This was a straight forward exercise of doing some research on the topic I chose from a given list and producing a diagrammatic illustration to best describe the process. I chose ‘making a cup of tea’ as a: I do it everyday and b: I Love tea, all types , and also interested in the process of making it and the history of it.
So I got started with looking at what component parts I had at home that I use in making tea and photographed them and also sketched them in my sketch book. I also looked at the internet, magazines, tea box covers for instructions and took a really close look at a beautiful book on the making of tea I bought in Singapore some years ago. Here is an example of some of my research.
I really liked this poem in the book and thought I would include this in my research.
The inside cover of the book and main cover feature this lovely peppermint green colour which I really liked. I thought that I might try some sketch work using this colour – for me, it just seems a really good colour to use in an illustration about tea. The curvy white dots reminded me of steam and I started to think how I could incorporate steam into my drawings.
My initial sketchbook ideas where planning out what staging I would include. From my initial research I thought I might go back as far as the process of actually making tea, from growing and picking it in the fields to drying it out etc. But from a drawing perspective, I really wanted to use this exercise to sketch lots of ideas and get my drawing skills up, so I thought it best to stick to what I know. So that is my everyday routine of making a cup of tea.
I wasn’t sure at the being what the stages should be or how many so I just got my initial ideas down on paper.
Feeling like I had some idea of the stages and the process and what it included now, I moved onto looking at individual items used in the making of tea e.g. a mug or cup, a kettle etc. Looking again at my research I tried drawing different types of these objects to see what might look good repeated through the various stages. I experimented here with the peppermint green colour in watercolour and actual tea left over from my morning cuppa!
I liked the colours used in my sketchbook so far and also some of the features of my sketches e.g. the unusual perspective on the top of the disposable tea mug. This might get used again later.
But I really needed to nail down the exact steps and what was going to be included so I revisited this part of the exercise again, taking care to think what should be included and what was not necessary. See thumbnails below.
I really struggled with the grid system above and couldn’t make it work. But thinking again about the shape of steam and how I could use that as a device for the layout of the instructions led to the layout below. I think I am getting somewhere now.
So I wanted to try one last time a grid system with different size rectangle/squares, that might lead you around the page. However, I should have used the larger 3 rectangles for the beginning three instructions instead of going horizontally across the page. This was a terrible layout. The only upside what that I realised I had way too many stages and that this needed to be reduced. Also the use of a used teabag across the page as a wash led me to think that I could use the tea colour as a background for my final piece.
Extended sketchbook notes
Returning to the steam idea (see below), I wanted a device to draw your eye through the instructions so I thought a coil of steam leading from the final image going up to the start would do this. I also liked just using 5 stages as each stage became much, much clearer to see. I like the placement of smaller images at the beginning gaining in size through the flow of the instructions so you can clearly see the finished product and what you are aiming for. I also like using the idea of a background ‘pod’ shape instead of a more formal square or rectangle. Carefully drawn or represented somehow, they too could also draw your eye through the instructions.
Due to an extended half term break at my sons school it had taken almost 2 weeks to get to this stage and I was feeling pretty frazzled by the idea of producing a final image. I kept going over the parts of the instructions I wasn’t including e.g. taking the teabag out and placing it in the bin etc., but I just had to let this go and think about making the final image work.
Extended sketchbook notes
So I took a little break between my sketchbook work and starting the final illustration. I wanted to use more than just pen and ink. I decided to expand on my idea of the brown tea and cut a piece of brown parcel paper to approx A3 size and used the non-shiny back to start drawing on.
I used white chalk and fine pen and pencil to make my pod shapes. These materials were used to layout where the pods should go but also to add definition in a more relaxed way to each of the instructions. I had liked the more casual look of the pod in my sketchbook as I had drawn them and wanted to continue that idea here. As this was turning into a collage as much as an illustration, I used two types of graph paper, one grey, one peppermint green to base my drawing on. I thought not just the colours tied in well with the scheme but also the idea of giving instructions would look good on technical paper!. I then cut out the pods and laid them out for size
I then went onto drawing up each stage in a drawing pen. I added tea stain again for those areas that needed it and the peppermint watercolour to represent the water elements. I was also able to add white gouache for the milk and sugar and to give high light where needed. After all five stages were stuck down, I then added the steam to link them all together, using white chalk, grey and green pastel.
I am really pleased with the final illustration. It looks good being on a larger A3 piece of paper. I think it shows that I had gone through quite a few development stages (and anguish) trying to work out what was needed in giving the instructions (and what to leave out) and how I could relate it to the subject of tea by use of colour. I’ve experimented with styles of drawing in my sketchbook work and used some of those ideas in the final piece e.g. the unusual use of perspective with the top of the mug being deeper than in real life and without a rim and the use of the steam as a device to draw you through the instructions. I was most pleased with all my sketchbook work as it can be really hard just sitting down and drawing your ideas sometimes, so this was great practice and useful.
The feed back from others that saw this was: ‘clear drawings’, ‘straightforward stages shown’, ‘good use of material and colour’ and ‘does what it says on the tin – tea leaf tin!’