Further Experiments

The forest scene I produced was the first of my retro-inspired backdrops. Having experimented with lines, layers, transparency and having read further about Disney and Maurice Noble, I felt I needed to experiment more.

In ‘The Noble Approach’ (2013), Maurice Noble was recorded approaching a similar philosophy that I have grown to experiment with. “… we were trying to make a complete statement with the backgrounds and characters working in harmony. If you have characters that are primarily line and flat color, why not take the same approach with the backgrounds?”. Whilst I still aimed for a degree of separation, I wanted to try and experiment to see if the ‘roles’ of the lines and realism could be reversed with clarity and effectiveness still apparent. Lines and simplicity in the background, realism and no lines in the foreground. By concentrating on the backdrop I drew the 2 elements in isolation, not awarding much consideration to how the two elements would interact. By trying to produce as natural setting as possible I figured that prepping the scene would not be required. In a child’s bedroom the positioning of toys is not always neat and accurate (a decision I would later regret) and things go where they land, I didn’t want it to appear staged. Fig 1 shows the line drawing of the backdrop. As before, I wanted to make the planes of the image translucent and overlapping as per Icinori to add an element of disorder and activity as well as added interest. I’m pleased how this works both with and without colour. It is this overlapping that adds further interest to a naturally shallow scene where there simply isn’t much depth – such as a child’s bedroom. I also made an effort to keep elements as 2D as possible to shake the realism from the piece and to allow this overlapping to make more logical sense. I still find it a struggle to try and eliminate perspective from my layout sketches that are so common in European approaches.

Screen Shot 2016-01-01 at 11.40.03 AM

Fig. 1.

Whilst looking through other students’ blogs I came across John Berger’s ‘Ways of Seeing’ in Robin Johnston’s interesting blog post. I particularly liked the concept that perspective draws everything into your eye, but your eye can only be in one place at a time. With a flat (and overlapping) approach, this is somewhat eliminated.


One of the first problems arose when I began to place the characters into the scene. I now realise I was a little naive not purposely placing backdrop elements to allow for the character presence later. Along with many interesting elements simply being blocked completely (hippo / parrot and some of the boxes that were to make up the pirate ship), more annoyingly, the toy dagger resting on the floor appears to be held by the middle character (fig. 5.). I could maybe drop the character on the page a little to prevent this, but it highlights that I need to consider positioning and scene setting to some extent at least, especially as unlike a theatrical production, there is only one audience viewpoint. I also had to swap the character and cat on the bed and flip them horizontally as the middle boy was blocking too much of him and the crisps he is eating – thus losing all the narrative of this part.

My other issue came with adding outlines to the characters or not. It felt like they were getting too lost in the background, especially as I chose a common palette for the entire picture. I realised that further emphasis of tone and highlights was required to make them stand from the other layers a little.

One final area I am still not entirely pleased with is the rainy window. I feel it is still too realistic in relation to the rest of the scene, both in terms of the colour and the representation of the drops on the window. I decided to blur this similar to the techniques seen in Gravity Falls and The 7D. This is something I definitely need to practice to get the balance right.

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Fig. 9. Realism is not always a good thing!

Overall though, I am happy with experimentation and coming together of key elements I have studies over the recent months…


Fig. 1. John Berger, Ways of Seeing, ep. 1, 1972, viewed 30 December, <https://rcjdesignblog.wordpress.com/2015/12/09/nostalgia-hunters-in-the-snow-and-ways-of-seeing/&gt;

Figs. 2-9. Artist’s own work

Polson, T. (2013) The Noble Approach, San Francisco: Chronicle Books


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