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All illustration images © John Shelley, not to be used without permission scribblatosis(at)gmail(dot)com

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News Without Words

 Last Sunday the biggest daily newspaper in Japan, Mainichi Shinbun, included a special pull-out poster feature – Moji no Nai News “News Without Words”,  consisting of a large map of the world showing current events, local features and so on. I created the whole poster map, with direction from Tokyo Planet Design. 

There is a lot of detail to see, the best way to view it is with the zoom-in online version here! (click on the image to bring up the zoomable version). Sunday was “Grandparents Day” in Japan, the idea behind the map was to present news visually in a way that could be shared between grandparents and grandchildren. This turned out to be a tremendous amount of work, as I was required to create the artwork at very large size, and, as it needed to include current news events, would probably require redraw edits right up until the press day. I was given a number of key news items to include, but for several big regions I had no briefing, so ended up doing a lot of my own research for things to fill in.   

I was also asked to render it in the same style as a small watercolour from one of my exhibitions, a very different kind of picture, which led to a lot of head scratching! I estimated the project would take around 3 weeks; in fact it stretched to almost 6 weeks of intensive activity. I first drew the background land map and wave texture for the sea in pen and ink on 16 sheets of A3 layout paper, which were scanned and matched together in Photoshop. I scanned in my own large watercolour textures for the sea and land to provide a rich coloured background. If I were to put the sheets together, the picture at actual size would be around 1.5 by 1 metres. 

The figures and other details were then drawn individually in pen and ink and scanned in, one by one, positioned and flattened into another layer – there were many separate drawings, not all of which made it to the final illustration, and much repositioning. This is the standard way I work with computers nowadays, scanning in hand drawn linework and textures, arranging and colouring, however this was on a rather grand scale. It felt very much like illustration by jigsaw puzzle. 

 When everything was assembled on screen the file came to 1.5 gigabytes, largely due to the heavy data watercolour backgrounds! The last touch was to add extra landscape features drawn directly on the computer with a Wacom pen. 

As anticipated, there were many editorial changes right up to the last minute,  even after I delivered the finished artwork, figures were taken out or replaced, enlarged or reduced (especially Japan – I was sad to see my Ainu man was removed from Hokkaido!). Also, at the very last minute the client decided to greatly lighten the colours, my original watercolour textures were smoothed out to a much flatter finish. Hmm, I personally prefer the deeper colours you see here, but this was a commissioned piece and my job is to provide what the client requires – in these instances, the client is always right!

Although I was given a number of news items to include, there are many other details and large tracts of land which I had no brief for and so researched and filled in myself. I aimed for a balance between news, gentle humour and regional ecology.

Self portraits? Of course! 

The online zoomable version is still accessible here!

#MainichiShinbun #NewswithoutWords #workingprocess

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