Category Archives: 2 – Illustration

Exercise – Rain


In this exercise I had to produce a single strong attractive image that would leave no doubt that the subject is rain.  This would be used as the front cover of a magazine.


I began by making a list of what rain meant to me in order to find ideas for the elements required.  I then made a short list of magazine subject matter in order to connect the subject with the theme.  (Normally of course the magazine would be the employer and therefore the task of imagination would be only limited to the elements.)  From my list I decided to use gardening and for simplicity chose to use wellington boots and an umbrella photographed through my patio windows that I first sprayed with water to create the rain drops on the glass to emphasise the rain.  My barbeque was the original inspiration for both the choice of magazine style and idea for composition (Thanks to the Great British weather barbeques are closely associated with rain) so I arranged the wellington boots and umbrella next to my brick built barbeque.  However, I did not consider it important enough to the composition of this image to produce a photo that clearly defines the Barbeque as an additional element; so if it is recognised all the good and if not it’s not important as the boots and umbrella are the important elements to be linked with rain.  By chance, the day I worked on this photograph it actually did rain anyway; so this helped by providing a nicely wet patio for the reflection from the umbrella.


I first took photos composing the image in a conventional portrait format but I felt that the images lacked something. I found by tilting the camera the images looked more interesting creating a more dynamic composition.


24-120mm f/4, @112mm, 1/100sec f/20, ISO-6400, WB-Auto.  Adjustments made in Lightroom (no cropping) and text added in Photoshop.

Exercise – Juxtaposition


‘Great Expectations’ by Charles Dickens.


Since I first wrote this blog and published it I have figured out how to add text in Photoshop; so I have now included this finished book cover to my work.


24-120mm f/4. 1/160 Sec, f/6.3, ISO-125, WB-Sunshine, Flash 1/4 amber gel.

IMG_0768  Set-2 (1 of 1) Set-3 (1 of 1)

Equipment used 2 x speedlights, Pocket Wizards, 1 x softbox, 1 x Chinese lantern, 1 x Gobo, 2 x reflectors. 1 x amber Gel.

Great Expectations plan  Click on this link to open the pdf for my mind-map.

In this exercise I have chosen to take a still-life approach to creating a cover illustration for a book.  The book I have decided to use as my inspiration is ‘Great Expectations’ by Charles Dickens.

Synopsise: First published in 1861 the novel’s story is of Pip an orphan being brought up by his uncle and aunt and on a course in life to become a blacksmith.  However, when still a young child fate throws him in the way of an escaping convict whom he has to help and soon after this event he is called upon to regularly visit a strange, recluse, rich spinster (Miss Haversham who was jilted on her wedding day and still only wears her wedding dress) and her adopted daughter Estella with whom Pip falls in love.  He later learns that a mysterious benefactor has named him as an heir to a great fortune but he must first give up his present life and go to London to be educated as a gentleman.  Believing that the mysterious spinster is his secret benefactor and that her adopted daughter is intended for his wife he willingly gives up his life with his uncle and aunt and goes to London to become a gentleman but having become a gentleman he reaching his 21st birthday fate has yet another twist in it’s tale for Pip….

The elements for this photo are all relevant to the characters and events that I have just described and I used the mind mapping technique to help choose and find the elements for the picture.

I started with the title of the book and looking up the meanings for the two words in the Oxford Dictionary gave me ideas of possible imagery symbolisms.  I then added the names of the main characters and looked at connections between the symbolism ideas to strengthen  the final choices.

My first attempts included a sea chest represents the expected fortune, the iron file represents Pips humble origins and the convict, the lace handkerchief and lace glove representing Estella and Miss Haversham, I also included some bonboniers to represent love and the expectation of marriage.  My first mistake was to take some pictures in landscape format and the realized that it would not be suitable for a book cover; so I had to re-shoot tilting the camera for portrait.  After re-taking the images I then felt it lacked something In order to make the picture interesting; so I searched for and found an old rusty chain that could represent the convict.  Happy with this I I made another attempt.

However, on reflection I realized that I had moved away from the brief of this exercise.  The brief was to have no more that three elements that would strongly contrast against each other for a simple image still life to provide a very simple symbolist type of message.  I slept on it and removed the sea chest, the lace handkerchief and glove.  I then had the idea to create a shape of a heart using the chain, placing the iron file sticking out of the heart shaped pile to resemble a dagger and to contrast the chain and the file I added the bombonier.  I now have only three elements, the chain representing the convict, the file representing Pip and his connection to the convict and the Bonbonier that represents both Miss Haversham and Estella for whom Pip dreams of marrying as part of his Great Expectations.  The way that I have arranged these elements is intended to also suggests love, heart ache and betrayal which are all elements of the book.  I positioned the gelled speedlight inside the soft-box to direct the light down the length of the file to create a good texture and used the reflectors to fill and soften shadows.

I am happy with my final result which allows enough space and a suitable background for text and is in portrait format for the book-cover.  The amber gel has produced a nice antique colour-cast which I believe adds additional interest.


Exercise – Symbols


Concepts can be represented by commonly recognizable symbols that can provide a visual link.  Above is the internationally recognized road sign symbolizing ‘caution – men at work’.

Similarly, photographic images can be created to the same effect.

Growth – Can be represented by an image of a sprouting seed, ultrasonic image of a young foetus,  a short and tall child standing back to back.

Excess – a large nicker-bocker-glory ice-cream, cream on strawberries, cherry on a cake, empty wine and beer bottles, a half eaten pudding / cake, a large stately home, a Rolls Royce, a large luxury yacht, a hand burger, a child with chocolate or ice-cream around their mouth.

Crime – handcuffs, yellow crime scene tape, outline of a body, sign – POLICE, blue light, gun and bullets, scales of justice, prison gates, a messed up room, a broken window, the back of someone running away, a knife / dagger covered in blood.

Silence – A library sign, a finger to the lips, a zipper zipped up, feet in slippers, a sleeping baby.

Poverty – empty inside out pockets, a famine victim, a skeleton, a child holding out an empty bowl, coins in a hat, bread and water, a person holding a begging sign, a  scruffy person asleep on a park bench, a hand in fingerless gloves being held out, Indians of the roof of a train, refugees, dirty children.


Exercise – Evidence of action


That was a nice cup of tea!

A simple example of a single image depicting a suggestion of action from a recent event.

Illustration is best used for dealing with subjects that are not easy to photograph for example subject matter that is not a solid object or a obvious event.

Five concepts regularly depicted in advertising and publicity that can not be shown directly is: Banking, life-style, holidays, medicines, utility services such as gas or internet.  In order to put across a positive message for these types of subjects we are shown pictures of helping hands, shaking of hands, umbrellas, happy people dancing and care-free, young beautiful families hand in hand on a deserted white sandy beach, an empty swimming pool with one single bikini clad swimmer, a blue flame images symbolizing warmth and cold, images symbolizing modern communication and images suggesting speed.