Exercise 1: Your Own Work

I started out this exercise by pulling out all my traditionally-created work and spreading it out on the floor. Then I put yellow sticky notes on each of the works I thought would be best for my small gallery. I chose not to include any sketches.

(Use the arrows to slide through gallery.)

I decided that I wanted to print one of my illustrations on either a mug, a t-shirt or other objects depending on what was available in my city. Going by this criteria, the “Honey” illustration from the distortion exercise and the “Hello!” illustration from the beginning of the course were two which I could envision on a t-shirt or mug. The “Honey” image would appeal to small children and the “Hello!” image would appeal to an older audience.

Though the images were nice enough on their own, I wanted to crop and adjust them in different ways in order to have different options for printing.

I explored several shop options, and eventually chose the print shop which was willing to print out a variety of objects. I printed a t-shirt, a mug and a snow-globe. The “Hello!” illustration was used for the t-shirt and the “Honey” illustration for the rest. Sadly, the shop did not do a very good job of the t-shirt, and I did not end up purchasing it; however the mug and snow-globe came out satisfactorily.

This was a good introduction to creating artefacts with my own work. The making prints and printed objects is an idea I need to revisit in the future. Though next time I will design the illustration with the end product in mind.

Exercise 2: Editorial Illustration

I bought a few newspapers for this project, and I have to say I was a bit disappointed with the type of illustrations (if any) in them. Most newspapers I saw mostly used photographs instead of illustrations. The drawn images I did see were mostly caricatures serving some sort of humoristic purpose. Or they were decorative.

For the purposes of this exercise, I chose an article off the Internet. I do not know if the exercise required for me to illustrate for an article from the newspapers I bought, but I decided It would probably be best to choose something in English for this course, since where I live all of the newspapers are either in Romanian or Hungarian. The article I chose is entitled “Relevant tips for exploring your family history” subtitled “A beginners guide to tracing your roots — no DNA test required”.

I read through it, then underlined key words, then sketched out ideas as I went, as the exercise required. The most obvious was the concept of the family tree, but then I decided to deviate for a moment with the idea of drawing a grandmother and a child talking (as the person in the article suggests). However, I soon realized that I liked the tree idea best, especially of having a character hanging portraits on it like Christmas ornaments. I thought it would be a fun spin on the family tree idea. So I drew more sketches, keeping them as caricatures as I saw in other illustrator’s styles.

After I had the main idea on paper, I placed the linework into Photoshop in order to clean it up a bit and to be able to easily create different color schemes. Since the tree and the character were very festive, I continued the theme in my color choices for the illustration, using mostly reds and greens.

The illustration itself is good in concept, but I am not entirely sure if the fact that it came out looking seasonal is a good thing. I like it and it would be great for winter… but the article came out in the middle of summer, so I’m guessing if I were to take this idea to the editor it would be soundly rejected. Avoiding things looking seasonal was not something I ever thought I would need to take into account when it comes to illustration, but this is something to definitely keep in mind for the future.

Exercise 3: Travel Guides

Before starting the exercise, I researched different sorts of travel guides for inspiration. I also selected a few diagrammatic images in order to form an idea of what to use. The most appropriate diagrammatic image I could think of for a travel guide was the map, so I implemented the concept of the map into my illustrations. And since, according to the brief, there had to be several elements superimposed in the same composition, I selected a few images for each city in order to find the most iconic land marks. I edited these into mood boards which helped me create my line visuals and mock-up.

Though the images were nice enough on their own, I wanted to crop and adjust them in different ways in order to have different options for printing. After brainstorming some ideas, I settled on a type of illustration depicting the map (full or in part) of the country of that city. The city itself was emphasized on the map by a circle, from which several lines radiated, creating sectioning for the composition. In one of those sections, a prominent landmark of that city was depicted in a hand drawn style, which matches the hand drawn text required by the brief.

After drawing my sketches, I created my line visuals using a calligraphy pen in order to create more interesting lines and font for the title. Then, I chose to take the Istanbul line visual to mock-up stage by bringing it into Photoshop, cleaning it up a bit and coloring it. The building was colored in blues because it is literally called the Blue Mosque, and in order to complement that I chose shades of orange (the complementary of blue) for the background.

Exercise 4: Text and Image

In all honesty, I did not expect to enjoy this exercise at all. Writing and fonts have never really been part of my focus. I remember seeing  a course on typography somewhere for the first time and thinking “Wow, that must be so incredibly boring.” But I’ve found that I loved to analyze the meaning and objective of each word, and then to find and adjust the font in a way that it would best get the meaning of the word across.

As the exercise required, I first wrote the words in my own handwriting, then re-wrote them in a style that I thought would best communicate the meaning of each word.

Then, I typed out the words in Photoshop and used whatever fonts I could find to best illustrate each of them. For “Fun” I used a different font for each letter.

A thing I found especially amusing was typing out a word with a font that would best suit the antonym of that word. Like using a crazy/fun font for “boring”. The effect creates an interesting illusion of sarcasm or humor, which is worth noting for the future in case that is not the impression I want to give my audience.

After selecting my favorite fonts for each word, I adjusted and exaggerated a few in order to drive the point even closer to home. For some, I made the font bolder (Thick) for others I emphasized the italics (Fast).

Then, I printed them out and outlined them in different colors which I felt were appropriate. Like using red for “Big” because red is considered the most dynamic and bold color in the spectrum, often used for road signs because it tends to stand out in any context. Or like using light blue for “Calm” because it is most associated with peacefulness, similar to the calm sea or the peacefulness of an open blue sky.

For the rendering stage, I kept using those same colors I outlined the words with, but I also researched and drew inspiration for each word using various images. Some of the words were changed significantly, like “Small” for which I used ants as inspiration. The word ended up having little ant legs coming off of it. Others were not changed very much, like “Thin”. Theoretically, I was inspired by wires or hair, but there is not much space for rendering a word so literally thin.

I used various materials for each word, like simple grey graphite for “Boring”, acrylics for “Fat” because I wanted to be able to layer, watercolor pencils for “Slow”, etc.

Again, I did not realize I would like this as much as I did, from now on I will pay more attention to the fonts I use and maybe create new ones because the font of the words can emphasize or even change the meaning of the words themselves or the illustration around them.

Exercise 5: Packaging

I started this exercise by going out to my local supermarket and to a corner store to find and photograph different sorts of packaging that I could draw inspiration from. The most colorful and appropriate packaging for children was actually not to be found in the biscuit section at all, especially not organic biscuits. These seem to be mostly marketed towards adults. The packaging with the most ‘pester power’ was in the section with jellies and other such candies. These were bright, colorful and had characters on them.

In my second stage of research, I looked up various packaging types for animal biscuits specifically, and had more success. The type of packaging I was most inspired by was the one consisting of a colored carboard shape in the form of a animal, with the plastic bag of goodies attached to it. I felt this would be something children would be most attracted to because it has the largest and most visible animal character and because it looks like a toy.

In the third stage of research, I looked for extinct animal examples and pictures. I selected the sabre tooth tiger, the t-rex and the dodo bird because they were the three most recognizable, then I matched them up with the flavors in the way that seemed most catchy to the ear: “Ginger Sabre Tooth”; “Choc Chip T-Rex” and “Raisin Dodo”.

After I finished research, I started planning and sketching. I played around with the idea of more traditional packaging, but still ended up using the idea I first liked, especially because the concept of a biscuit bag that is removable from the colored cardboard, and more importantly, can be resealed with a zip-lock edge, seemed very practical to me. That way the biscuits could stay fresh much longer.

Then I moved the sketches to Photoshop and started refining them into a more finished product, first creating finer line art, then coloring them in and creating a separate biscuit design.

Working in the same vein as other organic animal biscuit packaging designs I saw, I chose to use cream colors for the biscuits, then use an accent color for the background, and a different color for the font (a color fitting the particular flavor of the biscuit). The font I used was the thickest and boldest I could find that also looked friendly (not harsh or pointy). The letters are not rounded, however a single letter can be nicely fit within a circle, which creates a friendlier sort of aesthetic.

Packaging is not something I’ve ever tried to design before, and I feel there is a very researched science behind creating packaging for the mass marked which I am not versed in beyond a few articles. For the next time, I feel I need to further my education on this subject. I also believe that it’s difficult to create packaging for an unidentified company, because the design would change according to the vision of the particular producer. So if I try a similar exercise, I will be more specific with the brief.

Exercise 6: Working for Children

Research for this one began inside a toy store, where I photographed a wide range of toys. In doing so I identified three broad age categories. Ages 3-6 consisting of very large toys, made of a single big piece, and therefore difficult to swallow or harm oneself with, mostly consisting of stuffed animals, building blocks, large dolls, cooking sets and cars, etc. The aesthetic style is very simple and colorful. Ages 6-9 with more elaborate toys containing more electronics and smaller pieces. There are still stuffed animals, though not as many. Most dolls and action figures are marketed towards these ages (though action figures can go to older children), as are various strange toys such as slime, electronic reptiles and spiders. Easy science experiment kits exist for these ages; however, most scientific and educational toys are marketed to children of 9-13, as is sports equipment of various types.

Next, I visited a book store and put these books in similar categories. For very small children who cannot read, the books have very large illustrations with very few words written in large fonts. By the design, one can tell that they are mostly marketed towards the adults choosing the books, not to the children themselves. For the next category, children who are starting to read, there is still more image than text, the characters are simplified, and they often have the cute appearances with disproportionately large heads and eyes. The colors are bright and loud. For the children with more established reading abilities, the characters gradually become more and more proportionate and the settings more elaborate. The colors are still bright, but they are less loud and a little more refined.

Very nearly everything is digitally created.

When I got home, I started planning out my first drawing. I wanted this one to be in the first age range, for children who cannot read much (approx. ages 3-5), and I decided to use the word “Growing” from the list given in the book. Before sketching, I created a small diagram of ideas, until I came up with the idea of a squirrel growing its new home. Then I started sketching. I made sure to use a very cutesy style, using simple lines and shapes, and giving the squirrel large eyes and human-like actions. I settled on a sketch of the squirrel carrying a parcel of its belongings as it measures the sapling which will eventually become its new home when it grows into a large tree.

 I moved my sketches into Photoshop, where I could create very clean linework (which I chose to draw in magenta, because it added interest). I still kept everything simple for colors. I only embellished them with a bit of texture in order to add depth to the composition.

The process for the early stages of the next drawing was nearly identical. I chose the theme of “Journey” and a horse as my main character, with the style of illustration for early to established readers. Then as I brainstormed, came up with the idea of a horse at the crossroads of a journey where the signs are suggesting totally different roads, possibly as a practical joke if the tally marks on the sign are of any indication.

For this drawing, I created a more complex composition, as seems appropriate for an older age group. The books for younger children have much less focus on the environment and give the main character or action all the importance, eliminating everything nonessential, presumably in order to avoid distraction and to keep the message as clear as possible. But in this illustration for an older audience, I do not only have the primary focal point of the horse, but the secondary focal point of the signs (which have writing on them) and the tertiary focal point of the creature in the tree.

The differences in process come in the more detailed and thin linework which I have seen in illustrations for older audiences, then I chose a color scheme that was still colorful, but much more harmonious. I used shades of purple and blue for the background in order to give the world a mystical aesthetic, then I chose to make the horse golden for the same reason, but also because yellow is the complementary of purple.

I have only scratched the surface in the discovery of how children’s illustrations vary according to age demographic, but I am excited to learn more, and possibly also bring innovation to the industry some day.

Exercise 7: Educational Strip

For my last exercise, I started by looking what others have done on the given theme of puberty, in order to get some idea of my options.

Next, I took notes and wrote the brief given by the exercise. Eventually, I decided to approach the subject of acne and create my comic strip around that. I played around with a couple of compositions, changing my character from a boy to a girl, and by the end deciding to map it out simply as:

First panel: Girl looks into a mirror and sees a disfigured version of herself

Second panel: Girl walks along with a friend, while thinking of the image she saw in the mirror.

Third panel: Her friend gives her a compliment and the illusion fades.

I also wrote a short message at the bottom in order to make the central theme clear.

Because it was a short comic, I decided to take some inspiration from the older Marvel comic book art style, both in the line work and in the coloring. So I took that into account as I started refining my sketch in digital form. First creating the panels, then the line work, and lastly the colors.

After finishing the comic strip, it was a simple matter to re-draw the main character making an appropriately panicked expression matching the title: “What’s happening to my body? It’s all going mad!”. This time, I also sketched it digitally instead of transferring the traditional sketch into digital form. I changed the font a few times until I felt I created an appropriately comic book-esque style.

This last set of exercises has been the one I have probably learned most from. It has been very enjoyable and enlightening. I hope to go further in depth with some of these subjects and find a few I can specialize in in the future.