fit the task(!) Ive re-read our brief and it does suggest our colour choices should incorporate a good tonal range (which makes sense) Anyway. Here’s what I did…

I drew each object from memory on a separate layer, in 2 colours and experimented with different coloured backgrounds. Obviously photoshop allows you to change hue/saturation, invert and so on which allowed more options with the actual objects.

I was struggling to control working with the graphic tablet pen, so my curves were a bit wobbly. I also noticed if the brush is too soft it does make for rather ‘blurred’ indistinct lines – an obvious point but I wasn’t really keeping an eye on hardness enough. I’m so much more used to working with Illustrator; Photoshop was straining my brain a bit. Of course everything is still editable, but I missed having nice crisp vector shapes I could re-fill with any colour to my hearts content. Not to mention scale to any size.

I decided to step out of my comfort zone with colour and pick what I would normally avoid. I had a go at this colour combination, which frankly makes me feel a bit ill…  But sometimes its good to experiment (To the point of vomiting??)

I normally love pink and green together but not like this. Yuck.

The colours do combine light, mid and dark tones here… but I think we were actually being asked to render the form of these objects. My visual memory only stretches so far, I had to simplify!

Slightly less offensive colour combo, with a noise texture added. The grain evens out the blurriness of the soft bushes I think.

Objects re-arranged. Still marginally evil colours. Close to the Jon Foster digital paintings in colour, but he also uses a pale cream that gives a bit of relief. Sometimes it’s not that colour combinations themselves, more that they need a separating colour between them to soften the intensity.

You can’t go wrong with blues.

I like these colours so much better! The subtle mottling is from the tree bark texture.

I had a think about composition to let the objects come to life and re-worked my chosen images.

Two Colour Image


Three Colour Image* 


* Two blues, one red

For some reason, I took ‘3 colours’ to be very strict. Perhaps we were allowed to use different tones of the same colour?

I’ve sneaked more colour in…Shhh.


These final images are much  successful in terms of colour and composition. I also liked the addition of texture – both tree bark and a photoshop noise effect are layered in. I would have liked to play with scale even more, but it was tricky in terms of image quality. I feel a lot more clumsy with photoshop than illustrator. I found it harder to drag elements where I wanted them/isolate separate areas of paint on a single layer etc…I’m sure its not fiddly when you’re used to it but for now I’m definitely slower.

It has been interesting to pare things down and think about colour relationships, tone, and composition. I’m reasonably happy with the final ones, but the journey along the way was pretty ugly.



Mixing and matching

‘Working around the theme of ‘hybrid’, create a series of illustrations using the following processes:

Starting on paper and moving to a computer, follow this process: Draw – scan – colour

Starting on the computer and then moving to paper, follow this process: Colour – print – draw

Are there other combinations of mixing and matching digital and analogue (non-digital) ways of working you can identify and try out?

Reflect on whether these processes have offered you something new or unexpected.’

I started by drawing a picture, inking it and changing the wonky guitar to a fish. (Its my picture)

Here’s the whole scene scanned in…and now vector, as I used Image Trace in Illustrator.

I experimented with their relative sizes…then cut the third character

For any significant amount of digital painting I use Procreate or similar, which is literally hands on, as obviously you use your finger to paint on a tablet screen. The drawback is although you can export to Photoshop, the brushes aren’t editable. So this time I tried something I’ve rarely done: I got out my drawing tablet and used the blob brush to paint instead. It was good to do this; it takes quite a bit of hand eye coordination (next step neuro surgeon??)

Here’s the end result after colouring.

Sketch to screen (click to enlarge)

Next I pottered about in Illustrator and made some colour/patterns to print off, I don’t know what these will look like yet. I do know my printer tends to make large areas of colour look quite uneven.

I experimented with printing off on 200 gsm card and also photographic paper. So I effectively have matt and gloss versions. I did attempt to print on smooth water colour paper but it was too thick for the printer and simply jammed (it was worth a try)

The first thing I noticed was how easily the ink on the photographic paper smudges – if fact I grabbed a paint brush and smoothed away a large section of the pattern. This has possibilities!

My general plan is to see what ink paint will adhere to the photograph paper (Im guessing definitely acrylic, but I’m not sure what else). It will also be interesting to try some collage.

I stopped to have a look at a bit of mixed media inspiration online…

David Mottram

He has scanned in texture and made custom brushes to colour this piece. Its really effective – the texture adds to the feeling of depth and visual interest.

Fun cut paper artwork by People Too (Aleskey Lapunov and Lena Erlikh)

“Most of the time I work digitally, I’ll scan in hand-painted textures along with old bits of newspaper or sheet music, and then put it all together in Photoshop.” – Harry Woodgate (placed third in Penguin student design competition)

These are really eye catching in terms of colour, tonal range and texture.

Back to my work – Here’s some card shapes. I was curious as to whether you could ‘hide’ images within pattern.

Then onto photographic paper. First I tried some Windsor & Newton white ink, its very smeary and takes a long time to dry…

I assumed my spectrum noir markers would work on top. They didn’t. But I do like theses colours!

In fact I soon discovered that whatever I did, the printer ink came off on my hands (and the paper has been drying for several days)

Faber Castell artist pen works quite well and stays put. Theres also a bit of silver pen, but this is harder to spot

A spot of gouache added – this does stay put. Surprising.

Tiny fish – my finger prints accidentally took off loads of printer ink leaving these white blots.

It was becoming obvious this isn’t really a viable way of working, as the ink on the photographic paper just isn’t stable enough.

My final experiment was to cut out some shapes. I found it was fun to use the scissors without drawing shapes in pencil first, as it keeps it more spontaneous…

Here’s a more elaborate one…again, I just cut shapes freehand, then went with what emerged. This was really fun!

Then I used my Agyla paints that adhere to just about anything to paint in the eyes.

Screen to paper (click to enlarge)

In all honesty I think its best to print out on good quality card rather than photographic paper, but it was interesting to see where this went. You can see why people more commonly start with analogue and move to digital! It would save me having to wear rubber gloves again. Really. I got covered.

Thats it for now. I would really like to return to further experiments in the future.

Draw, draw & draw again

‘Pick some reference material to draw from, perhaps a single photograph with a figure and some other details. It could be a photograph you’ve taken or one you’ve found.

Draw what’s in the photograph – the figure, their expression, their clothes, the setting. Try and record all the information from the photograph in your drawing.

Now, draw it a second time but do it quicker. Pick out the important elements in the image and focus your drawing on these. Leave out the information that is less important.

Put the original photograph away and draw it again, this time from memory and with reference to your other drawings.

Finally, draw it again, this time with no reference material at all.’

After a bit of pondering, and dithering, I picked this image from a magazine. I have a tendency to overthink everything: should I pick an animal or a person or a small group of people? Something I would find particularly challenging?…Anyway. This is pretty. So here goes.

I had trouble getting started, as I haven’t been drawing much for months and Im still getting into the rhythm of starting this course. Anyway, I got into it and this is the result.

Image 1: Detailed sketch

This was really absorbing, I’m pleased with it.


Image 2: Quicker sketch

I coloured in the bow for definition – it was a bit hard to pick out what was going on without it.

Image 3: Memory + my own images as reference.

Ive overdone the lines. Tsk.

Image 4: From memory only

I wanna do this all over again! I got a bit side tracked experimenting with different pen thicknesses in the middle there, but overall I went from feeling really grumpy and stuck at the start, to getting throughly absorbed.

I have phases of trying out my visual memory but it occurs to me this could become a more regular thing (probably just a quick sketch then repeat from memory, it would take hours to do the whole process each time!)


Visual Diary

‘You may have already developed ways of recording and reflecting on your own visual language and the work of others through sketchbooks, blogs or scrapbooks in which you’ve collected examples of illustrations and other visual information that catches your eye, or which you might want to refer back to at a later date…’

Most of my inspiration is collected on Pinterest. I have various boards, some quite broad, others specific…

Here’s my main Art & illustration Board which is currently full of about 480 pins of a huge variety of work from Rothko to Aboriginal art and a large variety of modern and vintage  Illustrators. I should probably have come up with some sub categories with this but as it got rather large!

I get drawn to lots of themes – colour, beautiful strong line, pen, watercolour, flat colour. Wood cut, linocut etc…Perhaps not many buildings. People, nature animals are probably my main themes.

Animal Illustration Board – I was collecting a lot of animal stuff so i made a separate board, but there is a cross over between the two.

A more recent addition is Illustrators to specifically keep track of certain names

Ancient Art – gorgeous inspiration from various cultures. Minoan artefacts were the biggest surprise for me – I had no idea how lovely they are.

Street Art –  high colour and social commentary

I like to keep colour inspiration both stored as images on my laptop, and in a physical folder. For example, I store copies of the Scandi mail order company Gudrun Joden. Here’s a screenshot of their website. Most seasons they have stunningly bright colours.

Art books and childrens books are also very useful. I have some general references such as ‘Art of the Western World’ and others that focus on a particular subject such as Beryl Cook or Subway Art. I generally use mini post-its if I want to keep track of certain pages.