Exercise 1: Illustrating Visual Space

In these experiments with space, I re-arranged printed images and noted on the type of illusion of space each of them created. The images were selected on the internet, moved into Photoshop and resized to three different sizes each, then printed. I cut around them, then started playing around on different pieces of paper, sometimes adding a horizon line, and photographing images I liked.

This composition functioned as my control group, since it was so simple. The building is obviously distanced from the tree and the tree from the child. And even though the tree and the child are a bit too similar in size while they are on the same horizontal line, because a child is traditionally small and a tree is traditionally larger than the child, one can assume that the tree is, in fact taller, even though the child is only slightly lower or “closer” on the page.

The building creates a lot of vertical and horizontal lines, the fact that the child and tree, which are placed vertically, stand on the same horizontal line creates a very static composition. Simple, but can be boring if not used intentionally.

 Here, the size of the building and the distance between them, combined with the fact that the motion of the child is angled to the outer edge of the page, all make it look like the child is running away from the building towards the viewer.

In contrast, the small size of the house and tree create the illusion that the child, who is comparatively similar in size, are much farther away. Because of the child’s more dynamic pose in comparison with the other two elements, and because he is angled towards them, it looks like he is moving to the tree and building and away from the viewer.

 In this composition, the scale of the child completely changes the meaning of the tree and building. They have become toys. Alternatively, the child has become a giant. This might be my favorite of the set, because it is simply so extreme and whimsical. The fact that there is not enough information to tell whether the child is enormous or if the building and tree are tiny just makes it better for me.

The angled images in comparison with one another and with the frame create a sense of falling, chaos, and disorientation. The scale of the objects does not matter anymore because the lack of order or horizon makes it irrelevant. This creates a very surreal composition, reminiscent of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland illustrations.

Exercise 2: Reading an Image

This is a fantastical illustration in bright warm and cool colors, depicting a dragon sleeping on its hoard, while two adventuring children argue about what to do.

The focus of the illustration is the dragon itself, since it’s the largest, warmest, and brightest element in the entire illustration. The eye is first drawn to it, then it travels along the direction of the dragon’s sleeping head to the two arguing children. Though not as bombastic in color or size, their energetic expressions and movements draw the eye from the dragon to them. The eye is also drawn to them simply for having human faces and forms. The human eye is conditioned to instantly identify anything humanoid, so they are our natural second point of focus. The children are also highlighted by their green clothes which come in complementary contrast with the red dragon and the bright light of the torch the girl is holding while gesticulating.

The last point of focus would be the treasure, by virtue of detail, since we see every coin carefully drawn and every sword and shield decorated. These all stand in contrast to the loose texture of the cave walls.

Exercise 3: Image Development


The Preparation

The Mirror

The Photoshoot

The Bridesmaids

The Sisters

The Seamstress

The Hustle and Bustle

The Knick-Knacks

The Commercial

The Black and the White

The Path

The Bride


The Seamstress Photograph

The Seamstress Illustration

After finding a suitably busy image and printing it, I started taking photographs with differently cropped compositions. I realized that the story could be changed completely depending on which part of the photograph is shown. For example in “The Bride” the image is pretty straightforward, a bride preparing to walk down the isle; however, when the image is widened to the left to include the cameraman like in “The Photoshoot”, the image is no longer about a real bride about to walk down the isle, but about a model trying on a dress, or about a photographer taking part of a photoshoot. In some images, like “Self-Reflection” I cropped the image to extremes and de-centered it in order to make it more personal, in others like “Knick Knacks” or “The Path” I excluded the characters entirely in favor of objects to suggest the story of the people out of frame.

The image I chose for my illustration was “The Seamstress”, because I felt that she was, despite being right in the center of the photograph, the one most likely to be overlooked in the brilliant light of the bride. I also felt that the angle of her face and the delicacy of her hands create a meditative moment amid the chaos.

I chose my usual medium of watercolor and ink on paper, which I then transferred into Photoshop and found an appropriate font to type the title in. And as a final touch, I created the needle and thread design right under the title to bring everything together.

Exercise 4: Abstract Illustration

The piece I chose to listen to was George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. I love the energy of this piece, and the range of emotions it evoked while I listened to it on repeat and painted.

After listening to the song a few times, I realized that, to me, the song felt like it was separated in three parts. The youthful, energetic first part, the romantic second and the grandiose third. There also is a lot of overlap, since there’s plenty of energetic-grand and romantic-grand. In my first sketches, I tried to capture that energy and movement of the first part using watercolors. Mostly in blue, obviously, though I did add hints of red for depth and because red feels like the most energetic color to me. I chose to work with watercolors both because I’m familiar with them and because they are a very free-flowing medium, perfect for the lively piece I’m looking for. I used a lot of people and buildings, or impressions of people and buildings, because to me it feels like the song sounds like it’s emulating a busy city at various levels of crowded during the day.

 In the second part, I focused more on the grandiose element rather than the movement element. Though these came out a little less than abstract. The lovers in front of the full moon (trying to capture some romance there) who focus less on each other and more on the moon, which is so large and whose light is so bright it looks more like an explosion. Next, I tried to incorporate the romance and the grandiosity by drawing skyscrapers with exaggerated perspective with the viewer looking up (grand), with red flowers their bases (romance). The third is perhaps the most literal in the aspect of grandness, since it’s a literal giant standing at the dock of a city, again with the viewer looking up at him.

In the end, I chose to go with the most movement inspired drawing, with a few adjustments. I kept the red and blue color scheme, but added some greens. The composition is similar, with a few additions from all the others. I changed the top two figures to look like they are about to clash in a flurry of movement high above the others, like enormous forces of nature colliding (stealing from the drawing of the giant to add the grand element), and right in the middle, the light colored character creates a small area of quietness and innocence (romance by contrast with all the angular, dramatically posed figures).

Instead of sticking with just watercolor, I used acrylics over the watercolor and ink sketch to add texture to the piece. The brushstrokes are dynamic and fast, most of them either moving with the figures or going upwards in order to further create a feeling of grand, of looking up, and of action. Most of these lines are done in black ink, which I used because the black creates the greatest contrast with the white of the paper.

The spots of red in the painting are supposed to point out what could be the “main character” of the piece, whose prominent nose points to the character on the left who literally points to the giants on top, the last element noticed being the kernel of peacefulness in the middle.

Exercise 5: Giving Instructions

My vision for the final product for this project was a small, cute poster meant to be kept in the kitchen. Something with pleasant colors and pretty shapes. So when researching, besides looking for reference photos containing information I needed (like the chart) I looked for examples of pretty cups and utensils.

 I started out by outlining the steps I would be illustrating and changing things around until I was happy, so that I could plan exactly how many illustration my little poster would have. Then, I made thumbnails with various set ups and shapes for both the poster itself and the illustrations within the poster. I eventually decided to  make eight steps which would be symmetrically placed on a vertical paper, with a final ninth step only depicting a simple cup and biscuit.

My choice of colors was influenced by the fact that I wanted to depict clear steps for each individual type of tea wordlessly, so they each needed to have a corresponding color so that the viewer can easily follow differing steps just by looking at the colored circles. Green for green tea, yellow for fruit (or herbal) and black for black tea. The illustration still needed to be warm and pleasant to look at, so I chose warm versions of green and yellow (sap green and ochre) and the black could fall into the background without disrupting the mood because of the black linework. To complement the ochre and green, I added a warm brown (burnt umber and beige) and a warm grey (burnt umber and a little ultramarine blue).

Because I have no skills calligraphy-wise and because my own handwriting leaves much to be desired, I looked up a font I liked on the internet, then uploaded it and wrote out my title on the computer, so that I could copy it on my own piece.

Exercise 6: Viewpoint


The word chosen for this project is “Workshop”. The tools depicted here are supposed to show the workspace of a wood carver, though I admit that the carving tools are better suited for clay than wood. To add texture to the black surface underneath (which is there for contrast, the wood on the handles and the wood blocks themselves are all very light) I chipped wood shavings some on the paper to add texture. Though there is plenty of texture to be had with the sandpaper and cutter knife in the composition.









I felt that the best viewpoints were the lower ones, rather than the ones seen from up higher. The volumes of the blocks and carving tools are much more apparent from down low than from the bird’s eye view, even though the birds eye view is better for a composition where the viewer is meant to be the wood carver himself (compositions 1, 5, 8).

My point of view tended to change according to what I was focusing the composition on. Usually it was either the knife (compositions 2, 3), the three tools (compositions 4, 7) or the small dragonfly block (compositions 5, 6, 9).

Between taking photos, I also made some sketches. I tried to be a bit varied with vertically long, horizontally long and square formats. I even tried out a composition sectioned out in smaller triangles and rectangle, to achieve a more decorative drawing. I thought my last one was the best, because the point of focus was the more interesting object (the dragonfly block) and because the format was long and spread out. When I picture a workshop, I think of a desk where things are spread out horizontally, so I don’t think the square and vertical formats were helping much with that feeling.

The final composition (drawn in pencil on drawing paper cropped to the proportions of the sketch) was inspired form photograph 9, though I chose to eventually get rid of the cutter knife completely because I felt it did not add anything while throwing the composition off.

Exercise 7: Client Visuals

Both these paintings were chosen from an art history book I have on my desk. Breaking down these images to their most minimal forms was an interesting exercise in composition.

In “Women at the Well” by Paul Signac dynamism is achieved by smart design, despite the unremarkable scene. If broken down, we realize that most of the composition is formed by triangles. The land and the sea are two big triangles, the women form a triangle as they lean forward, the smaller hill on top is also a triangle, even the shadow at the bottom ends in triangles. Not to mention the triangular sails of the boats, the shapes of their bodies made of two triangles, the hats, the weird jugs whose shapes make sense in the light of this revelation, and the lady in the background who looks like a triangle because she is carrying jugs in both hands.

In contrast, “The Fall of the Cowboy” by Frederic Remington uses predominantly rectangles and squares in order to push the static, dreary atmosphere. The only movement of the picture is created by the way the horses seem to pull their heavy weight to the fence with the barely angled legs and the first horse’s elongated (but almost horizontal) neck. Both character’s arms which the viewer sees in their entirety form right angles instead of the fluid “C” movement generally preferred when drawing characters in a larger composition. The flat land and the sectioned fence create a lonely effect, a vague hill in the background being the only thing to break the flatness. The perspective line of the fence could have created movement in the piece, but the artist has strategically placed the horses in front of it in order to benefit from the depth of the perspective without destroying the atmosphere.

Another thing worth noting for both of these pieces is that the style and mood created by the design choices in their shapes is reflected in color. The first painting is bright and colorful, while the second is painted in subtle grays.

Exercise 8: Making a Mock-Up

For the mock-up, I chose “Julius Caesar” by William Shakespeare, as I thought the cover deserved to be more interesting than it was. I liked the idea of using a statue of him, though so I drew a few sketches in a similar vein. I toyed with the idea of having multiple characters from the play in a sort of roman relief style, and with the idea of drawing one of his profiles off a coin.

 I eventually decided to use my first, more decorative composition with the Caesar’s bust in the middle, especially because it looks like a improved version of the original cover. For reference, I searched for a bunch of photos with several versions of Julius Caesar’s statues, for movies, plays and I also searched for Roman-style patterns to draw in the margins of the cover.

The font for the title, I tried to inspire off of various roman texts from stone inscriptions and other images on the internet. Unfortunately, it turns out I ended up creating a more Greek than Roman font on accident. The shapes of the E’s and S’s looked much more interesting to me, so I used those before double-checking. It looks like the Romans can’t stop stealing from the Greeks even thousand of years later.

After selecting my subject, I sketched a few statutes, and selected one of them for the final product. Same for the patterns, which I ended up needing more practice with.

The mock-up itself, I drew in dip-pen since it was the thinnest thing I owned and the patterns and hatching required some fine linework, because the book itself  is only about 19cm x 12.5cm. I changed the angle of the bust to a more front-facing position, but otherwise proceeded as planned.