Creative Identity- Top 10 Illustration Narrative rules


    • 1: Look beyond the climax
    • [For illustrations based directly on another narrative, such as a newspaper article or book cover,] sometimes one is inclined to illustrate the defining moment of the story or of the main character – depicting the climax for more drama and effectiveness.
    • Recently I have tried to pick out the underlying subtleties throughout the narrative, and explore them in the final illustration. I typically decide on a quiet scene, including symbols and details that are important to the narrative as a whole.
    • 2: See from another perspective
    • It is important to challenge yourself with different perspective, scale and how your subjects interact with one another. When sketching I produce at least three different roughs that I make into more developed sketches. I then decide on a final composition.
    • 3: Put emotions in motion
    • I use minimal detail, and so I have to employ other techniques to create atmosphere and emotion within my illustrations.
    • My characters are always small and I don’t add facial features, which means that I have to show their emotion through exaggerated gestures and movement. They are almost always active and busy running and jumping across the page, which adds humour and rhythm to the illustration.
    • 4: Create an unreal reality
    • I am interested in changing up the slides in our mind’s library, presenting contradictions that appear possible, things in the wrong but right place, situations that make impossible real.
    • The moment a viewer is surprised because something isn’t the way they expected is the moment you have captured their interest and opened their imagination.
    • 5: Tell a story within an action
    • I tend to like to use a single figure and occasionally two. The second and most critical element is really an activity. The figure is usually doing something and caught before it happens or just after. The other elements are supporting artifacts like buckets or saws.
    • Finally we have the environment. I draw environments using water and trees on occasion, but also like to use flat fields of color for their graphic simplicity.
    • Whatever I draw, I think of it as a clue or a breadcrumb that helps understand the complete story and message. It’s up to the reader to put it all together and solve the riddle
    • 6: Illustrate your messaging
    • I use storytelling as a vehicle to illustrate a message. I am trying to portray a moment in time, and invite the viewer to imagine themselves in the situation.
    • The stories I want to tell are about little moments in all our lives, little things that did or might happen. I want for a moment for you to become that character. It’s the difference between creating a picture and a strong piece of narrative illustration.
    • Craig Frazier (USA)
    • 7: Create a story to explore
    • The main challenge comes in ensuring that you create an image worth exploring and looking at rather than a just nice collection of shapes and faces. There needs to be enough ingredients – such as a sense of emotion, background detail, smaller events unfolding and symbolism.
    • I really like to fill a space, so I combat this by walking right up to the line of overdoing it and just peeking my head over the edge.
    • Ed J Brown (UK)
    • 8: Build a central character
    • Put your main protagonist and or antagonist at the centre and think about all the different areas and ways you can insert emotions, events and themes. It can be as obvious or as cryptic as you like.
    • You can fill backgrounds with relevant text, give them tattoos or just create some symbolic still life in the corner. Just make sure its your character that is at the heart of it all and all these extra details almost blend into the background.
    • 9: Make them wonder
    • Taking elements from the lyrics and music, I constructed a vague narrative for the Alone in the Ark album cover. It’s a juxtaposition of melancholy and playful perception, creating a sense of ambiguity.
    • Is the man hoping to be rescued by the plane? Is the man hiding from the plane and civilisation in general? Is that his car there? Where did he drive from? Why is he in the water? Is he happy and enjoying being in nature? Is he about to drown himself?
    • 10: Find the right balance
    • Balance is a very important compositional tool to get to grips with. For example, if you have an image with focus points all around the piece, and mark-making that returns back to itself, it draws the eye around the image, and can make it feel more complete and resolved.
    • However, if you put all the focal points in one area, or have elements leading of the page, it can encourage page turn, or a sense of anticipation, or a number of other things.
    • Owen Davey (UK)

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