• Olly Jordan

Chapter 46 - Once Upon a Dream - The Main Quest That Went Horribly Wrong - Uni 3rd Year 2017/18

Updated: Jun 2, 2020

Sometimes, artwork really just doesn't go the way you intend on it, and that is okay. This is a side of my project that didn't make the instagram grid or any form of online presence because it just went so horribly wrong and I had to scrap the whole concept altogether. It is good sometimes to just trust your gut by taking a risk in hopes of getting a better outcome, in this case, my risk paid off and the result of it will be explored in another post. I wanted to show this side of the project that is a true failure to help show that your ideas just don't work out sometimes and that is okay, you just have to find another way.

Dimitra Milan

I wanted my main concept of the portrait I create for my book cover design to be influenced by Dimitra Milan's work, the mark making and the way that abstraction and realism is something that I wanted to explore as the overall visual is very reminiscent of a dream-like image.

Dimitra Milan has been a celebrated artist since the age of 15, she was born into a family of artists and has developed her style at the Milan Art Institute, founded by her parents. ‘Her paintings can be described as abstract realism, with romantic elements portraying dreamy atmosphere where anything is possible.’ This is what I would like to take as inspiration from Milan. It is this dreamy abstraction that appealed to me and thought that this would be the perfect project to embrace and experiment with this much more abstraction based style than I have previously worked in. https://www.instagram.com/dimitramilan/ https://dimitramilan.com/

The 3 Clues that appear before Aurora and their Symbolism

If I want to incorporate some of the objects of significance from the narrative, to the cover, it would be good to understand what they represent. I would not want to illustrate a certain coloured rabbit for example which would then convey the wrong idea of the book entirely. The objects of importance in the narrative I would say are, the bluebird feather, pack of cards, and the rabbit. Bluebird feather because it is the first thing Aurora received from ‘Outside’. Pack of Cards because that is the first thing from the real world to physically appear in front of Aurora. A rabbit because that is essentially Aurora’s first use of magic, even though she did not realise it at the time.

Bluebird ‘Bluebird Symbolism. . . An enduring symbol of happiness is the delightful little Bluebird. Bluebird beckons the day to be filled with simple pleasures, and sings the song that happiness is possible, it is gift you give to yourself. If you are going through a dark time, Bluebirds remind us that things will be brighter, just hold on and get through this day. Bluebirds are symbols of the heavenly realm and when Bluebird appears for you she may be bringing signs of loved ones from heaven above, a Bluebird may be a physical incarnation of an angel sent just for you.’ https://www.universeofsymbolism.com/bluebird-symbolism.html

So with this description of what a bluebird symbolises, it is clear to see why the author chose this specific bird, out of any, to have it’s feather be given to Aurora by the minstrel. The gift of a bluebird feather represents the beginning of happiness for Aurora, and the fact that it was given to Aurora matches with the idea that a bluebird is ‘an angel sent just for you.’ The minstrel was performing as an angel in this moment by allowing Aurora this gift of a bluebird feather.

The Sun ‘The sun is impressive and has a regal nature. He will rule over higher offices in different areas and royalty. He controls the health and prosperity of the people. The sun is bright and gives people the strength and energy they need. He gives people the determination to succeed. The sun will be the one to give strength to all of the other planets.’ https://www.sunsigns.org/sun-symbol-meanings/

Although there are many other playing cards to choose from, I would say that this card has the biggest influence on Aurora. It is the first card described where she does not recognise what the image actually is and wants to see it for herself. Seeing the sun on a card makes her question whether the sun does actually have squints for eyes because it is just so happy. Aurora is also often directly compared to the sun, ‘the girl - sunlight herself’, as well as having golden hair and so on. I think that creating an artwork that has a playing card with the sun on it would be a good move to make because there are just so many references to it throughout both the film and the book. The symbolism of the Sun is also quite relevant to Aurora in the way that Aurora learns to have courage and determination throughout the book. She, at the end of the book, has to rule the kingdom on her own and does not fear doing so due to the battles she has faced in the dream world, whereas in contrast, Aurora and Phillip need to marry for the kingdom.

Rabbit ‘Rabbit spirit animal carries strong energies of hope, renewal, new opportunities. Rabbit springs forth everywhere at the dawn of a new season, the season of planting, the season of new romance wafting in the air, the season of faith in new dreams.

Rabbit is a sacred symbol of good luck, radiating all of the energies of good luck. It is as if good luck and fortune seem to blossom upon, surround and bless the path of the Rabbit spirit animal.

Rabbit appears on the horizon as a messenger that something new is on it's way to you. What dreams are in your heart? Rabbit symbolism popping into your realm is here to encourage you to explore the possibilities of what has captured your attention. . . and your imagination. ‘ https://www.universeofsymbolism.com/rabbit-symbolism.html

This description of the rabbit is just perfectly fitting for the time when the rabbit appears before Aurora. Just when Aurora is trying to forget all of the madness of the playing cards appearing before her and the doubts that she has in her mind about Maleficent, a rabbit appears in front of her, the rabbit has been chosen by the author because it symbolises encouragement, good luck, and a new beginning, all of these things are just what Aurora needs because she makes her escape in 30 pages time. The rabbit appearing is foreshadowing the idea that Aurora will escape for happiness.

Having done some research into the animals/objects that appear before Aurora in the dream world, it makes me realise just how much detail the author went to when telling this story, so I now have a much greater understanding of their importance to the storyline, which makes me even more inclined to include these things into Aurora’s portrait in the style of Dimitra Milan.

Casting Aurora - Courtney Photoshoot

As part of one of my modules in second year, I created a photoshoot with my friend Courtney as I wanted her to be the subject of my portrait at the time, Ariel. Looking back through those photos, there are quite a few good ones that I think would be suitable for the Aurora in ‘Once Upon a Dream’. Courtney is clearly blonde, young and beautiful, so she fits the character profile of what Aurora would be.

These are 13 that I have picked out of the 200 photos taken on the day, these 13 each have potential, it is just picking the right one to suit the narrative. Some of these were picked because I could see the potential of the abstraction and involving the cards, rabbit and bluebird feather into it, others were because the face told a strong story. From these 13 I have managed to cut down again, to just 3.

Here is option number 1, I think that this would be a strong photo to work from because the face shows so much power. Towards the end of the book, Aurora starts to gain more courage and bravery and ends up being the one to battle Maleficent. Courtney’s face in this shot shows strength and courage, as well as beauty and the grace of a princess. This kind of photo on the cover would show that Aurora is very different from what you would expect to see in comparison to the film, this could be a good or a bad thing. Good because it instantly shows that this isn’t the same Aurora from the animated film, and also good that there is female empowerment told in the story which is very current of today.

This is option number 2. This photo reminded me of very traditional royal portraits. I could imagine that Aurora would pose like this while an artist would paint a portrait of her. It could be a good tool to use here by playing on the idea of a traditional royal portrait by having it painted in a very traditional way, but the abstraction around her tells a very different story, which would link with the narrative in how not everything is as it seems to be. This would be a very beautiful photo to work from, especially because the lighting is so perfect in this shot, I can also see a strong potential for the other clue objects to be incorporated into the shot too.

Option number 3. This photo was one I was uncertain of, but I think it helped capture the middle of the book. Aurora’s character grows throughout the book and she is put through many tests along the way, she and Phillip become very cautious of their surroundings and who they talk to. I liked this shot as it shows Aurora to still have beauty and grace, but also to be cautious of her surroundings. This shot called out to me, because again, I could see the potential for the abstraction around her with the rabbit and other objects. But I am just not sure that her face is telling enough of a story here. I decided to go with option number 1 because it just showed a completely new and refreshing Aurora who is powerful, courageous, beautiful and ready to battle. I would still photoshop Courtney into a golden gown as Aurora wears for most of the book. I also think that having a powerful face and the objects around her that initially inspire the journey would elevate the idea even more, almost as though they are her support system that she no longer needs by the end of the book.

Turning Courtney Into Aurora - Medieval Dress Photo References

Here are some dresses from TV shows such as Merlin, Once Upon a Time, Reign and Game of Thrones. These shows are all inspired by the medieval era, so it makes sense to try and collect a feel and reference images. A lot of the dresses have sleeves and decorative embellishments or combinations of fabrics being used, this is something I will also have to consider.

I have however chosen a dress to photoshop Courtney into, not only because I can see it working well in a golden colour like described in the book, but is also has a very similar lighting and body angle to what Courtney is stood in in the photo.

I decided to use a photo or Morgana from ‘Merlin’ as my photo reference for the dress, then I have simply photoshopped Courtney to fit into it. I played around with the colour saturation and vibrance in order to give the dress a pale golden feel to it, like described in the book, I also played around with the brightness and saturation of Courtney’s photo in order to make the contrast and lighting of both the dress, body and head all seem flawless and realistic. I was lucky in the Morgana’s pose and body type is almost exactly the same as Courtney’s here, so it made my photoshopping work very nicely. I upped the saturation in Courtney’s hair as well, to make it a stronger blonde, again, to try and keep close to the description of Aurora in the book. I am planning on changing some of the gold embellishments, especially on the sleeve, so that I am not directly copying the dress Morgana wears in the TV show, I would perhaps change the diamonds on the sleeves to swirls and flowers patterns for example. Overall I am pretty happy with this edit and I can see it working nicely for Aurora, I think I just need to consider the hair and perhaps add a small braid somewhere, so I am not only sticking close to the book, but also how TV and film portray the time period.

Collecting Clue References - Rabbit, Blue Feather and Playing Cards


https://pixabay.com/en/mammalia-rabbit-nice-animalia-3292198/ https://pixabay.com/en/rabbit-grass-nature-animal-hare-2163146/ https://pixabay.com/en/hare-animal-green-eskers-rabbit-1679003/ https://pixabay.com/en/animal-bunny-cute-field-grass-1853020/ Pixabay is an online site which has over 1.4 million royalty free images, so copyright issues are not an issue and I would not have to collage together lots of photo references together in order to create an artwork based on a rabbit.



1 of Suns Playing Card Design

Here are some of my developmental sketches of a potential design for my '1 of Suns' playing card. I tried to stay as close to what is described in the book with the sun have simple curved for eyes, and almost unnoticeable smile on his face, sun rays that reach the edge of the card. I wanted to design the cards at scale seeing as the cards would have been hand painted at the time, so I could see what I could actually paint at the real scale with my brushes and what levels of detail I could get. As my development progressed, I thought it would be good to use just block colour rather than shading or gradients because that is not only easier to do, but also most likely would have been how cards would have been painted of the time as it is easier to recreate the same colour than it is to recreate the same colour mixing in tones. I decided that the 7th card design would be the one I would use because it i simple and does what is stated in the description form the book. This is only a minor part of the overall design of my book cover, so it makes sense for the designing of the card is quick.

Book Cover Designing

Group Crit - 20.04.2018

I had a group crit which went really quite well, my Teen Choice project was coming along nicely and there were just some minor tweaks suggested, which I was hoping for with the poster design because I had reached a point with the design where it needed fresh eyes on it.

My minor project was where I got most of my critique, which was what I was hoping for because it was beginning to grow and develop more at that stage. It was suggested that I treat the book cover as just a landscape image and ignore things like the format of a book cover with things like a barcode, blurb and pricings, I could just strip the design back so the book is literally just artwork on the front and back, with just the name of the book and author’s name on the spine, much like how the book covers are designs by Folio Society. This change in design sounds quite drastic from what I had initially considered, but within the group crit discussion, it did make sense. This book cover that I create could be for a limited edition print, or a 10 year anniversary of the book for example, by having a full bleed artwork with no description would make sense in this situation.

Follow Up from Group Crit


Above are some illustrated fiction book covers from Folio Society, the books are hardback and bound in cloth, they sell for at least £24 each! Most of the ones I have picked are digital looking or flat coloured, the only book in the fiction category that has tonal values to the colours I could find was Charlotte’s Web, this proves that full colour would work and fit into the Folio Society’s portfolio of books they make. It was also suggested in the group crit that I could get my book design printed onto canvas with the help of Jim, so this would help suit what is happening within the Folio Society’s books.

‘Founded in London in 1947, The Folio Society publishes carefully crafted editions of the world’s finest literature. We believe that great books deserve to be presented in a form worthy of their contents. For nearly 70 years we have celebrated the unique joy to be derived from owning, holding and reading a beautiful printed edition. Beautifully crafted, imaginative editions of the world’s great works of fiction and non-fiction, Folio Society books offer a rich literary experience to readers of all ages. The books we select for publication are timeless – we know they will be enjoyed and appreciated now and in the future. Because each book is considered as an individual object of value in its own right, there is a variety to our aesthetic – the only uniformity is in the quality of every single book.’ http://www.foliosociety.com/pages/aboutus-welcome

I could say that I am producing this book cover design as a pitch to help add this book to the collection of classics.

I went away after the group crit and immediately found an artwork where portraiture is used within book cover design, but the artwork is full bleed and covers the whole cover, this helps me to visualise what could potentially happen. I could have my Aurora in a similar composition to this book cover, the castle in place of where the boats are, then Phillip’s shield, thorns, vines, and the 3 fairies on the back cover.

Here is a design idea that I quite like the look of, I also feel like it follows on nicely from the advice I was given in my group crit of having a full landscape image across the book cover design.

In this design, you can see that I have scrapped the ideas I had previously been developing of having the rabbit, blue feather and playing cards, this is because the subject matter within these thumbnails are much more recognisable as Sleeping Beauty and would not need a blurb for people to make the connection that this book is based on the animated film. With putting in new elements like the castle, spinning wheel, Phillip’s shield, vines and thorns, and the the colours glows of the three fairies, I am unsure of a couple of them and how I will render them. Seeing as the style I am going for is to be slightly abstracted, I can get away with a slightly rougher messier style for things like the castle, but I would have to consider whether that rough style would compliment the portrait realism/unfinished style that will be happening with Aurora. I am a little nervous of painting a castle in an abstracted way because I have not worked with scenery in this way before, I can see how I would paint things like Phillip’s shield because I have painted a couple of objects in a splatty/realism way, this style would also work for the spinning wheel, but the castle is quite ambitious. I do not have as much time as I would like to experiment with learning how to paint a castle in an abstract way, I will give it a go, but I do have to bare in mind that I only have around 2 weeks left until the deadline day at this point, where I still have to paint this whole design and make the book.

Dimitra Milan Inspired Experiments

Here are some of my Dimitra Milan experiments. The mark making is kind of nice when there is no subject matter on it. I think it maybe a situation like my Teen Chocie poster background where I photoshop together different mark making layers on top of eachother to create something that is actually nice.

At this point, I am not familiar enough with using paint in this kind of way to know or be able to plan how the paint will work out, like for example knowing what water will do and how much of it to mix with the paint to create an effective look. The painting with the castle was just an experiment with abstraction, but again, buildings are something that I am unfamiliar with working with anyway, so having to abstract it is a bit much. The colours work nicely together, but the style is just awful, especially if I am to use that on the same cover design with my portrait of Aurora. This abstraction style will need more practise if I want to use it, but to be honest, with the time I have left and how the castle is looking, I would rather scrap the whole thing and move onto a different design.

New Book Cover Design

Seeing as the abstract painting experiment of the castle did not go well at all, I have changed my design and concept. I have removed the castle as well as the thorns and vines from the design as I am not confident enough that in the time I have left, that I can pull off a good looking artwork that looks stylistically consistent. I have combined the two ideas that I came up within my design process, I have brought back the idea of having the clues that help Aurora to begin her journey, as these are things I have not only had this concept since the beginning of the design process, but it is also more specific to this books telling of an alternate ending to the Sleeping Beauty film, and it also follows with my deliverables in my Project Proposal by working in a style inspired by Dimitra Milan. In the design spread, Aurora’s eyes are looking at the spinning wheel, this is a deliberate design choice as that is what essentially starts the book and how Aurora has been cursed to prick her finger on a spinning wheel on her 16th birthday. I am a lot more comfortable with this design and that I can pull it off in the time that I have left and it still be a strong portfolio piece.

Background Experiments

Here are some background experiments with the intention of starting the final artwork onto one of them. The larger image at the top was an attempt to working in a style heavily inspired by Dimitra Milan with layered paint and mark making, but it just looks like a mess to be honest. The colours have all merged together to make a murky dirty colour which is not very appealing. I then stripped back the design to limited mark making and channeling a Ben Jeffery and Dimitra Milan cross inspiration and this looked a lot better. The mark making had a lot more room to breathe and was more in keeping with my portfolio anyway. I was thinking that I could perhaps digitally layer up some of the backgrounds to add more depth like Milan does. These backgrounds did not grab my attention enough to be honest and I just did not feel comfortable starting a painting with these backgrounds.

Staring the Project Again

I was feeling frustrated with these background outcomes and so I decided to just do a quick study of the spinning wheel while I was waiting for the paint to dry and that alone was a lot more successful than my previous background experiments. The murky and slushy mark making I managed to create was purely accidental by having a thick load of paint on my brush and just moving with it. I kind of just happened and I like the look of it. Although it is not quite what I had in mind of working in a style inspired by Dimitra Milan, this new direction is one I am a lot more comfortable with and still conveys the message that I wanted to anyway with its style.

Working in a similar style to what I did with the spinning wheel, I created a background that I could see working nicely. The murky horizontal wiggles help to show movement and a bit of energy to the green, much like what happens in Maleficent’s orb of magic you see in the film, which is a nice connection to make. Although the background is very bold, I can see the portrait being able to provide an equal boldness so the background doesn’t become too overpowering. I am imagining that I could use some of my background experiments as layers behind the portrait.

A Concept That I Just Need to Abandon - Painting Aurora

Here is around 12 hours worth of work. You can see that I have managed to paint perhaps double the amount of the portrait in this time in comparison to my portraits for the Teen Choice project of Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson, this is however because I am rushing it and taking shortcuts.

At this point with just 9 days left to go until the deadline, I was in a position where I had to paint the portrait as quickly as I could and not worry about the artwork. This was however just not a comfortable feeling, knowing that I was rushing the painting is sacrificing the quality and the likeness of Courtney, although she isn’t a celebrity so the pressure for the likeness is not necessarily there, but the overall quality of the painting is a lot lower than anything in my portfolio. If I was to finish this painting, it would really bring down the high quality standard shown throughout my portfolio.

In my mind, after having done the three portraits which were a series, I felt like I finished and had that rewarded feeling, I was obviously not done however and just need to work with a subject matter that is not a face to keep myself sane. I still had a good amount of time left to come up with a slightly different concept and be able to pull off a much higher standard of painting than what is going on here...

2020 Reflection

Looking back at this project and how awful it is in comparison to the cover I did actually end up making, I am so glad that I made the decision to stop trying to work a whole concept and style that I had never worked with. Expecting to be able to create a whole new style in the space of a few weeks is just not achievable in any situation, but after feeling physically drained from the Teen Choice portrait, working on another portrait was just not something my brain could cope with at that moment in time, baring in mind that I was painting 8 full hours a day on those pieces.

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