Category Archives: Part 2: Ideas

Assignment 2 Reflection

A long time after this assignment I’m looking back, having moved on a bit in terms of my approach to illustration, and wondering why I found it hard to tackle? I’ve come to the conclusion that my view of supermarkets and the food industry has hampered my ability to complete this assignment in a straightforward way. Knowing this, if I were to start this assignment again, I think I would find better, useable, results.

My view

To me the food industry is positioned in an impossible moral position – it is a business and requires profit which is driven by investors; consumers buy food in order to stay alive and they need the right diet to do so while staying in good health. Changing the formulation of a food product, perhaps by adding more salt or sugar (or both) to make it taste more appealing, affects sales and thus profits.

My handicap

To me everything in a supermarket is propaganda: a distortion of the ‘truth’ (if there is a truth) to support the mythical benefits of a product. This runs quite deep in me – at an unconscious level even.

This doesn’t account for all of my struggles – there were other issues too – but I can’t help feeling that the final outcome is simply ‘what I see’ when I look at supermarket advertising.

The Answer

The answer is that I need to find a way around this handicap – perhaps by getting other people to help provide different views to my own – so that I can still tackle a brief like this without being quagmired in my own prejudice.


Assignment 2 – Post Feedback

The Brexit Option

At the end of this assignment I made a connection between the EU Referendum and my attempt to use political division to sell veg.

Post-Feedback, and now also post-referendum, and the majority voted for ‘Leave’. Since that vote all hell has broken loose in politics and we seem to be heading for a repeat of the Poll-tax riots as the nation’s youth take to the streets to oppose the successful majority.

One of the things I noticed was the prevalence of symbolism surrounding the EU flag:

EU Flag

Each star represents a member state… except that there are 28 member states and only 12 stars. The concept still holds but it ceased to be a littoral count when it became too big a number. So the concept remains that a star represents a member state, at some level.

The press have started publishing graphics and illustrations in their features and editorials that alter one star (usually near the bottom right) to represent Brexit – Britain leaving the EU.


This appeared on the Times Higher Education web page. Showing a single star fallen from its star-shaped ‘slot’ on a background suggesting leather, which perhaps gets across a suggestion of ‘establishment’ or important state buildings.



This photo effect shows a star blowing away from a tattered flag and perhaps suggests a different and negative opinion about the state of the EU… it’s a rather unhappy flag, but one star is free!


Shutterstock make this image available – a tearful eye where one star is carried away in the teardrop.

It seems common to use the lower right star!

The Poster

At some point in the last few days it suddenly struck me that the two opposing factions I was representing with my Strawberry and Aubergine campaigns might be the Leave and Remain voters. It’s not really that clear cut because I was following a purely hard-line nationalist idea and the EU referendum can be approached from many different viewpoints… Federalist / Nationalist / Economic / Imperialist (if that’s still possible) / Ecological / Cultural (talking art rather than race).

However, a strong thread of the ‘Leave’ and ‘Remain’ compaigns has been about immigration and free movement of people between member states. This single issue falls in perfectly with my two ideas as does the ring of 12 stars… which could become a ring of 12 aubergine tops with the right slight of hand.

Proper Strawberries


Working through this image to create the effects that I’ve researched earlier – the light a nd dark of the shapes of the strawberry and start of a specular highlight where the skin will ‘shine’ because of it’s slightly waxy complexion.


Filling in the rougher contrasting texture of the countryside and the table. Adding Stalks and highlights and lowlights on the pips.

I’ve added the sky to not be distracting. It’s not ‘perfect’ – there are whisps of white blended in and it fades to white on the horizon.


A little bit of shadow under the stalks to help make them lift of the surface of the fruit, a specular highlight whose edges are shapes by the presence of each pip. Also the stalks now drawn on the visible strawberries in the punnet.


Coming back to this a long time after first attempting to draw it I must have gained some experience in Photoshop that I didn’t have at the time… or maybe it’s not Photoshop… maybe it’s just a better understanding of what I want, or how to get it.


I’m working reasonably fast now but producing the result that I want without worrying about it.

Probably I’ve learnt to trust more what I see – when I look at the work as I produce it I’m more confident that it is (or isn’t) what I want… as opposed to “worrying that it might not be right”, but not being able to tell!

It’s said that art and design is about learning to see… this is it!


I’ve added textures to the punnet because I don’t like to leave these things as flat colours – it diminishes the idea that they represent something in your memory. In this case these punnet are made slightly roughly… they’re not supermarket-perfect packaging, they are more ‘real’ and I want to evoke that sincerity of product by  putting those textures in.


Winter Aubergine – Commentary

Breaking News

This is both part of the second assignment and ‘Meta Study’ – my own deeply reflective look at how I work and how I can change how I work.

I had this idea that I could get inside my own inspiration. In this case my tutor responded to my frustration about having to do more “Fruit and Veg” with encouragement about “using this frustration creatively” to sell the stuff to the masses, who are obviously resistant. This led me to thinking about just how much pressure I could put on them… without thinking about what is usual… what is more extreme?

I’ve created a scenario where “mafia” tactics are being used by supermarkets. The veg is taken hostage and will be killed if you don’t buy it. One of the things I’m hoping to tackle is my own reserve about using the good ideas that I come up with – I have doubts or miss the potential somehow. For this scenario, forget about reality, this is war and terror.



In this sketch I’ve tried to capture the emotional states of three people on the train during the Aubergine War – the figure in the centre is not overtly carrying an Aubergine… something that might be construed as not caring that they will die if you don’t buy them. The right hand figure is looking suspiciously at her and the left hand figure is absorbed by her own rescued veg.

The Aubergines themselves have come out quite well despite only being rendered in purple and green pencil. I’ve left one white area for ‘shine’ to help show their surface type and nature. Set against the much more rough and colourless figures drawn in various grades of black charcoal pencil the fruit looks smarter.

What is also interesting about the context of the tube train is that, if you take out the back story and the veg in the picture, it still makes sense – people on the London Underground have a strong English sense of ignoring their fellow travellers and it can feel uncomfortable when this convention is broken. I like that the central figure’s eyes stare right at the viewer – asking for help or imploring understanding.

In the title I wrote “Where is your Aubergine, comrade?” because I’d drawn a Russian-looking hat on the suspicious one and I thought about how this might stretch to a situation where individualism is frowned upon – you must be like everybody for the common good.

Badge of Honour


The lapel pin came out of the story – it was the next step in the unravelling tale so I considered what I could do to make such a pin. The inspiration cam from seeing the material – an offcut of a shiney silver film – which I drew a very simple aubergine shape onto and cut out. This is the simplest (almos) representation of an aubergine.

I know from experience that reflective materials do not look reflective at all when scanned – they become black or white or otherwise plain. The texture of any mirror-like material is entirely revealed by what is reflected in it… the surface is barely visible most of the time. For these photographs I tried a number of backgrounds – coloured paper, lights etc – to see how the illustration changed according to its surroundings.

The next step in the story might be the revelation of the opposite faction… the objectors who deliberately do not wear these pins or those who wear something to display their refusal to be subject to The Supermarket’s demands.


The backlash of “Pick Your Own” now brings this battle of Fruit and Veg to the point where it can become an allegory for a current day crisis – Immigration.

The Aubergines represent the Immigrants ‘Out of Season’ veg from abroad with the supermarkets using ‘propaganda’ to suggest that the British shopper should pay to save them from the war and/or drowning on an illegal journey to our shores etc. Although framed as a threat, this could be just a slant of the story – the other side yet to be revealed.

The strawberry motto “Pick Your Own” can now neatly be perceived as a Nationalist expression intended to deny charity to the foreigner.

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The black armband and strawberry logo is reminiscent of the Nazi  red armband  utilising the black swastika which has been a peaceful symbol since 3000BC. The actions that the Nazi’s associated with the swastika forever tarnished its reputation outside of certain ‘legitimate’ (and peaceful) religions. Turning the British Strawberry into a nationalist symbol might also be seen as an unfortunate turn for the strawberry.


This flag is a black ink line drawing which has been scanned and coloured in Photoshop. It looks a lot ‘flatter’ than I had intended – I would have liked the lines to better describe the hidden dimension of the subject by describing the roundness of the vegetable. The lines, of course, are not on the subject – I’ve put them there to describe the degree of shading.

Aubergine-05-Flag-OptionsPossible motifs for a flag. Very simplified. How simplified can an aubergine be while still looking like an aubergine? Does it need shine? Can the shine be really simple? Flag ‘rules’ say that the motif should be very simple and adding more detail is to move away from an effective flag.

The pro-aubergine propaganda is centred around creating a story for the vegetable – that it is in need of purchase to rescue it.


These ideas and a later depiction of a group of aubergines in a boat suggest a graphic novel approach where the plight of the aubergine and the customers’ role in saving it are both played out for the customer to identify with.

Australia actually issued a graphic novel showing how the outcome of attempting to enter Australia would result in failure. When I tried to look for the full version I couldn’t find it but I did find a lot of statistics, pie charts etc. these are in stark contrast to the very human condition of immigration… or the very vegetable condition of the aubergine… the pie charts struck me as being a bit like the boxes that graphic novels are set out in.

Emerging Final Ideas

Based my my exploration of the Winter Aubergine fiction I’m seeing two distinct ways to appeal to a customer:

  • Strawberry: National Pride, sense of belonging, tradition
  • Aubergine: Sense of duty, doing the ‘right thing’, selfless acts

The strawberry approach is the easier one as an idea – it falls into place quite easily as strawberries already have a national appeal.

The aubergine approach is still fiction – they are not actually refugees that need rescuing or hostages that need saving but they are a little ‘exotic’ or ‘different’. So this has become more about the route of appeal – how to call to the psyche of the shopper using the same kind of leverage as ‘sympathy’ would.

This doesn’t sound like an ideal kind of campaign but there might be pre-existing examples:

Puppies on a roll: the cute brown eyes of a Labrador-Retriever are obviously irresistible

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This is a drawing I made of a moment from the movie Bitter Lake – a documentary that tried to explain the truth behind the middle east conflict – it’s quite an eye-opener. I don’t know who this is – she is in a hospital, has not right arm below the elbow, a bandaged left hand and the right side of her face and right eye are gruesomely scarred. In the fil she is posed in a hospital chair for the camera in a dress, with a gold crown or tiara and a red flower. Her socks have a heart pattern on them. She is about seven years old.

This felt to be one of the most extreme forms of propaganda – the use of an injured civilian child to paint the enemy as child murderers. I would like to try to use imagery like this – the most extreme and morally questionable – to sell the Aubergines. It represents the most extreme version of threat – to dangle the life of a child before your choices. This also mirrors recent political events where images and representations of the dead refugee boy in the red t-shirt have gone viral on social media and evoked a reaction in Parliament.

Just stumbled across Margaret D. H. Keane’s paintings of people with very large eyes… they are very engaging! This style could fit well in the Aubergine campaign! After a few trials I see I can also have tears and/or smile. The whole big eys thing has a very refugee look – I think it derives from third-world people of diminutive proportions (due to malnutrition) where the eyes are genuinely larger relative to the amount of flesh they have left on their bodies.


Winter Aubergine

Breaking News

Mass panic is spreading after a well-known supermarket chain declared that unless their customers buy more Aubergines by 13th February, innocent Aubergines would suffer.

This is the first time that terrorism has been enacted by this Supermarket chain who say they have been forced into this position by the underhand tactics of their competitors and the increasing disloyalty of their loyalty card holders. Many customers are now habitually carrying four or five loyalty cards as well as frequenting discount chains where they may purchase goods in an untraceable manner.

This latest escalation has been broadly condemned by at least the three traditional high street grocers that we managed to find for comment, who say they that “the 13th looks like it’s going to be unlucky for some” and are preparing themselves for a St Valentine’s Day massacre.

Stay tuned… Keep it fresh… we’ll bring you more news as we hear it

Out of Season

The Aubergine is not normally grown in UK outside of May to September and the force-feeding of Equitorially-sourced Aubergines is seen by some as unnatural. Those without Aubergines are being looked at suspiciously.



An unnamed woman on an underground train, age 36, told our spokesperson earlier today “I had no reason to feel guilty having bought several Aubergines during my lunch break… but I had left them in my office. It was awkward not to be seen to be supporting these victims… and I felt I was being judged”.

Badges of Honour

The Supermarket has upped the stakes today by producing a lapel pin for its customers who comply with its demands for more Aubergines to be purchased. Customers wearing the lapel pin can escape from the suspicion some of them are coming under by displaying this symbol which shows that they are doing their part.


The lapel pins are made of tin and are in the shape of an aubergine.


Angry at the zombie-like compliance of the population who are now buying Aubergines in droves a group of stalwart shoppers are proclaiming counter-measures with their slogan “Pick Your Own”. They are appealing to the populace not to cave in to the propaganda about the imported aubergine and instead save their cash to buy the home-grown traditional British Strawberry when it comes into season this summer.

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The organisers of the opposing lobby group have started wearing black armbands depicting the heart-shaped cut-in-half strawberry in a white circle.

In order to regain visual ground the Pro-Aubergine lobby has launched a flag:


The flag has a green field and a purple pattern (with a green crown) designed in the shape of an Aubergine. Experts analysing the flag say that it is strong in illustrative technique but poor as a flag design and are predicting that the flag will need to be brought up to standard if it is to be used as part of this long campaign.


Meanwhile The Supermarket has issued a statement claiming that they have been misrepresented by the media. They claim that the intention was to offer help to the aubergines who would otherwise be at risk of languishing on the shelf. The spokesperson said further that the aubergines are looked after well in special facilities and that any misfortune that and aubergine might have can only be after they have left The Supermarket’s system.

Arrangements are being made to inspect these special facilities by the neutral organisation the Veg Cross.



Black and White again

Not Stuck

I’ve had a small break from studying this course simply due to working 60+ hours a week for a while. Christmas provides a chance to regain momentum and I’m going to tackle the Black and White exercise as a way to get back into it.

However, I’m not going to do it they way the brief is written exactly. I’m using illustrator instead of a photocopier to create a line drawing which I’ll then divide up into black and white areas to create a hard lighting effect. This will be quite dramatic so I’m going for a graphic novel (comic) effect – a story of expressive characters and/or places.

Cow Boys

First Character:


A straightforward line drawing of… looks like a cowboy. Nice hat.

B-Face-1-with-hatAfter filling all of the shapes in black (and adding a dark grey background to allow them to be seen) I start painting in highlights assuming a harsh light source from the top right and behinds the subject.


This guy now looks lovely and sinister. The shadow of he brim of his hat can be traced across the front of the face and there is the impression (although unintentional) of his left eye (right as you look at him) being directed to his left… like he’s slyly looking that way… the way a sly cowboy might.


Tying this with a black background… there’s enough light areas now that the face is still effective. This gives the impression that the hat is lower with a bigger turn up rather than there being a shadow on the face from the brim. Makes the face look fatter too. Perhaps in my original line drawing I didn’t do the proportions well.

Given the idea that his one looks like he’s looking over his left shoulder lets put something in the background to look at. Maybe there’s another cowboy with a gun in the distance.



Exercise: Visual Metaphors


New Scientist

Some time ago I stopped subscribing to New Scientist because I didn’t have time to read it (I’m doing a degree! NO time). I buy it when I have more time in the Summer etc but I’ve noticed something… it used to be jammed packed with illustrations: they were really creative collages and photomontages – full of texture, colour and they brought a real sense of style, colour and excitement to the articles. The last issue I bought had one illustration… which is on the cover and re-use for the article (a line drawing of Einstein’s head).

Maybe that’s why I stopped reading it… maybe I did have the time but not the inclination to put myself in front of a page of stock photography.

As a result I have no illustrations to show from New Scientist (unless I can find some older issue somewhere). How disappointing.

…Oh wait! Those old illustrations are on the internet… I can Google them!

As it turns out so are a number of other illustrations done speculatively or for college work as if briefed for a New Scientist article… the well is not dry after all.

I was looking at online newspapers and there’s a generality that is interesting:

  • Sport: Photographs of sportsmen
  • World News: Photographs of locations and events
  • Politics: Photographs of politicians
  • Finance: Illustrations, charts, graphics… no photos of anyone.

It is as if Finance does not involve people… it’s all about the concepts and their disambiguation through imagery… it’s almost as if there are no people to take responsibility for the events that happen in the financial world… oh! yes! that’s exactly how it is!

Examples of Illustration Metaphor

Anyway, science normally uses stock photos because the public don’t actually understand what it really looks like, I think, but when there’s space and in New Scientist in the olden days they used metaphorical illustrations which I used to look at for longer that I spent reading the article sometimes.

0001 Meanings in ImageryTechnology putting out the fuse on the self-destruction planet-bomb. Tagged as a ‘college’ piece this illustration by Nick Hare uses the existing shape of the earth, modified slightly, to match the shape of the archetypal cartoon bomb – the shape of early grenades. Although this shape of bomb does not seems to be in use any more the symobolism lives on in practically every cartoon… only superseded by the ‘sticks of dynamite’ bomb. Technology is represented here as robotic hands. This is a more tricky feat as it would be easy to see ‘gauntlets’ instead of ‘robot’. Perhaps what makes this most hard is that robotic hands are not a well established trope – we don’t have them in our household. In this case the hand have to be ;snuffing out’ the fuse so it’s important that they can be seen to be about to do this… something that looked more mechanical would not necessarily convey that action which is associated with human fingers.

0003 Meanings in ImageryResorting to the use of words is less satisfying but quite common and probably often necessary. Political cartoons have often labelled their characters and situations in some way. Here tech giants Microsoft and Google are each given a computer mouse which has been rendered to look like a boxing glove. Both interpretations are visible – the familiar red and ‘mitten’ shape of the boxing glove combined with the slightly different outline of a generic computer mouse and it’s familiar cable and cable strain-relief.

There is a ‘shock mark’ above and around the Microsoft mouse indicating a strike perhaps… with the Google mouse poised in a ‘just lunged’ position perhaps. The green background creates a vibrant contrast with the gloves/mice that heightens the energy of the situation.

0004 Meanings in ImageryIt took me a while to see this political comment – at first it looked only like the familiar hand-grenade with the pin pulled. Looking more closely the top of the grenade is fashioned in the shape of the dome on the top of the Senate building in Washington DC, the USA’s equivalent to the Houses of Parliament. The next moments after this pin is pulled will be familiar from the movie ‘Independence Day’ perhaps.

This image again modifies a familiar shape but only slightly so that two objects can be seen in one representation.

0005 Meanings in ImageryA falling house brick with the words ‘House Prices’ carved into it adequately represent the free-fall of house prices – probably a story from the recent global recession, which was partly caused by inflated house prices. The ‘falling’ part of this illustration is important as it is half the message and is represented here by showing the sky behind the brick and the motion lines trailing upwards.

There is a visualisation to be made by the viewer of this image – what will happen when it reaches the ground?

0006 Meanings in ImageryYou are what you eat… taken to its literal conclusion. The happy coincidence of the near flesh-coloured burger bun makes this conflation compelling… it is almost natural.

0007 Meanings in Imagery Fishing for ideas. The oh-so-recognisable brain cortext which also could pass… when drawn economically as here… for the gentle ripples on a lake.

0008 Meanings in ImageryRaking in the money. In this case it’s not even a metaphor of imagery as it depicts a scene that is literally possible, if not likely. But the phrase itself is a metaphor for making money very quickly and/or in large amounts.

0009 Meanings in Imagery The information super-highway made into the more familiar kind of road with a super amount of traffic. Extending this metaphor we infer that it is a hard road to cross for a pedestrian… and further assign Print Media to be the pedestrian to the internet’s streaming media. Signposts appear quite a lot in metaphorical imagery as they complete the context well.

0010 Meanings in ImageryWork-life balance. In this case ‘life’ is depicted as family… perhaps as ‘quality time’ with the family and as ‘leisure time’. What is interesting in this metaphor is that it is perfectly readable and yet the analogy fails to go further. If you over analyse this it appears that the man works, the rest of the family has fun, and that’s the balance!

0011 Meanings in ImagerySimilar to the work-life balance this is ‘Juggling commitments’. In this case it might also be ‘Multi-tasking’ and depicting 6 arms leans towards that idea.

0012 Meanings in ImageryThis metaphor is about goals and achievments. It doesn’t look otherwise like a twilight scene but the yellow bull’s-eye does operate in the position of a sunset. Travel by swimming is hard work and the horizon always a long way off so this metaphor incorporates the sense that the ‘target’ is hard won and requires determination, stamina and facing a challenge that stacks the odds against you.

0016 Meanings in ImageryThese packs of Viagra have been arranged in square (ish) foils so that they appear in two roes og three (or three rows of two). From the context of the article where they appear this is about ‘luck’ and this arrangement is rolling a double six on dice.

0014 Meanings in Imagery 2In the face of all evidence to the contrary here we see Man blaming some scapegoat for the demise of the Doodo. Although it is a straightforward piece of illustration it was used for a metaphor for ‘blame’ and man’s general proclivity for allocating it to anything other than himself.

0013 Meanings in Imagery 1This ardent cinema-goer uses and intravenous drip to ensure a steady supply of nutrients during a film.

0015 Meanings in Imagery 3Continuing the lucky double six metaphor this illustration co-opts the dots growing in a petri dish to become the dots on the dice… revealed with two die-shaped highlights.

Creating a Visual Metaphor


I first considered types of Broken Relationship… those dealing with a relationship that doesn’t work (where both parties are present) and one where the relationship is broken by separation… death or distance.

The idea that two people could have a broken relationship and be staring at each other in the eye is first sketched… it’s like a battle of wills, something needs to be settled and the relationship is unstable util it is.

Top right is a loss – a figure sits at a table for two alone. The flowers are wilted. In my mind this is a widower and his wife is missing… the wilted flowers are an additional metaphor within the picture. There is a certain literalness about this image as it is like a snap shot of a moment after the loss… it might not be a metaphor in the fullest sense.

The blue and yellow picture on the left shows a boy being left crying by his mother who’s back we see in the distance. I set this in a supermarket… an abandoned tantrum. I have personally witnessed many broken mother/child relationships in supermarkets – where they cannot communicate for whatever reason… modern life and the teenager… very tricky.

I drew a mother and baby with a separating line – adoption at birth is a break in a relationship of great significance. This would need to be developed to find a way to pictorially represent the break.

The final image on this page explores the situation where the relationship is only broken from one point of view… one person is happy and one is not. I’ve tried to show this in the expressions and the way that the unhappy partner directs their gaze at the other.


Turning to the Political Broken relationship, which superficially bears a resemblance to the last sketch but this time the context (end expressions) reveal that there is mutual animosity. There are a range of levels on which humans interact – from the very formal through to the deeply intimate and this is one of the more formal levels – this relationship is probably not personal but political; the relationship is between states represented by these two UN delegates. To keep it topical I’ve depicted a Sikh (I’ve later discovered that the turban is badly drawn!) and a ‘Westerner’, any number of political breakdowns are possible.

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Lots of a illustrations to represent Broken, Relationship or the combination. There are so many kinds of relationship yet it is a word that has only metaphorical imagery to represent it in itself.


Things that represent Finance.


Things that represent Catastrophe.


The meaning in this final drawing may not be 100% clear… it is the doubt about whether the roof of the ‘BANK’ building can be interpreted as a volcano, which is the inspiration. However, the nature of an ‘explosive outpouring’ might be enought to get across the message that there has been a disaster relating to finance… a Financial Catastrophe.

This illustration came from combining a sketch of a volcano with a sketch of a bank building.

The neo-classical architecture combined with the volcano reminds me of Mt. Vesuveus of the Roman Empire.


In tribute to the song in Starlight Express “U-N-C-O-U-P-L-E-D” which is the train-way to spell “D-I-V-O-R-C-E” – a Tammy Wynette hit which is much sadder than the train version. It occurs that an uncouple train is a broken relationship… the uncoupled carriage ceases to be part of the train.

It didn’t result in any imagery so far but I do find it interesting how wide-ranging the word ‘Relationship’ actually is. It can relate to many things that we don’t necessarily think of as being ‘In a relationship’… more that they ‘Have a relationship’. For example, a pencil and a sharpener ‘Have a relationship’ in that the one fits inside the other like a glove and can be sharpened by it… but to ‘break’ that relationship is harder to make sense of, the relationship is too insubstantial to disturb. It’s more of a conceptual relationship which is historical… pencils have been sharpened for many years. If we cease to use wood pencils then perhaps the relationship will be ‘broken’ but it doesn’t seem likely that pencil sharpeners will run off with the nail files to form a new relationship. It’s a shade of grey but it seems to me to be too far on the far side.