For this unit we were given a chance to make our own brief, as we did for our unit 8 last year. This was definitely a chance for me to push myself out of my boundaries – out of my comfort zone. I wanted to show with this project that I was capable of doing something completely different. This year my projects have been very similar: based on the horror genre with the concept art being of a character. With Unit 13 I wanted to use different programmes to achieve my final production – both photoshop and illustrator.
What I decided to do for my project was more personal to me, something I felt very connected to illustration and history. I decided, with a lot of idea development, on the idea I was going to take further. For this Unit I wanted to make a book about the Vikings, trying to make it as historically accurate as possible to avoid the propaganda the media feeds us and add illustrations of key parts in the book. The story follows a kidnapped priest from Lindisfarne and took to Køge, a town located in Denmark and experience hard manship of being a thrall for the Jarl – but that is not it. The story flips from present to the past, showing the development of Gunnar’s and Elmer’s friendship and the historical events that happened. However, this book is not without tragedy. Gunnar Baardsen dies from a sword wound when fighting the English at Northumbria, in which in the sagas, Ragnar Lodbrok also died. This story was to show what life was like for a Viking, not just war like the media sometimes depicts. I wanted to show what they were like with their families, how they acted with friends – I wanted to make my own Viking village that has been crafted by the research I have discovered.
The research was definitely one of the key milestones of this project. I did not live during the Viking age, so secondary research was definitely the biggest piece to get the information I need. Even though I stated several times I want to follow historical accuracy by following the events that were marked down in Viking history, sometimes I would have to compromise. Propaganda was very common during the Viking ages between both the British and the Scandinavians, as I discovered from my unit 12 project. They liked to change the story to make their favoured side look good, so I couldn’t rely on their history books; I had to make my own assumptions of events. Reliable websites owned by historians was where I got most of my information as they seemed more trustworthy, but when those sites were not available I had to use freelance websites. Are those freelance websites reliable? The information they gave me was very contextual and detailed – too detailed to be fake and not based on facts, though sometimes the websites did make me raise an eyebrow at the information they tried to give. We are both on the same spectrum: as we did not live during the Viking era, we simply have to piece together from small facts and make our own assumptions.
Did I fail my goal? I stated in my proposal I wanted to make a historically accurate book to do with the Norsemen, which when reading does seem very closely linked to them. Yet, I feel like I failed my own goal somehow, having to make assumptions about pieces of text just so I have more information to add in my book. This is not a bad thing, my story is very detailed and very history-centric and contains real facts about how the Vikings lived, but some facts are very hit and miss. One of these facts I got from a freelance website was about the death of Ragnar Lodbrok, a prestigious Viking leader. Several websites stated that Ragnar died on the isles of Northumbria, getting slain my King Alle where he stood – the most believable amongst the Norse text. However, the Ragnar saga states that he was captured and died from poisonous snakes; I went with the saga example. Though the freelance websites’ information did seem more realistic, sagas which were created by Denmark historians in the 12th century added to the Viking culture I am looking for. This book is not just to move away from the media propaganda, but to follow Viking culture; how they lived, fought and loved. It is meant to be different.
I did not just limit myself to secondary sources and sagas, I wanted to broaden my horizon by getting primary research. Primary research is much more preferred as it shows that you went out of your way to get the information you need for your project to progress. I got quite a lot of primary research for my project – some helping, others not so much. The best piece of primary research I got and was probably the most helpful amongst all my research – apart from the Scandinavian saga by Sturluson – was the trip to Manchester Central Library which contained a range of different Viking era books. The book that struck my fancy in particular and formed the foundation of how my illustrations would be presented was the book Fairy Tales by Hans Andersen, illustrated by W. Heath Robinson. Smaller illustrations, particularly in this book, depicted events that didn’t have much depth in the story; the larger ones showed an event that was more important. This is common throughout illustrated media. But this book was not the only book that gave me inspiration, Stories and Ballads of the Far Past by Kershaw changed how part of my story would play out.
Another thing I failed in and did not follow what my proposal stated was using illustrator in my work. When I first started this project, I had plans to use Illustrator to create the Celtic-knot border for my front cover, along with the border of my illustrations, I didn’t realise how long it would take me to actually finish my illustrations. Maybe I started this process much later than I should of, then I would’ve been able to make an attractive front cover – as attractive as I could with my lack of knowledge in illustrator. If I could turn back time, the front cover would have been the first production piece as the front cover is the first impression you have when reading the book. When people look at a book and see the front cover, they automatically think the rest will be the same quality.
Many changes have been made to this project from the start to production. Originally my idea was going to be a novel – that hasn’t changed – about dreams/nightmares, I have had when I was asleep. With the novel, I was going to do illustrations, painting scenes from the dream/nightmare to show what my mind can conjure when I am deep in sleep. Though this seemed very creative and unique to anything anyone has done, it is very unreliable as some nights I may not have or a dream, or simply forget what the dream was about. Statistically, you forget about 70% of a dream you have had, but some people can train their brain to remember much more. As I still wanted to make a book I decided to also add history, another subject I am very passionate about. This was the second idea and yet it was the one I fell in love with. It was a project that I could see myself continuing after Unit 13, making additional changes and maybe post it on a freelance book site, hoping to get a small audience and publish the book on the market.
When creating the illustrations I wanted to make them simple, yet hold a lot of detail within its simplistic style; I have achieved this. For most of my illustrations, if not all, I used mostly block colours, adding minimal shading to make them look less 2D and more 3D. However, even though on the majority this technique I was going for was achieved, on some it was not. My illustration for chapter three which had one of the main protagonist’s (Elmer) collapse to the ground due to exhaustion had badly shaded clothing – not the main priority – and badly digitally painted ground. Part of me was rushing this illustration as I was quite far behind with the others, so I just used a preset brush and began adding white to the pale green floor; not my greatest move. What this mistake has made me realise is I leave tasks to the last minute, getting bombarded with other objects in a hope to get the project up to a merit standard, even if it means some of my illustration work slipping in quality. It also made me understand is that when I set an action plan I need to follow it word for word, adding additional tasks if needed.
The techniques I have used for this project have been very minimalistic to that of other projects. I didn’t want to go overboard with trying to show all the different techniques I have learned, I wanted to show how creative I am, using these techniques to make wondrous art. To achieve all my illustrations I simply used a range of different brushes and opacity change – though on some illustrations I used an overlay or a multiply to make the drawing have a bit more character. One illustration which did require a lot of different techniques – kind of – was the sea illustration for chapter six in which the boat is travelling across rocky waves.
One illustration which did require a lot of different techniques – kind of – was the sea illustration for chapter six in which the boat is travelling across rocky waves. The sea was my own creation, not looking at videos online but simply taking my own initiative and taking what I have learnt in class to make a semi-realistic sea. This sea was not hard to achieve and the results were quite the result. What I simply did was use a dark blue base and began overlaying zigzags of different shades of blue – light and dark – and lowering the opacity to change the harshness. I asked several peers if they think this sea is realistic, to which all said yes. However, Beth mentioned how I should make the sea darker due to the sky as the scenery intends to change shade due to the weather; I took her advice. I began using darker colours to make the sea fit in with how Beth said it should look and I think it looks even more stunning (Fig.1)
None of the techniques I have used for my illustration required complex tools to achieve its look, just creativity and superb blending. My illustrations are purposely meant to have a cartoonish look, based loosely on the style used for the Vikings comics by Staz Johnson, though less the comic-book style. I loved the way Staz used minimal shading to achieve high-quality work and I wanted to re-create that, in my own style of course. Staz Johnson’s work has really altered how the project played out as originally the style was going to be that of dark age art – simplistic and very minimalistic which would have connected perfectly with the historical accuracy I was aiming for in my brief. However, the more I thought about it the more I wanted to do my own style, showing that I am not another copy.
I did tests before I began doing my production, making sure I had a good idea of how I could approach the illustration. One of the tests were in fact for the illustration above, wanting to make sure the technique I have learnt myself would look like. When doing this test I didn’t use colour, sticking to the basic of white and black as it was only quick. I do admit, after I did this test, I knew exactly how to approach making the water and how to make it that bit more realistic. When adding different shades of blue it really does give the impression of shadow from the mountains and where the waves overlap. To make sure I get this right I did some extra research on water hitting the sides of boats and how water may look; it did help (Fig.2)
Time management has not been kept this unit, though it would have been helpful if I did follow my action plan and gannt chart. For this project I have followed a random plan instead of the action plan, making my work very unorganised; I have this problem very commonly throughout this project. However, though I do tasks that are not needed my project still continues to run smoothly, completing tasks before they are needed, for example; my research was not needed until the third week, but as I finished piecing together my idea and what will be needed to be completed, research could make an early start.
There have been times in which my project management helped my project enormously, like my S.M.A.R.T Targets for example. They helped me follow my progress and let me time how long I should be doing each task. It made the process that much easier, the reflections at the end of each target also showing how I have done in that task, which could be improved for next time, did I complete the task within the time limit and was it successful. When the examiner and my tutors mark my work and read each target I set myself throughout the course of the project, they can see where I excelled and where I slacked. These targets show what type of learner I am and how I will work within a work environment.
Though S.M.A.R.T Targets were the most successful form of time management for my project, I did lack sometimes when doing these targets. After each target I normally write a small reflection about how the task went, however, the sometimes didn’t happen. Sometimes I would forget to do this reflection, making it seem as if the task was not even completed.
Problem-solving was very a very simple process for my project and helped with how this unit will be run. First I had to identify what the practical/technical problems were, along with the theoretical problems before I even started the production of my project. These were very identifiable once I solidified what my idea actually was. The main theoretical problem was how I stated I wanted to make a “historically accurate Old Norse book” but how I can ensure it is historically accurate? No one from that time is alive, only leaving behind treasures of books filled with either religious propaganda or hateful propaganda. I know I cannot get the information I want, but I managed to find a way to get the information I need: reading Scandinavian sagas. Most of these sagas contain Old Norse mythology and that is exactly what I was looking for. The majority of Vikings – if not all – believed in the tales of the Gods and the mystical beings that ruled the earth. What I took from these sagas were the detailed descriptions of the elves and dwarves that these Norsemen believed existed and included them in my book, giving the reader some extra information on Viking culture and mythology. Adding fantasy aspects also brings in more of an audience, which is the greatest result.
Now, with practical/technical problems there wasn’t that many that would drastically change the outcome of my project. When I started this project I thought the creation of the book would be quite a difficult task to achieve, opting to ask Katie and my auntie (Jemma) in their expertise in the book-creating process. Then I thought about how long this will take me to create, making a book from scratch when I can use Word which sets the book in perfect formation and will not make me lose time. Though it will not as aesthetically pleasing if I spent time sticking the pages together, making sure everything is to perfection, I can print off several books so everyone can read my story and look at my illustrations.
Presenting my work has been one of the added tasks from last year, meaning I have to work extra hard to make sure my work is presented well and gets across my idea. When I began posting work onto my blog it was definitely an array of mess – it became a task in itself to find each piece of work for each different task. Beth gave me a suggestion in which she said I should add categories to my blog so you can easily identify where each piece of work will be. I will admit, it made my blog much better to look at instead of the array of pages that I could never get rid of. However, I do not just want to limit my work on just my blog – I want to present my work professional, similar to what I did last year. I wanted to create a book. This book would contain my full narrative and the seven illustrations I have created for this project. I know this book will not look like a book found on the high-street and I have changed it from the original idea, due to not having enough time, but it will get across my project.
Overall my project has been successfully, some things failing, but that is common practice for a large project. The narrative was definitely the best out of all my project as it let me be as imaginative as I please and create my own characters – it is something I always enjoy doing with these units. Other than the narrative, the illustrations were also quite successful – full of detail that explains perfectly what is happening in the narrative. However, though these illustrations look good, some improvements could be made to make them that little bit better. The shading on the chapter three illustration, where Elmer is collapsed on the floor (Fig.3) was lacking, making it look very 2D, unlike the others where the shading was to a good standard, especially on the Chapter Two illustration (Fig.4) where the map looks as if light is stretching across the page.
It is important to get feedback for your project and ask for their opinion on what they think of your project. Asking people in my class was probably the best place to get feedback as some individuals in my class would find my idea very interesting and would most likely buy my book in the shop. The first person I asked for feedback was by my peer Adam, who for his unit 13 was also doing Vikings as the premise of his project. I asked him for his opinion on the narrative of my project and what he liked/not like. He enjoyed that my idea was based on the Vikings and was following true events that Ragnar Lodbrok experienced. The Viking-era was filled with rich-culture and mythology, so including that in my book seemed like an excellent idea for those who enjoy the Norsemen, meaning the audience who have a similar mindset to Adam will definitely give this book a chance. What could be improved was focusing more on the characters and how they lived instead of the historical events. Yes, the historical events are the main detail of the narrative, but finding out more about how the character was affecting by certain events would definitely engage the audience. This is something I could consider, however, that was not the point of my book. My book was to be as historically accurate as possible – even if some information have been altered to fit my story – so making the book focus on just my character is very out of the question. Maybe in the future, if I write my own novel, I will make it just about the characters and focus less on the events.
I then asked Chris to give me feedback on the illustrations; what he thought was good and what he thought could use some small improvements. What Chris thought was good was the shading and the colour, both complimenting each other perfectly. It is obviously I was going for a colour-scheme. Chris said what I could improve on is adding more detail in the back-ground to give the illustrations for story, not just focusing on what I discussed in the book; I agree with this. Yes, the illustrations do get across what is happening in the book but adding small detail in the back would’ve really brought the whole image together, making the audience imagine fully of how the scenery would look if they were there; how they could see the trees stretching across the hill tops; building caressing the blue of the sea.