The Science Side: The Best Side

Since my last post there has definitely been some positive progress, it just took its sweet time getting here!

As I explained in this previous post, I’ve really been struggling to settle and/or find the right and best direction for this project to take. I’ve been stuck between having too many ideas and having non at all which, in theory, should be easy enough to get out of, just pick one of the ideas when you have too many! Easy… Not so much. My brain seems to go into a bit of a kernel panic when I get too many ideas, or any ideas for that matter. I end up seeing them as all not quite reaching their potential and begin searching for more ideas to better the old ones. Not too dissimilar a thought pattern as this graphic found amongst a Sales and Marketing article by Darren Hunt.


This isn’t necessarily a terrible mentality to have, I mean, surely it’s a good thing to want to get something perfect. The issue really lies with the fact that I can’t settle on anything good enough and I have a horrible, rather important, deadline looming on the horizon of my educational career. Goddammit.

It was mentioned in my review on Monday (24th March) morning that I need to push this indecisiveness aside and choose an idea from the many that float around uselessly in my sketchbook to just run with. So on Monday evening, with all this fresh drive in my brain, I sat down and sketched out ideas like a crazy person.

Noting down my main things I needed to maintain throughout these final stages was incredibly useful:

  • My own personal drawing aesthetic
  • Use of block or bold colour, seeing as the experiments with them went so well
  • Constantly look back and what my core concept is in the first place to make sure I don’t wander too far off the path
  • Stick to the animals and species which fit the criteria:
    – Endangered
    – Visually curious
    – Not as popular as other species

With these down in black and white, I have something more solid and concrete to bounce ideas off of, making it easier to discard those which won’t work.

I started to thumbnail with these ideas in mind. After my chat at my review, I know now that I need to somehow find a way to merge, gracefully, the elements of my sketchy, rough drawing style to compliment scientific illustration and the more geometric nature of block colour and tone. I’ve been tempted by the idea of incorporating pattern into the visuals somehow and I think I may have found a way.

In order to merge the rough and the geometric, I essentially have two options: Separate them or layer them. Trying to use both of them seamlessly in one character would look clumsy and messy.

The sketchbook page below shows a specific idea following on from the layering format. Acetate and tracing paper work perfectly for this, but trying to work with both the transparencies of the paper stocks I’ll be using and the order of which the reader will go through the book is a struggle I can’t quite solve without resorting to a Japanese style of reading (from right to left). Although I found this experiment successful as a standalone image, I won’t be taking it any further into the production in book format, it simply won’t work as gracefully as I want it to.


Below are some thumbnails of how I could separate the two contrasting styles rather than layer them. This is definitely the approach I’m leaning towards in terms of ways to carry the project through to a final outcome(s). It’s more tidy, the compositions work better with the page and the book format and I feel like it compliments my working style a lot better than trying to layer (plus, despite how lovely acetate and tracing paper looks when it’s printing onto, it’s been done… a lot…).

BA8 Sketches I

I also played around with the idea of abstraction and simplifying the shapes of the animals to create a more geometric and playful style. Whether this was intended to broaden my reachable audience to a younger demographic or whether it was just a fun exercise for my brain, I have no idea, but I’m really happy with these thumbnail ideas. The shapes work well for a crocodile, somehow you can distort the proportions of a crocodile to insane extents and yet it can still look exactly like what you’re trying to communicate. Another reason to add to my list of why they are my favourite animals…

Gharial Thumbnails

Even though these look wonderful and were so much fun to play around with, I’m struggling to find a way to use them and somehow fit in my desired attempt at scientific illustration as well. I’d previously explored creating the science behind these weird crocodiles by drawing a skeleton over the top of a distorted one (the acetate image), but it ended up looking more Aboriginal and less scientific…

I considered my indecisiveness between the factual, figurative studies of scientific illustration and the gestural simplicity of more bizarre and curious shapes of the thumbnail crocodiles and came to a conclusion;

I can do both.

I came up with two main ideas: I can split the image entirely ,using the spine as the divide (taking more advantage over the format, something I’ve needed to consider for a while) or I can have two entirely different representations of the same animal shown in the same space.

Splitting the image seemed to work at first. The thumbnails and sketches worked reasonably well but there were some issues.

With just one animal split down the middle, certain elements won’t be represented in interesting ways, for example, the skull would be at one end and the tail at the other, missing the opportunity to represent one as scientific or one as decorative.

Another issue was the composition on the page itself. I felt it wasn’t making the best use out of the space I had, the animal seemed to be just stuck on without any real consideration, even with the use of labelling or type. So I moved onto my next idea…


Having two entirely different representations of the same animal.
This allowed me to not only make better use of the space I had, but I could also fully explore how to represent the animals in the two styles I wanted to focus on; scientific and decorative.

This also worked well in reflecting my core concept for the project.
By showing identical animals with different aesthetics, it comments on the value placed on them because of their appearance. One will be decorative, colourful, pretty, it will automatically and subconsciously be given more value and will have no immediate negative connotations (until I draw the spider, of course. Even the prettiest spiders get a bad reputation!). Whereas the scientific, ‘bare bones’ version (pun so intended…) will have the raw facts and visual information of the animal, showing it for what it is. But they are both the exact same animal, same behaviour and same critically endangered status.

Below are some examples of the thumbnails and drawings I came up with while toying with this idea…


I’m actually really happy with this direction so far. It’s encompassing everything I want it to and I feel it can be translated into a book format with ease, making no sacrifice to the composition or white space. Things I do need to work on and start looking into are:

  • TYPE: Don’t leave this to the last minute again. I’m going to look into how the traditional labelling is written on early scientific illustrations and compare them to modern techniques. I think my backlog of dissertation research and imagine hoarding could come in useful for this…
  • COLOUR: Will I be using a limited colour palette or will it be different for each animal? Will the colours of the decorative version reflect/compliment/contrast those of the actual scientific version of the species?
  • COVER: A book needs a cover, and a Bestiary is no different. What will I choose to represent my book’s contents in one image and how will the type tie into this? Am I even still sticking with the title “The Ugly Bestiary”?
  • NUMBER OF PAGES/ANIMALS: I have so far shortlisted six animals, trying my best to keep a balance between the animal groups (mammal, reptile, etc.) but will this give me a chunky enough book? Should there be more? Mock ups are needed for this one, I think!

Well, wish me luck…


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