TED Talk: The Roots of Plant Intelligence by Stefano Mancuso (2014)

A project I completed as part of my university illustration course involved chasing a TED talk to illustrate through a series of illustrations. After watching a variety of different TED talks I chose to focus on Stefano Mancuso’s ‘The Roots of Plant Intelligence’. I chose this TED Talk for my project because I found they way Stefano Mancuso talked about plants very interesting, especially when he gave life to them and described them as almost having a mind of their own and this is a idea I thought could translate well into illustration.

Here are some of the key ideas and themes I took from the talk:
– the underestimation of plants by humans
– the comparison between plants and animals
– the mention of Noah sheltering animals on the ark, but not any plants
– the sophisticated senses of plants compared to animals
– the complex behaviour of plants
– the fact the the blue whale is thought to be the largest living creature on earth when there are trees much, much larger
– plants being considered low level organisms
– the movement of plants, e.g. growing,finding sunlight, flowering
– plants communicating with each other
– plants tricking insects and animals to distribute pollen
– the roots of the plants and the comparison between them and the brain

All of the points above are issues and ideas that I intended to explore my final illustrations for the project. I originally began my project by working traditionally, using mainly ink and a drawing pen but later on moved to colouring them digitally.

After my first critique for the project I started to colour my images, experimenting with different ways of applying colour to the images as suggested in the critique. I also was told that to re-think the idea of using the imagery of a brain in the images and to look into the shapes and patterns of plant roots compared to the shapes and patterns of brains and neurons. As well as this, I was given the idea to incorporate themes of nature verses man made, in relation to the idea of the underestimation of plants by humans, in the use of archways in the illustrations. I could do this by having the plants breaking out of and taking over the man made arches. As for the colouring of the images, I experimented with using a mix of gouache, ink and watercolour as well as gold ink for the archways. The painting process was taking a very long time to finish, mainly because there were quite large images, and eventually I began to run out of time and had to think of a different way to colour them.

I eventually ran out of time with this project and the day before the deadline I had to re-draw some images, scan all of them, clean them up on Photoshop and the digitally colour them. It was a very long day but was very rewarding as I finished all of the images and I was extremely pleased that I managed to meet the deadline. Also, I believe that I learned a lot about meeting deadlines in the future and having to change a project slightly at the last minute. Now that I managed to finish all of these in that one day, I know that I could get a lot done in one day if I set my mind to it
I am extremely pleased with these final images, even though I was hesitant about working digitally at first, but the block colours worked extremely well compared to my original paintings.

Heart of Darkness, Final Images (2014)

These are the final three illustrations that I submitted to the Folio Society Heart of Darkness competition. I was pleased with the final three illustrations mainly because of  I think that the composition and colour of each worked very well and I like the consistency of them. I think that these images also work a lot better than my initial image ideas, and it is very interesting looking back on how my work has developed through this project. For the binding, I just cropped one of my development images and used that instead of any of my previous book binding images and believe it works a lot better and is closer to what I initially wanted to do for the binding.

I still have these illustrations at home, they’re very big, maybe some of the biggest drawings/paintings I’ve ever done! I never got the chance to get decent scans of them, it’s such a pain piecing together two scanned images to create one big one.

I absolutely loved working with quink ink and bleach during these projects, I think it just creates an interesting look and contrast in the work. I really don’t use it as much as I used to, but would love to get back into it.

Heart of Darkness, Research and Development (2014)

In 2014 I illustrated scenes from ‘Heart of Darkness’ by Joseph Conrad for the Folio Society competition that year. It’s actually the only time I’ve entered the competition, I’d like to again at some point but I’ve just been waiting for the right book for me to be announced for the competition.

These are development images I created inspired by the research I did on the Bapende and Mangbetu  people, which I then used as a basis for the look of the native people in Heart of Darkness. The images of the Mangbetu women helped me to develop the characterisation of Kurtz’s African mistress, particularly the description of her helmet shaped hair, which the Mangbetu women have due to their elongated heads. The Bapende people served as an inspiration for the male natives because of their interesting body paint patterns and masks which I recreated using bleach. I also created some rough thumbnails based on my previous images as well as creating new compositions and began to play around with placing the characters in the jungle scenery as well as creating the light and atmosphere with the bleach and ink.

These are two of my earlier illustrations which I painted as part of my development for the project. My lecturer encouraged me to study other paintings to help create my compositions and figure so I looked at a lot of Pre-Raphaelite paintings for inspiration as well as Victorian photographs for the second image. I want to work bigger in the future for this project so that I can have more detail in the image and be able to capture that detail in scaled down, scanned versions of the final images. Also, for the competition, we can’t illustrate a scene from the last ten pages of the book so I won’t be able to submit an illustration for the scene with Marlow and Kurtz’s intended, which is a shame because it is a scene that stood out to my since the first reading of the book.

2010s Mystery Inc

My final illustration in this little series I’ve been working on, the Scooby Doo gang in the 2010s. This was probably the easiest one to draw as I spent my late teens and early twenties in the 2010s and lots of the clothing isn’t too different from current styles. As I mentioned in one of my earlier posts, this series is inspired by the work of Julia Wytrazek who redesigned the gang brilliantly in multiple decades.

1970s Mystery Inc

1960s Mystery Inc

This is a fun little project I started earlier in the year. I’ve seen a few artists redesign the Scooby Doo gang in different time periods, most notably Julia Wytrazek, and I wanted to have a go myself.

I’ve started with the 1960s as that’s when the show began. Pinterest was a great help with this and I looked into fashion from the whole decade. I didn’t go down the hippie route with any of them as I thought that was more suited to the 1970s. 


I will post the rest of the series soon, I’m still working on it!

Save the Elephants, Final Posters (2014)

Here are some of the final posters I created for the Save the Elephants campaign. I began to play around with text a lot at this stage and decided to use my own rather than digital typefaces as I preferred the overall effect. I also tried layering text on top of some of my previous initial images to see how they worked together.

I initially made nine posters all together as I was unsure what was working and what wasn’t. I was told to think about the use of space more in the composition of the image and to try and avoid having so much white around the image.

As I mentioned in the previous post, I think I struggled with this project and getting the message across, this is especially more evident to me looking back at them a few years later now.