Unsinkable Sam

article by Mina , illustrated by Fifi Colston

Learning intention:  

I am learning to examine how images construct a relationship with the viewer through strategies such as the positioning of characters within a frame and the character’s eyeline/gaze so that I can create my own image, experimenting with framing and gaze. 

Success criteria:  

  • I can examine the impact of placing objects in particular positions within a frame.  
  • I can analyse images to consider the impact of character’s gaze.  
  • I can compose an image, experimenting with the placement of objects and the use of gaze to create a specific relationship between the character and the audience.  

Essential knowledge:  

Ensure students are clear about what is meant by the term framing. Inform students that the term ‘gaze’ in the context of this lesson means the direction in which the characters are looking within an illustration.  

Inform students that when illustrators and photographers compose images they make deliberate choices about where to place objects within a frame.  

Learning resource:  

Begin the lesson by examining the impact the placement of objects within a frame has on viewers. Do this by sketching a rectangular frame on the board. Draw a background, such as hills and sky. Add a stick person to the sketch, initially placing the figure at the front and centre of the frame. Discuss whether students feel the person is a focal point of the image. Most likely they will conclude that they are. Then, rub out the stick person and place them at the back, making them much smaller this time. Discuss the different impression the new position of the stick person has on viewers. Most likely students will conclude that the person is less important or meaningful within the context of this new image.  

Next, sketch an oval on the board to represent a face. Include eyes, drawing eyeballs and pupils. Place the pupils in the centre of the eyes to show the person gazing directly at the audience. Discuss the impression showing the eyes in this way has on viewers. Most likely students will conclude this makes the audience feel as though the person in the image is staring directly at them. Discuss inferences about what this says about the character, guiding students to concluding that showing a gaze front-on can imply the character is feeling calm and at ease or possibly confident and confrontational. Rub out these eyes and re-draw them, this time with the pupils pointing to the bottom right of the eyeball. Discuss the impression this has on viewers. Guide students towards concluding that the viewer follows the character’s eyeline (their gaze) to see what they are looking at. Discuss the inferences viewers may make from this, for example that the character is avoiding looking directly at the audience, either because they have something to hide or as there is something more interesting to look at within the image. Inform students this is one way in which illustrators are able to direct where viewers look within an image.  

Those with a digital subscription can complete the interactive activity now to examine how framing an object impacts the experience of viewers.  

Inform students that they will be using the knowledge they have acquired around framing and gaze to anaylse the images that accompany the article Unsinkable Sam.  

Refer students to the first illustration and discuss the following:  

  • What direction is the cat (Oscar) looking? (off to the left) 
  • What can you infer based on the direction the cat is looking in? (he looks sheepish, like he is feeling too guilty to look directly at the audience) 
  • Where is the cat placed within the picture? (in the front-centre, slightly off to the right) 
  • What else is visible in the image? (the ship deck and an explosion at the side of the ship) 
  • What impact does the placement of the elements have on viewers? (it allows viewers to see the focal point, Oscar, with much of the background still visible) 

Refer to the speech bubbles included within the illustrations and discuss what they add to each image. Sample responses include, they provide the mouse’s point of view, they add humor to the illustrations.  

Place students in pairs and instruct them to discuss the same questions as earlier in relation to the remaining two illustrations.  

Inform students that they will be experimenting with composing their own illustration, using framing and character’s gaze to direct the viewer’s attention.  

Emphasise that one of the ships Oscar worked on, HMS Cossack, is mentioned in the article but has not had an illustration dedicated to it. Discuss details revealed in the article about HMS Cossack, such as it was attacked and sunk.  

Discuss an illustration that could communicate these facts. Emphasise that there aren’t too many details included in the article about this event. Tell students that because of this they can make up additional information when composing their illustrations. Discuss ideas and provide an example such as: as the ship sunk, Oscar may have jumped into a life-raft and a mouse might have jumped in after him.  

Provide students with art materials such as coloured pencils and paper. Alternatively, students with access to digital software might prefer to use programs such as Microsoft Paint.   

Instruct students to compose an image to illustrate their idea about how Oscar escaped the HMS Cossack. Remind students that the illustrations in the magazine include speech bubbles. Discuss speech bubbles that might be included. Provide an example such as, the mouse shouting ‘wait for me’ as it jumps in the life-raft after Oscar. Instruct students to strive to include speech bubbles in their own images.