Finding a visual identity for MOUTHY: Camberwell student Sophie Evans writes about the Science Gallery London project

Sophie Evans is an undergraduate Illustration student at Camberwell College of Art. Sophie took part in a collaborative project between Science Gallery London and final year Camberwell students, to develop an idea for the lead image for our forthcoming season MOUTHY. We were blown away by the submissions, but we could only pick one lead image, which will be released this May. We didn’t go with Sophie’s work this time, but we are super-fans! Check out Sophie’s website and Instagram.


My initial approach to the ‘Mouthy lead image brief’ was very broad. I researched and collected mouth reference images for inspiration and knowledge and explored an eclectic range of ideas and concepts. On reflection and analysis of my reference image database, I found some recurring themes; colour, texture and shape. These were elements of images which caught my attention due to their powerful visual impact.

The brightest, fluffiest and most bizarre images I found and enjoyed were of the bacteria living in the mouth. There are approximately 700 different strains of bacteria which have detected in the human mouth, all varying in shape, colour, size and texture. I found this fascinating and incredibly inspiring due to the amazing resource of colour, texture and form bacteria provides me as an artist.

Aesthetic Dental and Specialty Centre. (2015) What Lurks In Your Mouth, Very Closeup. Available at: 

I was keen to create something unique and exciting for the Mouthy lead image, my aim was to make an image which was unique and would draw attention creating intrigue. Using mouth bacteria as my main inspiration and through focusing on colour, texture and shape, I thought it could be interesting and playful to create the science galleries own unique strain of mouth bacteria. This new specimen would form the lead image.

Mouth bacteria can’t be seen with the naked eye, I decided to explore this concept through the idea of creating an illusion within the image playing on the idea of the seen and unseen.

I used my collected mouth bacteria reference images as the starting point of my creative process. I created an array of collaged patterns, abstracting and manipulating the colour, shape and texture of mouth bacteria by; enlarging, rotating, shrinking, multiplying and playing with the scale of my bacteria collage pieces.














The pattern outcomes were colourful, bold and unmissable. I was pleased with these initial visuals and decided to develop them further by creating more patterns with new shapes, forms and texture. I was actively producing ideas and problem solving through pattern making, hoping and waiting for a happy accident or an idea to arise.

Whilst collaging and cutting making, one of my bacteria cut out pieces rested on a black section of paper. I noticed that the negative space within the bacteria collage cut out formed the shape of a row of teeth.


Initial Idea Sketch

This finding was the inspiration that sparked my final idea. I decided to create an image of one unique bacteria specimen, and use its negative space to create two rows of teeth, ultimately forming a mouth shape. The mouth’s lip forms would be created from the bacteria’s fluffy feelers and tentacles.  

This idea incorporated my want for an illusion in the image. The image Is playful but also informative, exploring the idea of the seen and hidden parts of the human mouth. It also showcases mouth bacteria as the amazingly beautiful creatures they are.

To develop and complete this final idea I needed to create a final bacteria pattern for the main body of the bacteria specimen. Using maximum colour and a range of textures, I played with layering through photo copying cut out pieces and painted patterns. This process created a bright playful final bacteria pattern full of movement and joy.

Final Mouthy Lead Image Entry


In order to ilustrate and provide more information about mouth bacteria, which I though was important, I used the process of animation to bring my bacteria lead image alive. The aim of the animation was to create a playful and fun interpretation of the rapid growth and movement of mouth bacteria, that is usually depicted in a more scientific visual language. The animation also illustrates the story of the final lead image bacteria form, starting with one single bacteria cell which multiples, adapts and mutates growing into the one final large bacteria form. The bacteria lead image is full with wiggling life. 



Over the course of this brief I learnt that the mouth houses a hidden jungle of life, colour, texture and amazing beauty. Even with the gruesome thought of my own mouth teeming with bacteria and plaque, as an artist I wish I could see mouth bacteria. They are an incredible, constantly evolving inspiration of colour, shape and texture.