Designing Banner Art: Creativity + Collaboration

April 19, 2010
How does one create web-banner art?
By having a go. Jumping in at the deep end. Getting imaginative and visionary ideas out in rough on paper. That is creatively.
Then finding someone who really knows their craft and is willing to work with you to put your designs into a finished product. That is collaboratively.

The banner displayed on the Dark Nights White Soul weblog took shape over various stages and was finally completed through the artistic work of Manchester based illustrator, Jim Boswell. 

The design first took shape in my mind with certain features being representative of key values or ideas that I wanted to discuss in the blog. Although I can draw rather amateurishly, I decided to search the internet for images that could be icons of the ideas in my mind and to try to make a make-shift composite with a little bit of help from my computer. The first draft looked like this:

The first draft of ideas together


After finding these images and putting them together in a cut and paste composite with no more tools than those available on my Windows Vista Word programme. The image had to be adjusted in Adobe Photoshop to fit the 200 x 700 pixel size of the blog banner’s space in the theme. The result was this: 

The original draft design reduced to 200x 700 pixel dimensions

I was pretty happy with this design, but felt something was definitely missing. A good friend with an artistic eye told me that the picture needed colour, not just monochrome black and white. My own mind sensed that although the image conveyed the bleakness of the wilderness it failed to suggest the bright lights and vibrancy of the city. I made another draft: 

A further draft design this time with a greater emphasis on colour and city lights

 The above design was created with all the high-tech components of scissors, glue, laptop, and a computer printer and scanner! It is a real photo-montage, where the cutting and pasting was done by hand. Still I felt happy with the results. The image conveyed for me something of the brightness and life of the night, as well as the concealment, shadows and foreboding sense of darkness. It also mixed medieval ancient iconography with contemporary photography. A mixture that spoke deeply to my inner being as a post-modern Western Christian, who lived in multiple cultural worlds. I inhabit the countryside of my home village, but also the night lights of my city Sheffield. I am also a man who claims to follow a deeply historical religious faith with ancient rituals and practices. Yet who finds the arena for living out this faith to be the fast-paced, technological and digital global society of the 21st Century. I sent this image to Jim who had generously agreed to work on composing a drawn and ‘painted’ (in Photoshop) image of the final design. 

The next stage was to reduce the dimensions of the above design to the blog banner specs. 

Draft 3 of my webpage banner design in 200x700 pixels - Night, city, dark, light, ancient, modern

At this point in the process artist and graphic novel, comic book illustrator, Jim Boswell took over the process. Within the space of a week or two, I recieved the following pencil drawings of his interpretation of the design. 

J Boswell's pencils for Dark Nights White Soul banner

I was thrilled with Jim’s interpretation and design. The next stage, as is customary in comic book illustration, was to finish the pencils and complete them in ink. 

J Boswell's Dark Nights White Soul banner inks

Ultimately, the final result can be seen above on the webpage banner. There are different figures in the picture. St John of the Cross is in the left-hand corner of the design. His book The Dark Night of the Soul is a very important inspiration for me in putting together this blog.

In the right hand corner is the skull. In ancient iconography the skull and crossbones represented death and were often portrayed beneath the feet of Christ at the bottom of the cross. Christ’s death on the cross Christians believe defeated the powers of death over human kind. It is also a fact that the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth was described in the written documents of the Gospels to have taken place outside the city of Jerusalem on a hill called – Golgotha, which means the place of the skull. 

The skull in the picture also represents the fact that in nature and life, death and dying, especially dying to selfish desires and behaviour, can often lead to the release of the natural world and the spiritual world into New Life. Death therefore, is not so much an enemy, but an ally. For example, as the season of summer ends, the  green, vibrant leaves begin to decay, crumple and turn yellow, brown in colour at the approach of autumn. Autumn tenderly invites us to transition from the warmth and light of summer to the ultimate deathly dark and cold season of winter. So, during the icy chills of winter nature experiences a time of dying back, grief and loss prepares the way for a new burst of life in Spring. Seen in this light death to self can be experienced as a friend, not wanting to destroy us, but to free us from attachments to objects, people, relationships, substances and ideas that actually entrap and imprison us. 

Depicted on the crucifix is, of course, Jesus of Nazareth, the founder and central figure of the Christian faith. The historical persona Christian’s believe to be the Son of God or Christ. 

Next to the cross, are the calming and reflective figures of Mary the mother of Jesus, John the disciple and two other women friends of the Palestinian Jewish man Jesus (perhaps Mary Magdalene and another). They mourn the loss of their son, friend and teacher in the darkness. Their faces and lives are illuminated only by the flickering of candles. Jim has captured the Eastern features and dark hair of these figures perfectly in his drawing. The figures quietly worshipping in brown cloaks remind me of so many women and the occassional younga man, I have met over the years who grieve silently for lost sons and daughters, husbands, brothers, sisters, parents, family or friends by lighting a candle in a peaceful and dark temple, synagogue or church. 

The moon represents the primeval symbolism of night in the human subconscious. Night, a place and time of shadows and hauntings, quiet and cool, darkness and reflection – the time nuns and monks pray. The moon of course is  a light with the partial reflected light of the sun, which has disappeared from sight.

Are there parallels today with the eclipsing of the Christian religion in public life by the religious ‘darkness’ of the Enlightenment?

Is God still shining light on us by reflected rays of sunshine from the moon and stars?

Are we having to learn how to walk in the darkness of faith as God seems to have at least become concealed, if not disappeared from ordinary life? 

I hope you like it. 

Thanks to Jim Boswell for his artistry, efficient work and time while cooperating on this project. For more information on Jim’s services and art, please see: http://www.jimmibo.co.uk/comics.htm 

If you wish to visit his blog: http://jimboswell.blogspot.com/ 

or contact him for estimates, quotations, prices at: artwork@jimmibo.co.uk


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