This is one quick project!

This project came very quickly after the Charity one, but I think that worked quite well. These two projects have really helped me to get out of my sketchbook. This is one of the main points of feedback that I received from Amelia in a tutorial once, so it’s been nice to be able to remember this and work away from my sketchbook.

So for this project we were asked to go onto the TED Talks website and out of the thousands and thousands of talks, pick one that fully excites and interests us to produce a minimum of 10 images to go into a 10 minutes presentation at the end of the 2 week project. The briefing was very inspiring delivered by Anna and Amelia, and we were shown some wonderful works of art too (which I always found ever so inspiring in a briefing). The tutors were keen to have this TED project follow on the from that Charity one in terms of context, so for me that means keeping my focus on wounded soldiers, PTSD, prosthetic limbs and so on.

 When I got talking to one of my house mates about this project, she came bounding up to me so eager to tell me about a wonderful TED Talk she had watched and insisted on me watching it also. So I did, but I shall return to this point later.

I began to search for some Talks the focussed on the area of prosthetic limbs, wounded soldiers (mentally and physically), even looking at talks that explored things such as Anxiety, depression and mourning. All of these being able to relate back to how a soldier can be effected in war. After a while I found a lady called Aimee Mullins. She has done 3 talks with TED, but the one I wanted to focus on was called “My 12 pairs of legs”. I watched it over and over and began to grow ever so inspired by her. She had her legs amputated below the knee what she was only 1 years old. Her parents were told that she wouldn’t walk. Now? She is a Para-Olympian, a model and a motivational speaker.

When I watched the Talk, she showed us many of her different prosthetic limbs that she has had made for her, including wooden carved legs for a runway show for Alex McQueen, and also glass jellyfish legs for a photo shoot with photographer Nick Knight.


So I began thinking what I wanted to make for this project, and almost immediately I wanted to make an animation. In this animation I wanted a pair of legs stepping into each of the 12 legs as they walk along. I was so excited about this idea, however this was already 1 week into the project and I have never made a drawn animation before. So I began drawing the start so that I could get to grips with software and how to put it all together. Then things quickly turned extremely stressful. I had made 12 images, ready to use them for a mock-up. I scanned them into my laptop, however they came in as PDF’s and had no way of changing this to Jpeg’s. So I then had to convert them online, once they were converted they were changed from their original size to A4, so I then had to crop them all down before I could use them, which as you can imagine was very time-consuming. I then didn’t have any software, so decided to download a 30 day free trial of Adobe Premiere in order to put my animation together. I began dragging the images in and put them at 30 seconds each. All of this was just a pair of legs taking 2 steps. Then, for some bizarre reason, the images began deleting themselves whilst on premiere! It really was about 4 hours of a complete nightmare. At this point I could see no light- It had taken me this much time, for 2 steps. 1 pair of legs, out of 12. And this was only a mock-up, nowhere near how I imagined the final piece to look with colour and so on. I sat down, had a sup of tea and watched a documentary to calm myself down, before I gave up for good. So then I attempted to use an App that I had downloaded on my iPhone that helps you create stop-frame animations. So I gave that a go.

(I tried to upload the short video I managed to make on my phone here but it isn’t working)

After this I couldn’t bare to face it any more, I was totally exhausted by the idea. And that’s where the first TED talks I watch comes back into play.


This talk was so amazing, I highly recommend anyone to watch it. To cut a long story short, Mac Barnett is a children’s book author, and the first thing he says to us is that he ‘lies to children for a living’. His imagination spans for miles and has even opened up a supermarket that sells microchips for robots to be able to feel emotions such as love, fear, he also sells dead languages! He has written a book about a little boy who gets a Blue Whale as a pet, but this is a punishment, because it’s pretty hard to handle having a blue whale as a pet, right?!


Well, on the inside of the sleeve to this book is an advert for children, offering to them a 30 day free trail for a Blue Whale, all they have to do is send a home-addressed stamped envelope to the address given, and in return they send you a blue whale. And that’s where my work begins. I instantly loved this story, there is so much innocence, imagination and wonder sewn in and out here. Mac goes on to tell us about the children that responded to the advert, receiving letters saying things like “I bet you $10 that you wont send me a whale!”. What happens when they children write in, is that a few weeks after sending their letter, they receive a letter from the Norwegian Customs services saying that they are having a problem getting their Whale through customs and will be unable to send it over. However they say that the whale leaves and goes to a really lovely place somewhere in the sea. With this letter the children get sent a photo of their whale, and it also says that their whale would love to hear from them so they leave a phone number on which they can call their whale. When they call this number, they hear a bunch of whale sounds and it goes to voice-mail, where they are free to leave as many messages as they want. And that is where we get to hear about Nico.

Nico receives the letter and a photo of his whale, who is called Randolf. Throughout his talk, Mac shows us some of the messages that Nico leaves to Randolf. In one day, he leaves over 5 messages. Over 4 years, he leaves Randolf 25 messages. Throughout these messages Mac gets to learn all about Nico, he hears about how he likes to do crosswords, he hears about the Grandma he likes, and the Grandma he likes a little less.. he’s the best reader Mac could have hoped for. This is because of the way he is able to emotionally dive into his stories, and be able to believe every last word of it, and this for him makes him feel very lucky. This for me is so very inspiring, and is what got me interested in the talk in the first place. Although Mac is an author, as an illustrator I am still able to reach these levels within the child’s imagination through my images.

I wanted to used my 10 images to illustrate the story and the growing relationship between Nico and Randolf.

Here are my 10 images.

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 On the left we have Nico. I had so much fun imagining what he would look like when I was listening to the messages he left to Randolf. A colourful boy with a colourful imagination. To the right we have the advert that came in the sleeve of Mac’s book. “Wouldn’t life be perfect with a Blue Whale there?”

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Then we have Nico writing his letter to send off asking for the 30 day free trail of having a Blue Whale as a pet. Then he gets sent the letter from the Norwegian Law firm and his photograph of his adopted Whale, Randolf.

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I then went on to illustrate the relationship that begins to blossom between Nico and Randolf, showing Nico calling him and telling him all about his crosswords that he like to do, and on the receiving end we have Randolf who is happy lounging on his sofa in the sea, listening to all Nico has got to say.

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So here is his grandma that he likes, and the grandma that he likes a little less…

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And finally we have the last 2 images, of Nico calling Randolf to wish him a happy Christmas, who is on the receiving end, wearing a Christmas hat that he pulled from a cracker.

We were told that we didn’t have to have any perfect or complete ‘final’ images for this project as it is so fast, but I think it was very important for me to include colour in my images. I tried not to use too much colour and stick to a colour scheme, mainly of bright yellows, blues, oranges and greens. I also worked quite minimalist and simplistic with this project, which is also how I usually work, this is just because I am a big fan of negative space! I thoroughly enjoyed this project once I got into the swing of things, and would love to carry on. Some of the images work better than others and I think what works well with my images are they are comedic and playful. I’d like to play with my images more and expand on ideas.

At the end of the project we had a 10 minute presentation to do, chatting to the group about how the project went. I found the critique ever so helpful afterwards, everyone including Anna were ever so good to me! It was all very positive, mentioning that the images would appeal to an audience of 4-6 year old children. Anna mentioned to me carrying on the project, making more images and turning it into a children’s book. This is something that really appeals to me and would love to finalize this idea and get it printed into a children’s book. Another thing Anna mentioned is to make it more colourful, experimenting with full-bleed illustrations and veering away from leaving so much negative space!

Overall I really enjoyed this project, working for the audience of children is not something I’ve really done before and it was nice to hear people tell me that it is working for me, so I am going to continue working on this project and hopefully have a book at the end of it.


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