It’s been a rather patchwork few months since rounding off all the university work and delving into the world of real life, or ‘part freelance, part part-time job and part full time job hunting’. Each day has been so different from the last, with a huge range of commission styles coming in as well as attempting to keep a relatively stable look to my social media presence (which is rather hard to do when all the work you’re producing is so incredibly varied…). But the one constant I’ve had which I can leap back into during the quieter times is this personal project of mine, the Lavish Zine.
Since the last post about my intentions for this project, I’ve developed a few more images in ever so slightly different styles and techniques. The first image was off of the back of the Lavish front cover draft I created at the beginning (ref. to original blog post). The method used to create that cover was a combination of traditional drawing and digital colouring, something hugely commonplace in illustration but something I am rather new to. It’s taken me a while to build up the skills (*cough* trial and error *cough*) to be able to combine the flat, unaltered, scanned image of the lineart with the more flexible, layered colour which is applied digitally. After finding a visually successful balance of the two with the front cover design of the snake, I tried to apply the same sort of thing to an African hunting dog illustration.
It went relatively well. I was happy with each element as an individual aspect, but once it was all brought together it just didn’t seem to work quite as well as the snake design. I can quite work out where the errors lie; the composition, the traditional lineart, the digital colour, the textured elements? I’m still not sure, but I think it may well be a combination of small faults in each of those, all coming together and leaving me with something I’d do a lot at university: over polishing.
However, I reckon I would be a lot happier with the image if it were in a different context. For the format I’m aiming at, a cheap to produce and relatively narrative-less zine, the hunting dog illustration is too complex and busy. But if it were for, for example, a children’s book or part of a poster, it would work much better. Maybe the cover of a children’s book? Needless to say the time developing it wasn’t necessarily wasted, but it’s not something you’ll be seeing in Lavish.
The next illustrations I made were far, far more successful. Going back to what I enjoyed most about The Ugly Bestiary, I started using sketchy, bold graphite to form the composition rather than entirely ink linework and some limited ink around the very outside of the form. This is how I developed the mandrill illustrations below:
This also gave me an illustration without a background which allowed for more options in terms of the composition on the page spread. I’m not 100% happy with this layout, but I think I needed to test out this minimal approach just to be sure. I like the small crown illustration, I reckon that can be used elsewhere or harnessed in a different way, but I can’t help but think that there needs to be some degree of information or narrative to the zine rather than just ‘picture – text – picture – text’. I’ll have to play around with things quite a bit before I decide on what sort of form this could take.
The next step was, as usual, accidental.
The project needs to, of course, include my all time favourite animal; the gharial. So I started developing a gharial illustration in a similar slightly anthropomorphised, stylised manor to that of the mandrill. I wanted the composition and pose of this one to be more dynamic though. The mandrill seems a little bit too rigid, too boxed in and didn’t quite fill the page how I wanted. So, this swirly, curly gharial was born!
This is the initial, unedited scan of the linework. The tonal values are far less scratchy and contrasting compared to the mandrill. This wasn’t entirely intentional, it just happened to be that I started lightly and didn’t pay too much attention to what I was doing, so it continued that way. Which went rather well! I think I prefer this style of adding tone and texture, especially since I’ve seen how well it responds to digital colour.
I’m incredibly pleased with this illustration. The image fills the page better, the colours work and the style of the animal is the sort I was hoping for. Not quite cartoon/children’s book but not as true to life as the Bestiary illustrations.
But I am struggling with something. These illustrations, although I’m happy with them, they’re coming across as too polished to be in a little, stapled together zine. I wanted something more accessible and quicker than the big ol’ Bestiary book, and a zine full of illustrations akin to this wouldn’t quite achieve that.
There are a couple of solutions to this that I’ve thought of. I could convert this entire project to that of a small, paperback book and add more narrative to aim the project at a younger audience, but I did already have the intention of doing this with a similar plan. (A children’s book, co-authored with my very linguistically able sister, intended to show children that animals like spiders, bugs and other commonly disliked beasts don’t deserve their reputation)
The other solution is my favoured one at the moment. I will create a limited amount of illustrations like that of the gharial, perhaps five or six. They will be in the zine scattered between pages of other smaller, quicker and sketchier drawings of other beasts. These will be black and white, possibly a mixture of charcoal, graphite and ink like the scratchy illustrations I made for Karen Cooke’s children’s book ‘Hot Bubbles’. This opens up the opportunity for some hand written type and some more interesting, sporadic compositions turning this zine into a sort of well organised sketchbook.
I’m going to push forward with this latter solution and try out some thumbnails. Updates soon! 🙂