1.2 Getting the gist

The brief

Read an editorial from a newspaper or magazine (I used the internet), and highlight key words and phrases that capture the essence of the article. Keep doing this until you arrive at a core set of keys words and sentences.

Use these as a starting point to create an illustration.

My approach

I listen to a lot of news on the Radio 4 and picked up on two stories that sounded interesting and something I could work with. I then followed up and read the news articles:

Great Barrier Reef suffered worst bleaching on record in 2016, report finds

great-barrier-bbc-news-screenshot

Philip Morris could stop making conventional cigarettes

bbc-news-screen-shot-01

I identified key words and phrases for each news item and created thumbnail sketches for an illustration of each.

Initial analysis and thumbnail sketches

Great Barrier Reef suffered worst bleaching on record in 2016, report

This story was triggered by a report that showed that higher water temperatures in 2016 caused by global warming resulted in the worst destruction of corals ever recorded on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Some 67% of corals died in the reef’s worst-hit northern section.

I have been scuba diving over reefs and I remember being amazed by the Jacques Cousteau documentaries when I was growing up, so this feels like a major disaster to me and something that should be getting more coverage.

My analysis of the article is here.

great-barrier-reef-suffered-worst-bleaching-on-record-in-2016

The final set of keywords/phrases that summarise the essence of the story are:

  • Higher water temperatures in 2016 caused the worst destruction of corals ever recorded on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef
  • 67% of corals died in the reef’s worst-hit northern section
  • The coral was cooked
  • We keep pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere

Here’s a thumbnail sketch that shows my original concept for an illustration.

getting-the-gist-sketchbook06

I didn’t choose to develop this idea any further.

Philip Morris could stop making conventional cigarettes

I heard the chief executive of Philip Morris (tobacco company) Andre Calantzopoulos, talking about a new less harmful cigarette product that is being launched in the UK. It has the same nicotine levels as conventional cigarettes, costs the same but has a lot less toxins.

Giant corporates such as tobacco companies that make huge profits from the misery of millions of people just make me angry and this story gave me plenty of material to work with.

My analysis of the article is here.

philip-morris-could-stop-making-conventional-cigarettes

The final set of keywords/phrases that summarise the essence of the story are:

  • Less harmful cigarette
  • Same nicotine
  • 90% less toxins
  • $3bn spent on creating the substitute cigarette
  • Shareholders are enthusiastic
  • Smoking will kill one billion people in the 21st century, most in poor countries.
  • Stop promoting smoking to new young smokers around the world

Andre Calantzopoulos presented the story as a huge advance for the health and wellbeing of customers. I wanted to present the alternative view.

Further research

I wanted to present the illustration in the style of a political cartoon; I find these can be a powerful and subversive way to get strong ideas across in ways that are just not possible using words and/or television/radio.

I did some internet research to find inspiration from established cartoonists.

David Rowe
Abbott in the Powerbox by David Rowe http://www.artnewsblog.com/cartoonist-david-rowe-at-the-hughes-gallery/

Martin Schranks – political cartoon that marked the end of Tony Blair’s rule

Burris Jenkins – Holocaust Political Cartoon – 1940s

Bruce Russell – c.1944 Holocaust Political Cartoon

Dave McKean – The Joker

The final artwork

The following pictures show the original pencil sketch and the inked artwork at the point that it was scanned prior to upload into Photoshop.

And here’s the final artwork:

EPSON MFP image

What I learned from the exercise

Because I felt some empathy with both news items the ideas came very quickly and easily. My original idea was to sketch up the less harmful cigarette illustration using just pen and ink but then decided to try colouring using Photoshop using the same processes used by comic book colourists. I’ve never used Photoshop in this way and thought it would be an interesting lesson.

There’re plenty of helpful tutorials on youtube for this.

In hindsight, the result would have been more effective and quicker to produce using pen and ink but the experience using Photoshop was valuable and taught me a lot that I’ll use on future work.

What went well

  • I like the ideas and they came easily.
  • I bought a Rotring pen to do the finer ink drawing which was much easier to use than pen and ink.
  • I understood and used the concepts and ways of working with Photoshop painting, layer management etc. quite well – the next one will be a lot quicker.

What I could do differently/better

  • I used a heavy tracing paper to do the inking – I couldn’t buy vellum but I understand that might be a better material to work with – one to try in the future.
  • I should have created a colour swatch up front. I wasted a lot of time testing colour combinations when I was actually doing the work.
  • I would have got a better result more quickly working directly on paper using pen and ink and paint.