Monday 24 January 2011

Relaxing into Meditation – illustrations

Illustrations can often be something of a tricky question for an author.  They do add an enjoyable extra dimension to a book, but they can also be a distraction.  In Relaxing into Meditation the illustrations are entirely pragmatic – they illustrate the text.  They are functional rather than decorative.  They are essential to clarify points of the exercise descriptions.  Hence the illustrations needed to be clear and easy to understand.

 To enable Relaxing into Meditation to fall within a reasonable price bracket for that type of book, the illustrations could not add expense to production of the book – so they had to be in black and white, or greyscale.  Most of the illustrations are of people so black and white photography was an option I considered.  I feel that photographs in a work of reference need to be of exceptional quality.  Poor quality photographs reduce the sense of value of the whole work.  I did not have skill to produce photographs of the necessary quality and paying to have so many photographs created would be expensive – so I rejected this as a possibility.

The obvious alternative to photographs is drawings.  I particularly like the line drawings that are created prior to the skilled work of painting a Tibetan thangka.  Some of these can be seen on the Aro Buddhism Encyclopædia website and an example is shown here of Guru Rinpoche.  Although I would not claim to have the consumate skill of a thangka painter, I do hold a degree in design and felt that I could produce reasonable line images.  I rarely have time to be creative with pencil or paint nowadays but have produced an occasional nice piece in days past.  Some of my artwork can be viewed on Zazzle.

The pictures of figures in Relaxing into Meditation began with photographs.  They were then imported into the Gimp (GNU Image Manipulation Programme).  I used bezier curves to create drawings from the photographs.  The simplicity of the lines is deliberate.  I felt that the addition of shading would only complicate the images and obfuscate their message.  I feel the line drawings successfully do the job they are meant to do.  I also like that there is a uniformity of style of drawings throughout the book so that even when I use Khandro Déchen's drawing of Yeshé Tsogyel, and Ngak'chang Rinpoche's calligraphies there is a similar feel to the images.

The set of drawings illustrating rhythm breathing are intentionally the same image adjusted to indicate the movement.  This means that if you flick the pages of the book showing this set of images you can almost get a sense of the movement of the exercise.

I believe the line drawing illustrations in Relaxing into Meditation do their job and are fit for their purpose.  Friends can recognise the members of my family who posed for the original photographs from which the images were created – so I feel this reflects an accuracy of their depiction.  I am pleased with them and like their crispness and cleanness.  I hope you like them as well.

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