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Reflections: Key Steps In Illustration (Part 2)

Updated: Sep 1, 2020

As I did for part one, I've made notes on my feedback for Part 2 to analyse the positive responses from my tutor as well as the areas that he's suggested that I improve. Here are some of the main points that I'm focussing on as I continue to progress.


Overall Comments

"From the work you have shown in this assignment, and providing you commit yourself to the course, I suggest that you are likely to be successful in the assessment."

This is a good sign and it feels reassuring to be complimented in the areas when I have played to my strengths. However, a regular theme emerged when it came to my experimentation:

"Very elegant drawings of a good standard be wary of always seeing and drawing the same way, this is not the time to be safe, experiment and take risks."

This is expanded on in some of the points i've highlighted below as I often played things too safe in this section of the course, particularly during the exercises that focus on exploration of materials and texture.


Project: The Brief

"In many respects this is a very mature and professional commissioning, detailing formats and the bigger production requirements"

I took on this exercise as an opportunity to make a thorough analysis of something I was already familiar with but from a new perspective and tried to get into a professional mindset so I'm glad that showed through.

"I think your own creativity has started to create very clear ideas of composition, the landscape for example. I wonder if the commissioned illustrator would appreciate the guidelines as a welcome limitation or as a constraint on their creativity?"

At the time I considered whether I was writing a bit too specifically based on my existing knowledge and this second quote confirms this to be the case. As an artist I prefer to be given briefs that express a clear vision but also allow a bit more flexibility than the specificity of the one I wrote for the Mortal Engines covers.

Project: Generating Ideas

"Your method and reasoning show an ability to live with the unresolved and unclear. This is a sign of a genuine analytical ability and one much needed in design and currently in our society as a whole. Also, a great way of dissolving mental blocks in creative process."

This is a very welcome compliment indeed! It's the foundation of my work that I keep analysing and reflecting on everything that I do to find to preserve good practices in my creative process by finding solutions mental blocks and thought loops.

Project: Words To Pictures

"Some careful observation and good acknowledgement and realisation of your drawing process. The mood board was a little too confined and needed to look at colour texture and other art forms and cultures."

A positive start with room to expand on what i'm already doing when it comes to mood boards, I can make sure that they are more all encompassing in the future.

Project: Using Reference

"This is a good research method and a very good breadth of 50’s imagery culture and context. My concerns are that the final images have no texture of the time."
"I believe that a tactile sensory relationship with the artefacts will further develop your use of line, choice of palette and holistic sensory visual communication of the objects and subject."

Both of these comments highlight an area that I need to consider more, especially regarding work that emulates the feel of a certain era or timely aesthetic. I should pursue more hands on research with authentic materials. In the case of the 1950's, closer attention to what it is about the use of materials goes into creating the feel of an authentic print would have helped me to emulate it in my final illustration.

Project: Mark Making

"I am not convinced you explored this exercise in the execution of the drawings. I would like to have seen far more experimental work in subjective drawing and evidence of pushing the limits to make mistakes and see where they lead. Consider you may need to lose some control to understand the medium and to re see your own repertoire of mark making?"

This was admittedly disappointing to read as I enjoyed this section of exercises at the time that I made them. However as I look back over them now I agree that I was far to light footed with my experimentations, particularly in the drawing and painting exercise. Regarding the objective and subjective drawings, I still like what I ended up with visually, but I can see how my choices were only iterative of my usual approach, rather than stepping out into completely unknown areas.

Project: Choosing Content

"You show some innovation here with the scanned cardboard, this adds a quality of light akin to the era, you are also very brave with the reductive content, choosing not to use the more obvious signs of the character or era. I am pleased to see you being ambitious and although not completely successful you had chosen to challenge yourself and aim high, I think."

When compared to the other exercises this one did feel different and I was less certain of its direction, though in a positive way. To encourage myself to innovate I do need to aim for more challenging goals to pushed myself further.

Assignment: Point Of Sales Display

"Well observed and elegant pen drawings. In the layout that appears to be your signature composition. A little early to have one of these so more variety in future will help expand your visual vocabulary."

Another well put point that reinforces my need to break free of my own traditions! I haven't done a great deal of composition exploration yet, but if i bear this in mind then I can have fun with this a lot more in later exercises and assignments.

"Again, you show an advanced knowledge of materials for a student at this stage of study, selection of papers in particular. Also, your 4 formats exploring elements and contexts. Your own critique is good and evidences your own learning and importance of the exercises."
"Convention is not always the answer, be more experimental and think of contemporary colours textures materials and digital play to generate iterations into the unknown."

This last comment is a good summary for how I should proceed, to loosen up my techniques and freely explore what kind of alternative work I could be creating instead of limiting myself to iterating on what I already know.


This is all a lot to take in but it's clear that I need to give myself some more breathing room for experimentation and to allow myself to step away from my own standard practices and see what I can find outside of my comfort zone. I need to stop and question myself more often and ask if my usual methods are really best suited to the task at hand or if I should break free of myself when looking for an alternative. To assist with this, my tutor has suggested a number of artists that use large amounts of experimentation in their works for me to look at which i will definitely follow up.

One of the suggested artists was the surrealist Man Ray, which reminded on how experimental I used to be when I studied surrealist works in art back in school. Here I would do a heavy amount of experimentation through automatic drawing and free association and by contrast, my own techniques may have now become a bit too formulaic. Although I prefer to adhere myself to some sort of structure these days, it might also be time for me to revisit those surrealist techniques that I enjoyed looking at almost a decade ago.

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