John Heartfield’s “Rationalisation Is On The March”
Which I think has be re-used or re-published with a yellow background later… but this seems to be the original artwork.
The historical context for this work, in 1927 Berlin, is that the inflationary period of Germany has come to an end and the Nazis are on the rise. Rationalisation is the process of getting more from less in an industrial sense – more output from less cost or labour. In this case, in the months following the publication of this work, thousands of businesses were ‘amalgamated’ in order to drive up efficiency. I don’t quite understand the process by which this happened in the ‘Republic’ – a quoted fige in October 1927 is that 4000 became 320. Another figure quoted 80 car factories producing 146 models of car was reduced to 30 factories producing 42 models of car.
With that context in mind this work by John Heartfield makes more sense than before. Even without the background this image is pleasing, I think because it reveals a humanoid figure constructed from whole other parts of things… rather than the imagery being ‘textures’ each collaged piece is a distinct object – the shapes of the objects remain instact and contribute directly to the intended shapes of the parts of the humanoid figure.
On top of this, though, there are some non-direct additions… the hips are made from two circular objects which is not particularly a representation of ‘hips’. Although perhaps the right circle (an industrial-looking hatch, perhaps from a steam train) could be seen as a belly.
The work makes a character out of the process of rationalisation along with the trappings – the stopwatch and chart used to measure and record the gains; a cam shaft, the key part of machine-work which changes linear motion to rotational motion or vice-versa; legs made from chimney stacks.
Although Heartfield’s picture is the personification of an idea or process I thought it might be interesting to apply his techniques to the figures that I had used in the previous assignment, without trying to re-integrate them into the poster as a whole but just to see them as musicians.
Currently they are somewhat lacking in character and individual style. They are a group of three people that know each other well enough to play ‘Free Jazz’ together. In the way that Heartfield has created a character from the artefacts of industry I would like to create three musicians from the artefacts of music.
As they are drawn now, as surfers, they already are derived from music notation – bar lines and breves. I’m gonna throw this out and start again.
Notes and Ideas
Printed music manuscript as texture or body parts
Parts of instruments as limbs etc
Metaphors for music – like song birds
Visual metaphors – like herds of horses, schooling fish, clouds
Where possible I’d like to mimic the cutting out of a real object shape to use as the appropriate body part but it may be necessary to crop some things that are more textural or amorphous in order to use them.
This is Piano Man.
I thought I’d bring down the overall vibrance of the whole thing in order to get closer to the ‘old’ look. I think the tone Heartfield’s collaged pieces are in part due to the available material. Today there is nothing to limit the colours, especially when using Photoshop, but the printe material from the 1927 would have lacked colour in the main.
Although I find my piece a pleasing image it does lack some of the aspects of Hearfield’s work:
He was political commentator and would often use clippings from well-known newspapers in order to enhance his message… an already familiar image. I’ve gone someway to bridging this gap by trying to use items that might be recognisable.
He didn’t use Photoshop. I’m very short of imagery for this so I used the internet as my source and Photoshop as my cutting board. As a compromise I didn’t distort the imagery other than scaling, tinting and a touch of blur on the background.
I feel like I’ve filed to grasp some of the deeper Dadist and experiential intentions behind Heartfield’s work. This is partly due to the lack of a political dimension in my work but also because they are elusive and historical context was important. His machine-man will have invoked an emotional response in the viewer of the time due to the implications of the changes being illustrated, implications for jobs, wealth, commerce, Germany’s standing and the emerging struggle between left and right wing approaches to government. The post WW1 Dadist movement was also a rebellion against art itself. Today I don’t think I know how I would go about rebelling against art with an illustration… there seems to be nothing that is unacceptable!
However, there are one or two things that I have done that do align with Heartfield’s practice:
The image are all found (in the internet)
The clippings are re-purposed to be other than the intended image (except the hat, which is a hat. Maybe I could find an alternative!)
there’s a theme – where Heartfield used industrial imagery to make his character of ‘rationalisation’ I have used clippings of music-related items to make a pianist.
I’ve played with the scale of the components to over-size the hands and diminish the body.
As I understand it… this illustration was never used but it was intended for ‘Bloomberg Business Week’ for an article about Lamoda in Russia who employ uniformed delivery men to bring your shopping to your home, wait while you try it on and sell you those items that you wish to keep. In Russia the usual delivery standards are low.
This image shows the operation in progress. A uniformed Lamoda delivery and sales man wait upon a customer, apparently in her home, while she tries on a jacket. The home looks sophisticated by way of a elegant chair, table and lamp with a circular rug revealing a tiled floor around the edges. Through the window are typically Russian church roofs.
The two characters have particular expressions – the woman is fully smiling at herself in the mirror where her image is shown again… she is making eye contact with her reflection which is an ‘interaction’ but with only one person!
The Lamoda delivery man has a ‘shop smile’ – an exterior for the benefit of the customer… perhaps not a deep feeling of pleasure but all of it directed at his customer. He holds the rest of the potential shopping.
A number of textures are used for walls – a wallpaper effect on the left wall with a pale blue pattern of ferns like a ‘feature’ wall; the window wall is plain white and the right wall (or maybe the back of the door) is marbled.
Eda Alkatun sources her image elements from a large, personal collection of 50s fashion catalogues.
Making a work in Alkatun’s Style
To make a work in this style I need a composition that suits it – something with people in it probably and in a domestic/familiar setting that can be constructed form textures and other clippings. The people should be taken from an historic publication if possible.
I thought I could develop the intention behind this image slightly… it might become a bit surreal but it would suit the style. Instead of thee people on a tube train I though they could be in the supermarket buying goods and I can maintain the interpersonal relationships… Adam (on the right) is admiring his aubergine, Charles (Right) is holding an aubergine and looking at Betty (Middle) who does not have an aubergine. Poor Betty. But in this world one must have one’s aubergine or one is not proper.
This is the Aubergine gang… Betty still doesn’t have an aubergine in her basket.
I tried a few things in Photoshop to get a more antique look for the faces which worked a lot better at full resolution – once the picture was scaled for the website the halftoning went a bit messy.
It’s fairly obvious where the different elements are except that Betty’s head has been replaced.
To make this more like Akaltun’s images I need to bring out some more selective colour… perhaps parts of the background or the produce on the shelves.
This is my first attempt using five lines. It reminded me of cave paintings. I quite enjoy the idea of drawing long, freehand lines to describe a shape – it looks soothing (if it looks like it’s supposed to). I used willow charcoal to keep it big and bold.
I thought I’d try 5 lines of charcoal on edge. I still enjoy these leg shapes. They gain a style of their own which is somewhat dictated by the medium here.
Just trying a shorter piece.
And now deliberately thinking about calligraphy as I do it and introducing the kind of ‘ticks’ and ‘breaks’ that you might find in square-nib lettering.
My collage is quite nice. I don’t think I’ve been anywhere near as extreme as I could have been. It was a bit fiddly but only on A4 size.
Doing the 5-line pictures allowed me to find parts of the dog that were essential to keep it as a dog. It also gave my brain a mission when I was looking at the picture – a seek out mission, to find the best five lines. I tried to get a nice sense of the very curvy back and hind quarters.
The pictures are actually of broccoli and sky, with some trees. Interestingly broccoli is called ‘small trees’ to feed a toddler. The tongue is the reddest, glossiest thing I could find with a texture, and the eye is a rose in a garden.
The text / grass was an accident – s I was looking through magazines I realised that there was a lot of text and few pictures then I thought I could just use up the text as grass.
Patches now looks a bit like a blue meanie.
I think I need to draw this again from the collage… it’s reverted a bit to things that are in the photo but not in the collage.
This is more interesting – I’ve made the dark patches scaly and hard and the pale patches smudgy-soft. The dog is now a bit cloudy, not defined at the edges. He looks a bit like he’s wearing a jumper and gold collar.
I’m not really sure about developing this… I still prefer the collage style quite a lot.
A very loose brief is given… in this case the choice of one of four topics:
It is also specified the at the illustration should be based on a still life, although the development of the final illustration from the initial still life is not restricted.
I first decided to make lists of things that are associated with each of the topics to find something that I could work with the best.
A person, Specific items (keys, money/valuables), through death, through cracks in the floor, Lottery, Roulette, Poker etc.
Accident (personal, group, organisation, National, Global), climate, My parents have sold my x-box, extinction, fire, flood
treasure, truth, hidden city/tribe, science/material breakthrough, new species, Alien life, explorer, detective work, Indiana Jones, Laura Croft
Paternity test, ate the last biscuit, corporate scandal, M:Stress, chocolate etc (vice), confession (church), fraud, I don’t floss
I read through this list to try to find something meaningful but also wary of choosing things that are in my ‘comfort zone’. So I avoided perhaps the obvious ones for me which are the science-related articles (ones you might read in New Scientist) and the corporate irresponsibility topics… ones that might be BP’s Gulf oil leak.
Eventually I decided to follow the lead of the ‘Confession (church)’ idea. Catholics have sometimes reported the guilt that is instilled in them as children through the practices, such as confession, that are used in the Catholic church affects their lives and personalities when they grow up. I was trying to imagine what the specifics might be – what was the secret and how did it make them feel guilty when I saw a completely different angle. The catholic church has been accused of covering up child abuse carried out by it’s members and I imagined that this was the church’s Guilty Secret. But I wondered about making it more personal and decided that the topic I would follow would be about one priest who has not been discovered in crimes against his own alter boys and feels the weight of his guilty secret as surely as he fails to confess… perhaps he betrays his own church’s teachings twice, once by the crimes he commits and again by failing to mention them when he goes to confession himself.
The Still Life
Communicating ‘guilty secret’
I started by listing objects that were associated with the Catholic Church…
Vestments, stole, miter
Statue (The Virgin Mary)
It occured to me that the visual representation of a secret could be an object that does not belong… the odd one out… representing the crime. If the crime were murder then the murder weapon could be used – a gun, knife, ladies stockings (see Dial ‘M’ for murder), some arsenic.
In this case the crime is sexual abuse – which is at root, perhaps, a breach of trust: an adult who makes a child partake in acts which the child does not have an informed understanding when that adult is expected to protect the child.
Possibilities that spring to mind:
broken glasses (boy-sized)
a conker on a string (like a boy’s toy) or catapult
a boy’s shoe
a sweet (used to lure boys)
School tie (clip on!)
Toy car, plane, tank, jeep, helicopter
Half melted ice lolly or lollypop (like Kojak)
Spinning top – the tin ones that whine
Toy animal – like farm animals etc
Trading cards… football stickers etc.
I’ve focussed on traditional toys because I feel like this is an historical crime – 1970s perhaps.
None of these are very direct… shoes and glasses would need to be demonstrated as a boys. However they all strike a contrast to the serious trappings of the Catholic church – the altar sets and other items could be chosen to look out of place when shown with one of these items.
If it was a catapult it could be made in the style of the other items… but that won’t stop it being what it is. It might make it more sinister.
Jacks might look sinister – they also resemble caltrops an “anti-personnel weapon”.
Action Man could be posed, or dressed (undressed) in a specific way.
A stuffed bear could be damaged (see children in need)
Another possibility is to focus not on the victim but upon the priest’s own guilt and how that might manifest in terms of an object. For example, perhaps he now feels he is doing Satan’s work so he now carries a symbol of that…
An inverted cross
Goat head with horns
Pentagram – point down
Broken wings (!?) = Fallen Angel (Dead bird?)
Apple with a bite taken out of it – evidence of partaking of the forbidden fruit… especially if it’s a red apple.
The child’s item would be better as a Satanic Priest is a wider number of possibilities.
Choosing Still Life Items – the Church Bits
Crosier: a symbol of the shepherd guiding his flock. This has a particular poignancy within this scenario where this shepherd is certainly misguiding his altar boy. Would be good to include especially if it can be associated with the child’s item.
Rosary Beads: these are easy to recognise and include a cross. They are also a personal item. Including them will help communicate the overall story
Holy Bible: as long as the words ‘Holy Bible’ are legible this will also help identify the story. It is common to se the Rosary Beads on an open bible… it implies the act of private prayer. In this scenario it might imply the act of praying for forgiveness for the guilty secret.
Chalice: from which the wine (or grape juice!) of the Eucharist is received. Receiving the Holy Communion could be considered the same as the ‘Last Supper’ that christ famously held prior to his betrayal and crucifixion. There is an interesting possibility here that our guilty priest knows or wants to be betrayed (to the authorities)… for his crime… or that he is considering suicide due to the guilt or because he can’t face being caught. In Last Supper terms this might put him in the role of Judas and the chalice, if spilled, could represent the betrayal.
Monstrance: this is not something I’m familiar with and perhaps might not be recognised by other people not familiar with Catholicism but it plays an important role in the mass. What is interesting is how ostentatious this item looks – it reeks of the theatre of the Catholic Church – something imposing and… well in aesthetic terms it looks Monstrous!
Statue of The Virgin Mary: The Blessed Virgin Mary – mother of Jesus – is big in the catholic church. It seems one can enhance one’s devotion by adding your own personal devotion to the Virgin Mary. Visually the classic statue of the Virgin Mary can look serene and can look down… a delicate juxtaposition to the accusation in the other objects and also a way (via her gaze) to direct the viewer within the image.
Alter: the large plinth in which is set the consecrated altar stone. This may or may not become appropriate at a setting for the image. It is strong in terms of transgressions – any sin committed upon the altar (on a consecrated place) becomes more of an affront before god… but we are not seeing the crime! Altars are covered with a cloth out of respect for it – and have big candles on them. These things would represent an altar location.
Censer: I’m not sure this is needed nut it does have some recognisable attributes, especially when actually smoking incense. If smoke would enhance the scene at any point the censer would be a possible way to introduce it. On the basis that there’s no smoke without fire… fire itself might be significant as a destroyer (of lives, reputations, etc) and as a signifier for the fire of hell.
Choosing Still Life Items – the Altar Boy’s item
I think a person item would be good.
Action Man: is my favourite candidate so far… a posable (un)dressible adult figure.
Conker: I like the conker on a string as it can look innocuous until you look and question why it’s there. It has strong association with younger boys.
Soft Toy: like a teddy bear… is my third choice. It is iconic as a childs’ item, although could be a baby’s which is the wrong age range for this story.
Arranging the Items
I now have some of the items and the conker and the rosary beads are very interesting together – they look similar in a kind of stringy – talisman sort of way.
I’ve yet to find an actual Holy Bible but I have a book of similar proportion (Oxford Shorter English Dictionary). I thought it would look more personal… perhaps a smaller volume would… but the proportion of the book to the rosary beads and conker is interesting because of the way the book provides a backdrop or a ‘table’ for the smaller items, especially when it’s open.
There is a pleasing similarity between these two items… it might be useful visually.
The separation of the ‘conker’ and the other pieces. This might be the opposite of what I’m trying to achieve.
The objects placed randomly – as if all three have been taken out of the pocket and dumped.
Using the Bible as a platform to display the objects. The conker is hidden too well here.
A careful placing of the object on the Bible. Perhaps this is the ‘staged crime scene’ – the evidence consciously layed-out to be discovered. Meaning in the placement. Reflection or contemplation by the person placing the objects.
Interesting: These three items suggest ‘environment’ – a distinction from being the ‘story’ but an important role. The way that the ‘Bible’ is out of the shot suggests more beyond view, as if the illustration would be a detail from a larger scene… perhaps looking at the one out-of-place object in an otherwise normal scene.
I’m curious about the objects becoming entangled -this might be suggestive. Also the cross here is viewed as if upside-down. It perhaps doesn’t go with the conker – which represents innocence. It is the priest that is corrupted but the innocent child has not caused it and in this image it appears as if the conker string is making the cross invert.
A more ‘random’ placement where the cross is seen as inverted.
A closer view with the cross righted.
Note for later: I used text as a background for the dog collage – if this image were to be collaged it might be helped with text in the background – perhaps even real enlarged (and significant!) sections of the printed bible.
I like the effect where the objects are seen in an ‘ongoing’ environment, as detail from a larger picture. It is absolutely the case that this image merely alludes via the objects to other events… it is as if we are looking at a single clue in a far more wide-ranging puzzle.
I’ve found rosary beads that are bigger – actual wooden beads rather than small plastic ones, with metal links and a detailed cross. I have also been given a nine and three-quarter inch tall Virgin Mary statue. It’s actually Our Lady of Lourdes – which turns out to be a statue of the Virgin Mary as she appeared to a French girl in the 1800s. It is interesting now I have wooden beads, a wooden statue and a conker that are all of similar colour. The ‘Chalice’ I have is also brown earthenware – I like that all these items appear to tone-in together yet there is an odd one out.
I keep wanting to have the rosary beads ‘spilling’ from the chalice… but I don’t think this is meaningful. It draws attention to the chalice and gives it significance but I don’t think it is relevant and may not be needed at all.
I though about viewing the scene more from above. With just the four elements. This is quite strong in terms of seeing the rosary and the conker side-by-side
The lower view shows the gaze of Our Lady of Lourdes which might be a better signifier. This is one of my favourite looks so far – it has quite a few strengths with diagonal lines and an un-balanced overall set-up caused by Our Lade being on one side… on the side of the innocent, perhaps?
Some more experiments with the other Virgin, the bible closed and beads in the chalice. These arrangements are quite nice – they move more towards a more casual placement like we are seeing this scene from a privileged viewpoint but I’m still wary of using the Chalice in this way.
The Still Life
The set-up I finally chose was for clarity – the items are relatively separate and easy to pick out. The drawback of the conker in this context (ie: a still life) is that it is a little hard to read what it is… colour might help, or using a setting where it is hanging or being used by a boy.
In the context of a ‘Guilt Secret’ I’m interested in the state of mind that the secrecy creates… there is a conflict between confessing and continued secrecy. In my particular scenario there is even the possibility of continuing the criminal acts which deepens the guilt and, perhaps, makes confession harder to face.
This scenario would be more interesting if it was before actual transgression… if the guilt was about thoughts of transgressing… this represents a less clear-cut situation because no crime as been committed (except in an Orwellian scenario) and the guilt is about ‘entertaining the idea of a crime’… which is one of my favourite quotes…
It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.
Aristotle suggests that the thought is guiltless…
I’m a bit confused now about starting from the still life as a basis for the image… having tried to find a way to communicate a message using a still life I’m not sure where ‘forward’ is from here. It would perhaps be clearer if there were a magazine article to read.
I’m noticing also that I’ve ended up pursuing a very serious issue. When I look up ‘Guilty Secret’ it is more often to do with consenting adults and naughty cake (for the record: I don’t think cake is naughty, I’m with Barbara Windsor and just think it’s nice <nom, nom, nom>.)
I’m seeing that I now have a drawing based on physical objects that it is possible to arrange to be drawn. That’s quite a restriction. My drawing doesn’t fully communicate the topic… it’s a bit ambiguous. There are bigger objects that I might have included if I were opening out the subject matter like – a church, a priest, a boy’s bicycle, a strained glass window.
The Assignment says that this is an opportunity to show my ’emerging style’… but I don’t have an emerging style do I? Whatever my style my be I don’t think it’s based on a still life… so I’m at this point that makes no sense to me. I can think of ways to take this forward and complete the artwork but I don’t think that the driving force is ‘my style’.
From continual re-reading the assignment I think I might have done things in the ‘wrong’ order. I’ve created a rough narrative before beginning work… I have a fallen priest and his vulnerable boy-victim. Maybe I can find the end with that in mind.
The picture thus far is 5 mundane objects of which one, the conker, is the odd one out. To move forward I would like to highlight the conker and make it ‘read’ better – so that you can see it’s a conker. I want to both accentuate that it is the odd one out and introduce more of a ‘threat’ message – an idea that it being the odd one out is terrifyingly significant.
I could introduce blood to make a horror element – this could be tied in with some kind of stigmata idea – being crucified for one’s sins.
When I was drawing the ‘bible’ I chose not to be too specific about the visibility of the writing – the context suggests that it is a bible – but there will undoubtably be a suitable verse in it for this situation. Perhaps I could use this verse as ‘the writing onthe wall’ – as a textural element – to imbue the scene with the guilt that is held.
I’d like the conker to be ‘guiltless’, ‘innocent’ – rather than ‘damaged’ or ‘abused’. I’m reminded of ‘Raiders of the Lost Arc’ where the Nazi emblems
Approches that spring to mind are
to eliminate the pencil drawing by overlaying collaged elements… such as the text from a suitable bible quote, some photographic imagery for the conker which could be slightly bigger, and a single significant item that can be repeated for each of the beads on the rosary.
To create a rougher texture for the image – higher contrast, less clear edges and to contrast the conker by increasing its clean, accurate look.
Addition of the image of the priest – specifically the look of guilt on his face – the weight of the secret that he carries. Something to stand in for or represent his feelings of guilt and secrecy.
Addition of the image of the boy. This feels slightly more difficult. My instinct is to think about an anonymous figure. This perhaps drawing on high profile court cases of this nature where the victim is granted anonymity but the accused is not.
To look at the role of the shadows – the one cast by Our Lady of Lourdes has a slight character of its own and could become the spirit of something else. Would have to be careful how this reflects on the character of the Virgin Mary herself.
The Holy Bible is essentially a book with a story… what can I put in it other than the bible? Can I use it in the drawing to depict the actual story that I’ve concocted about the priest?
Hail Mary – is recited for forgiveness. Original version…
Hail Mary, full of grace. Our Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
…perhaps the could fill the ‘book’ area
The book is in two halves – the left half has the rosaries and the right half has the conker. The two halves could be different… maybe the right half is something from a boy’s life – a rhyme?
“Ip Dip Dog Shit you are now it” ; “rock paper scissors” ; “eenie meenie minee mo” ; “A sailor went to sea sea sea to see what he could see see see” ; “XXX and YYY sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G” ; “Ring a ring of roses, a pocket full of posies,
The right page could be colourful like a children’s book
The conker string is traditionally a shoelace
I’ve splashed some Photoshop colour onto this to see what happens. The conker is redrawn to make it recognisable and then I’ve just put some tone on the pages.
I think the necklace will need to be redrawn as the conker was to make it real then those two items become the foreground and everything else takes a step back. I’m not sure about the colour… perhaps I could try to make everything else muted like it was ‘unreal’ so that only the other two items are vivid and lifelike.
This is quite interesting – the vividness of the two objects as it develops. Their natural colours are similar too – warm wood tones. I could develop the other items in rough cold blue-black textures.
Developing the Background
I have found how I want to finish this artwork now. The final piece came from the earlier exercise where I drew a dog and then re-drew it in specified styles. At the end of the exercise I had created a smudged charcoal dog, in blue. This kind of effect would be perfet to create a contrast between the foreground elements (drawn in Photoshop) and the background. Mixing these two styles creates a way to highlight the two objects that are the best story-tellers.
A colour visual showing the approximate effect.
I made a lightbox so that I could create the background using soft pastels by using the drawing a guide underneath but drawing on a blank sheet on top. This one is on cartridge paper. The book has come out very well – soft and flowing. Also the chalice is quite ‘painted’. The Virgin Mary, which I tried in blue to capture the traditional colour, has been lost in murky colours. I dislike the shadows now – they draw attention.
For this one I used a rougher paper and I’m starting to appreciate the differences it makes to soft media. In this case the initial lines that I’ve put down are still visible after the smudging which I don’t want. The Virgin Mary looks a lot better because of the better definition – we can see her shape and now the blue works.
the book colour is great, but not so soft, but the chalice is now too saturated. I think I can do this again on cartridge paper using the book colour and grey for the chalice to try to keep the background elements more of one tone.
The dark outline on the left of the Virgin Mary is good and similar could be used for the chalice, and the yellow halo would be great if I can stop the blue contaminating it.
After completing the background it just remains to add the shadows to the beads and draw in the cross.
This is the soft pastel part still with tape on the corners of the paper.
I’ve tried to make this a combination of all of the best bits of the two practice ones before.
I’ve tried to stop adding more colour to the objects once they are recognisable and have enough definition.
Overall I’m a bit disappointed as the effect that I wanted has eluded me… I reduced the blur to make it simpler but it feels like I’ve gone an awfully long way to arrive at something that seems to have little going for it. The objects now look a bit sparse.
Where I have tried to be clever with the rougher texture in the background and the computer drawn art in the foreground has produced less of an exciting effect than I imagined… it might look different when printed though – I’m only looking at it on a screen.
On the plus side it might work really well when it’s got text flowed around it.
Of all the things that I’ve discovered creating this illustration the most pleasant was working with pastels. I’ve not previously used them in a serious way but having a goal has help me to explore them… the ability to blur them easily with a finger is very useful and helps create rounded surfaces. I can see that if you’re working on a large enough scale then reducing the illustration to finish then a finger smudge would become a very effecive detail.
If there isn’t a superhero for every occasion… then there is now that I have created Aisle Man… the hero of the supermarket. Having just read “No Logo” I thought the creation of a people’s hero to help sort the unethically produced food from the more innocent produce would suit the day. I started playing with the superhero Archetype and gave hime a blindfold to represent justice and third eye so that he could see the secrets behind the brands.
I had some trouble with the nose.
I had envisaged making him more into a Ghandi character but this mostly caused a problem because I couldn’t do that as well as create a superhero archetype. Perhaps there’s an alternative character that is not a superhero that could be more Ghandi like.
I tried to show where the blind eyes were so that we would perceive that eyes existed and that they were blind.
His outfit started to grow from a tunic and become somewhat Roman Army:
…with bot greaves and bracers that are both standards of the superhero.
His nose still didn’t work – If I were only to show him from the front it would be fine (a bit Asterix!) but he was developing more into the 3D Marvel/DC hero so I found a nose that resembled a Roman helmet nose-guard.
I’m struggling a bit with the human form as I have too little practice.
This is a start anyway. I just need to find some great poses to put him in to show his full glory.
For the second character I just tried doodling with some Promarkers to see what shapes I could find. I have chosen a Ska8ter Boi for the character.
I quickly found some pleasing shapes that made humans and started to tell the character’s story. I tried to use as little line as possible…
But found that I needed to draw eye-circles and a nose to help show the direction of gaze and angle of the head.
After a bit of practice I could re-draw the boi in different poses without drawing lines first.
He has become just four colours and uses his whole body to express emotions, as well as his mouth.
I think his skate board could also express some stuff.
I took a break from making up my own stuff to see how the pros do it. This is my re-production (can I call it ‘fan art’? can I? can I?) of Charlie and Lola and a few friends. I’ve found that the eyes are hugely useful – they move around those slopey ovals producing essential line-of-sight for us to follow. The nose is like a small bulb element and the mouth is a chevron, unless in use.
There are at least two huge amount of effort going on in these drawings… one is to make them look easy… the look o a quick scribble… but the other is the effort needed to get them look absolutely right. I made a few mistakes – just tiny ones – when drawing some parts and they completely destroyed the effect of the finished character.
Having copied them I can se and hear the characters from my drawings but I think that’s because I’ve watched them on TV and read the books to my daughter so I’m very familiar with them.
This is my imitation of the inimitable Quentin Blake. I watched an interview with him on YouTube where he was drawing pages for a book and the fluidity with which he creates these characters is a wonder to behold. Again, these are deceptively strongly styled… which is to say that my reproductions differ in small ways that have big effects whereas Mr Blake’s originals are as unique as a signature. In fact, the way he draws them bears a strong resemblance to the way a person writes a signature… lots of inexplicable squiggles that always seem to come out looking right.
The eyes (not the witches’ eyes, the other ones) are dots. In contrast to the big white ovals of Charlie and Lola’s eyes these are as minute as you like.
These Roald Dhal characters have mega-flexible bodies that curve and bend in all sorts of ways. There is a lot of expression in the shapes of the whole characters themselves and they express their inner-weirdness, good or bad, in that way.
The figures standing on piles of cash represent increasing health and fitness that is associated with increased personal wealth. They are drawn without details… an ear and a nose on most. Their clothing is like a baby-grow but they are shaded to give them volume.
The character on the chair is Jeremy Bentham. This is quite probably an illustration of the preserved body of Jeremy Bentham that sits dressed in his glass case at UCL. Does he look dead in this illustration? Not really, and that does perfectly convey the eeriness of the real-life cadaver.
The boy and his dog… he has a rucksack and binoculars and the dog wears a jaunty scarf.
There’s a perfectly normal looking man with a normal wine glass which he is filling from an infeasibly large wine bottle.
The girl with the girl-sized cupcake looks like she’s a china doll – rosy cheeks, beady eyes with eye-lashes and a small straight mouth – all of which could have been painted on.
Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. But in gas masks… tilting at the chemical weapons windmill.
Two policemen arresting a fingerprint. They wear police hats with peaks covering their eyes which somehow makes them more imposing… they remind us of the drill sargent (“Sir, yes sir!”), purposeful gait, commanding hands and mouths set in determination. The perspective heightens the drama and their size-nines are probably size-twelve.
The scientist people are like upside-down exclamation marks to which arms and legs-sticks have been added. All of the expression of emotion comes from impressions given in silhouette – shaking fists, fainting motions, scratching the head…
This is a pamphlet about the electricity in your new home. I think it was issued when the house was sold in 1990. The name of the illustrator has been lost but they remind me of cartoon strips from newspapers.
We kick off with a scientist fashioned from the application of his work… a light bulb which is the incarnation of a scientist. This is an example of anthropomorphism – something Disney has made a living from in terms of making animals more human-looking.
We can tell this light bulb is a scientist because he has a FLASK and GLASSES… lets call them props. The glasses are not enough on their own, but the flask would be. I’m going to categorise these kinds of props as  for those that denote the character on their own,  for those that reinforce other props but are not enough on their own to make a label. These may apply to other things like facial feature, exression, stance, environment as well as objects including clothing.
A woman in a WHITE COAT . If she was a butcher a white coat wouldn’t be enough – there’d need to be blood stains and a meat cleaver but white coat says scientist first.
She is using APPARATUS  which in this case is a little un-lab-like, also food-based. The bell jar is not the usual go-to for science as it’s less recognised… usually it’s a test-tube  or a conical or round flask .
This illustration I think is drawn as a positive role model… the woman, might be a girl, is drawn smiling – happy with what she’s doing. We get the signal from contemporary media that a scintist is focussed, possible obsessed, with their work which only leaves us with the question – are they a happy or a grumpy scientist? do they enjoy their obsession or does it “use them up”? does it drive them relentlessly regardless of their pleasure in the experience?
A flask, which is alive… but not a scientist… just a piece of science. Since this is the very rocognisible CONICAL FLASK  this is definitely science. But nothing tells us that this character is doing science… he is running, and may be part of science, science doing work perhaps.
GOGGLES  and, just visible a WHITE COAT . Goggles are associated more widely with other safety issues – pilots and motorbikes; engineering and construction industry. But with the white coat visible even the magenta hair cannot dissuade us that this (band member?) character is sciency.
WHITE COAT . CONICAL FLASK , SPECS . Oh, and Green hair, but that doesn’t count unless… well the word ‘mad’ often suggests ‘scientist’ so perhaps green hair that looks mad puts the word scientist on the tip of your lips… is that a ?
Also happy… always happy when he’s got a flask.
Very kind and misunderstood hunchback lab technician wearing a WHITE COAT . There may be so little to suggest that this character is a scientist that we’re relying on specific popular culture to suggest it… Marty Feldman as Igor in Young Frankenstein (1974) to be precise… although he dressed in black, not white (!)… and the late Mel Smith’s role in Princess Bride in the pit of despair (also not in white!).
The facial expression here is both nonthreatening and unintelligent – the toothy grin suggests either child-like or senile characteristics; a lack of glasses is subtle in not promoting him to the thinking rank, and the eyes that are left are… something, I don’t know what… there is literally something about the eyes!
This seems to be a huge category with many illustrations turning up in commercial image libraries.
Weight lifter with BARBELL , a lot of upper body muscles, a LIFTING BELT .
This guy is an ATHLETE because it says so. He’s running, but that doesn’t really mean anything specific so the word Athlete does the trick. This would be the extreme case.
I had to look this sport up – I didn’t know it existed – it’s Cycle Cross (or ‘CycleX’) and involves courses for bikes that are so ‘all terrain’ that proceeding on foot carrying the bike is required at some places. It has a long history derived from a cross country steeple chase (you ran towards the steeple of the church of the next village) where the route didn’t matter… just the time it took you to complete.
BIKE , RUNNING , UPHILL , CARRYING BIKE 
There doesn’t seem to be a single definitive feature but all together it spells sport. The drop handlebars on the bike make it more sport-orientated.
Another combination that would be lost individually, but where no one thing is definitive. The stance maybe the strongest effect – it’s commonly seen of competing runners that they push forward with their torso more than a casual runner. The hands being flat is also an athlete’s preference.
The muscles are only lightly implied by the highlights on arms and legs but it’s enough to emphasise the strength factor of the movement.
So this little fella is definitely a character. He has a jaunty smile and a spring in his step… and he’s a paint brush with yellow paint on his bristles… playing football. Definitely playing football because of the BUCKY-BALL  in two colours according to sides per face at his feet. So strong is the presence of the football that there is nothing else at all that indicates that this is a sporting character. He is, after all, a paint brush and I would otherwise expect him to be a decorating kind of character.
Whereas a bike was not enough, a football is everything.
This is a photograph, not an illustration (you knew that) but I’ve included it because I knew when I looked at this that the sport denoted was running. I knew this despite the complete absence of running in the image. The runner is sitting on the ground. She might correctly be called a sitter rather than a runner. But the ground is a RUNNING TRACK , and she is wearing RUNNING SHOES , SHORTS , VEST and looks exhausted after doing something… probably running.
What I’m seeing is that not every aspect of a character is necessary to be present in order to accurately and fully communicate the nature of the character.
Here is a much more conventional picture of althleticism – a man of the rings doing a piked-cross (if that’s what it’s called). We recognise the RINGS  as being specific to this sport and his peculiarly rigid position as being part of a routine. His muscles are well defined.
We know a lot and a little about this character. He’s a top athlete because of the OLYMPIC GOLD MEDAL  – we know it’s an Olympic one because of the TORCH  or OLYMPIC TORCH . We suspect he probably can’t walk and that this is a Paralympic event… but we have no idea which one. That leaves this character as the slightly generic ‘a Paralympic Athlete’, or more generally just ‘an athlete’.
Here’s that strange arm again. I remember this arm from the square scientist above, from the Flintsones who used to stand like this, even run like this… perhaps Top Cat too.
This weight lifter seems quite shy… bowed head modest demonstration of power.
This is very interesting to me because the woman running over the finish line wearing a gold Olympic medal suggests that she is an Olympic Gold athlete, as above. However, there’s this word – “WINNER” which demotes the meaning from Olympic Gold Medalist to just… winner… of something not specified.
In character terms this is very generic – there is no face at all. All of the expression is from the body language.
We need to get something out of the way…
Sherlock Holmes. In many situations the DEERSTALKER , PIPE  and MAGNIFYING GLASS  are synonymous with SH and only with SH… using them for another character tends to suggest SH rather than building a new character. The strength of this is amazing but not unique. A waxed moustache as become the symbol of Hercule Poirot and the tan-coloured macintosh points right at Columbo. Lollipop => Kojak. Trilby => Dick Tracy… although it starts to get tenuous.
In fact Detectives have been created in their thousands and they have much more rounded, subtle and 3D characteristics… take Rupert the Bear for example…
Probably created in colours that could be used in a two-colour press process Rupert is perhaps similar to Tin Tin (who I used as an example of a children’s book cover) and has adventures of a startlingly unusual variety… and has to solve problems and investigate further… a detective like Miss Marple in that respect. Created by Mary Tourtel, and, after Mary’s death, continued by Alfred Bestall.
I’m not sure how unusual it is or an illustration to pass to someone else after the creator’s death but it is an interesting testament to the degree to which Rupert has a life of his own that his character is able to carry on in that way.
His visual elements are quite brief, described by the striking combination of yellow check trousers and matching scarf worn with a plain red jumper and plain uncoloured shoes. Oh… and he’s a bear. The suggestion is perhaps that he’s a teddy-bear and I’m sure there must have been real-toy tie-ins. His face is drawn quite sparsely with only a pair of black dots for eyes (like a teddy bear), a smudgy spec or two to indicate the nose and a mouth with a hint of the animal upper-lip. He seems to have five fingers (rather than the often used three to make a cartoon uncluttered), including opposable thumbs – no hint of the ‘bear paw’ there. He is essentially a child with a bear head.
While we’re on bears I’m going to give a special mention to Paddington… because of the magnifying glass. He disguised himself as ‘Feathers Lock’ [A ruse on ‘FeatherLock’ perhaps – a company who make heir extensions] and went to investigate… with a MAGNIFYING GLASS … episode #20 Paddington Turns Detective…
Isn’ t he lovely. His facial features never seem to move, even when he gives someone his hard stare.
Created by PATRICK OWSLEY this version of the incompetent lawkeeper who is always on the case of the Pink Panther is quite distinctive…
He has a MAGNIFYING GLASS  (loupe) that is as big as he is… a GUN  (pistolet) (in France this is normal, d’accord) and a MAC  (manteau de pluie). His face is magnificent in its simplicity and total departure from regular anatomy; the nose always points to the problem, his whole head is ahead of his body – always rushing in. He seems to be shown in profile more than not (if at all?) which greatly enhances the identifyability of his face. His clothing is super-dynamic, cutting unusual angles, extra pointy and starched, but so few lines. The hugeness of his one visible eye reinforces that he is a detective… always looking for something (The Pink Panther, naturellement).
“Columbo and Nintendo all rolled into one” (IG Movie).
Classic Gadget – MAC , MAGNIFYING GLASS  (not shown… it’s a gadget… summoned by “Go Go Gadget Magnifying Glass” of course). SIDEKICKS .
This character bears passing similarity to Inspector Cleuseau for his incompetence and raincoat, even the big nose, but is made more conventionally human-sized and -shaped. The tufts of hair that stick out behind his ears give him a scatty silhouette that predicts his scatty brain. The girl and the dog – his sidekicks – are Brain and Penny… they are both the brains of the operation.
These come in two flavours… on and off duty. Spiderman and Peter Parker; Superman and Clark Kent (special case… as Clark Kent is the acquired alter-ego: Superman was born the way he is); Hulk and Dr Bannister; Hong Kong Fuey and Penrod “Penry” Pooch (mild mannered janitor – perhaps another in the general mold of Cleuseau);
Many superheros started out in Marvel Comics or DC Comics or other independent graphic stories and have recently been reaped by the movie business… sometimes rather artlessly. Lets talk about their first print appearances.
Artwork by: Joe Shuster
In June 1938 Superman appeared for the first time with his underpants on the outside of his tights, a style that was imitated by subsequent Superheros. Lets call these TRUNKS . He also sported a CAPE . He wore solid red and blue with some yellow bits on his logo – a striking pallet.
Visually the cape is a masterstroke – it allows speed and direction of travel to be boldly indicated, including turning, and offers many compositional opportunities for filling space and adding dynamic lines to an image.
All Comic-book Superheros
Although worthy of long a detailed analysis in another context I don’t think I’ll enumerate all the DC, Mavel an other independent charactes here. Important points to mention about how they were drawn though are…
Super proportions. As befits their status they were drawn a little taller, wider and more substantial than the NPCs with whom they mingled.
Stan Lee and John Bescuma took compositional care with their frames making them work as super-dynamic illustration. The focus was pointed at by the rest of the composition and framed by it.
The stance of a superhero (or villain) was exaggerated with sweeping lines and use of perspective depth to show power and movement
Detailed close-ups of characters’ faces, a cinematic convention, are used to show emotion in the face which would then be drawn in much more detail than when the character was in action… a long shot.
Design a tattoo (for a friend!) based on the word ‘Mum’ which also will become a greeting card.
Research the history and convention of Tattoos and body art.
Make decisions about complexity and colour.
Draw up design… mindful that it is for skin and paper!
History and Conventions of Tattoos
In the documentary Skin Geoff Ostling and tattoo artist eX de Medici consider donating Geoff’s skin as a work of art after his death. This turns the phrase ‘Living Artwork’ on its head… as the host will die and the work becomes merely not living… deosn’t it? (Excerpt from skin)
Naturally mummified Sudanese woman found to have tattoo of St Michael on her thigh. (Telegraph, 2014). She died and began to become a mummy in around AD700. The letters, superimposed in one spot, are M, I, X, A, H, A – spelling the Ancient Greek for the name Michael. The reasons for the tattoo are unknown but could be for protection – the woman was part of a Christian community.
Ötzi the iceman (from3250BC) had 61 tattoos – incisions into which charcoal was rubbed. Many of his tattoos match acupuncture sites. Lines tattoo’d around the wrist became popular after Ötzi started sporting them.
Initial look around at website blurs and confuses the different meanings of common sailors’ tattoos. In general all of the sailors’ tattoos seem to be strongly linked to the environment that they lived in and the traditions have outlived the initial inspirations.
This seemingly mundane piece of marine equipment was used only at some of the most interesting parts of the journey – arriving and leaving land locations. It is suggested that they represent a solid place – hence why Mum or Mom might be added to them – the home ground.
However The physics of an anchor suggests, and perhaps the sailors knew about this, that a ship ‘rides’ an anchor like a person rides a horse. The anchor is heavy and tries to lock to a position on the seabed by its design but will not simply become attached like a limpet – it will move and drag along the sea bed in the worst of conditions… but, it will stay attached to the ship via the chain. Even when it’s out of sight, it is there doing its best to hold fast.
In a well equipped harbour the anchor might not have been used. So perhaps upon returning home to Portsmouth no anchor was used – the ship would dock.
So the ship would use its anchor when it was abroad in the most remote and unsophisticated places. The tattoo could be a mark of achievement indicating a well travelled sailor. When combined with ‘Mum’ it might indicate their inspiration, reason for doing it, who they were thinking of once at these exotic locations, and perhaps the sense that ‘Mum’ was always with them… on the end of that unbreakable chain, to steady them and keep them from being dashed upon the rocks.
Aside from all this… the anchor was adopted the British Royal Navy as the emblem of the Lord High Admiral – an office created in 1408. It hadn’t appeared prior to that in flags and such (flagspot.net). It included the ‘fouled line’ – the wavy decoration often adorning anchor tattoos these day which otherwise would make no-sense to add. A fouled anchor can’t be lucky.
The swallow, like, it is suspected now, many birds have an amazing piece of biology in one of their eyes – they can effectively ‘see’ the magnetic field lines that enfold Earth. This gives them the ability to return home and migrate with uncanny accuracy. As a sailor in more primitive times (before ships acquired good clocks during the 1700s) navigation was difficult and the swallow must have seemed like a magician. Sailing was dangerous and surviving to return home after months or years at sea was good fortune. The swallow, who can do it year on year, might be considered a mark of success and the tattoo of a swallow indicate yet more experience.
Another way to look at it is to have the swallow as a good-luck charm – to encourage safe return.
Some websites cite 5,000 nautical miles per swallow, which is about 9,200 km – a bit further than Portsmouth to Mogadishu in Somalia (via the Cape of Good Hope – before the Suez canal was navigable). So if you made it to India and back you’d earn a pair of swallows in one return trip, seeing swallows as you made ports all the way around the African coast.
As far as I can work out Bluebirds are from the Americas so are the indigenous alternative to the swallow for sailors originating from those continents.
The Bird (Pinup)
Women were not sailors in those ever-so romantic times of Henry V and the Spanish Armada so if you needed a woman with you on your voyage you’d best have one tattoo’d to your forearm where no-one can steal her. Perhaps they were likenesses of loved-ones back home, or perhaps they were more generic, or celebrity, a pin-up: something to admire to help you… erm… ‘relax’. Just guessing.
The big idea
Summing up sailors’ tattoos a bit they are drawn from mundane surrounds with an infusion of the beliefs of the time and place – superstition, religion, family ties
Many of these tattoos are to denote status within the criminal fraternity, as you might expect. But they are quite elaborate – both in size and meaning in some cases. The degree of commitment is quite astonishing in some cases – tattoos that advertise the recipient as a murderer for hire or as someone who is making their way into and up within organised crime. Stars on the knees indicating that the wearer will not ‘kneel before the police’… they are not a snitch and will not think of themselves if in trouble.
Perhaps the reason for these tattoos being successful can be seen when a criminal does not have them… does this mean they are not committed and will betray their fellow criminals?
A recent trend in tattoos (although I can imagine it’s happened before in some circumstances) is for the concealment (or camouflage) of scars. In the contemporary sense these have most notably been scars left from breast tissue removal following breast cancer. There is a very strong psychological idea behind this which is the turning of a marring of the flesh into a work of art… a psychological scar into a strength of spirit. The fact that tattoos and scars are both ‘permanent’ (“scarred for life”) makes them two sides of the same coin.
There is another connotation… “scarred for life” is something often said (in sit-com shows too) by a grown-up child about what their parents have done for them. “Mum, when you made me wear Asda trainers on my first sports day you scarred me for life”. Opportunity here for a really hard dig at your mum by having an unbranded trainer tattoo, especially if the tattoo included a scar in the design.
The people indigenous to New Zealand call these markings Ta Moko. Much like the Europeans continue to do today with other countries they sold weapons to the Maori in the 1800s and incited tribal warfare (offical moko guide). The weapons were traded for tattoo’d enemy heads so that the Europeans could study the markings. Genius [ironic stress]. The Maori would capture slaves and commoners, behead them, and tattoo their heads after beheading which gave them greater value.
A reversed-out version of the designs was called puhoro.
The designs are all unique and are arranged about the face in order to describe the person’s accomplishments, work, marriage, rank, signature (used in trade), prestige, birth status.
The painful practice subsided only to resurge since the 1990s due to modern techniques and equipment.
The whole tattoo idea seems to have originated in Tahiti from whence it travelled to New Zealand and was adopted by sailors. This paragraph from the Tahiti Tourism website is very interesting:
The word tattoo originated in French Polynesia. The legend of Tohu, the god of tattoo, describes painting all the oceans’ fish in beautiful colors and patterns. In Polynesian culture, tattoos have long been considered signs of beauty, and in earlier times were ceremoniously applied when reaching adolescence.
The ocean’s fish seem to have inspired the whole thing… which makes it all the more appropriate for sailors.
Naturally the US of A has it’s own, complete, internal history of Tattoos which is also the history of one man’s life: ‘Sailor Jerry’. Now a brand of Rum too!
Norman Collins (1911- 1973) was many things in his lifetime but dedicated the majority of it to being the best Tattoo artist of his time in America. He started tattooing by hand, one dot at a time, with a simple needle and whatever he could get for ink while riding trains across America. He travelled the world in the US Navy and settled in Hawaii where his tattoo shop served the sailors, providing them with their famous anchors, hearts and birds (both varieties). Tattooing in this era was not sterile, and very painful – having a tattoo meant you had taken the pain.
He was always ahead in his art. His designs benefited from skilled composition and a sense of linguistic humour. Later in his career he made links with Japanese tattoo artists who had taken the traditions of Japanese art and applied them to skin in huge, body-wrapping designs. Sailor Jerry was highly influenced by the methods and materials (inks and shading techniques) which he incorporated into american designs of his own creation.
Today’s tattoo artists are considered to have an easier time getting to the work because of the technological advances and the cultural acceptance of tattoos. In the early 1900s in America the tattoo was a difficult, secretive subculture found only in back alleys, and there was ‘at least 100 miles’ between tattoo shops.
The documentary Hori Smoku Sailor Jerry:The Life of Norman K. Collins attributes the arrival of tattoos to US shores in the early 1900s to the travels of the High Society to the now open Japan. They encountered tattooing there and brought it back to the west as an expensive and elite practice.
Some of the top Tattooist mentioned, who knew Norman, are…
Initial doodles have led me to consider the double-helix as the modern-day ‘line’ of connection… which is appropriate for a birth-mother but might be odd for an adopted child.
DNA is an attractive, geometric shape that might lend itself to several designs – it could substitute for ‘rope’ quite well, but also can be the central focus. The style in which it is drawn is flexible as the shape can be represented in different ways – perhaps made up from smaller imagery or symbols.
This is a symbol of ‘Nature’ and to balance it perhaps I need an aspect of ‘Nurture’… the ‘parenting’ part. Perhaps a ‘nest’ – like the provision of a home. Or just a circle of protection.
While looking into the current trend in tattoos I cam across the story of a young man who had acquired a tattoo after university and his mother refused to look at it and became a little estranged from her sone because of it. From her point of view he had marred the skin that she had cared for and looked after all of his life and was offended by the idea of it rather than anything to do with the image itself.
In designing this tattoo I’m straying into a very difficult area – a personal and familial relationship between a person and their mother. At this point I feel a bit disappointed with the progress I’ve made so far… like I haven’t cracked the problem. The issue of having a tattoo… a mark for life on your body… combined with the fact that it is to honour ‘mum’ makes it all of a very human dimension yet I’ve ended up with a chemical symbol… the double helix.
This video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kSYaxnyf-3s documents a tattoo of a peacock being applied to a woman’s shoulder in honour of her mother who has survived a heart condition that put her into a coma for two months. It’s notable that this beautiful artwork is very personal – the meaning to the recipient is not readable from the image. The tattoo itself is also a hugely noticeable – not subtle: an enormous statement.
Although the double helix is clever and relevant I don’t feel it chimes in with the way tattoos are used – they are personal statements of identity which connect deeply with the wearer and the mystic beauty comes before the direct symbolism. I suppose there are people for whom the double helix is beautiful (perhaps me!) but I’m still looking for a more classical beauty for the adornment of skin. This might mean just an adaption of the double helix in order to fulfil the decorative requirement.
I’ve changed my mind… there are adequately different people in the world that a DNA tattoo expressing gratitude for their mum in a non lushey way would be suitable for some and I’m attracted to the simplicity of the double helix as a design motif.
“You’re in my DNA” is great way to express, in a non-traditional way, how close a person is to their mother. The word mum needs to be there too, so that there’s no ambiguity.
In terms of the detail of the design modern tattooing, and in fact the art practiced by the very top tattoo artists of the 20th century, especially in Japan, is limited only by the ‘resolution of the skin’. But in practice the tattoo will be seen from a certain distance which means detail would be lost.
A standard greeting card… say around 6 inches by 4 inches is about the size that a ‘Mum’ tattoo might be made. Lettering might be 20mm high (about the width of Sellotape) with larger decorative lettering about twice that.
The inclusion of ‘hearts’ in the design seems like a good idea…as it will convey the love feeling.
There are three mahor components to my design… the helical bands, the lettering and the hearts which I’m using to join the helical bands together as if theyare the DNA base pairs. I think the hearts can be more loosly drawn that the real base pairs would be but they will create a mass of hear-colour in the centre.
I’ve noticed that my double helix could be drawn as a continuous band around a wrist or ankle (or neck or torso or thigh!) provided the design canbe made to join up at the far side… it needs to be ‘in phase’. This would be achieved by skillful measurement and pr-planning by the tattoo artist scaling the design until it fits the circum-inscription distance.
this is an Illustrator version of my design which is easy to produce due to the geometric nature of the design.
When hand drawing it I found the hearts very cluttered in their linked chains which were a very littoral interpretation of the normal DNA image. After experimenting a little I found that column of hearts were more pleasing
The Design can be cropped square or continued infinitely…
as fits the body position or card use. I later realised that the blank turns on the helix could be used to add names of children etc.
I’ve found this particular task frustrating because, although I can research the facts – what people have done before – I can’t put myself in the position of a person who wants a tattoo – I don’t understand their motivation, or the satisfaction that they derive from having one, neither do I understand the objection some people have to others’ tattoos. I enjoy the artwork and admire the skill; I admire the look people achieve… just don’t feel it!
I’m not terribly happy with my own design because I feel like it should be more decorative – ornaments and embellishments – that make it more like jewellery. To cap it all I haven’t experienced the kind of relationship that drives the desire for this particular theme of tattoo.
This exercise requests the eventual creation of 3 colour visuals as possible alternatives for a book title “Animals from Around the World”.
I plan to research existing children’s book cover illustrations for this age range (7 to 11, which is also known as “Key Stage 2” in UK, although there are other ways to measure the reading abilities within that).
I will then generate ways to do the illustration (composition, style, media) then select three approaches that I deem to be the most likely to succeed… somewhere I’ll need to be clear about what ‘success’ entails!… and create the three colour visuals indicating how they would proceed to finished artwork by giving examples of existing work – either by me or other practitioners.
From the millions of titles on Amazon I’ve found a range that are likely candidates…
Richard Platt (Author)
Rupert van Wyk (Illustrator)
This is a story centred around a child of a tribe who live in the rainforest. The central character is presumably the one pictured, a girl named Remaema. The cover image is in the same style as every page in the book where the text is printed over the image, and the artwork covers every inch of every page. There are no borders.
The way that the story works is that many issues to do with logging are introduced into the narrative which involves the tribespeople and are discussed amongst them. The illustrations bring the discussions to life by showing the loggers at work and the home and surrounds of the tribespeople.
I’m struggling to identify how the pictures are made… I first thought pencil or charcoal but I think now that it’s paint, maybe oil paint. The book is old and Rupert’s blog doesn’t cover it. The images are full of texture and based very powerfully in Greens and Reds. This high colour contrast could be an echo of the issues at stake in the story. The textures make it rich and ‘alive’ – a living rainforest – and make many angles unlike a cityscape where horizontals and verticals might dominate. There are lots of dark nooks where mysteries could be waiting.
The illustrator uses other styles in other work and has a more whimsical approach for humorous topics… for example in a book of collected poems by Michael Rosen… another approach is employed successfully but you can see how this book’s illustrations have helped to build in an air of seriousness.
I cannot find a synopsis of this story but it comes up as a KS2 book so it is presumably educational in nature and might follow a similar idea of a fictional story that allows the introduction of topics for discussion about the time of the Tudors in the UK.
That it is called a ‘Tudor spy story’ is slightly at odds with the picture on the cover in this case as there is little to indicate the type of thing you’d expect from a ‘Spy’ story: tension, concealment, daring [an Aston Martin and a lethal biro], risk-taking etc… it [the cover picture] all seems quite happy and normal.
Despite this the picture invokes an historic period – an objective illustration of a young boy and girl at the hour before sunset arriving at a house. They wear clothes of the style, ride in a cart and the house architecture is suitable. The similarity with the previous book is that children of a similar age to the reader have been shown, rather than any of the (presumably) more numerous adults in the story, and this will be an attempt to help the reader to identify with the story.
I presume the scene on the cover is also recognisably described within the text. It has a warm tone to it which also suggests ‘old fashioned’ rather than contemporary.
The Street Child series are used in schools to generate topics for discussion (I know this because my daughter did it!)… there seems to be a pattern for books for KS2 being ones that generate topics for discussion… it’s probably not the only reason that books are written for this age group but seems to be high on the agenda!
The cover illustration shows two sisters holding hands and running. They look happy and are running in step with each other. They are in a town which looks to have industrial roots, on cobble stones, but all of the background is in pale monotone peach colour. The town could be a memory… either the one that is ‘home’ of the title or the one that is ‘far from home’ of the title, that they are running away from.
The effect is to present the two things separately – the two girls and the town, although shown in context together, the girls stand out and you could take the context to be notional – they may not actually be in this setting as you see it but the town is a backdrop to the story, perhaps.
I found that a series, the ‘Halfpenny Orphans’, which uses photography rather than illustration for the front cover… a photomontage in effect as the background looks like a London street from 1940s (railings gone from in front of the houses to support the war effort) but the two children are added from a contemporary photo.
As it’s not an illustration maybe it doesn’t count (!) but this composition could have been done illustrated and it might be personal preference that sees it done using photography. The particular era in question lends itself well to the use of black and white photography as imagery as show is readily available.
The composition includes features such as a street with perspective where the end (ie: vanishing point) is not in sight (hidden)… the characters look over their shoulders (‘the past’ perhaps)… and they look straight at the viewer/reader engaging them in a direct manner.
Judging this book by its cover I would expect it to take the reader into the world of theses children in order to experience the choices, mistakes, hurts and joys that they encounter in their search for a better life… the blue sky and fluffy clouds might just be hope.
I included this cover because it has a very straight, posed photograph. Maybe it’s a bit weak… but it’s actually the book of three TV episodes of Dawson’s Creek so the people in the photo are actors from the TV show… probably still dressed in character (I don’t watch it so I con’t tell!)… which puts a different perspective on the whole thing. Illustrations are often done for movies where the lead characters are portrayed as recognisable celebrities. Where a work exists only as a text an illustrator can ‘make up’ the actual look of a charcter.
This is an example of ‘expectation’… sort of in reverse. Whereas we, as image creators, are familiar with the the question ‘does the illustration give you a good idea about the contents of the book’, this is an example of ‘does the well-understood and predictable contents of the book lead us to expect the inevitable cast-photo for the cover’? Dawson’s Creek fans may actually be disappointed if they do not get the cast photo that they are expecting!
It does point to the wider genre of children’s book though – they do all look somehow familiar and there is an expectation that the contents that we are expecting will have a cover-style that we can predict. Is children’s literature very limited in scope? Does it require an equally limited scope for the cover illustration?
Thank you, Dawson’s Creek for opening a whole new avenue for discussion!
‘My Sister the Vampire’ is a series of stories recommended for ages 9+ but the main characters are 13 years old (I suppose there’s some latitude in the possible age of the vampire one… but as they’re twin sisters, near enough.). The style of the illustration reminds me of ‘Bratz’ dolls – very big eyes – lots of eye-lashes.
The covers are almost all bright pinks and blues with a darker tone to represent the vampire half of the siblings. Billed as having ‘innocent paranormal romance‘ (what?!) the cover illustrations hint lightly at the paranormal in their colour but frequently, as this one, include a coffin, or a coffin shape, or other accoutrements of the graveyard like sinister railings, bats or just more coffins. It’s a slight juxtaposition to mix the two – or certainly would be in some Vampire contexts – not here, possibly building on the cult growth of vampires in teenage social life (Buffy, Angel, Twilight). I’m going to stick my neck out and point out a similarity between this and Bewitched…
…and sitcom that evoked a playfulness around the paranormal that we came to regard as… just normal. Bewitched was a family show.
How the leopard got its spots [and its hat?] published 1993, the second cover belonging to a 2013 book – a 20 year gap. Does it show?
The 1993 book belongs to a series including Aesop’s Fables and Grimm’s Fairy Tales all of which are arranged around the square ‘window’ on a white background. This style of presentation has not disappeared – it is common still to find collections of children’s stories presented as sets with matching design. These are often more colourful, but the neat white boxed arrangement has a ‘classical’ appeal used for things such as Beatrix Potter as late as 2002 and newer books use it to emphasise the word ‘Classic’ in the presentation.
The newer book cover is more familiar as a contemporary design. The animals are even more stylised in presentation – boxier with legs more like modern tables than living creatures – and presented in more vivid colour. There is no white space left – no sense of framing or of an edge to the design which moves away from the separate appreciation of the illustration as a ‘Plate’ or ‘Framed Print’ or an exhibited painting… and more towards the integration of the illustration into the fabric of the narrative. It’s become more common for the words of the story itself to be a part of the illustration rather than a separate graphic process.
The newer illustration also may serve as a contents page… I’m not sure if the 10 or so animals shown are the ones whose stories are told but I would perhaps jump to that conclusion upon seeing this cover.
Every word of blurb for these books warns the potential reader about the unforgiving misery of the stories and the main characters, the Baudelaire children. There are thirteen books in the series.
This illustration features, I think, the Baudelaires’ new guardian who is bent on ridding himself of the children by some unfortunate accident so that he might receive the fortune that is held in trust for them. The caricature and composition work together to communicate these things… his features are like a bird of prey – sharp eyes, beak-like nose; and his finger is poised pensively as if plotting. There is a hint of a frown and a grave, downturned mouth that all create instant unease. The children are seen in the background outside – as if unaware of the plotting… there is a sinister eye just glimpsed on the left past the guardian. The starched, white collar and jacket present a respectable outer. The curtains around the window billow of their own accord.
This whole image is in a gothic-window-shaped frame, set on a textured, dark background and the spine has the effect of tooled red leather and trim like this book is ancient.
Unlike the sense of ‘Classical’ that was invoked by the Just So Stories this design creates a reverence – a sense of ‘only open if you’re worthy’ by being dressed up so elegantly. It’s a sense that children might have felt a century ago upon entering father’s study and looking in awe at the small collection of priceless tomes that held who-knows-what infinite wisdom.
A level 2 reading book the cover is furnished with tactical information about its educational deployment. There is a ‘Level 2’ mark, the words ‘Reading Leader’ and a ladder on the orange part of the spine edge. No doubt all of these things are carried across a whole host of books of every level with numbering and colour coding as appropriate.
The remaining space contains the title, a ‘Logo’ which is reminiscent of the Beano or Dandy – a circle with the character’s head sticking out – and an illustration of a happy event from the story. The title seems part of the overall illustration with, ironically, the 3D effect of the lettering giving a sense of flatness like the title character.
Flat Stanley is also drawn not completely flat, not paper-thin, but more like a uniform thickness of 18mm. This too emphasises that he is flat… by showing exactly what his thickness is, it is not completely flat, but it is undeniably an unusually small dimension for a child and quite visibly out of the ordinary. I think if you tried to draw Stanley as completely flat like paper it would impact on the ways that he could be drawn as you would have to find poses that help the viewer to see that he is flat. By allowing an 18mm thickness more different poses are possible without losing the perception of his neatly trouser-pressed anatomy.
Author: Roald Dahl
Illustrator: Quentin Blake.
It’s a little hard to stand back from this illustration and see it as a brief for a book cover because of how infused into popular culture Quentin Blake’s illustrations have become. I think this style has informed the development of many others over the years.
The drawing has both a looseness to it where the lines are as a sketched but fleshed out by a mixture of deep and paler colours. The looseness belies the accuracy of the perspective and the 3D shading. All this said… the characters are exaggerated – oversized noses, skinny limbs, tiny knobbles of shoulders, knees and elbows and beady eyes. It sounds ‘orrible but it ain’t… it’s so far from objective as to be new but not alien.
This book cover’s illustration bleeds of the edge and reveals the title character on a tea chest surrounded by magnificently high piles of books. She looks small compared to the tea chest (feet don’t touch the ground) which makes her vulnerable in a physical sense but she is reading. Perhaps she has read half of these books, maybe all of them, which gives her an intellectual strength – there could actually be a ‘fortress of books’ around her.
Georges Rémi’s (Hergé’s) hero of Belgium and legend Tintin is shown here in a kilt, in a boat with his dog (Snowey?) powering towards “The Black Island”. The viewer is looking in the same direction as Tintin – so we are accompanying him on his adventure, looking over his shoulder. The horizon and water are a flat, solid feature but the sky’s broken cloud cover tilts in towards the island, Tintin’s boat enters the visual from the corner and the island itself defies simple geometry in favour of a ragged, towering but uncertain shape. Its sides are unassailably steep so. There’s a sense of falling towards the island rather than travelling towards it and we are as intrigued as Tintin about its inhabitants. The birds fly counter to this on the opposite diagonal as if warding us off.
Author: Andy Stanton
Illustrator: David Tazzyman
This image is a riot! Mr Gum… presumably the fire-bearded 60-year-old skateboarder… is an angular figure with over-pointy knees, shoes and head. There’s a gingerbread man walking along gleefully carrying a biscuit barrel full of money. There’s some kind of story behind all of this (perhaps the one in the book?!?!?) but the illustration doesn’t reveal what’s going on… only cryptic hints.
The more I look at the cross-section of illustration for children’s books the more I start to see something in common – there’s an accessibility about the work that is completely in spite of the skill required to produce it. Mr Gum has components of ‘scribble’ and parts where colour texture has been applied as if with a felt-tip pen from a supermarket colouring set. This is deceptive as the expert application of the marks maintains the balance and dynamic of the picture… although it is reminiscent of a child’s drawing it has features that are far more exact, and lacks childlike qualities of drawing like impatience, not using the whole space, excessive detail or obsessive re-drawing where imperfection is detected.
Holding both those sets of qualities in one picture might be key to most illustrations for children’s books. I’m not exactly sure why that is at the moment… why is it better to have that particular combination? why not be more childlike in approach? why is that sophisticated composition still important even for a child? would a child not be more attracted to something even more familiar?
The answers to these questions in part seem ‘obvious’ – controlling the composition in order to create the desired effect is going to be better than using no approach at all. But who chooses these books? The bookstore? The Parent? or the Child? Who are these covers really aimed at? Is a successful cover one that looks good on the shelf in the book store, or in the window, or as a huge poster outside the store?
In any case… this illustration has great big blue stripes, like wallpaper, for a sky. A bit surreal, but it’s bold and makes for a nice ordered backdrop on which to apply the wilder image of Mr Gum. It’s like we all drew on the wall in a posh lounge.
Stone Age Boy is square (I mean the book is square, not the boy). Written and illustrated by Satoshi Kitamura. It has a magical allure like “King Soloman’s Mines” or “The Lost World” but the treasure/dinosaurs are replaced with a boy from another age… or do the children adventure into the past? Have to read the book to find out. Anyway the cover sets us up for an exciting adventure by taking us to a threshold – the two characters peer into a cave holding hands for extra courage, his eyes look wide because of the glasses and they both look a little apprehensive about whether they should enter and what’s inside. I presume it will be a boy from the stone age – very exciting.
Then I read the blurb -he’s gone back to the stone age where he has met the girl who is an actual stone age girl. I thought her hair would be darker and more messy than his! Maybe they did hair care in stone age.
Again the protagonists pictured are for the reader to identify with – someone their own age and one of each sex.
There are some large compositional structures at work… the horizon and cave make several complimentary arcs which accentuate the focus on the characters and frame them. The colour use from the grey inside the cave and the green and blue outside make a strong, large shape at the cave entrance. Space for the title and author credit has been worked in and those words appear to be part of the illustration rather than overprinted or added at a later stage. If the title was not to be there the framing of the cave around the characters may have been tighter.
This looks as if collaged and depicts a place that is idyllic… judging from the blurb – Anne does not want to leave ‘Green Gables’ and this illustration depicts not the details of that perfection but ideas that are associated with happiness – birds and butterflies, green grass, blue skies and fluffy white clouds, apples ripe on a tree, flowers, a white ‘picket’ fence (maybe not ‘picket’ but carries that idyllic idea with it) and a safe-looking house. A book is left momentarily half read on a pic-nic blanket. There are no scary corners and no woods. Nowhere to get lost. There’s a duck or goose – a family friend perhaps. Everything is soft, rounded and fluffy.
The lettering is a little playful – not too perfect, more natural and just how it fell on the page.
The colour pallet of Greens with highlights in Red (slightly surprised to notice that the word ‘Green’ is actually red!) is calming and joyful.
The syle adopted for this is the reverse of the classic Just So Story – the illustration takes up the whole page but a panel has been added to accommodate the title and author’s name.
It is like the text is in the frame now rather than the illustration which makes the text come forward to the reader and the scene recedes but become more 3D.
The egg is seen on a bed… the boy’s bed perhaps… with a bookcase behind. there is a hint of magic in this with the sand timer and the leather bound books on view.
This is also the opposite of ‘Anne of Green Gables’ by having none of the warm, summery comforts depicted there. These days we’d think of Hogwarts. The moonlight makes moonbeams in the air and a warmer light uplights the boy and his book from behind as well as the book case. There is a cold/warm contrast cutting the composition diagonally nearly in half. Overall there is a spooky expectation
So this cover does for me what the Tudor spy book didn’t – here’s a chap on a ledge outside a window… definitely a bit dangerous, he probably risks discovery as much as falling. the red pallet with yellow touches helps emphasise the danger as does the character’s stance – knees bent, arms out, ready to react to the next problem.
Animals from Around The World – Existing Titles
I think this book is factual, perhaps like this Dorling Kindersley book… “A visual encyclopedia of life on Earth”:
Whitespace is their style… most things in DK books are cut out and placed onto a white background.
The approach they’ve adopted is exactly as you’d expect from DK and perhaps from a title like this… pictures (high quality photos) of lots of animals to represent different places. There’s also a popular selection process going on – penguins for the south, but no Polar Bear for the North. Could be a question of being more colourful too.
Here;s another in a very similar style. A greater diversity of animals which perhaps does not look as good.
This one takes another approach – the animals are collected in a hatching egg to create excitement.
Another collection of animal photographs that has been arranged in a ‘clump’
I was thinking about picturing the planet – this is the planet but it’s not about animals exclusively and shows an odd collection of containers and a spider!
These animals all look fierce – a snake has been chosen as the centrepiece.
In this case a tiger has been chosen as the focus.
Here a child is drawn with a cute cat and a map effect
This time the explorer is an adult
I’ve had something like this in my mind only because it’s a globe and some animals together.
Illustrations of Animals
These drawing are along the lines that I would expect for this kind of book – more the life-like end of the scale in order to represent accuracy. The ‘Can Stock Photo’ image is the most simplified but it has only removed detail rather than exaggerating characteristics.
Amy Hamilton’s illustrations are still objective-looking images but they have the most style of these images – you can see some of the brushwork and artefacts of the process. I personally am a fan of this kind of expression and since the animal’s natural appearance is present through the work it would be possible to use this style if needed.
The monkey picture is skilfully observed and drawn but reminds me of a scientific plate in a very factual book rather than anything aimed at children… although they might like the realism… again, who chooses the book? I’m starting to wonder if the child-like imagery is aimed at the adults as a cue that the book is for children.
From my research into book covers I’ve accumulated some safe conclusions… which are:
There must be pictures of many animals on the cover in order to accurately depict what the book is about.
The animals could be drawn in a style that is reminiscent of child-like drawings in order to cue the buyer that it is for children…
Colour Visual 1
Animals come out around the world. The lure is both the exotic (animals) and the dynamic nature of the image.
This image inspired the idea and I think the style of illustration here is also appropriate. It shows texture and detail in the animals and can be used to bring the dynamic qualities to life… perhaps even being a little scary.
Colour Visual 2
I imagine this one finished in the following style…
…which is quite ‘graphic’ rather than ‘painterly’ but will help keep the scene clear so that individual animals can be identified and not get lost in the background.
Colour Visual 3
I found a use the for border!
I don’t want to ignore the inclusion of children in the image in order to attempt to identify with the potential reader so here’s a way to do it…
The animals would be used to fill up the landmass spaces… perhaps as photographs.
The boy is a cartoon-guide and could be very simple – perhaps as in the similarly-titled book above. I also have the style of Dora the Explorer in mind…
The eyes are very engaging. Dora is apparently 10 years old… she looks a little young to me. I think this is the ‘Manga’ quality. The inclusion of a cartoon character alongside photographs means that the ‘guide’ has some distance from the subject so the subject (the animals) could be made more appealing to more children using an intermediary…. for those that don’t just automatically love animals!