Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Creative Review 29/03

Creative Review for Thursday 29/03/12
Escape from Illustration Island Podcast, episode 72
Interview with Charles Hively, creative director of 3x3 publication
Creative Review magazine article by Lawrence Zeegen
Where is the Content?
This podcast interview with Charles Hively focuses on his thoughts on self-promotion, competitions and the virtues of running an effective creative business. I have picked out relevant quotes from Hively that I think resonate well with my current practice and have expanded on them with my own thoughts.
‘I can draw faces and trees very well’, I focus on natural elements a lot, I think it is mainly their symmetrical quality that makes them work so well with my technique. However, it is funny how he should put trees and faces in the same sentence as they are the complete opposites. Faces, although natural in that they are not man-made but just are, are nothing like trees in that they grow from the ground and could potentially last hundreds if not thousands of years. I cannot draw faces for the life of me, I struggle a lot with anything related to the human anatomy. It too is symmetrical in theory but because it has a set personality and set of characteristics it cannot be replicated in different way like a tree can.
‘You can’t work from back to back to back’, this I my favourite quote. I can relate to this point well as I don’t produce my best work when my battery is running on low, it is essential to have a break in between projects and divide your time up proportionally so that you still get some down time too. Compared to my recent visit to the Times newspaper this has become particularly prevalent to me as the offices there are relentless, the job is never finished because there is always something else to follow it up immediately.
‘You can’t afford to starve, just draw how they want you to draw’, I stand divided on this one. I agree that it is all about money at the end of the day, being an illustrator is a career to be able to make money and survive. If somebody is commissioning you for a job take it and be grateful that they are the ones going to be putting food in your mouth this week. At the same time you cannot afford to be a push-over. Remember to do things for your own passion too whether that be personal projects or send over a few roughs to the commissioning body and explain why your idea is better but you have to be able to back it up properly. If you start to take less money than is needed for a job you also risk collapsing you business as commissioners will start to take their business to other people if you don’t accept their low offer.
It was interesting to see how Chively makes comparisons of illustrators to photographers. When he is in the office he will receive 10 mail shots from different photographers per day to just 1 illustrator getting in touch. Illustrators need to be able to promote themselves more and this has been pushed particularly in this final year at our university with the introduction of the PDP module setting us up with this expectation that work will not come looking for me, rather I have to go and look for it. You need to keep on promoting yourself too and not stop once a bit of work starts to come in, you should be sending out mailings at least once per month in some respect. It people don’t promote themselves illustration won’t progress past where it is at currently so self-promotion is an investment that an illustrator must make. When sending mailings make sure you send an image that solves a visual problem – photography looks pretty much the same these days and because of this it is becoming ever more difficult to establish the photographer like in previous years. Every illustration however is totally unique. Hand written or singular one off pieces get more attention from an art director because they want to save and cherish that piece, make it highly personal.
Out of 200 illustrators surveyed only 1 sent a promotional piece and that was a Christmas card. To be effective and consistent you need to be sending 3 mailings, Christmas cards is too advertisey and corporate there is the feeling that not much thought has gone into it. Photographers have invited him to lunch but by contrast no illustrators ever have, be more approachable.
Photographers are much more business minded than illustrators, a lot of the time they’ve had to invest in expensive equipment and so they need to make that return to make a success of their investment. Artists need to be more business minded in order to be more successful like their photographer counterparts. The bulk of illustration websites are not easy enough to navigate around and it needs to be new stuff and concise NOT your entire lifes work. There is no need for more than 15 images for thumbnails and ‘bullshit’ about sections are not required art directors don’t care, if they are looking to commission you it will be on the merit of your work, and your work only. Contact details need to be clearer than the majority of them are, most miss out important information such as a contact telephone number which is vital for the commission body. The images are the hero – don’t let anything get in the way of these, Chively looks at you the same as he would a plumber.
Chively says that he always looks for the weakest piece of work, because if he is happy with that then he knows that this is the least he will get, it sets a benchmark for him. Of course he would always like to get your best work, but should he get some of the weaker stuff if it passes his benchmark then he has some kind of safeguard by vetting that part of your portfolio too.
The online environment will be difficult for illustrators and art directors to navigate. This problem is caused mainly due to the longevity of the images online, do they eventually come down or does the commissioner need exclusive rights etc? Also, illustrators are used to charging a set fee for a spot illustration, a half page or full page etc in a newspaper for example, so how now do illustrators charge for online work?
The Creative Review article ‘Where is the content?’ by Lawrence Zeegen basically slates the world of illustration for being exclusive, ‘it’s time for the profession to stop pleasing itself and engage with the world outside’. For me this statement is comparable to more exclusive and upper class institutions such as classical music and opera. These institutions require money to be able to attend and training etc to be involved, yet anybody can pick up a paintbrush as many children do, it is not an exclusive institution, rather the opposite, anybody can get involved it’s just a case of whether they want to or not. Exclusivity is where other people and classes cannot engage with the institution, a paintbrush and paint is not expensive equipment. It takes a certain skill and lessons to learn how to play an instrument, painting and art is in all of us.
He also refers to the Pick me Up event happening in London, on the Strand currently showcasing new art talent and how nobody else other than graphic artists and illustrators go to visit such events. True, graphic artists and illustrators do go to these events to integrate further in their practice but professional bodies looking to commission artists attend to see the fresh face of art. ‘The allure of the digital row over, the discipline has seemingly retreated into an analogue world of craft-drive aesthetics’, if indeed Lawrence had been to Pick me Up he would have witnessed first hand that digital illustration is in fact very much in full swing with artists such as Andy Smith still working this way. ‘So where does illustration go next? How does the discipline move forward?’, the Charles Hively interview with Illustration Island sums this up pretty well; people need to stop criticising illustration and embrace them more and to help the stark situation illustrators need to take more responsibility and promote themselves and their cause in a positive fashion. Staying quiet and conforming to the reclusive hide-away preconception that people have does not help this impression of art being an exclusive institution, they are not seen to integrate with the rest of society, self-promotion will certainly help, take note peers!

Portfolio Visit 10 - Jon Hill

Times Tour

Friday 23rd March, 2:00pm

With Jon Hill

On Friday me, Philippa and Becca went to the Times offices close to Tower Hill tube station for the guided tour of News International owned by Rupert Murdoch. The same guy, Jon Hill, who came into college and gave the Time talk last week kindly, gave up an hour of his precious time to guide us round. The offices surprisingly were less busy and chaotic than I expected. With the weather being so nice everyone had taken an early lunch before the real rush started from 4pm till the deadline around 10pm. As the tour was only at 2:00pm that will probably explain the lack of persons actually in the office, they would still be waiting for the news reports and latest information to come in.

It was interesting to see that the designers don’t have as much space to work in as I originally expected. They have a pc or a mac granted, but in terms of desk space they only have a normal desk not the huge table I have to work on at home and in the studio. I suppose thinking it through properly, a designer will work for the most part on the computer anyway and will not keep doing things manually and scanning them in like I do. There was an in-house artist practising who had his own desk and office space, he did the political cartoons for the newspaper and had won the best prize for best political cartoons for something like the last consecutive five years. The in-house illustrator however was away from her desk – just typical of my luck that on the one day I am in London and in the Times newspapers building she’s not there. There seemed to be much peace and tranquillity for the in-house cartoonist sat in his own office without the constant buzz from the television, he worked manually by painting his work and then scanning it in. I liked to see this as I often have the perception that not many artists work manually anymore, especially in an institution such as the Times who have such an expanse of technical know-how and software. Though relating to my earlier point about lack of desk space, the in-house artist had a much bigger area to work on probably due to his manual practising.

I was also surprised to see how many different desks there were; one for finance, one for property, one for foreign affairs etc etc. Not only were there an expanse of different desks but there were also three editors offices and on-site lawyers, health and money experts to offer specific assistance and guidelines for particular issues which could lead to court proceedings if not articulated correctly.

Last week Jon said to wave our portfolios at him towards the end of the tour and he or one of his colleagues would find some time to have a look through them and offer some feedback. Unfortunately, Jon and his team were extremely busy the day we went and so I felt rude asking for yet more of his time to look at my portfolio, it just didn’t seem right at the time. I know that it is best to strike whilst the iron is still hot but I think a quick email sometime with my PDF portfolio attached would be much better and more convenient for him. Overall, it was a bit disappointing to think that we didn’t manage to get our work in front of the professionals at the Times, but the tour of the building was insightful alone so not all was lost except a bit of time which wouldn’t have been spent better anywhere else anyway.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Portfolio Visit 9 - Aurea Carpenter

Portfolio Visit 9 – Short Books

Aurea Carpenter, Short Books

Pine Street, London

My second portfolio appointment in London was with Short Books located in Exmouth House, Pine Street. Short Books are a fairly small book publishing company founded by two former journalists and seem to take the more high-risk ventures that the larger houses wouldn’t look twice at. This was a group appointment for me, Philippa and Becca at 10:30 on Thursday 22nd March. After yesterdays performance my confidence levels were even lower than usual, but my nerves weren’t nearly as bad as I sought comfort in numbers. The building itself is gorgeous with old rickety floor boards and enormous glass panes with breath-taking views out over the square, which is much quieter than in the centre, lined with cafes and boutiques.

We took the stairs up because those lifts with the manual doors scare the life out of me, they look like they’re about to go down to a coal mine! Up to the third floor and pressed the buzzer, or at least Philippa did anyway, she seemed to be as cool as a cucumber. The office staff were all extremely pleasant and smiley and pointed us in the direction of Aurea’s office. She took us into a meeting room which wasn’t as formal as it sounds due to the wooden floors and desks and bookshelves full of, well, books! Wood seems friendlier and less intrusive than glass, this I have noted over all of my portfolio visits, people can’t stare through it at me and it doesn’t sound false, just natural, I like that – at one with nature. She leafed through our portfolios individually and gave individual feedback, I was last in line. Some would see that as a blessing, others would be petrified as they would just want it to be over with, me? I wasn’t bothered either way as long as the feedback was positive and nice.

Aurea seemed to like all of my work, in particular the graphical collage characters and liked to see that I had already taken on the task of designing book jackets and photographed them in context to give her a better vision of how they would/could look. Unlike my visit to the Guardian, there were no awkward silences which I felt I had to fill and explain in, Aurea was a very nice lady with what seemed a passion for all illustration types. She too noticed that I like to use nature a lot in my work with the inclusion of animals and their environments and habitats. Unlike Sarah, she loved the hand stitched type and thought it worked really well, though she did offer a key piece of advice, to stay away from white backgrounds for book jackets, they pick up too much dirt and grease and are apparently a nightmare to work with, the dark green of the Wonderful Wizard of Oz by contrast works much better in her opinion. Surprisingly, she was interested to know how I went about making my images and how I put them together and why I preferred Photoshop to Illustrator software wise. I explained that Illustrator doesn’t like textures very much and because I work in quite a textural way, Photoshop gives me a better finish. She went on to say that she particularly looks for a designer who can create type and have a good handle on that as well as the illustration as it gives a better cohesive look than adding a separate layer on top which you can tell a mile off. Integrating illustration and type is key for her which at the moment the book cover trend seems to be a bigger focus on type than illustration. She went on to show us a current cover they were working on and the roughs that they had been sent. Another surprise was her interest in our opinions on the covers she’d received and agreed with the comments we made!

On reflection, looking at the roughs that were sent to Aurea, the majority of them had a ‘Harry Potter’ feel, where the type imitated a magical aesthetic which suggested older teen rather than a woman’s novel. The colour didn’t suggest a woman audience and the aesthetic was more comical than was required for an older audience. It is a good tool to look at others people’s work and make a judgement of where I think they’ve made mistakes to aid my own selection of ‘appropriate’ elements.

By contrast this appointment was much more encouraging than the one I had yesterday with the Guardian. Aurea seemed interested in my views and opinions and was more involved with my work than Sarah was. Sarah seemed to sit at a distance from it and only want to give criticism whereas Aurea couldn’t do anything my encourage the three of us and give positive comments. If I were offered a job opportunity at either establishment, I would choose Short Books. Not just because of the more positive feedback (which could make me biased) but too because of the location of the offices, set in a much more laid back environment without the hustle and bustle of inner city living. The offices were also much less intimidating without the miles of glass panes instead offering a more homely wooden environment making it seem more friendly and approachable.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Portfolio Visit 8 - Sarah Habershon

Portfolio Visit 5 – The Guardian

Sarah Habershon, The Guardian,

90 York Way, London

I was stunned that the Guardian even replied to my email, even if it was four months later. I emailed Sarah Habershon at the Guardian in October 2011 for the first semester’s required portfolio visits but she never replied, or at least she didn’t reply until late February. She was full of apologies for not getting back to me sooner but in the business in which she works, sometimes emails get overlooked, which is completely understandable, especially as I’m probably not at the top of the food chain. In her reply she said that she thought my work was more suited to children’s illustration, however if I was looking for something broader to let her know if and when I would be in London to arrange an appointment. To say I was chuffed to bits was an understatement. I replied immediately and left it a week to give her chance to reply, but as time was ticking away I eventually plucked up the courage to ring her directly to try and arrange an appointment which proved to be a success. So whilst I was in London, on Wednesday 21st March at 3pm to be precise I met Sarah at the Guardian’s office on York Way, London.

To say I was nervous is the understatement of the year, I mean this is the Guardian after all, opportunities like this don’t come up every day, and certainly not to me! The offices are enormous, a glass fortress, but at least they were well labelled (see the photo of me stood outside J) After loitering outside for about twenty minutes due to being overly punctual I began my ascent up the escalators into the main reception. Sweaty palms were bad enough but the temperature outside was a balmy sixteen degrees and I had a coat and cardigan on too, these things require more attention. The girls on reception called Sarah to let her know of my arrival and gave me an entry pass though it wasn’t needed as Sarah conducted her viewing in main reception.

It wasn’t a long wait before Sarah arrived and greeted me warmly, I hope I managed to reciprocate but due to nerves I have a feeling I was a bit hasty getting into the actual business of showing my portfolio and didn’t spend quite as long as is necessary on the formalities beforehand. Anyway, I showed her my work which went Ok. I don’t usually like the work ‘O.k’ to describe something but this visit was only worth that, mere standard. For the first time during a portfolio visit, some negative vibes were coming through from the work I was presenting. Maybe the professionals in Manchester are more polite particularly with them being aware that I am a third year student and have not graduated yet, or maybe the ‘big smoke’ just like to get to the point with honesty, I don’t know. As I was leafing through the pages, she seemed happy enough and appeared to warm to my work, but afterwards it all started to fall apart. She seemed to prefer the more graphical characters to the painterly narratives from the Helping Uganda project from last semester, though she wondered why my hand rendered type for the James and the Giant Peach cover was stitched. Although it has apparently been a while since she last read the story, she couldn’t remember stitch playing any part in the tale. Indeed it doesn’t, there is no mention of sewing machines, or knitting or stitching or anything related, the point I was trying to put across by stitching the type was that it is organic like the peach’s continued growth and James’ adventure and character development from his parents dying at the beginning to his more independent qualities at the end. Of course I didn’t say any of this to her, I would have felt rude, especially when it was she who had given her precious time up to see me. I suppose I could look at the appropriateness of my materials and how they are used in relation to the context of the subject, though I still like the idea and such issue has never been raised before. She did go on to say that she had commissioned somebody only recently who used stitch a lot in their work to illustrate an article on ovarian surgery, which I thought was going to turn into a positive, before she stated that I need to work with things that are totally appropriate to my technique. Also, I need to work out where it is that I want to be, do I want to pursue children’s book illustration, book jackets, hand rendered typefaces or editorials etc. For her my portfolio was too varied to be able to commission someone like me, she needs to see more evidence that I would be able to take on the task she would want to give which my portfolio lacks. There are too many bases I am trying to cover in my portfolio but all are done very thinly, for example I only have two editorials but that doesn’t show enough consistency, she needs to know that if she were to commission me that she would get something particular, it has to be, in a way, predictable. On the flip side, at university we are encouraged to try a whole host of different briefs to broaden our portfolios and show that we are flexible and capable or most things. For me, having a very limited portfolio would be a concern, for if I were to focus on just one particular area of illustration I in turn limit my chances of getting work after graduation, and unfortunately that is what this is all about, getting work.

I put my two editorials at the end of my portfolio, as we are encouraged to put the strongest work there. I don’t think that these editorials are my strongest pieces particularly, but I thought that visiting a newspaper would make them more appealing and by putting those at the back would reinforce to her that I could undertake this type of brief. Unfortunately, I think that this was a mistake. She thought that although the illustrations for the editorials were good, they didn’t show her how well I can work with space. The illustrations for both pieces are above the column with a single column of text below. For her they didn’t show her how they would appear in a single or even double page spread, there was no real context for them. Additionally, the Guardian deals with more conceptual ideas relating to work and finance rather than nature which my work seems to be more directed towards.

To say I was disappointed with the outcome of this appointment is an even bigger understatement than the nerves bit. I really wanted to make a good impression but with her negative attitude towards my work I came out feeling pretty deflated; all the wind and stuffing had been taken out of me. I left her some thank you chocolates and my business card on the off chance but chances are it probably went straight in the bin. My excitement of seeing the Guardian then soon turned into dread as I saw my dreams crumbling in front of me sat in the foyer of their offices. I thought it might even break me and my ambitions for a while, but to be fair, criticism is better to be sought than praise as I can work and develop myself from that. Here’s hoping that the next appointment will go better.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Self Reflection - part 1

Self Reflection part 1

There are roughly two months left until the final hand in date for my final major project work. Since January, I have again learned much and am nervous for the deadline coming as I feel that I am still learning even now. These two months will undoubtedly fly past and that makes the overwhelming feeling I have even more intense.

So, since January, I have learned first and foremost that I need to produce more thumbnails to show where I see my work going. It is a point that Ian made during one of my tutorials, that although I made one rough (which is a development in itself as I usually just work from the image I see in my head, but I understand that potential clients can’t see inside my head and require something to work from) there needs to be more. Roughs and small thumbnails of progression don’t take long to produce and once in the ‘zone’ I can produce around 20 in a half hour period. To show development of ideas and to see if they work in a small space shows me that if it doesn’t work small scale it will never work to scale. These only have to be quick pencil drawings and although they a very rough they do show vital progression and development qualities.

I have learned to persevere. Last semester I flitted form one media to the next, from one process to the next and from one technique to the next, each time only skimming the surface of each and not exploring either to its full potential. There was painting, stitch, collage and printing all added into the mix. This semester I have decided to produce collage characters utilising a similar process to my James and the Giant Peach characters where stitch plays a key part in the design too. It has been very frustrating at times when I couldn’t get the shape quite right or the edges of a shape were too fiddly, not turning to trusty paints was a challenge. On reflection however, I think that it was a worthy challenge and has so far produced some fantastic results. From this I have now decided to produce an artists book titled ‘Into the Garden’ where I have illustrated several animals which are found in the garden. My next venture will be another artists book titled ‘Under the Water’ which will feature illustrations of animals that are found under the water. Although I am working on the main animals at the moment I have also started to play with process in screen printing which has produced some good results too. Alongside the main books I will also produce some toddler merchandise such as baby-gro’s and bedding sets as this will be my target audience for the books.

I have learned to play with colour more. Currently I have a bright blue walrus and a purple octopus which are not reflective of the actual animals. I think that it is important to keep a sense of play in my work; by keeping the animals parallel with reality they bring nothing new to the table they would be just a mere representation of the world around us. However, the key to my work is their distinctive shapes, although my walrus is blue, my audience can recognise it being a walrus immediately due to its iconic shape and features. I have tried to keep the colours complimentary with each other too, for example my walrus is blue and when you turn the page to the next element such as the jelly fish, the colours don’t clash or contradict each other; rather they compliment each other instead. In my printing I have more control over the colour application as I can select which colours I want to use rather than being limited to a set size of magazine paper. On my bedding for example I have used the same yellow for the bumble bee, the frog’s tummy and the star fish.

I have researched my media thoroughly. At first I was using old magazines which I had lying around which were difficult to use because they quality wasn’t fantastic. Additionally, they only offered certain sizes of colours and textures within the page which was struggle when trying to make elements which required larger areas. My tutorial group suggested trying origami paper, which I did. The quality and texture of the origami paper was very similar to that of magazine paper and for that aspect I was pleased I had found a possible alternative. However, I soon realised that the colours of the origami papers were limiting just as the magazine paper was limiting in the area of colour. It is for this reason that I decided to revert back to magazine paper but went to go and buy some better quality magazines in a bid to try and improve the quality of my collages. I think so far this has worked. Although the prices of the magazines were exceptionally higher, the quality of the work being produced is also exceptionally higher making the magazines an investment rather than a luxury as they would be for many.

Type is something I have really struggled with in the past. I have now started experimenting with existing types rather than trying to fool myself into think that types I produce myself are any good. The type I have found particularly interesting is when I cut up an old book and glue it down in my sketchbook, scan it in and erase all the lighter areas around it. The result is a grainy looking replica rather than the crisp original and it compliments my work well, as well as having the backing of my tutor which is always a bonus. It is nice to know that the type doesn’t have to be in a straight line either, another distortion of reality which makes it far more interesting.

In summary, I’ve learned that I’m still learning. If I ever stop learning about my trade I’ll let you know. But for now I’m reviewing all that I am learning to try and make the best out of my new found knowledge and make it pay off in my work. I hope to apply all that I have reviewed here and make the best possible grade, passing out into the world of illustration with a greater knowledge of what is going on around me.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Reflection on the Times

Reflection of the talk from the Times' Jon Hill

The talk which Jon Hill presented us with yesterday (14/03), has on hindsight given me food for thought. He talked about the application which the Times has for the iPad and iPhone where users have to pay a subscription to be able to read their online content, similar to purchasing the printed newspaper. This is an idea Rupert Murdoch had and in a sense it does make logical business sense, why charge to purchase a printed newspaper version when you could in theory read the exact same content for free online?

It made me think that no other news outlet with a web presence charges for such a service, for example the BBC or Google or the Daily Mail amongst others, so how do they manage to still get daily hits? Is it that the Times is such an integral part of the British heritage that people simple cannot do without their daily fix? In a presentation the company made to Murdoch to secure the next years funding they showed data proving that charging for their online version still has more hits per day than the Independent had for their printed copy and last year (2010) their application was more popular than Angry Birds. So on reflection does it matter that they charge a subscription fee when they are quite clearly one of the leading suppliers in the market? In such dismal economic times though will these figures drop as the population begin to realise that they can read their news for free on other sites?

Also, it made me think that newspapers really are a dying trend. I know from first hand experience that my father only buys a newspaper when he is on holiday and actually has the time to sit down with a cup of tea and digest the news he has paid for properly, thus making more financial sense to him than purchasing it everyday and not having the time to sit and digest it pleasantly. Though my grandfather purchases a newspaper daily and religiously (with the exception of Sundays, because they charge too much for supplements and advertisements, buts that’s going on another tangent entirely). If they are a dying trend, then are they going to become more expensive as less people part take in the purchasing of British heritage? After all a newspaper such as the Times is indeed just that, part of the British make-up. If they become more expensive then they will become an exclusive institution. Of course the likes of the Times is marketed at the middle classes and above already but the exclusivity that it poses could potential only widen the gap between the social classes. Additionally, if it becomes so expensive or the manufacturer to produce then the only way of it being a sustainable source would be to make it a weekly or even monthly publication instead of daily as we see it at the moment. Agreed, we do se the news on television and hear of it on the radio, so I hear you say where is the need for the printed word? Well institutions such as the Times have specialists in subject areas to break the information down for us into more manageable chunks with the added bonus of lawyers and doctors on hand for authoritative information and of course they can utilise data to make sense of scenarios through diagrams and graphics.

Finally, if newspapers, alongside other printed forms such as books are going online to try and keep up with the pace of an ever evolving technological world, then surely I must need to have a basic knowledge of how all this works if I am to survive in producing art work that will fit these needs too. This is the bit that scares me most as I have no experience or knowledge of coding or how computers work past the basic Microsoft and adobe packages. Will I need to start some courses or purchase some teach-yourself guides? I’m sure that the visit to London next week will shine some more light on these issues as I have a tour of the Times’ offices and a portfolio visit at the Guardian too. Until then though, I’ll hope and pray that whatever will eventually be expected of me, I can handle it!

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

The Times by Jon Hill

The Times Talk
Jon Hill
Lecture Theatre B 1:30pm
On Tuesday (13th of March 2012), Jon Hill came into college to present a talk on his career and how he has progressed from university life, living above a grotty shop in Kingston to being a senior editor at the Times newspaper, London.
Considering that the Times is commonly associated with middle class gents milling around the higher ends of London dressed in swarve suits with mortgages galore, Jon Hill is a rather informal looking guy with a very down to earth approach and attitude. He talked about his time at Kingston university, living in said grotty flat above an equally grotty shop and how during his second year of his degree he was made to go on work placement within the industry for two weeks. He worked for Atelier with whom he thought he was merely making tea and listening to the live briefs, only when he left they asked him to go back in to help out during the university breaks etc. From there he even managed to secure his first job as junior designer with the very same design studio. After roughly 18 months his senior editor put him in touch with another company (by writing the details on a post-it whilst he was still with the old office!) who were looking for a senior designer. Esterson Associates are another design firm working in the cool area of Hoxton, at the time of his move up and coming artists such as Damien Hirst were working in the same vicinity making it even more appealing. Jon stayed here for six years working with some very big clients on some very big and very interesting jobs. He obviously made a lot of contacts during this time and this proved useful for his next move. After six year though, he became irritable, not because of the lack of passion for the job but because everywhere he looked were these uber cool designs and graphics, even on leaflets and flyers and beer mats in the local pub. In the end his mounting claustrophobia and yearn to start a family took him up to Wilmslow from where his wife originates. Here he became self-employed and exploited all the contacts he had made on the start of his career at both Atelier and Esterson Associates. He worked here for a couple of years in the attic of his house, listening to whatever music he chose, for the majority of the time as loud as he pleased too labouring intensely over his work. To go from this to being asked to fill the position as senior editor at the Times sounds like a harsh jump. He went from sitting in his pyjamas all day every day to the swanky quarter of London where all the big cheeses hand out.
Jon did make it clear that his first few jobs weren’t very well paid, though he enjoyed the work immensely, thus proving that money isn’t always the key to success, or at least not at the very beginnings. Being happy in my job is what will be most important to me and not necessarily the money side of matters, though a nice remuneration packages would be handy too. His talk also shows how opportunities can sometimes raise their heads at the most unexpected times, usually in the biggest and most surprising and exciting way possible. Most of all, his message was clear in that doing work for nothing, or on very small scales to start working to live briefs is crucial. Sitting at home and dwelling on the fact that you have no work and have just left university is not productive or stimulating for young creatives. Of course he understands that in part he fell lucky with his first job at Atelier landing in his lap, but it wasn’t without work beforehand, volunteering to go in during the holidays and most of the time not getting paid, or getting paid very little for what work he did do whilst he was there. Again, he managed to build up contacts with creative professionals whilst doing this. I guess my time spent at the Chase last summer and the portfolio visit I’ve been on since with Lise Brian is similar in that I am starting to build up a contact list with professionals out there in the big wide world already practising and potentially looking to commission illustrators at any time.
In hindsight, this talk was probably more aimed at a graphic design type audience, but all experience is good experience in the industry in which I hope to eventually excel. He talked about tools which are alien to me, such as grids and guides, margins and … typography. However, in deciding to strike whilst the iron was still hot, I asked him if he would be available to look at our portfolios next week when we are in London, knowing that the worst he could say would be no I was still pleasantly surprised when he agreed to do so. So, another lesson, even if the information is not totally relevant to your specialism, there’s a contact to be made who could potentially put you in touch with the ideal person. Nice one Jon, thanks!

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Tutorial 05/03/2012



The tutorial I had yesterday with both Ian and Gary produced some fresh ideas to incorporate into my work. I managed to express my joy at securing a portfolio visit with the Guardian on the 21st of March so I only have another one to secure to have a solid two to my name.

They looked at the Howkapow brief that I am currently working on with the Three Billy Goats Gruff narrative in mind but they felt that the illustrations of the goats were pretty weak. To rectify this they have suggested changing the viewpoint for the reader, the goat doesn’t just have a viewpoint from its side. Reflecting on the stronger elements I have created previously, the ones crafted from an aerial viewpoint seem to be the ones hitting the spot. Also, there needs to be more reduction taking place focusing on the main features, the one’s I showed today (although I had 5 different versions) all clung on to too much detail. As well it would be interesting to see a change in the scale of the elements, for example a tree doesn’t have to be bigger than a goat. Changing scale will keep things fresh and more free, conforming to the constraints of reality will make work boring very quickly, illustrators need to use imagination.

It was highlighted too that I need to get into the habit of creating more roughs. Although I have created a rough for this particular brief, there is only one and it doesn’t show options or opportunities. The roughs don’t have to be big, they can just be small thumbnails – but I need a space to be able to play with ideas, and lots of versions of them not just one. This is particularly prevalent with the Grimm’s brief where I create lots of separate elements but when it came to fitting them all together they didn’t work. If I had produced these various thumbnails as I was going along I could have seen how they were going to fit together and made sure that they were of the right size, colour and medium. To look into this further I will conduct some research on Abram Games, not for technique but to look at the reams and reams of thumbnails he produced before he set to work on the real thing. If an idea doesn’t work at a small scale it will never work to scale. Additionally, work with shape, everything I create doesn’t have to be in a square or rectangle, look at circular canvases or triangular for example.

My aims for this week then are to have the Howkapow illustration wrapped up and to make a start on the Secret London brief set by the Association of Illustrators (AOI).

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Portfolio Visit 7 - Paul Rose & Chris Platt

Portfolio visit 7

Paul Rose & Chris Platt

Rapport Events

Hilton Street, Manchester

Today I met Paul and Chris at Rapport Events in Manchester, an ideas led agency for whom Chris is the creative director and Paul is the senior designer. The introduced themselves as looking to ‘give something back’ and also to recruit new emerging talent on potential projects (and silly me didn’t order business cards in time!)

Both were extremely pleasant guys who were down to earth and relatable, coming straight from the print room wasn’t such a bad idea after all as even they were in jeans.

As I started to show them my portfolio it immediately became apparent that they were drawn in by my work. The Uganda images were striking and clearly held their attention whilst the collaged elements were ‘workable’ and offered lots of ‘potential’. I have started to create a set of these elements now including the spider, grasshopper and ladybird from last year in addition to the frog, apple and bird from the Grimm’s brief. They reckon that these are what the Guardian will be particularly interested in. However, owing to their craftsmanship and tactility that they could see on the very 2D paper, they asked if I by chance had the originals. Luckily, (and it was lucky as I was scanning them in this morning) I did. The one piece of advice they did offer was to take my sketchbook with me to any future portfolio visits as they in particular find the originals and the ideas behind them etc much more interesting than the final piece, although the final piece obviously shows its refinement etc.

They liked the reverse stitched type which I used for the James and the Giant Peach redesign for Puffin in 2011, but they didn’t see the need to include the stitched type I created for Grimm’s fairy-tales. One, it didn’t stand up to the former and two it had already been done earlier on in the portfolio and added nothing new to the table. I think that these are very valid points and will no doubt take it out after today. That was the only criticism that they offered though, the rest was very positive feedback.

Both guys cottoned on to the style that I am starting to develop with the collaged characters and they feel that it will work very well in a design environment. They feel that it works better than the painterly work seen in the Uganda project and is something to pursue.

When they asked about promotional materials, I told them of my plans to create coasters with my design on one side and contact details on the reverse so that the mailing I send has a purpose and not a ‘throw away’ design – it is something that can be used and kept. They were definitely interested in these! Maybe sending one when they’re finished would be a good idea seeing as I didn’t have a business card with me this time around. I definitely need to have these sorted for the trip to London later on in the month.

All in all a very good portfolio visit, thanks to both guys for giving me some of their precious time. With a bit of luck I may be on their contact list for future work, fingers crossed.

You can find more information about Rapport Events Manchester at http://rapportevents.com/