12 Days of News Christmas Project

So for Christmas holidays we were set the task of illustrating 12 news stories from the 30 day period, while considering older ways of illustrating news stories with empathy used in full illustrated (or photographed) magazines such as the London Illustrated News.

I saved a folder with all of my news stories and later wrote them down in my sketchbook to try to deliberate what I felt could be illustrated by me or was important to me to illustrated. Basically a lot of these stories brought me to tears I didn’t feel right now including some of them in the final mix, or they were literally some of the most earth shattering or reality crushing events of the holidays that I’d seen. To be honest I didn’t necessarily go too far for most of these stories but I did think it would be silly not to pay attention and I have a subscription to the guardian so I just kept keeping emails or copying the addresses of things I though I might want to cover.

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The list as mentioned above, I narrowed it down to about 16 and then narrowed it down to the 12 which consist of:

The Boko Haram Massacre in Baga,

Air Asia missing aircraft,

Charlie Hebdo slaughter,

More evidence about the Mayans demise,

Plans to Expel foreign students,

North Korean defectors making new lives for themselves in a little area of Surrey,

Mother accidentally shot by her child,

7 year old who survived a fatal crash and walked to find help,

Proposed banning of encrypted messaging apps to counter terrorism and the rise of social media as a platform for promoting religious extremism and indoctrination,

Tory plans to legalise fox hunting again should they come back into power this year

And finally the story of Masha the tabby in Russia who saved a child from freezing to death by cuddling up to him.

(I also have a news story talking about the broken prison system in the US and how the UK is for some reason mimicking it however I don’t know what placement in the book it is in because I somehow missed it while scanning which I will correct when I get my work back).

I tried to pick a large variation of subjects and areas to cover but I did pick and awful lot of very very sad and morbid stories to cover and I think it would have been a great shame to not include them when they covered the news for a long time. Although, I did also purposely include the Boko Haram story as I felt that….as much as I don’t feel that a tragedy and loss of life can be compared I do feel that the issues with Boko Haram perhaps took a back seat to the issues involving the Charlie Hebdo tragedy because everyone was focusing on the freedom of speech aspect and the general closeness of the attack to the western world as opposed to the tragedies that these people are suffering from the people claiming to be fighting for Allah and other Muslims while slaughtering their own communities and letting people live in fear with their religious reasons at least in the higher ranks seemingly as an excuse to do whatever the hell they damn well please regardless of legal consequences or consideration for people of different belief systems and preferences.

However in that way the Charlie Hebdo attack seems to play into this dogmatic way that some of these groups are doing things with having a different opinion being punishable by death to some of them. However regardless of that I chose to organise my magazine layout in the order I wrote above, with the three mass tragedies of the years end one after another and Boko Haram at the forefront because we still don’t know the extent of the damage and these people have essentially lost their everything, even the ones who did survive. I can’t say the same for Charlie Hebdo, as they have managed to bounce back from their misfortune.

But enough about my opinion on the matter in this area, I didn’t sketch as much as I possibly should have as I found that rather than sketching helping to bring about the development of ideas that I needed to do something else proactive in order to let the ideas to incubate, such as the idea I have for my Air Asia illustration which I have had the idea for since the first Air Asia flight went missing in the early half of 2014. Or while I was researching Nigerian or Yoruba religious, mythic, symbolic and other such areas looking for something to use to symbolise a death and ended up sticking with candles.

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I did a lot of studies from photos on google images to try to get the shapes right with tea light candles, as well as testing if black gouache or coloured paint or ink or even fine liner worked better for it. The top left black and white candle study I did in the end cemented what I wished to do with the image because you can line them up together and keep painting them into the distance to the point where it will be impossible to determine how many have gone out, much like the deaths of the citizens of Bara and its neighbouring town where they still haven’t been able to determine the exact amount of victims of the attack.

I think end, what I initially though of maybe  depicting a blooded item belonging to one of the residents, or a river of blood in a hall or anything or that ilk felt like it lacked tact and I wanted to treat the deaths of these people with the respect they didn’t get when they were mercilessly slaughtered. I thought it was extremely important to keep that aspect of respect going through and hope that no more lights have to go out for this selfish group to be brought to justice as they’re still devastating their own people even now.

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Next I moved on to thinking about the story of the cat who saved the baby, I thought about all sorts of things like it walking up to the child, snuggling it, wrapping around it and finally settled on an idea I had which is below on the right, its tail wrapping around with the child peeking through holding it and the cat gazing stoicly on.

I then thought about the child accidentally shooting his mother, how best to display that, to show the child sleeping with a gun, pointing it at his mother and came to the realisation it is probably best not to show the child at all. The child was a victim just as the mother was, showing the child holding the gun is like proclaiming he had fault in finding the gun or the woman had fault in having the gun. Neither did, the fault lies with the laws of that nation. So I thought about perhaps colours mixed together with her laying down, bleeding, crying and a doll at her life’s end as things went wrong for her. Yet another victim of gun control issues that need to be tackled.

Charlie Hebdo was next on the list and I was overwhelmed by the whole issue. I ended up drawing a sheet of paper with a quote (Attributed to Oscar Wilde but I think that is rather dubious) “I may not agree with you but I will defend to the death your right to make an ass of yourself” which I thought rather summed up the entire issue. I didn’t want to do broken pencils, broken chalk, smashed mannequins, some offensive depiction of a stereotype of a terrorist which also equates to a stereotype of a Muslim man. I was done with the issue, not so much fed up but done with people trying to victim blame the people who died and then on the other side martyr them as paragons of freedom of speech. I don’t think either of these is true and will continue to think that, as the men who perpetrated the act were radicalised people who clearly felt that an opinion is worth death and destruction and potentially used it as an excuse to lead an attack on the News paper agency. Next to that the cartoonists and other staff possibly took their satire too far with depictions, caricatures and the like but none of it justifies death. So I ended with a crudely drawn image in oil pastel, some blood and a quote. It is my weakest piece but also the one I deliberated on for the longest. I didn’t want to follow the rest, if I did I probably could have done some much better aesthetically, but I empathised the meaning over the art this one time.

The 7 year old who survived brought to me an idea of a child crying, maybe she didn’t in real life but I can’t imagine losing all of your family in one fell swoop and your cousin, walking miles to get help with one sock and injuries not breaking down near the end. So I think what I ended up just straight up doing in my book was appropriate.
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For the North Korean defectors I chose to cover hat story instead of the drama involving the sony movie about the country and its leader because frankly we need less news stories turning the man and country into some sort of darth vader style cartoon villain empire. I’ve read things about the atrocities that country does, about starvation, cannibalism, constant death, war crimes, constant human rights issues, poverty. The less we stereotype them as those kooky people who have an entire country under their heel and react stupidly to things the better.

But regardless, I chose to depict in a double page spread a street and people hugging, a man in the middle (or figure) and bars like a prison on the other side with some fairly poorly depicted propaganda posters, and man aiming a gun at many bowing people. Its definitely a stereotype of what the life there might be like but I didn’t want to ever view it in a humorous light because simply put this is wrong and the fact that people think they’re a joke of a country is what allows them to keep subjecting people to all manner of atrocities (just a note: I forgot to scan the North Korean double page spread so it isn’t in here at the moment).

I depicted the mayan story with a man examining the samples they take from soil deposits (I have a history of watching tons of documentaries about history and this is a pretty standard way of figuring out how the weather was in the past when you examine the sediment). I don’t think I necessarily drew it as well as I could but I didn’t want to spend tons of time on every single image as it isn’t about making them something hugely detailed rather than depicting the story or event.
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I covered a story on the broken prison system in America and how a lot of the prisoners are non violent but make up the majority along with the dangerous violent criminals (which often means these people reoffend), women, disabled, Black or Latino and how disproportionate it is compared to the more wealthy populace or in general the prevalence of the class system and racial  or disabled profiling. I accidentally missed out this image in my scan so for that reason I will describe what I made. For the image I found it difficult to think about it except once I focused on the aspect of who ends up in prison so I made a mock illustration of one of those scenes you often see in the movies where they have like a little tag or board they’re holding or is around their neck to enter them into the system except I had an old woman, four men and another woman standing side by side each with crimes that are either dubious or possibly shouldn’t be criminalised in they way they are (one of the men took drugs to relieve pain, another assisted in the suicide of his wife, homelessness and stealing, prostitution) and then painted it in grey scale (with a hint of red) because I thought this kind of relates to the “grey grey morality” phrase.

For the foreign story I thought about it in terms of the amount of people I actually know who come to University and aren’t from this country and it…well its just stupid to not let people with skills and brilliant minds to incubate here, at least in my mind. I didn’t really originally think too deeply about how I could depict this particular story because I just couldn’t think of anything other than that I wanted it to kind of look like a satire comic from a newspaper. I suppose it kind of does look like a satire comic, but I think I made a couple mistakes which impacted the way it looks and I don’t think I necessarily depicted or arranged the image as best as I could have.

With the Air Asia story they died in the ocean, a deep sorrow was felt with their families and I hope as an international tragedy regardless of what caused the disappearance. So I had this idea I mentioned earlier which I have had since the original tragedy in early 2014, a sea with flowers or petals scattered into it with “rest in peace” written on it. Rather than doing that, I chose to look up flowers, specifically asian flowers to symbolise something and in this case I chose lotus flowers to represent rebirth because these people had their lives cut short and even several children and a baby were lost to the world. That sadness, of the family, of the loss of life, I really wanted to represent it without trying to show the people themselves and utilise this idea as best I could.

For the last two stories I tackled the worry over encrypted apps and basically what would end up meaning that we are all being watched constantly with no privacy. It was a catch 22 situation in my opinion, we need the safety but we also want the freedom along with encryption being important for our own safety and security with our footprints online. (and the whole debacle about calls for attacks in Britain by extremist people on facebook which I’m pretty sure should be getting a bit more flack than snapchat).

I had two ideas, a “big brother is watching” style idea and then another with a weighing scale with privacy on one and safety on the other. Honestly I wasn’t quite sure which would work but I ended up picking “big brother” in the end despite it not necessarily turning out as I’d like. I think the pit fall with that particular story is I didn’t have a clear picture of what I was doing for it or how to depict it so I kind of just ad libbed it as best I could to try to get something. Which I think was a waste I certainly would pick another news story next time if I do a project like this again.

The second story I tackled was the issue of fox hunting, which I fervently  disagree with. We aren’t the only creatures allowed to live somewhere, a ‘pest’ in this case is a pest because we don’t have that many forest left for those animals to live in and just like badgers, deers, robins, hedgehogs, etc I don’t think we have the right to get rid of them just because we dominate this country.

That and it also seems terribly cruel to hunt an animal with god knows how many people and hounds and we probably have much more important things to focus on than hunting what little of our wild life is left.

…..As you can see I have a lot of feelings about this. I don’t inherently disagree with hunting but when it comes to it becoming some sort of middle class pass time for the rich and such when we have our own people starving and poverty abounds I think there really is much more to focus on. (sorry, logical fallacy right there but it is an issue I think shouldn’t BE an issue).

At any rate I drew a fox with a target over its head. In hindsight, I could have drawn a hung fox, what was left of a tail, any of it. I don’t think fox hunting is as clean as just shooting it when I have heard of the dogs tearing the foxes to pieces. It just….seems inhumane. At any rate, I did the target,  it was a fairly simple drawing as I didn’t want to have too many things like paintings, too many things that were simple and the like but I seemed to have gone too far simple and not added any shading to it so it seems a bit lacklustre to me.

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As I didn’t have a big enough printer to scan and print A3 work, instead I grabbed some cartridge paper and made an A4 book.

The layout I worked out is as follows:

front|back

blank|intro

Boko|Boko

Air |Asia

Charlie|Hebdo

Mayan|Foreigner

Korean|Nationals

Womanshot|7 y o

Masha|Baby

Outro|Blank

(The prisoner illustration is somewhere in here but I don’t remember exactly where)

This was based on several factors:

Stories I wanted taking the forefront, tangentially related things (like the fox hunting and apps being both related David Cameron for instance) and in general what I thought would be interesting together and hopefully not depress anyone who looks at it too much.

Now onto the layout with the book, I think I would have gone for a more professional looking book if I had a bigger printer to try and make it look legitimately like a magazine, try to do something in photoshop or indesign but those resources weren’t available so I did everything manually (and tested out stencils earlier for writing) and ended up just going with a plain text cover, plain text intro and outro and fairly sloppily made illustrations which if put through a scanner could have done with borders to neaten them out.

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So these were my 12 days of illustrations. I think it has a lot to improve upon in terms of layout, composition and in general some of the illustrations I’m not happy with (the mayan, charlie hebdo, foreign affairs, fox and app illustrations) but I feel like the illustrations I did pull off work really well in terms of getting a point across or shown what I have tried to empathise in terms of empathising with particular stories or circumstances.

It was a really fun project, if not slightly stressful and I think I potentially didn’t sketch or deliberate enough on what to depict as I was working as sometimes you pick a story to illustrate and end up getting to that point where you actually don’t really know what you’re doing to draw, you just know you want to no matter what if you feel that strongly about it (Boko Haram, Air Asia are a few I felt like this towards).

Like I said before I feel like if I did this again I would make sure I could present it more professionally instead of kind of slapdash traditional obviously home made book style, but despite that I am happy with the majority of what I created and why.

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