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  • Writer's pictureMadeleine Allcock

Nurturing Nature – Case Study on a portfolio passion project and connecting with fellow artists

Sometimes, passion projects are the hardest illustrations to make! When you have no restrictions, deadlines, or client brief to work with, the pressure is on to make something stand out in a portfolio. I created this piece, "nurturing nature", to add to my website and to send as a pitch to women's lifestyle magazines. Inspired by an article in Psychologies magazine about nature being a source of comfort for mental wellbeing, I wanted to create an illustration that expressed those feelings in an abstract way.

My initial sketch. I knew I wanted to have a natural landscape background, and I thought it would look interesting to have a woman overlaid onto the background, transcending through nature. I also wanted to explore the idea of a flower opening the door to her heart.

However, in practice, I just couldn't get the idea to work well when coloured in. It was either hard to see the woman on top of the landscape, or the idea just didn't make sense. The last image in this grid is almost there, but the colours look a bit lifeless.

Wondering if the overlay idea was the issue, I tried a couple of variations on the idea, but they didn't work either – I thought the left image would be more suitable for an article on recovering from surgery, while the right one didn't express the connection to nature I was aiming for. I was a little frustrated at this point, but rather than abandon the idea all together, I reached out to some friends and my mentor and asked if they would mind taking a look. Having a second pair of eyes on your work always helps, and I love to help others when they are stuck, too.

My illustration mentor suggested that I stick with the original overlay idea, but to have the woman look more solid (as in the blue version) but that blue was making her look a little corpse-bride! She loved the rainbow hair, and suggested I combine them. She also wondered if a bouquet of flowers would work better, and that spring colours might be more fitting. This set off several ideas and lightbulb moments that, had I continued to struggle with it alone, might have taken a lot longer to get to.

Tackling the background first, I looked at the beautiful cherry blossom trees currently in season, and experimented with different colours to get a springtime feel. It already feels a lot more refreshing than an autumnal colour palette. Next, I worked on the figure, and changed her profile to look more relaxed and taking in the fresh air. The rainbow hair was a lot of fun! I realised that a very slight transparency created the effect I wanted without sacrificing readability. Just for fun, I made a night-sky version as well. I'm happy with all three designs as separate pieces for my portfolio, and will display the cherry blossom background as part of an exhibition soon.

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