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Exercise 2.9 Using Black And white

Updated: Nov 11, 2019

I enjoy the high contrast in an image when drawing exclusively in black and white, but this approach by using collage in this exercise looked like an unusual method that made me curious to see what I could learn. There was these choices of words to use for inspiration for a subject:

Sea | Extraordinary | Building | Journey

Starting with sea as my chosen word, I explored some similar responses to what I had come up with for seaside in exercise 2.2, but this time I shifted my focus to also cover a wider area of the ocean in my brainstorming and not just beach related thoughts.

When seeing the word lighthouse, I was reminded of a recent drawing I did for this year’s inktober. On day number 11 I responded to the prompt of “snow” with white Ink on black card, creating this image of a lighthouse in a snowstorm.

(2019) Inktober day 11. "Snow"

This wasn't the most successful experiment at the time as I think that through all the noise of the snow and light particles I lost clarity in the picture as a whole. I saw this exercise as an opportunity to improve and produce a more effective illustration of a similar subject.

By looking through many images of lighthouses in storms online, I constructed a stylistic line drawing of a rocky lighthouse being hit by a large wave. A later part of the task involved cutting out shapes to fill in areas through collage, so I made sure to keep my shapes closed and to avoid shading to make best use of those areas later on.

I was asked to invert the image and to print out each version onto two A3 sheets. The original pulls my attention towards the rocks and water whereas in the inverted version they get lost slightly in favour of the sky and lighthouse. I liked certain aspects of both these versions, but I was keen to mix the two drawings in the next stage as I cut black shapes from the inverted version to start adding shadows and contrast to areas on the original.

I was considerate in making sure where shadows would be and the direction of the light but this was as freeform as drawing the picture was as I didn't have a single source image for light reference either. I tacked down areas I was unsure about before glueing them down when I was certain.

Carefully preparing shapes

To use up some spare stock, I had printed these sheets onto thin card instead of paper which produced some unexpected results when I began cutting out shapes. It was tricky to cut some of the shapes by using a knife alone, so I used the white spaces as a rough margin and trimmed the shapes down to fit with scissors once I had them free from the inverted copy.

The thickness of the card did prevent surface tearing as I removed sections, but that made it difficult to trim around the finer white outlines even after using scissors. To remedy this, I filled them in with a black fine liner to make sure that the black areas are completely blocked out as the exercise asked for.

This side effect was not without its uses however, as in some of the more abstract areas around the rocks I left the white edges from rough cut-outs untouched as they actually turned out to be effective in creating some extra highlights and detail.

Improvised details appear in the rocks as I leave some of the white outlines untrimmed and unfilled..

I was happy with how the rocks and lighthouse were turning out, but I was unsure about the water and was feeling reservations about potentially losing the waves by adding too much darkness to that area. As an experiment, I cut out the largest shape of the sky as a background and placed it without glue to see what change that would have to the overall picture. I discovered that it did look much more dramatic with a dark sky, transforming it into an illuminated night scene that made the water really pop out.

I fixed this large section to the paper permanently and giving me opportunities to add a previously unplanned cloud section to that area with torn white paper. For areas that were too small for me to cut paper for, I used a small amount of white ink to add final flourishes and splashes around my waves.

It took a while and a lot of careful consideration, but i'm very pleased with how the final image looks. When comparing it to the original and inverted versions, I feel that I've managed to pull focus from the best aspects of both to create a really dramatic image in a way that I would not have thought of doing outside of this exercise.


This simplified type of image is often referred to as a graphic image and I was asked to look at artists that create work in a similar way. I instantly thought of graphic novels and how many artists use blocked out areas of shadow in their line drawings. One comic artist that I had the pleasure of meeting a few years ago was Liam Sharp, who has most recently worked of on Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and Batman properties in this style.

Another thought that sprung to mind was the both the closing credits of The Incredibles (2004) and The Incredibles 2 (2018). These films feature one of the most memorable credits sequences that I have ever seen as characters and images animate using a simple and charming graphic artstyle. Teddy Newton and Andy Jimenez led the design for the sequence in the first film and Josh Holtsclaw, the graphic designer for the Incredibles 2, explains his own process in detail through his blog.

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