EXERCISE: GETTING THE GIST – ‘Dressing Gowns? Burn them.’

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(Image courtesy of: The BBC, via https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2014/mar/14/hitchhikers-guide-to-the-galaxy-review)

This Exercise was an attempt to ‘have a go’ an an editorial illustration. See Simon Jones’s facial expression to gauge my own reaction to this exercise…

You’ll note that Simon (seen above) is playing Arthur Dent from the 1970’s BBC adaptation of The Hitchiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. You’ll also note that he is wearing a dressing gown. It is safe to say that there are far too few iconic dressing-gown-wearers, fictional or otherwise, in recent history. Making for an interesting challenge to illustrate.

I chose The Times newspaper, as there was a free copy available at work. I was spoiled for choice for obscure, flimsy articles on things that no-one cares about… I narrowed it down to the following 3 articles:

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  1. ‘I was a vasectomy tease – and I wasn’t alone either.’
  2. ‘Dressing Gowns? Burn them.’
  3. ‘Fear and Joey: If you thought the US election could not get any crazier, you didn’t factor in Joey Essex.’

I ultimately chose ‘Dressing Gowns? Burn them,’ because it was painfully close to US election, and I really couldn’t stomach thinking about it seriously for another minute. However, in hindsight, Fear And Joey is a fantastically apt article and superbly written… practically dripping with disdain for both Joey and Trump. Oh well.

Instead, I wanted something lighthearted with with a snappy title fuel my imagination.

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In truth, it was the line, ‘Hugh Hefner fans, Arthur Dent wannabes and aficionados of hospital fashion beware’ that really sealed the deal.

This article is so jam-packed full of sarcasm, I could barely contain myself. Conjuring images of balding middle aged men, flouncing around in their silken dressing gowns, smoking, running riot in the streets, on fire. It was perfect.

The gist of the article is to convey that a disconcerting loophole in UK safety laws means that some bathrobes and dressing gowns sold in the UK are highly flammable, and that somehow that is perfectly legal. A fairly serious oversight, that has the potential for real and serious harm. (Lest we forget that horrible, horrible accident with Claudia Winklemans’ 8 year old daughter during Halloween 2 years ago…)

But, the overarching tone of the article strikes a different chord, and that chord is – “Yes, but who actually wears those items nowadays?” This tone is summed up nicely by the phrases, ‘Oh no…Whatever. Get dressed.’ And the final words, ‘Here’s some advice: let it burn.’

It is this tone, that I really wanted to convey in my illustration, despite the serious implications of the (oddly specific) UK Health and Safety Laws loophole. The idea that the dressing gown itself, as an item of clothing, is utterly ridiculous, outdated and unlikely to spontaneously combust if you are wearing it purely to lounge around the house in. So, I came up with some initial ideas and created a thumbnail for each idea, seen below:

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In order to do this, I started to look for “buzzwords” in the article that I could start my image from, and as fate would have it, I only had to read the first two words, ‘Hugh Hefner’ – a dressing-gown-wearing-icon AND (as luck would have it) the physical embodiment of the what the dressing gown stands for today: ridiculous and outdated.

After sketching out my ideas, I fell in love with the idea of a vaguely obscene portrait of Hugh Hefner: wearing his infamous red dressing gown, a fireman’s hat, holding a large fireman’s hose, rather suggestively, smoking a pipe/ cigar, all from the comfort of his luxurious sofa. Even though from my thumbnail sketches I think that no. 1. is actually the clearest and most striking image, it was relatively simple and I wanted to play around with the Hugh Hefner idea for a while longer, because I knew it was more of a challenge for me.

 

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With my firmed up ideas finished, I took a moment to reflect on the successes and failures of each idea and visual outcome.

  1. I find it really difficult to draw people, in proportion, with the right shadows and highlights so I wanted to pick something that would make this whole process easy on me. Something I could either find a similar image for, like one of these many photos of Hugh Hefner sat in a dressing gown, that I found online…
  2. From which this image blossomed…

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Once I had my final image in in place, I realised it needed simplifying.

If I had the time and patience to improve on this image, I would not want it to be a pencil sketch (as this is very time consuming and I want the image to look cleaner.) More bold. Also the Dressing gown had to be the focal point, visually, and secondly the flammable connotations. Although Hugh takes central focus of the image here, because is is all in varying shades of grey, nothing really stands out.

This is why I would choose to use ink for my final image. Black and red. Dressing gown, fire hose and hat in red (also signalling danger and lust) and everything else simple line work in black or grey. I may well come back to this at a later stage as I find the image very entertaining to work on. 

 

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