I read an article about a new Robot in development called the simian, it was designed to be a disaster recover and rescue robot. While the article was very interesting the robot didn’t really look very exciting, and in fact was visually more like a spider. I was determined to make mine have more presence and character.
I picked out the following key words:
I went to work on the canvas (digital) and came up with an apelike shape while keeping it relatively headless. I would have experimented more but I was quite happy with the silhouette so continued working it up. I added in the detail such as the camera eyes and the wheels, I also added some high visibility stripes to ensure that the robot could be seen through dust and smoke etc.
It was good to just go with what was in my head from the key words, I did feel I was consciously making it different form the photo that accompanied the article.
I enjoyed this exercise, it was quite like a concept art project, and really made me focus on bringing the image in my head to life on the canvas.
I have never used a written article this way, I would like to try this technique on some poetry.
I was thinking it would be nice to use the witches again, the brief did say to use similar subject matter and it would be good to show the difference in presentation between the two illustrators. Drew Struzan had worked on some Harry Potter artwork so there was a good few examples of his approach to the subject matter. In the thumbnails I included cats and spell books, moon imagery etc, anything that can add little points of interest and detail to the piece. I really liked the window and decided to do a larger portrait as the main focal point and using other witch imagery to frame the character.
Using an image of Bryce Dallas Howard as reference I added the witches hat as she hasn’t as of yet played a witch to my knowledge so no photo exists. I produced the artwork in Photoshop starting with a simple sketch to work out the composition. It would have been great to use an airbrush and follow the techniques that Drew Struzan uses but I just didn’t have the necessary equipment.
I then added the texture around the window with a simulated spatter brush, I worked more detail in with a pencil brush then added the colour with a soft brush, it was quite good experimenting with the settings to get the desired effect. I also added some textures over the top to give it a painted rough look. Somewhere in between the colour and the detailed pencil work I lost the likeness a little, I was a bit disappointed with that but happy with the way the overall image turned out even though its not quite a Drew Struzan the composition seemed fitting and with a few more attempts I’m sure I could improve on it if i wanted. More Importantly and certainly something I’ve learned form this exercise is that I need to keep searching for my own style even if that means temporarily borrowing others.
I decided to start again, this time really trying to carve out the features with the direction of my lines and try for more detail. I decided to use an older face, I found some good reference for Dame Judy Dench and I went about trying to improve on the last image. The key here was to keep it detailed with an abundance of texture and using short lines that follow contours. I still needed to keep the expression and mood of the photo even though I was in fact making up a lot of things that wasn’t present in the reference photography.
Was overall happy with this, has a stylistic look and the portrait is recognisable which would be essential for a film poster, I wanted to try one more time with a more heroic character.
I was feeling confident I was ready to move onto a final piece and I had an idea how best to approach it. I really felt my drawing took a leap forward I was pleased with the outcome of all the work, still room for improvement but definite progress.
Drew Struzan works heavily from on set photography and publicity shots from the films he is producing the artwork for. He decides on his composition using several sketches and then projects the provided photographs onto illustration board, tracing the characters with pencil and then drawing in the details. Once he is happy he paints in the darkest areas with black and spatters black paint over areas he wants to be textured, he uses an old typewriter cleaning brush to do this. For the next step he uses an airbrush to add colour over his pencil and paint, he finally picks out highlights and further detail over the airbrushed areas with coloured pencil, its then sent of to be photographed.
His work has a little bit of a Norman Rockwell feel, and like him he often frames his images with shapes. I thought I’d start with some sketches of film stills myself to get a feel for his style.
I kept it loose and used the same scratchy lines Drew Struzan favored, he will pick out a person facial contours by using line to “scuplt” the features, that’s what I tried to do, it didn’t have the same photo realism that Drew’s Images have.
When I was asked to pick a contemporary Illustrator one came to mind almost instantly. I have always loved films and enjoy looking at the cover art, unfortunately these days most film covers and promotional imagery are cheap poorly produced Photoshop montages and demonstrate little artistry or flair. Since the 70’s directors who wanted a timeless movie poster always called on Drew Struzan, I loved his work long before I even knew his name, his style is so distinct that you can always spot a Struzan piece.
As a complete opposite in style and technique of Edward Ardizzone I decided to study and attempt to emulate the work of Drew Struzan.
I put together some thumbnails, I decided to use the Witches as the subject and thought about a little scenario they may find themselves in as they went about their Witch business.
I thought the most successful thumbnail was the three Witches around the cauldron , the main one I wanted looking maniacal and the other two looking worried or frightened. As I wanted to work more with hatching I kept colour out and decided to use hatching to create tones and dynamic light. Below is the Final Piece.
I’m pretty happy with the final piece, its not perfect but has given me a great insight into an Illustrator I would never have known unless I enrolled with the OCA. I thoroughly enjoyed exploring and analyzing Edward Ardizzone’s work.
I feel I succeeded in capturing the atmosphere I wanted and it certainly communicates the idea I was trying to convey. It reminded me of the image of the cat I included as reference which demonstrated the chaotic but structured lines I was trying to mimic.
One of the things that i really liked about Edward Ardizzone was his work with hatching, I loved the texture it created and the way it creates quite dramatic lighting. I particularly enjoyed his witch characters he used in his work, due to there nocturnal activities the strong one directional lighting suiting the subjects perfectly, that said all his work featured the same great use of lighting to bring the character and their form to life.
Even though Edward Ardizzone’s work dates from the late 1920’s I think his style would still have a place in contemporary children’s illustration, Its not too far flung from the works of Quentin Blake and Tony Ross In fact who all use a loose and lively style of line and washey color.
I set about creating some hatched works of my own, I used his subjects as a jumping off point.
I wasn’t unhappy with my first attempt, the pose was pretty good he showed character and an a passive relaxed but still on guard attitude. I was aiming to capture the lighting I mentioned and this wasn’t a bad attempt, but something was lacking, I think it was a bit too messy.
It took a while to understand how best to approach hatching, while the references I had seemed to be quite chaotic there seemed to be some consistency to it, I attempted to tighten up the hatching and be more thoughtful in the placement of my lines.
I was much happier with this attempt, the lighting worked although it could have been a bit more dynamic and shown more contrast . I was happy that i understood enough of his style and I could move on and start the final piece.
I have tried to break down the characteristics of his line and wash pieces, they are all very economic with their lines, opting for simplicity over complexity, this is going to be a hard habit to break so I decided to get a some scraps of paper and mark make for a while before attempting anything.
I then turned to my computer to attempt an Edward Ardizzone inspired piece, I decided to depict his character Little Tim all grown up and walking a similar looking dog along a pier, I aimed to keep it as simple and loose as possible, not sure if I succeeded in selling the solidity of the character to the standard he did in his watercolour images, but I’m certainly more aware of the impact a realistically lighted figure has on an image, even one that is not necessarily a realistic depiction but a more stylized one.
I really like the way he lights his subjects so simply but effectively, its been a good observation and will surely influence my future efforts.
I used line sparingly, just enough to suggest shape and form the way Edward Ardizzone did. I used a similar line weight throughout.
Once the colour was applied it started to break up the image, and gave it some atmosphere, the shadows helped to show the movement between Tim and the Dog. The sea and sky I think worked well and added a narrative not seen in the black and white line work, its clearly a windy unpleasant day, with rough seas and dull sky.
I was quite happy with the mood that was created, and I felt it was a successful exercise in visual storytelling.
Below is the final coloured version.
This was a worthwhile exercise for me, it took quite a lot of discipline to stick to the characteristics I had observed from Edward Ardizzone’s coloured work.
I have noticed it has made me more analytical of the work of others and has made me think about how I can style my work to be a bit more defined and distinct.
From the list of Illustrators I decided to study Edward Ardizzone for several reasons, the main one was I really liked the way his marks depicted the form of his subjects, they are quite chaotic on close inspection but when viewed at a distance was amazingly descriptive. His line work also interested me, he used a lot of unfinished and broken lines, simple gestures that seemed to define a lot.
He lived through WWII as an official wartime artist, when I first read this and i saw his work I thought he was a strange choice for this role. I’d only seen a few images, all from children’s story’s etc, as his style is very lighthearted and I couldn’t imagine how his art would represent something so bleak, but when I saw his work it made sense why he had been chosen. The war illustrations I saw didn’t have the gravity or severity of the situation they portrayed, they had a very positive attitude which would have been important to pacify the people fighting the war indirectly at home, keeping them hopeful of a short war a quick victory and safe return of loved ones, It seemed to me this was achieved whilst still being a chronicle of this period in history and would certainly have been one of his prime goals.
Photography at this time would have been too graphic and alarming and likely distasteful, one of his Illustrations I found showed a soldier digging graves, whilst the subject matter was morbid the image was not, I should imagine that people seeing his wartime illustrations would be hard pressed to be panicked or upset, and that’s why in the end he seemed a perfect choice for the task.
I tried to find out as much as I could about the techniques he used, it seemed to be mainly line and wash watercolour images and lithograph prints, his watercolour art was a lot more subtle and softer, while the lithograph relied heavily on the hatching technique, both disciplines demonstrated his great sense of rendering light and form, it was this observation which drew me (no pun intended) to learn more from this artist.