Exercise 5

Research and development

This brief asked me to consider my explorations from the previous exercise and take some forward into the research and ideas development stage. First, I had to choose which ideas had potential and could be developed further.

This page from my sketchbook shows which ideas I wanted to take forward with some quick notes as to why, and what I needed to do to develop them further.

Initially, I wanted to explore a few of my bookworm ideas, including the worm reading a book, the woman with wormy hair reading a book, and a worm formed of books. I knew that I would need to observe worms further to try to capture this in my illustrations and also look at book spines, open books, and books at different angles to achieve realistic depictions of these items.

There were also a couple of ‘oldest trick in the book’ ideas I wanted to explore further. The book character with a hat saying a magic phrase seemed like an interesting concept to take further, while I also enjoyed the open book with magical/trick items flying out.

I knew that I would not have the time to explore each idea in great depth, so, to begin with, I focused on some key items I would need to observe to make my drawings more accurate. I looked at books from my own bookshelf, photographing them in different positions and from different angles. I began using these photographs to try out some of my ideas that used a book as the base.

Here, I explored ways of arranging books to create a worm structure. I also tried adapting one of my photographs to become the old book wearing a hat. I love the silvery cobwebs (these help establish the ‘old’ aspect of the phrase) and the cranky expression of the character! I think this is my favourite version of the character I came up with.

These photographs also proved useful to allow me to draw books in different positions more realistically.

The typography experiment here was fun – I tried using white gel pen to create a three-dimensional effect on the ‘TADA!’ which I think works quite nicely against the dark photograph. I also started using a few of the book positions to look at the rabbit ears concept too. Colour schemes became clear – mystical blues and purples were appropriate to communicate the message.

After my artists’ books and zines research, I have become very interested in making my illustrations tactile and interactive. A few of my experiments on this page were books that could be moved and included pop-up elements. Perhaps these could be considered when looking at a final element as part of a book or zine.

As part of the research phase, the brief specified that I should observe any source material needed to improve my illustrations. After looking closely at the book form, I tried some sketches of worms. I mostly looked at photographs of worms online and did quick sketches from these, but I did find a worm in the garden that also helped this process! Using this, I tried a few variations of my worm character, thinking about face shape, the glasses, the worm’s position and the composition.

I found that I kept wanting to look at a different idea, as my brain got tired of thinking about one. Next, I looked at my bookworm woman, because I also needed my worm observations to help improve this drawing. I started experimenting with a cross-legged pose, but in the end I preferred to just use the head, hands and book, as this was really all that was needed to communicate the idea of a bookworm. The hair and hands were aspects that could be toyed with; I ended up with some varied ideas.

As I noted in my sketchbook, the two very orange-haired characters were my favourites. In terms of colour and texture, I liked the contrast between a black and white book and a peach/pink/orange character, which was a little fuzzier and less defined. This seemed less monstrous than the woman with wormy hands – I wanted the feeling of comfort and cosiness and I think the worms on the left character are less intimidating than the ones on the right.

Next, I looked again at my rabbit ear idea, as I felt this had lots of room still to grow. I wanted to start thinking about the things coming out of the book, like stars, moons, playing cards, and magic wands. I also wanted to try a watercolour background as I felt this would be more ink-like and flowing than pencil crayon.

After some exploration, I actually felt that the image communicated enough of the ‘tricks’ aspect without the text – it could become too cluttered. The explosion of stars and magical items looked really effective though. I especially loved the inky blue effect! You can also see on this page I did a few sketches of rabbit ears based on a quick image search so that they looked more realistic.

Again, I moved back to the bookworm, rather than the bookworm woman, as I liked this character more. The worm seems friendly, and literally communicates the idea of a bookworm more accurately, without being grotesque. I wanted to play with some colours and see if a background could work. During this process – while trying out some tissue paper ideas – I stumbled on the idea of having a piece of yellow tissue paper as a lamp light shining onto the book. This worked really effectively with a black and white worm image. For all these experiments, I used photographs of my favourite design from earlier exploration.

I did also like the subtle pinks and peaches for the worm’s body though, so I still wanted to see if the two would work in harmony. However, I was very pleased with the bold, clean design of black, white and yellow.

For my final exploration, I settled on my two favourite designs – the bookworm and the rabbit ears – and tried to create more final ideas with the media I had found worked best. I used sparkly silver and gold gel pens to try drawing stars and magical dust on the watercolour backgrounds, and I also added some golden brown notes to the book to make it look older or antique-like.

Below are my favourite designs – not finished, but more final. If time allows, I still wanted to return to the ‘abracadabra’ book character and play with this a little more, but I am very happy with the designs I created.

This process certainly felt instinctive to me. As I write this, I realise that I did not pursue the worm made of books, probably because I felt like it was not working and I also had a couple of ‘bookworm’ designs that were working more effectively or that I preferred. By far my favourite designs here are the black, white and yellow bookworm and the two rabbit ear designs.

As my blog process shows, I found it difficult to stick to one idea – I soon got tired of focusing on this and moved onto another. This meant that when I returned to an idea, I came back with a new perspective and armed with new thoughts on where to take it. If I could have done anything differently, I would have wanted to spend a set time on each design to see where I could take each one. However, I think my favourite designs ended up appearing through this process and I am pleased with the results.

Returning to Exercise 5: Research and development

My tutor asked me to look back at this exercise to source new visual inspiration and push some more ideas further. She gave the example of a concertina book for the bookworm character. I got the sense, looking back at my initial attempts, that I explored lots of visual, illustrative ideas, but did not take these further into book ideas.

I started to visualise some of my illustrations and how these could be used in the context of a book, as my tutor suggested. Below are the sketches I did while returning to this exercise. I focused on the bookworm and the rabbit ears because I felt that these were my more successful images and I found I could come up with more ways to physically incorporate these into book designs.

For example, the bookworm certainly seemed as if it could work as a concertina book or pull-out, as my tutor had suggested, but I also considered Katherine Ng’s ‘the twinkle in the stars’ that I had explored in my research of artists’ books. She had created a book that unfolded or unfurled, so I wondered if this could work with the worm. I also wondered if the worm could work as a character that peered over the cover of a book.

For the rabbit ears, a pop-up feature (as I had already explored) seemed a good option. I also wondered if I could create a window with a pull-out screen that changed the image (like magic – sticking to the theme).

The stages of this development, visualising, critiquing and editing all end up becoming cyclical for me – I start experimenting, creating mock-ups, and then I come up with another idea from this experiment, which I try out, then edit, and so on. I have included all of my physical experiments in ‘Returning to Exercise 7’.

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