Exercise 12

Choosing content


Main character:

  • deep thinker
  • determined
  • thoughtful
  • middle-aged
  • repressed anger
  • tall
  • lines in his face
  • 1940s clothing and style
  • most likely facial hair
  • well dressed with a suit
  • bags under his eyes at times due to working late


The clothing would be definitely a full suit with waistcoat and trenchcoat and hat.  It would be well tailored but reasonably priced and well worn.

exercise 12 - character board

All images were sourced via http://www.google.ie image search for noir, detective, 1940s men and Scotland Yard.


The furniture in the main area is a large simple desk.  The space is described as not having comfort but not being uncomfortable, so that would indicate sparsely furnished with what was necessary for a well run office.

Maybe a typewriter, pen, phone and note pad on the desk and a filing cabinet with files in it.  No window dressing was present but the glass in the window was plate glass.

exercise 12 - image board interior and light

All images were sourced via http://www.google.ie, gettyimages and shuttershock through a general image search for detective, 1940s furniture and Scotland Yard.

Visual reference:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vYRGuq6X_Dw – life in Scotland Yard 1940s gives a great example of the type of interior and exterior of Scotland Yard during this decade.  It also shows what type of style, mannerisms and ways of communicating the police officers would have engaged with.

Something that really stands out is that the men wore full suits and hat.  The style was very distinguished but as they had to work in them they became a little tired looking after a while.  The images provide a clear reference for the type of styles and furniture that would have been encountered at that time.

A selection of noir detective styles were also made into a board on pinterest  – https://www.pinterest.com/Superhilbo/exercise-12-choosing-content/ – for further visual references.

Mood Board:

Using a spider diagram I explored the words that I associated with ‘Dark’ as I felt that the passage reflected a dark and somber mood around a frustrated detective unable to solve a crime.

A combination of shadow and light, smoke, war torn London and reflective surfaces were used to create the mood of the piece.  It was also important to create a clear palette for it and black and white was the most dominant feeling for the 1940s.  Almost a film noir type vibe was imagined and the images of a detective imply a quiet anger rather than an explosive one.  The shadowy figure in the top right indicates the elusive and sneaky qualities of the perpetrator that cannot be caught.

Tweed represented the weaved material that would stand out in the dark due to its pattern while the glass and heavier materials offer a more reflective type surface.  All the light feels a little diffused rather than strong and piercing, almost giving the impression that it has to pass through smoke or fog.


For the portrait I wanted to capture a mature man with a suit who was middle aged but looked worn out.  Maybe due to the frustration of his job coupled with the fact that Britain was recovering from the war.  I also wanted to keep with a black and white image and merge layers together to give the impression that we could almost see what London looked like.

Based on the extract there were two possible options for the figure.  Sitting at the desk or standing at the window.  I chose to do the standing pose and incorporate the window into the image in some way.   Initial sketches almost looked cartoon like.  Then a few others produced too light an effect or too strong an effect. I tried another approach as the sketches were very varied.

The position of the person in the room was something I was happy with but the character needed more refining.  This nearly worked but looked too modern so I reverted back to the previous sketch.

I used some of the images from my mood board and layered them in PS along with my sketches to see which one worked best.   I also tried an inverted version to see if this would work in some way.  I was imagining it would be a book cover.

Both of the images worked well, but I felt that the man was looking a little too modern and didn’t fit the decade fully.

I tried it again with the other sketch and used an inverted image also, but felt the inverted image didn’t work as well as the sketch layer.  It still has something good about it but the outline got a little lost around the face and the opacity adjusted didn’t allow the other images to come through enough without losing the inverted image completely.

The one I picked as the best representation for the portrait and what the extract wanted to convey is featured below.  It met the brief for expressing a repressed, angered, middle aged man from the 1940s, looking out a tall uncurtained window in Scotland Yard onto a war torn London.  It felt more like an observation from a moment in time and rather than the character looking directly at us, he is looking through us out towards the landscape of London.

Exercise 12 - final image3