For Unit X, I focused on creating a project that targeted my ideal audience within the UK and one that explored the field of publishing within Young Adult fiction. In the style of anniversary editions or re-releases of books like The Folio Society, I chose the classic piece of literature, The Secret Garden (1911), to re-imagine for a new audience. Responding to this, I created my first full animation, developing my skills in After Effects through collaboration, as well as using the same illustrations to create a mock-up chapter illustrations and book jacket. I did this to extend my skills within applied illustration and design, aware of the increased importance of online engagement, digital audiences, and how this may affect publishing and advertising.
Research and Inspiration
13/03/20 - To begin my project I picked two Young Adult novels set in Britain, The Secret Garden (1911) by Frances Hodgson Burnett, and The Scarecrows (1981) by Robert Westall. They both explore themes similar to my previous project on The Owl Service (1967) by Alan Garner including mystery, magic, rural countrysides, and the power of nature. I was inspired by Clive Hick Jenkins' and Jonny Hannah's paper theatres and work inspired by flatback ceramics.
The Secret Garden Initial Ideas
Continuing The Secret Garden
20/03/20 - At this point I decided to only focus on The Secret Garden as I liked its lighter tone and visual motifs. Using collage, I wanted to introduce more colour as it suited the uplifting story and the vibrancy of nature. For a book jacket design, I would have to think carefully about the background and text, as this design seems too empty.
Paper Theatre Plans
20/03/20 - I decided to try one of my ideas as a paper theatre. At this point I was contemplating how to present the children. I considered the nursery rhyme 'Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary', inspired by the book's working title 'Mistress Mary', by incorporating its imagery. I also played with the idea of them appearing as flowers, or wearing flower-like clothing to convey the metaphor. I also knew I wanted to focus on the relationship between Mary and Colin. After feedback I realised that I was drawing both characters too young for the age of ten, so I knew that more character design had to be done.
Older Mary and More Paper Experiments
27/03/20 - I revised how I drew Mary, finding the balance between young and mature to suit her personality and age. Through more feedback I was challenged to think past traditional 20th century era clothing, and make her more contemporary for newer audiences. I also tried a paper card experiment to present the discovering of the garden, depicting the transition in the story through motion.
Rather than continuing to make physical paper theatres, I became more drawn to the idea of creating animations in After Effects, by creating movement with swaying collage elements. Since the final exhibition would be online, animation felt best suited to the platform.
Animation Storyboards and Test
27/03/20 - I made a storyboard to plan the animation which would include a series of the flatback inspired collages. Inspired by the paper theatres, the 'camera' will progress further inside the layered images to tell a shortened version of the story. I will use the puppet tool in After Effects to make these elements sway to add more movement.
Using the collage that I made closer to the beginning of this project, and elements from my last animation, I created a test to show how the 'camera' would move throughout.
Above is an example of how this kind of illustration/animation could be used, specifically seen between 23:55 - 24:18 in the video.
03/04/20 - I created a full animatic for the animation. The elements were still mock-ups where I still wanted to improve the character design and do more observational drawings for the plants. However, making the animatic helped me to know what collages I need to create for the final animation, what order they will appear in, and how the pacing will work.
Whilst making the animatic I tried an alternative look for Mary, replacing her cape with a cardigan/jacket and changing her hairstyle. This feels like a step towards a more contemporary Mary.
07/04/20 - In Photoshop, I took screenshots of the animatic and tried different colour grading and filters to see how I could incorporate colour. For the final animation, I will focus on creating the colour from the collages as digital colouring lacked texture.
I looked at inspiration for existing 'secret' gardens, including Hare Hill, to see how a secret garden may look. I also made colour swatches for the final collages. I wanted a natural colour palette, but without being too literal, as I wanted to express the atmosphere and magic, so I included the light blue to highlight the brown. I tried both white and brown paper and found that, although the white paper has a better contrast with the dark background, the brown was softer to work with the pencils and warmer in tone.
I tried one of the collages in full colour to see if it would work, which I think it does well, however the design itself still needs developing, especially the wilting flower where I plan to do some more visual research. Through experimenting, I became conscious of my limited amount of materials, where I haven't been able to try as many colours/papers as I would have liked, to ensure I have enough to make the final animation.
10/04/20 - I continued the week developing one of the early scenes in the animation, to eventually test in After Effects. I developed Mary further, returning to longer hair as I felt it matured her. The most important development to this scene was the roses as I used some references to research how to draw them accurately and convincingly.
With this final design I created a full colour version including motion in the falling petals. I want to use this technique throughout the animation, with smaller elements moving across the screen.
Creating the Final Collages
04/05/20 - This week my focus was on developing the animatic designs into full colour collages for the final animation. Based on my final artwork for the flowerbed scene, I worked to make Mary's design consistent, as well as developing the design of the flowers and trees to look more realistic and detailed.
08/05/20 - I replaced each element in the animatic with the full colour versions, whilst adjusting timings and placements for the new shapes. I used the puppet tool to begin adding movement and swaying to the pieces, as well as more complex animations of petals and leaves falling.
13/05/20 - Whilst creating the final animation I used the same collages and font to create a full dust jacket in Indesign to link with the animation, including flaps that would hold it in place for a hardback edition. By using the same font I wanted to create a clear link between the jacket and the animation, to emulate the animation being an advertisement for this new edition of the book.