Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Self analysis & critical reflection - project 3

Little White Lies Competition Project

Self-analysis and critical reflection

My initial ideas for this project were to combine the main character portrait (Gary Oldman) with spy themes such as mazes, codes and puzzles. I researched jigsaws, board games and typefaces that would be appropriate for the subject matter and incorporate these themes. In this project I wanted the three things I struggled with in the first project to come together; the colour, the type and the overall composition. In tying these elements together seamlessly I would generate a strong piece of work that was all on one layer and would need very limited tweaking via the use of Photoshop. By embroidering the image onto fabric and turning it into a cushion I have achieved these three things, the colour has been carefully considered and is appropriate for the era, the type has been fully integrated into the composition by being stitched and the composition is all on one layer. I have mixed the title of the film up to make it a mini puzzle trying to find the words and link them together.

I have researched type in accordance with my personal thoughts on my failings on the last project. On my portraits of Gary Oldman the type is hand rendered and integrated fully into the image rather than worked on top of. I haven’t worked like this before with the integration of type within the image itself but the result is far superior to an additional layer on top and is definitely a process which I will utilise in future projects. It has also aided my desire for limited use of software. Although my initial attempts at hand rendered type failed as they were illegible, given more time I could develop these to transform the idea from my head into a reality.

Again I have painted onto a board, but I have also used stitch onto mustard material and collaged onto a board in a similar method to Ian Wright who was highlighted to me in a group crit. I decided that the subject matter being a spy film, trying to disguise the main character would be entirely appropriate. However, I didn’t want to make him totally unrecognisable as the archive of Little White Lies previous magazine covers have all been recognisable main characters. Integrating alternative processes along side wet media still gives me the chance to experiment and explore other options whilst still keeping the outcome mine. The wet media I found is quite limiting as it didn’t really resonate with the Little White Lies audience.

I have spent time again considering my palette, as the film was set in the 1970’s I have decided on brown, beige and mustard tones. The contrasting white collaged board gives an air of office work to parallel the work undertaken in the ‘circus’. All my outcomes on this project have been on the one layer which has made the work look much more authentic but doesn’t give the same amount of flexibility as working on separate layers would offer.

To make this project outcome even better, which I intent to work on next semester before the competition deadline, would be to photograph the cushion with a 1970’s camera to give the true gritty quality that would come from the era. Also, I need to be very selective about which particular elements I use for my set, I cannot use just any ashtray or any sideboard, and they have to be the perfect pieces. Additionally, I like the idea of pasting my image of Gary onto some wood to make a jigsaw out of his face again using this theme of puzzles. When cutting the wood into its pieces I would like to use the type Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy to fit them together.

I have noticed that through all of these projects this semester I have had some very good ideas, but rather than following just one through and developing it to its full potential I flit from one to the other. During the course of next semester I intend to sketch out all my ideas initially and then take just one that I think has the most mileage and develop it thoroughly to explore its true full potential. Not only will the outcome and body of sketchbook work be much richer and better quality through research but it will give me the opportunity to really dig deep into a project and earn those much needed marks from the learning outcomes.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Self analysis & critical reflection - project 2

Manchester Museum Project

Self-analysis and critical reflection

At first I struggled with this project. I changed my process from the last project which in itself was a mistake as I knew that the original process worked really well and produced some fantastic outcomes. Instead of the initial painting of characters I started to paint washes similar to Eric Carle’s style and cutting out the shapes to layer up with each other to create compositions. The aim was to produce children’s fact book 10-12 pages long. I struggled with type and how to make it stand out from the remainder of the image and the images themselves were weak in comparison to the work I have produced for the previous project. After deliberating for a few weeks, which on its own was too long, I decided to return to the process I used on the previous project. I have a problem working with black which is the realistic colour of a scarab so I concentrated on the jewellery aspect of the insect instead, giving me more scope to work with other colours. By doing this I have turned the project into ‘my’ project, it reflects me and I have proudly and independently found a solution to fix my struggles. My jewelled amulet now faces a new challenge though, as this project requires me to produce an A2 poster aimed at children I need to highlight that the main image is in fact an amulet and not the actual thing and is only a representation.

From the last project I have assessed that colour is an issue which needs addressing, therefore my first element of research was colour palettes. I created a mood board in accordance with the subject matter and so it needed to be appropriate. After debating which colours would be appropriate (which took a while, as you can see through the development of the work) I ended up choosing royal colours to symbolise the jewellery I was trying to represent; gold, topaz and emerald. These main colours are accompanied by spot use of red. I think that the colours work well together and harmoniously on the muted plain background. After trying the image on white, I decided that the dark grey was much more complementary to the use of colour in the title and main image. The facts ended up being white as it was the only colour that showed up well on such a dark background.

The type on the poster is again the generic Myriad Pro Photoshop default type face and doesn’t look as sophisticated as it could. I need to research type more for my next project as I think it is the one element that lets the poster down if anything. I understand that with the target audience being children it needs to be easily read but the generalness of the type is quite crude and ugly. Of course Comic Sans would have been even worse. I did attempt to hand render some type and the title of the poster however, is hand painted and matches the main feature well which I like.

I have tried to keep the tactile quality that my painted characters had in the last project and I think that I have succeeded on this front. The number of layers of paint which makes up the finished outcome essentially leads to this result.

During the course of the next project I will aim to integrate any type fully into the image rather than it being an afterthought and put on a separate layer on top. Sometimes, as seen in this and the last project this layering especially with type can look unfinished and an afterthought rather than thought of as the image as a whole. I will concentrate on use of colour again by creating another mood board as this has worked well for this project; the board gives me a reference point and inspiration. I will try to incorporate stitch instead of continuing with acrylic as I think it has more scope to be developed and explored. Additionally, stitched work has no boundaries or limits I can reach all audiences without having to change style if I utilise this process. As I have found with wet media it tends to be limited to a mainly child orientated audience and I need a process that can work well on all levels.

To make this particular project better I could have experimented with the type by hand rendering it in line with the title. Additionally, the dark background looks ugly; being a flat colour the lines start to appear from where the printer has brushed across the paper, so adding texture here could be useful. Again with the image being an amulet it would be useful for a younger audience to have an actual representation of the arthropod too, although the scarabs will be available to view on the day of the event. Creating additional dimensions for the project such as a short animation or paper model would show that the image can work across many platforms and has strength in all fields.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Self analysis & critical reflection - project 1

Personal Project

Self-analysis and critical reflection

Initially, my personal project was going to be an exploration purely based on process spurred on late last year by Jo’s encouragement for me to find ‘me’. Over the summer I started to experiment with dyes and fabrics and saw the different outcomes I could achieve according to the different processes and techniques I applied. As much as I loved experimenting with these materials and stitch the project had no backbone and no final goal; it has been a steep learning curve but I am starting to discover that I need a very tight prescriptive brief to stick to which will allow a specific outcome and a goal for me to aim for. You can see the start of my original personal project with the work handed in to be assessed; I thought that it would be necessary to include it as it shows my development over the summer months and through the first half of September.

When we were given our first brief after the summer holidays I committed myself 100% and the result was really encouraging. I enjoyed producing the work so much and I could see this final outcome that needed to be achieved. This is why I eventually made the decision to switch the project that I had started over the summer to the Helping Uganda Schools Christmas story book which I then went on to present in a PowerPoint presentation a few weeks after. I have had my work professionally printed for this project and I feel that the majority of it looks great. You can most certainly tell which pages were rushed, these have been highlighted in the book with post-its which I hope to work further on over the Christmas period, but I did know at the beginning of the brief that completing all the pages for the deadline was going to be extremely demanding. Overall, I am proud of the finished piece as I finally have some work which I am really confident with, enough so as to present to prospective clients and employers in my portfolio.

Colour has been a major issue in this first project and one which will need addressing over the next project to eliminate the ‘zaney’ quality from reappearing. I think that I have been producing individual elements and thinking of their colour individually too rather than the individual elements together making up the whole composition. In future projects it will be vital to limit my palette and stick to those colours for all elements in order for the end composition to feel united.

It was encouraging to receive such kind and encouraging support from Denise Ead the Helping Uganda Schools project manager; in particular she liked the tactile quality of my work. I seem to prefer working with wet media such as paint and drawing inks and I intend to carry this forward as it appears to be working well for me. This tactile quality that is evident in my work is obviously a positive one with Pete Adlington and Ben Jones also commenting on this feature and thus I intend to try can carry this forward too.

Helen Taylor at Taylor O’Brien brought the type on the work to my attention as she didn’t think that it offered anything extra to the images. I used a default Photoshop font Myriad Pro and type is often something that I shy away from although I understand that originally type too was a means of illustration. I could try to hand render the type for future projects but for now I’ve taken all type off these images for adding to my portfolio.

Of course, in the original personal project work, there are some very interesting thoughts and ideas emerging and threads that could possibly form the basis of my final major project next semester. My subject matter was DNA and this provided the ideal opportunity for me to work with pattern which I haven’t really experimented with or explored before.

Over the next project I will pay particular attention to colour with a view to researching appropriate colour palettes. Although as a rule illustrators don’t use mood boards, I think that it may help to achieve the appropriate outcome as I did struggle with colour on this project. Using wet media gave me an outcome that I really like and one which I think is aesthetically pleasing and so I will continue to use acrylic. I will also address the issue of type should it raise its head and try to hand render it where possible and appropriate.

Friday, 9 December 2011

A Thoughtful Presentation

A Thoughtful presentation on how to break into the industry
By Stuart Price from Thoughtful 08/12/11
Thoughtful is a collection of designers who host their baby Lost in the Forest (on of many creations I’m sure). Lost in the Forest is a concept driven at redesigning design education, which seems like a pretty hefty statement but what the guy goes on to talk about it highly useful and pretty much relative to the third year degree students currently.
There are lots of different opinions contained within the presentation and it is important not to overly analyse them, either you like what they say or you don’t the key is to take from the presentation what I think will relate to my own work and set of circumstances because everybody’s set of circumstances will be different.
The presentation dealt with the debate between convergent and divergent thinking. The idea that something has one specific answer such as 3x5 = 15 (convergent thinking) or something has more than one answer and can be mind mapped in a certain space of time (divergent thinking). Dr Peter Lovatt from Hertfordshire University found that dancing improves these methods of thinking and fifteen minutes of structured dancing will result in better convergent thinking whereas fifteen minutes of improvised dancing will result in better divergent thinking.
The presentation also answered some vital questions that undergraduates wish to know when going for interview etc. Persistence came up as a strong contender for most vital attribute – the people you are addressing in industry are busy, no matter how good you are you need to think about how you are going to show them how good you are. Remember that everything is not going to be given to you on a plate. Keep dialogues going with the people that you most resonate with, with the employers that will offer you most scope as a designer, but do not verge on stalkerish.
What is the preferred medium for first contact with a potential future employer? 78% of studios asked would prefer email, 18% preferred post and 4% preferred a walk in the office spontaneous approach. Adrian Shaughnessy was asked what he would like an email to look like – ‘it’s important to know about my studio and to show that they have done background research. Hello! At the start of an email is unprofessional, make an effort to find out exactly who it is that you need to be speaking to’. Additionally, big attachment such as a 10MB file is too big make your email concise and don’t let anything get in the way of being put to the bottom of the list. If your email doesn’t get a response 46% of studios advise to follow up with another email 3-4 days after the original contact. Adrian says to be open minded, when you graduate you start all over again, be prepared to learn, you never stop learning in the design industry. Keeping a neutral approach is the safest bet; talk about your work, including fonts etc could be a sticking point with design agencies if they don’t like the particular ones that you’ve used.
Expected contents of a first email – have a link to your personal website and a PDF of your work, the latter needs to be a labour of love, do not send an empty email. People would like different options to view your work and sticking to 5-7 projects is a good idea, keep your PDF to 5MB or below. Michael Johnsons advice was ‘the industry is very tough, be prepared for work experience and internships it is possible there is time to find out if you are any good and if you are any good it will happen’.
Leaving a small A5/A6 booklet of your portfolio behind to pass around the office is always a good idea; it keeps you and your work fresh in their memory. Portfolio no-no’s – spelling mistakes, place your work directly in front of the designer so it’s upside down to you, present to them and not to yourself. Patrick Bagalee says ‘it’s better to be interested than interesting; everything you do describes something about you.’ Think of yourself as a brand; meet as many people as you can. Presenting with a box allows illustrators to take work samples such as printed books etc.
Is there a preferred portfolio format? The studios questioned had no preference but a book with bound pages is a safe option. Stefan Sagmeister prefers 10-20 projects, remember that the person you are seeing has limited time, time for them is money. If you have anything that you are unsure about, leave it out, only take work that you are 100% confident in and 100% confident talking about.
Take advantage of the other facilities within the university institution, some are training athletes for the Olympics, some are undertaking cancer research, never think ‘what has this got to do with design?’ but ’what has design got to do with this?’, surround and immerse yourself in what you do. A designer will always judge you through their eyes.
How much information should accompany each project? 45% of studios want to see some information but keep it short and sweet also give credit where credit’s due. It will be obvious if you haven’t done all the work yourself. Potential employers like to see how you’ve arrived at the finished outcome so save sketches. Pentagons Paula Scher ‘find a place to work that is going to give you the broadest possible opportunities don’t think purely about money. What you do in the first twelve months doesn’t mean that is what you will be doing for the rest of your career. Making mistakes is all part of the process just own up to them and learn from them, then move on.’
How long should an interview last? 50% of studios preferred 15-30 minutes so practice and prepare for 30 minutes. Asking how long you’ve got on entering the room set boundaries and gives you a clue of what to edit if anything, it also looks pro active and professional. Employers are attracted to people with tremendous enthusiasm for life and people who are not scared of their imaginations. Adrian says that he is more interested in the designer sitting in front of him than the work he is presented with. Great ideas and good personality are equally important.
If you don’t give up and are relentless you will get a job in the design industry just don’t expect it within the first 18 months of graduating.
I suppose on reflection the presentation given by Stuart was probably more Graphic design orientated as he referred to Graphic designers a lot, but there is some really useful information provided on how to try and break into the industry and that will stay with me throughout the process. A great job Stuart, keep the hard work up!

Monday, 5 December 2011

Prescriptive needs

It has become apparent over this semester that I require specific boundaries to restrain myself from either producing work that is off on a tangent to what the brief requires or doing nothing at all. In essence it is essential for me to work to tight constraints where I know exactly what is required of me and what the finished result will be. For me this then eliminates ‘wandering’ work and work that has no backbone or actual focus. Take for example my personal project I started to develop over the summer months, the subject matter was really interesting and something which I enjoyed learning about, however without a particular aim and goal to focus on I was producing work mindlessly for the sake of it. The three projects that I have embarked upon since September have seen me produce my best pieces of work to date.

Colour has been an ongoing issue through the Negotiated Project module; the Helping Uganda Schools brief saw colour flying everywhere because this is what I thought children wanted to see, it took me a while to realise and with Lise’s help, that children at age 5 can actually have quite sophisticated imaginations and can engage with equally sophisticated visual imagery. Though I must say that in the Bugs project for the Manchester Museum and Little White Lies competition brief I have applied much thought to my colour palettes specifically trying to align them appropriately to the context and subject matter. The Bugs project is again aimed at a child orientated audience, yet the colour is much more muted focusing on the main character. My Gary Oldman portrait for Little White Lies has seen me change my working method slightly in accordance to the context of the brief aiming at a much more refined audience. The colour is very in tune with the 1970’s when the film Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is set utilising beiges, browns, mustard and orange tones.

I have enjoyed painting during this first semester of my third year illustration degree but I think that a change of tact during semester two could be good for the soul. I understand that come May time when I have to start searching for work my experimentation and play-time will be much more restricted and so I need to get as much of it off my chest sooner rather than later. Now I have found a working method that I am comfortable with I can return to it at any time in the mean time I would like to try my hand at some different processes. Stitch has already featured to some extent in my work and I would like to push this further by incorporating more material work and possibly utilising the sewing machines available.

Because of my prescriptive needs I think it would be entirely appropriate to concentrate on live briefs for my Final Major Project, this way I can meet specific demands that someone else has determined. Additionally, if I make these live briefs competition briefs it will give me the opportunity to mix in the professional arena before I graduate. If I should be as lucky as to win any of these competition briefs it can only bode well on my cv for future work. I have decided that 15 weeks is too long a time scale for my concentration not to wane, therefore I have decided that I will complete either three five week briefs or five three week briefs to split the time up more efficiently for my working method. Initially, I am looking at utilising the Folio competition brief illustrating Angela Carter’s ‘The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories’ which will give me the opportunity to explore a darker subject matter and add to my portfolio variety, the Puffin competition to illustrate Grimm’s Fairy Tales and the Marks & Spencer competition brief to design packaging. The M&S brief will be particularly useful for my portfolio as it will show that I can apply myself to different fields allowing a potential client or commissioner to see how I work with other projects alongside the children’s book illustrations I so love doing. If I am going to tackle the creative industry practically, although children’s book illustration is my number one love, I have to appeal to a wider audience in order to get as much work as possible lined up. Alongside this variation within my portfolio I also need to have a stronger presence in the art world. This will mean an online presence including website and visiting as many events and conferences as possible.

Over the Christmas break I aim to launch my first attack on the web by setting up a Facebook account dedicated to my illustration. I am making Facebook my first point of call as it’s free and I’m a techno-no-no. As for the web presence thing, it doesn’t help when I share the same name as a very well established porn star, any Google search for Chloe Jones fails to display me, my web presence therefore could be tricky to master. I already have a Behance and twitter account active however they do tend to get forgotten about. I have also decided that from the end of my degree course, I would like to move directly into a shared desk space where I will have the motivation and determination to go and do my work everyday.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Creative Review 01/12

For our Creative Review session this month (takes place on the first Thursday of every month) I have brought an article from December's issue (2011) of Creative Review. The article is titled 'Cut, fold, glue and play'. I chose this article to talk about because during the last project we were asked to produce an A3 3D paper engineered model of our chosen bug, which I personally really struggled with. Usually my work is all 2D mainly painted but with some collage emerging here and there, so working off the page can be tricky. I don’t really possess the ability to construct paper models myself without having to create something with a child audience in mind. The article talks about how paper models and toys are becoming increasingly popular in the illustrative world and the one’s it features are exceedingly good. Basically I was trying to get some hints and tips for my own work and maybe some research pointers as it’s not an area I’ve worked in before.

Book wise I chose to show John Le CarrĂ©’s ‘Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy’ 1974 spy novel as I can’t get hold of the film just yet (release date not until January 2012). It is a useful read to get some context for the Little White Lies competition I’m currently working on. I presume that the film would be a much quicker way to brush up my knowledge on the content but unfortunately I’m too early for the DVD and too late for the cinema unless I trek to Edinburgh (that would be an expensive viewing!)

Recently, I took a trip to the Tate gallery in Liverpool to look at the Alice in Wonderland exhibition so this featured in my presentation, but also some exhibitions that I think will be interesting for future visits. The Manchester Art Gallery has currently for an exhibition on ‘Under That Cloud’ which looks interesting, it’s a showcase of jewellery that was produced by travellers stuck in Mexico City during last years Ash Cloud epidemic and is running from 19/11/11 – 15/04/12.

For my film I chose to present the Black Swan which is another film in the shortlist for the Little White Lies competition. I chose to view this recently to see if I could find another film that was available on DVD so I could use more content in my work rather than the Tinker, Tailor film which I’m struggling to find. My plan failed… miserably. I found the film to be a psychoanalytical thriller – not my bag, sorry.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Web Research

Web Design Research

Ok, so I started out my research of what I would ideally want on my website by looking at my favourite artists’ online presence and analysed what worked for me on their sites, (I guess that this is all personal opinion, so no offence is meant by any of my analysis!)

Ale Diaz is a firm favourite so I started out there…I really like her URL to start with (http://www.alediaz.com/), it’s easy to find and relates to her and her name well. I too like the use of her own typography, it gives it personality and accessibility too, anyone can create some quick typeface of their own, right? Whatever the final outcome of my website I would like for people to be able to engage with it and for it not to be overly precious and finalised; I would like the rawness which is incorporated in my work naturally to come through. I like a plain white background, it’s easy clean and makes work stand out, there’s no distractions other than what people should ideally be there to look at in the first place – Ale demonstrates this well. Important information such as email and contact details need to be on the main page so that potential clients and people wanting to commission me can find them easily. I don’t want them getting annoyed trying to find my details and eventually giving up on me!

Although flashy animations look good such as those used on Tim Burton’s site (http://www.timburton.com/) I can imagine that they would get very tiring very quickly. I don’t want people getting bored waiting to see my actual work or contact details whilst waiting for something that isn’t really an important feature just a filler. I believe that a website is there for a purpose and I want it to achieve that purpose quickly and efficiently. Interactive features and music, as again seen on the Tim Burton site, are a lovely addition first time around, but if a client is making frequent visits to my site I imagine these would get rather boring too.

Sara Fanelli (http://www.sarafanelli.com/) also makes it too complicated getting to the point with the click on this click on that palaver. To see any of her actual work (including clicking the link from a Google search) you need to make four individual clicks to see one piece of her work, more clicks if you need to see more than one as each piece is individually listed. I think having all the pieces on a full screen shot will allow ease of viewing and less boredom searching around. Additionally, it eradicates the simultaneous new window boxes appearing every time you click on another piece of work you want to view, which is also highly irritating.

Eric Carle’s website (http://www.eric-carle.com/home.html) is user friendly, straight to the point and most importantly engages his target audience – children. If my target audience is definitely going to be children (I’m producing rather a lot of children’s story book work) I need to bear this in mind too. Icons that are child friendly are going to stand me in good stead compared to words which children may not know or understand wholly. His font is easily readable making it accessible for all audiences and everything is labelled well. It is nice to know that I agree with Eric Carle and Quentin Blake (http://www.quentinblake.com/(amongst others)) that keeping a neutral white background will make emphasis on my work without added distractions. Unlike these two very well established illustrators who must receive thousands of junk mails etc. I need to have my contact details displayed well. Quentin Blake for example only lists his agents’ details; unfortunately I don’t have this luxury just yet (hopefully one day though!)

Attributes for my site:

So then, attributes I would like my site to have are:

1. A synonymous URL

2. Plain, clean, white background

3. Contact details on the front page

4. Hand rendered typeface

5. Child friendly icons

Illustration's Digital Future

Illustration’s digital future

I have always had a pc and I have always professed to be a Mac hater, but then something within me changed, in 2009 I started an illustration degree…

In February of this year (18 months after my start date) I required a new machine, my old HP sadly passed away and I proceeded to purchase a brand spanking new Sony Vaio to replace it, oh how I regret that decision. Please don’t misunderstand me it’s not that the Sony isn’t adorable and so pretty to look at and actually a very good machine in its own right, it’s just after working on a Mac day in day out at university I am falling in love with something that just makes my life so much easier. After eighteen months of working with them already, I’m still not sure what possessed me to buy another pc, either way the huge mistake is of my own making.

The editorial I found in September’s (2011) edition of Creative Review resonates so much with my situation, it talks about ‘following the advent of the Mac, almost every aspect of the production of visual communications was changed forever.’ Of course, during the 1990’s, my need for a Mac (or any machine for that matter) was none existent, I was probably still in nappies! It is difficult to imagine how life for an illustrator was before the Mac; the work must have been painstaking. People are talking about illustrations digital future, for the most part, as though it’s in crisis, where illustrators will not be able to feed their families because of the techno evolving society that no longer requires our work. Sure some technology does ignore our work, for example the Amazon Kindle and to some extent the iPad but our work is required in other fields then, such as the advertising and the marketing of such a product.

The issue then is that, sadly, Steve Jobs is no longer with us and he was that one guy who ‘understood the value of what we do. He got it. And he got us.’ Will the world of illustration be able to survive now he’s gone? Will the technology we so regularly use and abuse be able to keep up with us without the legend that made the transaction so smooth? There are many facilities available to us now that make our life so much easier and our work so much more accessible than ever before, take the iPad for example (another of his creations) to some extent our work will not be required with this invention, but it also makes it so much more accessible, and global. People can now view our work from any continent, without us having to mail it there! I know I may sound a hypocrite for my previous ill-judge of Mac, but now is the time to embrace this technology that has and still is changing our world; it is what enables us to be able to now ‘think different’.

Portfolio Visit 3

Thursday 24th November

10am appointment with Lise Brien @ The Chase


This visit was the one that I felt most comfortable with out of the three, not necessarily because it was the last of the three, but because I have been to The Chase before. I spent a week working there over the summer on a work experience placement and I have been in regular contact with Lise since and find her very approachable with any queries I may have.

The pre-nerves then weren't so prominent although they were still there to a certain degree. Lise always seems to comment on my appearance which gives me confidence in how I present myself at least (my work presentation however, could probably do with much more work!) Unlike my other portfolio visits, Lise conducted hers in the reception area, which also made me feel more at ease as it seemed very informal and much more friendly, almost like we were on the same level, she came down to me. Whether this was a technique she uses for ‘newbies’ or how she would conduct a professional portfolio visit I’m still unsure. Either way I would like to think that she treat me as she would a professional illustrator.

The actual presenting of my portfolio is what I find most difficult, not because I’m not confident in the work I’ve included in it but because I’m not confident in talking about my own work, I’m my own worst critic. I suppose nobody else can know my work better than me and I do need to talk about my ideas and how I produced the pieces etc, I still just find it an awfully excruciating process, most probably because I know I am being judged. After presenting my limited portfolio to her she supplied me with her comments. I know by this point I need more work in there, preferable 20 pages and currently it stands at only 8 strong pieces. As she represents a design agency and not illustration she could only really provide me with how she would view an illustrator’s portfolio, which is understandable. The first six pages are illustrations I created for the Helping Uganda Schools project and although she thought they were very nice and child friendly they are not something that she could base a possible commission on. Unless a design agency is looking to commission specifically for a child audience (which is very rare) these are not something that she personally would be overly interested in. This point was useful because I realised that I could and should be rearranging my portfolio every time I make a visit because not all agencies etc. are the same and are in fact looking for different things. For example if I were going for a portfolio visit to a publishing company my children’s book illustrations would need to be at the front however when visiting a design agency my more graphical elements need to be at the front with the children’s book images more to the back.

My James and the Giant Peach characters designs were much more attractive to Lise. These incorporate collage and stitch and to her are much more usable in her line of work. She commented on their representativeness and quirkiness and appeal much more to a designers use and on how I was very specific with my collage materials making them much more robust. It would be worth exploring the individual elements more to see if I could make them even more refined. The simplicity and graphical quality allows more flexibility in the design market. There is a hint of realism but the surrealism gives them more caricature. They are a much more elegant solution and are more distinctive than the former book images. She went on to say how she could visualise a train of insects produced in a similar manner branching out into flowers too and the stitched lines representing water, ground and skies. These images have much more potential to work on different levels, although they would work for children too. She made me realise that children at age 3-5 can also interpret quite sophisticated visual language too, it doesn’t always have to be so literal.

To sum up, I think Lise was very interested in my work because she has children of her own. If for example I were to attend a portfolio appointment where a designer in particular doesn’t have children maybe children’s book illustrations would not be the most ideal work to present. Lise’s comments on the James and the Giant Peach characters is commendable as I really enjoyed making these characters and they were much quicker to produce than some of the more laborious children’s book images. Suprisingly, Lise asked me to contact her again in 6 months to show her how I am progressing so that she too can review my work, fingers crossed it may turn into something more J

Lord Whitney

November 21st

Lord Whitney Talk

Lecture Theatre B. Stockport College

Lord Whitney is a two piece collaboration act comprising of two female creative’s, graphic art and design ex-graduates from Leeds. They are labelled as art directors but consider themselves as more 3D illustrators. Their undergraduate course covered a broad spectrum of art specialism’s including photography, typography and illustration. Amy preferred the photographic route whereas Bex was more of an illustration geek. Both are hands on and are heavily influenced by literature and theatre, in particular things that make them laugh, Spike Milligan and Dali and both favourites.

Their talk was an informal explanation of their journey from leaving university to where there are in the creative industry currently. They spoke of the importance to keep on working after uni and keeping in contact with creative friends and peers. This is especially so because the once shared studio will be missed and the support network of tutors and peers. I can personally imagine the loneliness of the situation leaving university and not sharing that with somebody else. At least if I have somebody to moan to every now and again, even if it is only in the pub, it gives you the reassurance that you are not alone in that situation.

For the first year or so after uni, the girls were temping, with jobs moving in quick succession. Both however didn't feel happy in the work they were doing and they finally decided to collaborate properly because they mutually felt that there was no job out there to meet their specific needs and requirements. Originally, they started making business cards to make the idea seem like the reality, these were from scraps of paper and cheaply produced as a lack of funds made it difficult to get them produced to a high standard. However on the plus side these cards will have been much more authentic than the mass produced numbers from firms such as Moo etc. I have just sent off for my free pack of 10 featuring a couple of my own designs but they lack the uniqueness that the cards Lord Whitney no doubt were crafting.

It was endearing to listen to their financial struggles when first setting up their business because it not only shows that it can be done, but you're not the only on in that boat, there are lots of people out there who struggle at first. Logically, because they had a lack of funds for their projects their work was not too precious or overly thought, they had a rough raw feel which makes it much more accessible. Apart from this accessibility it also makes it much more personal and engaging to a student audience particularly.

The setting up of this business made them realise just how much they loved doing what they do. They look at other outlets to broaden their market and client base and currently look at events too and have found that their skills can be applied in all different arenas. A recent event they were asked to collaborate on was The House of Fairy Tales where they made environments for people to become a part of.

They acquired a lot of voluntary work experience to get their name out there and to show what they can do, but the advice was not to do anything for free more than once. If a company asks you back they obviously like your work so to ask you to come back they can afford to pay you.

Also, they have noticed that undergraduates currently spend weeks researching projects and ideas rather than jumping in at the deep end and producing work straight away. They wanted to show that work can be produced really quickly and it doesn't have to take weeks and weeks. They have set the group a week long project to show how quick work can be produced if you apply yourself efficiently.

For them, finding a studio was the kick they needed to properly start working and it provides them a base for more work and commissions to come in. Blogging, Tweeting and using Facebook generates interest from potential clients and they update each constantly to keep interest and their image fresh. To keep money rolling in whilst they are still working on getting their business up and running, they do event styling and window dressing, though it is clear that their creative flair and passion is in their own business.

Finally, inspiration doesn't have to necessarily come from art, look at things around you, things that interest you, your hobbies and passions outside of the art world. It could be a toy shop or things that you love.

What I have gained from this talk is to stay true to myself. If I don't enjoy a particular brief then I need to take from it what is important and make it my own. When Amy and Bex came round our studio afterwards, they commented on my work for its colour. This is something that has been a subject of much criticism lately especially from tutors, however they think that it is this vital element that makes my work mine. I now need to find a vehicle to apply this to any brief that I am issued. It is the colour that could give me the consistency to my portfolio that I have felt it has been lacking previously.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Carson Ellis

At Pete’s recommendation I decided to research Carson Ellis. Carson was born in 1975 in Vancouver, Canada. She illustrates both album covers and children's story books. The 'stripped back' use of colour Pete was talking about is quite prevalent (see images above). It is good to have some idea of what ‘stripped back’ is supposed to mean and what it looks like in practice, but it doesn’t look like anything I would produce.

From what I can see from her website, she also gives back to society by holding free art classes to teenagers every autumn. Not only does this give her something additional to put on her cv (not that she needs it anymore!) but it gives her the exposure that every illustrator requires to keep generating work.

I understand from my portfolio visits thus far that it is of very limited work, it is by no means expansive and it needs to be by the time May comes. Additionally, it doesn't boast the range of skills I have to offer. I am most comfortable illustrating children's story books, they allow my imagination to run off with itself, but to appeal to the widest possible market I need to include different types of brief. Craig Oldham from Music in particular pointed out that he wouldn't feel confident commissioning me for a package brief for example because my portfolio doesn't show him that I am able to tackle that type of a brief.

So, for the latest brief dealing with a live competition, I have decided to undertake the challenge of designing a magazine cover for Little White Lies. I think that this will give me scope to develop my skills further and show potential clients that I possess the ability to undertake different kinds of briefs. With this brief I intend to consider the colour as part of the overall image and not think of it as an afterthought, the type too needs to be considered because if I could integrate it into the image rather than putting it on top as a separate layer it would look much more aesthetically pleasing. The middle and right image above by Ellis look like they have type integrated into the image making it look much better than the image on the left for example.

Peter Adlington Contact

Here is a response from Pete Adlington, ex Stockport graduate currently working in Edinburgh.

I wanted to ask him specifically for feedback on my use of colour as it has cropped up a few times in tutorials

as not being as controlled as it could be.


Add to contacts

To Chloe Jones

Hi Chloe,

Thanks for getting in touch and sending me your stuff, it looks great.

Nice to see someone who uses paints still, can I take it that you've resisted the computer and will continue to do so?

You say that you're having trouble with your colour, I wouldn't say it was all over the place at all, but whatever the medium, be it acrylic or pencil, you are always at its mercy with the colour. The strongest colour-wise is the fish, which is purely because it's a limited palette and that's something which will hold you in good stead throughout your work. Limiting yourself to only a few colours forces restraint and that is absolutely essential when dealing with wet media. There's no CMD-Z with a paint brush obviously.

We've just published a kids book called Wildwood and the illustrator for that (Carson Ellis) uses a really beautiful colour palette which is well considered and stripped back. I understand that her target audience may be a bit older than yours for these pieces but I can promise you that if you tried using a more muted palette with colours that are complimetary then your work will be transformed. Also check out Nobrow magazine for amazing colour palettes.

As to other advice, I guess it would have to be to do as much work as possible. You obviously have a talent in traditional art skills, and a playful sense of imagination so embrace it. Also, explore other ways of working, I'm not saying jump on a computer, I'm saying follow the route of hand making your illustrations. I remember a girl called Nina in my year who found a love of lino print and made some unbelievable stuff that came about purely from play and experimentation. I bet you've you're really comfortable using paints, but what have you got to lose by trying something else?

I'd love to see how your work develops over the coming year, make sure you keep in touch and get in contact about anything to do with a brief that's bothering you. I agreed with Ian that I'd be here should you guys need me and I will be.



Pete is clearly a fan of the wet media and I am glad that somebody recognises my determination to stay away from digital media.

I agree with his comment on my fish being the strongest element in my portfolio so far. For me this image is strongest because of its consistent use of colour and its symmetrical structure. Moving forward with my painting it is becoming clear that I need to limit myself to a palette and be disciplined not to waver from it. I will certainly be researching Carson in future posts in a bid to aid my personal development. Ben Jones my allotted graphic guru mentioned NoBrow as a point of contact for potential portfolio visits, I have contacted them before maybe I ought to take another look at their site this time with another purpose in mind.

I am completely open to the comment about playing with other media, however, I feel that I am starting to form a consistent pattern in my work and I’m not sure if I want to disturb that progress just yet, maybe after the Christmas break this is something to have a go at. I will definitely be making use of Pete as a contact again his feedback was very encouraging and the critical comments were constructive in a way I can move my work forward.

PS. I added the smiley face from his website Bio myself, I think he's quite cute!

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Portfolio Visit 2

Wednesday 16th November

10am appointment with Craig Oldham @ Music


My second portfolio visit was to Music on Silk Street, Manchester - a rather posher area of town, and away from the distractions of spending money - always a plus!

My appointment was with Craig (the guy who came and did the lecture a few weeks ago) so I wasn't feeling altogether the same nerves as I did on my first visit. Or maybe it was that I am becoming more confident with my work and in presenting myself? Either way, not knowing Manchester all that well, I certainly still did have nerves about finding the place especially with it being so far off the beaten track (and I thought Taylor O'Brien was difficult to find!)

He invited me into the 'bubble' - a meeting room with glass walls on two sides making me feel actually very exposed, a good job I sat with my back to the rest of the office. He had no shoes on I noticed, he made me feel at home straight away.

I still need to find a presenting method that suits me better; I still don't know when the appropriate moment is to start showing my work after all the pleasantries etc. Any pointers anyone? I don't want people waiting for me to start and at the same time don't want them thinking me rude by cutting their conversation off.

Craig explained that 80% of the time a portfolio visit is for an agency etc to assess you as a person and not necessarily the work. Usually you would have sent work through ahead of the visit as a taster of what you are about and essentially this is the work that a designer or agency base their appointments on. The visit is to vet you, to make sure your character would fit within the company and that you possess all the qualities they require, and then of course an expansion of your work which they will have already seen some of.

I explained to Craig my working method where I stay away from the computers because the work appears quite flat - I don't like that quality in my work. His comments were that he respected that and the majority of the work that our year is churning out is quite vector and illustrator based. But by stuffing so much detail and information into my images they are becoming more flat than if I had just kept it that bit more plain. Patterns would be a good example to use, they don’t overload the image but they add some information. He particularly liked page 4 of my portfolio because it was the one page where I am experimenting with ideas (see the crocodile peeking through the grass) and technique (the yellow cultured pattern on the red background and wash backgrounds behind the vignettes; it has more texture and is therefore more interesting). This is something which Craig thinks could definitely be developed. I need a connecting thread to link my images together, the Uganda Christmas story book for example lacks this ‘connector’, and pattern would be a great way of introducing this. From this, I can take away that I need to look at my production method more – how can I develop it and which elements really work, alongside adding more pattern where appropriate yet keeping it playful.

There is an apparent ‘nice contrast between figurative and abstract’ in my Uganda images. Craig also likes the tactility of the characters I have produced so far. However, when someone is looking to commission an illustrator, they need to have faith that you can fit their bill. Craig explained that because all of the work in my portfolio is aimed at children, and children’s book illustration a design agency such as his would have difficulty visioning me doing a package job for the new Mac. I need to be able to show my versatility in my portfolio too, he suggests trying a project which is more macabre and dark. University should be the time to be taking risks and experimenting and making full use of the facilities available to me because in the ‘real world’ the deadlines and demands are too tight to be ‘arsing’ around. It’s ironic he should say that, for the next brief this semester we have to choose a competition brief, and I was going to choose the Brother’s Grimm Fairy Tales competition launched by Puffin, maybe the Penguin competition aimed at an adult audience would be a better bet. Something dark and macabre would definitely show this ‘versatility’ quality in me better.

A portfolio should reflect my interests and my hobbies and who I am as a person, not just someone who’s jumped through the hoops to produce one for the sake of having one. Therefore I should be entering competitions and making my own briefs to produce work that I am enjoying and having fun with to be able to show in my portfolio.

In all, my portfolio is too child heavy. It needs more variation to show my skills and flexibility.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Alice in Wonderland Exhibition, Tate Liverpool

Alice in Wonderland Exhibition 14/11/2011

The Alice in Wonderland exhibition currently showing at the Tate gallery in Liverpool opened on 4th November and is due to run until 29th January 2012 and is described by the Tate as the ‘first comprehensive exploration of the stories’ influence on the visual arts. His stories are rich in logical, philosophical and linguistic puzzles – reflecting their author’s fascination with language and with questions of meaning’.

I arrived with certain expectations from this particular exhibition with it featuring works based on one of the world’s most well loved childhood stories, a 10% student discount certainly impressed me! (and that was on top of the already reduced price for concessions!)

It started out on the ground floor then led up to the 4th (the elevator saved my little tootsies J), behind the curtain however my excitement soon became frustration. To the right were some photographs printed onto canvas by Annelies Strba and to the left a neon light typography installation by Jason Rhoades created in 2004, words illuminated included ‘Brazilian caterpillar’, ‘beef curtain, ‘trout basket’ and ‘serpent socket’. The layout here was rather sparse, completely not reflective of the zaney, out-there story it was meant to be representing. The canvases hung on bare walls although the brightness of the neon light installation did brighten the atmosphere it was only briefly.

Up on the fourth floor there was much more information to sift through, a tiny breakthrough at least. Although as I walked around I did begin to notice that the information was more on Lewis Carol, formally know as Charles L Dodgson and his life, than Alice in Wonderland itself. There were various photographs taken by Carol during his lifetime (he was a keen photographer) ‘the Victorians prized childhood as a symbol of innocence, and children were often the subjects of his photographs’ and some of the layouts he planned for his story, ‘he planned the book in meticulous detail, even down to the placement of the illustrations, for which he made his own sketches.’ The placement of my text in comparison is usually an after thought, so I can make some personal links to some of the work featured and learn some lessons from it.

‘Copyright on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland expired and it entered the public realm in 1907 with at least fourteen new illustrated editions on sale by the autumn’. Illustrations by Tove Jansson, Maria L Kirk and Adrienne Segur all caught my attention. Sir John Tenniel’s pencil on paper illustrations fascinated me due to their tiny scale and intricate details captured in such a small space, his sense of space and proportion is exceptional. Also, I could learn a lesson or two from Andrei Martynov who illustrated said story with a very limited palette, my palettes have been way too inclusive of recent months featuring a collection of bright colours and more muted shades which don’t always work in unison. Charles Francis Annesley Voysey 1920 created a furnishing fabric showing that Alice in Wonderland was adaptable to many different media; other ranges included ceramics and children’s toy lines.

Later in the exhibition Adrian Piper’s LSD paintings feature as does a porn referenced wall of type, I understand the inclusion of drug related artwork – Alice in Wonderland does hint at drug use when she drinks potions to make her grow and shrink and during the 1960’s drug culture was all the rage. But the inclusion of pornographic related images doesn’t make any logical sense to me, after all Alice in Wonderland is supposed to be a children’s story book, is it not? The neon light installation downstairs also references this porn theme with the words that are illuminated. The exhibition is clearly aimed at an adult audience and not children (though there are warnings where pornographic references are made) due to the formal layout but I am still struggling to find the connection.

Salvador Dali featured towards the end of the display with the inclusion of his illustrations and a short animation on which he collaborated with Walt Disney titled Destino, 1946. Dali later goes on to explain that the girl in the animation is Alice from the Alice in Wonderland story where she is concerned and totally consumed by time. He injects some colour and life into the exhibition space, something that the three of us were desperately searching for, and although we found it, it was only in a very small dose. Dali is playful with the subject matter but still in a surrealist manner.

The layout of the exhibition was disappointing as the subject matter holds such potential for a fun, tactile and engaging environment. I imagined more installations, pointers to the Mad Hatter’s tea party and a dark tunnel to reference the rabbit hole. It was not reflective of the story it is meant to be representing. Instead what we discovered was a very formal, very quiet on the verge of very boring exhibition that could be found in any other gallery, it was standard but nothing more.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Hopes, Fears and Opportunities Part 1

Hopes, Fears and Opportunities Part 1

I have many hopes and fears in my life; some are bigger, bolder and brasher than others. I fear graduating and still not knowing how to work the tumble dryer (I’ve mastered the washing machine at least!) I hope I will still be fully functional after all the deadlines I will have had to meet come July and I will then, finally, get the opportunity to sleep… for a short while at least. University work itself brings a fresh wave of these hope, fears and opportunities.

When I first embarked on my journey through my illustration degree I wanted to graduate with a first class honours degree, I hoped that I was going to be good enough to achieve that. But this year has taught me more than anything, that a first class honours degree doesn’t mean anything if I don’t have fun. All I can do is my best, if I can truly say, hand on heart that I worked my socks off, to my hardest and fullest potential; surely no-one can ask any more of me than that? …not even myself.

I fear that graduating without a first class honours degree I won’t be able to forgive myself for not working my hardest or to my fullest potential and thinking with hindsight, could I have worked that bit harder? Could I have stayed up that bit later? Therefore, I need to make the most of this opportunity before it’s too late, to knuckle down and be relentless, to give my all to this course and to truly say I did my best. After all, what is the point of all this labour if I’m not going to commit 100%? If that’s going to be the case I may as well just resign now...

I hope that one day I will illustrate a children’s book and it will be on display for all to see, to impact somehow on a child’s learning. I fear that I won’t live up to my own expectations; I need to make opportunities so that I can fulfil these hopes.

At the beginning of this semester I filled out a sheet based on my hopes, fears, opportunities and aims. My hopes were to produce more work, last year I produced very little and as a result I now don’t have as much portfolio pieces as I’d like. I wanted to secure a first class honours degree, a PGCE place at Sheffield Hallam University and to win the Uganda competition brief. To make these hopes a reality I had to put in place a structure that would help me to realise them. My first hope, producing more work was relatively simple, I would get my head down and start producing work, if it wasn’t appropriate for the brief that was fine, it’s a learning curve and needs documenting to show my progress. If it helped, I would produce a timetable so I could see what I should be doing each day in order to make the most of my limited time. Last year I was too involved in the finished outcome rather than letting my mind and brush wander to places it could have. My first class honours degree will come if I keep being relentless and putting the hours in. But focusing on the mark or grade will not do any good, I just need to know that I have done my best and done all I can to ensure that it is my best and a development on the previous project. I have sent my GTTR application with Sheffield Hallam as my preferred choice for a primary school position. I spent as long as I could on my personal statement, editing, and the outcome of that will be seen shortly. I will prepare for interview anyway in a hope of securing a place.

My fears were that I won’t be able to cope with the workload and that there would not be enough time. Sure enough the deadlines seem to come around all too quickly for my liking. At one point I wasn’t coping with the workload either. What I have put in place to put this back on track is quit my job. With the extra free time I can hopefully save myself from disaster by applying myself wholeheartedly. I now need to immerse myself in the art world. Additionally, when I get a brief I need to do my research and ideas planning first and not at the end. This is back to front and to save time and be more efficient it will make more sense to do this the right way around in future projects.

For my opportunities I wanted to be able to showcase my work to as many professional people of industry as possible. This out of all my hopes, fears and opportunities was the one I didn’t think would bear any fruit. However, I have stood my ground and continued to follow up emails and phone calls and have secured my essential three portfolio appointments at least. Although I have got to my three I won’t stop there, as soon as I take my foot off the gas you can bet all hell will break loose (that usually is the case for me!)

My aims were to build on my presentation skills and to have an outstanding portfolio under my belt. I have to admit, the opportunity for presentations hasn’t been as broad this year, though I have presented my ideas on my personal project which I received encouraging feedback from. I have presented my portfolio to professionals which took more courage and guts than presenting to tutors or the class which I have done time and time again. On a Wednesday I now assist a teacher in a primary school so my presenting skills to a younger audience at least are definitely on the rise. As for an outstanding portfolio, I have utilised the tools available to my advantage and have been producing as much work as possible since the start of this semester. So far I have eight pieces in my portfolio, all of which I am completely confident with and proud of. If I were to add others that I wasn’t so confident with it would bulk my portfolio up but this is not something I aspire to do, instead I will keep plugging away to produce more pieces that I can feel truly proud of.

I think what I can take forward from this review is that I am still learning. Although I’m in my final year and only have months to go till I graduate, I’m still taking in new information. I need to have faith in myself because if I haven’t got that I’ll never make it. I need to take my focus off the final grade and apply myself fully so that I can enjoy the remainder of my course and I will eventually get the grade that I deserve.

Monday, 7 November 2011

But isn't that your job?

Thursday 03/11/2011
But isn't that your job?
By Craig Oldham

Ok so on the brief it described this talk as 'expletive fuelled', I didn't think it meant literally...
Another day another boring lecture, but actually Craig surprised me in the nicest possible way. This guy made me smile. Finally, a creative, design-y guy who isn't afraid to be himself. I liked that.
The talk last around 2 hours and he spoke about how his relationships with illustrators (him working for Music, a design agency) can work and fail. I learned a lot from him, and he managed to keep my attention for more than 10 parsecs.
Being an illustrator apparently we need to be more 'out there', basically more accessible. For example when a designer is looking to commission an illustration and they see a style they like, they can't find any contact details for that particular Mr/Miss/Mrs Lucky. Lesson 1. make yourself more accessible, look through the lens the other way round, if you were the agency, could you find you?
Also designers will more often than not ask to tweak your image but be prepared to stand your ground. If you think that your image looks better in blue, tell them but be flexible, offer to change it to a different shade of blue. Lesson 2. don't be a door mat, you are working to a fee remember, if their demands exceed that don't be afraid to let them know.
If you feel like you can't meet the requirements of the agency communicate with them. The worst thing you can do is bury your head in the sand and come Monday present them with the work they weren't expecting. If you feel your work isn't what they need, let them know. Lesson 3. be honest with people and theirs and your expectations.
Lesson 4. if your Mum doesn't understand the concept, you're definitely on the wrong path! I can definitely relate to this last one, my Mum turns off very frequently, instead asking what I'm doing for tea - it's time I started taking note!

Working at university is like working in a bubble. I don't get the chance to see these relationships in a 'working' environment, so it's nice for people like Craig to give up some of their precious time to come and see us. I for one find it very helpful and am very appreciative :)

Portfolio Visit 1

Monday 7th November

10 am appointment with Helen Taylor @ Taylor O’Brien


Today I visited Taylor O'Brien on Newton Street, Manchester, for the first of my three portfolio visits this semester (and hopefully even more to follow). Taylor O'Brien work on brand inspiration usually for corporate companies such as Orange, Kelloggs and Helping Uganda Schools (whom I myself collaborated with on the Christmas story project).

Helen Taylor is the Creative Director at the Manchester office and was more than kind enough by giving me some of her precious time. To say I was nervous at the bottom of the stairs was an understatement, but by the time I'd climbed the four floors (in 4 inch heels!) I was starting to perspire somewhat.

That awkward moment when you poke you head round the door... there was no reception area, just a floor of heads staring into their machines. Having said that all the staff were very polite and friendly, and all the men are currently part-taking in Mo-vember, or so they feel obliged to tell me, only some have heavier beards than others (the banter in the office was of such a natural nature it felt endearing that they wanted to include me in it). I was worried that I wouldn't find the office due to it being down a side street off the main track of Picadilly so allowed some extra time in case I got a little lost. It was a toss up between being 20 minutes early or risking being late. From being young people have drummed it into my head to be early because it makes a good impression, yet I'm not sure if it came across as unprepared and unorganised.

Whilst waiting for my appointment slot, Helen sat me on their comfy couches, and here came my next conundrum, do I just sit? Do I check my emails? Or do I have a look at their glossy magazines? I want to look interested and not ignorant tapping away on my phone but I want to contain my nerves at the same time. For my next appointment I will take a small book based on my dissertation, if nothing else it will keep me occupied and provide another topic of conversation if things dry up.

When the presentation started I got into the flow of things quickly. Helen was great to talk to and made me feel very much as ease, she led the conversation after telling her I was unsure what was expected of me having not done a portfolio presentation before. I only have 8 pages in my portfolio and I knew before I left that this would have been a sticking point. Of course I will have a full portfolio by the time May comes but I have only just gotten to grips with a working method I'm comfortable with. I don't have any work from last year that I'm confident with.

To try and pad out what little work I had in my portfolio I took in some current work I'm working on at the moment to highlight the tactile quality my work has. Helen has suggested putting in some work from the last couple of years to show where I have come from and how I have developed my work over my undergraduate course. This is definitely something that I can aim to achieve for Thursday (my next portfolio visit with Lise Brian a The Chase). Additionally, the work I have produced for the Helping Uganda Schools project needs the type removing as it doesn't add anything to the images. Helen did say that working in industry, the type is something that a designer would usually take care of anyway but to take it off for future visits.

It was agreed that the style of my work suits children's book illustration more than it would editorial for example and Helen suggested contacting publishing houses as a way of getting my foot in the door. My attempt at contacting Penguin has proved unsuccessful, and as a large company probably inundated with thousands of emails of a similar nature everyday, I can honestly say I wasn’t too surprised. A step forward could be to contact smaller book publishers as a way of getting my name 'out there', email doesn't work as well as mail drops, mailing actual pieces of work particularly something tactile that a publishers can hold. Helen says that what works well for her won't always work as well with other agencies, but it would be worth a shot (she knows the industry much better than I do after all!). However, she doesn't recommend just turning up on the off chance that someone will have a free hour - it is a very pressurised and busy business. It could be very awkward to turn up and no-one be able to see you, on both parts.

She moved on to ask me whether I prefer conceptual briefs or being given someone else's vision to illustrate. This is a tricky one, but a question whose answer I need to articulate for if I get asked again. I think both have their advantages and disadvantages, I'd like to know that my work has some of my idea behind it too. Also, I need to add some working drawings to my portfolio to show how my ideas and work develop from their initial thoughts to the finalised product. Helen said she would always want anyone she commissions to show that they can develop ideas and realise their full potential.

I asked if they commission illustrators for their briefs, apparently where possible they like to realise the brief in house because they like the excitement of getting involved in the image making too. Obviously the more technical aspects they need to commission illustrators. Over the last few months to years they haven't commissioned that many because of the corporate image their clients want to create. However, Helen sees things going full circle and over the next few years illustrators will be commissioned more as companies want to realise something different and mould breaking for their branding.

I found the experience extremely helpful, as showing my portfolio to a potential employer first time around without any prior experience would have been awful. It gave me a good insight into what a girl should wear to these events too, suited and booted is apparently not appropriate! Smart is appropriate because I'm visiting someone else's business.

Over all, the feedback I gained was positive and very constructive, Helen didn't beat about the bush which I found endearing, I would much prefer to know where I stand and be honest. I will aim to make all the changes that she suggested before my next visit on Thursday where I will then be able to get feedback on the better version. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Helen for giving me her time and effort, it was very much appreciated and a very worthwhile experience.

From this experience I have identified that I need to be showing my portfolio to publishers and not design agencies (the work isn’t really what they are looking for after all). I have identified that I want to be a book illustrator (whether this is for children or adults is yet to be discovered). Obviously, there needs to be more work contained in my portfolio, which I already knew. And I need to keep the type to a minimum on the images, not being a designer myself I’m not really qualified to show this to its full potential. In future portfolio visits I will ask if they know anyone in publishing who could help move me forward.

Please check Taylor O'Brien out, a great team of people :o)