Creating the Creatures of Vikings Belief

As with the Viking gods I have been able to operate under a rather substantial amount of artistic licence in my representations of the creatures that Vikings believed in.

Vikings believed that there were nine worlds connected by the ash tree yggdrasill.  Each world was home to its own inhabitants and Vikings told many stories featuring these (as far as I know) fictional beings.  See my mood board and representation of the map of yggdrasill and the nine worlds below:

My artwork once again is based upon written descriptions and pre-existing visual representations of the creatures in question.

Below are my mood boards and visual creations, alongside some of the reasoning for my creative decisions.


Giants or Jötunn’s as the Vikings called them, were very big and strong.  They ate animals and fish because they lived in the world Jotunheim.  I decided to keep my giants very similar to humans, just bigger but I have given my giant big ears as a fond reflection of a favourite childhood story of mine, Roahl Dahl’s ‘BFG’, illustrated by Quentin Blake.



Dark Elves

Dark Elves were ugly, tricky creatures who lived underground and liked to cause problems for humans.  Due to living underground my elves are pale skinned and I have tried to capture their mischievous essence in my drawing but whether or not I have succeeded is open to the interpretation of the viewer.



Light Elves

Light Elves were considered to be like “angels” by the Vikings, they were beautiful creatures who inspired music and art.  I have tried to make my light elf similar to my dark elf, in order to see the connection that they are both elves but I have given my light elf  a skin tone that is more reflective of somebody who lives above ground and I have dressed him in a more elegant manor.




Ogres were large, monstrous creatures; the Vikings thought they were nasty, strong and dangerous beings who would kill and eat people.  I have created my ogre to look dangerous and grotesque, with a large belly to show that he is capable of consuming a person.




Dwarfs were small with oddly shaped bodies, they lived under the ground in the world of Nidavellir. Dwarfs were very good at making things out of metal. I have created a small person with a body shape that is similar to people who have the medical condition dwarfism, as I believe this mythical creature is probably derived from a misunderstanding of people who suffer this condition.  In Viking myths, dwarfs are skilled metal workers which I have tried to display in my drawing, through the characters decorated armour and weapons.



Sea Serpents

Sea serpents were giant monsters that the Vikings believed lived in the sea.  My sea serpent is based on the traditional depiction of a long, snake like dragon creature that lives in the sea.



Below is a video of this section from within the application.


Communicating visually

My master’s enquiry revolves around the best way of communicating information via my medium of choice, which is a digital application for the iPad.  Illustration is an ancient method of communication.  It is just as relevant today in a world dominated by new media, as it was when the first illustrations were produced.

What is illustration?

On his website Wigan’s World, Mark Wigan is described as an “International artist, illustrator and writer” Wigan’s World, no publication date,

Wigan has exhibited all over the world and he has authored a number of books on illustration and creative thinking.  In Wigan’s book The Visual Dictionary of Illustration, Wigan (2009: p9) offers a description of the function of illustrations:

Illustrations visually communicate content for reproduction in imaginative, distinctive, and highly personal ways while solving problems, decorating, entertaining, adorning, commenting, informing, inspiring, explaining, educating, provoking, beguiling, enchanting and storytelling.”

He goes on to further describe the importance of illustrations, “it is also a vital dynamic and contemporary means of expression, interpretation and communication which conveys ideas and messages with compelling imagery created in any media” (Wigan, 2009: p9)

As Wigan describes, illustration has a number of purposes and within my application I have used illustration in a number of ways.

The image below shows how I have used illustration to decorate, adorn, inform and communicate.


Illustration example

  1. Illuminated Letter

My illuminated letters are an example of illustration. To find out more about my use of illumined letters (see here)

  1. Border

The patterned border is used to frame the content part of the application, drawing the attention inwards. The pattern is based upon Viking symbols.

  1. Content Border

This border is used to separate the map from the text.

  1. Map

Maps are a form of illustration drawn to represent geographical locations.

  1. Button Rim

The rim of the button has been illustrated to resemble the metal rim of a Viking shield, to tie the navigation into the thematic design.

  1. Current Button Marker

This is an illustration used to show the user which is the current part of the application.

  1. Illustrated Background Featuring Symbols

This thematic background features illustrations relevant to the Vikings and their beliefs; its purpose is to decorate whilst also informing the user of the nature of the applications theme.

Illustration has been around for a very long time; early examples of illustration are cave paintings and hieroglyphics.

Wigan (2006: p30) discusses both of these early forms of communicative illustration, starting with cave paintings he says:

The earliest surviving examples of this art form can be found in Lascaux, France and Altamira, Spain. These cave drawings date from c. 12,000 BC. Pre-dating written language, the exact function of these sophisticated drawings remains a mystery. Although their purpose could be religious or ritualistic, these hunting scenes demonstrate the primal need to communicate and to draw from life. Stylised conversions have always been employed in drawing.”

It is interesting to think that so early in human evolution, man developed not only the skill and materials needed to create illustrations but they had the creative ability to unknowingly develop an effective communication medium that is still widely used today.  We do not know exactly what they were trying to communicate, or why they did it and we definitely do not know if it was effective for the purpose they desired but we do know that this innovation has become an effective communication tool, which has developed throughout the ages.  Egyptian hieroglyphics are another example of illustrative communication employed by Ancient civilisations, Wigan (2006: P30) discusses Egyptian hieroglyphics, saying:

The ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics integrated phonetic and pictographic signs with both abstract and observational drawing. Colour was used symbolically, heads were depicted in profile, torsos were viewed from the front and legs in three-quarter view (examples include illustrated scrolls such as the Book of the Dead and the Ramessseum Papyrus). Symbolic conventions are evident in the diagrammatic drawing of Mesopotamia and in the use of space, colour and visual hierarchy in Islamic art

Wigan describes “Symbolic conventions” that are evident in Egyptian hieroglyphics, “Symbolic conventions” and designed symbols have become an important part of communicating through illustration.

Symbology” is the study of symbols.  The function of a symbol is to communicate a relevant meaning.  A symbol can be an artefact or illustration that represents, suggests and communicates an idea, a process or a physical entity.

Illustrative symbols come in many forms, one of the most common is written language.  There are many types of written language but essentially they are all systems of communicating visually, through illustrative symbols that have been assigned some sort of applicable meaning and when combined they are given further meanings.  The free dictionary provides the definition of written language:

written language – communication by means of written symbols (either printed or handwritten)”   The Free Dictionary, (2013)

Oregon State University offers a similar explanation of written language that describes the historical and technological importance of this communication medium:

Writing is the visual representation of language through the use of an established selection of markings. As a means of communicating ideas and storing information, written language is the single most important and far-reaching technology available to humans and has served as the foundation for virtually all other information technologies from early etchings in clay to the world of digital access that we enjoy today.”  Oregon State University Library, no publication date,

Another great example of illustrative communication through symbols would be the Arrow.  The arrow as a symbol can indicate direction or point to a specific place or item.  Colours can also be symbolic, to many people green may be a colour that indicates a start or movement i.e. a green traffic light indicates that it is time for a driver to go but green can also be used as a symbol of freshness amongst others. Red is a colour that is often used to symbolise the notion of stopping, as used in traffic lights but red also indicates anger, or in china it is a colour that symbolises good fortune.  This is the problem with all symbolic communication; all communication requires an understanding between the communicator and the audience, if either party does not understand the intended meaning of the communication being delivered, there will be a communication breakdown.

Gaur (1992: p14) says:

In the case of writing, the information is stored mechanically, on an independent object, and can be retrieved and used at anytime, in any place (in the case of moveable objects such as books etc.) by all those who are able to consult and decode it.”

It is vitally important when communicating any information illustrative or otherwise, that the deliverer understands the audience that he/she is attempting to communicate with, so the information can be delivered in a way that can be decoded by the audience it is intended for.  Knowing your audience is vital to ensuring communicative success.

Although written text may actually be an example of an illustrative communication form, it has become a medium within its own right.  The written form offers its own problems though, one of which is described above; it must be decoded by the reader and unlike some other written languages, such as Egyptian hieroglyphics (which used more visual symbols that related to specific artefacts, places or ideas e.g. an illustration of the sun actually represents the sun), the English written language featured in my application, is based upon phonic sounds found in the spoken English language and this requires a more substantial understanding of the code required in order to decipher the information.

Due to this problem with the written form of communication, illustrations separate from the text can be used to try and communicate information, in a way that the audience can understand through a different deciphering process.  An illustration of a man walking across a road may be easier for some people to understand, rather than just a piece of text that say’s “A man is crossing the road”.

Illustration has been central in the provision of visual communication for a long time, Wigan (2006: p88) explains the important role that image has played over the years:

Pictures have always been used to tell stories. An early precursor of sequential and narrative illustration is the 11th century Bayeux Tapestry, which contains a linear narrative depicting the Norman invasion of England in 1066. Another great example is Michelangelo’s paintings on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel

He also believes that image has improved the experience provided by mediums such as print, that previously may have relied upon text as their only form of communication:

Many great works of literature have been interpreted and enhanced by pictures; there have been wonderful combinations in history including Delacroix’s drawings for Goethe’s Faust, Tenniel’s interpretation of Lewis Carroll’s books and George Cruikshank’s illustrations for Dickens.”  (Wigan, 2006: p.88)

I agree totally with Wigan’s appraisal of the role that illustration has played in the development of print media.  Illustration has provided not only an alternative form of communication but text and illustration combined provide a strengthening of the communicative process that underpins information delivery, or as Wigan (2006: p88) puts it “Illustrators have shed light on and elucidated literature”.

Children’s literature is a genre that specifically is enhanced by illustration.  Illustration not only provides the possibility for colour and decoration but children are almost certainly the target audience that needs alternative forms of communicative media. Children are in the process of learning about the world far more so than adults, as they have less experience to have formed preconceived knowledgeable experience from and in many cases, children will not have developed a level of understanding of the written language needed to express all of the desired concepts or ideas.

The illustration of children’s literature is the closest genre in my estimation to that of my application.  Wigan (2006: p88) describes the practice “The illustration of children’s literature covers a number of areas from pop up, novelty, information and educational books to illustrated fiction and picture books. Often childrens books are both illustrated and written by the same person.

Wigan (2006: p88) also describes the need for understanding your target audience in relation to the information you wish to convey “Visual narratives need to contain a fluid union of words and images paced throughout the story and it is also important to bear in mind the target age group and the particular function of your book, e.g. entertainment or educational.

Wigan also describes the need for not only knowing your audience and their possible needs but the need to have an understanding of the function of your book, or in my case application.  The Journal Of The Association For Library Service To Children featured an article entitled ‘Playgrounds for the Mind‘, the author Wendy Lukehart (2010: p33) discusses the functionality of children’s picture books saying:

How do picturebooks work—particularly those of the last decade? There is a fundamental issue at the very heart of this matter, raised by David Lewis in Reading Contemporary Picturebooks. He asked, “If words and pictures are different, what difference does the difference make?”

By examining how picture books work Lukehart seems to be addressing the issue I was discussing earlier, text and illustrations communicate information in different ways.  Lukehart (2010: p33) delves further into this question “This leads one to consider all manner of related ideas. What do words do that pictures cannot, and vice versa? What effect do words and pictures have on each other?”

Wigan (2007: p6) discusses both forms of communication and how they can relate to each other :

Text and image are two forms of representation; two visual signs that can integrate and reinforce one another to communicate messages, emotions, ideas or visual commentary. Words and pictures can be employed to challenge one another, separating and countering meaning; text subverting the image and vice versa.”

Essentially as I described earlier when discussing Symbology, text and image are very similar methods of communication, a very similar field to Symbology is Semiotics, the free online dictionary provides this definition of Semiotics “The theory and study of signs and symbols, especially as elements of language or other systems of communication, and comprising semantics, syntactics, and pragmatics.”

The Free Dictionary, (2013)

In his paper ‘Revisiting the Relationships Between Text and Pictures’ Lawrence Sipe (2012: p5) describes both forms of communication from a semiotic point of view:

From a semiotic point of view, we can conceptualize these two languages as systems of ‘‘signs.’’ For semioticians, everything and anything can function as sign; in picturebooks, the two most obvious sign systems are the words and the pictures, though within each of these broad sign systems, there are clearly sub-sign systems. For example, within the sign system of visual images, there is the sign system of colors, where different colors may be associated with different emotions or feelings.”

Sipe believes that the easiest and most natural way to examine the relationship between word and text is to draw on metaphors.  The free dictionary defines a metaphor as “A figure of speech in which a word or phrase that ordinarily designates one thing is used to designate another, thus making an implicit comparison, as in “a sea of troubles” or “All the world’s a stage” (Shakespeare).” The Free Dictionary, (2013)

Sipe (2012: p5-6) explains how metaphors are implicit to the relationship between text and imagery:

We can hardly avoid metaphors when writing about word–picture relationships (or anything else, for that matter). Simply to say, for example, that pictures and words ‘‘work’’ together in various ways is already to be drawn into metaphorical thinking: if there is work involved, it is clearly not between words and pictures, but in the reader/viewer’s mind, and it is the mental processes involved that constitute the work

Sipe discusses a number of artistic and scientific metaphors used to describe the relationship between text and image.  There were two metaphors that I particularly correlated with the first is below:

Another of the arts that writers draw upon in discussing the relation of words and pictures is drama. Wyile (2006) provides an extended metaphor using the idea of a picturebook as a play The words in a picture book are like the script of a play. In both cases the facts and clues of characters’ feelings are not usually explained because the pictures or the actors can express them much better…The words in a picturebook come alive in relation to the pictures, as they do in relation to the action in a play. The effectiveness of words is related to their placement on the page in conjunction with the placement of the pictures, which is a form of artistic direction like the elements of direction and blocking in a play. The narrative tension is further created and/or enhanced by the pace of the production that is set by the timing of action, lighting, and sound effects in a play and by the combination of page layout and page turn in a picture book—typically the words pull us forward because we can read them faster and the pictures hold us back as our eyes scan for details (see Nodelman, ‘How Picture Books Work’) (p. 177).” (Sipe, 2012: p6-7)

I can see how the placement of each is important but the thing that I realise most is that in my application I have tended to keep text and imagery as two separate items, my main body of text is almost a narration to events depicted in my imagery, the only times I have combined text and image directly is as speech, as part of a narrative or as instruction.

The Second metaphor I was drawn to was:

Curley (2007) compares the word–picture relationship to the Victorian invention called the stereopticon: ‘‘when focused, an image leaps from flatness into startling depth. It takes two camera lenses, set at slightly different angles, to create this magic. Now imagine an artist and a writer. Like the lenses of the stereopticon, they focus, from individual vantage points, on a narrative’’ (p. 7). In this metaphor, Curley emphasizes the different ‘‘vantage points’’ that words and pictures may take on a narrative, as well as the ability of the combination of words and pictures to create a more profound representation of literary reality as three-dimensional: more interesting, more complex, more nuanced.” (Curley, cited in Sipe, 2012: p8)

This description is one that I can also describe through my own metaphor, In the numerous children’s science fiction literature there are examples of individuals combining their powers for the greater good, to create a more powerful entity or force, and this is what I am seeing in my mind’s eye as read the above statement, the powers of text and image are combining to create a more powerful form of communication through a balanced relationship that does not depreciate the value of the meaning contained within the individual items but instead helps support and solidify the intended messages.

For me and my application, I have further considerations to those of text and illustration when it comes to communicating visually.  I consider my application to be similar to a children’s book but the medium in which I am working has different possibilities and considerations.

Lukehart (2010: p33) poses this question “Then there is the digital realm. At what point will visual electronic storytelling make us ask, “Is it really even a book?”

My answer to this question in relation to my application would be “no it is not a book” but it is an evolution of the children’s educational book genre, delivered using the benefits of digital technology.  The main differences between my application in comparison to a book are the technological possibilities afforded by the format, these include the ability to add animation, interaction, audio and video, my application is an example of digital multimedia.

Multimedia devices allow for the creation of software like my application that takes advantage of the technological capabilities and possibilities, in order to evolve and improve the communication of information.  The Commonwealth Educational Media Centre for Asia (p32) describes what multimedia is and how it can benefit the communication of educational information:

The most common buzzword used in education is Multimedia, which is the integration of text, audio, video, graphics and animation into a single medium. Instructional multimedia is the integration of various forms of media in the instructional process. It is the technology that combines print, radio, television, animation, photographs, and other forms of illustration. Integration of different media multiplies the impact of a message.”

In the past, multimedia capable devices have not always been used to their full potential.  Media designers and producers are often creating media that does not take advantage of the technological capabilities, Lukehart (2010: p34) explains “For the latter, even with the introduction of iPhone apps, the titles were mostly what Scott McCloud calls “repurposed print”—scanned books, their electronic pages turning, often with sound and a little movement.”

Multimedia has the potential to do so much more than simply reproducing traditional media in a digital form, it is a field that can make real changes to educational information delivery but it is not a case of just using the technological possibilities because they are available; careful consideration is needed as to what technologies will enhance learning in a specific situation, the Commonwealth Educational Media Centre for Asia (p37) believes:

It is important to match the learning objectives and decide the media to synchronize the design and learning from it. Each media can offer either the whole or part of the content with or without referring to one another. For example, dissection of a frog can be shown through animation and also through a video programme. But as multimedia offers interactivity, learners can actually feel the dissection if it is animated and the multimedia programme runs like an actual dissection.”

Making decisions about the best way to deliver educational information using multimedia requires knowledge of educational theory and technological possibilities combined with skills to produce the desired content.

Combining the different mediums also needs to be done in a way that makes sense to the user, otherwise the user may be left not knowing what the product is, Lukehart provides an example:

In a recent Wall Street Journal article, Nick Wingfield critiqued an electronic picturebook, saying, “This app can’t decide whether it’s a book, a movie, or a game.”” (Wingfield cited in Lukehart, 2010: p34)

I would suggest the “electronic picturebook” that Wingfield is critiquing possibly has tried to just add multimedia to a traditional media design, without the careful consideration for each element and its purpose.  We are dealing with new media here and as yet people are still experimenting with the new possibilities, trying to find the most effective way to deliver their information or story.  This is why I have been investigating pedagogical theory, Gamification and other areas in search of the knowledge required to make informed decisions, not trying to emulate traditional media but trying to create something new.  Wingfield believes that approaches like mine are the path to better products that make the best use of digital technology, Lukehart (2010: p34) discusses Wingfield saying “He wagers that the best book apps will be built from the ground up, taking full advantage of the digital environment.”

My research into visual language is part of my process of investigation into the most appropriate methods of educational delivery using digital technology.  I focussed earlier on the practice of illustration, which is a field that has been a major part of traditional media production for a very long time and there are those who believe that illustration may be a practice which will be lost during the evolution towards digital technology.  During the ICON 6 illustration conference, questions were raised regarding the future of illustration, Michael Dooley describes some of the debate saying:

“A variety of controversial notions were proposed, such replacing the term “illustrator” with something more, um, appropriate to the times and blaming art directors for the job decline. But the tension in the room was palpable as a one-word description of illustration’s future was raised and repeated: “animation.”” Dooley, (2010)

Illustration’s closest relative genre in my opinion is animation; the Free Dictionary defines animation as “The act, process, or result of imparting life, interest, spirit, motion, or activity.” The Free Dictionary, (2013)

Wigan (2009: p28) gives this definition of animation “The optical illusion of movement employed by persistence of vision

Animator Norman McLaren describes animation, “animation is not the art of drawings that move, but the art of movements that are drawn.” (McLaren, cited in Wigan, 2007: p101)

Dooley 2010 poses the question “Is Animation the Future of Illustration?” the reason for this question’s proposition is due to the change towards digital technology.  Traditional mediums such as books could not facilitate animation, so illustrations and photography where the widely used mediums when it came to providing visual content, digital platforms can feature animation or photographical equivalent video and some believe that these are more appropriate visual mediums for digital platforms.  Dooley asks many of the conference attendees for their views on whether animation is the future of illustration.  Scott Gandell is a print maker and illustrator, whilst also holding the post of President of the Society of Illustrators of Los Angeles.  Gandell notes that this was also a hot topic of conversation between people informally at the conference and in his opinion the “the transformation from 2D editorial illustration to an animated hybrid online is the future”.  He believes “illustrators need to be capable-ready to produce an eye catching, click stopping, reader grabbing piece of genius … that moves.”  Gandell, cited in Dooley, (2010),

Illustrator Steve Simpson said:

The ICON audience seemed split on the issue. Some thought this a great opportunity to get into animation, others were horrified at the prospect of learning new packages and skills – would the extra work mean more money? There was also the suggestion we should dump our outdated title, “illustrator,” and call ourselves visual communicators or creative visualists.”  Simpson, cited in Dooley, (2010),

Illustration historian and artist, Jaleen Grove notes the discussion worried some illustrators saying “The discussion provoked controversy because it suggested that if illustrators didn’t embrace change and make their work move and groove, then they might as well retire now.”   Grove goes on to explain that this may not be the impending apocalypse of illustration “illustrators have been told to reinvent illustration with every new advance in technology. And each time, that’s what they have done.” Grove, cited in Dooley, (2010),

Illustrator and designer, Carolyn Endacott agrees that the publishing industries movement into the digital realm is going to allow it to reach larger audiences and it has the potential to do so in new innovative ways but she also sees a position in the market place for the “printed magazine” and the static – non-animated – image. Saying “In a world of constantly moving images and “in-your-face graphics,” the beauty and strength of illustration lies in the idea-concept and the ability for a moment, however brief, to have the viewer pause and think.”  She goes on to say “There is a place for both the digital and static image and quite possibly, a relationship may develop where the two strengthen each other.”   Endacott, cited in Dooley, (2010),

As an illustrator and educator at CSU Fullerton, Cliff Cramp has a more optimistic view on the topic, explaining how new technologies have always influenced arts like illustration but not necessarily in a negative way:

The key word for me that night was “possibilities.” New technologies provide varied possibilities for the delivery of our content. The fax machine allowed illustrators to fax comps to a client rather than drive them over. Product Illustrators produced line art of merchandise for wholesale companies so that catalogs could be faxed to retailers. The Internet has allowed the illustrator to have a global audience, shrinking their world while broadening their possibilities. Email and social media have allowed the illustrator to have more opportunities to connect with their peers. For some, new technologies will mean new ways to produce art. For others, new technologies will mean new uses for their art.” Cramp, cited in Dooley, (2010),

Illustrator Teri Farrell-Gittins also sees the potential offered by new emerging technologies, with the point of view that these technologies will always need creative people capable of producing visual communication, so providing more jobs and more opportunities. ZFarrell-Gittins, cited in Dooley, (2010),

I do not believe that digital platforms mean the end of illustration, and those that believe this I fear may be being blinded by the technological possibilities.  With multimedia you do not have to use all the mediums because they are available but you do have the ability to use them when they are appropriate, one medium may be more effective than another in certain situations.  Illustration is a medium that has a place in multimedia applications, animation also has a place and in my opinion animation should only be used when it can communicate more information than an illustration, or communicate the information more effectively to the viewing audience. These decisions on medium appropriateness require knowledge of the communicative possibilities within each specific medium, so that informed decisions can be made when designing the communication process.

The design of the communication process is an important part of visual communication but there is another part of the process that is vitally important and that is the technical production of desired media.  A certain level of proficiency in the medium you are producing is needed to create effective results; when it comes to illustrating and animating it’s not simply a case of drawing pretty pictures, a design process is used by practitioners of these fields to methodically produce designs appropriate for their purpose, research is a key area of any design process.

Wigans (2006: p93-97) features a discussion with illustrator Marc Baines who describes the research process he used for a comic book series entitled ‘The Romans in Britain’. Baines describes how he read a book the 1945 Pelican classic ‘Britain’s Under the Romans and Rome 753BC-AD180’,  he also watched films such as the 1945 ‘Ceasar and Cleopatra’ starring Claude Rains.  Baines also visited museums and used Google image search. This process is very similar to the process I have undertaken throughout this project.  I also started off looking at pre-existing children’s literature relating to my Viking theme (see here), I also looked at the portrayal of Vikings in film and popular culture (see here), I visited museums and galleries and I also have made good use of Google image search as you can see in the mood boards I have created below: Wigan 2006

Viking_houses_mood-board_01 The ability to create consistent, effective and eye-catching imagery is also important when it comes to communicating visually, especially when the audience are children. Wigan (2006: p88) agrees, he says “Characters in children’s illustration need to be appealing and represented consistently throughout.

In the past, the production of visual communicative media has relied upon drawing. The Free Dictionary defines drawing as “The art of representing objects or forms on a surface chiefly by means of lines.” The Free Dictionary, (2013)

Wigan (2009: p86) defines Drawing as “The act of applying direct marks or lines across a surface by using tools such as a pencil, pen and ink, charcoal or crayons

Drawing is fundamental to the fabric of illustration. Once you have changed many of the perceived notions of ‘what drawing is’… you can get on with the task of exploring a visual language. Our answers are found in manipulating a medium: they can often start with a pencil and a piece of paper. Drawing the world around us lets us see the world.” (O’Shaughnessy, cited in Wigan, 2006: p33)

Wigan (2009: p86) says “Drawing is the foundation of all forms of visual art and pictorial representation

Often in the past I have been criticised for my lack of traditional pencil/pen and paper work. Yes, they are tools I often avoid as I struggle to transfer my thoughts using that medium.  I don’t like writing on paper nor do I particularly enjoy drawing with a pen or pencil but that does not mean that I don’t like to put down my thoughts in words nor does it mean that I don’t like to be creative visually.

At school before the time of easy access to computers I struggled with written work, my hand writing was poor and I didn’t like doing it.  In my art lessons I was never a great at drawing but I did enjoy and seemed to very creative and proficient when it came to printing, modelling and other creative art processes.  I am not ready to describe myself as an illustrator but I have been looking at illustration theory, techniques and I am creating my own digital illustrations.  The digital nature of my work suits the medium on which the illustrations will be displayed but Wigan explains that illustrations “can be created in any medium.” He then goes on to explain that my choice of medium is important but not to others, to me.  He says “It is important to experiment with a broad range and choose the type of medium that is most appropriate to you.” Wigan (2006: p120)

Although Wigan’s statement is contradicted by the views of other illustrators featured in his book, Mick Brownfield, Cited in Wigan (2006: p126) believes students need to “learn how to draw properly and not rely on technical aids (the computer)”, Laura Smith, cited in Wigan, (2006: p126) has a similar point of view “I would advise students to understand that computers are just another tool and not rely on them at the exclusion of all else.

My approach may seem to be one that excludes non digital tools but this is not actually the case, I have attended life drawing classes and I have copious amounts of learn to draw books that I use to try and improve my drawing skills but it is a medium that I do not use as often as others.

I remember a former tutor of mine explaining that it is the quickest method to work on ideas but this is something I would dispute.  It is the quickest method if you have the required amount of skill to reproduce what you are seeing in the eye of your mind using those tools, if not it can be a frustrating and embarrassing method of communication. I would never say one method is better than another but it is fair to say that some mediums are more appropriate for certain situations and it is also fair to say that some illustrators/designers are more suited to specifics tools and mediums.  This in no way should devalue the quality of anybody’s work but instead we should remember Wigan’s statement “It is important to experiment with a broad range and choose the type of medium that is most appropriate to you.” (Wigan, 2006: p120).

The main focus of my exploration into illustration is to understand how to communicate visually.  This is a very important part of my master’s study, as I am looking to communicate information in the best possible ways through my application and communicating visually through illustration and animation will play an important role in my application.  When Wigan asked illustrators from all over the world what they felt illustration students needed to learn visual communication was a common theme in there replies, Peter Grundy (2006: p128) says “An ability to entertain and communicate.” Gina Triplett believes “Students of illustration need to know how to communicate visual ideas in a manner that sets their work apart from their peers.” Anthony Burrill says “How to communicate with other people visually and verbally.” (2006: p131)

I am attempting to learn to communicate more effectively through visual and interactive media, this is essential not only to my master’s project but to my overall practice as an interactive multimedia designer.  Wigan (2006: p12) says “Learning to think visually is a skill that must be practiced daily.”  I believe he is right but I do not believe this is simply drawing or producing every day, researching past, current or potential methods of visual communication is also, in my opinion a great way of “Learning to think visually” but this does not just mean sitting in a library, reading a book, magazine or newspaper or trawling the internet; it can be as simple as walking down the street and watching how the world connects, looking at the advert on the side of a bus as it passes or watching how people interact with each other or artefacts of both digital and non digital nature.

Wigan (2006: p12) says “In order to communicate, elucidate, give insight to and illuminate, the illustrator must be interested in humanity and in literature. Intellectual curiosity, hard work, ambition and passion are all essential”.

To be a successful visual communicator it is important that you are interested in communicating, to have the passion to look beyond the simple dynamics of life and delve deeper into the nature of communicative experiences.  The desire to learn more and the ability to motivate yourself to actively pursue this quest for knowledge is needed, in order to keep coming up with effective communication processes relevant for differing audiences, through differing platforms, regardless of technological innovation.

The knowledge of how to juxtapose differing visual mediums, in order to communicate on a level beyond that of any single medium is going to be essential in a future containing digital multimedia.  So it will be essential to have a knowledge of more than one medium but the ability to not get consumed by the lure of the “doing thing because you can” scenario is also essential, creative’s should practice restraint when it comes to new technology and make decisions based upon effectiveness. Communicating visually will always be a vitally important process whether it is pencil and paper, chalk and board, 2D or 3D, static or animated, digital or non-digital.


Gaur, A. (1992) A History of Writing, United States: Cross River Press

Wigan, M. (2006) Basics Illustration 01: Thinking Visually, UK: AVA Publishing SA

Wigan, M. (2007) Basics Illustration 02: Sequential Images, UK: AVA Publishing SA

Wigan, M. (2007) Basics Illustration 03: Text and Image, UK: AVA Publishing SA

Wigan, M. (2009) The Visual Dictionary of Illustration, UK: AVA Publishing SA

The Commonwealth Educational Media Centre for Asia, no publication date, Instructional Design for Multimedia [online] Available at:, [accessed 8th April 2013]

Dooley, M. (2010) ICON Reax, Part 1: Is Animation the Future of Illustration? [online] Available at:, [accessed 7th April 2013]

Lukehart, W 2010, ‘Playgrounds for the Mind’, Children & Libraries: The Journal Of The Association For Library Service To Children, 8, 3, pp. 32-35, Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 21 March 2013.

Sipe, L 2012, ‘Revisiting the Relationships Between Text and Pictures’, Children’s Literature In Education, 43, 1, pp. 4-21, Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 8 April 2013.

The Free Dictionary, (2013) [online] Available at:, [accessed 8th April 2013]

Oregon State University Library, no publication date, Treasures of the McDonald Collection – A Brief History of Writing [online] Available at:, [accessed 7th April 2013]

Wigan’s World, no publication date [online] Available at:, [accessed 5th April 2013]

Life drawing week 4

This week’s session was un-tutored and was run by the model, this meant I got no tips or pointers but it also meant I could just relax and have a go.  I also tried sitting down working with my board on the back of another chair, this was a much more comfortable position and I really enjoyed this week’s session, see my work from this session below:

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Life drawing week 2

This week some students from the architecture courses joined us; this was good as it gave me a chance to draw comparisons between my efforts and theirs.

As I started I struggled to get going but I remembered what I had learnt in the previous lesson and as I continued my drawings improved.  My drawings aren’t as good as my first week but it is worth remembering that in my first week I had one to one instruction which aided me greatly.  When I compared my drawings to those produced by the other students I was a bit disheartened, there was a distinct gulf in quality between mine and theirs but after speaking to them it became apparent that although none of them had done life drawing before, they all came from a drawing with a pen or pencil background and thus my lack of experience in this field was placing me at a distinct disadvantage, so maybe my work is not that bad and I know the key to improvement is practice.

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1st Life Drawing Class 09/10/2012

Today I had my first life drawing class and I think it went okay considering I am an awful artist, we started by just experimenting making marks on the paper in order to get used to the new medium and materials, see below:

When the model arrived we started with short 5 minute poses, I found it quite difficult you can see the results below:

We then worked on a longer poses and with some much needed help from my tutor I managed to produce the image below:

It is rather obvious that the quality of my drawing is pretty low, but by the end of the lesson there had been a great improvement, I am not sure that I could have done it or that I could do again without the level of guidance I received but as I was reminded you’re not going to become a master of something after 1 lesson so hopefully as the weeks progress I can improve further.

Life Drawing

As noted in some of my earlier blogs, I have being using my master’s project as a way of addressing some gaps within my skillset, one gap that I have been working upon is drawing characters.  I am not an artist nor am I an illustrator and my drawing skills are severely lacking, my application requires the production of many visual items, most notably in this area I need imagery of characters and thus I have been researching different ways of drawing characters and I believe my skills have improved remarkably but they still are not of the quality that I would like them to be.

In a meeting with our external examiner he agreed that my skills have improved and he suggested that undertaking a life drawing class may be beneficial as a way to improve further, I agreed and said that this is something that I had already considered but explained that due to my work and family commitments I have been unable to find a life drawing class that I can attend, but I have now finally found a class that I can attend.

My fellow M.A student Gareth Sleightholme has arranged an optional life drawing class for the new media students at Hull School of Art & Design and as a former new media student and current M.A student I have managed to organise a place on this course, hopefully it will help me improve my skills and can certainly do no harm, I start next Tuesday and I intend to keep a record of my progress on this blog, so if you wish to track my progress then please keep an eye my blog for further developments.

Inspiration comes when you least expect it

I was sat the other day watching my son play Lego Pirates of the Caribbean on his Playstation 3 and suddenly a loading screen appeared that gave me inspiration for my application.  I had started working on the illustrations to accompany my text about Viking ships but after my initial illustration (see below), I knew that something was not quite right and it did not have the feel I was hoping for.

The loading screen on the game was a basic simple animation, that reminded me of puppet shows where scenery is moved about on sticks.  I have decided to try and recreate my own simple illustrations, to enhance my application by adding content that although simple, is visually effective in making my application stand apart from traditional mediums, such as books.