Week 1

Tuesday 26th September

Settled on a theme for our magazine: our personal definitions of Illustration, explored through genres and mediums we’re inspired by. We settled on it pretty fast, but everyone seemed to agree—I worry we’ve gone for an easy idea, but it’s simple and still has a lot of potential, so I think it should be good.

My spread is going to be about Science Fiction and its overlap with illustration. My idea is that illustration and sci-fi are both about exploring imagination and the abstract in order to create an emotional response, and how they both deal with creating worlds and are playful and explorative. I think it would also be relevant to tie discussions of AI into this, as it’s relevant to current events and my theme, and if AI can replicate the emotional communication illustration needs. If I still have time/space, I’d like to talk about illustration and sci-fi both being tools to imagine a better world, and sci-fi and socialism.

My group decided to go away and collect references for works that we’re each inspired by and have influenced our illustration practice. I also, in the library, talked to Blanca about some books I can read about the intersections between illustration, science fiction and social change, as well as looked at some anthologies of sci-fi book/magazine covers and psychedelic/prog-rock-album-cover esque paintings (Science Fiction of the 20th Century: An Illustrated History, Frank M. Robinson, 1999, and the Flights of Icarus, Donald Lehmkuhl, 1977) for potential visual inspiration.

I’m trying not to get too ahead of myself in terms of visuals, but I’ve wanted to make cut paper art for a while. If I do get the opportunity to, I could reference Jan Pienkowski, as I had some of his books as a kid and read them constantly. Based on the images I looked at, I’m also interested in researching Moebius (sci-fi artist.)

Independent library task:

Image in a book from a top shelf
Creator of image: Eduardo Paolozzi
Date: 1963
Name: Metalization of a Dream
Medium: Screenprint
Author of book: Antony Griffiths
Name of Book: Prints and Printmaking: an introduction to the history and techniques
Publisher: University of California Press
Date: 1996

Image in a book from a bottom shelf
Creator of image: Diego Rivera
Date: 1994
Name: Man at the Crossroads
Medium: Mural/fresco
Author of book: Desmond Rochfort
Name of Book: Mexican Muralists: Orozco, Rivera, Siqueiros
Publisher: Laurence King
Date: 1993

Image in a book where the title starts with your initial
Creator of image: Damon Murray and Stephen Sorrell as FUEL
Date: 2013
Name: (unknown, it’s the front cover)
Medium: Book cover
Author of book: T. D. Max
Name of Book: Every Love Story is a Ghost Story: The Life of David Foster Wallace
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Date: 2013

Image in a book you chose with your eyes closed
Creator of image: (unknown)
Date: 1994
Name: (fill this in later)
Medium: Photograph
Author of book: Dieter Ladwig
Name of Book: Slot Machines
Publisher: Tiger Books International
Date: 1994

Image in a book you walked to
Creator of image: (multiple)
Date: 1994
Medium: Film stills
Author of book: Charlie Kiel and Kristen Whissel
Name of Book: Editing and Special/Visual Effects
Publisher: Rutgers University Press
Date: 2016

References/image collection from sci-fi covers & sci-fi art (Science Fiction of the 20th Century: An Illustrated History, Frank M. Robinson, 1999, and the Flights of Icarus, Donald Lehmkuhl, 1977)

Wednesday 27th Sept

Attended first CTS session - talked about ideas, techniques and processes in the context of illustration.

Thursday 28th Sept

Beginning research on Jstor, focusing on science fiction. Put in a reference request with Blanca at the library for literature relating to science fiction, illustration and social change.

Notes on Certain Assistances: The Utilities of Speculative Fiction in Shaping the Future, Donald L. Lawler, 1980 & an overall plan for the essay.

Friday 29th Sept

We had a meeting where we brought all of our inspirations together and figured out the throughlines for our pieces and some basic visual ideas. Our idea is how themes & media have influenced our own definition of illustration. I think as a visual theme, we’re going to focus on the idea of illustration as a door into other worlds and its immersive and transportive qualities.

I brought in Embassytown by China Mieville, The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K Le Guin, Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer, and On A Sunbeam by Tillie Walden.

We had some ideas of including stickers into our illustration, something like those old kids magazines that came with sticker sheets, and you might be able to finish the scenes with the stickers or just have something to take home. We were also interested in book covers or general covers, which would tie into our themes of landscapes and worlds. We had the idea of incorporating some interesting bookbinding and making a fake door in the cover, to create the feeling of illustration opening up other worlds.

I think drawing from artists like Moebius and Kilian Eng would be really interesting, but I’d like to incorporate the paper art idea, given those works very often include strong colour schemes and lots of elements in perspective, so I could use larger paper elements for the shapes and add detail in pencil or pen for that.

Week 2

Monday 2nd Oct


The Dreadful Credibility of Absurd Things: A Tendency in Fantasy Theory (Mark Bould)
  • Primarily a philosophy text, had some interesting ideas in it but the philosophy portions were very hard for me to parse
Editorial Introduction to Historical Materialism (China Mieville)
  • posits that fantasy isn’t any less realistic than any fiction, they all involve imposing ideas and interpretations on the world
  • quotes Marx talking about humans creating vs animals creating—when animals create, they do not imagine what they create beforehand, humans however can visualise what they want to create and bring it into being—could be useful for writing about AI?
  • ‘changing the not-real allows us to think differently about the real’—allows us to visualise other worlds, think beyond our normal boundaries of what is imposed as ‘reality’—social change might seem unreal now
  • ‘we need fantasy to think the world, and to change it’- we need fantasy to bring illustration into being, and through that fantasy thinking we can use what we have to inspire change
Why We Need Dragons: The Progressive Potential of Fantasy (Daniel Baker)
  • kathryn hume’s point about how fantasy dislodges us from reality—might be good to reference? it allows us to look at reality from the outside
  • connections with how illustration ends up invoking the unreal, through unrealistic colour choices, exaggeration, fantasy, allowing us to experience real feelings
  • ‘SF marks the present and estranges it’
  • ‘a locus for dissatisfaction’

I enjoyed reading these essays and I think they’re definitely going to contribute some ideas to my piece, but I feel I’m focusing too hard on the academic side. I’m going to try and look into the history of illustration and its potential for social movements, as well as the works of art I’m analysing: The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K Le Guin, about the landscape of the mind and imagining new futures, and Embassytown by China Mieville, about the landscape of linguistics, alien languages, and changing the way we think.

Tues 3rd Oct

Collaging task to create imagery: We originally started off pretty free-form with this, just making instinctual connections, very unpurposed, all contributing interesting images, but eventually we tried to focus on creating landscapes (as you can see on the bottom) and I think it came out well and provided a lot of ideas for us to build from.

For potential titles, we wanted something that linked to our theme of worlds of imagination, the quality of illustration to immerse, and the ideas we’ve had previously about focusing on landscapes as representative of how illustration can immerse us. Although I don’t do much landscape drawing, I like this theme and think I can get a lot out of it.

We considered titles like The Traveller, Voyager, Cartographer, Compass Rose and Starship, to get across our theme of worlds and imagination, but we eventually settled on Portal. I think Portal is a good title, it represents the magazine taking you through a portal and the qualities of illustration to act like a portal.

We also had the concept of keeping our pieces in different styles, as our pieces are all based on how imagination and things we love have impacted our experience of illustration, but then creating a character to appear in every piece, travelling through these portals. This will create a throughline through different spreads and add an engaging element to the zine.

I really like my group so far—we have a good dynamic, similar ideas, and get along easily. I find in group settings I can be overbearing and talk over others, because I want to make sure that everyone understands everything well as that’s something I struggle with, but I’m trying to step back and not take a too controlling role.

We settled on, for the visual characteristics of our magazine, a subject matter of landscapes (something we’d already mostly decided on), and a colour palette with primarily muted colours and a very strong yellow—we had the presence of both of those colours on our mindmap, and it was something Ashley had brought up earlier.

We’ve decided a lot of the characteristics of our project kind of before we were supposed to, which makes me a little nervous about not following the right path, but I’m trying to remember that there’s not really a right path in Illustration and I have faith in the work we’re making. I find tasks like this collage task hard sometimes—it’s difficult for me to be creative on the spot, ideas just tend to come to me whenever they do. Still, I think we made something that can take us forward in the project.

In the afternoon, we wanted to start exploring our visual characteristics, as the assignment says, but I was just going through a really nasty art-block moment where the ideas were not flowing at aaaaaall. I get these sometimes, and the best I think I can do is take a break, and it’ll happen when it happens, since I’m not in a high-stress being-chased-by-deadlines situation.

I went home, relaxed, and managed to have another go later in the evening. I was looking at references from Moebius and Kilian Eng, who are artists I love, but their work is so detailed and skillful it was kind of intimidating to me, just starting from the ground up, and I was struggling to put pencil to paper. Doing it on paper was also difficult, I prefer digital art for compositions as it allows me to go through variants of compositions and move things around much more easily.

Colour is not a strong point of mine, so I decided to focus on colour and start from the ground up on how Moebius and Eng use colour.

I made a collection of thumbnails and experimented with some of the colours that came up in our discussions and in the collage we made.

I’m still thinking about doing the cut paper idea, I think it would be most possible on the laser cutter or vinyl cutter/router in the 3D Workshop. With the vinyl cutter, I would want to minimise or not have the burn marks at the edges, because I would like to keep the colour clean. As for paper, given I’m using unconventional colour choices, I will probably try & source some high quality card. I know G. F. Smith has some paper discounts for students and does free samples? I would definitely use cheap coloured paper from the shop for testing though.

Weds 4th Oct

CTS today: Interesting, still getting used to the format and meeting everyone. We looked at articles on It’s Nice That, an online illustration publication, and how it writes about illustration for different purposes—sponsored content vs news vs art showcases.

After that, we had a group meeting in the afternoon, and worked together on our idea for the character that navigates all these landscapes in the magazine. In order to make this collaborative but not super complicated, we decided to all draw our ideas of what this character might look like on our own, discuss, look at common ideas we landed on or ideas we liked from other people, and then in our lab time on Friday, actually settle on a design.

Thurs 5th Oct

Had a screenprinting workshop in the morning of this day. I've screenprinted before at uni, but with less fancy tools and it didn't work as well, so learning how to use all of the equipment all over again and getting some good results with pre-made screens. I definitely have ideas of what I would do with screens—I've seen people print on curved surfaces before, trying to print on ceramics would be cool?

I went home and made some more thumbnails, I liked the idea of the first thumbnail I had but I wanted to play around with the composition.

Fri 6th Oct

Character design time! The ideas we liked were this character having non-human elements, things that came up multiple times were multiple limbs and a screen for a face, so we incorporated those. We then thought about how this character would navigate the various alien worlds that they travel through, and how to give them character. For how they navigate and move around, we settled on them having wheels for feet and also a big backpack full of ridiculous equipment, which ended up adding character in making them look like an enthusiastic naive traveller, kind of gap year vibes.

In this process, I was kind of worried about not ending up with a design that felt distinctive—i.e. not having a good silhouette or being kind of jumbled, but I think we ended up in a pretty nice place! We've got good cohesion within our group, even though members keep getting ill and not being able to make it.

We also shared our thumbnails and are getting ready to more towards more proper piece composition next week—I think I'm pretty settled on wanting to do something with paper cutouts. Because of that, I've booked a workshop in Illustrator at the Digital Space next Thursday, because that's the software the laser cutters and 3D printers use. I'm enjoying my composition ideas, but I've yet to fully settle on something—I think I'm going to keep playing around digitally.


Over the weekend I attended the London Anarchist Bookfair in Whitechapel/Bethnal Green. Since part of my essay is about how illustration (and science fiction) is accessible in a way fine art might not be and how its use as communicative can spread social change and activism, it was good primary research. A lot of posters, book covers and 'zines I saw used attention-grabbing and punchy design in order to attract attention and direct people towards their causes. Stickers and postcards were particularly common, as they're small, cheap and also easy to distribute, by sticking up in visible places or sending to people.

Some of the things I bought at the bookfair. The sticker on the left is produced by Autonomous Design Group, an anonymous artist's collective making posters and stickers designed to circulate and 'confront people with leftist politics in their day to day lives.' Their work often includes large blocky sans-serif text and bright, complementary colours or high-contrast visuals. You can definitely draw a line between their work to older Soviet communist era posters, in their use of bright colours and sturdy forms, but also to badges distributed by the IWW and other union organisations, and the tradition of silk painted union banners used on marches.

The middle and right postcards are both illustrated by Jonas Goonface for Seditionist, an up and coming anarchist organisation that publishes books, art and patches to fund mutual aid. They're more illustrative than ADG's work, but they also use lots of contrast and striking imagery in order to attract people's attention and publiscise socialist/anarchist views.

I also got to see magazines, newspapers and other publications being distributed at the bookfair—namely DOPE and SINK, two magazines that publicise leftist causes using illustration.

SINK is a magazine focused on supporting and elevating creatives from the North of England

DOPE is a magazine that supports people in need by allowing them to take the profits from the copies they sell. It features written work and drawn work from a variety of artists. The art pieces are fairly distinct between each other, featuring illustration, comics, and photography, but the layout style is very strong. It also uses attention-grabbing blocky text. Many of the illustrations also use very stark and contrasting imagery to attract the eye. There's also a lot of printmaking or art that looks like printmaking—leftism and printmaking go way back! A lot of early union posters are woodcuts or similar, due to the fact of it being easy to reproduce and share and thus easy to distribute and reach people.

A lot of these magazines use similar techniques to the sci-fi magazines—heavy colour contrast and unnatural colour picks, and big eye-grabbing non-decorative text, in order to draw the eye. They're also easily distributable and understandable by someone who might not be as 'in touch' with art, especially fine art. That's one of the strengths of illustration and science fiction I want to pull on a bit, that its power is in being easily readable and to share ideas, and it gets in touch with the unreal to do that.

I might do some more academic research on this, try and grab some quotes? I've got a lot of references to pull from but perhaps I need more—I might ask Eleni about this, since we haven't been given much guidance on the essay.

Week 3

Mon 9th Oct

I set up this blog! It's pure HTML & CSS, build mostly with sadgrlonline's free layout builder. I loaded everything into here and set it up so I should be able to update with minimal hassle.

Tues 10th Oct

Had our regular lab session, working on cover designs by rotating pages and adding onto people's drawings. This was definitely a fun exercise, and I liked a lot of the ideas that were generated, but in the end we didn't have any one particular image we liked the most. We decided to meet up on Wednesday to discuss this further and pick out some ideas we were most interested by and put a composition together.

Academic Support session was about referencing and research. After having some lunch, I went to the library to do some research for the written component of my magazine spread. I've got a couple of references for the sci-fi portion, but for the illustration portion, where I'm talking about illustration's capacity to communicate social change, I'm struggling to find sources that sum up the points I want to make. I looked through some jstor essays about zines, and talked to the librarians, who suggested looking more into zines themselves for finding this kind of thing, as due to the subject matter it might not be published through traditional methods. I'm going to arrange looking at Special Collections with Blanca soon.

I think my issue is that my essay kind of feels like it's going nowhere and is fairly unconnected to our theme of immersion? I like the segment about communicating leftist ideals but I think it's kind of all over the place. My plan is to make it a smaller part of the essay, and try and link it back harder to my theme of immersion: how science fiction and illustration have made politics accessible to me and others, and how immersion plays into this. I'm also going to focus more on studying the artworks I've been looking at (artists and books) and examining how they create immersion.

Here's the essay outline! I know the brief has changed and we're now not strictly writing an essay, so I want to keep the analysis and more formal content while also writing about my experience and what I enjoy.

Weds 11th Oct

Started the day with CTS & a library induction. I'm interested in the reading essays portions of CTS, but I found the explanation of the fuck-up regarding us being given the wrong brief and what the writing actually entails really frustrating. I'm glad it's seemingly sorted because it's been super stressful and confusing. Not having any examples of previous students' work for this brief is frustrating, but I'm trying to just roll with it and not worry too much about 'doing it right' because I do have faith in my skills, I just get nervous a lot.

After that, I went to the Digital Space and worked on putting together what my final magazine piece will look like. I wanted to combine some of the thumbnail concepts I'd been working on and create a unified colour scheme, and I think I'm really happy with the results. Took a couple tries & also I sketched what the text layout would look like. My concern is, that now with the changed brief, said layout and essay structure might look boring next to my teammates doing different things, but variety is important and I think backpedalling and changing halfway through is just not feasible and so much more work.

I'm very happy with this colour scheme. My next steps going forward with this piece are going to be:
- Making a digital maquette version that's clean enough to lasercut or vinyl cut
- Finding paper that matches my colour scheme well enough
- constructing a maquette on the laser cutter/vinyl cutter to test methods of cutting and assembling.

We had a group meeting, and met our new team member, Ellie, who's been sick for the first two weeks. Group cohesion is still going strong and we were able to chat easily and introduce her to our topic and involve her in discussions about the cover. We identified some elements of the covers we'd drawn that we really liked, and thought about how we would actually get the process done as we're all intended to collaborate on it: whether one person does each step of the process, or one person does each element.

This was kind of a frustrating process. We liked the blocky text Zoe drew with the landscape around it, but with Ashley sick and Ellie only just joining and having to incorporate her ideas, and also leaning towards a plan that would incorporate everyone's idea for their pieces despite not everyone having a sketch or idea of their piece, it meant that we had a lot of productive conversation but didn't really decide on anything. This is annoying me, because I feel like for a while we've been just planning and working together but without much actual results. I think this is just a factor of group work, things go slow, but I really want us to start moving towards actual outcomes because it's making me nervous about timing.

I'm trying not to be too dictatorial, but it seems like the other group members are enclined somewhat to agree with this, and we should be finalising our plan for the cover on Friday. I know we have a whole two more weeks, but I want to keep us all on pace and make sure we're not sprinting for the finish, especially because I want to have a little bit more free time.

Thurs 12th Oct

Did the Adobe Illustrator Drawing Basics workshop in the morning, since I'm going to have to learn how to use it for lasercutting. It was useful for getting a hang of the software, and I think when I have a mockup that I want to lasercut I'm going to book a 1-on-1 session with the technician to figure out what the best way of tracing a complicated image like this is. The pen tool is still kind of slow and unintuitive for me but I'm sure I'll get the hang of it.

Ordered some paper samples from G. F. Smith for my project, since they do samples of up to 10 sheets for students. I'm also going to go to the London Graphics Store on Sunday to buy some sheets of paper and test out colour combinations, and then test out the coloured pencils I have access to on those colours. I want to add some texture with coloured pencils, and I only really have my dad's old ones and my mechanical pencils, so we'll see how they work.