Although I wasn’t thinking consciously about the aims of my illustrations before I created the Vulnerability film, I was creating illustrations on the same sorts of themes. Mainly they explored self-esteem, relationships, identity, and social anxiety. This may not be immediately apparent in my illustrations, as a lot of the imagery is abstract or seemingly unrelated, but I was concerned with issues whilst drawing and creating them. After reading into the teachings of the School of Life and the philosophy of Alain De Botton I’ve become far more aware of the reason and impact for these issues and their place in society, and this has informed my personal work.
I find it hard to transfer ideas from my sketches and doodles into finished pieces and I think a reason for this is I’m often unsure of the purpose of the finished piece. The collaboration meant that I was forced to commit to creating something final and complete, whilst gifting me with a reason for doing so.
As my illustrations explored similar themes to the film, they were useful in informing both the style and the characters throughout the process. I even found that some of ideas in the film were taken directly from drawings I’d made previously. (The character squatting a pair of smiley faces, intended to illustrate a person struggling with dealing with their emotions, is used in the final film).
The bold lines and thick black shadows of my drawings were intended to juxtapose the sensitive characters and so this too worked well in the animation. At first I considered including imperfections in the animation as a stylistic choice to represent the vulnerability of the characters (at a point in the film Alain talks about how we are all as worried, damaged and broken as each other; this was something I felt was vital to express through the style of the animation).
These imperfections could have taken inspiration from the sketchiness of some of my doodles, however I found that drawing each frame 3 times resulted in the characters wiggling and boiling and so I opted for this process instead. This was, although time consuming, very effective in making the imagery appear fragile.
The characters I’ve been working on here in my illustrations are the same characters that feature in the film. I chose to use this existing character for a number of reasons.
Firstly the character is simple enough for the viewer to project themselves onto, and endearing and expressive enough for them to empathise with when they are inevitable physically and emotionally wounded.
Secondly the fact the character is large in stature and “laddy” in appearance addresses, (or at least hints at), the issue of young men bottling up their feelings.
One of the main aims of the film is to convince the viewer that sharing our vulnerabilities strengthens our friendships and relationships, and rather than making us appear weak and pathetic, shows how strong we really are. The masking of vulnerabilities and of emotions in general, is a problem that is particularly prevalent in young men as bravado and pride stifle the kind of healthy sharing Alain De Botton champions in the film.
In retrospect I realise the viewers of the School of Life are likely already open to the idea of emotional intelligence, and of the candid discussion of feelings. Young males new to the concept are unlikely to be exposed to the video, and if they are, there is no guarantee they’ll identify with the character.
However I hope the throwing of love letters between the characters in the film at least encourages displays of affection and respect between male friends in some small part.