HomeTICE Creative AreasIllustrationCharacter Building at TICE Illustration

Character Building at TICE Illustration

After an inspiring and successful pilot year in 2019, Helen Turner returned to Jarrow School to introduce young people to the world of TICE Illustration. As always, it starts with the Insight Stage – a one-day workshop giving students a taste of the industry, as well as challenging them to tap into their creativity and put colourful pens to paper.

To break the ice, Helen first shared her fascinating career over the past 16 years from studying at University to Illustrating children’s books to running her own business, Rosie & Radish. As a freelancer continuously moving from one project to another, Helen expressed what she loved most about illustration, and this led to further discussion with the class. It seemed that there was already initial drive and excitement for the day ahead.

Once Helen talked through the key areas and career paths surrounding illustration, it was time for the first challenge of the morning…character illustration. Helen wanted students to experience the process of a professional, from start to finish. First thing was building a foundation of knowledge on what makes a good character design. To help with their understanding, students were put into groups and had to rate a selection of famous characters out of 10 with reasons why. This task generated a lot of debate and discussion but ultimately showed that there is no right or wrong answer. It’s all about interpretation.

Next, it was their turn. Students were given a description and some reference imagery to design their very own character. They were encouraged to brainstorm and fill their blank page with rough sketches. Whether these designs were realistic, abstract, clean or rough around the edges, they had complete control. The only rule was that they couldn’t rub anything out. If it went ‘wrong’, they simply just had to leave their sketch and start again on the same page. Ultimately, this technique proved that the ‘wrong’ ideas could blossom or inspire the outcome. Before they knew it, pages began to flood with doodles. In our eyes, they all looked ready to hit the bookshelves and big screens!

“I learned that with illustration, the art doesn’t have to look perfect.”

– Skylar Cosway, Jarrow School.

For an illustrator to bring a character to life, they need to be able to convey a range of emotions through their drawings. So to develop on their ideas, they had to create a character sheet and concentrated on conveying their character’s emotions. They had a lot of fun exploring, and were rather shocked by how difficult it was!

This nicely led to the introduction of picture book illustration, a very popular aspect of the industry. Helen talked through the process of this career path and the people involved in developing the highest quality designs ready for publishing. With that in mind, the final task of the day required students to design their very own illustration to accompany a piece of text from a specific picture book.

To kick things off, they planned out some rough thumbnail sketches experimenting with layout, composition and other personalised features. For their final illustration, they had the opportunity to use whatever media they wish – collage, paint, pens, pencils. You name it. It was time for them to hone in and embrace their style. It is fair to say that students pulled out all of the stops and created some inspiring work.

“I would say that the most interesting thing I learnt was the process in how illustrators create their ideas that are then published into popular children books. The reason I find this interesting is because I learnt about how much time and creative thinking it takes to produce illustrations.”

– Kate Young, Jarrow School.

Before the session ended, the class reflected what they learned so far. From designing their own characters to developing picture books, students of Jarrow School managed to tackle a variety of professional skills in a matter of hours. They also anticipated what was to come, as Helen gave further information on future courses and opportunities in the North East as well as sharing some sneak peeks for Explore Stage. After the day they just had, many eager faces in the room couldn’t wait to continue their TICE journey.

Thank you, Jarrow School, for a fantastic day.

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