Both my major and research projects revolve around narrative; narrative illustration was an area that I wanted to work more in, and I wanted to learn more about how to tell a story through a visual medium.
I looked at a lot of different artists work, and read about narrative structure and how to illustrate stories, and decided that the best way to explore how to illustrate a story was to select a short narrative and illustrate it, using other artists ways of working as a starting point for experimenting. From my research I selected four artists whose work I liked and found to tell stories very well, and I picked out key points from their work that made their illustrations visually interesting, or work well. All four artists have produced work that is quite different from the other three, though their work fulfils the same purpose.
Keeping the elements I picked out in mind, and not just looking at the key points I mentioned in my introduction (see also scanned in notes http://research-project.mosieart.net/post/22123632797/click-to-full-view-development-notes), I then set about reproducing the same narrative, the Aesop’s fable The Fox, The Cock and The Dog (text in all experiments was based on or directly from the version posted at Aesop, 2004 in the bibliography), a number of times, considering the different elements I wanted to experiment with.
I produced line drawings for each experiment, as colour/method of production was not an element I had selected to experiment with. After each set of experiments I made a set of notes with observations and conclusions I’d made about that set of experiments.
(See: control experiment: http://research-project.mosieart.net/post/19527931137/evaluation-comments-on-control-illustrations
Shaun Tan inspired experiments: http://research-project.mosieart.net/post/19528018090/evaluation-comments-on-shaun-tan-experiments
Craig Thompson inspired experiments: http://research-project.mosieart.net/post/20654112303/evaluation-comments-on-craig-thompson-inspired
Luke Pearson inspired experiments: http://research-project.mosieart.net/post/20654200270/evaluation-comments-on-luke-pearson-inspired
Ciaran Duffy inspired experiments: http://research-project.mosieart.net/post/20654871888/evaluation-comments-on-ciaran-duffy-inspired - conclusions from all artists are summarized below.)
Conclusions from the Shaun Tan experiment were; the use of images at different zoom made for a more interesting set of illustrations, especially when used to show the Dog as potentially only a lie told by Cock to Fox (which also linked to a mirroring theme Tan used in The Arrival [Tan 2007]), using elements that were important to the story without being specifically referenced in the text added interest too. This set of experiments does not directly combine text and image, instead of the text being on the image, it would be printed on the page opposite the illustrations.
Conclusions from the Craig Thompson experiment are: the visualization of the lie was important to this set of experiments, with the most successful being the experiment where the lie was given the most page space and then scale used to emphasize Cock and Dog over Fox on the third page because of the sympathy it creates for Fox. This set combines text and image, so that you read and look at the image at the same time.
Conclusions from the Luke Pearson experiment are: the story is laid out in a clear, easy to follow manner. Different ways of dividing the panels control the speed at which the reader reads them. The preferred experiment from this set of two was the longer experiment as that one supplemented the moments written about with moments that were implied; including Fox sniffing around for food and the desired outcome from the lie being visualized. These experiments were essentially an exercise in telling a story in comic book format; I’d not told a story in this way before and although ultimately I decided to focus on a younger audience for the bulk of my narrative illustration, I also enjoyed using this way of arranging a narrative. Comic panels are very popular because they are a clear way to lay out an illustrated story; I will definitely use this method of producing illustrated stories for other projects in the future.
Conclusions from the Ciaran Duffy experiment are: these experiments were the most child-friendly. The most successful of this set of experiments did not solely use full bleed images but also used images with margins/white space so that the resulting set were not repetitive.
I also noted that each set of experiments was geared towards audiences of a different age, and that no one approach could be considered ‘the best’. As with my major project, audience is a consideration that I’ve been thinking about. I did not design this experiment with audience age in mind, and through chance (and their diversity) selected four artists that illustrated stories sequentially in ways suited to different ages. I’ve realized that the audience that best fits the illustrations that I want to create are children – specifically children who are just learning to read. Books for children at this age are full of simple narratives, often with animal characters. This fits well with the Aesop’s fable that I am illustrating here, and with the illustrations I like to produce. While the lesson in this fable (cunning often outwits itself) is applicable to any age range, and is a theme in a range of stories, as it’s being demonstrated with animals it can quite easily suit the young-reader audience. For this reason I have decided to proceed with a younger audience in mind when taking what I’ve learned forward to work on a set of Aesop’s fable illustrations.
To accompany my conclusion I have drawn a line-drawing version of the fable that I will then be taking forward and turning into a high quality, well finished illustrated book to use as a promotional item to send to publishers. I discuss the alterations and choices made in the post with the images: http://research-project.mosieart.net/post/22212422826/click-to-full-view-this-is-the-version-of-the
In summary: I kept white space around some of the images, but most are full bleed. Three of the ten pages have white space around the images – these three pages (1, 5, 10) have important moments (the prowl, the lie, Fox leaving – coincidentally these also represent the beginning, middle and end of the story) that required emphasis that the white space provides. The first page also benefits from the white space approach as I use it to use repetition to strengthen the idea that Fox is prowling with a purpose, looking for food; it allows pseudo-panels in an approach that wouldn’t otherwise get the benefits of panels (more than one thing happening on a page). Reserving white space for key moments shows that something important is happening on those pages. The characters are drawn with expressions while remaining the sort of simplified animal I draw (like Red Panda and Raccoon, but with facial expressions) so that children can more easily connect with them on an emotional level.
I began this experimental process intending to explore different ways of showing stories, and I believe that my experiments have been a successful exploration of different ways to convey stories through pictures. I have learned about using panels (which I can take forward to future projects not aimed at the young-reader market), and identified ways to add interest to sequential narrative illustrations aimed at different audiences.
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This is the version of the fable that I am taking forward to develop further and create a high quality illustrated book that I can then use as a promotional/portfolio piece to send to publishers. It’s based on the experiments inspired by looking at Ciaran Duffy’s work. It’s child-friendly and combines text and image on the same page.
I have altered some of the pages so that they have no longer got white space around them, so that the white space is preserved for key moments/special items. In this case page 1 (where I wanted to be able to have more than one image to show ‘prowling’ to emphasise the Fox is having to do lots of looking for food, that it’s not plentiful, without having to use multiple pages in the absence of traditional panels), page 5 (where Fox and Cock are looking in on the Fox and Cock hugging - the happy idea the lie is trying to sell to Cock), and page 10 (where the plan has gone wrong and Fox is having to leave, he is actually leaving the image space and the page).
I have tried to emphasise expression while trying to keep the animals animal-like, so that the animals are easier for children to connect with and enjoy.
Below I’ve attached a different version of page 1 - this one does not have the ‘sniff’ text, but I think that the sniff text is good, and emphasises what it means for Fox to be on the prowl, which is also the reason that I did not want to just have one image depicting prowling.
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development sketches - including development of idea to take forward, and notes made on the text of the story
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These images are the ones referenced in my artist research notes. None of these images belong to me, and are only reproduced for the convenience of the people who will be marking my work.
The bibliographic entries for the images are listed below the read more cut, in order and numbered to match the numbering on the image sheets:
All of the sets of experiments produced images that were more interesting and better added to the narrative than the control illustrations.
As pointed out in the evaluation comments for each set of experiments, the different ways of illustrating the fable drew out different elements. Each set added to the fable in different ways, and as a result the images would not necessarily all work for the same target audience.
For example, the pages from the Ciaran Duffy experiments with the images spread over pages rather than divided into panels would suit a younger audience more than the panels of the Luke Pearson experiments or the freeform page layout employed in the Craig Thompson inspired experiments. The experiments inspired by Shaun Tan would also be less suitable for younger readers as the story is not laid out step-by-step as might be anticipated, so they could be confusing.
It is difficult to point to an approach that could be considered ‘the best’, as each would suit a different audience and be successful for that purpose. The nature of the narrative does not necessarily point to a specific audience either; Aesop’s fables are timeless lessons, and good stories whatever your age.