Colour Project: Leaning From The Steep Slope

The brief for this project was to read the short story “Leaning from the steep slope” by Italo Calvino, and to choose three scenes to Illustrate, focusing on the colours used, and creating three different colours palettes, but not to use black or white, and to avoid using outlines or colours straight of the paint palette.

The Colour Project started with workshops where we were encouraged to explore colour to describe mood, atmospheres, time of day, location, charactor, and descriptive elements that arrive in text. Our first workshop was with Anna, and we were told to use this idea, and create three different colour palettes, to go with our three chosen scenes. We experimented with mixing primary colours, and creating new shades and hues, and then trying to specially make colour palettes for each scene.





The second workshop was taken by Tom Martin, during which we experimented cutting random shapes from multi coloured pieces of card, and then to use Henry Matisses’ technique of having someone else place the shapes while he instructs them from afar, which showed us you can create a piece of work, or an illustration using colour as an image making tool of it’s own right.

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For the main project, we were asked to select three scenes and illustrate them all with three difference colour palettes. I chose the first scene described in the story, the scene where he says “If the end of the world could be localised into a precise spot, it would be the meteorological observatory…” And where he goes onto describe the building, then listing all the things he can see infront of him inside the observatory, then he walks outside and describes everything he can see surrounding him, and he talks about the observatory being “… isolated on the edge of an escarpment on the municaple garden, against the pearl-grat Sky, uniform and motionless…”. I chose this scene because I felt it would be a good scene to do in an abstract composition, so that all my images, although I want them to feel like a set of images, are different.

For this piece, I started by searching for images of the specific scientific instruments mentioned in the text, and then I drew from those images, either specific parts of the image, or an adaption based on multiple images, and I also thought about how I could draw the image to incorporate the desired colour palette for this scene.

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Once I had drawn out the various factors I wanted to incorporate into the final design for the first image, I attempted a practice version, to see how I wanted to do the lay out of the pieces, and whether I was happy with how I had drawn them, and if I needed to re-think any of my decisions. The first practice of the layout is the image page on the right of the second sketchbook image.

After drawing this, I made some changes to my layout, and I ended up with this final design-


I like the result I got from this image, the colours work well and seem to give the impression of scientific instruments, because perhaps the blues are quite cold, which reflect the context well, with the orange being a nice contrast to those. I also chose to frame the image with a coloured background, I chose a dark blue that reflected the colours in the drawing.

The second scene I worked on drawing was on the first page of the Leaning from the steep slope text; “Monday. Today I saw a hand thrust out of a window of the prison towards the sea. I was walking on the seawall of the port, as in my habit, until I was just below the old fortress.” “Even knowing that  prisoners are confined in there, I have always looked on the fortress as an element of inert nature, of the mineral kingdom.” “…the appearance of the hand amazed me, as if it had emerged from the cliff. The hand was in an unnatural position;..” “..;the prisoner must have performed an acrobat’s feat- or, rather a contortionist’s-to get his arm through grille after grille, to wave his hand in the free air.” “…the hand seemed white and slender to me, a hand not unlike my own, in which nothing suggested the roughness one would expect in a convict.” “For me if was like a sign coming from the stone…”.

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I started this piece by taking images of hands, in strange positions, referencing the ‘contortionist’ quote from the story. I also went and visited the Cardiff Prison, and took photos of the walls and the windows, and I also searches for images of prison window ‘grilles’. Where on after I knew I wanted to have a singular window coming out of what appeared to be more like a rock face than a prison wall, as it mentions it being part of nature. I also new I wanted a dark grey colour scheme, with a single colour in the rock face.

EDIT 2The final image I was quite pleased with, the colour pallet came together quite well and I liked the composition of the piece, and I think the colour on the background really complimented the piece. I believe that water colour really helped this piece, as I think it really enhanced the colour blending.

The final scene I chose was were Miss Zwida was in the line at the prison. “In the yard before the fortress was the line of the prisoners’ relatives: this is visiting day at the prison.” “In the midst of the humble women with kerchiefs on their heads and the crying children I saw Miss Zwida. Her face was covered by a black veil under the brim of her hat, but her demeanour was unmistakable: she stood with her head high, her neck straight and somehow haughty.”

As for this project we were not supposed to use black, I had to do quite a bit of research into lady wear, and hats/head scarfs and kerchiefs, in order to start to think of a way of illustrating this, I also looked at women of the time, and the type of makeup they wore. I decided on a colour pallet of skin nude colours, reds/browns and grey. I then combined various different parts of my research I put in my sketch book, and I decided on a bold hat to put on a upper body/head shot of the “Miss Zwida”, and a veil to cover part of her face. I chose to make her pale, as I think it contrast the bold red colour of her lips, dress and brim of her hat.


On reflection I am happiest with my first and last images, as I feel the second seems crudely drawn on reflection, especially the brick shapes to the bottom right, however I am very happy with the way the hand and grille turned out, and the colour pallet. The decision I like the background colours the most, as I feel they really make the images, and bring out the somewhat subtle colours in the drawings.


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