First experiment with ‘2D depth’

I never know when to stop. I overly complicate things. I’m never content.

I am trying to iron out these traits as I experiment with a more flat style to my work. Inspired by the article published by Allan Walker for Varoomlab, mentioned in a previous blog post, I was intrigued as to whether I could do a 2D backdrop that represents depth.  After playing around with ideas and being inspired by the October theme, I went for a graveyard ghost scene. By creating the shapes at right angles to the plane of projection and by overlapping shapes I was attempting to put into practice my research thus far. I found it very tempting to add a shadow or turn objects to 30 degrees and create a more isometric world that I would feel at more ease with.

Experimenting with depth using 2D and overlaps

Experimenting with depth using 2D and overlaps

Initially I had omitted the path on the sketch but added it prior to inking. It felt that the composition was more ‘pattern-like’ rather than a representation of depth. I think the path helps the understanding a little more and to flow from background to foreground. By introducing the path, the eye follows a ‘zig-zag gaze’, leading you left and right through the page, very much like Takashi Murakami (2000) explained when analysing Ito Jakuchu’s “A Group of Roosters” (shown below). The same mechanism of using the eyes of the ghost (although only the sockets remain!) to help to draw the observer’s gaze across the entire image.

Group of Roosters

Fig. 1

I produced the original in ink (with glow-in-the-dark paint on the ghosts) but decided to experiment a little with shadow in photoshop. The image shown below has some subtle shadows added on both the ground and the curvature of the ghost. Whilst I like the ground shadow, I don’t feel the tone on the ghost adds anything to the overall image and loses the simplicity that gives it impact.

With colour and shadow

With colour and shadow

By keeping a limited colour palette it puts more emphasis on the importance of the layout to work to show the depth of the piece. I also like the retro feel it gives, similar to screen printing and contemporary illustrators such as Frank Viva whom I admire.

Frank Viva, title image from Along a Long Road, 2011, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Fig. 2

Frank Viva ‘Along a Long Road’ Title illustration


Fig. 1. Ito Jakuchu, A Group of Roosters, 1757.

Fig. 2. Frank Viva, cover illustration from Along a Long Road,  2011,  Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Walker, A (2013) ‘Alternative Traditions: Flat as a way of visualising space’. Varoomlab journal issue two

Murakami, T (2000) Superflatness. Tokyo: Madora Shuppan.


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