Becki Harper, an illustration student from the University of the West of England, is celebrating having scooped a Best New Blood award at the D&AD's New Blood exhibition, for her book The Boy with Invisible Skin.
The book tells the story of a boy who falls victim to a doomed science experiment, leaving him with completely transparent skin. The book follows him as he tries to fit in with normal kids.
Harper says: “The central character, Charles, is a metaphorical figure illustrating how you can fit in despite looking very different to everyone around you. I have taken this to some extremes and some images are a bit gory so the book is probably suitable for seven years and upwards."
She explains: “Essentially Charles is an experiment gone wrong resulting in him having no skin. He is loved by his parents but they stop him from going out apart from at Halloween when he manages to fit in by throwing a sheet over his head. However when he starts school all this changes."
Harper says that the project partly stems from her long-term fascination with anatomical drawings. "The character grew out of my research and appreciation of the aesthetics of medical science and anatomy. I am influenced by illustrators like Mark Ryden and Simon Bartram, particularly in respect of their attention to detail."
In the book, Charles finds solace in such drawings. “I’ve used quirky ideas that children will enjoy," Harper explains. "In an art lesson the children are making handprints but Charles’ hand print is a skeleton hand. When he first starts school he feels he has more in common with the anatomical drawings on the walls than with his classmates.
She says that while the book is aimed primarily at children, she hopes that it will appeal to other readers, too: "The psychology of fitting in despite being different is one that I feel will resonate with young and older readers alike."
In true children's book fashion, Charles eventually manages to fit in. Harper explains: "Charles builds a topsy turvey machine that accidently zaps the other children, instead of himself, and mixes them up so that they look different, and he doesn’t feel so much like an outsider. The extreme metaphors illustrate how anyone who initially feels out of their comfort zone because of the way they look, or because they are placed in a new environment, can eventually find ways of coping and joining in.”
Harper's D&AD Best New Blood Award means that she will be invited to join the D&AD Talent Pool, which promotes up-and-coming creative talent. She will also have a place on the D&AD Graduate Placement Scheme.
Christine Hill, course leader of the University of the West of England's Illustration course, says: “We are delighted that the originality and creativity of Becki’s work has been recognised by this much sought-after award, especially when judged against such strong competition from other universities across the UK. This is a fantastic opportunity for Becki to gain valuable exposure to the creative community and we wish her every success in her future career.”
Click here to see more of Harper's work.