Archive for November, 2010

While I was happily designing my ghosts, and enjoying drawing the spooky designs, I realised I had no real concept for the story where these ghosts were going to be set in. Worried, I spoke to my tutor, who was a great help to me in sorting out my ideas. I wrote a few initial ideas down, unsure if I wanted to create images for a children’s book, or aim it more at teens. I wanted to create images for children, having been inspired by my Haunted Mansion book and the Disney Imagineers. However, I felt that my drawings were far too “frightening” to use for children. 

My ideas

I had two domiant ideas for the story concept, one more cantered for children, the other an older audiance. Both involved a character having to stay at the castle alone, and is spooked by the ghosts. The childlike concept had the ghosts being prankish, cute, “Casper” like things, who teased the character and then became friends with them at the end of the story. The second involved the character being led through the castle by a caretaker, who would protect the character from the more frightening looking ghosts, leading them to safety; only once the character was free from the horrors of the castle would they realise the caretaker was a ghost as well, trapped within the bounds of the castle with the tortourous spirits.  I presented both these concepts to my tutor, who advised that I continue with the story for children; and that I don’t need to edit it to suit an older audience simply because my artwork isn’t “cute”.

My final story concept

I decided I wanted to change a lot of my story idea after speaking with my tutor. I wanted to create a story concept for a children’s book, set in Chirk Castle. I wanted it to be about a young girl who has to spend a night in the castle, and ends up being locked in a room. She hears noises and sees eyes staring at her from a suit of armour’s visor. Frightened, but brave, the young girl decides to find the source of the noises and befriend it. She looks through the room, under tables and behind books on the shelf, only to be spooked by the sudden apperance of a slinky black cat; while petting it, the little girl realises from it’s bright yellow eyes that it must have been the source of the spooky goings on in the room.

I want to include three characters in the story; the little girl, the cat, and the caretaker. I liked the idea of a creepy caretaker leading the child into the castle, before leaving her in the room where she accidentally locks herself in. I aim to design each of the characters, and plan on the scenes that will take place. Most notably, I want the caretaker leading the girl through the main gate and into the castle, the girl trapped in the room and seeing the eyes, and the girl petting the cat.


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  So I began searching for more ghosty inspiration. I’ve been a lover of Disney and the theme parks from a young age, with one of my favorite rides being the “Haunted Mansion”. (Known as the “Phantom Manor” in Disneyland Paris).

A source of great ghostly inspiration!

The aura of creepyness conbined with the comedy aspect allows the guests to feel a little nervous and jumpy, but at the same time feel in safe hands. This is the kind of feeling I wanted from my Chirk castle project at this stage. I decided to use my book “The Haunted Mansion, from the Magic Kingdom to the Movies” as inspiration to begin my ghost designs. The book features many of the orginial concepts and illustrations for the ride, including a number of ghost character sketches, inked illustrations and coloured works; most of these were drawn and created by Ken Anderson, Claude Coats and Marc Davies.

Grim Grinning Ghosts!


All three were part of Disney’s “Nine Old Men” who were a group of the company’s top imagineers and animators, and were involved in a number of famous works by the company, as well as creating concepts for the park itself. Their work has always inspired me; I feel they each hold a great talent for capturing character, emotion and the feeling of movement in their work. All three have also been given of honary status of “Disney Legend.”

Another ghostly character.


I found it very hard to begin this project, even with finally deciding on doing ghosts, and having sources of inspiration. So, I simply decided to sit down and draw a “ghost”. I ending up very quickly drawing the typical cartoonish “sheet with eyeholes” ghost.

Not exactly the scariest little spook...

Not exactly a well developed concept, but I needed something to act as a starting point. From this I drew a few other ghost concepts, ranging from cute cartooony “Casper” style ghosts to more frightening, ragid looking things trailing tattered fabric. I really enjoyed playing with the designs for the ghosts.

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Spooks and spectres…

Once I’d visited Chirk Castle, I found it very difficult at first to think of concepts and ideas. I did a mind map, but still found myself struggling to come up with something I was happy with. I didn’t want to produce a poster, since I’d done that on two occassions previously on this course. (For the role of the designer brief and the toy brief). I played with the idea of being inspired by the statues in the grounds, which had fanisated me; the statues were of two women stood either side of a hedge enteranceway, one blindfolded, the other bound by her hands tied behind her back. What did these statues mean? Why were they there? I was drawn to the idea of the statue of Justice, who is blindfolded so she may judge unbiasedly. However, when I realised this was an idea a friend of mine was class was also doing, I felt a little disheartened, and went back to the drawing board to come up with another concept. As soon as I heard we were to be doing a project inspired by the castle, my first thoughts had leapt to the idea of ghosts. I’ve always been fasinated by the idea of the supernatural, and thought a castle like Chirk would be filled with ghost stories to draw inspiration from. When I reasearched it, though, I found there to be hardly any accounts or myths about ghosts surrounding the castle. There was the story of the bloody hand, but that had nothing to do with ghosts, and was about the fight between two sons for the inheritance of the castle. I spoke to Heather, a friend in my class, asking her if she had come across any ghost related stories in her research. She told me how, after lengthly internet searches, she had come across a number of small incidences that had supposedly occurred at the castle; such as visitors being poked or nudged slightly by an unseen force, and footsteps seemingly following staff members down the portrait gallery.

Could this be a ghost outside Chirk castle's chapel?

 I found a few articles discussing various ghostly phenomenon at Chirk on http://www.Paranormaldatabase.com, one of the incidents being where a photographer was practising with various lences, and happened to take a photograph of what appeared to be a semi transparent figure outside the chapel.

When I walked through Chirk castle, I must admit some of the darker areas (such as walking along the dark portrait gallery) did feel incredibibly creepy and at times uneasy; but I’m unsure if this was just my imagination running away with me, or something else. Inspired by the stories, I have now decided to concentrate and devleop ideas on the ghost concept.

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Clockwork Couture

While researching Steampunk, I came across a number of websites dedicated to the culture and the art and design side of the genre. I adored the sheer amount of imagination and skill that went into producing the pieces. I found all of these of great inspiration, especially when I needed to find referances for steampunk clothing. One of my favorite sites, http://www.clockworkcouture.com, was a key part of designing the older version of my little girl character. Steampunk fashion has no set guidelines, but seems to encorperate modern tastes in fashion with those of the Victorian period, which may include gowns, corsets, petticoats and bustles; suits with vests and top hats, coats and spats. Wearers will often incorperate a mixture of technological and period assesories, such as parasols, timepieces, goggles and ray guns. Modern items such as mobile phones, pagers, or music players may be modified to suit the theme and made to look like Victorian objects.

I had previously drawn steampunk inspired characters off my own back for the future comic project, and decided I wanted to try and edit the designs to use in my art book as the design for the young girl’s older self. I flitted between two designs, editting a sketch I’d drawn previously and colouring it to see how the colours would work togeather. I however decide that the character design who suited my little girl character was a character I’d designed with a short hair and a long bustle, whose clothing was inspired by the garments on Clockwork Couture. This is the character that will be seen at the end section of the art book, looking out towards the sky holding onto the rigging of an airship.

One of the edited and coloured designs.

The design of the character that will be used as the girl's older self.

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K.W. Jeter is the novelist who coined the term “Steampunk” and is well known for his dark literary works. He, along with his friends Tim Powers and James Blaylock, could go as far as to be called the fathers of modern steampunk culture.

Works by K.W. Jeter, Tim Powers and James Baylock.

Works by K.W. Jeter, Tim Powers and James Baylock.

The two novels he is aclaimed to have written, set in an alternate history with retro technology, are “Morlock Night” and “Inferal Devices.” James Blaylock also wrote a number of steampunk themed novels, with all except one set in Victorian England, in a series known as the “Narbondo” series. Tim Powers is the third highly aclaimed steampunk novelist in the trio, and has won numous awards for his work. He has won the World Fantasy award twice, and his novel “On Stranger Tides” was adapted by Disney for the fourth installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.

I’ve also been looking into steampunk in art and design to help inspire me for my art book. A popular pastime for artists who love the genre is to take modern inventions, such as computers and guitars, and redesign them using materials used in the Victorian era. (Such as polished brass, iron, wood and leather, along with the steampunk elements of cogs and clockwork.) Various pieces include the fully working steam engine created by the artist group Kinetic Steam Works, as well as their claimed steampunk treehouse, which is on permanent display at the Dogfish Head Craft Brewery in Milton, Delaware.

A number of other artists have created steampunk themed pieces as the popularity of the genre grew. In 2008, artist Paul St. George created an outdoor sculpture in the form of a Victorian era styled telescope, which was installed with interactive video installations. In 2009, artist Tim Wetherell created a sculpture for an Austrilian convention called Questacon; the piece was mounted on a wall, and featured moving clockwork and cogs, and a video of the moon’s terminator, and was entitled “Clockwork Universe.” As much as I would adore to put working clockwork in my book, I highly doubt I’d be able to achieve that.

"Clockwork Universe" by Tim Wetherell.

From October 2009 through February 2010, the Museum of Science in Oxford hosted the first major exhibition of Steampunk art objects; From redesigned practical items to fantastical contraptions, this exhibition showcased the work of eighteen Steampunk artists from across the globe. The exhibition proved to be the most successful in the museum’s history and attracted more than eighty thousand visitors. Various other art exibitions and conventions have sprung up round the world, and steampunk enthuists are an avid feature in most expos.

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Once I’d discovered that the “Flight” brief was to be directed towards creating an art book, I knew my idea would have to be elaborated upon. My idea was originally going to be a single image depicting the title I’d chosen, “The flight of imagination”. I had various ideas for this single illustration, but only one I felt I could extend beyond the single image.
I decided upon the idea I had of a girl stood on the rigging of an airship, looking out to an open sky; in the original concept, the name of on the side of the ship was to read “imagination” to tie it in with the title.
To expend this concept into an art book, I decided to create more of a story with the character stood on the rigging, keeping it linked to my original title.
 I came up with the idea that the girl dreamed of being on an airship as a child, and would play with a toy one; the story of the book is her hoping and imagining, before she finally achieves her dream at the end.
The next thing to decide was what kind of art book I wanted to create; after researching and looking through examples shown in class, as well as looking through the books provided, I knew I wanted to create an altered book so I could gain the vintage look I felt my story needed.
The vintage look combined with my airship idea began to  lead me down the Steampunk route when it came to creating an overall style and look for the book.

What is Steampunk?


A steampunk photo illustration. (www.io9.com)

A steampunk photo illustration. (www.io9.com


Steampunk is a genre used in fiction, and depicts a world or place were steam power is still widely used, and is perhaps how the world might have developed had the world not discovered other means of power.  It’s typically represented in an alternate Victorian era, with Victorian inspired fashion, art, culture, e.t.c.
Steampunk often follows the same trademarks of the theme, including futuristic technology as the Victorians might have envisioned, with a heavy emphasis on cogs and clockwork.

There are a number of authors who are noted to have encouraged and helped develop the idea of Steampunk, notably Tim Powers, James Blaylock and K.W. Jeter. K.W. Jeter himself is known to have coined the phrase in a letter to a science fiction magazine in 1987, in which he wrote,

“…Personally, I think Victorian fantasies are going to be the next big thing, as long as we can come up with a fitting collective term for Powers, Blaylock and myself. Something based on the appropriate technology of the era; like “steampunks”, perhaps…”
~ K.W. Jeter.

Since then, the genre has continued to grow, through comics and novels and into popular culture and fashion.

I’ve always adored the Victorian era, especially the fashion and culture, so the steampunk genre very quickly appealed to me. I knew I wanted to create an art book based on the theme, inspired by my airship and “Flight Of Imagination” concept. I just need to make the story flow symbolicly through the pages. I wanted to focus heavily on including a lot of typical steampunk codes and conventions, and have the idea of “flight” and “flying” prominiant throughout, be it through an image, part of a song or poem, or a saying.

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One of our Year Two projects is to be based on a visit to Chirk Castle. To gain inspiration from the castle and the grounds I spent a day there taking photographs and sketching the architectural features, the grounds and the interiors. Some of the photographs I have taken:

This is just a sample of the many many photographs I took,  but I think this blog is becoming a bit photo-heavy, so I will upload the rest and post a link !!

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