I’m pretty keen on sequential imagery, and having worked on comics in the past I thought it would be fun to do a short but super intense project!
Every year the Cheltenham Illustration Awards present a competition brief which is usually quite interesting. They remind me a bit of college projects in that they’re less commercially focused and more academic; they facilitate wide interpretation and experimentation. This year the brief was to produce a response to The Planets by Gustav Holst. It also had an added stipulation of relating your response to the theme of ‘Memory’. This sounds pretty heavy, but I can see why they did it; I’d be worried of just getting a butt load of work based literally on the planets or Roman gods. Sometimes restrictions on a brief can facilitate or encourage more creative thinking, and this does it pretty well.
I have some pretty weird dreams and I’d always thought it would be fun to illustrate them… but that also sounds like a crap student project so I’d avoided it until this point. So in this project the dream I had formed the basis of the narrative, but I tweaked it for the sake of the story actually having an arc rather than just being a mess of sub conscious goo.
The narrative relates thematically to Holst’s movements. Mars was dramatic and bold, which suited the idea of the bird taking flight and beginning a journey. Venus was a more solitary mood, with individual instruments taking focus. It was calm and contemplative. This suited the bird and girl gliding in the beginning part of their journey. Mercury was flighty and playful, with elements of call and response. This would be when the two characters were joined by many birds, forming a flock. Jupiter had a sense of ‘togetherness’, reminiscent of all the birds flying in formation. Saturn was ominous, wise and slow paced, evoking a sense of ageing. As such it suited the flock of birds starting to fall to pieces and unravel. Uranus similarly felt ominous, but more bold and dramatic. To capture this sense of drama the main characters own bird falls to pieces, following on from seeing her companions suffer the same fate. But Neptune was more calm and relaxed; there was something exploratory and curious about the piece, but also had a sense of solitude. This suited ending the narrative with the main character turning into a real bird herself and flying off into the distance. So the final concertina looks like this:
I’m quite keen to send this out to publishers to get some feedback (I imagine the lack of dialogue would be a problem). But it was a fantastic project to do, bearing in mind I did it in roughly a week and spent a lot of time drinking coffee, sitting in the lightbox dungeon…
Anyways I will be exhibiting/selling this at Edinburgh International Book Festival: Stripped Mini Comic Fair on August 24th-25th, along with some super cool ECA students & new graduates!