Friday, 10 February 2012

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

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