Varoom Illustration – Research & Process


Amongst the 2 other themes, Style and Obsession, I decided to choose Empathy as I thought the illustrations I could come up with might be more personal and relatable. I also wanted to push myself to explore this theme beyond its usual connotations. Thus, my choice of theme is, emapthy.


I started my research by just listing out several things that first come to mind when I thought of the word empathy.

Words: Love, others, understanding, care, sensitivity, 
relationships, friendships, emotions, pain, suffering, 
priorities, damage, media, human.

From there I picked out those words that spoke to me more.

human, priorities, others, love, suffering

After which I realised that I thought there was a little problem with empathy at times. I feel that many people around me fail to put themselves first. They are always empathising with others, but they forget to empathise themselves. In other words they lack of self empathy.


I did further research on articles and found a particular one titled, “How to Avoid the Empathy Trap”

This article spoke to me as I realised that this issue is indeed prevalent in society today. As such, I was excited to start sketching.

sketches (ideation)

I created a persona that my illustration will speak to and is meant for.


Initial moodboard –

After which, I had to revise the colour scheme slightly to match certain objects in my illustration.

pencil sketches
Left: This illustration will address the issue of the lack of self-empathy and the idea of being stuck in it. In a bathroom setting, where people can spend “me time” on reflection, I placed upside down feet as if the person is drowning in the water. The water has bathbomb and pretty things that are actually harmful for humans. This conveys the idea of an empathy trap where people are so quick to put others before themselves. Middle: This illustration also address the lack of self-empathy. The scene is a cut open head. The head is where we think and make decisions, in this case, the head seems to not be functioning as usual as the hand sticking out conveys the need for help and it is also holding a flag to surrender. Right: This is something alittle different and not so much self-empathy but rather how empathy isn’t genuine anymore. It is now fake and people show it just to gain popularity or make friends. Thus portrayed in a form of an advertisement, “empathy for sale”


Revised and finalised sketch

This is a revised version of the first composition seen above. I revised it after gathering feedback from the class. Instead of a human leg sticking out, the human is now submerged in the bathtub. The water in the bathtub expands to a underwater ocean scene, with fishes, etc. The girl’s hair is weighed down or rather entangled with a anchor that represents empathy and the heart. Her hands reaching out to a lifebuoy as she needs help. There is also an angular fish which is dangerous and uses the alluring and trick method, as much as empathy is like. 

Read next post for process towards my final work.

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