The Snail and The Rabbit

Title: The Snail and the Rabbit

Medium: Pencil (Sketch), Photoshop (Final Inks)

Start Date: March 2012

End Date: March 2012

The Snail and the Rabbit (The Snail)

The Snail and the Rabbit


These illustrations were penned for use in a short childrens play for the father of a very good friend of mine. While my illustrations were not eventually chosen for the project (I will admit they are a bit stark and unfriendly for the purpose of a children play), I am still immensely proud of them for the amount of thought and process I put into them.

If it is unclear, both illustrations represent the two main character of the short story: The Snail and the Rabbit. The story itself was a slightly mythical retelling of an old African legend, about the Snail being sent to earth on a mission by the moon, and the subsequent mischief the Rabbit attempts (but fails) to wreck on the clever Snail. The story itself was to be published in two languages – English and Arabic – and I decided to take advantage of the the storys’ bilingual audience by incorporating the Arabic word for both animals into the design itself. I naturally turned to Arabic calligraphy methods – a beautiful way of incorporating both form and language, and worked towards discovering a warped style that would work with the simplified nature of the animals.

Arabic Calligraphic Bird (The Gates of Damascus, n.d.)

Calligraphic horse (Tour Egypt, n.d)

Calligraphic Cougar (Tour Egypt n.d.)

The Illustration for the snail was relatively straightforward – I used the Arabic word phrase ‘Al’ halzoon (  الحلزون – quite literally ‘The Snail’) and utilised the natural elements of the word to construct the shell and eye-stalks. I also decided to develop my own font to be used in the story. I had hoped that should the story be published, the overall aesthetics of the books in both languages should remain relatively similar -i.e. at a glance the English translation should hold the same sense of calligraphic elegance that the Arabic version would have.

Example of Arabic Alphabet

I did much the same for the rabbit, using the phrase ‘Al ‘ ar-nab”( أرنب – once again, literally ‘The Rabbit”), using the term ‘Lam-alif” as the ears of the rabbit.

Another problem I considered when developing an illustration for two different audiences is composition. As the eyes of an English reader naturally assumed a left to right path when looking at a picture, and a native Arabic reader a right to left path, I decided that all subsequent layouts – would I be selected for the project – would follow a predominantly up-down compositional path, to minimise the chance of cross-lingual boundaries. Despite the fact that they never made it past the roughing stage, I composed several poster concepts in which the compositional flow would begin and end in a manner recognisable to both natural English and Arabic readers.

I was fortunate in this project as, due to my background, I grew up relatively familiar with the reading and writing of Arabic words and letters. I found the drawing and writing of Arabic early on in the project easy and a joy to do – I had forgotte just how fun and malleable the Arabic language was when it came to deorative calligraphy. I continued a large amount of research into the different styles of Arabic Calligraphy as it developed through the ages, eventually settling on a late Ottoman style that beautifull reflected the creatures I was trying to draw. I attemped to capture the mischief of the Rabbit in both it’s pose and make up – large simple shapes and spaces that conveyed less complexity and purpose of meaning then the snail, and, despite knowing that this was meant for a childrens book, kept the monochrome colour scheme to reflect the almost ‘factually spiritual’ element of the story.

I really do love these designs. The Font work in particular are of particular interest to me – any Arabic readers will be able to instantly recognise a few of the characters mirrored in their English alpahbet counterparts. I thoroughly enjoyed attempting to mimic the beautiful calligraphy of the Islamic Art style, and despite not being exactly what the author was looking for, feel they are simply lovely to look at.


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