Assignment 4: You are here

The purpose of this exercise was to creatively explore the statement ‘you are here’.

Key words from the brief:

  • Produce either a short self-published fanzine, graphic novel or artist’s book; an online interactive experience; a piece of street art; or an illustrative object.
  • Make sure it focuses on developing your illustrative work in some way.


The approach for this assignment completely changed part way through because of the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. This is because my original idea involved exploring and developing ideas for narrative illustration through collaboration with writers and other illustrators through a series of workshops.

The first set of workshops that I was able to attend was titled Body, space and narrative, and the outputs, experience and my reflections are here.

Unfortunately travel restrictions imposed by the government to help limit the spread of the virus meant I had to shift focus to a project I could complete at home whilst in self-isolation.

I think in the future my original idea will have a lot of value for developing the way I approach narrative illustration and give some insight into the way writers think about and develop their ideas.

Given that one area I’m interested in is reportage illustration, the Covid-19 pandemic is an ideal subject; it is a truly unprecedented event (in my lifetime), it is global and will impact everyone in quite a profound way. A ‘mega’ narrative.


I revisited the research I’d completed in 4.1 Top ten visual diaries as part of the third unit of Illustration 1. Visual diary as a genre has many different meanings so not all of the artists I had researched were relevant, but Myfanwy Tristram is an example where a visual diary is used to document an event, such as a holiday, across time.

Myfawy Tristram visual diary
Fig 1 – Florence sketch diary

What is interesting about her sketch diaries is, that unlike the others I’d researched who were using physical diaries to capture their information, Myfanwy Tristram was compiling hers digitally.

The downside of this that she talks about on her blog is the amount of time it takes to create something so bespoke and polished.

What I took away from reviewing her work were new/different ideas for content.


Idea generation


Elevator pitch

You are here is a visual diary that captures the ordinary day-to-day experience of being locked in in self-isolation against the extraordinary unfolding of a global pandemic. It’s interesting because at its core is a real-life narrative that shows how one person managed whilst their everyday life was turned upside down.


I created myself a mini-brief to add some shape to the project:

  • Form: A self-published book
  • Format: Initially a PDF format although this could develop in a number of different ways in either print or digital.
  • Size: Driven by the needs of the content, but the large Urban Sketch images will be in an Instagram aspect ratio i.e. the equivalent 1080 x 1350px.
  • Number of pages: Dependent upon the needs of the project, but will need to be divisible by 4 if to be physically printed
  • Resolution: 300 dpi
  • Colour: Full colour throughout
  • Template driven: The nature of the project means that it will need to grow over time, so the layout needs to be tightly controlled so that updates are quick and easy and there is consistency across the booklet


The core concept is ordinary verses extraordinary, and the content needs to reflect/support this idea.

The content for the diary (so far) has come from the following sources:

  • #uskathome – 1 x image per day plus image title and brief description. The Thirty Day Indoor Sketching Challenge is an initiative run by the Urban Sketchers London where participants (most of whom are self-isolating at home) are asked to produce one observational sketch a day for thirty days based a a set of predefined topics. These are then shared on Instagram, Facebook and or Flickr using agreed hashtags. More information about this initiative can be found of the Urban Sketchers London blog: 
  • Everyday object illustrations – rapid drawings (5 to 10-minutes maximum) made using Sharpie pens, of the everyday objects that we take for granted.
  • Daily diary entry – A few paragraphs that describe some aspect of my day that I found interesting or entertaining, often referencing people, place or events related to self-isolation.
  • A key fact – A news headline or statistic describing a much broader significant fact or event
  • Virtual life drawing classes (not featured in the first 14-days of the diary, but starts at Day 18)



Following the requirement in the brief to be template driven, I did some internet research to pick up any design principles or tips that might help, particularly related to designing flexible grid layouts.

I used this information to thumbnail out different grid options:



This resulted in a design with the following layout grid:


I decided on a page-a-day format.

I mocked-up a page to provide a basic style guide i.e. how and where the different content elements would typically fit; obviously there was a lot of flexibility to allow for the different size and shape of the content.

Layout style guide

Visual style

I did some experimentation using different font combinations and trying handwritten text and quite quickly settled on using a ‘typewriter’ type font for the diary entries to give a more of a rough feel, and a more formal font for the headings and key fact callouts.

Layout with handwritten text
An experiment using handwritten text. I didn’t use this because it would be too time-consuming

I guess the visual style will evolve and change with the project, and given the emphasis at the early stages at least is around generating content, I didn’t take my visual style experimentation too far before settling in what I think works adequately for now.

Test and learn

On 4th April OCA London set-up a cross-disciplinary discussion facilitated by OCA tutor Bryan Eccleshall entitled ‘Keeping Up Momentum‘. The purpose of the session was to talk through the creative opportunities offered by the current Covid-19 pandemic and offer support, guidance and suggestions for how to work under the current conditions. There was also a opportunity to share work for criticism and feedback.

I was really interested to see how the attendees would respond to the first 14-pages of the diary and learn any lessons to take forward.

The general feedback was very positive and encouraging.

Some interesting comments/observations/questions:

  • Did you intentionally use metaphor as a tool in some of the images? i.e. juggling, pile of junk in the garage, Apocalypse Now reference.
  • How do you think the body of work will change over time? Have you thought about what you’ll do for example if in six-weeks time things have got much worse?
  • Have you thought about changing some aspects of the visual elements and what that might do. Conversely, I don’t think you should change anything because it will take away some of its authenticity as a record of the moment.
  • Bryan also suggested that I look at the work from a couple of sources:
    1. Kafka’s Wound – A Digital Essay by Will Self –
    2. NornIronGirl1981 on Twitter –

There were positive comments about the variety of different visual styles used in the illustrations and some people liked the tone-of-voice of the diary entries; using humour/not too serious playing off against the serious news facts.

The overall feeling I got was to keep going, see how it evolves and not to change too much at this time.

Visual diary

This PDF version of the diary includes the first 14-days. My intention is to keep updating this every week or so as I build up more content.

You are here – v1.0

Updated version of the diary for Assessment

An updated version covering the first 56-days of the diary has been uploaded as part of the formal assessment process.

Note this is still work-in-progress, and whilst the content is correct, layout and structure may change in future iterations.

You are here – Day 1 to 56

Additionally, all of the images are being posted on Instagram here:


What went well

  • Committing to the The Thirty Day Indoor Sketching Challenge is a great way to share experience through a positive activity with other urban sketchers during a challenging period of time.
  • Testing the approach with fellow OCA students has encouraged me to continue using the current format; at some future point the content created now may morph into something different/new but I’m not overly concerned about that right now.
  • I think the assignment meets the objective to: Make sure it focuses on developing your illustrative work in some way by exploring a new narrative format (for me) whilst at the same time deliberately experimenting with new media.
  • One of the comments from previous tutor feedback has been for me to use more colour. The vast majority of the urban sketched use colour, and this is something I seem to be exploring and experimenting with more.

What I’d do differently/better

  • It will be interesting to see how the subjects and nature of the images I’m producing for the diary change over time. I may for example start to introduce more comic strip illustrated sequences to add another voice to the narrative.

Assessment Criteria – self assessment of PART 4 – Contemporary illustration

PART 4 took longer to complete than planned because I spent more time on some of the exercises than I had anticipated. I hadn’t accounted for the amount of research and design work required for the later exercises.

At the start I wasn’t looking forward to tackling the final four exercises because at face value they didn’t seem that interesting. When it came to doing the work I got a huge amount out of working in new and unexpected ways and putting the time

My personal assessment against the OCA assessment criteria:

Assessment criteria How my work meets the assessment criteria
Demonstration of technical and visual skills – materials, techniques, observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills PART 4 demanded a range of technical and visual skills across new and sometimes challenging media.

Working with paper in 4.12 Paper circus (which I was dreading) turned out to be a really interesting and creative departure from my usual ways-of-working. 4.14 Contemporary ceramics saw me working using 3D computer graphics to apply a series of illustrations to a 3D model.

The sketch-a-day method taken as an approach to create the content for the self-published booklet in 4.6 Self-publishing, and the similar approach taken for Assignment 4 probably pushed my observational and design skills more than any other set of activities on the course so far. Through these two pieces of work I’ve generated a fairly substantial body of varied work.

One of the key objectives of my approach to Assignment 4 was precisely to demonstrate my drawing and painting skills across a broad range of subjects/media.

Assignment 4 also demonstrates more graphic design awareness where I use layout design principles to create a flexible grid-based template for the ongoing page construction of the project.

Quality of outcome – content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner, discernment, conceptualisation of thoughts, communication of ideas Ideas development using extensive primary research is most clearly evidenced in 4.8 Pixelated images and 4.10 Street art.

The process driven approach I use to creating the work is demonstrated by the way the learning log page for each exercise is laid out showing the journey from research > ideas generation > design > execution > lessons learned

Demonstration of creativity – imagination, experimentation, invention, development of a personal voice I attended a short course at The Drawing Room that explored ways to generate new narrative by combining a number of unconnected different sources. My experience and learning from this are written up here.

Both 4.12 Paper circus and 4.14 Contemporary ceramics show me experimenting with 3D objects and using all of my guile in the process.

In terms of developing a personal voice I’m realising that even though I’m becoming increasingly confident in my ability to create observational drawings I have a way to go in learning to express myself in the way I’d like to. I look at illustrators and artists I admire such as Varya Yakovleva or Marcelle Hanselaar and I can see a huge gap between where I am now and the personal voice I’d like to achieve, not only in terms of mark making and execution, but also in terms of subjects/treatment of subjects.

The only way I can see of making that leap is through more radical approaches to ideas generation and more practice and exposure to other artists/practices and just doing a lot more work.

This is what I think will frame the remainder of Illustration 2 for me ad where I am looking for tutor support.

Context reflection – research, critical thinking (learning logs and, for second and third level courses, critical reviews and essays). In line with the other parts of ‘Responding to a brief’, PART 4 had a number of research tasks that I think really added value to and fed into the related exercises. One new and fruitful avenue of exploration for me was visiting and spending a fair amount of time from the work of other artists. The best example of this is 4.8 Pixelated images, where this copying/interpreting played directly into the subjects and visual style of the finished artwork.

I continue to spend time and care to present my work and reflections in a structured and consistent manner in my Learning Log.


List of illustrations

Figure 1 – Tristram, Myfanwy Florence sketch diary At: (Accessed: 05.04.20)

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