Different Ways to Illustrate Emotions

The most impressive component of Shaun Tan’s work emanates from his capacity to convey wordless emotions. He does such a great job depicting anger, frustration, fear, sadness, confusion, helplessness and many more emotions merely though the illustrations of his characters. I noticed this in The Arrival but also in the short animated film The Lost Thing, which I watched after having read the book out of curiosity because I had never heard of Shaun Tan’s work previously. I noticed parallels between the two stories. For one, both depict a lonely and isolated character in a alienating landscape. Though it is easier to illustrate emotions on a human face as in The Arrival, Shaun Tan somehow manage s to give “the lost thing,” a faceless creature, emotions. I think although he is successful in both projects, conveying emotions through an animated film may be easier because the soundtrack is very telling of how the characters feel. Shaun Tan thus wonderfully illustrates emotions in both stories, though he does it slightly differently for his wordless book character and his wordless animated film character.

2 Replies to “Different Ways to Illustrate Emotions”

  1. Shaun Tan’s ability to convey emotions is quite impressive. Based on his illustrations it seems that he believes a good photographer is able to capture these emotions in real life. But, I wonder if it is easier to convey subtle emotions such as the characters fear and hope in an illustration that can be modified to fit what the illustrator wants to show? If the photographer is capturing candid moments, they don’t have the ability to enhance facial features or expressions.

  2. I agree with your comment regarding the relation of music and expression in film. Music guides the audience on a journey through the film, providing cues and hints as to what the characters are feeling, and what it is we should be feeling. It’s interesting to think about the two effect one another, and how the absence of music makes it harder for artists to convey emotion in their characters.

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