Biographies Briefing and My Initial Ideas

Illustrating for blog post
Illustrating for blog post.

On the 11th of April I attended a briefing on my Term 3 SUBJECT SUMMER PROJECT entitled ‘Biographies’ proposed by my joyful illustration tutor Chris Glynn.

This is to be my final project of the year completing my first year within my 3 year Illustration degree course at the fantastic Cardiff Metropolitan University.

My year one experience has flown by so fast and I imagine that the next two years to follow will do just the same. Time truly flies by really quickly when you’re having fun and keeping yourself productive and I believe it’s the best way to live a happy and fulfilling life.

In a handout and explained by Chris Glynn I was introduced to the idea of this intriguing new project which I have noted along with my initial ideas of approach shown in the brackets:

  • Create a visual biography in BOOK form. (This will be my second narrative illustration piece that I intend to be far less abstract than my previous Streetcar Named Desire project. I have learnt from this previous experience that I really enjoy working with narratives as I always find myself really engrossed by this sequential kind of work which I feel in a magical experience takes me out of this world and into the story as and with my characters. For a brand new and realistic experience my intentions for this summer project is that I want my characters to be represented as people and not as symbolic objects like before. I also wish my book to be a spectacle and professional in every way. To get an idea of what a professional, illustrated and mature narrative picture book looks like I realise that I have got to get my hands on some examples as key research to take my project to an exceptional standard like those published and successful. I plan on going to the Cardiff Met library to study everything about mature picture books from the paper quality, binding, conventions of the pages, aesthetic, methods, compositions, feel etc. As another valuable source to extract this insight and an opportunity not to miss I plan on going to see the upcoming and exciting 2016 Cardiff Met degree show that has been heavily encouraged and recommended to me to reference for this project and my upcoming year 2 projects by my tutors to especially spark inspiration and generate ideas from the illustrated book standard of those completed by illustration students in third year).
  • Explore character, narrative and visual pacing(As I explore these key features with my experiments I will not be throwing out any of the outcomes that I feel the natural need to scrap as I’m going to reset my habit so that I keep every piece of my work safe as part of an insight into my development of this project and creative journey. I have a folder where I will store all these discarded works that are in fact valuable learning experiences. I desire my book to be an enjoyable, engrossing and spellbinding read with a sense of consistent magical energy throughout every page of my book)..
  • A 24 or 32 page book (Nothing less, nothing more. For my book I want to aim for 32 pages because I enjoy creating narratives very much so I want to keep myself busy with this project and to get the most fun and learning out of it) – AT LEAST 12 of the spreads should be finalised and in full colour (I realise that I need to explore and experiment a lot with colour as it was noted in my previous field feedback that I need to work on this. As suggested I need to look back over my colour tasks that I completed at the start of the year for a reminder of how to practice my colour work and to develop on my ability to make the right choices of tones and medium through lots of testing. I need to also be wary of what paper I use for paints as I had an issue with watercolours tearing up the paper surface with my previous Marine pop-up book project. It was suggested at a critique session that I try to use inks instead and recommended by my friend Ariel that I consider buying watercolour paper especially designed to prevent the tearing up of the surface), produce the rest of the pages as well developed roughs. Roughs should be clear and of a good standard that I would wish to show a publisher who had commissioned me to convey the content and composition. (I want to aim to please, surprise and wow the publisher/my customer with my innovative work so that they will want to buy my work).
  • Hand bound or professionally bound. (I would want an experimental first draft copy of my book to be hand bounded to master the technique and to see how the illustrations and text works together visually. I need to know if the compositions need adjusting and to see if the visual narrative effectively flows with each illustration located on pages adjacent to each other. I need to make sure that with my compositional layouts that I take control of where I want my viewers eyes to go on the pages, I don’t want to crowd my pages with too much to look at. For my research I will look at picture books with text included to see how they go about laying them out on the page together and to discover my preference. As a very final step I would like a professional bounding and printing of my book by a reputable company and for all my pages to be printed out on pleasing and good quality paper which I would like to see and feel samples of all my options before I go ahead and purchase. I want to know all about what the company has to offer. Is their one that I can visit in Cardiff close to where I live? In the brief 3 binding/printing companies are mentioned:, Blurb and the Cardiff Met print studio).
  • ANY SIZE FORMAT. (I want a format that is recognised by the printing company that I intend on going too to get my book bound and printed so that there is no problems and for it to be quite an even spacious format in length and width. I will need to get quotes from the three different companies to see which one I can get for a good price without this effecting the quality and to confirm that they have my desired dimension available. Already on my mind, I need to question if I can get a 10 by 10 inch book printed as I have a square sketchbook of this dimension that supplies the spacious and roominess that I would be after. I usually love to work directly onto large paper sheets and away from the sketchbook for the element of spaciousness as I like to get away from the confinement and restricted typical formats that I find slim. I know that often children books are quite square shaped so I’m hoping that this isn’t a problem).
  • Can include text or be purely visual – the book should be primarily conveyed through the images. If words are used, appropriate attention should be given to text style and layout. (I definitely want my book to have computerised text for a professional and clear result. I’d scan my illustrated pages onto the computer and use software like Adobe Photoshop to play around with composition of my illustration and add the text that I want. I think it would be really good to look at handwriting of the character if it is attainable through research to get an idea of the writing style used by the tools they used in the period that may not be so common now in handwriting to influence my decision on what font I use to reflect the period more so and nature of the character. I prefer illustrated books with a few lines of text as well as the illustration to visual narratives that are purely just made up of pictures because I like that element of guidance to make things sharp and clear and the illustration to further help with the readers understanding of the information).
  • BEGIN WITH RESEARCH and then start playing around with character, pacing and choosing scenes to focus on. (I’ve got to get a feel of the period in time that the character was living in and adopt this within my visual story telling so that my illustrations can take my reader to that time too. To experience this time for myself and to be able to effectively reflect the period to others I can attain my inspiration from visiting museums and architecture featuring artefacts of the time and document my findings using photographs. This experiential research as well as internet searches of the fashion, architecture and props will help me connect to the world of that experienced by my character).
  • Think about how to create empathy and drama or visually emphasise certain characteristics of your subject. (I think that it would be really helpful to act out the body language and facial gestures for myself and to capture this regularly in a mirror to use as a reference whilst drawing my characters. For example angry frown lines, raising of the eyebrows in a state of shock, carrying out the way I imagine his/her hand gestures to be like in the moment of a heated discussion and taking a photo of this etc. I think it will also be helpful to watch films of this period with characters of the same social rank to my character to study their mannerisms).
  • The biography should shed light on the person’s life and times (period) and be imaginative and informative. (I need to research places to visit and films to watch connecting to the period of my character. Listening to music of the period will also help me get more tapped in to the world of the time. I want my narrative to be interesting and depicting scenes from the life of the character that is of a degree of significance to the reader’s knowledge of the person).
  • Consider the insights that sequential images have the power to convey, the fresh perspectives that traditional written biographies may not be able to offer. (I intend to present to my readers the way how I envision my characters life journey took place in an entertaining and imaginative way. I already know I don’t very much like the sequential narratives that are heavily broken down as I’m much too impatient to follow the story of a slow pace and I never like the pages filled with lots of illustrations that I find repetitive with too much of nothing really happening in a lot of them and are often too small in scale to hold my attention. I like to focus on significant moments in a sequential way that doesn’t pace the story incredibly slowly as I feel my reader will only lose curiosity about what happens next with my character especially when a lot is revealed on every page it becomes less exciting to turn to the next page – SPOILER ALERT).
  • Engage in THOROUGH and VARIED RESEARCH (not just internet research, I need to acknowledge and utilise other sources of inspiration and information) to first inform yourself about your subject before visually communicating your discoveries to your audience in a compelling and thoughtful way. (I want my biographical book to be well informed through a confident grasp of my characters life, period and significance. I want to attract my readers with every page to effectively pull them into the world and narrative that I have created. The final method of the illustrations and presentation of the book needs to be also well informed from a diversity of practical developments influenced from other artists, my ideas and feedback that I can obtain from my illustration friends or tutors via social media and email over summer).
  • Think about your audience. Who is the book aimed at? (I have the idea of my book being extremely useful source of information aimed to inform exhibition/museum visitors who are looking at a portrait of the character to effectively be taken through a life story of the person depicted in the portrait within my short visual biographical book for those that are curious. The book can be placed on a stand next too or in front of the painting. This way people can enter a much deeper and personal connection to the person in the painting through uncovering the characters experiences and gain a clearer understanding of the significance of the person in front of them. With my book I am aiming to provide a clear and profoundly visual narrative translatable by all to reveal far more than what a person who is unfamiliar with the person in the portrait can uncover from simply looking at the painting alone and even that attainable from a short summary of the character in the painting that you may typically find on the wall next to the portrait. My works purpose will be to bring my curious readers spiritually closer to the character with a close attention to the personal as well as the more recognised moments of the characters life so that I can share a deeper understanding of the character with that wider perspective and sense of personality that I aim to come alive in the minds of all who read my book).
  • The biography does not need to tell the entire life story, you can choose to focus on one experience or chapter of the person’s life and explore that in more depth. (I am really for the idea of telling the story from the birth to death of the character to shine a light on all sorts of experiences in my characters life that I feel will further inform my readers of the characters spirituality and make clearer the more recognised significant accomplishments. In my research I will see if there are any illustrated biographies of this sort out there to gain some ideas and inspiration. I think the best way to understand and judge an unfamiliar person is to take the opportunity to witness and feel many of their life experiences for yourself which I intend for my visual narrative to offer).
  • If you include images of the person in the form of a visual narrative you will need to consider consistency of character throughout, although obviously the character may change as he/she gets older. (I need to collect a range of imagery of the character featuring he/her at different ages, if there isn’t any imagery of this kind available I will trust in my imagination to fill in the gaps. I could also just use the older pictures as reference for an imagined younger look of the character to get a rough idea).
  • Or you character may not feature visually, you could portray the world through your character’s eyes. (I don’t like this idea as I want to capture the life of the character in a visual form to be able to reveal the emotions and mannerisms expressed in body language to give my readers more clues to the personality and spirit of my character and I want my readers to connect to the character emotionally as I feel I could create more empathy and drama with a bigger picture. I want to keep my characters visibility in this way consistent in the story so that it is clear and so that it flows. I will make sure to change the perspective for each of my drawings for each of the pages so that my book remains interesting with each turn of the page).
  • The book does not need to be a narrative, you could choose to tell a story by focusing on their ideas or discoveries. (I don’t like the idea of this suggestion as I much more feel drawn to a narrative and sequential structure. I want to take my reader to a range of sequential experiences in my characters life story starting with his/her birth and ending with his/her death).
  • The book could be approached in a more conceptual or abstract way (I might be abstract with my colour work to meet the mood with the colours that I select and to make it less predictable in the colours that I will use but if I do that I may lose the sense of the period. I will have to experiment with these ideas).

My Deadlines:

My research and development for this project completes my L4 Subject portfolio and is to be presented and discussed as part of my end of year Viva Voce on the 6th of JUNE, 2016.

My research and development submission should include a full draft page plan for the book and at least 3 sample pages/spreads.

I will continue to take my book to completion as my summer project over the recess, for submission in the first week back after the summer break (week beginning 26 Sept, 2016). This will be a live presentation of the completed book to staff and a group of peers, with Q&A.


  • Blog as you go along.
  • Lead your blog with images.
  • Look back on the exercises and briefs completed at the start of the year.
  • Look at how other books are laid out, they follow a rhythm and principle of layout – “front matter” and “back matter”.
  • For research do not limit yourself to Wikipedia, be resourceful!
  • Avoid rushing and don’t procrastinate.

Handed out to me was a white folded piece of card with my name on the front and enclosed a name of an extraordinary person from history selected for me by my Illustration tutor. This name will be the person I am going to be basing my Biographies project on. As shown below:

My name on the front of the card.
Once I opened the folded card the name Ada Lovelace was revealed to me. My initial thoughts were: Who is this Ada? Is this person a man or woman? What did they do? Is this person significant? Is there life journey particularly interesting? What makes this person extraordinary?

All these questions got my very curious and interested about this mysterious and unfamiliar name ‘Ada Lovelace’ so I was eager to find answers to these questions in my research.


Author: ellosweetmellon

I am 21 years old and I live in Cardif. My dream is to be a great illustrator that can sell and exhibit my work with pride.

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