A presentation is very key to getting across your idea, especially with a unit of this magnitude. Most of the work I have created is on my blog, so to make it more presentable and easily accessible when wanting to see certain aspects of your work. So, with help from Beth, I began setting each task into a category, for example, the final illustrations are in the “Unit 13 – Final illustrations” while research is in “Unit 13 – Research”; it makes it much easier for the examiner to flip through work.
The other part of my presentation will be the physical copy of my book; the main event. This book will contain my full narrative and illustrations, including some extra information that the reader may find interesting.
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.
This illustration for chapter six where Gunnar is getting murdered is one of the most detailed. What I enjoy most about this illustration is the sky and the hills. It didn’t take that much to achieve, using limited paint brushes, opacity and colour. With the sky I used a several brushes from a pack that one of my peers made, using different cloud brushes to achieve different shapes; no cloud is the same shape. With each cloud I changed the different shades of grey as when the sky is raining, the cloud intend to be a range of different greys.
The thing which bothered me most about the sky, however, was the lightning. I did a test, trying to perfect digitally painting realistic lightning, and I did, but this time I seemed to have failed. You can hardly see the bolts zooming across the sky, unlike real lightning which creates a blooming light across the dark skies. Why this may of happened was due to the low opacity of the brush. To achieve what I was looking for I needed to either pick an electrifying blue or yellow – standard lightning colours.
The hill was the exact same process as the sky: playing with different opacity and shades to bring an image to life. I simply chose a darker shade to the hill’s base colour, selected the soft brush and lowered the opacity. I began building up depth on the hill, making it look as if some parts went further in while the others stayed jutted, and I think I succeeded in this effect. However, Beth mentioned making the hill a much darker green as when the skies are dark, the scenery soon follows, so when I have a chance to update this illustration, that is the first thing I am going to do.
This piece of concept art is probably the most aesthetically pleasing to look at. I asked several people around my class if they enjoyed the look of this illustration, to which all said yes. What makes this illustration so striking amongst the other pieces is the map. The map is the focal point of the picture, as documented in the book when Gunnar points to it, following the trail from Denmark to France; an attack. How I got the map to look like that was very simple and did not require me to use a lot of tools. All I needed to do was change the opacity and the colour, making faux light spread across the map. What gave me the inspiration to do this sort of style (The map is drawn on cartridge paper) was the Skyrim map you get with your console game. On the outline of each island, they added a dark line – low opacity – and begin filling it in with a lighter colour, also low opacity. To me, it makes the map look old-fashioned, not boring as I was originally going to just do one colour; I am glad I had the Skyrim map on hand.
This illustration was the one that held the most detailed and looked great all across, without one part of it being detailed while the rest is very 2D and doesn’t hold that much character. What I will say that could use a bit more work is the hand. The shading I used on the hand to make it a bit more realistic only semi-worked. When I do skin shading it is mostly on the face, so I have a lot of experience with that; the hand is a completely different story. To make sure I have the most accurate version for this I could of replicated this image, holding my hand in a certain way and using limited lighting, similar to how it would be on the illustration.
Throughout this project I have been trying to manage my project, hoping to meet project milestones while also effectively trying to complete additional tasks within the time frame. However, the more I look at my project I can see that my project management has been lacking – tasks which were meant to be completed within a week lasting almost a month; I do not have an excuse for this. When doing my projects’ I intend to do several tasks at once, causing me to stress at the process and push the targets off myself to do something else, something simpler.
Where this has been a big problem is the end of the project. I forgot about making the book, which was the main presentation and has forgotten about sorting of my books’ pages so they are in the right order, making the book run smoothly when reading. I should of done this task two weeks ago, along with the illustrations that still need to be completed. If I followed the gannt chart I made for the specific project, I would’ve been able to ask these tasks completed with relative ease, yet, I am still far behind.
But it has been all bad. At the start of the project the action plan and gannt chart were a great help with the different pieces of work I needed to complete to ensure my unit 13 project was smooth. As I stated in my previous paragraph, however, I ended up not using the gannt chart because of all the different tasks I was trying to complete at the same time. What helped a little with this problem was the S.M.A.R.T Targets which let me time how long I was going to do each task. It made me aware of how long I spent on each task and how I could change that – change the way I work on my work and complete tasks much quicker.
In the future, when I come to do a mass amount of work for a project like this for a future company, I will make sure to make a detailed action plan and use a gannt chart to follow my progress and see the tasks that need to be completed to get to an end goal.
A – I made a quick front cover of a book in my last year FMP, this will be a simple process
R – The time will not be that long as I have things to attend to, though I have to use illustration also
T – 10:40am – 12:00pm
I have added the background for my back cover, which is a royalty free leather swatch as I do not have enough time to make my own leather. The title of the book has been added to the book cover, though I still need to add some shading to the letters to make them look 3D and metallic amongst the red background. What I did not managed to do was get onto the illustrator side of things – I will go onto illustrator for my next target.
S – Change Gunnar’s form in chapter four, make his hair look more realistic
M – I will only do one variation, as I state every time I do a concept art piece, due to the deadline next week.
A – Throughout several projects I have painted hair, making it look semi-realistic and aesthetically pleasing. I do not need to worry about messing up as I am quite effcient when doing this task
R – Even though my style is quite cartoonish, making the hair is something I take great pride in. Hair, though can be a timely process, it is a very simple task to achieve
T – 13:00pm – 14:30pm
The hair was not as simple as I expected. I ended up making several mistakes when doing this task. When I chose the base colour of his hair I did not look as I imagined it, meaning I had to delete the opposing colour and spend time finding a brown that would match my image of him. Then I made the biggest mistake of when I began adding the the strands of hair, not realising the eraser tool was one. I began removing the brown and I was completely confused on why this was happening. After 10 minutes I only noticed this, but I did not have enough time to recolour, having to make do with the white strands. The last problem was the graphics tablet. It kept losing collaboration, the pen pressure not working effciently enough. Because of these problems I did not have enough time to finish his hair, I will have to do it another time.
Throughout this unit I have solved many practical/technical problems, along with theoretical problem-solving. I have already explained how I have solved the practical problems (On my Practical Problem post) but I have never talked about how I solved the theoretical.
I mentioned in my theoretical problem blog post about how historically accurate I can make my book and how I can move away from this idea and base it loosely on the Vikings. However, I stated several times throughout the course of my time in this unit that I want to make a book that moves peoples’ opinion away from this barbaric view the media has – though true, to an extent, the Vikings were very clever in how they carried out their tactics. But as I cannot get historically accurate information as the information that was gathered from the time is complete propaganda, I had to deal with it. The Prose Edda is definitely the most reliable source as that was a book created by Snorri Sturluson, an Icelandic historian from the 13th century. This saga talks about the range of different beliefs the Vikings had, even mentioning some Elves and Dwarves that were useful for when I was adding the fantasy aspect to my book. He went into extraordinary detail about the fantasy beings, me then being able to describe them as the Vikings believed; it was a nice touch adding Viking Mythology to my book to make people who are not aware of their culture get a brief understanding.
Now the other information I got was complete speculation – though accounts in which they talked about clothing was accurate as clothes from that time were still perfectly preserved. Another way I could have avoided this problem was going to the Jorvik Viking Centre in York, but as I mentioned in a previous post I simply did not have the funds to make the journey; I completely regret that decision.
The audience was quite easy to determine as I already had a brief understanding at the start of the project of who my audience was, but I needed to know more. What about if gender was somehow linked to my book? Will the sales of my book decline or would they rise? Women are more likely to read historical fiction, according to a poll, men who read 50% – 75% of historical fiction novels, only 29.15% do so, while women overtake with 38.44% doing so (A Writer Of History, 2014). Yet, the more you look at the poll and see the questions that are asked to men about their favourite time periods 42% said they enjoyed historical fiction books ranging from 3000 B.C – 1000 A.D, which the Vikings were very prominent. However, I would like to think gender has no alteration with how popular my book is, though it is typically men who enjoy books to do with war and our Viking ancestors.
Now the creation of the book was quite a tricky one to decide. Due to the ever evolving technology, it seems people would prefer to read an e-book as they can access any book they want with a click of a button. Yet, when I searched for polls to decide whether my initial idea was true, it seemed it was the complete opposite (Good Reads, 2017). More individuals prefer the comfort of a printed book than an electronic book. Maybe this is the case because printed books do not cause eye-strain, unlike their technological cousin. But I wanted to have more evidence. I decided to ask my friends and family on Facebook which they preferred out of printed books or e-book; the results were the exact same. More people, when reading, prefer the company of a book than an electronic device to hold their book – this is the same to me. It is a completely different experience when you are turning the page, almost adding to the immersion of the story, unlike its electronic counterpart that requires a swipe of a finger. These results determined the fate of how I will present my book.
Snorri Sturluson (1220) The Prose Edda. Scandinavia: Unknown. p21-25.