Assignment 1 – Say Hello

I have to produce an Illustration that is

  1. About Me
  2. A greeting
  3. Communicates to my Tutor

There’s too much to cover everything so I need to edit… what shall I communicate? Maybe:

  • One event in my life – childhood recurring nightmare, happened when I was about 6 and involved figures with huge eyes in a boat hovering in my bedroom. It might have been easy to cast these figures as the standard ‘aliens’. I didn’t get abducted by them.
  • One interest – current (eg: art-type stuff!… I don’t like this… art about art – it’s like plays about acting and books whose main character is a writer… I get to feeling a bit cheated like there’s more to life)
  • One interest – past (eg: Lego, TV). I used to watch a lot of TV – mainly fiction. I now don’t have a TV, it became too hard to find the time to watch it.
  • One place – a house I’ve lived in, a place I’ve worked. In a similar exercise for the Graphic Design course I used ‘Theatre’ as one of the designs and created an infographic about the animals that live with me. Part of my theatre work is lighting design which suggests using specific lighting in an illustration.
  • A self-portrait… obvious but valid… could be a face made up of elements from the other ideas… or one of the other ideas that incorporates an image of me.


  • Re-creation of the dream as a stage production – idea of the floating boat being scenery hung on wires, a lighting design to accentuate the effect, perhaps I’m played by an actor.
  • I like the idea of creating a self-portrait out of other items – using objects and pieces that are connected with my life.
  • I also don’t like self-portraits… there’s something odd about them. The computer programmer in me (qv for another topic!) sees self-portraits as recursion… drawing the hand that’s drawing the hand… and it’s like that puts it in a whole other category. Maybe I could produce a self portrait that expresses my mistrust of self-portraits?


I enjoy painting scenery…

  • Inexact – because it’s a stageset (not an oil painting) I can paint without angst about the fine details – it really is the overall effect that matters
  • Scale – Set painting (for me) tends to be ‘man-sized’ – 2ft is small 10ft is big – somewhere in that range. But because it’s not usually detailed it’s like I’ve zoomed in or I’ve been miniaturised and the overall effect is on a bigger scale
  • I like painting on different things… shapes and textures, cloth and wood, boxes, furniture and walls.


  • I like fineliners/graphic pens – ink on paper drawing
  • I struggle to be expressive in Photoshop – lack of a Graphics Tablet

Daring Greatly

I’ve just read the book ‘Daring Greatly’ by Brené Brown. She is a researcher-storyteller (her own description of herself) who has researched the human condition in the context of our deepest ancestral emotional drives of ‘Shame’ and ‘Vulnerability’. The sometimes counter-intuitive explanation of how our ability to ‘cope’ and ‘achieve’ is based on emotional responses that we have lost touch with in modern society is inspiring. This could be called a self-help book… but it has a deeper characteristic – a link to the ‘grounded theory research’ that yielded its conclusions, carried out over decades by the author.

It’s a struggle now to say exactly why this book is important to this particular assignment but try this: This assignment requires self-reflection, telling a story about myself perhaps. What we see in ourselves is, to a large degree, an ‘opinion’ rather than a ‘fact’. A large part of Daring Greatly is about understanding why we portray ourselves in certain ways… ‘acting out’, ‘blame’, ‘defending’, ‘attacking’… we humans behave in ways that attempt to communicate for the purposes of protecting ourselves from perceived metal distress… trying to divert attention from our weaknesses and draw praise to our achievements. A whole load of these ‘natural’ reactions can be learned during childhood (and later) ‘trauma’ as coping mechanisms. Our core need is ‘connecting’ – by belonging to people groups; by being loved.

So this book’s ideas provide the means by which to approach this assignment – to reflect on myself using its approach and show something that is more meaningful as a result.

A prominent metaphor in the book is walking the tightrope which concerns keeping the balance on vulnerability.

I was pondering the idea of self-reflection and doodled this…



…which I liked as a way of expressing a feeling that’s not easy to put into words.

I’m drawn to this kind of composition – the type where the scene is not natural geometry. This is also central to illustration and distinguishes it from, say, photography where reality (what you can see) is the starting point. So to find a starting point for an illustration one can look outside of “what is to be shown” and instead look at “what is to be depicted”. In the above I depict a sense of inner emotional confusion by showing my own body in disarray, and a bit squashed.

The challenge then is to start with something like “inner emotional confusion” and end up with an approach to communicate it. This is not necessarily a ‘message’ where the viewer will see the illustration and decode the English words “inner emotional confusion” but they may get a sense of what those words mean without having the words themselves.


Thinking along the lines of disjointed parts I remembered a bag of wood offcuts that I’d kept after building a stageset… not for any specific reason except that they are interesting and unintended shapes – the discarded parts of the set pieces.

While looking at one of the pieces – the offcut from rounding a corner – it struck me that the shape is like a photo corner – the fussy things used to hold prints into scrapbooks and albums. As this is supposed to be all about me I thought that photography is a fairly important part of my life these days so that’s an interesting thing to represent. Thinking about what I photographed I fashioned a dancer from the wood offcuts and scanned it into Photoshop where I put it in the most likely context – a studio backdrop.


This is a strong idea – it uses the overall pattern of the photograph of a dancer – a very ‘me’ thing these days – fashioned using the offcuts of wood that I’ve created when building a stageset. I would like the individual pieces of wood in the composition to each represent a facet of something else in my life.

I’ve just though of using Adobe Shape to capture the shapes of the wood pieces… then I could manipulate them and fill them with other illustrative material in Illustrator and Photoshop perhaps using other scanned material and hand-drawn items.


This first dancer is assembled using the above method of capturing the shape of each piece of wood and manipulating it in Illustrator. The shapes have been scaled and rotated but are not sheared or flipped… although they are possibilties.

The restricted number of shapes available with both their unusual geometry and similarities (they are not extreme in shape – they mostly are enclosed with corners less than 180deg) makes it an interesting process to select shapes and place them so that the element of ‘dance’ is conveyed. I enjoy the freedom to create the movements without needing to adhere to the strict anatomy of a person.

This style is inspired by Matisse – Blue Nude – a print I saw at a charity auction recently. The Matisse piece is simple in that it consists of areas of ultramarine that are shaped to describe a woman sitting on the floor.

In my dancer composition there is a loss of meaning when you don’t know already that I’ve generated these shapes through a process of construction and that I’m representing dance photography. Even ‘dance’ perhaps need more indication – energy and movement described in the image.

Things occurring to me: Say hello in dance?, Costumes, Male and Female, Movement, Texture

Wood Shapes 1-02 Wood Shapes 1-03 Wood Shapes 1-04 Wood Shapes 1-05 Wood Shapes 1-06 Wood Shapes 1-07


Eventually discovered a Tutu and created a classical duo.

Wood Shapes 1-08 Wood Shapes 1-09While moving the image around I accidentally arranged the objects so that the ballerina was larger than the frame. This caught my eye – like she has stepped out of the photograph. Later I realised that the photograph in the background also looks like a mirror on the wall.

The photography is digital. Mirror is ‘analogue’. The whole is ‘art’?!





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