#LetsMakeWednesdays – Illustration!

July 22, 2020
‘The Wave’, illustration by Vyara Boyadjieva. Runner up, Student Illustrator of the Year. Anglia Ruskin University (Cambridge School of Art) © Vyara Boyadjieva

You might like to check out an updated version of this activity here.

This week at the museum we announced the winners of the V&A Illustration Awards 2020. To celebrate, we would like you to look different at illustrations from our collection and use them as inspiration for your own work.

Illustrators create drawings, paintings, prints, collages, diagrams, digital art and much more to help create a story or make sense of an idea.

Can you find any examples of illustration in your house – in a book, on instructions or packaging, or on TV?

Let’s find inspiration

Did you know that the world-famous children’s author and illustrator Beatrix Potter visited the V&A over 100 years ago to find inspiration for her books? When she was illustrating her book The Tailor of Gloucester, she visited to the V&A to look and draw different clothes. She transformed the clothes that she saw into illustrations of tiny outfits for the characters (mainly mice) in her book.

Dress coat made in England or possibly Spain, about 1790 – 1800. Mus. no. 295-1898 © Victoria and Albert Museum

‘Gentleman mouse bowing beside a teacup’ illustration by Beatrix Potter, 1903. Mus. no.

Now it’s your turn. Firstly, choose your favourite animal.

Next, look at some clothes from the V&A fashion collections. Select a piece of clothing (maybe a dress, some shoes and a hat) that excites you. Have you decided to choose clothes that are quite old or more modern? Would you wear them yourself?

Now draw your favourite animal (it doesn’t have to be real – maybe it’s a toy?) wearing those clothes. Do you need to adapt the clothes to make them fit the animal better – perhaps they need space for tails, ears or legs?

By drawing the animal in human clothes, you are making it anthropomorphic – which simply means ‘to make something human-like’. Can you think of any more modern examples of anthropomorphic animal illustration? Discuss the different examples with people around you.

Let’s get surreal

Now we are going to mix things up a bit. Look at this etching (a type of printed image) by the artist Molly Smith. What do you see?

‘The Budgbit’ by Molly Smith, 2015. Mus no.
E.2808:25-2016 © Victoria and Albert Museum

This image is a form of Surrealism. Surrealist artists often bring together unexpected things, which you wouldn’t normally expect to see together. In this image Molly has combined a budgerigar and a rabbit, which she has called The Budgebit.

Let’s make our own surreal creatures. Think again about your favourite animals. What are your favourite parts of these animals – an elephant’s long trunk, a pig’s curly tail or a crab’s snappy claws? Discuss your ideas with people around you.

  • To start, create several separate animal parts to use in a collage. You can draw them or cut them out of different papers, packaging or magazines. Combine two or more body parts that don’t normally go together to create lots of strange new creatures. Try finding some found objects (leaves, feathers, buttons – whatever you like) to add texture. How many new creatures can you make and what are they called?

Top tip – Don’t stick any of your animal body parts down so you can mix and match them. Instead take pictures of your different creature combinations along the way.

This is our example – we combined the head and neck of a giraffe, a tortoise shell, a tail of a tiger and some feathers and leaves to make funny legs – we called it a ‘A long-tailed Giraf-Ortise’.

This is our example – we combined the head and neck of a giraffe, a tortoise shell, a tail of a tiger and some feathers and leaves to make funny legs – we called it a ‘A long-tailed Giraf-Ortise’.

  • Now let’s try playing with scale! Scale is the size of one object (or one part an object) in relation to other parts of a design or artwork. Playing with the scale of different parts of an object is a popular Surrealist technique. Take a creature that is usually very large and combine it one which is very small – or the other way around! Add different drawn or collaged elements around your creature to give an idea of the scale (maybe put a plant or a coin for small scale, or a building or a mountain for a large scale.
Our Bee-Raffe
  • Now let’s get imaginative! You know how they say pigs can’t fly? Well, in illustration anything is possible! Make your creatures do things that you would never imagine them doing in real life.
A flying Octo-Raffe
  • Now, give your creatures a new home. You can make and imagine weird and wonderful lives and hobbies for your creatures by drawing or collaging them an environment you wouldn’t usually find them – an elephant driving a car, a cat playing piano, a giraffe combined with a seahorse snorkelling!
A Snorkelling Sea Gir-orse

Let’s remember a great day out

For our final activity we would like you to you to illustrate yourself on a memorable day.

‘Chub’s Day Out’ contribution to the V&A’s 150th anniversary album by Solly Vaughan, 2007. Mus. no. E.477:43-2008 © Victoria and Albert Museum

Firstly, look that the image above. This illustration ‘Chub’s Day Out’ is by the artists Charlotte de Syllas and Solly Vaughan. As part of the V&A’s 150th anniversary in 2007, they created this illustration to tell people about what they found most inspiring about the V&A. In the illustration you can see the character ‘Chub’ leaving an artist’s studio and coming to the V&A to find inspiration. You can see Chub outside the museum, locating the different galleries and looking at different V&A objects, include the Samurai Warrior armour from our Japan Galleries.

Now think about a memorable day that you have had. It could be a recent trip to the park or a visit to a museum before lockdown.

Like in Chub’s Day Out, take a piece of paper and separate it out into multiple sections. Now start to sketch out the different events of the different sections. We suggest sketching lightly in pencil to start and then when you are happy with you design, layer your drawing with pen, paint or coloured pencil.

Here are some different questions which you may want to think about as you make your design.

  • Where did you day out take place and who were you with?
  • How did the day start?
  • What did you see, smell, hear and touch during the day?
  • How did you feel during the day?
  • What was the best and worst parts of the day?
  • How did the day end?

Don’t forget to share your fabulous illustrations with us on social media using #LetsMakeWednesdays


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