Oh this week as I predicted was a hard one for me, due to the pressure I put on myself. The brief was to design either a book cover or a two page spread on Aesop’s Fable, “The Fox and The Crow”. I think I struggled because I wanted to get my sweet whimsical nomuu illustrations into the design, and was trying to force them into the initial design, but they just didn’t suit the fable in my opinion . The fable has the fox as quite a cunning little guy (or girl)… trying to steal the cheese from the crow, by encouraging and flattering the birds singing, and in-turn the bird drops the cheese. That doesn’t translate too well in my mind into sweet characters. That’s not to say you can’t create cute characters, but I just didn’t have the understanding on how to translate sweet characters into a mischievous tone. One thing about me, is I really try to stick to the emotion and feel of a story with characters, I find it very hard to picture the theme and then draw something completely out of sync. I just can’t seem to let go of making sure the characters work well visually with the story. Whether they actually do, is another story
The other issue I had was conveying emotion, facial gestures. This has not been my strong point and this really hit home with this assignment, and with my nomuu illustrations I get away with one look, which is sweet and innocent, but as soon as I add other features to my characters like a mouth, it just loses its character. So because I am used to doing characters very simply, with very little facial features, I found it hard to draw eyes and lips and get them to look normal. As soon as I drew eyes on a character I didn’t know what to do with them. I need to learn more about facial gestures in characters. I mean there are thousands of different types of eyes you can create, and just a simple change in the stroke and the way the eyeball sites can make or break the character. Even a simple stroke for a mouth, is not that simple. I am not a technically trained illustrator, and I wonder how much this will impact me. I wonder if you can make it as a book illustrator without having the ability to draw detail and perspective well?
I spent so much time trying to understand fox characters, I drew a ridiculous amount of characters, below is just a small section. I mean I would say I did hundreds, mainly because I was trying to find the right feel in the character. I spent a whole day sketching foxes (yes a whole day). I was starting off with cutesy characters, but they just didn’t feel like they worked for me and then I tried foxes that looked more like foxes, and they looked nice, but they look so sweet. So eventually I decided on this character, which incidentally I sketched very early on in the piece, and ditched it. The next morning I went back over what I had done, and I saw something quirky in him. I wanted something quirky, that could have simple facial features like my nomuu characters, but still a bit more mischievous, but not too much that you would necessarily know that. I still incorporated my nomuu character style through the body and clothing. I also wanted the fox character to look at the crow side on. I didn’t want the fox and the crow looking directly in front. I envisaged the crow being in the tree to the left (in the final designs) and did have him there initially, but it felt better to bring him down closer to the fox.
I didn’t concentrate too much on the crow character, I could of spent a lot of time on him as well, but I was a bit exhausted by the end of it and by that time I sort of knew it needed to match the foxes feel, so I didn’t take me too long. Perhaps the crow could of had more “character” but I think it was ok. I knew the crow, and the lettering of the title wouldn’t be too hard for me to put together, so I left them for later. The lettering took me really about 30 minutes, I didn’t look at any inspiration, I just did a few different lettering styles and found what worked well together.
I am also really happy I tackled the background a bit more. I never knew how to do subtle silhouettes in the background to add depth to a scene. I think for the first time I did pretty well. I admit, I took the outlines from a sketch from a while back. I keep resources on hand for this very reason, so I can use them in projects.
Colours were interesting. I went for a very light coloured theme initially, having a winters forest theme. I tried brighter colours, in the design earlier on (like the green design below). That may have worked too. I think perhaps the final design with the circle and the bright colour in the background may have been a bit of mistake, but I just pushed the design as far as I could. I think this is one the designs that I could go back and work on a little further. Sometimes there are just so many options and none a wrong per say, but you just have to make a decision in which way you want to go.
I jotted down some strengths and weaknesses I have learnt from this week.
I’m good at texturing, this is a big strength of mine
Pretty good with colour
Can do a wide variety of characters
Can do quirky characters
Have a good understanding of trends
Not too bad with lettering
Try to stay true to the story, take the story into consideration in my design
Easily confused with too many character ideas and can get obsessed
Not good with poses, eyes and facial gestures
Drawing perspective and shadows
Too rigid in my thinking, can’t let go of how I want things (which can be a strength at times)
Try to force things that don’t work together
Not very good at technical drawing