vortex / cover & illustrations

Before the academic year was over I was working on an important side-project. The second book by author Vera Petrova called Vortex, about to come out.

After the success of her first book 6 years ago she wished to collaborate once more to create a second boutique publication, this time with illustrated chapters rather than just a cover. Saying I was excited would be an understatement.

What happened was quite interesting – Vera had had a look through all of my work online and liked several pieces which she thought would fit the esthetic she imagined for her book. I suggested making new work in accordance but she was set on several sketchbook pieces from the beginning days of my final year project ‘Cosmic Genesis’. As they were no longer of any importance to the outcome of the project, I felt they would fit well for the occasion. Thus they became chapter illustrations.

The cover artwork was chosen in a similar manner. Vera wanted her second book to carry on the layout of her first book (‘Instead of a Book’) – a short but wide image which flows from the back cover to the front cover as one long piece. A very fitting image I had done was, again from ‘Cosmic Genesis’, the 3.3m-long animation concept. She felt it was illustrative of her entire idea behind ‘Vortex’ so she had me send it over to her visual editor (Rumen Dimitranov), who shortened it wonderfully so it can fit the format without losing meaning.

You can see the finished cover below, as well as some of the illustrations inside.

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Personification: Giving Life to the Inanimate

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Monday morning, the start of a new day and a new week. How about that… As you might imagine Personification sounds like the simplest thing in the world—just take an object and give it ‘life’, right? What’s hard in that? We know it; we’ve done it; kids do it all the time. But, as there is always a ‘but’, when you have that as an assignment, things tend to change some.

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Let me start with a simple fact: Amelia is the leader of this project together with illustrator Georgina Hounsome. In other words prepare for something that sounds fun and simple and childish but in reality it’s a real pain that (obviously) takes you by surprise. Anyway, in an e-mail Amelia told us to bring as many random everyday objects as possible, both from home and from nature (e.g. forks, fruits, vegetables, interesting looking things and boring ones as well, sticks and leaves and twigs and so on). It was easy to visualize what we were to do with these things given the name of the project is Personification—we were probably going to choose an object, and draw it as a living thing. Hmmm, yes and no.

What the day began with was a presentation about what ‘personification’ actually is, and it was packed with examples; artists and works alike. What she was most clear about though and what she kept on emphasizing was that we shouldn’t draw faces on the objects or give them arms and legs—that’s not their true self, is it?—we have to let them speak for themselves (and not just that), we have to strive to catch them in mid-action*.

*— What she meant by that was simple. Have you ever seen Toy Story? Well, basically all the toys in a little kid’s room are alive and while he’s playing with them they just pretend to be dolls and puppets and do nothing. But as soon as he’s out of sight, they come to life, start moving and go about their toy-business. The little boy doesn’t know that these things are happening (even while he’s asleep) because he can never catch them doing it. As Amelia said: in this project you have to catch them off-guard, while they’re active, you mustn’t let them become static and inanimate.

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So yes, we have to catch them mid-action. When we draw our objects we picture them alive and kicking, roaming and doing, active and moving… If you think about it, it’s not the easiest task in the world.

There were several drawbacks in the forms of limitations as well. For example, we couldn’t use colours, we couldn’t use speech or put faces and/or limbs on the objects. Each of us received a task sheet on which there were 11 sentences printed. What we had to do for this exercise was pick objects and put them in the situations described on the paper. Since everyone brought different things everyone made different thumbnails and the diversity of mediums, techniques and objects used was inspiring! We made some pretty cool thumbnails! I did too :)

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fwxJ1But THEN came the actual project. The hard part. Rumpelstiltskin—you know the story (if you don’t find it online and read it, it’s a good story)… well, what we have to do with it in connection to Personification is to replace every character with an object, and make 12 black and white thumbnails illustrating parts of the story. Much like the previous exercise only a bit more concentrated. Another catch is that we can’t use normal landscapes. We have to look at things from an object’s point of view and depict the world they inhabit using the studio as a base (meaning that all the landscapes and backgrounds in our thumbnails have to be from our studio at Howard Gardens). Before making the 12 thumbnails though, we have to submit character worksheets—size A1, one sheet per character—sounds exciting, doesn’t it?

Lumping awesome!!! SO looking forward to it!   \  (>.<)  /

P.S.  Why I believe this project is an absolute must and we totally have to do it:

First of all, “life begins at the end of your comfort zone” (something I heard and I’ve been saying an awful lot lately—which doesn’t make it less true!!). This task is definitely out of my comfort zone, so I see it as a challenge, a sort of obstacle that, once overcome, will turn out to be a good experience. One that will make me a stronger and more skillful artist.

Second, this is something I would never think of doing on my own. I might give myself challenges, but they are nothing like this one… but once it’s been given to me as a project, as something that I must do, I get hyped up and enthusiastic about it and I do things in the end that I never expected I could! In this way I am able to explore my potential and strengthen the abilities that I already have. (And here you could go back to the previous paragraph, because they kind of mix up… :/ hmm…)

Anyway,

Await updates in the form of pictures :)

S.