Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Process


I took the emphasis placed on "doing" rather than "thinking" when 
we got briefed far too literally for a while. I went home for Easter and spent a copious amount of time playing around rather than going with an idea or set plan. I experimented with different ways of doing things and read a lot of blog posts about recent illustration trends. One being a pink and blue colour combination. (I noticed this colour trend on a visit to Waterstones before) The colour combination intrigued me and I started to play about with it. And later they stayed as part of my colour palette for the final pieces...







I think they worked well and it was good to let go of some control of the outcome that I got obsessed with during the last projects. Getting the playing bit out of the way I had an epiphany about what my project could be when I came across a silk painting I did that was inspired by the Branwen branch of the old Welsh stories of The Mabinogion. I did it when I was about 9 or 10 in little school for the Eisteddfod yr Urdd (I remember someone wanting to buy this at the time and my Mam insisting on keeping it which I'm grateful for now!) 


I remember wanting to tell the essence of the story in a single picture and being really proud of myself at the time. I liked how naive it is and how obvious each part of it was, here is an obviously very big giant charging through the ocean battling someone on a boat and there are bars on the window with (what was supposed to be) Branwen trapped inside. Anyway I decided I wanted to take that naive "obviousness" and make it a part of my final outcome somehow. I also decided from this that it would make for an interesting concept to base the project on The Mabinogion stories as a revisit or retelling of what I did when I was little, to re-explore the story that captured my imagination as a child. So I ordered a copy of the book and set about reading through them... Much to my dismay I soon found out how heavy going the text was and realised that I must have read an extremely child friendly version of the stories. After some research online I found an up to date translation of the stories which helped me to understand them more easily and saved time. (The translations I came across can be found here:Mabinogi translations)

Now with an understanding of the story and a more realistic narrative that would translate into something with modern appeal I started sketching up different character designs and scenes.





I also did some experimenting with digital work, paint and oil pastels to find the identity and style of working that I wanted to go with...





For the sake of convenience, time efficiency and because I liked the feel of the experimenting I did on Photoshop, I decided to carry on with doing it digitally. This also meant that I could set a colour palette and it could be stuck with. 


After that I got into a creative block and lost confidence in what I was doing. I started doubting the project completely, questioning the format and getting bogged down with "will it be a picture book or a graphic novel?" or this, that and the other, and I saw how well the rest of the group was doing which made me more frustrated about being stuck in my head and making a full u-turn to the promising start of the project. I really got stumped and didn't really do much else but think and look and think some more. I even started drawing stuff that wasn't related to the project I had set with the thought of starting fresh with a new brief. 






Many meltdowns later and the deadline looming I decided to just ignore all the thoughts and doubts that were holding me back and just do something. I hadn't done all this research and thinking process for nothing. So I just did it.




I was so happy that I had finally done something that I stopped questioning it. after a talk with Mark I realised that this was not what I was aiming for - it wasn't fully worked out. The figure was awkward and it didn't have the "obviousness" of a narrative that I wanted to begin with. It was just an awkward, decorative, nice piece of work. I was a long way of where I wanted to be but at least I had started to let go of the format and miserable attitude I had towards the work. I was going to just do some illustrations inspired by the stories.


I came across an animated film inspired by the events of the stories after Mark told me about an animation he saw when visiting the Corris mines in West Wales (http://www.kingarthurslabyrinth.co.uk/) which made me think about how the illustrations could be applied to tourist information like this after the work was done. That helped me to let go of the format of the work some more - I had to keep telling myself that it could be worked out after it was done. (Mabinogion animated film: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6C9qxrlopEc)

I started looking at illustrators I admired to inspire me again...

Jon Klassen:




I loved the way the trees framed the pages and there was an obvious foreground, middle and background contrast. this was something I wanted to replicate in my final illustrations.

Emily Carroll:




I love the characterisation in Emily's work. The subtle differences in the characters that still had a uniform style. This is something I strive for in my work and what I wanted to do for the final illustrations.

Some more playing with my new found inspiration...






I set out the characters of the stories and assigned them to tarot cards with the idea of making cards. This idea was scrapped after a talk with Mark made me realise that the intended young audience would not be buying tarot cards. Nevertheless this helped me to understand the characters more so I just got on with it
































I really struggled with this project but learned a lot about the design cycle, how life gets in the way sometimes and the way I work. My natural attitude towards my work was always "if I can't do it perfectly then I can't do it at all" and I've always gone through phases of problems with this kind of thinking but never have I stumbled so much with it like I did with this project. I'm sure the added pressure and the thought of such a long project contributed to this. I spent a long time in my head thinking "what if" instead of actually doing, which prevented me to work through the design problems which (ironically) would have helped me to create a solution sooner. A couple of weeks watching the rest of the group flourish with ideas and work while I sat in my thoughts getting frustrated with my diminished confidence gave me a kick in the ass to tackle the work head on and stop doubting myself. (This made me realise that I could really benefit from working in a studio environment.) Tears, tantrums and many technical issues later and I managed to finish something. It's not perfect but I've learned that sometimes done is better than perfect. Subsequently I feel like I'm only at the beginning of this project and I'm determined to work on it further to pitch to publishers now that I've worked through and solved the difficult part of the thought process. If anything I feel that I might have learnt the biggest most valuable lesson from this struggle because the chance of it happening again is inevitable but at least I know that I'm better equipped with this experience and have a method to work through it so that I don't waste so much time again. 

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