Assignment 4

(Part 4/Style/Assignment 4/Magazine illustration)

Magazine Illustration

I have chosen to use the word ‘lost’ for this assignment. I think the four words available all have pretty grim connotations, or at least, could have. I chose  ‘Lost’ as I could invert it to ‘found ‘ which is a much more positive concept at this time when I am not feeling very positive.

I began by performing a brain storm based on the word lost. I could have made it much bigger by expanding every bubble to its full extent. However, I considered the first couple of rings and chose to follow up on a lost ‘item’.










A couple of years ago, I attended a class to learn upholstery techniques. I had an old but sound three piece suit which was well past its prime in appearance. I bought it in the early 1990’s for £4 in an auction sale.
It was probably abut 30 years old at the time.

To renovate this furniture it had to be stripped back to its frame. As I did this very dirty job things fell out of the bottom which had been sealed in with fabric. These were LOST ITEMS. They varied in size and value. The largest was a holiday magazine from 1965 advertising Butlins Holiday Camp.

There was an envelope containing a letter, a repayment card and a hire-purchase certificate for £8 13s 5d for the purchase of a heater.



Other items included a broken silver chain, an earring, a tiny spirit level, a thimble, a lead soldier, some Mother’s day cards, a hairslide, etc etc.

Every item could have a backstory. They were all lost and probably missed at some point yet no-one had cut into the fabric which sealed them in to the chair bottom


I kept them all in an big brown envelope – cleaned up – for no particular reason.
These images show a few of the papers and most of the objects which were lost in the suite.

There was a small plastic wallet with two pound notes in it. They were as clean as if they had just come from the bank. The little lead soldier is black. I don’t think it had been painted.




I took a lot of photographs of the lost items arranged on the seat of one of the the now newly reupholstered chairs.


I think the lost objects will be more interesting to sketch than the brochures or  paperwork.

This is my objective drawing of the lost objects. I have not included them all, just the soldier, the hair slide, the small spirit level, the item from the manicure set, the thimble, the collar button, an earring and the silver rope chain.
It is  done entirely in drawing pencil and built up gradually.

I have balanced the composition by using the chain to drape around the objects and link them together. I have adopted an eyeline right down at the level of the arrangement.
I put the objects on the chair seat as I intended to include it so had to sit on the floor to draw.

I am considering the idea of a ‘very hungry sofa’ which eats lost items. I would have to personify the sofa (or chair) to become a character. The imagery would be difficult though as the chair is so big compared to the tiny items.


Left. This is another arrangement of the lost items. I have included the £1 notes and taken a more conventional viewpoint fro directly above.
I don’t think the arrangement is as pleasing so I will not develop it further as a drawing. However, I will use the outline to try an idea of ‘losing’ some of the lines.

In this drawing I have left out some of the lines and joined others together so the original sketch is ‘lost’. I am not sure how this could be further developed unless used as a base for collage in the style of the visual distortion exercise, perhaps to produce something a little more abstract.

As I am still at the exploratory stage I will not take that forward as yet. However, the use of ‘lost’ or ‘old’ materials for collage could work – brown paper, Izal toilet paper, blue sugar paper, old wallpaper. I could even cut up and use the holiday brochures which were also found in the sofa.

More Thumbnails

This is a different thumbnail using just the little thimble. I have drawn a line of thimbles fading away into the distance until they are lost (in the memories of time).
That could be an idea to exploit. There is a certain visual literacy here which speaks the message quite clearly.

Maybe I could devise a picture where the whole tableau of items gradually disappears. Maybe that would look too complicated – simple is often best.
This could be done with a series of photographic prints of the thimble faded to infinity. They would be lost into darkness or maybe a rainbow could be introduced to elicit a more positive interpretation.


For the next thumbnail idea, I have returned to another still life arrangement. This time it is drawn in fine pen. However, I have then ‘lost’ the tableau by  covering it in a grid of (woven? ) lines drawn with a thicker pen.

This is a reminder that the objects were lost inside a fabric ‘container’ (the arm chair or settee).

The grid structure is a symbolic impenetrable barrier showing the items are no longer accessible. They are lost. This idea could be further developed by having just a piece of furnishing fabric covering the group if items entirely so they are ‘lost’ again in the style of Christo and Jean-Claude.


For the final thumbnail I have taken another single object, this time the lead soldier.
He stands alone and ‘lost’ on his little plinth and looks out over numerous war graves.
The connotation is that he is grieving his lost comrades.

I said when I started this assignment that all the words were grim and I have already descended to war and lost souls.

I probably will not follow this idea of death up as I want to bring some lightness to the theme.
However, a dark sepia monochrome painting could be a development of this idea.


On a more cheerful note I want to look at the idea of creating a hungry chair or sofa.

These are the chairs which I recovered and in which all the little lost treasures were found.

They are very simple in design and with a round cushion for a nose could have faces. See below.


I have had a go at a bit of personification here and given my chair a big mouth to eat all the bits and pieces people drop/lose. I have also tried out different expressions that might be used.

I don’t think I have enough experience or expertise at drawing cartoons to do this one to my satisfaction. So I think I will leave the idea alone and try another one. It took me ages to do this and it doesn’t seem much.



Thinking beyond this and to further develop the idea I could digitally add a chair cover which uses the still-life drawing of the lost objects on the outside of the chair.

I have replicated the original drawing and created a green tonal version of it.

I will use this to change the appearance of the chair.

Here is the chair now covered in a printed fabric which is composed of replications of the original drawing of the lost objects, Now they are displayed for all to see on the outside of the suite.

I think this is quite an exciting development of the original idea. There has been a variety of modifications and alterations to the sketch but not any  distortion (ie the sketch is still identifiable) in miniature. The visual literacy is pretty clear – here are lost things, it is both tangible and durable with the original lines of the drawing now forming an almost tartan-like design which is wellbalanced and flows well in two directions. Obviously the chair itself has become the character but as a chair, not an animated ‘cartoon’.

I guess an alternative to this idea would have been to simply create a cushion  cover for the cushion on the chair. This could be printed with the pattern or even an embroidered version of the original sketch.

I followed up the idea of the thimble. I digitally copied the original drawing of  the lost thimble and put it in ‘Outer Space – a location which I created, to suggest a narrative. The shape closely resembles a nose cone so the visual grammar is self evident when it is placed in outer space. In addition it still falls into the ‘lost’ category as a paradoxical ship ‘lost in space’. As very few people use thimbles for sewing these days one could also claim that the thimble is a metaphor for all the ‘lost’ accoutrements of traditional arts and crafts.

Beyond that idea, I could have used the lead soldier as an astronaut and created a children’s story around the image.

Finally, further inspired by my chair cover idea, I decided my final artwork submission for this assignment would be based on a cushion cover. Having spoken further with the Art Director, the magazine is looking for an illustration for a girls’’ story about lost items called “Grandma’s magic cushion”. I went back to the original drawn still life of ‘lost’ items to see how it could best be further adapted/distorted/modified withinthe brief of the commission. I do not have the facilities to print metres of fabric but I can make a single A3 copy on fabric.


I modified it in many digital variations of colour and contrasts these four (above) being examples. When I got to the fourth one, I felt it resembled an old X ray type of picture . This gave me the final inspiration on how to take this artwork forward and beyond the mundane.

Because picture 4 looks as if we are looking into a screen, It could be a window into the chair as opposed to a reminder on the outside like the chair cover idea.


If I want my drawing to be part of a ‘magic cushion’ which (according to the story in the magazine) allows you to see your lost items, then I need to make the cushion as part of the finished art work.
So, I had to print out this image onto a suitable piece of fabric.

First, I tried some white acrylic lining fabric which is light and silky. This printed out too light as the fabric did not take the printer ink as well as I wanted. (See image on previous page.) I needed the cushion itself to be dark coloured so that the image appeared to show light ‘through’ it. Therefore I felt the image should itself be quite dark around the edges.

I found a scrap of darkish green velvet to make the cushion cover so tried to match that.

The second attempt on white cotton fabric was a better print and darker but there were too many blemishes acquired from the glue which was a part of the printing method.

I needed a fabric which would take more ink and be a darker print.


Finally, I tried some yellow rip-stop nylon which provided me with a much darker print and also a slightly blurred and more indistinct image. I feel this helps to denote the ‘lost theme’ very well.


However, although the yellow rip-stop nylon is a good image the fabric is thin so it needs a white lining. It is shown in the image below with a sheet of white A3 printing paper behind it.


I found an old white shower curtain and used that to make a lining so the  drawing stands out better.


I used a sheet of A3 as the pattern as the finished artwork had to be no larger than that. It is therefore quite a small magic cushion.

I machined the cushion together and here it is filled and sitting in the armchair where the lost items were found.


You can see the lost items still-life image is slightly blurred giving an air of mystery and magic. The cushion is like a video screen and shows you all the items which have been lost n the chair.

It is an essential part of the magazine story about “Grandma’s Magic Cushion”.


I didn’t include a character into the illustration as the cushion itself is a ‘character’. However, the magazine may prefer a further line drawing showing Grandma with her cushion so I have prepared a few thumbnails to that end.

I think I like the top right one best so will make a simple line drawing in pen,  probably on the Wacom tablet then I will superimpose the photographed cushion. This will echo the style of Patrick Caulfield although my small detailed section will be a photograph. Then we will have a character, and the item which deals magically with things that are LOST.

The Magazine will then have a choice of what is the most suitable image to use for their article.

On the following page is the drawing of Grandma showing off her magic cushion.

I have now answered the assignment brief and and created an art work for the magazine. I have explored different ideas and media, produced thumbnails and line visuals for the Art Directors’ perusal.
(Obviously in consultation with the magazine) I have then further developed one of the original.

Grandma and the magic cushion – how Grandma can find your lost treasures.

Post Script

The magazine Art Editor, having seen the submission has now revealed further details.

The image is to illustrate the detailed review of a new book for teenagers  called ‘Grandma and the Magic Cushion’.

It concerns the story of Grandma, who, it turns out has been an amazing person for a long time. Several years ago she was a specialist forensic IT consultant working for MI5. She invented a device which had capabilities far exceeding anything previously known. It was disguised as a cushion. As a slightly overweight elderly lady she travelled the world on public airlines identifying criminals, and terrorists, with the help of her all-seeing ‘cushion’.

Now she is retired but still has her prototype device, already modified for future use. The story reveals how she teams up with her eldest grandson, a 17 year old sixth-former, to reveal, trap and capture, a disturbing and well-embedded drugs ring pervading his school and neighbourhood.

The Still Life requirement was a metaphor regarding Grandma herself, the double-entendre being a useful route to demonstrate her paradoxical character which is more like James Bond but looks like a harmless pensioner. One can appreciate the metonymy of the phrase used by M15 in the story with reference to the ‘Old Lady’.

Self Assessment of Assignment 4

I believe I have demonstrated a wide range of creative thinking based on this topic. I have described how the topic could be further developed in many different ways and used a very personal creative voice without being unduly influenced by other options.

On completing Part Four and this assignment, I feel my personal style is showing considerable development and I have been able to show that in this assignment.

Research and development
The research for this assignment consisted of looking into my own archives for ideas and items which were relevant to the topic brief. As a very personal approach and demonstration of unique ideas was called for, I did not seek out any detailed information but relied on style and past personal influences such as my four chosen artists in Section One (identifying tools and materials) to arrive at my decisions. I have an extensive library of art books and a good general knowledge of styles and presentations. I also have many children’s books with which I am very familiar. I used the exercise to explore a more unusual area of Illustration.

Visual and technical skills
I have used a variety of approaches to the subject and considered many different compositions and viewpoints for interpreting the key word. I have carefully enumerated each step of the progressing work and illustrated my journey through to the final artwork. There was a good deal of scope for dealing with the task and I have shown how I gradually narrowed down the ideas until a discernible pathway was evident. I used some visual distortion but wanted the original ‘lost’ items to still be recognisable. Tools and materials included drawing and computer skills linking these to pattern creation and sewing and back again to a 2D piece of artwork. The hierarchy of the cushion and the Grandma is joint , they are interdependent. In the final A3 artwork the detail in the cushion draws the eye, the lack of detail in the character lessens the importance so they are balanced.

The context suggested for the assignment was flexible and the potential was wide. Starting with the analysis of spider diagrams was a positive beginning. Initial visualisations were complicated and too wide in their scope. I therefore limited the propositions to make them more manageable and gradually structured a sequence which led to the final work.

I gradually built up an imagined relationship with the Art Director and established the audience expectation for the piece. I was then able to use my character development skill to create a very traditional and stereotypical ‘Granny’ to combine this with a modern concept of a soft video screen, incorporating ‘magic’, all of which concepts are popular in children’s fiction and illustration today. The imagined storyline, eventually reveals she is anything other than stereotypical.


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