Tuesday, 21 February 2012

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 http://www.childrensillustrators.com/nslater/ ) 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 :)

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