This exercise took a different approach and asked me to reverse engineer existing images so that I could practice breaking down structures into clear visuals. I was keen to try this after the viewpoints exercise where I noted that my thumbnails there had looked a bit too noisy and sketchy in places.
As a break from internet searches and to understand the feel of the products the illustrations were printed on, I turned to books, magazines and any other physical surfaces I could get my hands on. I tried to look for scenes with a complex number of elements to try and simplify, but found it tricky to find busy sprawling scenes that were outside of fantasy genres as most of the modern publications seem to prefer more minimal art styles for illustration work.
I tried to find contrasts between my two choices in terms of their type of media they were made for as well as the overall composition. I ended up picking the two images below to try to simplify characters and landscapes respectively. The exercise suggested enlarging the frame to draw the images to make them 2.5 times larger than each original, but I only had A3 paper available to me at the time, so my images here are only 2x larger in this case.
Image 1: No Man's Sky 2018 Cover
As I was searching around my home for images that I could adapt, I passed a stack of some of my videogames and considered if any of those would have a suitable scene for the cover. I spotted the cover of No Man's Sky as an ideal second choice of illustration to look at, with its rich landscape and busy skyline created by Hello Games artist Beau Lamb.
As I usually have a strong instinct to try and overcomplicate and add detail to my quick sketches, it was a bit tricky to tone everything down in my first attempt (centre). I simplified most of the detail to basic outlines but they still had information in them that wasn't necessary to get an idea of the full piece.
In my second version (right) I tried to be more basic with my shapes and worried less about getting accurate perspectives. Contrails became single lines and the ships matchstick models, but I still could have pushed it further with the figures in the foreground. I went in with more detail than usual because it's essential for them to be in spacesuits otherwise they lose connection with the sci fi setting, but simple stick men with basic helmets and backpacks could have also communicated this just as well.
Image 2: Office Politics Book Cover
This was my second choice and not a book that i've read myself but as the cover is quite simplistic anyway I wondered how far I could reduce the key information into further iterations. The cover illustration was done by Ben Kirncher.
The specific forms used in the artstyle used for these characters threw me a bit as I tried to accurately emulate them on my first go. I eliminated some of the smaller background elements such as the cups on the floor or the vent on the wall, but the overall image had not changed a great deal and ended up looking less like an early thumbnail and more like a draft for the original.
In my second attempt I felt like I was starting to get the hang of it now. Unlike my previous efforts, the shapes were now more geometrically basic with all the non essential props removed. I can still see the expressions of the characters in each of the four scenarios and I know their intent and fashions from only a few lines and dots for facial features.
I really want to be able to incorporate this tailoring of information more often as it would be incredibly useful to be able to generate more thumbnails at a faster rate than I do at the moment. Becoming caught up on detail slows me down in the planning stage and this way I can move towards selecting which of my ideas I should take forward quicker.
The exercise then asked me to look at more examples of images that had made me more aware of the art direction behind them. I've always liked seeing the concept art behind video games, films and animation, which is often selectively compiled into book releases. One example of this that I recently received as a christmas gift is Halo: The Great Journey - The Art of Building Worlds that features a section of commentary from art director Marcus Lehto as he offers insight into the development of the now iconic look for Master Chief, the leading hero figure of the Halo video game series.
"The Master Chief needed to look tough and impressive, like a tank, in order to be believable as the singular character capable of saving humanity...The split visor was inspired by BMX helmets, which are a great reference to speed and agility. Getting it right took some time. I built and rebuilt the chief 9 times during the first game"
-(Marcus Lehto: 149) 
Early concept line art for the Master Chief Character
This glimpse into the creative process is accompanied by numerous rough drafts of the master chief character that showcase the same shorthand techniques for design that I am learning in this course. I used to view books such as this purely this from the perspective of a fan of the franchises that they represent, but I can see them now with a fresh perspective of the processes involved in how artists and clients constantly refine their ideas. As my birthday is coming up in a few months, I think i'll add a few more to my wishlists!
 Robinson, M. (2011) Halo: The Great Journey - The Art Of Building Worlds.