Assignment 4: Magazine Illustration

For my fourth assignment, I was asked to produce an illustration relating to one of the following themes:

Lost | Disaster | Discovery | Guilty Secret

These were all good prompts for me to generate ideas from, but the word Lost struck me as something that I could try and develop from a number different angles. I used a spider diagram in my sketchbook to expand on every phrase and interpretation of the word lost that I could think of.

Several types of loss and reasons for feeling lost emerged, either in the physical sense of lost property and being geographically lost or out of place, or in an emotional way in feeling "at a loss" about a situation.

'Lost' as a whole is a word that has a lot of negative emotions tied to it and the more I explored the concept, the more connections I connect it to feelings of anxiety and other similarly related mental health issues, where an individual can end up feeling lost and hopeless as they become overwhelmed by their own thoughts. I've been in that space before but I have never tried to articulate it through drawing.

This is a delicate and emotive concept that artists and illustrators have often used as a driving force behind works or as an outlet through direct illustration of their own experiences with mental health. I gathered together some examples to examine for inspiration.

Anxiety as depicted by artists and illustrators

Many of these images have several common visual threads. The lines are chaotic and the shapes can be loosely formed and distorted to mirror the way that thoughts also ebb and flow. There is a lack of colour or a muted version of it as the things we usually enjoy become less appealing and obscuring the face shows how the person suffering is losing perspective of themselves through dissociation.

The mind is constantly at war with itself in these states and that idea of thoughts playing against each other in a losing game is what led me to choose my objects for the still life that I was asked to make.

I found some old wooden board games such as a chess and drafts set, Jenga pieces and noughts and crosses that I could use and arranged the many pieces into compositions that I could photograph as thumbnails. I had the chessboard placed centrally and arranges some of the Jenga pieces around the edge either flat or in domino style runs and as I was moving around to photograph different angles as thumbnails, I accidentally knocked a few pieces over, but this only added to the overall feel. I think this framed it well and helped to create a claustrophobic atmosphere, almost looking like ruined columns around the board. Finally I placed a stopped clock in the middle to signify a loss of time.

Thumbnails for my object composition.

I edited the images in lightroom and cropped and rotated them to try out different formats and angles that I could then make an objective drawing from. I chose the image below, but ran into some issues when I started to sketch my composition.

The first objective drawing attempt

Drawing accurate geometry and keeping lines straight to create perspective is an area I am not strong at when it comes to freehand work. I initially saw this as something I could challenge myself with, however as I moved across the page my line work became messy and confusing as I would find my grid becoming increasingly off centre to where it was meant to be. At the same time it became apparent that the overall composition was going to be too complex to communicate a point, so I had to strategize again on what content to include.

A new composition

I returned to my still life and constructed a simpler structure to work from that focussed on the chess set, this time without the clock and noughts and crosses games. I tried to add more meaning into the positioning of the chess pieces by staging them in a way that shows how each side has defeated their counterpart as I wanted to further a metaphor about self defeating thoughts.

Objective Drawing | Tonal Drawing

I returned completed my new objective drawing in pencil, where I had used more restless line work than usual to create my depiction of the scene.

Next, I was required to do a printout or trace of the objects where I used a graphite stick to add tone and retrace where I had already been. As the artists that I looked at had similarly done, I was looking for methods to distort the shapes to make them have rougher outlines without erasing them completely. By drawing in a way using a tool that was deliberately scrappy, I was hoping to develop that into a style rather than just seeing purely it as rough work. even still, this was frustrating at time as I felt that the work looked and felt consistently unfinished throughout its development.

As I was doing my tonal drawing, I experimented with long scraping lines to make a grey area of visual noise in the background. There was too much of it overall and it swamped the main details in the foreground, but I liked the way it flowed down in some places. This gave me the idea to only use only the area of grey below the chessboard in the centre to make a waterfall to wash all of the pieces or 'thoughts' into a dark space. This could look quite dramatic as the water flowed down into void, taking the pieces with it as negative and chaotic space as an opposite to the symbol of order that the chess pieces also represent at the top.

I planned out this idea in a portrait format and considered where the article title and text would be placed surrounding the illustration. This exercise also suggested that i could add a character here and although I had given it some thought, I couldn't think of an obvious way that I could include one, so I left it out rather than forcing one into the scene that might make look out of place.

Line Visual | Final Artwork

For the final artwork I upgraded to the maximum A3 size as I had previously been working at A4 or smaller. I added some areas of colour to the blocks using pastel in my first attempt, but struggled to maintain control of the smudging and dust. The final image you can see here was instead made using light watercolour underneath heavily applied graphite. I'm pleased with how it displays, particularly with the vertigo feeling of the descending gradient of the waterfall.

Finally, I mocked up the artwork alongside the text in photoshop to get a true feel for how it could look. I gave the article the title How can we restore order when we are feeling lost? as that area and subject matter is what I was thinking of as I was developing my drawing.

A final mock up of the illustration in a magazine article.

I was happy to see this concluded effectively as before this point I hadn't been feeling confident with the artwork until I could see it in full context. Ironically, due to my own frustrations with the unusual method limitations of this assignment, I was starting to feel that sinking emotion that I was trying to depict at times, but I'm interested to see how this set of exercises is received by my tutor.

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