Sunday, 22 April 2012

The dreaded 'Red Button'

Why I decided to use the ‘Red Button’

When I first embarked upon my final major project at the beginning of January, which would span eighteen weeks, I decided that I would like to illustrate a series of children’s story book covers. Conveniently, renowned children’s book publisher Puffin were running their annual competition to redesign the cover of a timeless classic at the same time, this year (2012) it was the Brother’s Grimm fairytales. It felt natural then to follow this path and use this live brief set by Puffin to base my first children’s story book cover on. I started well, researching the individual stories within the collection alongside researching themes that ran throughout and linking some of the tales together. I decided to concentrate on the theme of temptation with the infamous stories of Little Red Riding Hood, Snow White and the Frog Prince all falling into this category. My original idea was to use individual subjects from the stories which highlighted the theme of temptation and incorporate them into a totem pole. The idea of a totem pole appealed to me as the majority of the fairy tales are set in the woods and it was a way of tying all my individual subjects together and strengthening them with this temptation link.

After a few weeks as I started to bring my individual subjects together, I could see that not having a cohesive plan from the very start and only realising this plan half way through was a fatal mistake. True enough, at the start I was fresh back from the Christmas break and had just handed in my dissertation meaning I was eager to get stuck into some proper graft and so off I went. On reflection however, this wasn’t the correct course of action. By collaging my subjects individually without a plan of how they would fit together once they were finished I ended up setting myself back. It was definitely a case of more haste and less speed. By speeding ahead and collaging those initial subjects and not having a plan for how it would fit together after they were finalised I actually had to go back and do it all again…or not as the case maybe. I had wasted eight weeks experimenting and exploring the individual subjects such as the wolf, frog and apple, from Little Red Riding Hood, the Frog Prince and Snow White. If I were to go back with a plan in tow and start them all again I would have spent even more precious time that I really didn’t have to give. This is why I decided to use the ‘Red Button’. I guess it’s given me some idea of what it feels like to be on the wrong side of that ‘Red Button’ before I get into the real world of illustration (though hopefully it will never happen!).

Initially, I didn’t want to turn my back on the project because it felt like an utter failure on my part, especially with this semester being the final major project and counting for such a large proportion of the final mark. I wanted to prove to myself more than anybody that I can produce some really good work. This set back drastically knocked my confidence and it took me a while to dust myself down and carry on with the next project. But it also taught me some very valuable lessons. For the project that I am currently working on, it taught me to plan properly and thoroughly of exactly what I wanted to achieve before embarking upon it. From this I have reams of roughs and thumbnails of how I see my work compositionally, books full of different backgrounds which I could test on each image and seemingly endless amounts of print offs at different stages of the image making process. This gives me the opportunity to reflect on the progress that I am making on daily basis and highlight where I think I could improve.

Additionally, the beginnings of the Grimm’s project saw the first of my return to my collaging technique I used for the last Puffin competition (circa January 2011). It’s a shame that it didn’t really have the same effect! The first collaged subjects from this revisitation are quite crude and weak as I was just getting to grips with mastering my style. I chopped and changed from magazine paper to origami paper and back again. So although I haven’t found a solution to the Puffin problem it has helped me to develop my style and understand my media better. It has helped me to understand that although magazine paper is limited in colour and texture and only set areas are available and not unlimited it is worth keep looking and turning the page to find the ‘perfect’ solution to that particular design problem.

Though I still have the body of work that I produced those during those first eight weeks to show my progression and development of working methods and planning phases it’s still a huge disappointment. Hopefully, the progress and development I’ve made since then will recover my mark. I do think however, that if I hadn’t started on the Grimm’s project back in January, I wouldn’t have taken the path I’ve taken to produce my two children’s books and therefore wouldn’t have produced work that I am now so proud of. 

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