Exercise: Editorial Illustration

Stuff in Magazines

When I was asked [by this exercise] to look through a newspaper supplement clipping out illustrations and only having to make a ‘mental note’ of it’s associations and origins I was delighted. ‘No real work there’ I thought, after all this is what I had been doing with illustrations all of my life, although I’ve never cut them out – just done the mental bit.

After thinking it through the truth sank in… it was absolutely necessary to make notes in my learning log about the illustrations I had discovered… that is standard practice for everything.


An editorial from theSunday Times Magazine sporting an illustration by Kate Sutton.

I’m not sure about how to read this image into the article.. which is hard to summarise as it talks at length about the way women who are also mothers frame their identities with new words like “mumpreneur” and pre-phrases like “As a mum…”. The standfirst talks about how motherhood doesn’t make you a saint and this illustration shows the daughter crying as the mother holds her up by her pigtails. At a stretch this could be Nicola Sturgeon (who is referenced at the end of the article, and who has said that she doesn’t know if she would now be First Minister of Scotland had a previous pregnancy resulted in her first child rather than a miscarriage) being a mum instead of a minister and blaming the child… but I think I’m taking it too far and that the intention is to identify with a common guilt trigger where parents feel guilty for exercising tough love.


Conceptual – representational

And, as if I’d planned it, this illustration is from a regular feature called ‘Tough Love’. The illustration is by Cecile Dormeau who draws a lot of women facing social stigmas and self-image quandries. This illustration directly parallels the advice given to an introvert in the article about attending a social event: “Fake it”. The outfit is the face and the attitude the introvert can put on in order to just do what needs doing at a large ‘mingley’ event.

Noting how the colours of the ‘super sociable’ outfit and the woman’s normal clothes correspond – the outfit ‘suits’ her.


Conceptual – Representational

It’s a graphic illustration of a person picking their nose. It’s quite obviously this but avoids a great deal of the negative reaction that might be had if the illustration were more life-like.


Conceptual – representationalish

This article is about ‘faux affairs’ – relationships with people who are not your actual ‘significant other’ and are not actually ‘affairs’ but might, it is suggested, substitute for real extra-marital affairs by providing a little of the special attention without any of the hugging, kissing, stroking or actual sex.

The article initially defines three kinds of men at a coffee shop, who a not-available woman might cross paths with in her perfectly innocent and faithful life, who each might constitute a ‘faux affair’. The illustration depicts the woman and the three men – the Barista, the Latte papas and the freelancers like you. The same article then goes on to expand 4 more scenarios and this illustration…


…from the same article describes a yoga class situation using a heart shaped yoga double act. That’s the same woman on the left now in her yoga kit – same colours, long hair now in a pony tail.

Obviously the expression “Faux Affair” will now be shortened to Faffer or Auxer or Fuxer… Lol.

Conceptual – representationalish


This one… a bit too big to scan on my A4 scanner… shows three artists from the ‘pop’ list of things to not miss. I’m guessing the illustrator took inspiration from the poses to create an arrangement with a lot of dynamic energy. The bold red drop shadow livens-up the black and white (not even grey scale) images with style. The Half-toning in the right figure enables a ‘grey’ effect to be rendered without moving totally away from the black and white aesthetic.

Decorative – representational and abstract


Poldark has been mentioned to me by certain ladies at work (is watching him on TV their ‘faux affair’?) and here is an unashamed re-iteration of the flutter that is experienced by some viewers.

At first I thought that this was by ‘James Cowan’ who is/will be my tutor for the next OCA module but I’d mispelled my Google search and this is actually by James Cowen. Is there a face-swap in the picture at the bottom right? There is. Cheeky.

Conceptual – representational and abstract


That woman on the right is the author in leopard-skin everything. In another article she indicates that she can get away with wearing this but you probably couldn’t. Fashion is a strange thing.

This is an ‘agony aunt’ – she’s a ‘Mrs’ too. The pose reminds me of the Avengers.

Conceptual – representational


This illustration shows a scene being described in the article which is all about learning self-defence. The kick to the groin is not in the rule book but is shown here with the expected amount of pain as a legitimate tactic to defend yourself from a knife-wielding crazy person.

Conceptual – representational

Imagine that I’ve been commissioned…

Provide a visual interpretation of one of these…

  • How green is your food?
  • The best restaurant in town
  • Loves me, loves me not
  • Throwing your money away
  • The object of my desire
  • Finding your family history
  • An interview with Melvyn Bragg
  • Paris, still the best place on Earth

I found this article…

e-flux journal editorial #15 April 2010

…which, for the purposes of this exercise, I was going to rename “Objects of Desire” and create an illustration for it… then I though that it was a rather odd article as it seems to be an introduction to a number of articles in the magazine around a topic. This is, of course, what editorials in magazines do. But I though I’d find something that was one of the articles rather than the magazine’s editorial. So I found this…


…which is the same topic and mentions the two most (in)famous declared OS people.

Notes on reading it…

People who have relationships with objects of the type that people generally have with other humans. The objects are equal partners rather than tools or toys. Famous Objectophiles… Erika LaBrie (Eiffel); Edward Smith had ‘sex’ with cars; Amanda Whittaker (Leeds) long-distance relationship with Statue of Liberty; RD – Adonis satue that lives with her; AW – fairground ride; JA – Hammond organ, steam locomotive. Declared a true emotional/sexual preference rather than a ‘deviance’. Noted that Objectophiles are not hurting anyone… no one else is involved!


Objectophiles take inanimate objects as partners, sometimes even marrying them. Declared objectophiles (out?) are  few in number but their preferences are definite and have been recognized as a legitimate preference similar to being homosexual. A theory proposed is that it is part of a more generalised move to asexuality.


I’ve been thinking about the tone of the article overall and the corresponding tone of the illustration. This particular text is a little scholarly dealing in a review of the known cases and informed by psychologists. Another article on this topic was run by The Sun newspaper last year – more of a list of people who have declared themselves OS this article https://www.thesun.co.uk/archives/news/276986/till-death-do-us-car-part/ classifies OS as a ‘fetish’ contrary to the opinion of the psychologist in Psychology Today. There’s a sense that each article uses the classification that is convenient for its readership and it’s hard to know if there’s a correct view.

Anyway… even The Sun refrain from too much fun-poking and Psychology Today is dealing quite materr-of-factly and un-humerously with the topic. There’s a temptation with editorial illustration to use the ‘cartoon’ format and therefore a humour-based approach which is un-called for in connection with this topic.

My question to me is then… what is the overall tone to be conveyed?

Looking back at the examples I’ve collected about half of them manage to illustrate a situation without poking fun at it in the way that a cartoon might. The ‘Faux Affair’ in particular simply shows the situation without moralising or using sordid humour.

This, then, is one approach for my article – to simply portray a couple (a human and an object) without getting into cartoon territory.



The choice to make is the specific couple, or couples, that I wish to portray. In this case I’m intending to depict specific people described in the article… to a degree. For example I would like to draw a male figure of the correct approximate age and ethnic origin without depicting more detail than is available in the article. Similarly with the partner objects – although I may research the individuals and their objects to find the right look I don’t want to fill in too many details.

Why? Because they are real people and I want only to link the article to an image, I don’t want to give more information than is in the words of the article. In practice I expect that this will translate well to the illustration-design process as it will amount to an attempt to simplify the image and be precise about what I’m trying to communicate.


The picture I want to create has these words associated with it:

  • Romance
  • Tenderness
  • Truth
  • A person and an Object
  • Relationship (two way – because that’s at least how the human feels about it)
  • Simplicity
  • Satisfaction
  • Completeness (Emotion)\
  • Normal (ie: not depicted as ‘fetish’ or ‘abhorrent’ etc..)

002_Page_2Thinking of Romance reminded me of a sketch I did earlier in the course when looking at the history of Illustration – I was pondering the romantic historical view we have of Steam Trains. They seem glamorous but they were very dirty, noisy and dangerous. Nonetheless… a steam train image might help convey ‘romance’ in some way.


The picture will link with the text but not add more information too it. It will give a literal image of what a human-object couple look like – not necessarily a photo-kind of reality – in order to evoke a kind of neutral picture of the topic discussed. Because the article is non judgemental about the topic the function of the picture is to continue in that tone visually. It will have a decorative function too as it will break up an otherwise visually bland page of text.

There is a possibility of having a large ‘header’ image as well as one or two smaller ‘side heading’ images similar to the way the ‘Faux Affair’ article is laid out.

The ‘Faux Affair’ illustrations are a good model for how my Object of Desire article would work.

Concepts (More ‘Word’)

Relationship – where does one side end and the other begin? Idea of merging the forms so that they overlap.

Objects that are mentioned in the text:

  • Eiffel Tower (the most famous)
  • Cars
  • Statue of Liberty
  • Statue of Adonis
  • 1001 Nachts fairground ride
  • Hammond Organ
  • Steam Locomotive

Ways of representing the relationship

  • Hugging
  • Holding Hands
  • Touching heads
  • Smiling
  • Looking at each other


  • Sunsets
  • Walks
  • Dinner for two
  • A show
  • Cinema
  • Casual shopping
  • Laying together
  • Sitting together
  • Sharing
  • Talking
  • Gifts


Reflecting on the examples


While looking through the previous examples that I’d collected I noticed that this image portrays part of the message that I’m looking for. In this case it’s a ‘heartthrob’ idea. This is shown through the use of a (topless) pin-up, a face swap, and the expression of the woman – wide eyes, slack jaw, clasping or wringing hands. Also the dates crossed out and the heart tells us that the day has arrived.

Many of the featured objectophiles were separated from the objects of their affections – objects that tended to be national monuments or features: the Eiffel Tower, the Berlin Wall, the Statue of Liberty. It makes sense that part of their experience is the longing for the day when they can be with their loved one again in the same way that this picture shows us a count-down to the heart-throb’s broadcast date.

This idea resonates with many photographic ideas: the ‘wallet picture’ that someone carries around of their family or loved one. This was also common in both world wars – to have a well-thumbed photograph about the person of a soldier. Other appearances of photos include…

  • Locker doors
  • office desks
  • bedside tables
  • flight decks
  • phone ‘lock’ screens
  • Lockets

The photo increases the sense of a ‘treasured’ object. A photograph of the person and object together being treasured by the person in the photograph might enhance this idea even more.

a4-4_page_18 a4-4_page_19 a4-4_page_20

 Chosen Concept

I’ve reached a point where I’ve found the required concept. Un-intuitively it’s having the object in a photograph held by the person, and they are in the photograph with the object longing to be there again. One of the advantages here is being able to show the person in two states – happy couple and distant lover.

I’ve been finding that when you show simply the person with their object it takes a lot to break away from the mundane and ordinary image – how many people are photographed with the Eiffel Tower for example without being in a relationship with it?

The function of this image will most closely follow the ‘Faux Affair’ example – it is decorative in that it makes the spread more interesting overall, but it also contains an emotive sense that allows the reader to more closely identify with the subjects of the article. In this case it is drawing a parallel between a human-human relationship, showing a situation that might occur, but substituting the object of desire (did you see what I did there 😉 for the other human.

The important thing to achieve in the illustration is to be factual and non-judgemental about the situation.

Discovery in the research

I’ve found a way to represent the relationship between the person and object – to use a photograph in the way that in a human-human relationship it is common to keep an image of the couple together somewhere close – mantlepiece or bedside. For example I could show Erica Eiffel holding a photograph of herself which includes the Eiffel Tower. The idea is that this allows me to show two emotions on Erica’s face – a happy expression in the photograph and one of longing on her face looking at the photograph.

The whole subject has a slight uphill truggle to it in that we do not normally assume that a person pictured with an object is showing a relationship of this kind. When seeing two humans it is natural to assume a romantic and sexual relationship and it is more rare to see an image of this kind and not assume this. Having one partner as an object remove the assumption so I will need to give extra clues to make sure that the relationship is inferred. It helps that the article title is ‘Object of Desire’ so that you can work out that you’re right once you’ve seen the answer.

Think more about the ‘Faux Affair’ picture I also realise that the picture looks more innocent before reading the article – it’s just a group of people in a cafe getting on with their diverse lives. The words in the article put a spin on it so the after reading the subtle clues become more apparent.

I’ve though about all of the different objects that are desired and the Eiffel Tower is the most fitting. It has the overtone of romance already – Paris seems to be a bit old-hat for a honeymoon destination but the Eiffel Tower itself still one of the most recognisable symbols for romance.


This interview shows an illustration which I think is by Julia Pankova:

sex_erica-eiffel_julia-pankovaIt shows  woman, dressed such that she might be a burlesque dancer (Moulin Rouge, etc) dancing intimately with the Eiffel Tower. The overtones are not necessarily romantic, I think the Eiffel tower in this image is more object than partner… perhaps even like the pole of a pole dancer. However there are several motifs used that are also interesting – the lattice work of the tower has been indicated using XOXO (Hugs and Kisses); the woman’s basque sports an Eiffel tower as front and centre; she holds a rose.



Style of Artwork

I’m quite strongly drawn to completing this as a photomontage and/or collage. The attraction is the possibilities of transcending the iron/flesh differences that are innate in this relationship in order to depict the underlaying emotional state, rather than heaping more attention on the differences between a woman and the Eiffel Tower. I’m not sure at this point exactly how that works but my experience with using non-animal derived textures to create a dog were very effective – perhaps I can imbue the Eiffel Tower with a similar realness compared with the depiction of Erika in the same illustration.

To be clear… although I’m showing a relatively real scene of Erika gazing at a photograph I’m really trying to capture the underlaying psychology of the relationship rather than just a moment in time in the relationship.

Another style that is appropriate is one now used frequently for the covers of Romantic Fiction…

Six or less different illustrators for these seven books – there’s a commonality that is to do with…

  • Inclusion of pastel colours
  • Simplified details
  • Paris is used a lot!
  • Flowing scripts are favoured
  • Hearts and flowers
  • Protagonists in action

These might be too light-hearted for the story but they have key features which I might wish to evoke – to draw in the ideas of romance, contentment and the search for ‘the one’.


Through refining the composition I’ve found a few elements that I am considering to be ‘key’:

  • Confetti – the addition of decorative romantic icons (hearts, flowers, horseshoes, etc…) is confetti. In a collaged context this is actual confetti perhaps.
  • Allowing the idea of ‘Marriage’ to seep into this image is appropriate as Erika did actually marry the Eiffel tower.
  • The relative scale of the photo overall and Erika’s face should be similar and balanced – they are key areas of the image.
  • Klimt:it occurred to me that this image reminds me of Klimt… I’m not sure exactly why but ‘The Kiss’ has some kind visual link… perhaps it’s the cheek-by-cheek thing?
    Giant Art
  • The image can become very dynamic… swooshing like a Genie. Too much of this may be distracting as Erika is human, not a genie and it’s really the face/photo that I want to draw attention to.


Refining the composition still more I’ve found that her hair can be mirrored in the photo to further underline that it is her in the photo. This is important as the relationship is between her and the Eiffel Tower and those are the subjects of the photo… rather than there being another human involved.


My line visual for this composition – much simplified compared to the sketches.

I poted this on Facebook to get impressions and the main themes seem to be coming across… however the idea of an Objectophile is not. People are jumping to the conclusion that romance and longing are the message.

Realistically there is a huge obstacle here that I haven’t surmounted – Objectophilia is not well known… in fact I don’t think many people have heard of it at all. How do I communicate a novel subject like this? It includes love, romance, affection… all things that are understood visually… but what does objectophilia look like? This is especially more hard because I’m also trying not to portray it as a object fetish: the object is not a sex toy, used and discarded – Objectophilia is a relationship with an object that endures when apart and when not sexually aroused.

Maybe it’s too niche… maybe the article will have to reveal to true nature of this illustration…. although I have a feeling it could be done, but I’m currently at a loss as to how to achieve it.


I’ve decided that I will create the artwork for this using photomontage/collage in a digital space. I’ll have to create my own confetti perhaps.

Collage has become a medium that I’m increasingly drawn towards, especially with the inclusion of digital tools.

I’v recently seen the artworks of Derek Gores:


…who works with real magazines pasted to a large canvas. I propose to experiment with this style but using scanned/found (on the web) and digitally collaged image fragments.

Because of the nature of the piece I’m going to look for imagery that is related to love, romance and marriage to complete the task.



This is an initial colouring to start seeking a pallet that would be good for this illustration. In this first step I’ve simply used the most ‘correct’ real-life colours that I imagine might be present if this were a purely representational image.

Right away I can see that this ‘real’ pallet totally strips the image of the overtones of… romance, fairy-tale, dream… although the signifiers are there they are presented in heavy colours, especially the brown background, that make it mundane.

Also there is no texture yet – I feel there is a lot to add at a later stage and even this colour pallet might be improved by adding textures.

I think the next step i to try colour pallets that are more linked to the dream / fantasy / romance idea and less grounded in reality.


This is a big improvement. Still using quite strong colours but favouring the rich purples and dark blue.

I had imagined this a little wedding-like too…


This changes the sense of it. There’s a nice effect where the heart becomes a strong focus point with Erika’s lips and the other hearts in the confetti linking to it through the colour. I expect to put a bit more confetti in the finished work scattered around.


The monotone version of this (red) is interesting because it has an attractive simplicity.

This draws my attention to the thought that maybe there are parts of this image that are much less important… he hair for example, need not stand out and is in some ways a part of the background. Likewise the rectangular shape of the picture frame is not important other than to indicate that it might be a photo… the heart shape is very important though.


Trying here to capitalise on the previous effect by using just two hues – red and blue. It’s quite dramatic and brings the Eiffel Tower into focus.

Apart from that fantastic effect it looks a bit hideous.

When I get into the collaging there will be textures to play with too and photos or patterns that I could use to fill spaces. I wondered about using fireworks to ill the big heart behind the Eiffel tower. This resonates with the idea (popularised by 70s/80s American SitCom) that one will spontaneously see fireworks upon kissing ‘the one’ for the first time.

Does that hair remind you of a wedding train?


Looking at drone footage of the Eiffel Tower wondering if I might use the texture of the intricate structures (cross bracing, ornamental ironwork, railings etc) as textures within the image, not just for the tower part.


I’ve looked at afew textures I could use – wedding dress details, the Eiffel Tower details, other details of wedding imagery – and I’ve decided that I need to establish the colour both to suit the type of elements that I wish to put in and to ensure that the end balance is good, that I can work towards a scheme when selecting imagery.

This colour scheme still looks a little flat but the textures will add a lot more to it. The overall idea is to play the warm tones against the cold ones – where I’ve marked areas of cool blue that might be daylight colour temperature with the hair being whiter. The background can be ‘warm’ like candle glow or sunlight at sunset. The Eiffel tower itself is a dark figure… perhaps ‘dressed like a groom’ (although it seem to be the case that the Eiffel Tower is female). I aim for the red heart shape to be more broken up – this might have to be a re-coloured patchwork of some kind.

Final Artwork

I’m utilising digital media but I want to get close to Derek Gores process within that. For this reason I’m taking complete online publications – Bridal magazines – and extracting the pages as whole images (rather than taking individual images from the web). This means that there will be all of the the page furniture and other layout elements available as collage elements including typography, decorative and guiding graphics, photographs, page tints etc.

Derek Gores says on his FAQ:

When I teach this, I have one rule – you can’t use pictures of the actual object when making that object – so for example, no hair to make hair. no eyes to make eyes, etc. Makes you think of other more wild solutions. You have to see beyond the actual literal texture, or words, on the magazine page to see them as tones. Don’t just let the students look for the flat value… have them squint and look from far away.

…which in my case means not using faces on Erika’s face, no Eifel Tower images for the tower itself, no clothing for her clothes and no hair for her hair!

I was already looking at her hair and thinking about wedding dresses but I could go beyond that as I’ve already seen some architecture that might have the right hair-like quality.

Other useful advice about his techniques includes… finding the transitions within single pieces of imagery rather than using the edge of the element as the transition from one colour to another within the collage. I love this idea – it creates ‘mess’ (I like mess!).

Ripping is advised… which in photoshop equates to using the lasso tool to make irregular shapes without straight edges. This is great for speed and ‘organicness’. Photoshop offers the ability to alter pieces after they’ve been ‘stuck down’. Don’t know where I stand with that but I bet it’ll be useful.

The original artwork size is about 26cm x 11cm but to make this somewhat sympathetic to the normal size of a Gores collage I’m resizing it to a virtual 18 inches x 42 inches. The virtual magazines are A4ish at 300dpi so this will give me a fixed scale relationship between the imagery that I’m sourcing from and the canvass I’m working on. The plan is to try not to scale the scraps that I cut and paste to mimic an authentic physical working space.

Initial working shows that this is quite practical – I can set up Lightroom to view the pages at approximately the scale of the of the artwork in Photoshop that is set at 10% actual size.


This shows initial placing of a couple of scraps with the line visual as a guide and using the final colour version above as a reference for choosing the elements to place.



I added a blue texted layer to the Photoshop file in order to help me see where I’d placed white things:




Observing myself:

As I do this collage I am starting to notice things – skills that I’m acquiring and ways of working that I’m adopting…

  • Finding transitions within an image element – this is very satisfying, as Gores says.
  • I’m getting better at looking at an image and seeing what tones, hues and gradients etc it is made up of rather than just seeing the picture.
  • So far I haven’t used any methods of the digital mode such as scaling, re-colouring, stretching/skewing or other distortions that can’t be done on paper. So all I’ve done is cut and paste.
  • I haven’t altered any element after placing the next one. It’s got to the stage where I’m happily flattening the image.
  • I’m enjoying that you can cover up previously placed pieces with new pieces. In a way this makes it easier to be bold as things that go wrong can be pasted over.
  • Derek Gores actually prints out coloured material to use… I haven’t done that yet but I might.
  • My limited life drawing skills are a little hampering when it comes to depicting a face… I’m not sure how it’ll come out.
  • I have begun to be more experimental about the content of the elements that I’m adding – people and faces are appearing more if they have interesting colours or shapes to contribute.
  • I’ve tried to make the flowers a few times but I’ve not yet found the knack of depicting it.




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