A Detailed Talk on Mysterious Lands
Being obsessed with nature and looking to Katie Scott as one of my favourite inspirations, I like to keep myself updated on any upcoming projects she’s working on, as her illustrations are truly wondrous. Therefore I knew upon release that Malachy Tallack’s The Un-Discovered Islands would be a must have, even more so as it focuses on mysterious and forgotten archipelago, on the map we think we know so well. Scott’s illustrations sit beautifully intertwined in this curious narrative, a collaboration even more enlightening after the talk at Stanford Travel Books (Covent Garden) where the public were invited into this peculiar project.
The Writer’s Perspective
I was intrigued by the concept of the The Un-Discovered Islands presented by Tallack who explained it in terms of “how places can be present and not present”, and the way in which cartography is much more complicated than just being the science of drawing maps. He explained it as “the way in which we visualise the world” as maps are tied up in myth and storytelling.
He made reference to the book itself and places that appear on some maps, to exist, but on others not. Such as Sandy Island. I felt myself drawn to the idea of blurring the line between real and unreal geography especially in the way that I like working observationally from my personal environments in order to create strange new imaginary landscapes. Something that struck me in particular was Tallack’s mention of how “we long for mystery” which took me back to my fascination with nature. I feel it’s an aspect of everyday life we often overlook and the minute I decide to zoom in and investigate, nature becomes strange and unusual. From hidden mysteries about their origins and purposes but also right down to their spectacular forms, colours and textures.
Process of the Illustrations
As an illustration student I was most excited about Katie Scott talking about her role in the collaboration and how she approached the project. She explained how the text excited her as she’s “always been heavily inspired by ancient science… the human sciences we used to believe” and that the fantastical and mythological ideas of these undiscovered islands, whether real or not were a reflection of us and our own cultural discovery.
The presentation demonstrated how her illustrative process began as sketch sheets of visual motifs for each of the chapters in the book, including reference images that were mostly for the sake of creating an atmosphere, building a palette for each image to be created from. Scott divulged how some of the visuals were directly lifted from the text but others were much more interpretive by being things to represent the area or time the island was ‘created’. Thinking about this technique in hindsight of the previous collage workshop I did, I find that collecting images and doing sketches, in this way, to be helpful in providing a sense of direction when the outcome is unknown.
However, for me, one of the highlights was Scott talking about how much of a challenge this brief was because she doesn’t usually work with type, yet her illustrations in the book are integrated with it. Considering the project at the moment in the Author: Reporter studio is text and image based, I felt compelled to know more about how she encountered it and made it work but also whether she would work with So when the talk was opened up for questions at the end, I asked:
– You don’t usually work with text, is that something you’ll do more of in the future now since tackling it with this project in particular?
She went on to explain how 50% of her work is about the composition (evidently so when looking at her illustrative connection to Ernst Haeckel) so it was interesting to work with the curves of the text and the curves of the images, considering their placements. Scott talked about how it became a little obsessive to see how the shapes fit together and how they mirror. Such as the snake like figure that coils mirroring the shape of the letter g or the arch in the whale that curves with the letter n.
For me, was nice to see how text can work with images to become illustrative itself, more so because it’s something I tend to shy away from because of the uncertainty on how to use type effectively with image.
Meeting Katie Scott!
After the talk and the Q&A, and people were getting their books signed, I had the chance to talk to Katie. I was extremely excited to talk to her about being an illustrator, how she works, her style and how to make the most of my final year at university. She told me that university is a time to experiment and try different things, something a lot of the tutors currently say. Although, I personally feel like I’m becoming aware of my illustrative style and she did say that if I’ve figured it out, I should run with it, which was just just the encouragement I needed considering there are so many projects and different outcomes I need to work towards this year.
Possible Final Major Project Ideas
I’m really pleased I attended this talk because, not only did I end up buying Malachy Tallack intriguing book, I felt as though I developed a much clearer perspective on my own personal ideas within illustration both practically and conceptually. I’ve always enjoyed the idea of strange, unknown or unnoticed things and places, and to see how well research can be collated into such an insightful outcome is of great value, making me think about how I can develop my research into a sustained, relevant outcome. As for Katie Scott’s illustrations, their purpose is to bring the text to life so I’m excited to read the book and see how the illustrations work in relation.
Below is a short introductory video which is an introduction to the book itself, linking the motifs of travel to the beautifully exotic illustrations and typography: