Sunday, 2 February 2014

Mysterious Book

Here is a rather late reflection for my latest picture book project called "Mysterious Book", which I created during the first semester at Cambridge School of Art. I am posting some developmental work to illustrate my creative process.

The first half of the semester of the MA Children's Book Illustration course was dedicated to observational drawing and experimentation. I focused on the interaction of people, animals and their environment during that module as we had to choose a drawing theme. Mine was a bit too broad, but allowed me to discover new places. I challenged myself by drawing people in their environment as much as I could and this prepared me for the Sequential Image module.

I chose museum as a theme for my sequence and decided to do some research in the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences. The story is based on the interaction of museum exhibits and visitors. The inspiration for the main character of my sequence came from the observation during the first module. A girl reading a book turned into a boy, who was so immersed in his book that he climbed over the dinosaur skeletons without noticing it.

The following are some character studies for my story (family was later reduced to five members):

The story making was probably the hardest part because it was to be told entirely in pictures. This meant that the narrative had to be clear and simple as I found out with the help from tutors. My initial idea was a transformation of a quiet natural history museum into an action packed jungle, where reality mixes with imagination. It sounded exciting, but there was too much going on in twelve spreads. Consequently, I focused on making strong compositions and playing with reader's perception. The exhibits are acting as a stage but they also contribute to the drama and tension in the story. Walking over the dinosaurs doesn't make them happy! Below is my early storyboard, which included exhibits turning into creatures and chasing the boy for his mysterious book. 

After this storyboard, which was actually my second attempt, I turned to making small dummy books. I used them to work on the pace and flow of the story and how it reads with the page-turning. It was quite hard to come up with interesting compositions and angles so the sequence doesn't look static. I tried breaking it up in panels, but stayed with large double-page illustrations in the end.

The sequence didn't have to be narrative, but I love storytelling so I wanted to challenge myself and create a wordless story. This required more detailed drawing and an intriguing sequence to hold the reader's attention. I wanted to explore the landscape format and emphasize the continuous linear story. To create a dark and mysterious atmosphere of the museum, I used charcoal and created tonal drawings. I experimented with sepia at first as you can see in the observational sketch below. I tried drawing on tracing paper too, but found it too messy and decided to focus on black and white drawings on paper and worry about colour later. The end result had a sepia tone added digitally. The main character with a red hoodie contrasts with his environment, which he is not aware of until he finishes reading the book. Eventually, the family is reunited and coloured to suggest a happy end.

Here you can see more spreads from this book. The title "Mysterious Book" describes this wordless story quite well since everything in it is mysterious, the boy with a hood, his intriguing book, the museum and the fact that he was not noticed by other visitors while wearing his bright red hoodie!