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Exercise 1.2: Getting the Gist

Updated: Sep 9, 2019

In this exercise, I needed to choose an editorial from a newspaper or magazine to practice extracting keywords that could help me create an illustration to go with the text. After searching online for something that could catch my interest, I found this article from last year titled "To avoid humans, more wildlife now work the night shift". The article approaches the topic of how human impacts affect the routines of mammals. This brought up a lot of imagery in my head just from the title, so I felt that it could be a good fit for this task.

I reprinted just the text without any of the original images and began highlighting words that stood out to me. As this has been written about the natural world and from a scientific perspective, the majority of the words were evocative of distinctive imagery, so I had to keep narrowing down and categorizing my lists until I had a handful left that most fitted the context of the piece.

After doing a few extra passes over the text, this is the selection of words and phrases that I felt best summarised the context of the whole piece of writing:

Natural World


Daytime / Night Time



Human / Wildlife

A few opposites showed up here with the Day / Night and Human / Wildlife groupings and these played an important role in the next step when I started planning out my designs. I liked the idea of how these two worlds interact and overlap with each other, so I sketched out some ideas based on having some type of divide down the image, with one side showing the human world during the day and on the other a more natural environment that wildlife now prefer to inhabit at night to remain undisturbed.

To loosely link this with the word "global", the original idea was to have a circular design. I later dropped this as I changed this to a standard rectangular border that fills out more of an effective area for the article format.

The version I ended up with would focus on a deer as the central figure. Over on the left side the human world can be seen during the day, and as the viewer looks across to the right of the image, it transitions into a night woodland scene. To make the most of the colour transition between these two states, I decided to work on this image using digital tools instead of starting on paper like I usually do. This was very experimental to me as although i'm used to working on images through editing and manipulation within Photoshop, I wanted to try and use Adobe Illustrator to make something from scratch for a change.

I began with good intentions as I took the time to find and learn the basics of the program through reading and watching some useful online tutorials online and once I felt confident enough, I returned to my notes to starts developing the idea. I found an image of a deer online to trace into a polygonal style at first with the intention of adding curves to the shapes later, but I like the idea that the deer shares the same angular shapes as the human side to indicate more of an unnatural appearance as it tries to move away from the city and into the woodlands.

Unfortunately, it was at this point that I started to find some issues in my creative flow when working purely digitally. I'm not yet experienced enough that I find these methods as instinctive as using physical media and my process started to slow down as my enjoyment in what I was doing declined. After the deer was finally ready, I tried help remedy this and speed up my progress by roughing out the backgrounds on paper first and tracing those scans did feel more comfortable to me than adapting directly from a photo. This felt more natural and brought me out of the digital rut that I had found myself in.

I roughly worked out the tone differences by using grey at first, then I carefully built up the day scene in full colour. At this point I decided to move over to photoshop to adjust the warmth of the colours and a few other details to I ended up with two copies, one for day and one for night.

Day / Night variations before merging

With a simple transparent gradient over the two layers I could now achieve the gradual transition between the two times of day that I wanted. I gave the combination some grain as texture and after a few more subtle lighting effects the final image was complete.

The final design after merging and adding finishing touches.

Overall I have some mixed feelings about how well this task went. I believe that every tool has its purpose depending on the situation but this time I feel that . Halfway through I became so caught up in the process of trying something new that I became frustrated and lost sight of the context and aims of the original task and once I had realised this, I sometimes ended up rushing sections to the end to try and make up for the lost time.

Although I feel that the concept of my image does match the article as I intended, I think I could have executed it better if I had originally used more physical drawings as a template at the start. Going the digital route to this degree may not have been the best choice for me at this stage of experience as I lost sight of the main task as I tried to get a bearing on a full set of new tools and techniques. I am still pleased with what I have ended up creating though all things considered, even if I did bite off a bit more that I can chew this time.

I must also keep reminding myself that these are only exercises at this point and that the main purpose of this one in particular was to practice brainstorming and idea generation rather than making a fully polished image. I'm satisfied that I was at least comfortable with these techniques on this occasion, but moving forward I need to be mindful about keeping a solid focus on what the most important areas will be for my own learning and personal development.




Deer Reference Image:

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