Image Development

(Part 3/Working it out/Visual properties/Image development)

Visual Properties

The Jonathan Williams picture is very pleasing and well balanced. The riangles and diagonals of interest are well placed and thought out. The eye is led around the picture which is based on the classical triangular shape of the three characters further enhanced by the hands/arms of the central character. I am not familiar with the book but can guess the storyline is about a progressive designer who wants to introduce bolder colours to a stately home to the surprise and possible objections of the architect and manager (or client).
The simple drawing belies a clever technique of visual enhancement, with a limited palette.

Exercise – Image Development

I took this photo a few years ago at The Horse Fair at Appleby in Westmorland.
There were huge crowds of people and huge numbers of horses all over the village. Policemen and RSPCA Officers were standing around all over the place watching both the people, many of them gypsies and Travellers, and the horses.
I chose this picture for the exercise as it very neatly lends itself to be chopped in pieces.

See the various images below.

Left ; this is the left hand side of the original print. It now shows a policeman
ready to control the crowd and watching the activity of gypsy and his horse.

Right; here is a guy walking casually along the road, looking out for someone or something. He obviously has something on his mind – maybe the beer on the railing or someone’s wallet. No-one is paying him any attention and his posture is one of a person trying to be ‘low key’.

Left; Here is a gypsy with his beautifully groomed horse ready for sale.
He is looking round hopefully for a buyer to take it off his hands at the right price.

Right’ A picture of a policeman, he is alert and ready to go.
His body is well-balanced on two feet for a quick move in any direction.
He is expecting trouble and will be right there when it happens.

Left; This guy is not as invisible as he would like to be. He may be looking for a good horse bargain, his eyes peeled to check the quality of the horse flesh without seeming too interested, trying to behave like a casual observer.

Right; these two are obviously working together. The plain clothes policeman has someone in his sights and doesn’t want to be seen talking to the uniformed copper who he has just warned of imminent trouble.



Left; the hard stare. The policeman is letting the dealer know he is being watched and giving him a silent warning. He is standing menacingly close to the horse – close enough to listen to any conversation that the dealer may have with a potential buyer. The policemen’s body language says he will stand no nonsense.


Right; This Gypsy girl and boy are having a break from trying to sell the bay mare. They are interested in other things going on and have bought some pie and chips to eat with their beer which is not the first of the day. They are relaxed.

Above; the two women are Horse Dealers. Most of the other dealers are men but these two widows know what they are about. They like this horse and want to take a good look without seeming to be too keen. Bored body language.

Below; The horse is being patient.. It has been standing there most of the morning since its bath in the river and its grooming.
It’s worried about being sold to yet another Traveller.

It was the juxtaposition of the two main characters in this photograph which attracted me to it. Although there are other sections which are possibilities for a poster, I decided to use the policeman and ‘the other’. I the first instance, I chose the title Cooperation, but then I thought a much stronger word would be Collaboration. This word has connotations with spies and outcasts and untrustworthy people. It conjures up a feeling of uncertainty, even anxiety.

I considered how I might make the poster and where the lettering should be.  The two characters are posed in the kind of position which one would not normally set them. They are facing outwards and have no real connection leaving an emptiness in the centre of the picture. I looked for ways to connect them and decided to use the caption word as the link. It is a curved link, not direct or ‘above board’ it is devious . This seems like an ideal solution. I have linked the feet of the characters with the word. It is on the ground, not high profile. It is trying to be low-key. However, I have highlighted it with ‘Police’ yellow outline. This makes it confusing and adds to the uncertainty in the mind of the viewer is it meant to be obvious or not?

I used the photograph and the computer to decide on the shape and size of the poster and where I would locate the caption. I also considered the font. I wanted something very plain and simple as might be used by public authorities such as the police. I stayed with my basic Arial font as I didn t want any ‘fancy lettering which might detract from the simplicity of the word’s appearance. (Especially in view of its highly complex raison d’etre.)

I then changed my mind and my word became COLLABORATING. This is less abstract , it is an active, on-going word, even more emotive.

Left is the photograph with the word printed on it ready to be the inspiration of the drawing on the adjacent pad.

I did a variety of practice sketches before I actually started to draw out the poster. It was important to me to try and get the ‘shifty’ look in the face of the ‘other’ man.

I drew the two characters based on the photo changing the ‘other’ man slightly to make him a little less ‘respectable’. He is a little less upstanding with the suggestion of being unshaven.

I didn’t need or want the complex background of the photo but decided to keep the setting in the Horse Fair crowd.

I simplified the scene behind the characters but creating a homogeneous ‘crowd’ . It is indistinct and unimportant but sets the scene. I used monochrome for this to emphasize its lack of consequence.

My first sketch was entirely in pencil then when I was satisfied with the layout and detail, I used sharpie pens to ink in the outline. This is an entirely new way of doing things for me as I have never drawn outlines before in my work.

On the left is the picture at the stage of having the outline put in.

I then had to make my final decision on how to colour it. I enjoy using acrylic paint and the paper is thick so for a change again, I opted for mixed media. I had, after all, started with pencil and Sharpie pens.

I painted I the crowd to my satisfaction and then completed the figures.

When I have [produced large ‘poster’ with lettering I have always done it by hand. That was working at 100cms x 150cms though. Here as I was working at A3 it seemed obvious to stick the painting in my printer and add the word that way.

When I did the original photo mock-up for the painting, there was no problem on-screen with the fluorescent colours. However, these were not reproducible on paper. The answer was to use a highlighter. By doing this I could add the outline colour to the word after it was printed.

Left the painting has progressed so only the foreground is needed.

Right I have put in a fairly low-key foreground to be finished after printing.

As I said at the start, the two figures look unconnected. I have put in a continuous railing behind them to help create some unity to the composition.

This is the finished image.

I have painted in the foreground and created a pavement behind the figures. Like the fence it helps to ‘bind’ the image together. The colours, details and textures are mainly confined to the principle characters in the ‘story’.

I have printed the important word onto to the painting and drawn the outline in fluorescent pen.

Initially I had the word floating beneath the figures (on the computer) before I printed it. I decided I didn’t like the detachment. I wanted the figures to be directly ‘involved’ with the word. I have , therefore lifted it slightly and the characters are now Having to stand on it – they are marked out or even defined by it. There is a link between them.
Hopefully the poster raises questions.

Who are these people?
Do they know each other?
What is their connection?
Is the ‘other guy’ a policeman?
Is he involved with the Horse Fair?
Is he a grass?
Is it a ‘bent copper’ ?
Who is collaborating with whom?
Is the collaboration a good thing or a bad thing?
Does the fluorescent yellow outline on the word tell us something about the story? ( Or is it just the artist trying to balance up the hi-vis colour across the page?)

The finished poster is reproduced below. The original is completed at A3 on mixed-media, heavy duty paper.