Specialist Project: Reflection

Selective Mutism Project

For a part of my Specialist Project, I briefed myself to produce illustration about Selective Mutism, a severe social anxiety disorder I care about bringing awareness to as a mostly recovered Selective Mute myself. Growing up, there was little to no awareness of it which left me feeling isolated, that I didn’t fit in and like I wasn’t normal. I know from my research that others feel this way, so I want to use illustration to bring comfort to some of them; knowing that you aren’t suffering alone in suffering. This would have made a massive difference to my life if it existed at the time. But as covered here, much of the illustration that exists about SM lacks. It’s not inspiring. Digging out my old therapy files, I found some shocking illustration attempts for organisations like the NHS. It could be a project to work on in future-to re-illustrate these NHS documents. This project could grow for not only medical paths but in exquisitely made books for parents of SM sufferers and the SM sufferers themselves. I could also see it comforting adult SM sufferers who don’t get much attention; there is a misconception that only children suffer it.

It was interesting to go back (images above) and find things I wrote when my Selective Mutism was at its worse. It really got me thinking about the journey to getting better, the narrative in that, and reaffirmed how even then I was wanting to raise awareness and now I have a way that I can.

I created Pinterest boards here which included a range of starting points–quotes on mutes or quiet people, illustration inspiration, ideas on composition, colour, etc.

FOR BLOG - SM colour pallette

Limited colour palette – contemporary

For one of my principles, I wanted to limit my colour palette and use a lot of blue and grey tones to nod to the non-existence of the Mute whose voice isn’t heard, whilst using a popping pink that complimented the more muted tones. I wanted the colour to be contemporary and a fit for publications like Nobrow Press; gorgeous when exquisitely printed. I also experimented with and built on my texture bank to bring a hand touch to work that could otherwise come across too digital. I discussed the importance of texture giving illustration more value and making it more cherishable and collectible here.

Textures from my texture bank.

I use texture to give my illustrations the characteristics of Patina– fading, toning and other signs of age which are felt to be natural. Not only does this add depth to the illustration, but it gives it that desirable hand touch quality; we prefer when we go and see a piece of art in person than have a reproduction printed on a postcard, or when you get little personal touches like a finger print on the back of a print. The artist’s touch. We seem to prefer things like this which are cherishable and collectible. Prints we want to display on our walls and keep forever. It’s like when people sand blast brand new guitars to give it the effect of being aged and well-loved. Or when Apple uses Skeumorphism to design its apps, drawing on the retro and familiar which helped its products become prominent. I built on my texture bank and experimented with brushes in Photoshop to try to find these qualities to add to my illustrations, using the most successful ones to draw my characters and add in little details.


Experimenting with brushes in Photoshop to find tactile marks that bring a personal touch.
In history, people who suffered mental illnesses were thought to be possessed by demons and spirits.

While I went deep into the history of mental illness, I also looked at how contemporary illustrators have approached mental illnesses. Gemma Correll illustrates anxiety in a way that is humorous and sensitive which I found inspiring as this is the tone I’m aspiring for in my own studio practice. With mental illness still facing a lot of stigma today, it’s important to represent it in an understanding and relatable light. I like how she portrays these things through image, avoids the obvious clichés and how they’re playfully illustrated.  Looking at existing mental illness illustration also helped me avoid visual clichés.


I focused on illustrators who are relevant today like Blexbolex, who use texture in their work and how they do it. I think it’s successful and adds a level of sophistication. I also liked how Blexbolex uses text and image together in an interesting way. It lead me to decide to detract all words from my illustration, such as on the school posters, signs, and so on to reflect the world of the mute. If I was to illustrate the recovery of the mute, I would gradually add word to the image. It’s something to build on. Edward Hopper is someone else I looked to inspiration for because he paints isolation so effectively. I was inspired to try to incorporate this kind of composition in my work with the mute whose back faces the audience, so we don’t see the face, trying to make the fingers and posture echo this, but using space in the composition as well to add to the illusion.

Edward Hopper paints isolation

I also took inspiration from immersing myself in concertinas and chronological narratives, the most famous the Bayeux Tapestry. This helped me figure out ways to transition between narrative points and be more creative about it as I found it easy to fall into the rut of doing the same thing over and over. I had to go away and come back with a fresh approach, switch project or look at some inspiring work when I hit a creative wall.

My aim initially was to illustrate the perspective of the mute on one side of the concertina and the perspective of the non-mute on the other side, but as my Lisbon project grew far bigger than I expected, I decided it would be more realistic given the timescale to combine the two.

I began by drawing my ideas digitally, adding printed texture (playing around with the contrast and opacity made for different results) to their clothes to suggest fabric and wear, and then improving on them before bringing them into the main composition. I looked at existing concertinas, how to transition from narrative point to narrative point inventively. I added smaller details digitally with graphics tablet to bring the piece together, consulting reference material and asking peers’ and Nicholas’s advice when I got stuck. I took on board his suggestions and we both felt that ending the recovery of a mute too quickly would be insensitive so the illustration evolved to be about the misunderstanding of the mute instead. I went away at points of hitting a wall of despair, but with time and feedback from peers and tutors came back with refresh ideas.


Experimenting with texture.


My first attempts, trial and error to get the expression, is this making sense, are they showing what they feel, does it read, does the mute look mute and how do we know it’s the mute. I consulted friends to ask their opinion and the popular consensus was that they could understand the narrative, but because they have insight into it through me we guinea-pigged it on a non-art student and took on feedback to add more clarity. I’ve thought of using text to do this.

I picked a neutral and calm colour palette to suggest the inner-calm of the mute. I used my graphic novel project as a practice run to show mutes visually through image. As I went, I adjusted colours to compliment better, arranged, rearranged, added distortion, textured layered in, details drawn in with graphics tablet.

I consulted my sketchbook for ideas, as well as reference material on how to differentiate other characters from the mute. I decided it could end with the Mute meeting other mutes, realising other mutes are out there – a hint of hope. I didn’t want to rush through to show the recovery of the mute as not everyone recovers at the same pace and it might make the journey look too easy which could offend and dishearten my audience. I could see myself finding work with organisations like the NHS, illustrating information packs and documents, awareness promotional material, books for parents and their children affected by Selective Mutism. In fact, my sister works for the NHS at one hospital creating media and graphics designs and she wants a pack of business cards that she can share around with her department and is going to suggest that they use me the next time they need illustration; they usually ask her and she’s not an illustrator.


There is more I’d like to do to this illustration as I was perhaps too ambitious with my Lisbon project which grew, evolved and took on a new life. It kind of took me away from this one despite trying to juggle both. I’d like to go in before the show and add more narrative points and details to make it less sparse and more impactful. I think this can be achieved by improving on the ending. I’m going to ask Nicholas advice to achieve this.

To make it more sophisticated, I plan to spend more time with it. I enjoyed illustrating something I care about and I enjoyed the way I drew them–playful and appealing. I found that the personal experience helped and motivated me to want to do the very best job I could and I could bring a personal touch.  I also feel that it went some way to helping me improve on defining what my style is.  There are a few teething problems I’d like to work out before I’m totally happy with it such as narrative points and I’d like to expand the narrative to be more substantial. I challenged myself as narrative isn’t always my strong point but I feel I’ve learned and grown a lot and am more confident about tackling it. My Lisbon project fed into it and this fed into my Lisbon project, informing and improving each other. There’s room to grow into more exciting and ambitious projects that will hopefully bring my work some attention and doing something I care and am passionate about. I  bring my personal touch and insight which is sometimes lacking sometimes when people make mute illustrations who aren’t direct sufferers.

Lisbon Project

After being inspired by a recent trip to Lisbon, I started out by wanting to make a zine and a visual itinerary as a tiny aspect of the module, but after liking the results of my initial playing, I decided to push it further and through experimentation created a Cityscape. I showed the results to peers and tutors and was pleasantly surprised by how much they liked the them and thought it had legs to become a much bigger project centred on Lisbon’s famous route 28 tram journey.


My limited Lisbon inspired colour palette – a hint of retromania combined with texture to add an aged feel; Lisbon is one of the oldest cities in the world.

Lisbon’s famous Tram 28 tour inspires this illustration. Tram 28 is a tram journey where vintage yellow trams cross through the city past many of Lisbon’s best attractions. There is antiquity in every corner as one of the world’s oldest cities. The street art, the azuelos that decorate the buildings, the fado, the warmth of the people—it’s unsurprising that Lisbon is an up and coming centre for creatives. Inspired by a recent trip to the country, this illustration is a celebration of that route and the rich culture of Lisbon.

My write-up of the project

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Experimenting with character design, colours without using black line, layering texture in to add a depth to them, using interesting Photoshop brushes for things such as hair to break up the flat colour and add visual interest.


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Some close-ups – people in windows, people queuing for the tram trip, squabbles arguing over a traffic jam, kissing in windows, cat in the window, leg in the window, a woman trying to pry her child on (made the mothers I know laugh), dogs, tourts with maps, seabirds, couple laughing a selfie, people on roofs, sunbathers, people reading, people glued to their smartphones indoors when they could be out enjoying Lisbon, swimmers, and so on. I tried to make it multicultural and inclusive – different races, sexualities (we saw couples holding hands regardless of gender when we were in Lisbon, and we were there on Woman’s Day; I was surprised by the warmth we received. I got lots of random hugs from Lisbon women in the street), and so on, to show that Lisbon is the place to be.

I documented my development of the illustration here, here, here and here.

I’m pleased with this illustration and the impact it’s had on people. When you look too long at something, you can become disillusioned with it. But seeing it through peers’, tutors and friends’ eyes who I’ve guinea-pigged it on has inspired me to continue with it. If I keep adding more narrative points, more characters, improve on existing ones (such as having the child in the queue wandering as Neil suggested), and so on, then it can only add to the wow factor. I hope to do this before the final show. I’d like to add people I know and more little easter eggs like the random leg in the window to increase the fun. Hopefully it will be a hit at the degree show.

It’s definitely best appreciated scaled up, when you can zoom in on the detail. I’ve included some close-ups to get a better sense of it and there is a close up in my physical portfolio as well as on my website (tinapearce.net).

As mentioned in the previous Lisbon post, I’ve also thought about turning this into a series (I’m not going to run out of cities).  The Keeping London moving – Transport for London prize came to mind. There was the #LondonIsOpen campaign launched by the Mayor, Sadiq Khan to show London is united and open to the world following the EU referendum. I could do cityscapes of London, Hereford…the possibilities are endless. Similarly there might be campaigns happening for other cities.  My illustration could also appeal to art directors looking to commission tourist promotional material such as posters, travel guides, flyers and the exquisite books you find in museum shops. I used this illustration for notebooks for my own introductory media and this worked quite well. I could also see myself crossing over into illustrated maps as they’re quite similar and I feel my illustration style would lend itself to them.

Introductory Media

  • Website
  • Plain Text CV
  • Creative CV
  • Cover letter
  • Business Cards
  • Postcards
  • A6 notebooks
  • Bookmarks
  • Prints
  • Concertinas
  • Stickers
Examples of successful media

For the introductory media I brought out the business cards I gathered at last year’s summer show and noted down my favourite elements from each. My favourites were cards I’d not only pick up but want to keep and cherish. I scrutinised them quite close, trying to decide what was making them successfulcontemporary colours, playful illustrations, a personal touch, composition, quality materials.


6 postcard designs including the above

For my introductory media I had several ideas, but narrowed it down to business cards, postcards, stickers, concertina prints, printed illustrations, A6 notebooks and bookmarks. I felt that these made sense with my illustrations. As I like my work to be tacticle, have a hand touch, and I like using contemporary colours and textures, I wanted the pieces to  reflect my studio practice and say something about the kind of illustrator I’d like to find work as.




I gathered business card examples I was drawn to and took notice of aspects to aspire toward and avoid.

After lots of research and debating, I opted for Moo Minicards for my business card designs as I felt they’d lend themselves well to the way I like to illustrate. For example, my Blacksmith chronological narrative of a ship and my current Selective Mutism project which are long widthwise, but narrow, heightwise. I also felt that they would stand out amongst all the rounded corners fans. As well as that, they’re cheaper and you can get the better quality paper (I opted for the quality luxe 600gsm paper-extra-thick, Superfine Mohawk paper with an uncoated, textured finish with an ocean blue seam to make them pop) with and twice as many for around the same price as the standard business cards.


My business card designs

The moo sample pack got me thinking about ways to package up my promo material. I mocked up a sticker pack using scraps of a test piece from when the tech dem helped me print my illustration on quality paper. I placed them in clear bags and then stapled the top of the illustrated card to enclose it. I’d like to add typography with more time and put my contact details on the back.


My sticker designs from Moo. I wasn’t going to buy stickers, but upon seeing Moo’s suggestion and preview to buy stickers, I felt that the designs lent themselves to sticker. My housemates who passed my print outs of the stickers were drawn to them and had good things to say.

I’m keen to present my work in a creative way. I quite liked the pack that my Moo samples arrived in and had I had the money and time to create it, I would have fashioned something similar to hold all my promo material in. It’s something to aim for in the near future. I would have liked to present my media in a presentation box like that the Moo sample pack comes in, but both time and money restraints (I’d already spent a couple of hundred on media) were against me. If we’d had more time, I feel I could have afforded to be more thoughtful with my designs and presentation, as I felt I rushed a bit to meet the deadline. But upon arrival my stickers, postcards and business cards from Moo were lush with no issues. I was excited to open the box. I’ve already come up with new business card ideas that I plan to have printed in addition to the ones that already came.


For the creative CV, I scoured the internet for ideas and decided to create a neat but playful  (I’m no Max, but I don’t want to be too serious either) creative CV with spot illustrations and digitally draw in the underlines, imperfect details and layered in  printed texture to add some depth and richness. Disappointingly the printer in the IT room refused to print the texture so the impact of it is lost. We asked the tech dem about it and apparently it’s because the printer caters more to heavy graphics work with saturated colour. I tried to use contemporary colour which complimented my work and personality.

Illustrated CV.jpg

I like the idea of presenting my CV and cover letter in natural, brown envelopes. On reflection, I’d like to go in and hand draw the font.



As I grew up around computers, being from a technical family, I decided to draw on my website skills to make my own website. Not only is this saving me money because the pay monthly website builders can be quite expensive, but it stands out and I have complete control over the page to adapt however I’d like in future. You can access the website at tinapearce.net.

Packaging ideas – I wandered around Hobbycraft for inspiration and innovative ideas to package things, and thought back to illustration fairs I’d been to and how they’d presented their work. I then mocked up a sticker pack. I wanted the packaging to be simple and effective (in the case of the sticker pack, placed in a bag with the illustration speaking for itself, but my logo and identity on the strip of card stapled to the bag, keeping it all together.

I displayed my media in a brown A4 box and folder which had a natural and friendly feel about them. I’d like to lino print my logo on these with time.

I’m pleased with the printed results as I feel they successfully show off my skills and techniques, the contact details are clear, the print is exquisite and feels like quality, and as discovered through showing peers and friends, the products stand out and draw interest from those passing which will hopefully work well for our illustration shop at our degree show. The only thing I would do differently is incorporate typography as part of the main design to make the designs more complete.

The first bits of introductory media arrived.

Specialist Project: Lisbon #4

Last time I talked about being surprised by the direction my Lisbon project was taking and how I was going to take on board peer and tutor feedback to build on my project. I’ve been working on lino printing tactile textures, drawing in points of narrative with my graphics tablet and taking breaks to dig deeper into the culture and history of Lisbon in order to bring some context and richness to the illustration. I didn’t want to only add characters for the sake of it; I wanted to draw on my memories and primary research of being there, plucking things I saw and adding things from history and culture such as using Lisbon’s jacaranda trees which blossom in May which is when we were there, seabirds that are found there and adding their favourite tuna fish to the water. I was keen to use texture and retro shades of colour to give the illustration an aged, ‘lived in’ feel as Lisbon is one of the world’s oldest cities. While doing this, I wanted to include modern points of interest like the famous street art. Lisbon is rich in history and culture and a little contradictory in that it’s both ancient and modern.

Lisbon’s famous Tram 28 tour inspires this illustration. Tram 28 is a tram journey where vintage yellow trams cross through the city past many of Lisbon’s best attractions. There is antiquity in every corner as one of the world’s oldest cities. The street art, the azuelos that decorate the buildings, the fado, the warmth of the people—it’s unsurprising that Lisbon is an up and coming centre for creatives. Inspired by a recent trip to the country, this illustration is a celebration of that route and the rich culture of Lisbon.

capa-programaIllustration by Joao Fazenda

I played with the perspective of the buildings with perspective methods such as linear perspective, horizon line and vanishing point but felt that they looked best the way I already had them. When I was adding  narrative detail, I hit a wall in terms of how to draw my characters and have them keep unity throughout as well as making them expressive, but I remember being struck by Lisbon illustrator João Fazenda’s drawings when we visited him in Lisbon so I decided to immerse myself in his work for ideas. He is able to use a limited number of strokes to achieve expressive and interesting characters in his work and it helped me to stop overcomplicating my drawings by stripping down and simplifying more. The limited number of colours I had to use and not being able to use black line also forced me to be creative in thinking up solutions to draw them, but it also helped because I had  set of principles to stick to which narrowed down the options and kept everything feeling consistent. Throughout I consulted reference material of Lisbon and got friends to pull expressions which I could photograph in order to work from to retain authenticity to the piece.

Texture bank textures

Through experimentation, I found that setting the layer type to exclusion in Photoshop over some of my printed textures produced the best results, adding a hand-rendered quality which I could make more subtle with the opacity turned down to about 27%. I used the displace tool to make the outer edges of elements less flat and computerised, appropriating the appearance of being more analogue. This helped these elements to feel like they belonged more to the illustration and added to the retro feel I was striving for.

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Someone else I looked at who was influential was Clover Robin who, along with my dissertation, inspired me to chase hand-rendered qualities within my work by scanning them in or finding ways to make digital work take on those qualities. Using a graphics tablet was also for this reason, but also me trying to strive for charm.

At this point I hit another wall and shared by work with Nicholas for feedback. He agreed that it definitely needed printing large to do it justice which was what I was aiming for and fed me back some improvements regarding which areas were looking a bit bare and could use more narrative and points of interest, and various other things like a floating tree which I missed from looking at it too long. He also thought it was a good idea to see the tram track in order to get a sense of it going up and down. I used the shift key with the brush tool to draw the straight lines. Originally I had them more curvy, but we agreed that straight lines suited the asymmetrical route. Learning this tool saved me so much time.


I worked over the next few days to cram in as much detail as I could (Nicholas suggested adding the odd face in windows, pot plants, seabirds on rooftop, etc). I could (and did) work on one area all day and when I zoomed out it wouldn’t look much to show for, but gradually, day after day, it was building up and the persistence was paying off. I kept looking at it from afar and close up, trying to fill in the gaps, paying attention to the overall composition but we agreed that I could have kept going forever if I wanted. The more I added, the more wow factor. I had to draw the line somewhere in order to give time to my Mutism project and introductory media.  I intend to go back even after the deadline and add more things. The more narrative I add, the more the wow factor.

I’ve also thought about doing more cities as I’m not going to run out of them. This could turn into a series. Maybe Hereford next. The Keeping London moving – Transport for London prize comes to mind. There was the #LondonIsOpen campaign launched by the Mayor, Sadiq Khan to show London is united and open to the world following the EU referendum. I could make do a London cityscape. Similarly there might be capaigns happening for other cities. It occurred to us that the illustrations looked like cityscapes and we looked up examples of successful ones. These illustrations could suit not only Cityscapess, but I could find work in tourist promotional material such as posters and the books you find in museum shops.



Protected: Major Project: Selective Mutism #3

I’ve been experimenting in Photoshop and Illustrator workshops, and in my own time with texture, different tools and methods to add hand touch to my illustrations, particularly this Selective Mutism project as I want it to have a feel of relatability to it that I believe texture can bring. It gives a depth and tactility to the work.

Illustration seems to have woven itself into the fabric of everyday life; it comes in various styles and genres and is everywhere we look. From lifestyle magazines, posters, advertisements, editorial illustration in newspapers and supermarket shelf packaging, to static and moving images (animated gifs) accompanying web articles, exquisitely crafted children’s books, zines, highbrow magazines and book publications such as those by Anorak Magazine, Nobrow Press and The Folio Society. These publications kick against cheap and cheerful magazine stands and purely digital or photographic work, offering an alternative. Through illustration, we can have a nostalgic foot in the past and imagine the futuristic and innovative.

Illustration is able to have an authentic feel about it. The idea of art or illustration having an “Aura”, in the way we think of historical works of art having an Aura, stems from their uniqueness. Their inability to be reproduced. John Berger, in his Ways of Seeing television series, uses Sandro Botticelli’s Venus and Mars as an example to discuss the way the ability to reproduce images has impacted how we see them: before the invention of cameras, we could only view an artwork by visiting it and viewing it within the room it hung, whereas now its image or reproductions of it can be viewed in a million different places at once, from postcards printed for sale in museum shops to a simple Google search. Walter Benjamin discussing the concept of “Aura” in his essay, The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, said “even the most perfect reproduction of a work of art is lacking in one element: Its presence in time and space, its unique existence at the place where it happens to be.” By this, Benjamin means that, despite the similarities of a copy to the original artwork, they are missing a key ingredient: the Aura. We may hang an exact copy of an original work in our homes and it may be reproduced to an exceptionally high standard, even to such quality as to be able to fool the staunchest art critics, but it lacks the Aura only capable in the original. A quality only it can possess or “its presence in time and space.” This implies that the value of a work comes from its exclusivity. I don’t know if I believe in Aura, but I believe we can do things to make our illustrations unique and exclusive. I believe we can do this by having human touch in our digital work so the artist doesn’t cease to be relevant. More than ever we’re seeking the tactile familiarity of physical books and the more tangible quality of “hand-made” aesthetics which play on sentimental values and nostalgia. Illustration is harking back to traditional aesthetics. Although this isn’t a new concept as we have always plundered the past for aesthetics to some degree. I’m looking into things like Patina, Skeuomorphism, mezzotint and letterpress inspired textures to try to borrow from qualities and aesthetics from the past to bring more value to my illustrations and make them more cherishable and printable, rather than have them get lost as a piece of digital data online.

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Afrer immersing myself in graphic novels (I looked at ones such as Summer Blonde and Jane, The Fox and Me which tell you a lot through colour, are character driven, slower, and real and true), borrowing my housemates’ graphic novels, taking books out of the library and immersing myself in the genre,  I started to storyboard a mute getting locked in an art cupboard. It depicts the perspective of the Mute verses the perspective of the outsider. I found that I spent too much time on it and hit a bit of a dead end with it, although I want to go back and tackle it again. It wasn’t a waste of time; it was a useful practice in portraying mutes in image and I learned about texture and storytelling visually which I carried into my main chronological narrative/concertina piece.

From Nobrow. Through this research I discovered Jon McNaught who has become one of my favourites and who I’ve learned a lot about pacing and illustrating fractions of moments from.


Compacting a complicated narrative like the story of a Selective Mute didn’t seem to fit that format, but when I started to illustrate as I’d done my blacksmith project, as a long chronological narrative it all started to fall into place. The format lends itself better and I enjoy working that way more.

My unedited notes as I was determining a “script” :

  • Mute walking along with mom, holding hand.
  • Mother dragging child to school – like dragging dog – humour.
  • Mom trying to coax mute to play with other nursery kids
  • Sitting alone in contrast to other kids.
  • Home time chattering away.
  • Slightly older but isolated in playground
  • Is punished for a perceived lack of effort (when really the mute couldn’t put up their hand to ask for help and that’s why they fell behind) by getting made to do times tables in front of everyone. A mute’s worst nightmare.
  • Teenage years show isolation. not feeling normal or fitting in. misinterpreted and bullied.
  • On roof looking down at kids – isolated in outskirts of composition?
  • Graduate school and show hopelessness. Anxiety to join college?
  • Locked away in room, not seeing sun.
  • Thoughts of despair.
  • Tentatively venturing out.
  • Almost being sick in bin. Awkward first steps.
  • Therapy – moment of hope. Feeling the fear and doing it anyway.
  • Gradually integrating into society.
  • Ending? Show speech? Finding a place? or show that it’s still an ongoing process.
  • GRADUALLY INTRODUCE WORDS – like BALLAD by Blexbolex- put words into signs, subtract words?

This felt too biographical at times, so I decided to simplify the story to show the misunderstanding of the mute. Beyond offering a hint of hopefulness at the end, I didn’t want to resolve the narrative as the Mute getting better because the illustration wouldn’t feel long enough to do it justice and not come across like I was cheapening the effort it takes to actually break Selective Mutism. It felt more sensitive to portray relatable situations, as if to say ‘you’re not the only one going through this, you’re not on your own’, and have the ending as offering a glimmer of hope. Something I wish existed when I’d grown up with SM and there was no awareness of it.

My digital drawing of a mom dragging a reluctant mute to school. Experimenting with expression.

For character design, I wanted the audience (especially fellow mutes) to feel like they knew the character in order to care. It was important they were relatable so I thought I’d achieve this by putting them in relatable scenarios that Mutes have all had to endure at times as well as drawing on physical qualities by drawing a playful, likeable character to make them appealing. Adding humour also makes it made it more relatable and lent itself to the ridiculousness of some situations a Mute gets into. I was also keen to hide the mute’s face a lot to show the lack of identity you have as a Mute person.


I decided to have all the characters except the Mute having a mouth and added a blush to the mute not only to distinguish her from the others, but because it helped express that she was uncomfortable.

I took Neil’s advice to start with a cliché, simple, and complicate their situation. So: shy person, shoved into situations where it’s not easy to be shy in our modern-day society, such as going to school, work, etc. I outlined what was going to happen, roughing a sort of script and then simplifying and condensing it to see if it would work in the grand scheme of things. Where should plot points go? Beginning, middle, end? The characters, how they interact, and how do plot a and plot b interact?


Birchfield Close by Jon McNaught

Another reason I liked McNaught’s illustration (I was compelled to buy Birchfield Close) is that it manages to evoke feelings of wilderness, stillness, quiet and people living isolated which lends itself well to the life of a Mute where you’re there, but cut off, existing inside your own head, often lonely.


Selective Mutism illustration

Specialist Project: Lisbon #3

In my previous post, I’d attempted to push my Lisbon itinerary further and was happy with the results, but still felt it was lacking wow factor. Because of this I decided to refresh my memory about illustrators such as Rob Ryan who suddenly became a lot more appealing and started to sell more when he made his cut outs miniature. Giving it wow factor.


This, as well as being inspired by walks through cobbled, steep roads and mismatched buildings in Lisbon, lead me to thinking that rather than make my work minature, I should go the opposite route and pack in as many varying buildings, points of visual interest and narrative as I could to try and achieve wow factor.

I went away and came back to it and found it much more impactful than the previous version so I started to add the details to the illustration–windows, doors, etc–with varying black line, but I quickly decided that the black was distracting from the illustration rather than adding to it, so I started the details over using the blue, red, yellow and white palette I already had, being mindful of which colours complimented each other when putting them side by side. This seemed to be much more effective. I also realised that it had taken on a new life; it was no longer an itinerary but had possibilities to become something else. I then showed what I had so far to peers to get their opinions and took it into college for a tutorial. We talked about the famous number 28 tram line in Lisbon which takes you through the city and Neil suggested that it could grow into being the narrative journey of that, with how I have the road winding already. Add people queing up at the bottom, standing on the roofs, sipping drinks, sunbathing, have the road disappearing more and winding between buildings, etc., Little points of narrative interest. We discussed how it could be scaleable-uppable and this would also add wow factor. I’m taking the suggestions on board and working at adding them.


Specialist Project: Lisbon #2

I had some feedback from Nicholas who said the colour scheme was what he imagined would fit Lisbon and I was satisfied with the final result of my first version, but it wasn’t wowing me. I felt I could push it further. I went in with tweaks, adjusting letterpress-inspired textures I printed for my texture bank, to give a sense of depth and age, resized the details to be more flattering, tweaking the composition and heriarchy of the image until I found it pleasing to the eye, playing with the opacity to give a sense of overlap for visual interest, extracting and contracting elements and sitting back to look at it. I borrowed from the shapes of Lisbon archetecture now I had a better sense of the city, having been there first hand.


Overall, the changes improved the image, but I still felt that it was lacking wow factor. I’m brainstorming ideas of where to take it next.


Specialist Project: Lisbon

I thought I’d make use of my three days in Lisbon, make use of the heaps of visual inspiration it would provide and get a mini project out of my time there which would result in one or two illustrative outcomes. While I was undertaking my research for the itinerary, I thought I’d start by creating a sort of visual itinerary as it injected some fun into the process and made me really take note of/be able to visualise things to look out for. I started it prior to leaving and added to it after getting home, where it evolved with all the gained visuals and insight I came back armed with.

Colour was particularly important for this project. I knew I needed the colours to “feel” like Lisbon. Lisbon is famous  for its “visual feast of sorbet colours” as well as its quintessentially Portuguese tiles (or Azulejos) which are used all over the city indiscriminately in various colours and patterns. I wanted to include pattern from the tiles in my design to reflect Lisbon. You really get a sense of this as you walk around the cobbled streets. The lush image below had a big impact on the limited colour palette I arrived at.


I was interested with negative space and playing with composition to bring weight and balance to the piece. The arrangement of elements, purpose with composition, scale, depth and hierarchy of the image making process was important so I spent time playing with these, going away and coming back, consulting reference material I’d taken and that existed online. I took a lot of screenshots to document the process.

To steer away from it being too flat and digitally rendered, I scanned in and incorporated playful hand rendered elements – doors, windows, etc. and tried to use a font that was sympathetic to the design, although I don’t think it was very successful so when I push the design further, I will improve this to find something that feels like it belongs to the illustration more. I made a stamp inspired by Lisbon tiles for the border, to add some detail to the border and bring balance to the image as a whole with the black I used.

My artist inspirations for this project were Clover Robin who takes a craft-based approach to illustration, making vibrant prints and collages (I really like the way she works and decided to use that way, scanning in my elements and playing with them in Photoshop in the way she moves bits around and plays with the picture, building and layering it up. A lot of wonderful accidents resulted), Louise Lockhart (who runs The Printed Peanut and whose designs got me thinking about promotional material and that I wanted to illustrate something that could be marketable like that and could be applied to various products such as toys, games, clothes, accessories and bits for the home home)  and João Fazenda, who we visited in Lisbon illustrator during our stay. Turning the pages of his beautiful picture and drawing books influenced me to include more playful, quirky and loose elements and line within my work to make it more personable and engaging. Particularly the varying line quality and overprint that helps to lead the eye and draw attention to important visual narrative.


As well as this, I decided to conduct some primary research on location that would tie into my Selective Mutism project: noting down in my Apple note app every time I felt mute throughout the journey in hopes of finding some situations and points of narrative to illustrate. I realised I was getting bogged down in too many narrative projects at the same time so I haven’t done anything with it, although it’s got me thinking about making a zine for a change of scenery, something I could do with less thought, and it would double as something to sell in the shop at the illlustration show.