Cheltenham Illustration Award

‘The theme for 2017’s Exhibition and Annual : Tales Through Others’ Eyes.
The focus of the Awards has always been one of narrative. Visual storytelling, whether sequential or single image, gives scope to the imagination and opens up possibilities beyond the present moment; what happened  before? What happens next?

‘A single experience can lead to many different responses – no two people see the world alike. It’s an easy thing to draw from life when informed by our own experience but to see through the eyes of others requires that we set out on a journey of imagination and empathy; to see clearly we might have to forget our own prejudices and preconceptions. There are a million lives beyond our own – choose to inhabit the world of another and, seeing through their eyes, make an image that explores their distinctive, or unique, vision.” Here’s an example of previous year’s work.

Cheltenham-Illustration-Awards-2011-4CIA 16 poster imagesexhibition-awardsRoryWalkerWinners

I decided to work on this competition brief as I found it very interesting. I liked the fact that it was very open ended in its interpretation of the brief as well as the opportunity to work with a narrative. The brief allows for between 1 and 2 images, which could be further broken down into panels. I don’t think I’m going to go down the comic book route as that would be very time consuming and likely what a lot more talented people than I would be doing. Instead I decided I would go for a single image, perhaps split in two, and try and tell a narrative within a single image.
The main theme of the brief is perspectives and as such the image need to include either 2 people or the same person twice. Perspectives that I could look into are race, gender, species, class, age, time, geography and technology. At least those are the ones that spring to mind in terms of what would make a good compelling narrative.
So from here I produced a range of ideas on these subjects, looking for interesting compositions or designs that I can develop further. Out of the designs I produced I feel like the strongest designs were the ones I produced on homeless people and history though I also really like the idea of doing another project on a blind man and his dog. As this will give me a chance to improve upon the work on the same subject that I did earlier in the year. I also think it could be interesting for the brief as well as I can compare the perspectives between the man and his dog, or the blind man and the crowd around him watching him.
I liked this idea so I decided to run with it, as such I decided to get some practice drawing from crowds using reference as this is an area that I have struggled with in the past or worked around it to the detriment of my work. I feel like this practice gave me a better feel of how figures change as they move further away and become obscured by others.
After I felt like I had a better grasp of drawing crowds I looked at references of blind men to see how they walk and what their canes look like and draw out a few more designs, looking for a good composition or narrative elements.
I really liked the design I drew of a child playing with the blind mans dog as a crowd moves behind them. I thought the image had a lot of impact and could be really interesting. As such I took this image and began the work on it digitally as my plan at this point was to have it done in a painterly style, similar to the amazon project. I painted the characters in the foreground bright and in relative focus whilst everything in the background was left monotone and more blurry as they got further out. I felt like the composition worked though it required something extra to make it more interesting.
As it happens I had just happened do buy a program called marmoset hexels in which you can create images using hexels rather than pixels. Even drawing down to the triangles inside the hexagon. So as an experiment I happened to drop this image into the program and really like the kaleidoscopic look of it, especially as a way to represent a visual impairment. So as a result from here I experimented with all of the different ways that you could use the program with the image (in my sketchbook) and eventually settled on using the ‘trixels’ program at 0.01 size. From here I experimented with different ways of using this new program until I ended up at a point that I could call completed.
After uploading my image to the hexels program  I suffered a number of difficulties in trying to make an image that I was pleased with as for a while it kept looking very bland. As a result I changed a lot of the colours and added clearer lines to help guide the eye better. However this was made difficult due to my unfamiliarity with this new program as well as it missing tools that I was used to in Photoshop. One of the biggest jobs was cleaning up the image, as there were lots of darker areas that distracted from the focal points of the image. After the most problematic areas were cleaned up I then added a black or white border to the key areas to help draw the eye more. After this I found the colours a bit bland so I increased the brightness of the colours surrounding the figures. However at this point I felt like the composition worked but the colours needed changing and this would be most easily accomplished on Photoshop.
I tried a few different effects that changed the contrast and brightness however they lost readability like this so I went back to the design I originally had. Although as it still required visual interest I decided to continue the theme of having the foreground, mid ground and background having its own colour theme by making the foreground dark and the background light and fading away. I feel like this works well as an image. However I feel like the figures in the mid ground should be made more vibrant and distinct however none of the ideas I had for this worked so I may just be lacking in experience here. I’m pleased with how this came out as I was trying out a new program however it definitely has problems I didn’t realise earlier on. When I use this program next time I should plan it out sooner as the ‘trixels’ are different depending on where they fall in the hexel so for detail, such as faces, more planning is required. I’m looking forward to trying out the other ways I can use this program however I still prefer the simplicity of pixels.