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Amy Millington

During this project I became interested in Icelandic folktales. Folktales are intriguing as they are timeless, they endure as lessons in life. Although the monsters and dangers may have changed, they are still learnt through generations. The book I plan to illustrate is called 'ICELANDIC FOLKTALES AND LEGENDS,' written by Jacqueline Simpson. You can see the cover of the book below, I managed to scan it in a few days before university shut down. I plan to create a book mock up for this project, a cover, endpaper and illustrations for as many tales as I can fit in with the time I have. My first tale was based upon a kelpie as you can see below, there will be more information below too!

ARTIST STATEMENT - REFLECTION : During this project I illustrated several tales from the book 'Icelandic folklore and legends' by Jacqueline Simpson, with a cover, endpaper and inner page designs too. What have I learnt during this project? I have learnt that I am simply not just interested in adding imagery to a tale but telling the tale itself and embodying the story, learning and successfully adapting my art to include the correct imagery and colour palate within. This was something I did feel a little lost with, as my work doesn't quite fall into any category for explaining what I do, but now I think I will say that I respond to folktales with pattern and imagery in mind. With this project, I did struggle initially due to upheaval with the coronavirus and the uncertainty of what was going to happen, the challenge of working from home also affected my project, you don't quite realise the distractions in your home until you are there everyday. Despite this, I set myself challenges to keep on track and I think I have managed to complete them. One of which is creating characters that match with my backdrops, which are usually very patterned with plenty of colours and shades. It has been a big challenge to me to include a character that can be simple, fluid and contain some small amount of pattern too, I haven't managed this well within previous projects. I do think I have achieved this, although it did take me a fair amount of experimenting to reach that point, simply letting go of the notion that characters must look very anatomically correct and realistic has helped me move on leaps and bounds. Another goal was to successfully influence this projects art based upon research on Icelandic culture and history, within a modern understanding. At the start of this project I became more focused upon creating a pretty picture rather than telling the story, this did hinder the progress but I am glad I did that investigation, because it taught me that such pieces are barren within. With no real meaning or sense of connection, no child or adult could identify themselves within such a piece. I have managed to use both primary and secondary resources within this project, I know I work best when informed. I used the city style imagery of the area around me (photographed on my daily walk) with research online with people's photos and blogs to influence the way I drew my buildings and backdrops. Although Manchester may have been a better area to photograph, I think that have managed well with the resources I had. I do think that my project does encompass an Icelandic theme well, I studied the colour palate of Icelandic towns and looked into what colours folk artists commonly implement too before making my own colour investigation. But there can always be room for improvement, if I could go back I would add maybe a little more detailing within my buildings such as signs and posters, despite this, I do think that my projects buildings have improved leaps and bounds compared to my previous project. Thank you for reading my artist statement - reflection!

Why did I choose Icelandic folktales for my project? I have always found an interest in old tales associated with places, as a young child I would visit places all around the UK with my grandparents. Exploring strange castles and places with intriguing folklore and tales associated with it. When I was younger I did think I was going to study archaeology, although I followed a different path, I do think that the fascination with history and strange tales has stayed me me. This fascination inspires me to study tales such as the book 'ICELANDIC FOLKTALES AND LEGENDS' which is my current project.
A very early source of inspiration for this project, I thought initially I would create very stereotypical images in response to the folktales I planned to undertake. The art above is by Arthur Rackham, known for his work for the Grimm's brothers and fairytale genre. His art has lovely colour pallets with beautifully planned compositions but, they can seem a little aged. a modern audience cannot completely identify with these scenes which is a problem I hit within this project quite early on!
I started with the tale 'THE WATERHORSE HEARS HIS NAME' A Water horse was also called a kelpie. These creatures came from the sea, and was essentially interpreted as water spirits that took the form of a horse, charming children into riding it and then drowning them. Water horses fear their name being spoken, some alternatives of this name within the timeframe of the story is 'NINNIR OR NYMIR.' In this tale, a young girl is charmed into riding the water horse, after sitting upon it, she forgets something and calls herself a NINNY out loud. With ninny being so close to the water horses true name, he rears up, she falls upon the ground and only just escapes a watery death. Above is some of my early sketchbook drawings and initial ideas, I was quite literal and attempted to draw horses realistically rather than with a folky style. This did hinder my project at the very start, but this happened during the time university shut down and I think everyone struggled at that moment in time to move ahead with work. I also started to tackle drawing people, but at the very start they did seem quite stiff, they later became more fluid as I let go of the realistic style for a move loose and quick kind. I learnt from this that thinking more about what i'm trying to portray, is more important than trying to create a piece that is simply very pretty.
Above is some artist research to help me consider alternative ways of working and designing scenes. Melissa Casttrillon (top row) implements beautiful colours and patterns within her illustrations, this was something I knew I needed to improve upon. My project lacked a sense of connection to Icelandic folk art. I also love the decorative designs by John Bauer (bottom row.) This artist illustrated 'Scandinavian tales' which was one of the books I focused on last term, his work features lots of detailing and fantastical creatures with colour tones I just love. My work needed more inspiration for textures, it can seem a little empty when it lacks colours and pattern in my opinion. This was something I slowly improved upon throughout the project, I tried different elements and styles before settling on a way of working with my final pieces. Although some of it wasn't all used, it aided in pushing forward my project until I was happy with what I created.
I sculpted a clay head on a friends suggestion, to help me figure out how to capture the characters face right for the tale 'THE WATER HORSE HEARS HIS NAME.' I also widened my character variety and created some scenes heavily inspired by John Bauer, but I figured out that the character needed modernising. Not many children or young adults would be able to sympathise with such an old fashioned character in a dated dress. The horse also needed to become more folky and the scenes could do with a switch up to a more modern standard. The realism made them appear strained and time consuming, doing something like implementing a simpler folky style would free me to become more quirky and allow me to work much faster. But I did manage to create a character that was a little less stiff with the poses, this was a problem I faced during my last project. After this I decided to take some more research into folk art and how they portrayed horses, I found that my work is best when I am informed rather than using only my imagination. This is something I learnt the hard way from my last project, which arguably lacked a sense of scene and story.
I did some research on folk art and how they created their own style of horses, I found it very inspiring how soo many artists found a way to create their own patterned and beautifully crafted horses without falling onto realism as I had. These gave me the idea of creating a silhouetted horse with patterns and texture swirling upon it, similar to these, but in my own style. One artist that inspired me in particular was Dinara Mirtalipova is a self taught illustrator/designer. Born and raised in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. Her art is on the second row, she utilises a range of mediums such as Lino and gouache and heavily works with pattern and a folky style. I aim to be able to achieve a more patterned and folky style within this project, I think her influence will be quite positive.
Here I started to include colourful paper within my work, inspired by my research into folk artists and horses. Although restricted to the amount of coloured paper I had, I think this style works out well, the simplistic horse works far better and is created much quicker. I also stitched the horse onto the paper with subtle white thread, a link to my previous project. With which I used red thread stitches to attach layers and detailing. To create the horse I cut out blue paper, coloured back into it with layers of white pencil with swirling designs inspired by the artist Dinara Mirtalipova. I also challenged myself to re-design my young character, update her to a more modern standard, with baggy dungarees and a quirky backpack, she's also far more interesting to look at. She also became part of my pattern work, with the floral swirls upon her clothes adding texture and intrigue. She's not quite there yet with the fluidity but I feel that she has improved, she is much more relatable and modernised, although she will continue to go through improvements throughout the project.
Upon the top row is the artist Clover Robin who mainly works with collage, I find her work beautiful but the simplicity adds rather than takes away. This is something I strive to include within my own art for this project. The second row is filled with the art of Maud Lewis, a Canadian folk artist, who despite not knowing fame, continued painting until she was physically unable to towards the end of her life. Again, her work is wonderfully bright but very simple. This is a strong theme with folk artists, I find the more simple, most of the time the more effective. Upon the bottom row is Anne Strasberg, I find her compositions to be lovely and dynamic. Compositions are something I need to work upon, so she is arguably an inspiration, something to push me to investigate other ideas and designs. I find that these artists never felt the need to include large characters within their scenes, people could be distant or really up close. This is something I attempt later within my project!
One of my challenges in past projects has been knowing when to move on and not overwork the same idea. So I decided to move onto another short tale and towards the end revisit the tales and create final compositions. This tale is called 'THE ORIGIN OF DRANGEY ISLAND.' Which is a real place called 'Drangey island,' its a small island with two stacks of rock, one stack has now fallen into the sea. This is a tale of caution, two elderly night trolls take their cow to breed during heat but they misjudge the time. Night trolls turn to stone when rays of sunlight touch them, that was the fate of the trolls of Drangey island, them and their cow are forever entombed in stone. I decided to tackle this tale with the same inspiration as from my water horse story, implementing a more folky style rather than literal ideas. As you can see above, I have included a modern implementation too, with a touring boat and a young boy with binoculars. I decided to try my best to add relevance to the tale to the real island, I researched and sketched the flowers that grow on the island, also the birds! Which are puffins, they remind me of grumpy old men!
Here I started to bring more colour into the scenes for 'THE ORIGIN OF DRANGEY ISLAND,' I did fall into a rut and I felt like I wasn't having any ideas, so I decided to investigate as much as I could so I wouldn't just stop working all together. I began putting little scenes together, with mixed media such as colourful paper, watercolours and pencil crayons. This did work out well and I did find a style that I was happy with to portray the night trolls. Later within this project, I did reuse this design, just in a way that I wouldn't have thought of at the time. What worked well was the inclusion of colour and pattern, it added more to the folky style rather than simple black and white. This was something I carried on throughout my project, although, I did start to introduce more colours! Also when adding colourful papers I noticed that the cutout worked really nicely on its own, this was something I continued throughout my project. What I learnt from this past weeks work is that sometimes I can overwork ideas and perhaps create too much in response to a story, despite this, I did learn some things and found some pattern and textures which I find worked very well within my art.
Another new tale! This one is called 'THE WITCHS BRIDLE.' This is arguably the most gruesome of the tales I have studied, and perhaps the strangest. It talks of a witch using a dead mans body parts to create a bridle so she could place it on anything and fly. But witches never was recorded to have flown on broomsticks, what they did do was create a toxin or drug out of poisonous plants such as deadly nightshade, the mandrake flower, henbane weed and the jimson plant. To avoid rashes, they applied the drug to their armpits and between their legs with a broom stick and 'got high.' Thus the saying came around of witches getting high on broomsticks. Now with this context, I took the tale to be a warning about dangerous toxins and plants. I plan to create a scene where a modern witch will be in her garden surrounded by all those lovely but dangerous plants, perhaps with a broom included within the scene too. I also began adding a modern city within this story, something I plan to do for the other two, it gives me more room to play around with the tale. Rather than being stuck drawing a forrest or castle. I challenged myself to imagine the scene with alternative viewpoints as I know that my work can appear to be a little centred at times, this is something I struggle with. But as I progressed throughout the project, I found myself being able to create scenes much better than when I started the project!
Here is my research on Icelandic towns, my work is best created when I'm informed rather than making it up, its more accurate and interesting. I also learnt that the Icelandic city Laugavegur is covered in street art, government approved to make the city more unique and interesting. Alongside the colourful buildings and quirky shop fronts, I felt like I would be able to create interesting street scenes with an abundance of detailing and scenarios. With these I began drawing street scenes and figuring out how id draw and paint these houses and how they would be represented. I also took inspiration from the colours of the city buildings for my colour pallet, I find that my work can appear a little dull and colourless sometimes but with this project, I really pushed myself.
As you can see above, I have starting applying the tales to the street scene ideas, here I tried some ideas for THE ORIGIN OF DRANGEY ISLAND and THE WATERHORSE HEARS HIS NAME.' Despite not being perfect yet, I have figured out roughly how I want my scenes to look like, within a city setting with plenty of people milling about. Whilst there are such things as graffiti art of the trolls of Drangey island towering over them. I also mashed together the idea of stranger danger with the water horse and the modern version, a white van. it doesn't quite work out yet but is a valuable idea and did progress my project. I need to keep working at these, and redesigning the street scenes until they work out well and make sense. Some of my sketches look like a jumble of buildings, which could look charming in certain ways, but still needs some planning.
Since the quarantine I noticed more detailing from the area around me, since I'm going out on the purpose to walk, I noticed small little quirks I could use to inform my project. How brick walls don't match up, fences broken and crumbling and the shadows metal gates cast. I particularly found the iron gates and their shadows intriguing, they are something I am definitely going to include within my project!
This is the beginning of my planning for the book cover, inner pages, endpaper and scenes. As you can see above, I created some basic sketches which I later added light colour washes to see where some colours would work out better than others . I decided that id like to create one image in response to the short tales with a lovely pattern to accompany it with the correct colour pallate. This was arguably a very rough start, but my biggest problem is composition, so I took my time out figuring the problem out so I was able to create my scenes without worry that the piece will fall flat and appear flat too. I quite like how the inverted versions of the cover looks, especially the top one with the iron gate, maybe the cover could be a night time scene? When I was sketching out my background people I figured out that my faster looser sketches work out so much nicer when drawing people. This did annoy me as I have been trying to figure out people since the start of the project but I am glad I noticed with enough time to improve upon this discovery!
Above is my investigation of pulling all my scrap elements together from the project, to create a book cover and endpaper, I especially focused on creating an endpaper and inner page at the start. I think these went well and I especially like the blue house with the moons, its rather quirky and different. looking back, I can now see that the moons look like googly eyes which is rather funny. its strange that when you create art sometimes you don't notice the obvious mistakes haha. Although the backpack and flowers are lovely, they don't quite grab the attention that their blue counterpart does but maybe that's a good thing, its is simple which is something I want within my work. Considering typography, I have used Helvetica so far, I will attempt to create my own style of type maybe? But I do think for now, Helvetica does work quite nicely although it can seem like quite a cold font.
Some more finalised sketches, improvements on my people and more people studying. I noticed that when drawing simpler background people. they looked an awful lot more fluid and less stiff, I decided to simplify all of my characters so they would become more 'alive' within my scenes. As I have a part time job, I looked out for interesting features in the customers I serve, how they move, stand and dress. This has helped me imagine more dynamic characters rather than them being plain, which was how they looked at the start of the project. I have also attempted some book mockups to see how my idea of laying text on top of pattern in a book could look like. What have I learnt from this? That too much colour and pattern can be distracting from the text, I find that a simpler, perhaps more muted pallate tone could work much better with overlaying text. There was also a small experiment with stitching into the overlaying paper, I found that when stitched too thickly and big, it becomes messy and doesn't match the surrounding art and lettering, perhaps a smaller and simpler version could work out well? or maybe a good idea could be that limited editions of the book could be stitched into, rather than them all due to the cost, which would be very high for every single one to be hand stitched!
CHRIS RIDDELL, I looked into how this artist creates a sense of fluidity with his characters. I noticed that he placed less emphasis on anatomy and more on movement and clothing, how they swirl around in the wind. This is something id like to challenge myself to do when creating my character within my final sketches, ensure that they are still quite loose and not overworked!
Here I started with colour tests on my final sketch plans, I know the colours right now seem a little too gaudy and whacky but I like to see what could work so I know what colours to keep and remove. I also improved upon my troll cut out page, sixth along the photo-grid, the blue page with the design in the middle of the cutout. I noticed that the characters needed to be more humanised, given legs, hands and more distinctive heads as they appeared to be blobs previously. I also resized the patten within the cutout so it fits much nicely within. I also tried a font called Garamond (which you can see above) after a talk with my tutor he mentioned that Helvetica can seem cold and doesn't quite match the imagery of my project. Repeat patterns have been improved upon with more variations too, these repeat patterns are planned to become either endpapers or the lie underneath the text that accompanies my images. I also played around more with pattern with scrap elements of my work which I think could be interesting when put into a design. I don't think the spread designs are quite there yet, they seem a little too rough and don't quite match well with the drawings. This is an issue I address within the next few images.
These are my sketch plans before is started adding watercolour, gouache, pencil and acrylic. Also above are my rough versions of my art. So above is one drawing response to each tale 'THE WATER HORSE HEARS HIS NAME' 'THE WITCHES BRIDLE' and 'THE ORIGIN OF DRANGEY ISLAND' with a more in depth cover design too! I like to edit back into my work with textures which I have done a few times throughout previous projects. It enables me to achieve a type of texture or pencil line I couldn't have achieved if it was all done on the piece, I get to play about with the layout and sizing, the colours too! Above is my colour pallate sheet that I used when mixing my shades for the scenes, I decided to try using sections of this within the backgrounds to see how it could work. The colours definitely matched as all these colours are within each scene in some part or other.
Above are my edited and 'finished' pieces based upon the three tales I chose for the book 'ICELANDIC FOLKTALES AND LEGENDS.' Also a more finished cover, one scene is in black and white due to time constraints. After painting these I started to edit them on my Mac,, adding more textures and editing in and out several things which I thought the pieces could improve with. I am happy with the textures I added, its quite experimental but I think that it does work well, especially well when put together into a book mock up which was what I did below! Also the last image above is showing what I did when I added colour textures underneath the edited out blank parts of my art! I had my work out into layers and adjusted them until I was happy with the results.
Above are more last minute experiments with design and texture with my scenes, I plan to edit them all into a book format, with the words of the tale on the opposite side. I also want to put the book cover onto an actual book edit to see how it could look it printed! I think the image of the hand could work out quite nicely if I edit it well, I also plan to add little more bits and bobs of texture as I do my edits, just where I think my work could do with a little more jazz. This digital collaging is quite new to me but I think it could go well if I take my time and make sure I place the detailing well. I do regret not managing to colour the tale 'The witches bridle' but that was due to time constraints, perhaps it's something I could attempt in my own time.
My final response to the project 'ICELANDIC FOLKTALES AND LEGENDS.' As you can see, I have created a cover design, endpaper and three double page spreads. I think these turned out quite well, perhaps the images true colours haven't been captured due to a lack of access to a scanner and they may be a little blurry. But other than that, I think this project ended quite well, I challenged myself to create a modernised version of old Icelandic folklore and I think I achieved that. This project was quite challenging due to the circumstances but I think it concluded quite well, I would like to investigate the other tales perhaps in the future when I have the time!