Exercise: Mock up

Exercise: Mock up

Mocking up a book cover has been really fun. It is so beautiful to see an illustration taking its own role step by step, visualizing what was only in your mind.
I choose the book Whitchfinders, A Seventeenth Century English Tragedy by Malcolm Gaskill.

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After reading the blurb on the back, I started brainstorming around the word witchcraft.

I came up with few ideas after reading some parts of the book.
I thought to represent a witch, but at the same time I wanted to make clear that the brutality of witch hunting killed a lot of innocents, mostly women.
I thought representing only the feet of a hanged women would have been particularly effective, with striped socks and a black cat watching at her, to underline how superstition and words of mouth could be deathly at those times.
As a symbol for trial, I added the hand of a judge using the typical wooden hammer. After this I realized I have to find a way to connect the back cover with the front one, so I thought to draw a figure connected to that hand. Particularly I used as a reference a portrait of Matthew Hopkins which is the character responsible for the hunt described in the book. On page XIV of Witchfinders we have the portrait from which I draw a silhouette to adapt to the rest of my drawing.

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Once sketched using the measures of the book cover as a reference, I proceeded to the final drawing, using fine liners and black ink.

The rest of the job was done using Photoshop, I added the blurb, the title and the editor’s details using a background of a similar colour as the original cover.

I really appreciated the process explored with this exercise and I am quite satisfied with the outcome.

Exercise: Client visuals

Exercise: Client visuals

I worked on visuals choosing two illustrations.
The first one is an illustration by Spike Press, one of his logos.


The first step was measuring the drawing and enlarge it by 2 times and half (8,5×16,5 to 21,5×41,25). I took more few main points to keep the proportions right and started drawing. In the first visual I tried adding as many details as possible also trying to give an impression of the textures and the shades, even though I didn’t use any colour.


I traced this drawing to obtain a simpler version, editing all the unnecessary details, getting a basic, clean line drawing.

The second illustration is by Rohan Daniel Eason, whose works I particularly enjoy. I couldn’t find its real measures, so I took a screenshot and worked as it was my piece of paper (12×15,3 to 30×38,25).


With this second illustration I worked in the opposite way, compared to the first one. I started with a quite simple line drawing, adding some lines, just to distinguish the black and white areas.


Afterwards I started filling in the drawing with lots of details, trying to get it as clear as possible.


I experienced a really big difference between the first and the second illustration, mostly because of their really different style.
I thought that even in the edited version the Spike Press’ illustration was really clear and perfectly conveyed the final idea while I definitely needed more details in the basic visual of R.D. Eason’s piece, because the simple line drawing was a bit confusing and didn’t give a correct idea of the final result.
I found R. D. Eason’s website particularly useful to understand the art direction. In the page named Process he published some of his artworks from sketches to final, giving a great example of how things work.
Pictographic Index 1, by Karolina & Hans Lijklema , pages 268-279, Spike Press.

Exercise: Viewpoints

Exercise: Viewpoints

I put together some objects which made me think about summertime. I chose a striped beach towel, a pair of sunglasses, a straw hat, a swimsuit and a pair of goggles.
I arranged them on the floor and started shooting some pictures trying to catch different angles.

There were some situations where I had to arrange the objects in a different way in order to get their most descriptive side in the photo.
After that I started drawing from life, having already selected in mind the angles I thought were the most successful. I took little thumbnails and then reproduced them in bigger sizes, trying varied formats.

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The ones I liked the most have been the irregular hexagon, the landscape, long thin rectangular shape and the oval. I thought it was particularly successful as a design, even though is not showing every single object, the close up on the goggles, because it’s a very clear symbol and because the beach towel was arranged in a way which reminded me of waves, Also a little corner of the hat is visible.

5_0004This point of view makes me think of the kind of visual you have when you lie on the beach and everything looks just flatted down to the sand.
The oval frame looked really nostalgic to me, a round one would have worked better, probably linked to the idea of a boat window, however I felt the best frame for this visual was the rectangular one, long and thin, in fact it gives me a fresh feeling which I associate with summertime.
This exercise made me realize how much I need to work on the concept of thumbnails, because even though I tried, I couldn’t make up my mind until I worked on a bigger size of the images.

Exercise: Giving instructions

Exercise: Giving instructions

The most reliable and universal way to give directions is through a map. In most cases visual communication is really effective, quickly understandable and it crosses the limits of the spoken language, that can be sometimes a barrier.

I found a very useful reference book, On the Map, by Simon Garfield (2012), which helped me to figure out some basic notions about cartography.
The history of maps tracks the need of the human being to be oriented, to find directions and to understand the shape of the world. The earliest maps were found as Prehistoric cave paintings, in Europe and afterwards in Babylonia’s clay tablets. But the biggest change in ancient cartography came later, in Alexandria of Egypt at Ptolemy’s court.
But a particular map inspired me in this case: it was created in the mid XIII century by a monk named Matthew Paris and it is officially the first route map we know about.
It is a strip map from London to Jerusalem and the most interesting fact is that it is interactive, with movable pop-up leaves and little panels, with additional details and explanations.
Together with this fantastic ancient map, I was intrigued by the idea of labyrinth. It has always been fun to solve those little labyrinth games we can find on newspapers and I thought that it could be interesting to use it for this exercise.
My idea was in fact to fuse together map and labyrinth, a real itinerary and a fun game.
I found a couple of examples of maps explaining itineraries browsing my personal visual reference:

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Serving to the purpose of creating an illustration which gives directions to my house, my first step was to take as a reference a real map of London (using Google maps) and mark an route supposing my starting point is Trafalgar Square and my home is located in Finsbury park.

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I verified the various steps and came up with the decision that I needed a shorter journey to better fit my purpose, so I finally opted for the itinerary from King’s Cross station to Finsbury Park.

Google maps

Next step was to extrapolate the biggest roads and streets from the real map and, the most difficult part, to close the various access ways to create a unique possibility to get from start to destination.

To make the game a little more intriguing rather than obvious, I added more streets without referring to the real map.
I finally wrote the name of the streets (corresponding to the map) so that once completed, the itinerary would explain exactly which way gets to Finsbury Park.

It was pretty difficult for me to create this labyrinth and yet I am concerned that is too easy to solve or that I missed some other possible way to get to destination.
However, I am quite satisfied with the outcome, considering that there have been moments when I really got stuck.
I asked two people an opinion about my illustration and I received different feedbacks: both of them said that the labyrinth works as an illustration but only one person said that it is a very good idea and serves the purpose very well, while the other one feels that the itinerary is not clear and that the labyrinth looks like a randomly picked piece of map.

Exercise: Abstract drawing

Exercise: Abstract drawing

This exercise required the listening of an instrumental piece in order to create an abstract drawing.
I choose as a starting point a piece originally composed by Johannes Brahms, Hungarian dance N. 5, interpreted by a young Lithuanian artist named Martynas. I really love this piece and it literally gives me goose bumps every single time I listen to it.
In the first place I listened to the music a couple of times without making marks, just trying to understand which colours to associate with it. I couldn’t really choose between two range of colours: the red/brown or the blue/green.
I had a go with the reds first, trying to let the marks being as instinctive as possible. I had in my mind that fabric called damask which is often composed with two tones of the same colour.
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Being poorly satisfied, I tried with the blue, adding also some green and brown.

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Disaster. Honestly I couldn’t find any connection between my squiggly drawing and the musical piece I was trying to describe.
So I decided to change method motivated by the interesting idea of making marks as I was reading and translating the sound in lines.

What came out looked like a diagram of a very bad earthquake or some weird medical exam. But I loved the effect and I thought that those lines could have been transformed in a colourful sequence of geometric patterns.

However even this time I was not entirely satisfied as the outcome brought me to what looked like a South American heritage decoration more than to the eastern, mysterious and folkloristic feeling the actual music gives me.
That’s why in my final go, I used only a fine liner and slightly filled in the contours with an exhausted one.

I think this reflects much more the spirit of the piece and I also figured out that the colours I would best associate to it are the range from red, brown and okra.

To verify if it could have worked as a cd cover I adjusted the patterns to a square format and paid more attention to the forms, even though being only guided by straight lines, to leave some imperfections visible.

I like the final result after all, and I was actually quite surprised of the outcome, considering how frustrated I was in the beginning.

Exercise: Image development

Exercise: Image development

This exercise asked to use a photograph and to crop it at different angles and formats to verify how the impact of the picture changes.
It was quite difficult to find a picture for this purpose, because I found most of the pictures did not have a variety of subjects, background and foreground to be cropped in 10 different ways.
My choice is a photo took years ago in a glass factory in Czech Republic.


I thought this was good because you could understand the content of the picture from many points of view, so that even cropping it at many angles only the feeling of it could change rather than the content.


I think in fact in general the subject of the picture did not suffer the changes: you can get from almost every angles that an industrial environment is pictured and that the people portrayed are men at work.
However I can see differences in the focus and the feeling of every single image.

For instance, the ones capturing my attention are freedom, with its sense of freshness and independence, I would say; warmth, where cutting out the windows results in such a warm feeling given by the slight hot colour on the back wall (probably reflection of the massive ovens) which I could not even notice before; focus, where the open window on top of the long, narrow picture it is hunting me dramatically.
I choose to refer to the picture associated with freedom to create an illustration, as I found it more inspiring.
The interesting thing is that what came out is totally not related to the subject of the picture.
Driven by the word associated to the picture, I let my mind go and worked on how I can get that message more obvious and clear.
The open window, with its flying curtain and clear empty background was the key, but how to transform the man in someone clearly looking to be free?


In the first place the combination of the subject with the word freedom, brought me to the concept that working makes a man free. Even though a beautiful and meaningful message, I thought it was a little ‘heavy’ in this case.
So I started thinking that if that window represents freedom the man has in some way to reach that space.
Has he got wings to fly? Too dream-like.
A ladder? Too easy.
A nice old method would work fine. Knotted sheets.
I choose to use a pen to work with free lines, using black and white to emphasize the window and the sheet climbing the wall.
Then I added the word freedom digitally to have the chance to experiment more fonts.
It was also useful to position the text in different ways:

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My personal final choice goes to this last one:




Exercise: Reading an image

Exercise: Reading an image

The exercise asks to analyse the content of the following image and particularly the use of colours in it.

ImmagineAfter carefully looking at the image, I explored it by answering to the questions proposed.

  • What the image is about, what is it saying?

The image is an illustration to a fantasy story and it is describing a very crucial moment. The scene is set in a cave inhabited by a dragon.

  • Work out the narrative and identify the story.

The story is about a treasure hunt. Two children are pictured entering the cave where the treasure is hidden, protected by a dragon. The dragon is sleeping wrapped around his treasure: the female child is attracted to it and she holds out her arm as to courageously invite to go further, while the other child hiding scared behind her, is pointing backwards, to the exit.
The armours and weapons scattered on the floor suggest the difficulty of the mission already failed by valuable knights.

  • Describe the palette and tonal range which has been used. Note if the colours are hot or cold, whether the elements are detailed or textural, and where these approaches are used.

The illustration presents an extensive colour palette. All the primary colours are included together with the secondary ones, so that we get a good visual balance.
I believe the elements are more textural than detailed, as we can observe on the walls and on the floor of the cave for example.

  • Is there any connection between hot colour and the importance of the element in telling the story?

The colours are definitely crucial to the story telling. Particularly hot colours are dragging attention to the key subjects, for instance the dragon in red, the treasure in yellow, and the torch, reflecting on the cave’s walls in yellow, orange and red.

  • Which are the most important elements in terms of carrying the narrative or conveying the ideas and how have these been treated?

We cannot help but looking at the dragon, which is undoubtedly the key of the narrative together with the treasure. Not only he is pictured in bright red, but he is also surrounded by cold colours which are dragging him in the foreground even more. Just to make sure we didn’t miss the point, the dragon’s tail is transformed in a big red arrow, pointing to the throne, sitting on the treasure, just to suggest the glorious destiny of whoever is able to win it.
As well as the dragon we are attracted by another ‘hot zone’ which is the reflection of the flame of a torch on the walls of the cave. I believe this is also a key element carrying the concept of ‘research, hunt’, definitely an essential part of the story.
After those main focus points the attention jumps to the children, finally to the objects on the ground and then to the background.