Reflections: Key Steps In Illustration (Part 4)

Updated: Sep 1

I've now completed Part 4 and it has been assessed, so it's time to review how I'm doing. Part 4 was a challenging one for me, but I'm happy to see that my feedback has been more positive that what I thought about my own work at the time I was doing it. As usual, I'm reflecting on this section by adding my own commentary to my tutors comments.

Overall Comments

"Overall, your response has been very good, you write well and use critical reflection as a tool for subsequent image selection. You have really progressed with your visual research and interrogation for example when you take a risk, Museum works for example and when you have struggled and been victorious as in the Editorial assignment. Well done."

This was an welcome and re-affirming comment for me. I've had a few self-doubts recently and was telling myself that my work was slipping under the strain. These difficulties did affect my workflow at the time but I'm glad to have overcome them successfully when they had put pressures on my work.

"More sketches in initial working out, and subsequent iterations from the more successful ideas will assist your grade at assessment."

I have been a bit lax in my sketching again during this part. At times when I was frustrated with the development stage of a task, I sped through to the final stages as soon as I finally found an idea that appealed to me. With a fresher mind and some more patience, I feel that I can fill out my ideas with more sketches and iterations.

"Once loaded, your log is easy to navigate and your written communication is very helpful in that process. The quality of imagery and selection are advanced for this stage of your study as is your critical reflection."

The last line here is very flattering. In my other reflections I have spoken about the efforts that I have put into finding a solid system for writing about and displaying my work and it has now become a enjoyable part of my routine rather than a slog to showcase my work through these blogs.

Project: Tools and materials


Exercise 4.1: Identifying Tools & Materials

"You write well and have started to create a visual reservoir of illustrative research. You make good choices and I would like to see this build over the time of your study as a whole."
"Maybe a little predictable, you have researched surrealism and saturated colours, take more chances and leave your comfort zone, as a student you can make mistakes, and learn from them, be bold and take a risk."

I'm still working on building up my research in this field and although my approach has already changed in massively beneficial ways, I still intend to keep this up as I transition from looking at what I need to study not just by necessity but also with a curiosity to lead me to previously unexplored places for inspiration.


Project: Audiences


Exercise 4.2: Museum Posters

"You have done very well with your research, clearly evidencing the separate needs of each age group, carefully and professionally, specifically the role of museums in society as a whole, well done."

The efforts that I made here to give my work societal context were a direct response to my previous feedback asking me to write about the social, cultural and political context of research and practices. I'm pleased that this has been successful and I think I benefitted in this case where I could deconstruct and articulate an area that I'm passionate about with museum related work.

"Good clear thumbnails and sketchbook work, this is key as a student and as a professional given the idea is often conceived and developed with the client. You evidence continued critical reflection to the end, this is good practice."
"The instillation is a real success and the space is enhanced by it. Very good work and a solid design process."

This is a personal milestone for me. To be able to effectively apply what I'm learning through this course to the area in an environment that I already work within was a real pleasure. I stressed bit too much about getting things right for something that I care so much about, but I overcame it to produce three good quality images that I am very proud of.


Project: Areas of illustration


Exercise 4.3: A Children's Book Cover

"Your drawing initially is light and has some freedom, the finished rendering has lost that living movement. In addition, the scale of the animals and relation to the dynamics of the page (cover in this case) has not been investigated. Your visual research has led you to replicating rather than challenging the convention."

I struggled a lot with focus in this exercise and fully agree with the comments given here and I feel like the shortcomings of my drawings are more attributed to my mental state at the time rather than my technical ability. To try and move past my frustrations I ended up making something to fit in with the status quo rather than innovating down more interesting pathways. In this particular instance, not keeping a clear head has unfortunately caused the quality of my work to suffer also.


Exercise 4.4: A Menu Card

"Success through iterative practice, well done. You challenged the colour values several times after clearly understanding the quality of light and context of the Restaurant."
"...the scale of the elements and the repetition and excellent use of spatial relationships through colour creates a dynamic and successful menu."

I saw this exercise as an opportunity to bounce back from the lows of the one previous and I'm glad that it was a fresh start again. By keeping the shapes simple I enjoyed my first real experiments with balancing colour relationships in logo design.

"I think you need to be more experimental with composition and scale in your early sketches where elements are cropped by the page enlarged to bring them beyond the picture plane or reduced and repeated to create a texture composition."

As I mentioned before, my developing sketches need to be more explorative than quickly chasing the path that most appeals when it appears. I need to have a variety of enticing options ready to contrast and compare before choosing what to take forward. This would also give me some appropriate backups if I find that my first choice of idea is not successful in practice.


Exercise 4.5: A Tattoo

"You evidence very good historic research again and also contextualise meaning making and visual communication. I would like to have seen more early sketches to develop each idea. The Elephant sketch is immediately more successful. And your elegant inkwork is very much suited to translation on skin. It carries cultural meaning and would work very well in the context of the brief."

Another comment on development sketches that reinforces what I need to do in part five, but overall another good exercise. I do enjoy this kind of ink work and I'm happy that I could create something that's still meaningful but without being too obvious or overcomplicated.


Project: Visual distortion


Exercise 4.6: Visual Distortion

"...you can see the value of this way of working, and your initial sketches are well observed."
"Your invention with the collage was brave and successful, again a few more iterations would evidence your critical reflection on the merits of each piece and future visual developments."
"There is a lot of character in this Cat and a small synopsis of his/her habits habitat preferences and personality may bring about another drawing/ collage."

This is a good idea that I didn't try at the time, but definitely one that I will be using for character development in future. The advantages of going back and forth between written and drawn character descriptions is that they can continually inspire more details of a story.


Project: Character development


Exercise 4.7 Character Development

"You have used a clear and practical visual research process, and your selection of Characters is very well made, we can read from your drawing the Curator is of a generation and wears appropriate upper middle-class clothes. The casual ways she is drawn seated is full of personality, very good."

I'm pleased that the image of the person I had in my head could be translated well here, though the mention of class was admittedly not a conscious decision and something to be considered for any of my future human character development. The seated pose was also my favourite for the way it expressed who she was.

"The Barista hipster again has a focused and believable personality. I think closer observation from life would advance the characters personality in a less generic fashion but still a good solution."

I agree that this character emerged as more of a typical stereotype than an observed study and I would love to make more conscious efforts to observe people's habits and fashions to develop into my characters.


Assignment: A Magazine Illustration



"You write very well and have engaged with a complex and powerful subject matter, such subject matter can lead students into creative cul-de-sac or simple homage borrowing from other illustrators / artists. You have triumphantly avoided this."
"Your process and decision making are clearly articulated, the iteration of sketches frustrates but due to your own critical reflection and search for clearer visual communication you have succeeded."

To attempt to illustrate the feeling of losing thought stability was a difficult challenge, especially as I didn't want to create something that was from personal experience. I have my own metaphors that help to describe some of the aspects mental health, but here I wanted to try and create something slightly more universal with its symbology. I had no idea if it would be successful at the time as I was under the pressures of the same emotion as the one I was illustrating, but I am relieved to see that I still managed to make something work.

"The Vertigo element visually combined with the metaphor of chess has transformed a predictable solution into an intriguing and informed piece of editorial illustration worthy of publication. Well done."

To have this work called worthy of publication is an unexpected surprise. Again, this was a case of me feeling low during the moment but managing to push through to a positive outcome. Although I don't consider this to be the strongest piece that I could have done, that doesn't detract from this achievement. I would like to be considerate of editorial formats for other work for this kind of publishing. I feel that I could also tackle this subject matter again in other contexts through mental health related illustrations.

In this reflection, I've touches on the fact that I found part four to be a frustrating and difficult time in places, both in and outside of my work. However, as my feedback has a lot of positives for the for the sections that I doubted about at the time and I now feel relieved and reinvigorated to jump into the final section for this module.


Iteration is the defining point of all this feedback that I need to ensure is present throughout my work in Part 5. I need to be sketching a lot more to support my ideas process, though I am confident that I can keep improving along a positive path.

Potential Study Issues related to Covid-19


As I write this, the UK is well in the midst of a nationwide lockdown issued to prevent the further spread of Covid-19. For my coursework, I will need to be able to navigate the challenges as I will be unable to search for resources outside of my own home that I would normally have access to. Hopefully this crisis will pass sooner rather than later, but for the immediate future I will make best use of what I do have available as we all stay home and stay safe.

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