400 Years Of Shakespeare - What's Past Is Prologue

Our first project in competition and commission was to produce an illustration to display on the tarpaulin at Hay Festival 2016. Although I've worked on a largish scale before, for my exhibition at Bournville College, that had been on canvases and this was going to be completely different.

From our initial lecture/meeting/Q&A with staff from the festival, I learnt that they were keen on having lots of high-saturation colours, and so I immediately started to reflect this in my research and sketchbook. I made a Pinterest board on colour, and I visited the Shakespeare Memorial Room at the top of Central Library in Birmingham. This room was very traditional and in keeping with the usual connotations of Shakespeare, and it was useful to see what's been done before so I could make sure I did something unique enough.

After a workshop on Illustrator, the software I wanted to use to send of my image to the printers at the end pof the project, I realised that textures would be difficult to pick up, but I didn't want large areas of block colour in my illustration. I made a second Pinterest board, looking at shape and pattern, and decided to use this as large part of my work.

I picked the quote "what's past is prologue" from The Tempest because I projected a lot of personal feelings onto it and I knew that would give me an extra push of motivation. I think a lot of people in my class chose quotes (or didn't choose quotes) based on their personal feelings and what was going on in their life, and I suspect we make creative decisions professionally like these based on our personal lives quite often.

While I was doing background research on The Tempest, two things stuck out to me. The first was the painting of Miranda by John Waterhouse from 1916, the second was the film from 2011. In the film, Prospero, male in the original script, was female. It was interesting to see the gender dynamics of the entire film change with this, even if I was still disappointed in the racist undertones. I thought the change between Shakespearean times, when male actors portrayed female characters, to this, where not only was it acted by a woman but the character was female, was quite interesting.

I considered the implications of this and decided it fitted with my quote.  Therefore, it was worth persuing the concept within my illustration. Although my developmental work involved Ariel, into quite a late stage of the project, I decided that the intended meaning of the illustration was stronger without the character.

Over the Easter holidays, I did line drawings of the characters with the geometric style I wanted to use. Thousands and thousands of tiny triangles later, I returned to Hereford and scanned it all into Illustrator, where I used saturated colours to fill in the pattern. Although I used skin colour, hair colour and the shape of the figure to signify who they were, within their dresses I used colour symbolically to acknowledge the witchcraft and sorcery theme within the play. Prospero was in purple, a colour used to encourage magic and power. Miranda was in blue, a colour used for healing (as she 'healed' the problems the cast faced through her love).

I found the quote really difficult to do, and upon submitting my work it was requested that I changed it. I wasn't very happy with it in the end and I felt like it let the entire illustration down a bit. Typography is something I consistently find difficult and it's also something that is consistently requested within or along with an illustration, so hopefully this is something I can improve on. I was also asked to do some small things like add a shoe and tilt Prospero a bit, which can be seen in my final outcome.