The Paper Kind

Creative living.

A Shelf Portrait

Today I’m going to share the first proper project we have had in class. This was to create a frontispiece which would be the first page of our portfolio (frontispiece meaning literally ‘first page’).

This frontispiece had to contain a number of things, it needed our name, the name of the course, it had to include a self portrait and it had to be a representation of our selves. Basically it had to show the things we like. So I’m going to show you my thought processes from initial brief right through to the final piece.


A Shelf Portrait

I started with a mind map to figure out the things I like. I knew from the start that it would be about books in some way but the mind map was still useful to figure out what else could be included. Then I went on to drawing thumbnails, it’s funny, making a representation of what you like is easy. The difficult part is trying to work a self portrait into it.

I went through a number of ideas, first I tried doing something with my desk with my PC along with a pile of books, my camera and an assortment of other things. The problem with that was how to work the self portrait in, so I tried just the camera and a pile of books. The portrait would be in the camera’s flip screen. I really liked that idea but there wasn’t enough going on so eventually I decided to do a bookshelf (I have many of those!).

A Shelf Portrait

Now the whole process turned into a problem solving task. I knew what I needed to have on the page but I had to figure out what else I wanted and where they would go. I sketched out a number of things, my wands, Frank, my chocolate frog box and funko pops. I even went and checked photos of my book shelves to see if I had missed anything. At this point the only thing I knew for certain was that I didn’t want actual book spines on it. I would make my own book spines with my name and the name of the course on them.

After that it was just a case of trying out different layouts to see what I liked best. After deciding I liked my original idea and getting the go ahead from my lecturer I went to work it up in Adobe Illustrator.

A Shelf Portrait

I am a nerd, I own nerdy things. But I don’t like merchandise that out right references the thing I like. I much prefer references where you will only get the reference if you like the thing too. For example having a Quidditch World Cup t-shirt rather than one with a Harry Potter logo on it.

So in this we have quite an obvious reference to Doctor Who (I may go change this at some point because I really don’t like Doctor Who all that much). Then we have a Harry Potter reference with the Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Bean packaging. I don’t even know if you ever see this in the movies, you must do at some point. Then we have another quite obvious reference to Star Trek: Voyager (the only problem my lecturer had with this is he thought it should have been the Enterprise D).

And then we have the very late addition of the Ares 3 patch (a reference to The Martian). I didn’t make the patch specifically for this piece ( I was just bored one night). But the patch ended up looking better than the Pluto logo I was originally going to put on the mug. Finally we have the mug which represents my excessive tea drinking, the System 3 paintbrushes and the Staedtler pens which are my  favourite paintbrushes and pens.

I was actually really pleased with how this turned out. Even my lecturer said it was good, so I’m happy.

Thanks for reading.
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17 responses to “A Shelf Portrait”

  1. You should be so pleased! I love the whole thought process and how much time you put into this. Love the end result too! Great job – A++ if I was the teacher, Emma! 🙂


  2. Nice design, Emma and a really interesting exercise. Maybe we should all do this – work out exactly what’s important in our lives. I’d have books, my laptop to represent my writing, pics of my son and other half … And maybe I’d have a TARDIS too 🙂


      • It sounds ideal for you. So nice to be able to mix your loves together. Really exciting times for you – so glad it’s all working out so well. Hope it continues to do so – and you can share more of your work on your blog. That was great to see 🙂


      • Thanks 🙂 Its good fun. Sometime I need to do a post about the intersection of books and graphic design. It’s really weird. I was researching a really famous graphic designer a few weeks ago and it turned out he had designed the edition of 1984 that I’m in love with and refuse to buy because (imo) it’s too expensive.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, there’s a close relationship between the two – hand in hand they go. Love some book illustrations – especially some Victorian artists such as by Arthur Rackham. Someone told me a lot of publishers are veering towards photography rather than illustration which would be a shame – a loss of great artwork


      • You know, they really are moving more towards photos than illustrations. It’s such a shame as well, illustrated covers look so much better than ones with photographs (though I must obviously point out that some covers look better with photographs!). It just depends really.

        Liked by 1 person

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I’m Emma. I am a designer, calligrapher, and content creator, sharing my love for paper goods. Expect pens, pencils, and some really fancy paper!


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