“The title is Seven days.
These can be the seven days of the week or random days that tell a story. Your interpretation can be objective or subjective. You can produce seven separate, one large diagrammatic or a continuous strip illustration. You can decide on the media and methods you will use; the context – magazine, newspaper, book, brochure or poster; and the intended audience.
You need to write yourself a brief that is clear and challenging but manageable.”
Looking at Illustration
As this is such an open brief, I felt it would be helpful to look at the work of various illustrators, and see how their ideas and approach vary. You can see here how each person has interpreted the same brief – which was to produce an christmas themed image without the usual cliches.
Posy Simmons – vomiting snowman! I particularly like Posy Simmons, her illustration style is gentle, with a subversive twist. I’ve noticed that her work usually conveys a cosy softness both in shape and the suggestion of texture. But it departs company from children’s illustration when it comes to subject matter, and I like the contradiction.
Paul Thomas, Noma Bar, Jean Jullien, Peter Blake and Axel Scheffler. You can see a big variation in style here. I particularly liked Paul Thomas, and his tattooed snowman, for both the subject matter and style. He’s used an appealing range of colours for a snow scene. Perhaps like Posy Simmons, its only the subject matter that lets you know its not meant for children. I would enjoy the pared down images on a card but they feel less interesting to view here in terms of illustration inspiration.
Quentin Blake, Matt Blease, Shaun Tan, Jan Pienkowski, Judith Kerr and Mairi Hedderwick. Top left (Quentin Blake) and top right (Shaun Tan) appeal to me most here. Shaun Tan’s reindeer shadow is so atmospheric, it has plenty of drama. I also enjoyed the crisp simplicity and humour of Matt Bease’s watch dial. I do like flat colour sometimes – it can look very pared down and unfussy.
And this fantastic book, which is a collection of postcards all sent to the same chap – Klaus Flugge, who works for the publishing company representing these illustrators.
Each card is the same dimensions, but the subject matter is entirely down to the illustrators imagination.
They are quite a few by the wonderful David Mckee, and other images are by people such as Tony Ross, Satoshi Kitamura and Philippe Dupasquier…Even the same illustrator hasn’t necessarily stuck to the same style or media.
As this is effectively a set of images, I found myself thinking of things that come in groups of seven. The point being that I could then use one image as the theme for each day.
I brain stormed on the theme of seven.
In addition, there is obviously the days of the week, and outside of the christian story of creation, there’s also a buddhist tradition of seven bowls. Its not about creation, but to offer gratitude.
At the Ashoka centre in Plymouth, they set out Buddhist offering bowls each filled with water. Its a friendly place, which offers meditation classes for everyone, believers or not. Its ages since I’ve been, as its a long way for me, but I find the symbolism of the bowls rather lovely.
In brief they symbolise:
1. Drinking Water
2. Bathing Water
I picked out some elements from my first set of ideas, and brainstormed further on seven lies…
And seven questions…
Seven regrets in pencil
And you can see them a bit clearer in pen
They are all pretty trivial apart form the last one.
I was thinking about the fact that we struggle to imagine life changing beyond recognition, whether we are in a dark place, or a contented one. So its about both hope and loss, and trying to appreciate what we have. At this point I realised how difficult I find it to put that into words, yet alone illustrate it effectively. Perhaps not the best brief to try to work with in my inexperienced hands!
Next I looked at the seven continents, with an idea of showing some sort of holiday or voyage, stopping around the globe.
I picked an animal to depict each region
Inked. You’ll notice I strayed off into fiction with some of the animals like the “South American Apology Bird”…
I’ve always liked kangaroo pouches, they look so useful
A few more fictional ones at the bottom. Why Prayer Dog? I’m pretty sure there’s a Prairie dog, thats where that came from. (Oh I’ve just looked it up, apparently its a rodent)
Animals I also found appealing
My chosen theme
And lastly, here’s the theme I’ve decided on… Is entirely by accident and not what I set out to do. Its Creation. I did a quick page on the theme, thinking I wouldn’t dwell long, as its so obvious…but it sort of developed a life of its own.
As soon as I started drawing God, he just seemed such an endearing character. This isn’t intended to be offensive in any way, just an affectionate look at The Big Man. Do I really think God is a man? Hmm. Well, who can say?
It turns out the bibles description of creation is a little confusing. I always thought God created light on the first day – he did, but specifically the sun, moon and stars come later.
He’s mega busy on the 6th day, making all land mammals and everything that “crept on the earth” AND humans all on the same day.
I took this timeline as a starting point, and began to plan my own. Not quite sure where all these come from, but I woke up thinking of them.
I began sketching the extra scenes I needed to add, and refining the ones I’d already drawn.
First rough of mother nature, I wanted her to come along, as I’m sure she’d need to sign off on the animal creations. I pictured her as mature and rather elegant.
Light bulb, baking and icing
Figuring out where to position God’s hands
God with Mother Nature and a sloth
I spent quite a bit of time refining my images (such as re-drawing hand positions, or changing the image order) until I was happy.
Here are the line drawings
You can just see I added some screwed up pieces of paper, but I hadn’t inked them in yet
Although I still like the idea of icing the matterhorn, I had to edit down to one baking scene.
I’ve grouped some of my animals here from the earlier sketches
I spent quite a while refining the way the little figures gradually animate, as though they are coming to life, ready to leap into the world.
Another late addition – some stars and a cloud in pencil which you might just be able to see.
Next – the colour. I decided to use chalk pastel/pastel pencils on smooth paper. Its a bit of an odd choice, as the chalk sits on top of the paper, but I quite like the effect and it allows me to combine it with pen.
When I was about half way through colouring my images, I stopped to scan them in.
I worked in an order that has only just occurred to me(!) which is to colour in all the obvious colour choices first – e.g. skin tone, shoe leather, hair, green for grass etc. Then I felt I could make better decisions about the remaining elements.
I was a bit frustrated with the way the scanner bleaches out the pale colours, so for my completed work I took photos instead.
You can see that I have done a second version of some of the images, to pull all the colours together better. Each has a golden glow to imply they are infused with God’s creative light (bulb)!
Once I’d transferred my photos to my laptop, I added the text to each image. I wanted to keep the word count low, so I hope they offer just enough information.