Boekie Boekie stArt Award 2017
I created artwork for The stArt Award, a competition for rising illustrators organized by Dutch illustrative magazine Boekie Boekie. My work was subsequently featured prominently on the magazine's various social media platforms.
The challenge specified four (4) illustrations to be submitted:
A cover illustration
Two (2) illustrations inspired by two (2) separate poems, which in turn had been inspired by Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book
An illustration for the calendar distributed to Boekie Boekie subscribers.
I was also presented with several creative challenges:
To create illustrations that could be easily understood regardless of language or culture (Boekie Boekie is distributed in Dutch, English, Mandarin, and other languages)
To create illustrations that would be equal parts inviting to children and on-par with the intimidating themes and characters in The Jungle Book (no cutesy animals here!)
To create illustrations that would simultaneously represent the assigned poetry as well as the themes of the original novel.
I drew creative inspiration from Indian and even Thai folk art, and in particular from the paper cuts sometimes found in those artistic traditions. I achieved the desired effect by first hand-drawing detailed sketches and then by digitally trimming individual high-resolution scans of felt to match the shapes in my sketches. Felt - rather than other types of paper or cloth - was chosen because of the soft texture and the bright colors that I hoped would be appealing to young readers.
In contrast with the illustrations vivid and plush look, though, the themes portrayed were darker and more complex:
My cover illustration drew inspiration from the idea that the jungle itself was not only alive but also out to get Mowgli, rather than Mowgli's only adversary being Sher Kahn the tiger as is sometimes depicted.
My illustration for Gerda de Preter's poem, Mowgli's Song drew inspiration from the idea that Mowgli himself had no identity apart from the characteristics he's picked up from the animals he's encountered. This sadder and somewhat heavier theme could be inferred from the poem, and I represented this by corresponding an animal to the different parts of Mowgli's body. His mind, for instance, is represented by a monkey; his heart by Baloo the Bear; his gut - and therefore his conscience - by Bagheera the panther; his arms by the creatures most noted in the novel for their fighting prowess and his legs by those creatures most noted for their tendency to run away; and so on.
My illustration for Lida Dijkstra's poem, Jungle Party was thematically lighter than the others, but simultaneously darker visually. I had to meet the Boekie Boekie's challenge to represent both night and glowing light without resorting to the use of a non-white background. I also had some fun with text formatting, implying the limbs of a tree with the manner in which each stanza of the poem was positioned as a seat for a character.
Finally, my illustration for the magazine's calendar depicts The Jungle Book's Kaa the snake, who in the novel is recognized as the storyteller of the jungle. I visually connected this role of hers to a roll of film, and segmented her body with illustrations from every major event from the novel. Look closely and you will find representations of every tale within The Jungle Book: Mowgli's Brothers, Kaa's Hunting, Tiger! Tiger!, The White Seal, Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, Toomai of the Elephants, and Her Majesty's Servants.
I accomplished my goal of creating art which could be understood by viewers of differing language and national origin, as evidenced by the positive response seen on social media when Boekie Boekie promoted my work. I accomplished my two (2) thematic goals by drawing out themes found in both the poems and in the original novel The Jungle Book, and then by couching my representations of those themes in bright and vivid colors with soft and inviting textures.