Friday, 11 November 2011

You may be disappointed if you fail, but you are doomed if you don't try.

These are a few examples of illustrations I made a few months ago for a commission. 

The brief was to design a set of characters - Mr and Mrs Farmer, their son Junior, Grandpa, Mrs Farmer's friend and Mr Farmer's colleague, who all discuss the work required of a pharmacist, and what this entails. 

The client stipulated that they didn't want the characters to have any racial resemblance "to avoid an awkward choice". They wanted four double page spreads to convey four conversations between the characters.

I sent the characters, along with a storyboard rough to the client, after which they gave me the green light to continue. That led to these illustrations:

After they saw these illustrations, they changed their minds. Now they wanted green silhouettes based on stock photography instead of illustrated characters. And they needed them by the next morning. Really, I should have told them to find another illustrator at this point - I felt quite depressed thinking I would have to put my name to something so far removed from my own ideas. But I really needed the money, so I was in a bind. I duly sent over these images:

Surprisingly, given that I was asked to use stock photography, they found the silhouettes too "catalogue pose". The woman was too slim for their liking and because she was a pharmacist she wasn't supposed to be wearing jeans. Now they were asking for an illustration of Grandpa and Junior, which they wanted to be "generic yet stylised". It would have been much more helpful if they had sent some sample images of what they thought "generic yet stylised" meant. I sent over this illustration:
After this shocking image, they cancelled the project.

I didn't feel that I was taking huge risks - I was trying to create images that people could relate to - women having tea together, a boy playing with a ball with his grandad.

The client was asking for Grandpa to have a walking stick and for Junior to be in a wheelchair and for the main character Mrs Farmer to be overweight, and for none of the characters to have a racial identity. They were so afraid of offending people, and I found this really sad. I'm sure that people with disabilities don't need characters to be disabled for them to relate to them. And it is terribly patronising to expect a white person to fail to identify with the thoughts and ideas of a black person.


Becca Illustration said...

Oh Emma, I think you did a brilliant job considering how awful and vague their briefs were! You're completely right with your views about what people relate to..I think you would've done a great job if it was left to u without any of the pc restraints! xxx

Emma Ridgway said...

Aww thanks Becca, that really means a lot! :) xxx

Sheena said...

Oh my god! I would be so mad. I hope they gave you a kill fee. I think the first set of illustrations you did were lovely.