Project 1—Animal Part 1

*Some pictures are JPEGS exported from illustrator and medium messed with the original colors.

To start the semester, we were introduced to our first project: to create a composition with an assigned animal on Ai, paying special attention to visual hierarchy and composition.

I was assigned to the Gulf of Mexico habitat, and after a bit of deliberation between the stingray and the Green Sea Turtle, I ended up choosing the Green Sea Turtle because I wanted to play around with the patterns on its shell and fins.

I began by sketching out the sea turtle, looking at some of its distinct characteristics and most recognizable features before abstracting its form.

From the compositions, I realized that the turtle can both be seen on land and the ocean. In this first composition, I thought that the scene of a turtle sunbathing on a beach with human activity in the background would be most effective.

To relay the message of overfishing and overproduction, I also included a composition with a boat in the background hinting at human intervention within the habitat.

Finally, to highlight the issue of plastic trash, I created a composition that has jellyfish and plastic bags in the background, pointing to how turtles could easily mistake them for food.

More thinking has to be done in terms of the color palette—if I want the colors to be realistic or imaginary, and how to stick to the seven color limit as the objects in the scene become more complicated.

Part 2 — Feedback

In class, I received feedback on the three compositions and how to move forward—the TAs gave me feedback on how to work with a color palette, as well as how to continue to abstract the form of the turtle, incorporating some of the patterns and shapes from Charlie Harper’s work into my own.

—Color-wise, the colors do not need to be natural, there can be work done to find a balance between how to use an unnatural color while still making the scene look realistic.

—There could also be more work done on the outline of the animal and clearly distinguishing between the different objects allowing for similar colors to be used.

I was able to Q as well, and was able to receive some more specific feedback.

—Q mentioned that the first composition was probably the easiest to work with since it shows depth the best.

—There could be more done with the detail: I could add streaks of the color of the sand into the waves/show a reflection of the bridge in the water with streaks to demonstrate that the unnatural pink color of the water was actually the ocean/to better show the depth of the turtles, I could try adding more detail in the turtle in the front and then even removing colors from the turtle in the background.

—To better show the contrast between the mountains and the ocean I could try to make the mountains more angular and better fit with form of a mountain.

—With respect to the text, I could try to increase the leading—the gaps between the title line and the paragraph was too big.

Part 3 — Revision

—Text heavy/ line spacing/ increasing leading.

—Relationships of objects: Small, medium, large. How to include in-between and gradual change.

–Color: How to refrain from very bold colors that take away from main focus. (Background should fade) How to utilize colors to emphasize the time of day.

After the process of looking at classmate’s compositions and colors schemes, I quickly realized that my composition seemed very flat and basic—there could be a lot more work done to make it dynamic. Thus, I decided to move forward with a similar theme with my next iteration; however, I would try to view the turtles from an angle, utilizing patterns and shapes to highlight the depth and details of the turtles from varying distances. In addition, I also tried to create a less saturated color palette, since some of the patterns on the turtle in the previous composition were not immediately obvious.

Placing myself at an angle from the first composition and viewing the pier at an angle, I thought it would make a more dynamic composition if I could show the turtles at a 3/4th view, playing around with the 2-point perspectives.

I wanted to make the form of the turtles more complex as well, implementing swatch patterns into some of the parts of the turtle.

To render out the pier, I also wanted to make the form more complex, but in a way where it would not stand out and fall into the background. Using my light, medium, and dark tones, I was able to bring structure into the pier rather than a flat shape in my first composition, adding to the dynamic of the composition.

More work could be done to make the structures in the very towards the very front of the beach to be more detailed and specific, whereas other features on the beach fall back, adding to the depth of the composition. In addition, the swatch patterns on the turtle could be more complex, moving forward from just hatching and line shades. This way, I could also distinguish between the pattern on the pier and the pattern on the turtle, adding to the contrast of the composition.

There are also many changes to the color palette—noticing that the colors in the first iteration were too bright, I wanted to resort to a color palette that would be able to more effectively highlight the color and patterns on the shell of the turtle while the background (mountains and water would fade to the back).

Part 3 — Revision (cont)

After a conversation with Caleb, I realized how the direction of many of the objects in my composition affected the visual flow.

The direction of the mountains and the pier both directly point to the text, pointing the viewer to immediately move their eyes to the text.

After moving the mountains in a different direction,

The composition is more balanced, and the viewer is not directly lead to the text, since the mountains and pier move in different directions.

Part 4: In-class feedback


—Could try to put the text in a split between the mountains and the ocean; if text is not placed in the mountain, it ruins the point of the the visual flow created by the pier.

—Mountains could have more detail and clouds seem too round and unnatural.

—Continue to mess around with the color palette of the piece.


—Experiment with line pattern on pier

—Text should be moved up—spacing between the heading and the paragraph is awkward and seems too big


—Text seemed small and should increase the leading.

— Clouds seem cartoonish

—Blue could be less saturated to make the colors of the turtles stand out more

—More could be done to differentiate between the foreground, mid, and background with respect to the detail on the turtles. (Using swatch patterns, removing the number of colors on the turtles).

With that, the revised version of the composition includes more tuning to the details between the foreground, mid-ground, and background. The mountains include a bit more patterns and shadows on them to differentiate the difference between the clouds and the mountains, and shadows were added beneath the pier to allow the perspective of the pier to seem more obvious.

In addition, to fix the issue of the change in detail of the turtles being too fast, I included more details to the turtle in the middle: changing the pattern on the white space of the turtle since it made the turtle stand out too much, and adding a few lines on its shell. The turtle tracks on the sand follow the same idea—they become less detailed the farther away they get, becoming thinner the closer they get to the water to better show depth.

Finally, to combat the many issues with perspective in the original iteration, I took into account that all different lines of the pier and the turtle tracks would disappear to a single vanishing point—in the original one, the beach did not seem flat; it was slanted at an angle. Thus, by making the turtle tracks more angled and some of the bubbles on the waves flatter and wider, the perspective seemed a lot more accurate.

For the next class, I want to figure out the best placement for the text. The words should be generally situated in the mountains due to the visual flow of the pier; however, the shape and spacing of the paragraph and headings still need work.

Part 5: Final Class

In the final critique, Daphne gave me feedback on how to how to better show the perspective of the pier as well as how to position the text.

—Pier seemed really flat; could try to add shadows to the beams to help make them stand out and have more structure.

—The positioning of the pier made it seem like it was connected to the mountains in the back; I could cut down on the length of the pier.

—The leading seemed a bit too wide; I could try to make the spacing between the lines smaller.

—The farthest, smallest turtle seemed to disappear into the background, I could try to add a bit of white into the turtle to help make it stand out (it did not seem far enough to only be a sihouette).

—The reflection of the brown and the blue in the water did not work well—I could try to mess around with some of the other colors to make the color of the reflection work better with the color of the water.

Thinking about some of the changes I could make with the color palette, I tried to either make the colors more blue or more green; however, because the color of the turtle is realistic, it meant that the background would be perceived realistically as well. The green water seemed almost dirty, and the less saturated blue made it seem like a “cloudy day,” I decided to stick with the blue that made the water seem a bit cleaner as well as a sunnier day.

Finally, to continue to add to create the perception of “depth,” I added small waves to the front of the shore to further enhance the idea of most detailed in the front to less detailed in the back.

Q also mentioned that the foam could look more transparent, and that the pattern on the turtle could be curved, since the straight lines on the turtle do not look cohesive.

Rather than adding lines onto the foam, I thought that I could continue to add to some of the detail on the shore, adding bubbles to imitate the “transparent” look of the foam. In addition to the pattern on the turtle, the pattern of the railings on the dock were also altered to better fit the perspective—being able to distinguish between the gaps close up, and all becoming one block towards the end.

Part 6: Reflection

This project taught me a lot about illustrator and going back to the basics—paying close attention to the composition and color scheme. I was able to understand the importance of contrast in detail and color to create the illusion of depth, use of color to demonstrate the “time of day,” and the difficulties with cohesively including text into a composition.

Moving forward, I want to be able to continue to experiment with compositions and colors, learning how to make my compositions look more “complex” or follow a certain style. As I continue to figure out Ai, there could have been more experimentation done on the finer details towards the front using patterns or the spray tool.



Design Student @ Carnegie Mellon University

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