The Shadow of Terror

This whole thing began with my friend, Sam Norton (

First he explained a joke; a visual joke that had he the technical skill, he’d have like to have drawn. I could have drawn it because as he explained it a picture formed in ‘my mind’s eye’ – not that it in any way helped me to ‘get’ the joke (a religious ‘in-joke’ by all accounts). Anyway, after I expressed an interest in drawing this for him, as a kind of experiment to see if it would work, he quickly said ‘No not that one, I have a better idea’ and hence the image below and the ‘pecking order of terror’ cartoon began. Again, as Sam explained his idea, it was instantly visual in my head. Maybe that’s Sam’s eloquence, or simply my visual brain (do we all think in pictures?), but I liked the idea, visually as well as conceptually, so I was very excited to begin.

Here is a sketch made by Sam when he was explaining the idea:

Sketch that Sam drew
In Conversation with Sam (Sam’s drawing).

There followed a few initial sketches (that qualifies as Sam’s serve being returned rapidly):

First sketches to see how the figures might look
First sketches to see how the figures might look

His response (‘They’re the wrong way around. They must be unaware of the shadow they are creating’), Yep – I knew that. NB: They aren’t his actual words, he wasn’t quite that direct.

Bit of fiddling with Photoshop to get them facing the right way:

IsraelFlipped copy ArabWorld-flipped copy

Now to make them look scared….


Good ‘scared-ness’ I think, but Sam tells me they’re in the wrong order. The Palestinian should be after the Israeli. “Oh”, I reply (via e-mail) “that is the ‘Muslim world’ (represented by the Arab figure) not the Palestinian”. Sam suggests a different look for the figure representing the Muslim world. I draw this:


Looks a bit like a Cossack/Russian – that will get ironed-out later. And then I draw this (visual) to help me get the order of the figures sorted.


Next comes the final figure in the sequence, the woman and child.

Woman holding a child wearing a niquab/bhurka

She gets a thumbs-up from Sam immediately (thank goodness, how I would have drawn a ‘gay Muslim/Palestinian/Arab man?).

Now I have all the figures, we’re onto quick Photoshop mock-ups to sort out scale, scale of shadows in relation to the figures, background, floor, sky?

TheOrderOfTerror-MOCKUP_01 copy

There were many versions, each with the figures and shadows in different proportions.

At this point I am not happy with the Arab character representing the Palestinian. I can see, that to most people, the way I’ve drawn the Arab here would just represent ‘Sheik/United Arab Emirates/Yemeni oil millionaire/Saudi Prince’ or something, I wanted something more obviously Palestinian. Hence this:


So he’s inserted into the mock up, and I like that better. Despite the fact that he has a left arm like a Baboon (yep – ironed out later).

TheOrderOfTerror-MOCKUP_02 copy

So I have a go at a final version (ish) as I want to get the technique and medium right, I know that I will be drawing it again. Wrong paper for a start.


The wall in this is a manipulated image from the internet. I reckon this means I will get away with not drawing a wall. In the end it doesn’t really meet with approval, so I do have to draw it (I agree this might be better but don’t actually know if it is the right decision until it’s drawn – after everything else in the drawing is completed!).

Sam power returns the ball and suggests the figures move up a tad. ‘Harumph!’ For someone who claims to not know much about art it’s a bit annoying that he’s right.

I find some watercolour paper – much better because I can use ink washes more evenly and my dip pen! Much better than a black pen/felt. The right materials are important.

So, below is the final image. As well as raising the figures to have a closer relationship to the shadows, there has been a slight change of hand position with our Palestinian and the wall is hand-drawn now.

I like it, I am pleased with it and even more pleased that Sam feels it is just as his ‘mind’s eye’ perceived it to be.

So collaboration has been fun, and maybe there will be less ‘dead ends’ to arrive at the ‘finishing’ point as I get better at this kind of thing (however these creative things are never really finished)…

Final Version  image (c) Natalie Eldred and Sam  Norton, 2013
Final Version
image (c) Natalie Eldred and Sam
Norton, 2013

You can read Sam Norton’s thoughts on this subject, and how his idea came about on his blog post:

Hopefully there’ll be a few more to come.

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