[W11IfD] creating a starting point

Bright illustrations in a dark world; that kind of contrast would surely be heart-wrenching. In Memory of Sun is the overarching theme, with a tagline which may or may not be the sun is dead, time to smoke weed, get drunk, and die.

The illustrations would thus, obviously (?), be for things like 1. weed packages, 2. alcohol bottles, and 3. self-immolation kits. Parts of a gift hamper for the anniversary of the sun’s death, for you to go out with style! At your own discretion, than hypothermia or oxygen deprivation!

Establishing the tone

One of the things I used to get started was experimenting with the colours, through a 10 minute digital painting exercise. What I’ve concluded is that I think the first works best, where the warm, analogous colours are much better at providing a sense of harmony and softness.

In other words, if you’re already living in a dark world, I feel like the first would make you feel most crushed. After all, your environment already serves as a high contrast to the illustration: there’s no need to actively incorporate it into the image.

User personas

Here are user personas to express what I mean. Incidentally, I’ve realised that things like trait spectrums are useless for my understanding, so I’ve neglected that entirely. Instead, I focused on “how the death of the sun has affected them” (Ironically, I’m seeing a lot of Anna-like behaviour amongst NTU students right now.)

This means that I can go all out on creating a memorial of the sun which is fully focused on its wistful past glory, its overwhelming yet gentle radiance:

Not all of these include sun, just the feeling of wistfulness amidst desolation

Two drafts for illustrations

To get visual continuity, I considered what Lisa mentioned in class, about extensibility. As such, I looked into similarities and differences between each item, to get an idea of what I can differentiate or not. For me, this similar factor was the fact that they’re all derived from organic plant matter:

This is exacerbated by that plants rely heavily on the sun for sustenance, so it ties in pretty nicely, that these products of the sun will similarly go extinct.

As also implied above, I did some research into the relevant forms.

For the 3 items, I learned a surprising amount about variations in weed and alcohol package shapes. I actively tried to choose 3 shapes which would be markedly different, i.e. a rectangular than cylindrical alcohol bottle, and a stout than elongated weed container.

For the plants, I searched up how they grow; it may or may not be evident that I have a much clearer idea of the forms of grain, than the forms of weed. I struggled a little with tinder, since tinder is an umbrella term which can consist anything from tree bark and fibers, to dry leaves and seeds. Thus, I picked whatever would be the most visually intriguing / easiest to fit into the extensible template.

The first draft

This one is basically of scenes of the relevant plants with the sun. While my initial thought was of just a scene, I later considered a down-up perspective, since it conveys the idea of growing “towards the sun”, than just a side view.

It’s easy to apply to grains and cannabis. It’s a little harder to apply to tinder, where I don’t think it’s apt to include the entire tree: after all, trees are visually dense, and has multiple components like wood and leaves, all of which can have different meanings.

As such, I tried focusing only on dried leaves, as can be seen:

The weakness of this, in my opinion, is that the sun takes a very minor role in the composition. It’s kind of like how the sun is used as a contrast to the main object in stereotypical Asianstyled illustrations. Which is a style I do enjoy, but which may not be apt, where the sun should probably be the focus.

Ways to keep this composition while emphasising the role of the sun might be things like a) dyeing everything in orange hues, b) increasing lens flare, or even just c) exaggerating the size of the sun.

The second draft

This one tries to tackle the issue of the first draft, where the sun becomes a focal point. I notice that depictions which properly capture the sun’s radiance often focuses on negative space, such that the sun itself is empty space: instead, it’s the presence of darkness around it which makes it shine.

The plants are thus used only to fill surrounding space, and honestly I was thinking of tamago kake gohan when I made this:

What I don’t like about this version, though, is that it doesn’t make use of the forms of the plants. That works for tinder, where wood is flat anyway, but it feels sad to not see stalks of grain, or cannabis extending towards the sky. That makes it kind of boring.

The biggest issue

In both cases, I think the biggest problem is that I don’t really know how to render the sun’s radiance. After all, that kind of asymmetrical glare seems easier to capture in photography, or a painterly style? And, without it, I don’t think I could get the kind of brilliance and softness that I want?

The closest I’m seeing is something like this, but even this feels kind of, too clean.

Some stuff i used

  • Young Woman (link) | Old Man (link)
  • Colour Palette (Gentle) (link) | Colour Palette (Strong) (link)
  • NanoMortis (link) | Fish (link) | NieR:Automata (link) | Final Fantasy XV (link) | a field of snowdrops (link) | Blurred sunlight (link)
  • Grain (link) | Weed (link) | Leaves (link) | Wood (link)

[W6IfD] Thumbnails, and a Mood™

← Previous Post | Next Post →

I took a slightly different approach, starting with concepts than visuals, since my forte is in critical analysis. Here are examples of the numerous false starts I had when I tried to subvert my typical way of project development:

After which, I tried to take into consideration what is required of a cover illustration for Varoom.

  • It must be something accessible, where Varoom isn’t meant to be a culture- and/or country-exclusive magazine,
  • It should provide critical new insights into the discipline of illustration, where that’s what the magazine is about,
  • It shouldn’t be focused on a specific topic or subject, where it’s a cover image, not an article-based image

Since I chose the topic of Fantasy, I thought about what Fantasy would mean to all illustrators. Where fantasy refers to the “imagining of impossibilities”, the conclusions I came up with were these:

  • Fantasy in how basic elements come together to create complex forms
    • In other words, how dots, lines, and planes come together to create illustrations which look like more than the sum of its parts
  • Fantasy in how impossible forms can be created through new technologies and means
    • In other words, how computer-based generation can create illustrations which would be tedious and/or impossible by hand

While I sketched thumbnails for both, I fully intend to go for the latter. This is because the former may be an insight into illustration, but it’s nothing new: we’ve long established the benefits of those basic elements. Computer generation, on the other hand, is definitely something new to the industry, and thus provides a fresher insight.

Based on that, Lisa also suggested the works of Joshua Davis, a generative illustrator. So, here’s my finalised moodboard:

I note that it may be difficult to do pencil compositions for a generative illustration. After all, the point of generative illustration is that it’s randomised. For now, I’ll look more into generating illustrations: depending on what I leave to the computer to randomise, there may be things which remain constant, which can be presented in a pencil composition.

Alternatively, it may even be more worthwhile to create a prototype directly in code.


  • Tips to Improve Your Generative Artwork (link)
  • How to Create Generative Art  In Less Than 100 Lines of Code (link)
  • How to Make Your First Generative Art with P5.js (link)

[W5IfD] Varoom & Editorial Researches

| Next Post →


A magazine published by the Association of Illustrators (AOI), it was likely named after Roy Lichtenstein’s 1963 pop art painting. And, of course, its contents regard the field of illustration.

Typically, a magazine revolves around a selected theme, such as Empathy or Muse. It is then made of articles which consist of an illustrator’s discourse on that subject, accompanied by their illustrative works. Articles are thus often about illustrations and illustrators, of which has some convergence to the theme.

The first type of article regards the style of a single illustrator. Articles of this kind do not address a single work, as opposed to the thoughts of the illustrator. As such, it would focus more on the illustrator’s approach to illustration as a whole, than to each individual piece.

An example is Wei Shao and her insights on urban spaces in Issue 40 (Fantasy). While a seemingly realistic topic, it is her illustrations which bring out the fantastical nature of this subject, where the use of exaggeration, geometry and repetition bring out the surreality of our current urban organisations. In fact, her opinions on this topic are often reflected in all of her works.

As found at https://theaoi.com/varoom/varoom-bottom-blocks/article-excerpt-wei-shao-one-space-eaten-by-another-space/

A similar, but slightly different type of article is that which follows the process of a single work. Unlike the previously-stated type, this kind of article allows more insight into the making of a highly-detailed piece, than into the general workings of an illustrator.

Reportage: After the Earthquake, for example, discusses Reflections, a project by Harry Morgan. It was intended as a way to raise awareness of the Nepali earthquake situation, with its link to the theme of Issue 33, Collaborators, being encompassed in its cross-media and cross-persons medium. The article thus focuses on the this project and the processes behind it, than Harry Morgan’s personal style.

A drawing by Harry Morgan, in Nepal, about Nepal. As found at http://www.cathdonaldson.co.uk/blog/cross-media-collaboration-reflections-25416

It is my opinion that the target audience is anyone with an interest in images and the process behind it. Varoom themselves seem to have a similar opinion, but expand on it more, by claiming to be “for creators, commissioners and lovers of great image-making”. In other words, creators who seek inspiration for their own works, commissioners looking for existing creators and/or ideas on what to commission, and lovers who’d just like to know more.

What I find most inspiring is how thematically-relevant the articles stay. Often, themes are designed to be as broad and inclusive as possible, so as to attract a wide range of contributors. As a result, however, the links between the theme and contributions tend to be weak at best, and superficial at worst. This isn’t the case for Varoom, where the editor’s efforts are evident: even words aren’t really needed, to see the link between each illustration and the theme. I admire that very much.

The takeaway, too, is to make something which is self-explanatory, such that even the form alone is enough to identify the theme.


  • What do you find inspiring?
  • What medium/s do they use? (Traditional, Digital, Mixed)
  • How do they creatively interpret the text for the article?

I follow a lot of illustrators, but none of them do editorial illustrations, surprisingly! After some reflection, I felt like the reason why was because the illustrators I follow tend to have personal styles and subjects which they enjoy illustrating, which doesn’t always match with the requirement of “commercialisation”. For example, loputyn has certain symbols she constantly employs, such as nude girls, in pursuit of the theme of “unity”, which could hardly be used as an editorial illustration.

As found at https://qz.com/quartzy/1728767/why-editorial-illustrations-look-so-similar-these-days/

Also, I think the “flat illustration” style is nice in its own way, since it’s clean, professional, minimal, and about everything that a client would want. But it’s somewhat overused, to the extent that it looks somewhat boring. So, here’s a list which actively avoids that.


Socially Responsible Investing
For an article on, well, Socially Responsible Investing. As found at http://www.marcoschin.com/illustrations/2015/7/1/socially-responsible-investing

His style reminded me of litarnes, whom I’m already a fan of. What I adore is the use of linework as texture, which also helps to maintain a simple colour palette. For example, that the small fishes are exclusively the same hue of orangey-yellow, with the reddish-orange lineart providing sufficient support to negate the need for shading. (His apparent fondness for Asia-related styles and images is also something I can get behind.)

Something which may or may not be a weakness is how the illustration is composed such that it can stand alone. I appreciate the piece far more for its technical beauty, than for its relevance to the article. In fact, the link isn’t quite clear until I know what the article is about: only now do I comprehend that the illustration depicts how large-scale fishing can have negative effects on the environment. At the same time, it’s a nice way of depicting a message without being too direct about it, allowing for some creative and fantastical elements.

It seems that Chin tends to draft in pencil, before scanning it in and working in Photoshop and Illustrator concurrently. A cleaner version might be done in Illustrator with the Pen tool, then ported over to Photoshop to “soften” the image. For example, the shape of the boat might be done in Illustrator, with a tool, but the colouring in Photoshop, by hand.


For an article on Stan Lee by the Hollywood Reporter. As found at https://tsevis.com/editorial-illustration-2016-2017

What I enjoy most about Tsevis’ works is that the link to the text is always immediately evident. This, of course, is because his editorial illustrations always depict the subject directly: in the above example, he presents Stan Lee’s portrait, which is something that the audience can recognise easily. He thus easily bypasses the possibility of an illustration being too complex to understand, through simplicity.

Even so, his works can be distinguished from photography in that the colours and building blocks of his compositions always add another layer of meaning. He composes Stan Lee’s face out of clips from comic books, and uses vibrant colours as an representation of Stan’s bright personality; for someone like Obama, he uses statistical numbers, and the dichotomy of blue (Democrat) and red (Republican).

I’m also fairly sure that he does these digitally, where he was inspired by things like ASCII & pixel art. Still, it would probably be possible (but tedious) for it to be analog.

For an article on Stan Lee by the Hollywood Reporter. As found at https://tsevis.com/editorial-illustration-2016-2017

(Also, it’s wonderful to see how the illustration blends into the article itself, where the article similarly uses the triadic colour scheme.)


Allegedly, for an article in The Lawyer, titled “The Learning Verve”. As found at https://www.nickyackland-snow.com/editorial

Another collage-type style, where Snow disassembles and reassembles different parts of different images. This is also admirable to me, where drawn illustration can be somewhat easier: you can control every aspect, from the forms to the colours. For collages, you have to painstakingly find some existing thing which can be repurposed.

At the same time, it combines the merits of photography and illustration. In the above example, the use of technical drawings and photographs make the piece surreal yet professional. This is also supported by the muted colour palettes favoured by Snow. As a result, we see how most of his editorial clients tend to be from magazines for adults, about fairly serious and/or retro topics. There’s an obvious target audience going on here.

This is another case of something which can be done through analog means, but I again think he does it digitally. It would be difficult to get the cleanliness he does, otherwise.


Probably, something like this. In other words, someone who is curious about other people, and loves to read about their thoughts and experiences. Also supported if it’s someone who already has exposure to the field of illustration, whether in their workplace, or as a hobbyist themself.


  • Varoom. At Association of Illustrators. (link)
  • Varoom magazine is changing the perception of illustration in the creative industries. Jyni Ong. At It’s Nice That. (link)
  • Marcos Chin: The Illustrated Man (link)
  • Charis Tsevis (link)
  • Featured Image is from Yuko Shimizu for an article on nightmares, who I totally did not talk about, but I also admire her work, just more of her illustration than editorial illustration specifically

[W4IfD] Assignment 1 Process & Final

UPDATE: I added a video version!

The animated GIFs are too big, but here’re links for Gwen and I! (Please. They’re necessary.)


The initial point was an interview with Gwen. We hardly knew each other, and thus asked a few questions each via Telegram. Other than that starting point, we also took various free time opportunities in class to converse, getting a general sense of our various opinions. This included, for example, thoughts on things like religion and philosophy, as well as hobbies and reasons for it.

Part of the initial conversation.

Based on the results, I identified key words, and compared traits against myself. The conclusion was as such (Gwen / Me):

  • Social / Independent
  • Emotional / Practical
  • Country / City
  • Efficient / Analytical (? based on our working styles, where she seemed much more put-together)
  • 3rd Personal / 1st Personal (in terms of how I perceive us, since I see myself from within myself, while I see Gwen from her outside)

This translated into the following decisions, where I believed these to most aptly display our differences:

  • Outdoor / Indoor
  • Open / Closed
  • Natural / Constructed
  • Painted / Modelled
  • Curved / Cubic

Nevertheless, there were many points where we aligned, such as our perspective on self-actualisation, and our varied interests. As such, I also considered the use of Perspective than Orthographic, to represent that 3-dimensionality. Also, for our portraits to Seamlessly Intersect, such that the portraits (and us!) can be connected without any issues.

I also checked out relevant images to whatever Gwen had mentioned in our talks, in an attempt to acquire a moodboard of sorts. These images were also set to greyscale, to avoid colour bias due to the limitations of the assignment prompt. Here’re the images:


As my approach doesn’t quite look at specific events or items, I surmised that it would be best to rely on emotion evoked through a scene, than symbolic objects. This, as would later be affirmed in class critiques, made it difficult to create an illustrative piece that was concise in its meaning. Here are some samples of the earliest compositions, which look like shoddy attempts at still life drawing:


Consequently, I looked for ways in which other illustrators display “spaces”, while still being distinctive and clear. While I looked at a variety of sources, my primary inspiration was Ronald Kuang / SeerLight, who often uses geometrical shapes and gentle colours to depict locations.

By SeerLight, an example of the milk carton shape used to suggest a building. As found at https://www.deviantart.com/seerlight/art/Cyberpunk-Milk-755347124.
Also by SeerLight. Subtle animations are also a trademark of his. As found at https://www.deviantart.com/seerlight/art/To-the-next-adventure-815132728

Thus, I decided that the best way to represent our distinctive traits was to use a contrast of Organic / Geometric shapes. This way, the very form of the elements is an indicator of our characters. Additionally, this means that, when using animation, I can use the same shape to represent various different items, retaining a proper focal point without cluttering the composition.


I did mine, of the geometric, in Blender, where orthographic drawing from scratch is not my strong suite. It is made of cubes, cubes, and only cubes, a call to my comparative rigidity and practicality. After which, I traced it on Illustrator.

The biggest object is the bed (of course!), followed by the computer, and then the cutlery. It’s a representation of my 3 priorities: sleep, Internet, and food. I placed the door as a counter to the struggle for dominance: unlike those 3, the door is verily small, an indicator of just how much I hate to go out. The animation is much simpler compared to Gwen’s, but feels oddly apt: Much of it is just repetition without significant changes, just like much of my everyday life as I hide out at home.

The line-only draft.

Gwen’s features curves, curves, and only curves. Since she appeared to be someone rather emotional, and almost spiritual, I placed many of the things she enjoys seeing, such as the sun, plants, waters (the sea), and the bowl (for plants, but also for fish sometimes). When I mentioned this to her, however, she hastily said that she only enjoys watching, as she’s terrible with keeping things alive. Consequently, I added the eyeball, a manifestation of her gaze. I’m blessed that all of these use the circle as a base shape. Thus, the animation can encompass all, by having the circle change from being that of a “bowl”, to that of the “sun”, and the “eyeball”.

With base colours, until I remembered.

All in all, I’m surprised that the lack of colour wasn’t a major problem. Nevertheless, the sun on Gwen’s portrait is tragically misaligned, probably because I failed to set the origin point properly. It’s only my second time using Adobe Animate, oof. Also, I feel like the eyeball might not have come across very cleanly: in hindsight, it might have been better to have it centralised than facing the side, where it’s rather difficult to identify what it’s supposed to be.

Perhaps the approach I took wasn’t necessarily the best, either, since I focused on the dichotomies between both of us, than seeing Gwen for who she is. While it helped in the eventual creation of the Organic / Geometric division, it might be worthwhile to try seeing others as they are, than as compared to me.

[IfD] W1&2 Activity Recaps


The exercise involved 1) marking a few random points on the paper, and 2) joining the points with any desired lines. Part 3) involved handing the paper to someone else to interpret, as represented by the pink lines on mine.

During the exercise, I chose to use a continuous line. Interestingly, too, mine turned out quite… Excessive, compared to others’ more modest pieces which weren’t so overdrawn. Another interesting point is that whoever drew over mine had similar interpretations of “flowers” at the same places. (It’s also very adorable.)

It’s similarly intriguing that my interpretation for Part 3 tried to retain the original form of the piece by filling spaces in a similar style, than drawing over it. I didn’t expect everyone to work over, than with the piece. Perhaps that’s something to consider when doing Assignment 1, seeing as I can’t always try to preserve the original truth.


The first exercise involved playing with shapes, in a manner reminiscent of the Bauhaus style. It seems that the exercise becomes easier if you use a circle as your primary shape, versus other angular forms.

My solution to everything was to increase the Stroke thickness, to the extent that it covers up the original form (or at least, tries to). I did try other solutions, such as re-identifying the circle as a culmination of triangles, not unlike low-poly 3D, or marking the circle as “c’est triangle”.

Again, it is almost unfortunate how messy and heavy my piece is, compared to everyone else. Perhaps I’m missing a memo?

The second exercise involved depicting each other on paper, of which I only had a marker. Since I lack confidence in my ability to capture shapes accurately, I started from the hair, using it to frame the other shapes through negative space. Everyone else’s feels much more well-structured, as a result.

On another note, I’m very happy with how the rendition of me turned out, which feels oddly apt: