Cider Labels Inspired by Folk Tales

Near the beginning of the semester module we were offered the chance to contribute towards a live brief. The brief was to produce 6 labels for  co-fermented craft cider company, where the ciders were named after various folk and fairy tales. “Telling a story” was a priority for these images. I thought I should try my hand at producing some labels because I love the topic. The target audience for this cider were craft beer drinkers, young adults aged about 18-30 years old, and the artwork must NOT appeal to children in any way, even if they are illustrations inspired by fairy tales.

This project took a lot of brainstorming to get any ideas that I was happy with, and even though I’m pretty happy with the images I’ve produced, I still don’t think I quite hit the criteria of telling a story.

I decided to create these images using lino cuts, but I wanted to add color and typography. I’m never happy with any digital font I can find to match well with my work, so for these illustrations I experimented a lot with hand written typography. I personally struggle quite a bit with this but its good to get some practice in.

I know these sketchbook pages don’t look like much, but I did eventually use a number seven and the text “ravens” for my “7 Ravens” image, and the yellow pen text with “Run Rabbit, Run” was used as well. One thing that I have definitely learnt from this little project is that I definitely need more practice with not just creating hand drawn text, but with incorporating that text gracefully with images I’ve created.

It took a lot of trial and error and experimenting to get the images right in Photoshop. While I was happy with the colour choice I had chosen, I realized that I had made the mistake of using the wrong tone of colour for the wrong things.

If I was going to use these images for cider labels, and the images weren’t going to be especially large, the text just was not going to show up like this. It was a simple fix though, and all I had to do were swap the colours round and they read clear enough, even when the images were relatively small.

The apple tree image was a different problem. I wanted the text to be properly incorporated within the branches of the tree, so I used my graphics tablet to write the words by hand. I’m still not 100% happy with the result but I got it to the best of my ability. I tried out many different brush textures, but decided to go with a thin brush that I could write scribbly text with, because I thought it reflected well with the thin and pointy branches.

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Overall, I have learnt a lot from creating these three images, and am fairly happy with the outcomes.

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(Final) Major Project: Ideas?

Recently I’ve been thinking and planning a project for the end of year show. This will be the final project I will likely do in educational circumstances, so its slightly intimidating. This will be the project that may help me get my foot in the door somewhere. I can hope so anyway, who really knows.
Thinking about what I wanna create for this project has got me thinking about what kind of illustrator I really wanna be. And to answer that, I currently really don’t know. But I do know that I love narrative illustration and storytelling, even if I’m not so good at it myself, and I wanna be able to build on my strong points and learn something new with this project.

Something I’ve been thinking about doing for a while is illustrating something kinda spooky. Like horror, and horror fantasy in particular. Ghost stories and the supernatural have always interested me since I was a kid, and books like Goosebumps were my favorite. I also used to have a book of a collection of ghost stories and horror stories for kids and even though I must’ve read it when i was about nine I still remember the creepy imagery I have of reading about the story of the monkeys paw, and another one about some un-dead Count. Traditional fairy tales and lore and legend of fairy and creatures were a big fascination of mine too, reading about creatures such as Babayaga or changelings. Sorta almost silly stuff I guess now, but I loved to scare myself as a kid. I was a bit of a reader when I was younger, and don’t really remember most of what I read about, and I most certainly don’t have any of those books anymore, unfortunately.

Since I loved all these tales so much when I was a kid, I am thinking about possibly illustrating a horror story aimed towards children. I’m unsure what age group to be honest. Possibly a good start would be the age I was when I was super in to all that stuff, which I think was about 8/9/10-ish. Another decision I need to make is what form of illustrative product I will make. I could go for a picture book, but again, what age group do I choose. Or I could create some sort of graphic novel/comic.

I’m also not really that much of a writer at all, so am taking a story to adapt and illustrate from local folklore. Possibly Herefordshire, or Gloucestershire. It might even be interesting to find a story from The Forest of Dean, where I grew up, but I feel like that will take some very determined digging and research. I’ve been told of a folklorist named Mary Ella Leather, who I need to do more research for. Her collection of folk tales is now out of print, unfortunately. So any copy I have found has been a bit out of my price range. Will have to visit Hereford library, who knows, they might have a copy. I want to be able to bring back some interest into local tales. These days they are difficult stories to find, but British history is full of storytelling.

Some visual influences for this project have been comic artist and writer Emily Carrol. (Her website here.) I have a copy of a collection of her stories “Through the Woods” I absolutely adore. She seems to have a knack for capturing the perfect feeling of dread in her illustrations. Below is a small example of her work, which is a personal comic inspired by the video game Fallout 4. Her other fallout 4 inspired comics can be found here. I Like this comic because of the cinematic timing, the slow zoom, and the cleaver use of tone to emphasize something hiding in the dark.

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Another artist I’ve been recommended to look at is Australian artist Shaun Tan. I particularly love his character designs he made in his book “The Singing Bones”. All the characters are inspired by tales from Brothers Grimm and are quite abstract and fun, and most importantly to me, not particularly human like. I struggle greatly with drawing people and faces, and new interesting approaches towards creating characters like this are always fun and inspiring to me. (Link for his website here.)

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 ‘Oh, Mother Trudy, I was so petrified. I looked through the window and didn’t see you, but I saw the devil with a fiery head!’

Sherlock Book Cover

For my Sherlock book cover I wanted to keep things simple. The image of the pipe with the smoke is from a small painted sketch from my sketchbook, which I scanned in and copied. The simplicity of this cover is inspired by other old hardback books, the type that have a small image embellished into the cover. I first tried out doing the image just as small, but it didn’t quite look right so made it larger.
The pipe motif is also used in one of my collograph prints, the one for “the Scandal in Bohemia.” I really liked how that small sketch turned out, so used it for both the cover and as a detail in one of my illustrations. The colours I chose were also inspired by my illustrations, but instead of using a dead black I used a dark grey, much warmer and inviting than a dead black.

Sherlock Illustrations – Collographs

After the success of my collograph print I made at the print workshop with Charles Shearer I decided to go ahead and do the rest of my Sherlock illustrations using the same printing method. I tried to keep the two other illustrations in a similar style to the first one I did, creating a sort of abstract composition of key visuals influenced by the story.

On the day of printing I had a considerable amount of help from the print tech, Jess. She helped me try out various ways of printing my collograph prints. The first one of the two I decided to go with just black, so it would pair well with my first print from the previous workshop. This print illustration was based off the story of “The Musgrave Ritual.”

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Jess had found some old typography reference sheets that I could try printing on, I was weary about it first because I thought the sheets were too nice for me to print on. Once we tried it out, I was still unsure at first if i had liked how it had turned out. Once I had gone for break and come back tho, I realized how interesting it looked. The strange typography peering through the image gave a strange mysterious, atmospheric feel to the illustration.

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For my last print, which was based off the story of “The Man with the Crooked Lip”, Jess suggested we should go with a colour instead of black this time. I choose a blue, slightly more on the greener side, to reflect the water of the Thames the coat was thrown in.

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Something was still missing from this image tho, so Jess suggested we try out a stencil. She printed the leftover ink onto a piece of card so I could cut out parts that I wanted to be black. The card was too thick in the end, so we used the small pieces I had cut out to print black onto the print. Of course I had to choose the small fiddly bits to print black details.

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The effort was worth it in the end. Printing some details with black really gave the image more depth and character, plus it was a good learning experience for me.

Hay Festival Project: Experiments with Style

After my feedback from Hay Festival people, I decided to experiment a bit further with the style I have been using for some of my drawings. In these images I have used a variety of different materials, but I think the images using pastels have come out best in a way.

I especially like how the bird has come out, this bird was an experiment using feedback from Hay Festival. They liked my birds from before, and also the trees, but felt that stylistically they did not go together. To combat this problem I used the same materials I have been using to create my trees to create my birds too. In this case, the style has been dictated by the materials I’ve used. My next step in this project will be further developing this and creating more images.

Illustration Application: A Summery

I think I have learnt a lot through out this module, and explored a variety of different styles and techniques in the process of creating completed illustrations for small briefs. I’ve improved upon my technical skills, as well as organisational skills. I have written more in depth blogs about each of these illustrations that I will link below.

Art Direction Editorial Illustration

We teamed up in pairs and found articles for each other to illustrate, and took the role of art director for each other. Read about how my work turned out here, and how i directed my partners work here. (Her side of the story is here, and here.)

NC500 Editorial Illustration

Given an article about North Coast 500, Scotland’s answer to the USA’s route 66, and had to create an illustration for said article. Read about this here.

Library Pamphlet Cover

Pamphlet cover illustration for Herefordshire Libraries.Read about this here.

Editorial Illustration: Birds and Superstition

Nicholas Stevenson visited us and set us a small editorial brief, with him as acting art director. Read about this here.

Penguin To Kill a Mocking Bird Book Cover

Illustrated book cover for penguin book publishers competition brief. Read about this here.

Book Cover: To Kill A Mockingbird

I started out making this book cover by researching a bit into the book, To Kill a Mockingbird. I ended up watching the movie of it, and that’s where I got the inspiration to create this cover. At the end of the movie the two children are walking back home through the woods on Halloween night after a party, and to avoid much spoiler, a key moment happens in that scenery.

For this illustration I used freehand pental brush pen for the lines, and painted it using windsor and newton watercolours. I then scanned them in and created the final book cover in photoshop. The text I used for this I had also drawn with the same ink brush, to match the style of the illustration. I had decided to keep the colour pallet simple, using only a yellow ocher and a dark blue to reflect on the theme of a late autumn night.

I am mostly happy with how the final product has come out, but I’m not quite happy with the spine of the book, on reflection I think i should have added a strip of watercolour to create a wrap around of the two images and to bring it all together, but then again at least having the text on a solid background on the spine makes it easier to read.

Another idea that I didn’t implement was including a drawing of Scout in her ham costume running away through the woods. I think including this would of possibly brought the image and story together well.

For this book cover project I had also tried out recycling one of my previous images into a cover for this book, using the image from this editorial project. You can see this image below.

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I am mostly happy enough with this cover trial, but if I had given myself more time to work on this I would of scanned in some brown paper to use as background instead of just block colour, and I would of re-scanned in the hand written text I had used, because the text in this image was at a lower resolution and could not be made much larger without loosing quality. It was a nice experiment with a previous image, and was a good exercise in using photoshop.