Phoebe Ingram - The Secret Garden IWA 16026635 Unit X


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.

Inspiration - Clive Hicks Jenkins, Jonny Hannah and Flatback Little Red Riding Hood Ceramic.

The Secret Garden Initial Ideas

Sketchbook - Initial Ideas for The Secret Garden (click to view larger).

My research into The Secret Garden focused on the symbolism of nature, nurturing, and how the children in the novel, Mary and Colin, learn and grow alongside the garden. I made some design ideas for book covers, patterns and paper cut outs inspired by the novel.

Mock up for a MDF laser -cut model.

Similar to the collage I made for The Owl Service, I made one for The Secret Garden to see how this style suit it. I also made mock ups for possible laser-cut 3D models.

The Scarecrows

Sketchbook - Initial Ideas for The Scarecrows.
A collage experiment for a book cover.

13/03/20 - I responded to The Scarecrows by reacting to the symbolism of the scarecrows that haunt the 13 year old protagonist, Simon, from his cottage on the turnip field. This book had a much darker tone than The Secret Garden but the visual responses and motifs in the book were more limiting.

Mock up for a MDF laser -cut model.

Continuing The Secret Garden

Plan and cover design test for The Secret Garden.
Book cover mock ups and colour tests in Photoshop.

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

Sketchbook - theatre plans and character design.

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.

Paper theatre maquette.
Scans of maquette layers.

Older Mary and More Paper Experiments

Sketchbook - character design for Mary.
Sketchbook - paper card mock ups.

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.

The paper maquette for the card/model idea.
Scans of the maquette pieces.

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

Sketchbook - animation storyboard.

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.

Incorporating Colour

Photoshop colour experiments.

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.

Sketchbook - colour tests.

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.

Colour and material experiment.

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.

Colour scheme inspiration (Clive Hicks-Jenkins, Laura Carlin and Clover Robin)

Image Developments

Sketchbook - developing collages.

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

Sketchbook - developing 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.

Final Collages for animation.

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.

Redone collage.
Screenshot of animating Mary and the robin.

Whilst I was animating I realised that there wasn't much movement to one of the collages, so I decided to redo it with separate parts to allow her arm and the robin to move, this way creating the affect of her petting the robin.

Additional pieces.
Old and new title screen.

12/05/20 - Whilst making the animation I decided to re-make the rose bush as the other version wasn't clear enough. After some feedback I made some smaller pieces to add interest and movement to some of the still collages and added a quote to the beginning to act as an introduction.

Text animation.
An example of using the puppet tool to create motion.

Book Jacket Design

Book jacket design.
Book cover and mock up.

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.

Mock up chapter headers.
Mock up beginning chapter illustrations.

14/05/20 - Using Photoshop I mocked up chapter headers and illustrated pages using the same collages to coincide with the animation and book jacket to demonstrate how these could be used in a printed edition of the book.

Final Animation

I lastly added the music and credits before uploading the final animation which can be viewed on my Vimeo.

Reflective Summary

Throughout this project I feel that I have improved my design skills and understanding of how illustration can be incorporated within design. Through collaboration and practice I began to learn how to use After Effects for the animation, something that I felt was an important step in extending my skills into other areas of design and its applications. I also gained experience in collaborating with an artist to create the music for the animation. Choosing The Secret Garden allowed for me to be inspired by my interest in British heritage, wildlife, and literature to create a strong foundation for the project. I feel that my chosen tone for the animation fit with the book's themes of neglect and growth. The slow movements created by the puppet tool coincide with the delicacy that the children are brought up in. Having the animation take place within an ongoing tunnel of layers inspired by paper theatres also created the feeling of travelling through their story and growth.

For this project I engaged with a Young Adult audience, a step from my previous work with children's picture books. I plan on using this same method of responding to classic literature for future projects including adult fiction to meet the requirements for future possibilities such as The Folio Society competition, whilst improving character design and imagery for different genres and audiences. If I were to improve on this project I would add more small details to the animation such as the squirrel and birds to add more movement to some of the scenes where I feel they are a bit empty. Although I started this project intending to connect with my influences of nature, I would also like to incorporate a more playful use of colour, textures and materials. Because of the current circumstances I was limited with the amount of materials at hand so with better access to these I would have experimented more with colour and materials.

I created my first full book jacket design and developed my understanding of text within design. I felt this was important for my future aspirations to be involved in the field publishing. I felt the project really come together when I made mock-ups for chapter headers and full page illustrations. Seeing my work in this professional context solidified my ambition for this project and how my illustration can be applied to all contexts of publishing. If I were to continue with this project I would want to create more collages to create a fully illustrated version of the book, with a full image for each beginning of a chapter, with small details throughout. I can use this project to demonstrate to publishers my ability to illustrate a text and how I can extend this to animation or 3D.

Click here to see my Professional Portfolio.

Created By
Phoebe Ingram