Author: Stu Jones - Graphic Designer
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October 16th 2011
Anya17 Artwork

Hi Everyone, I’m Stu and I’m responsible for creating the artwork for the Anya17 project.

Following on from the recent t-shirt launch I was going to start by telling the story behind the artwork, and follow it with an explanation of the more cryptic parts of the text on the reverse of the t-shirt.

However, before I do that I’d like to give a bit of background on my involvement in the project and the development of the visual side of things so far.

From the first time I spoke to Ben on the phone it was immediately apparent that he had a real passion for both the subject and the project. He talked at great length not only about the project but about the whole thing – the girls, the traffickers, the statistics and the horrendous reality of the situation for all those tricked into that life. All this was punctuated by some truly disturbing stories he had come across over the course of his research. By the end of the call I knew that I had to be involved. It was a combination of his passion, the great cause and his genuine trust and openness meaning I could really go to town with the artwork.

Ben sent through the (nearly) finished copy of the libretto later that evening and I very clearly remember sitting down to read it that night. It was very moving and it really struck me how quick the pace was. As a reader I felt compelled to follow Anya’s journey, experiencing her hopes and dreams, and getting drawn deeper into the spiral of fear created by her increasingly horrific experiences. And what’s more, over the next few days I noticed I couldn’t shake the mental images created by the story – it was powerful stuff.

After our initial conversation on the phone we arranged to meet a few days later at our house. We sat in the garden and as usual we had no milk, so Ben sat sipping black tea and telling Anna and I about his ideas for the branding of the project. We all felt we needed to create something that would be a very strong visual image. It should appeal to a wide audience but also have a special focus on younger people. As well as reflecting the opera itself it needed to be iconic and instantly recognizable at any size.

Ben came to the meeting with a fairly strong idea of what it should look like. “I think it should be like the CATS poster!” I remember him saying. This immediately struck us as a fantastic idea, it had the potential to be very visually simple yet convey the wide range of emotions conjured up in the libretto. As we all know, eyes can be attractive and alluring, but they can also give access to hidden truths – eyes are said to be the windows of the soul after all.

So now we had our main visual reference and over the next few days I set about playing around with some basic sketches around the theme. As well as general things like composition and colour palettes I explored ideas around different uses of women’s eye makeup, the use of make up as a mask or as protection, as well as more obvious visual devices such as reflections in the eyes, and bruising / other physical signs of abuse.

I was really keen to use the eyes as a device to show the two sides of the life of the character of the story and the most effective way to do this seemed to be to literally split the face down the middle. In practice, because of the simplicity needed of the image, this basically meant we had two completely different eyes from the same face. The left eye being the attractive and sexy “mask” and the right eye being the reality behind the mask – a girl who was literally bruised and battered. The right eye was the most complex to get right, eventually the elements that seemed to work the best were the ‘bruise’ around the eye subtly shaped to give the impression of a spiral (like water doing down a drain), and the striking red tear. The addition of the bloodshot eye and a slightly smaller pupil seemed to be enough to convey what we wanted. The real challenge with the image was actually keeping it simple – I seemed to spend just as much time taking things out of the image as I did putting them in. In the end we reduced the elements a lot and I think we came up with a good balance – hopefully its simple enough to be striking, but has enough detail in it to draw you in.

Anyway, I think that’s enough from me for today. You’ll notice I’ve got a bit carried away and have completely neglected to talk about the cryptic text on the reverse of the t-shirts in this post. More thoughts on that next time…