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Assignment 1: Say Hello

Updated: Sep 9, 2019

For my first assignment I was asked to create a greetings card or postcard as a small introduction for my tutor that would tell them more about myself as well as how I like to work and what I’m hoping to get from the course. As this task required a more self-expressive approach, I took some of the key words from the assignment as my starting point and built a mind map that could help me decide what I explore as options for the illustration.

It can feel daunting to think about yourself as the subject of your own work and after considering all of the different ways that I could approach this task, I felt that the words that related more to my creative side would be a good place to focus my attention. These would connect the most to the course as a whole and what the assignment is asking of me.

These pages are slightly chaotic as I thought about different Ideas and kept keeping notes here as I was drawing out my designs later on.

I also decided that sticking to the materials and techniques that I know best would be a good idea this time to represent my current ability and style. Instead of trying something new and falling down the rabbit hole of experimentation as I tend to do, using more familiar ways of working could be more appropriate to where I am at this moment in time.

With all this in mind I could now start to structure a design. I came up with the idea of a self-portrait as the main representation of myself but I wanted some additional elements around the outside that included other elements relating to my creative process. The full image would show my desk from above with the portrait on paper in the centre and surrounding it would be materials and items from my workspace, with my hands drawing in from the bottom of the frame. For me this course is about creative self-improvement and I thought that this would be a good visual metaphor for that concept as I work on myself in the drawing.

I started my reference photos with a portrait including one of my cats, Zorro. Out of all my animals, I considered him the best candidate to join me for this portrait as he often likes to stand across my shoulders during my drawing breaks and visually he acts as a good framing device and something more dynamic than just a human portrait. Posing for photos can often feel disingenuous and forced but I felt that having an animal around helped to bring out more genuine expressions on my own face too.

A trick I used here is to use video instead of still photography to then pick my favourite frame to draw from afterwards. I used lightroom to produce images from the video as it would have been near impossible to press the shutter at the right time in the moment.

My favourite moment was the first image shown in this set (1) as I’m slightly smiling at the camera as Zorro frames my shoulders well across while looking off to the side. At this point I tried some rough test sketches as portraits are notoriously difficult and I hadn’t attempted one in a while. I needed practice first to make sure I could carry a likeness when I drew it along with the desk arrangement later on.

With each iteration I got a bit closer to something with personality, although I had particular difficulty with the eyes this time. In the photo I’m not actually facing my head directly at the camera but instead I’m slightly turned away by a few degrees and that subtle change was hard to adjust to when I want the eyes to naturally face forward.

With enough confidence that I could get it right on the next attempt, I took my reference photos for the desk arrangement using one of my practices as a guide. This time, instead of using just one specific photo to draw from, I took parts from each of these four to construct my preferred image.

My original intention was to complete the surrounding objects before starting the central portrait in the space I had marked out, but I was unhappy with the quality of my work by the time I reached the point where I started to fill in the wood of the desk. I had mixed the inks too dark and although It wasn’t beyond recovery, I needed to put this to one side for the time being and focus on just the portrait on a new piece of paper.

Progression from sketch / Pen Ink / Alcohol markers for colour.

After some trial an error I did manage to end up with something that looks enough like me to be considered finished. This was refreshing to do without the other desk objects as a distraction and with less overall going on I could get the most out of the portrait that I could, with only a few smudges or rough areas on the scan to repair in photoshop afterwards.

After a few small changes I considered whether this would be good enough for the cover of the card without having to try and recover the objects from around the desk. I decided to persevere as I really liked my original concept as it has more context than just a portrait of myself and it was definitely worth salvaging.

I used photoshop to divide up the different items from the scan and arranged them around the portrait to match my original composition. To my relief, this was all I needed for it to work as I imagined at the start and the inclusion of the flat wood behind the desk is not needed and might have even been a distraction. With some added artificial shadows, a border and a few more adjustments later the card was ready.

Left: The front cover of the postcard | Right: The back of the postcard, complete with message and my current website logo

I printed the card out in a postcard format to check that it reads well and I’m pleased with the results.

Although there are some areas for improvement from a technical side such as the brightness of the nose and the shape of some features on the face, I’m still pleased with how this has turned out. For this project I took a more relaxed approach than I did during the last exercise and I’m feeling the benefit of picking a plan and sticking to it without trying too much at once. As this is the end of part one, I’m looking forward to getting more of a feel for working in a good structure more regularly as I move on with part two.


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