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
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.
Portfolio Visit 9 – Short Books
Aurea Carpenter, Short Books
My second portfolio appointment in
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.
Portfolio Visit 5 – The Guardian
Sarah Habershon, The Guardian,
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
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
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.
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.
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
The tutorial I had yesterday with both Ian and
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).
Portfolio visit 7
Paul Rose & Chris Platt
Today I met Paul and Chris at Rapport Events in
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
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
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
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/