Sara Fanelli’s innovative style

I admire Sara Fanelli’s distinctive style and her willingness to innovate every time. She writes and illustrates picture books for the pleasure of children and adults alike. She loves books and wants you to love them too. She plays with content and format to make her creations interactive. She takes her readers on a journey of exploration.

Her style is distinctive: bold and flat colours, textured collage, photomontages, prints, characters seen in profile. She paints lines that she breaks and doodles with. She ignores tones .  She draws inspiration from Dadaism  and constructivism (photomontage) , Cubism (shapes) , Surrealism, Paul Klee and literature.Her style is bold and childlike but what seems simple is not so.  Her motto on her website is ‘The truth is rarely pure and never simple.” (Oscar Wilde)§

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Another way of giving her own stamp on her illustrations is the creation of her own lettering that she superimposes on top of her illustrations or sometimes incorporates in her drawings.

She doesn’t shy away from pushing the boundaries further every time. No book is ever the same whilst her style remains distinctive. Her strength is her child appeal.  She makes it look like the child himself could have done it. But although her books grow organically, the layout takes planning.  No area of the page is left untouched.  Some spreads echo each other with a different palette highlighting a drama or a resolution.

photo 1     First Spead

photo 1        Reverse scene before resolutio

photo 3   Climax:  Movement and chaos.  People are fleeing in all directions.

nphoto 2  Towards Resolution: calm. People are gathering around the protagonist

Fanelli also pushes the boundaries of interactivity further than what is usually acceptable as a novelty book standard. In the Onion’s Great Escape, the reader needs to help Onion escape the deep fry by answering metaphysical

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questions.  She doesn’t dumb down. Are you happy?  How long is a minute?    The reader is asked to write the answers inside the book, to get involved and construct the story and its meaning.


The reward: the paper onion can be taken out of the perforated core. In essence, you never close the book for ever.  The experience stays with you forever.

Sometimes I think, sometimes I am is written for adults. It is constructed like Russian dolls with a book inside it and an even smaller one inside again.

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With quotes she makes references, drawing on the reader’s background, experience and knowledge to make their own connections.

Apart from Wolf, all her narratives are non linear.Like other illustrators, she breaks the conventions of usual visual storytelling.  I am thinking of Lane Smith, David Wiesner, Lauren Child, Oliver Jeffers.  I will develop this theme in a lot more details for next term’s essay and will add another post about it.  Watch the space!


CD Cover

We were all divided into study groups and had to devise a CD cover and leaflet that captures the essence of every member of the group.

Using two colours was the only constraint apart from the format of 12 x 12 cm of course. When we brainstormed, it transpired that we all had different strengths and interests.

Two of us share a passion for words. I love linking text and image with an aim of having an open ended interpretation. One of us experiences a union of senses that can lead to artistic greatness. Kandinsky is said to have been an synaesthete too. The last member of the group is very meticulous and organised putting all of us into shape.  The two other members share an interest for 3D and more precisely anything to do with sewing and haberdashery.

I wanted the three of us to appear on the front cover like a POP group. When brainstorming the name, we all decided that what we had in common was the willingness to go back in time and start something new.  The name was chosen: Rewind. The second decision was red and black. The white background does not count as a colour so I made sure I used the negative space as well.

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After playing with various fonts and images and not being happy with the outcome, I decided to draw and write my own letters in two colours.  The letters turn to black from red as we move on with our lives. Our duplicated faces also turn colours.  The portrait itself is generic as I didn’t want to draw attention to our appearances but the process we are undergoing.

That week we also had a Photoshop induction which led me to experiment something new.  The images layout for the members was carefully planned for each of us.

For Lucy, it was sleek and organised neatly on the page.

For Laura, it was an explosion of senses.

For myself, it was all about a single image and word and the play on the duality of the paintbrush used for painting and writing.

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For the back I then decided to show ourselves in names in the rewind mechanism of the clock.  Again we turn from red to black with the passage of time.

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The last page emphasises the dynamics of rewind without text or image.  I tried to keep it more and more simple.

Overall I am very happy with the final product. The making was time consuming, battling with the printer and the photocopier to end with as sleek a cover as I could.  I learnt a lot from it in terms of design and using new tools.  I am confident that it will get easier every time.

Preparation for VisComm Pathway

No rest for the wicked. Even before the assessment I found the handout for the project called Dialogue that is to come next.

In preparation, we have to design an alphabet made out of objects and/or shapes ideally around one theme. I thought about the various possibilities and thought about food. But my fridge and cupboards were  a bit bare to come close to the clever designs of A-Z l had looked up on the internets.

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Besides thinking about food made me hungry and was not constructive at all. I had already experimented with nails, pins and elastics.  The letters looked unimaginative and samy.  Also it was extremely time consuming for a poor result.   Instead I decided to use what was very familiar to me on a daily basis: the items on my desk.

This is the outcome:


To say that it saved me time and that I took an easier route would be mistaken.  I really tried to use as many stationary items imaginatively and come up with new ideas for each letter, moving away from pens and pencils, to give a more pleasing and different look.  I was also careful to vary the colours especially for letters that were juxtaposed together. I am overall happy with the result.  I will keep on creating my own typeface as it is a lot of fun and can another dimension to a text and illustration.