Monday, 27 February 2012

Polish posters


Gary reviewed my work with me today and gave his honest opinions, which I admire, I’d rather somebody be brutally honest than let me proceed with work they secretly think its twaddle. To my delight he likes my apple, to quote ‘that is a good apple’. I’m glad about this because I think that my sickle apple is very witty and I’m extremely proud of it. As for the other elements it is beside on my cover thus far he wasn’t so drawn in by them. Admittedly, I can see where he’s coming from. With the apple being so strong and witty the others are just not in the same leaguer. The apple is inanimate whereas the mouse and frog are characters, and where the characters’ concepts are merely transformations the apple by contrast has a dominant vs. subordinate quality. He suggested that the weaker elements needed to be more 70/30 in ratio than 50/50 which they are at the moment; the apple succeeds in this 70/30 category. The dominant vs. subordinate theme proves the apple to be stronger also, where the apple is the dominant element the sickle is the subordinate however this subordinate element plays a huge part in communicating the message.

To help push this further Gary suggested looking towards Polish poster designs again to compare how they deliver this 70/30 ratio of wit, by no means for their use of technique.

I like how this poster looks like a wolf as well as a gun, this could be a great starting point for my wolf that I struggling with so badly. The idea that an inanimate object could be the character instead like the bread or wine that Little Red Riding Hood is carrying to her granny. By taking away the character feel of the elements I will no doubt end up with more elements to the same standard and quality as that of the apple. Though I do not want to get back into the catch-twenty-two situation where I am thinking about something else so much that I cannot replicate it for over thinking.

I think that some of the polish posters that I have looked at are quite witty but I don't understand some of them. Probably because their wit got lost in translation and the foreign language that accompanies the designs doesn't particularly help an english reader.

However, when I asked how to move on from where I am at currently, we decided that the best way would be to start a new project. Maybe I will revisit this Grimm's book cover design and maybe I won't. I have so far spent seven weeks on it and am no further forward in resolving the problem, sometimes it's good to show that you can leave things behind because they didn't have the mileage and sometimes they just take a bit longer to resolve themselves than other projects. As yet I'm not decided. All I do know is that I have had fun designing my elements and they will definitely be used in some way for my final major project show. Currently I am thinking of putting the strong images onto screens to print with and make some minimalist film posters. The screen print will tie in well with the polish poster research too due to the gritty quality screen printing offers.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Research: Rand, O'Neill


Over the last few weeks I’ve begun to notice that I’ve blogged quite a bit about what I’ve been doing, reflecting on my personal work and its progress and events and activities I’ve taken part in but there’s not a lot of reference to my research. So today I shall start, from the beginning.

I’ve always had a love for Eric Carle and a few of the professionals I’ve been to see already have commented on a likeness between mine and his work (which is a lovely compliment I must say) although my technique differs slightly and comparing my work to his was never an aim. Though I’ve done research on him before so I shall not post endless images of his again, instead I’ve been proactive and found somebody else I’ve also taken a shine to and is more formally associated with graphic design rather than illustration- Paul Rand.

As my tutors and professionals are starting to make connections for me stating that my work has a more graphical quality with a good sense of space and use of it, I thought looking to more graphical artists would make for good and effective research. Rand uses simplistic shapes similar to how I work and Carle but he uses more flat colours unlike the textures which Carle adopts. I flit between the two, sometimes textured, sometimes flat depending on the context of the work.

I’ve noticed that the colours of Rand are very prominent but he utilises black a lot which I tend to shy away from, instead opting for grey blue or brown. I like how he renders his own typeface which I do still struggle with, however with him being a renowned graphic designer I suppose it comes more with his territory.

Another inspirational source at the moment is Martin O’Neill. I’m not looking at him from a technique angle but from an archiving angle. Ian suggested O’Neill in my tutorial recently and I did blog about my OCD kicking into overdrive at the thought of such a system. However looking at his work and working space has planted the seed of needing some kind of a system. I need to find a system which works for me whereby I can store all my magazines and ephemera and can then go back and locate it with ease. Currently I flick through reams and reams of magazines searching for a particular colour, texture or sizeable piece to use in my work which is time consuming and not an effective way of using my time. If I had an archive and a system I would be able to locate these much easier. For example a drawer labelled ‘pink’ where all pinks would be stored. If these drawers were to be lever arch files instead I could then even sub title them into different contexts or textures or shades of pink etc.

Just the images alone are enough to give me the eebie jeebies.

I’ve been looking at Little Red Riding Hood resources as it was going to be the starting point of my next part of FMP. I was, if you remember, going to make puppets to make a short film out of. However after giving this much consideration have decided that sticking with one technique rather than skimming the surface of several will be much more beneficial to me and my practice in the long run and hopefully my final mark too. The research that I have conducted so far though will aid my revised proposal, which at the moment I’m thinking of some minimalist film posters. From the research I’ve conducted today to aid me with getting my current elements up to scratch with their magical twists I found them very inspiring and quite funny. Additionally, this will hopefully make up for the time I’ve lost designing the book cover as I can utilise some of the elements from the first project to create these. By recycling my work I will be bringing my FMP as a whole back on schedule. Some of the images I’ve located for Little Red Riding Hood research are cute, some scary and some just beautiful, take a look below.

Finally, here are some of the minimalist film posters I’ve been looking at (additional to the ones on my modern met. Some of them in particular are very witty and some of just humourous. Please do not be offended by the inclusion of the Hitler referenced posters, I just thought that these too were quite witty. Thanks to Dom for mentioning the minimalist film posters, if I'm honest they're not something I've ever looked at before or even really knew that they existed and to such extent! There were so many to choose from that I selected the one's which I thought were witty and clever. Ian talked about my individual elements for the cover of Grimm's fairy-tales having a 'twist' which I have interpreted in my own way as wit and I hope that I can achieve that to a similar standard as the images I have selected below.

I think that work that makes people laugh or think 'that's witty' is more engaging than work that tries to be something it's not - art is labelled too often as pompous and an institution which is exclusive and not accessible to all. If I an engage my audience in a mutual sense of wit it would be extremely pleasing. I like the use of strong colours associated with these minimalist posters and as seen in my James and the Giant Peach cover design last year I do tend to use a restrictive palette, usually a bright one too as seen in the Helping Uganda Project. Because of this I particularly like the wax on wax off poster - lets face it, it's genius and the Simpson's poster, even though I myself am not a Simpson's fan. I like the Rocky poster generally because I'm a huge Rocky fan and it's instantly recognisable. My two main ingredients that I need to take from this minimalist research is to make elements that are instantly recognisable (stripping them back to their core details) and add copious amounts of wit to tell the story (ie an apple with a sickle from the grim reaper to signify that this particular apple means death).

'Magical' elements

This blog has many minimalist posters which I have been advised to look at recently. What is really interesting is that all the posters on this particular blog relate to fairy-tales, many of which are contained in the Grimm’s collection. I have been using these as inspiration for my magical ‘twists’ which my work still requires to bring it up to standard.

This weekend my aim is to have at least these visual magical twists illustrated and polished on Photoshop ready to put into format on Monday (27/02), if not before. So far I have managed to think of and conceptualise magical twists for all of my four elements though two are better than the others. The wolf will have little red riding hood’s hood for his nose and the apple will have the Grim reaper’s sickle for its stalk. Both of these ideas were formulated through the minimalist poster research so this advice was well worth taking!

Already I can feel my ideas and work being pushed on. I am starting to think of other ways to have my work presented for example how would these elements look in flocking on fabric? Grimm’s fairy-tales are set in the woods, how would be characters look carved out of wood?

After yesterdays tutorial I have made it my priority to continue with my element making keeping the more magical concept in mind. The one's that I have crafted so far do have a slight visual twist too, with the frog and mouse showing their transformations and the apple bearing its death connotation, I hope that you can understand them :)

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Tutorial 23/02/2012




Another tutorial brings another wave of self-confidence issues, reflection on my actual abilities and a host of additional work to produce. When presenting my work this far on the Grimm’s project, my tutor didn’t look overly impressed, I’ll be honest I don’t think I would have been overly either, my ‘attempt’ at work since the last tutorial has been a lame one. So I’ve discovered that magazines are where the collage lies, that is the material which, for me, produces the best results. Apologies for the lack of support on the origami paper front, it’s nothing personal, I just don’t think that the finish it is as high with the matt quality to the paper. If this is what I am going to pursue, and it looks pretty certain that I will be doing then Ian has suggested looking at Martin O’Neill. I was sure I’d seen or heard him mentioned before and after a quick Google search my thoughts were confirmed. He’s the guy who archives his magazines and ephemera in drawers and shoe boxes, all neatly labelled in a studio on the south east coast. I must admit I do much prefer this manual approach to a digital archive where I’m sure I would lose everything in a spiralling and impending doom. However, looking at his studio just urges me to want to go and tidy everything away and clean everything, it just looks so messy! Sure I like the idea of being able to live like this, but in the bijous room I have it’s just not feasible anyway. Though the idea of buying magazines in bulk from the online marketplace, such as eBay for example, and not knowing what to expect when it arrives, sounds very exciting and promising. Doing this will no doubt add different textures, paper quality and era to my work and archive.

Other suggestions were to exploit the elements I have already crafted to make them more magical and to give them a sense of purpose being on the cover for Grimm’s fairy-tales. At the moment my audience looks at the cover and sees a wolf, an apple, a fog and a mouse, but they are left waiting for something else, that something doesn’t appear. For example the wolf, could it be described by teeth alone? Does the frog need a crown if he is a frog prince? Could the apple have both a nice and bad side? These little twists will make my work more witty and gritty at the same time. There were suggestions to maybe invert some of the elements and distort them now they have been crafted. The most joyous part of the tutorial was knowing that I had now made enough elements, I just need to start utilising them better.

It was also suggested that I could look at minimalist film posters which show this visual twist. After another quick Google search I found them very interested clever witty and at times humorous, if I could replicate this in my cover I would be very proud.

One question I did ask was whether the FMP mark was focused on depth of exploration. For example last semester I skimmed the surface of several processes rather than digging deep with just the one, which Ian agreed with. My next project was to make some puppets for a short film of one of the fairy-tales only this would again mean changing process when I’m just starting to get to grips with another. Therefore it has been decided that I might yet change my proposal to incorporate the current technique I am adopting throughout the FMP. I think that this will give my work more consistency and credibility at the end.

Over the course of the next week I aim to dedicate more time to my work, but not only that but to dedicate it effectively. I’ve seen over the last week me sit procrastinating rather than doing productive work, this needs to stop and I must learn to be more disciplined. If what I am doing is not going to affect the final outcome I need to desist. I also need to work quicker and harder if I am going to achieve what I hope to achieve and be more consistent, which I think is finally coming, though slowly. I think that my lack on confidence in my own ability sometimes prevents me from progressing, though I have been reassured slightly with today’s tutorial. My next actions in completing this part of my project are to scan in all my current elements into Photoshop, polish these up and make any adjustments they may require and put them into my template which I have designed for the cover. I aim to have this part of the project completed now by the end of Sunday 26/02/2012 so that I can promptly move on to my next project. I think that I am spending too much time dilly dallying and not enough time producing actual work.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Book Binding with Lucy Wilson

Book Binding
Lucy Wilson
21/02/2012 @ 1:30
Third Year Critical Studies Room

This afternoon I was given the opportunity to participate in a book binding workshop, which I must admit was thoroughly enjoyable, although I had my reservations at first.

It was held my Lucy Wilson who can be found at an illustrator and designer working in the heart of Liverpool. Her portfolio boasts an array of illustrations, made things and exhibitions. And I must say when she showed us her portfolio, which she brought along with her, it was the cutest I’ve ever seen. It is professionally bounded by herself and used different papers depending on the image she is presenting, it was truly beautiful. I daren’t touch it in case I got my greasy fingerprints on it, it was that delicate.

Lucy was really approachable but wasn’t scared of the silence at the same time. We were clearly quite a quiet group but she seemed happy for the peaceful environment whilst we were concentrating on our budding skills.

Bind the pages wasn’t half as difficult as I had imagined though I’m not sure if I will remember all the steps, I have written them down just in case, for my own referral more than anything else.

Always start stitching from the outside inwards with the spine facing towards you, preferably with it lined up neatly against the edge of a table. Remember to tape the first few inches to the right side of you. Sew in and out of your pre-prepared holes until you reach the other side. For A5 paper folded in half (to make an A6 sized book) find the middle of the fold then measure 2cm either side of this mark, then 3cm either side of those and finally 1cm either side of those. Pull the needle downwards through the first loop you made to connect the pages together. To finish first two pages knot together with bit masked to the table. Coming back use the loop furthest away in the direction in which you are travelling from the previous page. Always remember to fold any paper with the grain where possible.

I’ve never heard of paper having a grain before (I know as a child my Dad always told me to cut my meat with the grain because it’s easier, I guess it’s a similar principle?). Basically, if you try to fold the paper one way it will bounce slightly but will be difficult to crease and will crinkle but if you try to fold it the correct way it should fold easily and smoothly. So there you go.

I did feel slightly guilty for having to leave five minutes early to catch Nicola Slater for my portfolio session but these things can’t be helped. What I would say though is that this workshop was worthwhile and will no doubt be extremely useful, if I see any more in future I won’t be the one to turn my nose up anymore. Thanks to Lucy and to the college for arranging such a worthwhile afternoon, good job guys.

Please take the time to check out some of Lucy's fantastic work, the link is posted twice above.
Also, for similar work check out

Portfolio visit 6 - Nicola Slater

Portfolio Visit Number 6
Nicola Slater
Third Year Illustration Room

Today I participated in my sixth portfolio visit with Nicola Slater, an illustrator currently helping the second year illustration students at Stockport College, hence the more informal location. By having the session in college did however make me feel more relaxed and comfortable with the usually quite formal set-up. This is probably because I know the environment the session was taking place in, if anything it was Nicola who would have felt somewhat uncomfortable as it’s not her usual territory.

I’ve checked her work out online (she only seems in have online representation via an agent and not a personal web presence ) and I like her use of simple shapes and hand rendered typefaces. I find researching the professional beforehand comforting, kind of like a background check to understand a little bit about them, how they work and where they are coming from. Not only this but it gives me a better idea of who I need to be choosing to show my portfolio to. Nicola had comments about this too, on how I should be seeking out more book publishers as my work is very children’s book cover orientated. I can relate to her work too as recently I’ve been utilising simple shapes with my ladybird (from the James and the Giant Peach project) inspired elements and making my own types out of stitch. By being able to relate to her work this makes me feel more comfortable too at talking with her as I feel on the same level… almost, she is a pro after all.

I explained how I have taken the type off my illustrations of late as other professionals thought that it didn’t add anything to the overall image. Although Nicola was in agreement with this, she thought that it would be useful to have the type on acetates to give potential employers a feel for how the images would look with type overlaid. Not only this but she made a very good point of keeping all type on separate layers to the main image as sometimes the client will require changes to be made or even need it translating into different languages.

The Helping Uganda project was described as ‘African coloured’, which I will take as a compliment, bearing in mind that the story was set in Uganda, Africa so I must have highlighted that vibe well. Also, she liked the painterly backgrounds such as the green for the ground of double page spread number five in my portfolio.

Nicola preferred the ladybird and grasshopper elements as they were much more contemporary and not as predictable as the painted Uganda images. I discussed with her the struggles that I have been having (highlighted in the previous post) trying to get my current elements to look in-keeping with the ladybird and grasshopper characters. Although I have been trying to make them look part of a ‘set’ of images, Nicola asked whether I’d tried not trying? In honesty I’m not 100% sure but I think not. I have these two images etched on my brain but can’t seem to make the others fit in with their style. Her idea was to change media, use a brush or a sharpie to capture the essence of the thing I am trying to represent but be looser with the idea. For example the audience knows that the ladybird is not a ladybird by how it has been created but at the same time they know straight away that it is representing a ladybird. It doesn’t look anything like what I’m trying to communicate so try to move away from what you intellectually perceive as a wolf for example. I explained that the ladybird was a very quick illustration as was the mouse which she also liked, they took a few minutes only to create. On this she said again to keep the image loose and don’t be constricted by the traditional image. By doing this I am making the elements for the Grimm’s cover too complicated.

On my type explorations she was excited by the James and the Giant Peach attempt which is the reverse of hand stitched type but thought that the Grimm’s Fairy Tales was too neat. This type is the front and has been traced from a font off a pc whereas the other is more organic with it being freehand. Try thinking more in terms of what Grimm’s Fairy Tales connotes, for example dark, scary, woody and creeping with tendrils.
The scarab which I created for the Manchester Museum project would apparently look better and more cohesive in my portfolio if this too was created in this collage method. This is certainly a good suggestion and unlike some of the others professionals have made, it shouldn’t take too long to put into practice.

As I work quite well with space and white background, Nicola said it would be nice to see some line drawings in the background to show potential clients how my work would work with other imagery. For example if I were asked to put my ladybird next to the Eiffel Tower they would need to be able to visualise that. I think that using simple line drawings or an old nib with ink would be a very contemporary and neat way of introducing this. It is also an idea I could carry forward with me on my journey through the Grimm’s cover redesign.

Overall, if all portfolio visits were to take place in my comfort zones, e.g. the college or an environment familiar to me they would all be some much more relaxed, I’ve been nervous in practically every other. Nicola really warmed to some of my work which is encouraging, it’s always nice when a practicing professional praises your work, it gives it more credit and strength in my own eyes. I have learned that I need to take out some of the pieces that I don’t believe in fully myself as clients will wonder why they are there if I don’t support them 100% myself.

Thanks Nicola, have fun keep creating :)

Sunday, 19 February 2012



I’ve been working on my redesigned cover for the Grimm’s fairy-tales for five weeks now and I feel as though I’ve done, on reflection, very little. I have produced a few elements which can be found within the fairy-tales which hopefully wouldn’t need too much explaining if you were to see them on the cover for example a wolf, from Little Red Riding Hood and an apple from Snow White. In the crit last week I discovered that the more recent elements do not look like the original ladybird and grasshopper which inspired this method of working which I developed whilst working on the James and the Giant Peach cover last January (which ironically was last years Puffin competition). This is mainly due to the material of choice. In previous crits it was discussed how using origami paper could be a good alternative to magazines as the colour is in a set size and I wouldn’t have to trawl through magazines for endless hours looking for the perfect colour and dimensions. But now having both to compare, it is clear that the original way or working was much more effective. The hours involved in creating the elements is worth the result! I have therefore been to the market and purchased some quality magazines (Harper’s Bazaar, Elle magazine and the likes) at discounted prices meaning that the quality of the elements now should be first class.

Having played with the technique, material and quality I should now have no excuses for producing anything other than first class from now on in. I understand now that by spending more on the materials will inevitably show in the final outcomes with them also being much better quality and higher class. Now I have this mastered I need to produce much much more material as I feel what I have produced so far is very limited and limiting for five weeks worth of supposed hard graft.

I’m also beginning to notice that I do have pre-empted ideas of what I would like the finished outcome to be and work towards this continually rather than exploring avenues to their full potential. For example, for the last two weeks I have been planning out how these elements will fit together to form the cover rather than exploring them further to their fullest potential. Instead I need to give them my full attention and only bring them together once I know and am fully satisfied with their quality and aesthetic. Though because I have been having these ‘planning’ phases, I have noticed that I am struggling with the same dilemma as last years Puffin competition – bringing the different elements together in a cohesive manner. I work quite graphically anyway (according to the pro’s) usually on a white or very pale background and paying particular attention to space. It would be nice to have a template which I could use for all book covers etc. so that an audience could associate that design with me straight away. However, this could be difficult depending on the context of the book. But potentially this idea could be quite clever. On the Wizard of Oz cover I designed, there were four elements equally spaced on one line close to the centre of the cover with the title ever so slightly above and the author quite a way down close to the bottom. This type of template would work well for the Grimm’s cover and have made a mock version to start working with.

It is a difficult situation knowing that my FMP is being led and negotiated by me, therefore if a project over-runs, I am to blame. If the next project doesn’t start on time, I am to blame and then the next project will not be completed on time and the cycle goes on. This particular project should have been finished by the end of today (19th Febrauary) otherwise my other two projects will not be explored to their fullest. Although I understand the tutors concept of wanting me to explore something fully and in depth, I also want to make sure that it is completed to schedule so that I don’t have to be thinking about it when I start the next. If I have two projects on the go at the same time it will not only confuse me but I will not be able to focus properly on either one knowing that the other is not finished.

So there you are, a small dose of my struggles currently, I’m sure I will be blogging about this again soon, probably tomorrow, or even in a few hours… but for now, goodnight people

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Amazon review

Amazon article review
Metro free newspaper – Friday 9th February 2012
In Fridays (9th February) edition of the Metro (free newspaper) there was an article featuring the rumour of Amazon’s move from a solely online presence to the high street, with its first shop soon to be trialling out in Seattle. The store is described as a ‘boutique’, probably with a similar mind-set to the Apple stores that have opened where customers can go and play with its products before they purchase them. The article goes on to say that the move ‘could be inspired by the success of the Apple stores’. The only observation I’ve made is that Apple has a wide range of electronic products to offer whereas, to my knowledge at least, Amazon only have the Kindle ‘e-reader’.
However, later in the article brand analyst Imogen Power states ‘I think it’s going to be a retail experience rather than a traditional shop. It will be interesting if they use it for promoting new authors, book themed events and concerts – I think it will be that kind of space’. Of course by utilising Imogen’s statement it would be logical to assume that by promoting new authors this will mean promoting new books. Although the e-readers allow one outlet for these new books surely they will sell their paper and original form too? At the moment an author cannot sign an e-reader, can they? Of course if this were to happen it would also mean a new lease of life for illustrators. With the printed word now moving online and the collapse of many bookstores this injection is just what illustrators need to see that there is still life in the old dog. The cycle would have come full circle with the original opening of book store to sell printed books then moving online and eventually coming back to the high street where they first started.
Although buying books online to read on the e-reader does still requires the cover to be illustrated a lot of the authenticity is lost through the pixilation of the image as is the tactility. Buying a book usually means having the thing right there in your hands, something you can hold and touch and feel whereas online they are just images. Does this mean then that the cover will play a bigger part in somebody’s decision of buying a book or a lesser part? For example if there is just an image to look at and things such as the paper quality and size of the book are not contributing factors to the decision will this mean that there needs to be more emphasis on what is on the cover to do the selling work for the author? And does that mean that illustration will have to move with these changes too with the added pressures that this brings? The need for contemporary and different illustrations will be even more in demand as the tactility is lost.
Will these potentially new Amazon stores then, change this online purchasing? I guess it will have to be another case of watch this space…

Saturday, 11 February 2012

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Brief set by The Fox is Black as part of their re-covered competitions

This brief provided me with an outlet to produce some of this ‘more, more, more’ work. Initially, I was worried that I wouldn’t get the time to produce something to standard having got my final major project to be working on alongside, which obviously has to be my main focus. But then of course in this catch twenty-two situation I also need more work in my portfolio, so I decided to give it a stab.

It turns out that giving it a stab was a good idea because that in itself has given me a mini break from my final major project work meaning that I can now return to it fresh looking at it from a new perspective etc.

I started the work on Wednesday 8th February meaning I only had four days until the deadline and for me four days is short. Usually, to produce a front cover, back cover and spine design it would take me a minimum of four weeks so the challenge it provided in itself was worth undertaking. I read the brief thoroughly before embarking on the task and the idea was to illustrate the book and not the film. I don’t know if I’ve ever even read the book so I started my research there. It was a good job I did too because little details have been neglected in the film version for example Dorothy’s shoes are silver and not red as they are in the film. After reading the story I decided to focus on key elements to parallel the technique I’m using in my final major project which were the Wizard’s granting of their wishes; a new silk heart for the Tin man, a new brain made of pins and needles for the scarecrow, a drop of courage for the lion and Dorothy’s silver shoes which took her home to Kansas. I made these elements out of mixed media again to parallel my FMP work by using origami paper and cardboard. I then scanned in these elements and polished them on Photoshop. As Paul J Bartlett commented, my polishing skills need to be worked on so this project gave me a fine opportunity to incorporate that too. I then went to photograph green glass bottle to use as a background to reference the Emerald City and put the elements into context. I struggled with typeface again so I picked out the font I like the best from the selection preset on Photoshop.

Overall, I’m happy with the final outcome. The standard could be slightly higher if I had had the time but due to the short deadline this wasn’t possible. It has provided me with a basis if nothing else on which to produce a piece of work that I could possibly add to my portfolio at a later stage when I get some feedback as to whether it needs more work or not. But for now, here you go …

Portfolio visit 5 - David Bailey

Portfolio Visit Number 5

David Bailey of Kiosk, multi-disciplined design studio

Brown Street, Sheffield

David has a beard, a very full, very black beard, which I can’t see to keep my eyes off, especially with his constant scratching at. He appears confident and not as bored with me as some of the other designers I’ve been to see, he has a similar attitude and approach as Paul Reardon. Maybe the designers in Sheffield just have a different manner to those at the other side of the Pennines (I’m still trying to figure out whether this ‘boredom’ attitude of designers is with the area they specialise in, me, my work or the general prospect of having to see yet another student showing them their work, any advice on this would be greatly appreciated).

Anyway, we’re apparently pushed for time so unfortunately I have to rush through my work and he gives me advice at the end of all my spiel which is a different method to all the other designers I’ve been to see who give advice at the end of each individual project I’ve presented. So off I go, full steam ahead.

His first remark is that he would like to see more of the pieces I have presented in context (same as Paul Reardon). Clearly this point needs working on as it’s beginning to crop up frequently. To work on this I will rework my James and the Giant Peach book cover which I designed for the Puffin competition 2011 and start to bring my Helping Uganda book with me to every portfolio visit, I have the option to show it to the professional then, even if they don not wish to see it I have it with me in case they do – covering all bases. For this reason, the Little White Lies competition entry seems a strong favourite as it is photographed in context and printed within the magazine template showing exactly how it would look as the magazine’s front cover.

David too enjoyed the Helping Uganda images better than the mixed media characters (another case of painterly vs. mixed media) because of their tactile properties and because he can see children engaging with it well. He said that he didn’t want to sound crude, but on the mixed media characters he feels ‘nothing for them’. They are very flat and would have like to have seen them better or more so if they were presented in context (funny how the different feedback contradicts each other with some saying that the Helping Uganda images are flat because of their painterly finish and some saying the mixed media images are flat because of their use of collage).

On the Little White Lies piece he said that he didn’t understand the concept of it until I explained it but I managed to pull it off because it is very well executed, photographed well (even though I photographed it and in poor light!) and aesthetically pleasing. As well the use of just line instead of block shapes is very nice and interesting and utilises good incorporation of type. I do think that the type is integrated well in the Little White Lies image, probably because it is not an additional layer but actually within the image I created. It was considered before I started to sew and therefore it looks part of the whole image, I need to do this more often rather than the type being an after-thought, which it usually always is.

He found the scarab image interesting (which both Paul Reardon and Paul Bartlett didn’t) again because of its painterly technique and style; this particular technique is what he was interested in most.

The type explorations at the back of my portfolio were described as ‘nothing to like or dislike’ they are just a good show of type experimentation.

David Bailey is currently involved in a project with CBeeBies children’s television channel and is seeking illustrators to collaborate on the project. He did seem very interested in my painterly work so I left my business card with him on the off chance he may want to contact me (though this is probably very, very unlikely and he was probably just being polite by making such positive comments).

I have provided the link to David's agency at the top of this post, please go and check him out and a big thank you for making such positive comments :)

Friday, 10 February 2012

Paul J Bartlett - response 2


I don't think the personalised URL is necessarily important to a client, but it is easier to remember and cleaner to fit on say, a business card.
I have been working as an ad agency/design shop art director for eight years or so, and have only been freelancing for a few months. It's been going well, but I have gotten all of my projects through either referrals/people that I know or sending my website link to creative directors via email... but again, that's all been more
design/branding work than illustration, which you are solely focused on, right?

Illustration has been something I've squeezed into my projects at work or done for fun on the side, so unfortunately I can't offer you much advice in the realm of being a successful freelance illustrator. I don't know if you're familiar with the book "How to be an illustrator" by Darrel Rees, but it's a good one to check out.

As for a critique on your art itself, my main comment is "more." More more more. There should be at least ten strong pieces to show your range or how you push your style in different ways. Maybe you're working on that... I'm most interested in the stitching/mixed media stuff. I like the lady bug and the mouse. I think the contrast of the chunks on white works better than the ones with painted backgrounds (the uganda stuff) which kind of flattens out. The scarab I think is not especially strong as an illustration and the type on that poster brings it down even more. I'd cut that one from your book. (Hope this isn't too harsh, just one man's opinion). But yeah, with the stitching stuff, I think you've got something there, I'd just like to see you push it farther. And don't be afraid to use the computer more to clean things up (rough edges or bits of dirt around the lady bug). I love seeing raw, gritty textures but if it doesn't look purposeful (like a bit of frayed edge in one spot on the ladybug) then it just looks like something extra the scanner picked up. Love the detail of the lips on the ladybug. As the father of a two-year-old girl, I can totally picture a children's book in the style of your ladybug and mouse. Reminds me a bit of the great Eric Carle.

So... not sure if that was helpful/annoying/what you had in mind. But please keep pushing yourself. And let me know if you'd like to keep this conversation going.

By the way, did you ever make a Wizard of Oz cover?




608 444-1504 <>

Paul's comments about the URL looking cleaner are definitely true. I think I would feel more professional and proud to have my own URL, it would be like making this thing official. As for the amount of work he's gained from the web presence, it looks pretty slim, it seems like the old phrase of 'it's not what you know but who you know' applies here. The amount of experience and no doubt contacts he's accrued over that time is vastly helpful too.
This theme of 'more' has cropped up more than once in feedback, not just from professionals currently working in the industry but from tutors too. Good job I've got some competition stuff lined up to do on the side of college work this semester. I think what tends to happen with me more often than not is if I haven;t spent a certain amount of time on a particular piece of work I don;t think it's going to be any good. The Wizard of Oz re-covered work that Paul relates to further down in his email only took me three days to produce however because I had to push myself in order to meet the quickly advancing deadline. I really like the finished product, as for others opinions, as yet I do not know, it's just been me working away in my study on it (hopefully the critique will be more positive than critical though).
Again there is this flux between designers preferring the painterly stuff against the mixed media work. Here Paul Bartlett prefers the mixed media work where on Wednesday Paul Reardon preferred the painterly work. Though I do agree with the critique on the characters working well on the the white chunks, the ladybird and mouse are my favorites of that technique too. I like the scarab which he doesn't think is overly strong, I think it just needs something more doing with it, though the comment on the poster and type is wholly agreeable (I do struggle with type being an illustrator anyway, I need to employ a typographer to do those bits for me). I enjoy working with the stitch so I'm glad he likes that part.
I'm not used to working with the computer so much as I prefer to work manually, but the comment about utilising software to polish the images is true. I looked on my website earlier and the dirt that the scanner picked up on the ladybird is quite embarrassing. I need to get round to taking that off and polishing it, pronto! Being compared to Eric Carle is a certain compliment and I'm not too coy to accept that - cheers!
If Paul would be interested in keeping our dialogue up I'd be into that, I need as much help as I can get now I'm about to embark upon the difficult journey of transition from undergraduate to graduate. So a big thanks to Paul for his feedback, it is exactly what I was looking for, there was nothing I felt that was harsh there only honest! Honesty is the best policy, I can't learn anything from praise, I'm only seeking criticism.

Portfolio visit 4 - Paul Reardon

Portfolio Visit Number 4

Paul Reardon of Peter and Paul Creative Communications Agency

Prospect Road, Sheffield

Paul keeps his scarf on therefore so do I… it’s not impolite it’s a mutual love of scarves, and hate of the cold.

I’m still nervous, though not half as much as I was during my walk to Taylor O’Brien on portfolio visit number one to see Helen Taylor. This is not the ‘I’ve not got butterflies but bats’ feeling, more the ‘just butterflies’ feeling. Paul looks me in the eye when he speaks to me which makes me feel more on his level, some of the professionals I’ve been to visit tended to let their eyes wander about the room akin to the thought that they’d rather be anywhere else in the world right now than listening to this undergraduate drone on about her less than standard work. I’ve been sat own two seconds and my butterflies fly off, he’s a cool dude.

Before the usual spiel commenced, he asked me what I was doing currently, what I wanted to do when I graduated and why I study in Stockport. This was a nice touch, it made me feel more comfortable and almost confident in the work I was about to show him. I asked for his opinion on a front cover, I don’t like the idea of a title page, all that basic information is on my business card. He didn’t have any ideas.

The first few double page spreads in my portfolio are on the Helping Uganda project I started in September last year, the really zaney stuff for kids. Paul’s a designer and I expect him, like the rest of the designer crew (Lise Brien and Craig Oldham etc.) to prefer the mixed media insects which began in January 2011 with the James and the Giant Peach Puffin competition, he didn’t. The first few double page spreads were his favourite, he liked the tactile quality of the characters and design but felt it was too restrained to be presented in my portfolio (on other designers opinions I’d not taken the finished product in – the book). Instead he wanted something he could hold and have the tangibility of the work in his hands not encased in plastic wallets. As well, he favoured the work so much he advised getting it professionally printed in a much larger format so that it could demonstrate its full striking potential. And on the thick board books kids like, not the limp paper types. By adding as much tangibility as possible such as being able to touch the stitch adds to the finesse of my work. Try to work images up to realise the full idea. If a project was started on but was cancelled etc. if there were some good strong threads, carry it on anyway.

For the James and the Giant Peach project I don’t have the finished outcome in my portfolio because the finished product wasn’t, I don’t think, very successful. Instead I have extracted some of the key elements such as the ladybird and grasshopper characters which I think do work well. Paul thought that this was a mistake, he compared it to having a thumbnail of a drawing, he was intrigued to see the whole design and I couldn’t provide him that. If the final outcome wasn’t a success but I am insistent on having the containing elements in my portfolio then it is advisable to rework the final design of the cover. It is the small details like this which I have not considered before, and points that other professionals have not raised, this goes to show that I am definitely still learning.

On this point too, he asked me never to show visuals cold. There should always be a lead up or a story before revealing the finished product because people won’t necessarily always understand the context of an image when it is presented in that way. Looking back, I do tend to neglect some of the story behind some of the pieces of work, and funnily enough they are usually the works that are either not as strong as others or the one’s that I am not as keen on in comparison. My Little White Lies competition work does show my image in context and for Paul and most other designers, that way of presenting work is much easier for them to visualise.

At the back of my portfolio I have included some typographical experiments which Paul praised. As an illustrator he understands that we do struggle with type as it’s not our area of expertise but trying to develop typographical skills now will stand in good stead for future work. He made the suggestion of collaborating with a typographer for future works, only with the final major project now under way I don’t think I’ll see much time for experimenting.

All in all Paul gave me some handy tips. My preliminary thoughts were that now I’ve got three portfolio visits under my belt no-one will be able to tell me anything new that hasn’t already been said buy one of the previous professionals who viewed my work. I was wrong. Plain and simple and it turns out that I will get some different feedback every single time in one way or another.

Another of my lessons then is to secure as many portfolio visits as I can between now and graduation – not just because I have to as part of the professional practise aspect of the course but because I have now realised that I need as much varying advice as I can get in order to further myself and my professionalism… but the scarf stays

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

D&AD Education Day 08/02/2012

D&AD Education Day
Wednesday 08/02/2012
Showroom Cinema Sheffield
In association with Sheffield Hallam University
Steve Woodwat and Simon Morrow – guest speakers from Elmwood design agency Leeds
Transition from education to industry
5 things we’ve learned along the way
1) Be an expert for a day
You ordinarily gravitate towards briefs that interest you but in industry there is no choice on subject matter or brief. For example, Royal Mail briefed us with a project to celebrate the birthday of ‘wall boxes’ (not post boxes, but the one’s actually encased in brick) by incorporating them into stamps. For us it was a pretty dull brief to begin with, but once the research started to tend to immerse yourself in the subject matter and don’t realise you’re becoming a nerd on it. When you’re brand new to a subject you really need to spend some quality time on it because there will be actual nerds out there who know the subject matter inside out. Not only that, but get into the community and find out their responses, which are their favourite photographs of the boxes? Diving into subject areas where at first you may not be necessarily interested could produce outstanding results.
2) Take people with you
At university you do everything for yourself but taking clients with you on your creative journey and getting them to place their trust in you I very important. Bauer media wanted at rebrand, owned by an old German guy (Bauer, believe it or not) and he wanted to keep the old logo. It was a collateral job, bits of stationary and a website update. In the board room when they presented the idea to the suits they found themselves needing to gain their trust, how would they do that when they were wearing jeans and converse and the old suits were, well…suits. Stuck in old times they wanted to produce a powerpoint presentation to show clients when they were considering Bauer as a potential business venture. Elmwood however, proposed to do an animated movie and with no prior experience of the arena found it hard work trying to gain their trust. Yet once on board the journey with them and keeping them at the heart of communication even helping build the idea it became an easy sell. The client eventually became in love with the product before they had even seen it because they had been a part of that creative journey with the designers.
3) Design for humans
You need to start thinking of the real world implications of the designs you make, think of the life of the work beyond it being in the studio and the real audience’s perceptions. A charity rebrand for ‘People Can’ shows how the needs of the client and the client’s audience such as print quality and cost is essential. Keeping things down to Earth with a sense of humour and not being patronising is the safest bet. Do not design for designs sake but for a purpose.
4) It’s not about you
Naturally, people are protective about their designs but think about the idea of releasing things. Commercial writer Jim Davies wanted to produce a direct mail piece and sometimes your ideas need to be commissioned to others that specialise in that area. In this case, the illustrations for the piece were commissioned to illustrator Rob Guy and the guy who had the original idea basically sat back and let it materialise. It is hard to let your baby go but in this case the project was much better off having being let go, there are people out there who have real specialism’s to make your idea even better. Remember to let your guard down.
5) If it feels right do it
University trains you to be a really objective thinker but at the end of the day you still need to have an instinctive feel. Everyone has different ideas on artwork, one person will think its fab and the other crap. Sometimes its all about having the confidence in yourself and your abilities to run with it. The BBC ran a project with primary school children to try and beat the world record for the amount of plants planted in one day. The agency decided straight away that the design wouldn’t be ‘green’ friendly because that doesn’t interest kids. They’re not bothered by how many emissions they’re saving but are interested in having a cool place to sit in the sun, or somewhere to have a picnic or just somewhere for the dog to pee. It was essential to start thinking like a kid. And sometimes the first idea is the best and there’s nothing wrong with that, just explore other avenues before you start to run with it.
Getting your foot through the door
Placements – offer experience and is a brilliant way in
Find the right place – it is important to know that you end up working in the right place for you, not just that you are the right person for them
Find a name
Write a good email
Show interest/flattery
PDF portfolio
And remember that 50% of it is you and 50% of it is your portfolio
Be memorable, be a sponge and go for it
Don’t be disheartened if things don’t work out the chemistry just isn’t always there in every situation, luck will always play its part!
Elmwood agency here:
Steve Woowat’s site here:

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Paul J Bartlett

Recently, I've been looking at The Fox is Black website and have compiled a sketchbook of work in hope of entering the re-covered competition for The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Me being me, and struggling like a lemon, posted a few questions on the website and Paul Bartlett was considerate enough to guide me on the right path. (His submission is awesome by the way, how I think I stand a chance next to work like that I'll never know!)

As surprised as I was that somebody was so kind as to offer me some advice, and I was clearly inspired by his work, I decided to take a sneaky peek at his website. The quality of his work is obviously very high and this made me start thinking of the quality and finish on my work. Ok, he's been in the business now and had agency work for eight years, but still these things need to be put into perspective.

I made the decision to email him and congratulate him on his awesomeness (though coming from me means nothing really I guess) and to see if he would be available to take a look at some of my work for constructive feedback purposes. Again to my surprise, he replied - almost straight away too! His work does vary from mine; on his web presence 'about' section he describes himself as 'a freelance art director, designer, and illustrator with eight years of agency experience. I specialize in big ideas and thoughtful executions that make people take notice and feel something. If that sounds good to you, let's talk. I am able to work from my home studio or your place of business.' Not only does his work vary from mine, his confidence levels do too. And why not, he is a freelance artist in need of work like the rest of us.

Weighing this up, it shows that my confidence needs to rocket a few notches if I’m to make anything of this dog eat dog business. I think that this will happen by showcasing my work more though this is a catch 22 operation. I’m not confident enough to showcase my work, but it is only by showcasing my work and gaining some feedback (and hopefully some appraisals) will I be able to move forward and gain that confidence in the process. Additionally, the quality and finish of my work needs to be improved. Although I like the organic quality that some of my ‘rougher’ pieces offer, some of them need a good polish. For example there are a few pieces I have uploaded to my website which need a polish, ragged edges and patches which could use a rubber etc. But most importantly, I need to stop comparing my work and my working method to others. I’m finally starting to find my way of working, so I need to wear some blinkers for a while to stop me wanting to imitate others ways of working which I sometimes feel look more aesthetically pleasing compared to mine. Paul Bartlett’s work is fantastic, but he is clearly more of a photographer, whereas I am more of a collager and stitcher, the two are completely separate and I need to support my own work and my decisions.

All in all, a big thank you is owed to Paul for boosting my confidence in the world of illustration (is not in myself), it’s good to see that there is a support network there, especially for newbies like me who really do need it! And keep up the good work dude!

Copy of the email I received for the honourable Mr Bartlett:

paul bartlett

To Chloe Jones


Thank you for reaching out and thank you for the compliments on my work.

I think it's a brave move to ask a stranger for advice. I'd be honored to take a look at your stuff.
Let me know where to find it, and I'll get back to you when I can.

Planning on updating my site with a "Book Covers" section soon. I also submitted entries to the Dracula and Romeo & Juliet contests, but I didn't do backs and spines for those yet... I think the Dracula one in particular freaks people out. :) But it SHOULD. Dracula is a scary dude.

Good luck with school.



Monday, 6 February 2012

Group Crit 06/02/2012

Group Crit 06/02/2012
After Thursday’s tutorial, I thought I was on the right path to making some good progress this coming week. However, I have been stalled once more by some surprises from this mornings group crit results. Although my ‘totem’ idea has been established for well over a week now, it has only just this morning been brought to my attention that it does not reflect Grimm’s fairy-tales, or at least the group does not see how it reflects Grimm’s fairy-tales. Understandably, totems are usually associated with Indian American and there origins are definitely rooted there. The idea was supposed to be that a totem is predominantly crafted from wood and the Grimm’s fairy-tales are more often than not set in the woods. Additionally, I was using the structure of the totem to bring my elements together; I was using its significance secondary. Although the idea of the totem being of spiritual significance could also imply magic, which, along with fantasy and enchantment is prevalent in the fairy-tales.
Another hurdle is the concept of working out of the sketchbook. It has taken me all my time, might and strength to contain myself in a sketchbook after years of working on other media for that too to be now criticised. The only thing I can do is listen to the advice given and act upon it. So this week I will be leaving my sketchbook in my bag and instead work on cardboard where I can make almost three dimensional characters instead of the flat ones I have produced so far. Indeed I will continue to use my current method of magazine cuttings (or origami paper cuttings now I have found what it is!) but glue them to something that is tangible rather than paper. I think that this will be fun and enjoyable seeing the characters appearing off the page giving them a true personality and feel. I understand that a sketchbook can be confining and restricting, this is why I never used them at the beginning, going back to working outside of it will be a real boost and show that my work can work just as well in other forms. I look forward especially to photographing some of the results at the end of the week to give my portfolio another angle and more depth.

Tutorial 02/02/2012

Tutorial 02/02/12
After much debating on whether my totem was 'fitting' for its intended purpose, the tutorial on Thursday (02/02) made the decision for me that it wasn't quite. The initial design I posted previously has been worked on and the separate elements have been collaged into the same design, see the newer version above. Reflecting on my first FMP post already, I can see now that the colour is not right for starters and the type needs integrating for seconds. My lessons from last semester although essential are proving difficult ones to learn...
It has been decided that I should research totems more thoroughly to reference the shape better and to show better integration of the individual elements. Currently, the elements are just stacked on top of each other and do not signify the totem idea. Additionally, type needs to be introduced soon so that it is fully integrated and incorporated into the final design rather than an afterthought or clumsy additional layer pasted on top. I have some preliminary ideas for this but they are yet to materialise on paper. I think that by stitching the type it will be one step in the right direction of integrating the type with the image as this already incorporates some stitch.
Symmetry has raised its head again in my work so far. The strongest elements are fully symmetrical and work well next to lesser asymmetrical ones. However, more surreal combinations could work well and reflect the darker side of Grimm’s. For example, we don’t need to see all of the spinning wheel, maybe just the wheel itself or the needle and this could be put alongside the eye of the frog (frogs eyes are its most essential asset for it to represent a frog).
Making my characters out of magazine cuttings is thoroughly enjoyable though extremely time consuming. Of course there’s the distraction of re-reading ‘that’ article you’d forgotten about whilst trawling for a particular colour or texture but the trawling for the colour or texture is also time consuming in itself. Basically, I could be trawling through five magazines before I find the perfect colour and even then it can be too small an area for what I need it for. A suggestion was to scan in the colour or texture and start to create a digital archive where I can store them and print them off as and when I deem necessary. Although this is a sensible suggestion, my gripe is that the quality of the printed page will not be the same as the original glossy magazine cutting. I like the magazine cuttings because they are more flexible to work with; they are thinner and more aesthetically pleasing. Because they are thinner they are easier to manipulate and tease into the desired shape for my collaging method. However, an idea I’ve warmed to is the notion of using origami papers which imitate magazine paper. I’ve never used origami paper before and was initially wary of the idea, but having been to purchase a pack today and seeing the quality of it for myself, it has reinforced that this way of working has to be more effective and efficient. As I now have a pack of paper ready to go in seven inch squares, I will be able to knock my little characters out in no time!
Finally, the last suggestion was to introduce a sense of place to the totem so that my audience can understand why these elements have been grouped together. If for example there were branches protruding from the elements to suggest a tree in the background or intertwined in the design, the audience would understand that the wood unites these characters together. I didn’t want to be overly literal with my design of Grimm’s fairy-tales, as most illustrators focus on the castle and woods; however I think that a subtle hint with branches curling round the design will be effective.
All in al then, the idea is praised but needs much more work… better get to it