Website Research

Over the summer I joined Cargo collective in an attempt to start the year prepared. Initially I joined with their basic free membership, though with some help, I set up my own domain name. Cargo is fantastically practical and straightforward, and what I think appealled most to me was the ability to follow other peoples Cargos and be followed in return. I like this idea of networking with other people within the creative industry and the possibilities this could provide in the future.

I prefer a website that is clean and open looking, as opposed to some which can be over-loaded with imagery and additional features which, when essentially just exhibiting your work, is unnecessary. There are some which are successful, though I think it takes a combination of really strong work and a specific audience for this.

Portfolio Visit

A little over  a week ago I contacted Stuart Price from the 'ideas agency' Thoughtful, a resident agency within Stockport College, who recently made a visit to the design pathways to give a lecture on what constitutes a good portfolio. At the time of their visit a lot of us were attempting to complete a deadline, and so sadly, I was among a few who didn't get to hear this lecture, which is a shame as it was apparently extremely informative, and dealt with the more professional side of illustration, which we aren't often exposed to.

However, after contacting Thoughtful, I managed to schedule a meeting with Stuart, to take a look over my portfolio. When the time came round Stuart was incredibly welcoming and made me feel really at ease, despite my being the last in a list of people vying for his attention. Immediately Stuart picked up on my paper-cut bee mobile, which I'd put at the beginning of my portfolio as I feel it's one of my stronger pieces of work, which has gotten the best result. He appeared to be very impressed by my papercut work, and seemed to enjoy looking through my portfolio, being very enthusiastic. Stuart asked what my tutors thought of my work and I admitted that they'd prefer for me to create more paper-cut work and didn't particularly like my paintings. While he disagreed that my paintings weren't any good, Stuart said that there was something much more powerful and striking about the cuttings, and that he could see them in a much more commerical context too which would stand out as he doesn't know of anyone else doing the same quality of work.

We talked about how I felt about moving more towards paper-cutting and the difficulties which it poses, such as needing to photograph work and be able to take control of the way work is shot, adding that extra dimension to the work and potentially creating really interesting narratives. It was once again clear that the paper-cuttings were much better received in comparison to the paintings, though simply because of just how enthusiastic Stuart was.

While we talked a lot about the work, Stuart didn't seem to have any problems with the layout and appearance of my portfolio, except to say that it might be an idea to take out the black paper between the prints in each portfolio sleeve, as this could be seen quite noticeably if a print shifted when the page was being turned.

Stuart said he'd been really impressed by the quality and attitude of each of the students visiting, and to feel free to show him future work, as he'd love to see how my work progressed. This was such a reassuring meeting, and having another person's perspective on paper-cutting vs painting really helped, and I came out of it feeling really refreshed.

Illustrations Digital Future

I've been a bit of a Ludite for as long as I can remember, as a result of all sorts of factors, but mostly as a result of my Dad's reaction to the changing book market. He works closely with independent bookshops, and it's always been a bit heartbreaking when he's come home and informed us that another shop's had to close. This has had a pretty strong effect on my general opinion of modern technology, and thus, the prospect of the future of Illustration. However, since starting the degree and realising just how much illustration has changed, how dynamic it has become, I can't help but be optimistic.

I don't work digitally, I prefer to think of Photoshop as an aid, a tool, rather than the starting point for work, as I dislike the idea of relying so much on something which isn't tangible. As the degree's progressed and I've come to better understand how it is that work is created digitally, I've reared away from it even more, particularly with uni briefs, as I sometimes find it can be difficult to immediately connect with a brief, so the idea of starting one off on a computer simply doesn't feel comfortable. I need to feel that bit more in control of what I'm making, able to physically manipulate it, carry it around and consider it in more than one dimension. 

This isn't to say I refuse any digital input. In fact I've found, especially when short of time, that Photoshop can make life much easier. For example, the Wellspring brief: I had begun painting the frame for the image and had been experimenting with a few decorative borders; having scanned it in at uni to see how well it translated on screen, I came home only to realise I'd left the original painting in uni and only had a quarter of the frame scanned in on my usb. As the deadline was after that weekend, I decided to attempt to use what I had and create a full frame. Had I not done this it's more than likely that the frame would have been a mess: unsymmetrical and untidy due to rushing. However, I managed to duplicate that one piece to create te frame, and it turned out better than I'd hoped.

The idea of piecing together elements entirely digitally has always struck me as being incredibly dull. Where's the fun of the materials, the potential mistakes, happy accidents and experiments? Despite my own preference to work in an analogue way, there are others who utilise digital work amazingly well, and I still find those, who work well this way, to be very skilled, though admittedly I have that bit more respect for those who work well with analogue materials, as I see digital work limited to the computer it's being created on. A brutal and perhaps ignorant view, but honest; that's just what automatically simmers at the back of my mind when presented with a comparison of digital and analogue work!

Like so many other things, illustration seems to go through phases which see different trends appearing, and lately it would seem there's a preference for the handmade. Greater appreciation is being shown for crafts, artisans and analogue illustration because of the contrast between working on something solid, real, as opposed to something on a screen, and how much more it appeals to the senses, as does the idea of a person who's had to invest time to learning a skill and the patience to master it, rather than have the option of 'command-z' and Youtube tutorials. People are so constantly immersed in a digital world, that relief is being sought after in analogue work.

Nevertheless, all illustrators, whether they work digitally or analogue, face the prospect of illustration becoming obsolete. With a decline in the books being bought as people read less, publishers have to be more picky about what they publish, what will appeal to the masses and sell! Thus, the range of books being published is dictated by an already pretty uninterested public, and so it's cheaper and easier to use photography, as well as presenting book covers which are universally accepted, rather than having an illustration on the front which may not appeal to someone; everyone's a critic.

Then of course, we're constantly being bombarded by new ways, or at least, new screens, to view things on. The competition for survival, as it were, has meant that illustration has had to broaden to encompass a much greater range of products it can be applied to. And while they're still different, the line between craft and illustration is merging, and amongst other creative roles, the illustrator is having to become more malleable in order to match the decline in straightforward book / editorial work.

So many consider the development of digital illustration to be beneficial: more interactive etc, but really?! How? You're not interacting with anything except the machine/computer you're viewing it on. People are forgetting how to use their hands. Children may be able to text as fast as lightning, but give them a pen and they'd have no idea of its value, preferring instead a keyboard. Skills are being forgotten as people immerse themselves in a digital world; digital interaction leaves people forgetting how to make decent conversation. I'm now ranting and off topic. I suppose in some ways it's good that the digital work is creating competition, as it's making people realise how disillusioned they are in the digital world, making tangible skills much more valuable, and as the digital world continues to desensitise, analogue skills will become more and more precious, and hopefully more sought after, providing relief from the digital.

Rant over.

A Few Inspirations

Elsa Mora

During my last tutorial Gary asked that I give him a sense of what influences me, so that he can understand better what it is that I'm trying to achieve with my work, as it seems it's lacking several somethings.

I find it difficult to narrow down my inspirations, and sometimes I feel like I'm focusing too much on what other people are doing, and not focusing enough on working instinctively. While I do find inspiration from other illustrators work, I tend to find that I'm more influenced by craft and decorative objects as well as interior design. This means I tend to think quite separately about uni work and things I'd like to produce in my own time, which I'm beginning to find drains my enthusiasm for uni briefs as I'm constantly daydreaming about the things I'd really kill to be doing. It was suggested in my tutorial that I should try and merge these interests together, but I need to spend more time considering how to merge the illustrative aspect...



Lord Whitney

Lord Whitney is the result of a collaboration between Amy Lord and Rebekah Whitney, two graduates of Leeds Met Graphics Art & Design course, who have, since their graduation in 2006, worked incredibly hard to make themselves known. Through persistence and a wonderful sense of humor and imagination, they have produced work which is increasingly becoming recognised and applied to all sorts of projects, including music videos, festivals, stage design and costumes!

They kindly came into college to give us a lecture about what happened after they left university, how they found the transition from being a student to trying to work within the creative industry, and how their collaboration grew. This was one of the most interesting presentations I've seen, and it was unbelievably refreshing to hear from each of them: the various jobs they worked on after uni, both separately and under Lord Whitney. They were brutally honest about the ups and downs of getting work (and on the subject of the importance of a few drinks and good company), and while there were evidently times where they struggled some-what, what was emphasised most was how much enjoyment they got out of their work and how hard they've worked to get to a position where, for most of the time, producing work as Lord Whitney is their full-time source of income.

However, they made it very clear that in order to get where they are it has been a matter of an innate need to create, and that that has been a predominant factor in their success, because they are truly enjoying and getting satisfaction out of their projects.

After feeling rather at a loss with my work, hearing them talk reminded me that I ought to be enjoying each opportunity which is posed with each brief, and that recently I hadn't been, as the pressure of the briefs had taken its toll, and that perhaps that's why I don't feel as though I'm doing as well as I could be, because I'd forgotten to enjoy it! As a result I've resolved to approach the few consequent briefs, before the Major Project, with a different attitude! Instead of panicking at the thought of more work, and begrudging it, I'd like to see it as a chance to show what I'm capable of.

After the lecture Amy and Rebekah joined us in the studios and set us a mini-brief: 'Compund Nouns'. They provided a list of suggested compound nouns which we could work with, or we could come up with our own. The brief was fairly open an enabled us to play with our responses, letting our imaginations run wild with it. This was an optional brief, but I think just about everyone took it on as it provided a good opportunity to let go abit and just make something for the sake of it, without fear of it being critically assessed. I went with the suggestion Moth-ball as when we'd gotten the Bug project I was a little disappointed to see that moths weren't on there, and it lent itself the idea of something quite delicate, which I felt would be fitting with my paper-cutting! I'll post images of my moth-ball soon as I wasn't entirely happy with it by the deadline, but I'd like to play with it more in my own time. It was another attempt to produce something 3-D and I don't feel confident enough yet translating the images and plans in my head into something tangible. Hopefully I'll get there soon.

Craig Oldham Poster

At the beginning of November Craig Oldham of Music came to give us a talk  entitled 'But Isn't That Your Job?' about the relation between Designers and Illustrators from the point of view of a designer; the experiences he's had working with illustrators and what he and others have learnt from these experiences. Sadly I'd already planned to go to the Illustration and Writing Symposium at MMU with a few other people from the year and so missed his lecture.

However, we'd been set to produce this poster, advertising his lecture, over reading week, and I had a very enjoyable evening working on this. Tutors have repeatedly told me over the last two-and-a-bit years that I should allow my own interests and influences to show through my work, and in second year I was criticised for not taking this on board. This poster is a good example of why I sometimes try to keep my personal interests and briefs apart: I'm a huge fan of ancient Roman mythology and their pre-Christian religious system, and considering this brief dealt with two different perspectives: an illustrators and a designers, I decided to work with imagery of Janus.

Janus is the Roman deity, assigned to the idea of beginnings and transitions, and therefore (more literally) doors and gateways, and is able to look both into the future, and the past. He is presented as being two-faced, facing in opposite directions, and I felt that he suitably represented the idea of designer vs illustrator: working together, yet with different paths, but essentially the same aim. I think anyone would agree this is pretty obscure, but I really enjoyed working on it. I kept it simple with plenty of white space, drawing the profiles in a way which might suggest at their being statues: figures which are looked at and appreciated, yet not always understood, much like the idea of designers and illustrators: they're there, but a lot of people wouldn't be able to define exactly what it is they 'do'.

The arrows leading to the door were to suggest two different perspectives, both leading to the same outcome (the door), though in different ways: the illustrators arrows being more illustrative and the designers being more graphic, though Gary and Ian both pointed out they could have done with being done on illustrator in order to make them more graphic, which I agree with; however, I'm an illustrator (supposedly) and I guess that's my personal attempt at 'graphic' (that's my stubborn streak talking again, anything to validate why I avoiding using a computer)!
Last Monday we had tutorials with both Ian and Gary, in order to assess our progress so far this year. Earlier that day I'd written the post 'Hopes, Fears and Opportunities', exploring my misgivings about my work so far and how I felt the last few months have been going. It wasn't the happiest of posts. So, for it to then be followed by a some-what grim tutorial, meant that I went home wanting to bin the last few months work completely.

The worst part was, I'd gone into the tutorial anticipating everything that they told me, and knowing that I'd be told the same thing as the last few years: to try and combine the paper-cutting and the painting. Annoyingly it was suggested that I was avoiding doing this out of stubbornness! But I haven't been! It's simply a complete lack of understanding of what they're expecting of me! I don't think '3D' and really struggle to comprehend what it is they're trying to lead me toward. And yet, at the same time, I do realise what they're attempting to get me to do, and I do appreciate the fact that my paper-cutting is more successful than my paintings, but considering both Ian and Gary have told me to work in a way that I want to, over the last two years, I have stuck to the painting as my preferred method of producing imagery. Super frustrating! We didn't particularly address any specific brief, rather my working methods. Gary had plenty of encouraging things to say about the paper-cutting, but it was more in order to get me to move away from painting.

I went home feeling incredibly deflated, but after plenty of consideration I began to feel a little bit more enthusiastic about the push, especially as it made me really think about the Major Project and how dramatic my [current] idea could be if produced using paper-cuts. However, I don't want to go to any extremes and work entirely out of my comfort zone.

What I got out of the tutorial was a realisation that if my painting work is only mediocre, then I really need to up my game in the Major Project; and while I don't immediately think to work with paper, Gary is right in saying that my work leans towards craft, so it'd be more beneficial to work differently. I need to be more confident / brave and less stubborn (even if I am perhaps being subconsciously stubborn)!

Look, here is a Moth!

This is one of the original moths I cut out for the Lord Whitney brief, which I shall soon put up a nice big blog post about!

Bee Mobile

Here is my finished Bee Mobile. More or less finished anyway. This isn't exactly child friendly, so on it's own it doesn't entirely meet the brief, but with my colouring in sheets and dot-to-dot, both Ian and the ladies from the Museum were very positive, and liked my ideas for making a more interactive 'Do-it-yourself Bee'. I more or less dove right into this when we got the brief, and I think it benefited me most because I did it more for myself than to answer the brief, and I think that's something I've needed to do recently, as I've been feeling a bit low about my work so far. I'll stop being glum soon, promise.

And below is the image that may be used when we run the children workshop in Manchester Museum on the 28th of January, though Ian and I did discuss the possibility of me doing a large shield-like Bee paper-cutting, which I think I'd prefer, but this is a cool lil back-up.

Hopes, Fears and Opportunities.

In September, at the beginning of the academic year, we spent some time reflecting upon what we hoped to get out of our last year in uni: our hopes, fears and the potential opportunities which we would like to take advantage of. Originally this came easily, however, as the last four months have progressed, I've realised that these have changed quite dramatically. I feel this is partly due to the increasing work-load and it's effect upon me, and the way I'm coping with it; like everyone else, I think I'm struggling a bit already. Not good!

Originally I simply hoped that this year would go smoothly; that I'd enjoy myself, and that I'd manage to keep on top of things. At the time of first considering my 'hopes', I had simply wanted to become settled with the support of an agency as a freelance illustrator, working broadly on a mix of editorial work and self-initiated work using Etsy as an outlet for my work, with the possibility of exhibiting. In retrospect this is a typical, blinkered view of how I'd like my career to develop, but with the possibilities being so open, and the number of illustrators out there competing for work, it's incredibly hard to pin down these hopes.

Since starting this year I've also been working part-time, which has taken some getting used to. This has been my first 'proper' part-time job (apart from sweeping up hair) and so it's been the first time that I've had to consciously balance my time effectively since starting uni, having previously been able to focus entirely on uni work. I absolutely love my little job and would be loathe to quit, because I imagine I will most definitely need a 'job-job' once I've graduated, as I honestly don't see myself being swamped by illustrative work, and I think I'd struggle to find another part-time job with such good hours (and which allows me to watch so many films for freeeee). However, I'm still finding myself sometimes prioritising work-stuff when I ought to be focusing on uni briefs; while I have improved on this recently, I am aware that it has affected previous briefs, which I thoroughly regret. Hopefully I'll tackle this and be able to focus, without letting my job distract me during the rest of this year.

At the beginning of each brief that we've been working on so far, I always start off feeling really enthusiastic, with plenty of ideas to work with, and yet I find this feeling wearing off faster and faster with each brief we're given. I've found it difficult to decide with each one, how best to execute it; whether to paint, draw or return to paper-cutting. As I'm constantly having to explain to tutors and others, I've found it really difficult to integrate paper-cutting, with what I consider to be more convenient for most illustration work: painting. I've made numerous attempts to bring the two methods together, but have not been particularly successful.

Painting is definitely more convenient and provides more possibilities for briefs, but I've found that people have a better response to my paper-cuttings than my painted work. I'm aware that my painting technique and ability is limited, but I really enjoy working this way! Similarly I love paper-cutting, and I always have tons of personal plans for paper-cuttings which I'd love to have the time to work on, but I think i consider them to be separate from uni work as I consider these plans more decorative than illustrative, and there-fore they get tucked away in my 'Crafty Personal To-Do List'. In all honesty it drives me crazy! If i could answer every brief with a paper-cutting, I would, but it feels limited. As a result I feel split down the middle, and like my work isn't at all cohesive.

These factors haven't exactly helped the increasingly predominant feeling that I'm doing the wrong thing. Since I was little I've gone through wanting to have various different careers within the creative industry. For a long time it was interior design; then costume designer; set and prop designer; and make-up artist on films. In the last few years I've bounced between wanting to be an Illustrator and a jewellery designer. Because of my family ties with literature (Mum being an English teacher and my Dad having working for maaaany many years in publishing) illustration was my immediate choice, though I've always felt like I wish I'd explored other avenues more. Because it's a bit late to be doing that now, I would like to explore these others interests within my illustration work, so hopefully this thought will inspire my ideas for my major project.

Towards the end of the first year I became attached to the idea of doing a PCGE, as it seemed like a simple solution to the prospect of graduating without a job or any clear direction. So in March I started going to my old high-school, one day a week, and helping out as a [sort of] teaching assisstant in the art department, alongside my old art teacher (which was a teensy bit weird). This was a fantastic opportunity, and despite not being a trainee teacher, I was allowed to set my own little project and commandeer my own little group of students from the Year 9s, as well as helping out with lessons with all year groups, including the GCSE students who were at the time, preparing for their timed exam. I felt incredibly self-conscious doing this, partly because it was my old school and most of the teachers that had taught me were still there, partly because my Mum still teaches there and all the students found it amazing when they finally clocked that Miss Gilbert and Mrs Gilbert were related (it was shocking how long it took some of them to figure this out), and when they did I was treated with an air of awe, which was bizarre (wow! teachers have lives?!).

While this was good experience, and I did feel I was very capable and handled it well, I discovered that secondary school students have changed an awful lot since I was that age, and it was a little disturbing how rude and obnoxious kids were. Now, I loved my art teacher, we got on really well (probably because it was my favorite subject, d'uh), but she was an absolute dragon and scared the *beep* out of us when I was a student there; it was very rare that someone would talk back to her or be rude, and if they were they'd soon regret it! But what I discovered was that the kids in her class had absolutely no regard for this. Some were openly rude and even insulting, incredibly disrespectful, and yet they weren't at all worried about the consequences. Indeed, so many of them were this way that her usual shouty-screamy technique didn't even make them bat an eyelid! This scared me. And it made me very much realise that 'kids today' are basically, a bit horrible.

 What cemented this realisation for me was when, in June, when I returned to the school to paint their set for their summer production for the second year, I had a lot more time to do it in, so was exposed to a lot more rehearsals and pupils which I'd not come into contact with who I hadn't met while helping in the Art Department. Some were lovely and polite and helpful. But some were hideous little toads. And you can't pick and choose the children (/obnoxious pre-teens / teenagers) that you get to teach. And I realised, while it would be a lovely magical solution to go on to do a PGCE, one which I think I wouldn't be too shabby at, it isn't a 'calling' for me, and I think I'd lose any creativity I had (as my art teacher kept hinting at while frequently asking me if I was sure I wanted to go into teaching).

However, since I began writing my dissertation I've been reminded of just how much I enjoy writing, which was something I used to honestly enjoy and used to be yet another thing on my dream job list: journalist (a nice one, not a yukky tabloid one). Throughout my A-Levels I had to do a lot of writing for my History and English Literature classes, but since starting my degree I'd forgotten just how much I love it. And a few weeks ago Gary mentioned looking into M.A. postgraduate degrees, and it's something I've really latched onto in the last few weeks, and to be honest, what has kind of kept me going as I've been going down that rather miserable slope of despair as things have begun to feel too much. I had a look at MMU's prospectus and I'm seriously considering applying to do an M.A. in Visual Culture, as it looks fascinating and would hopefully open up doors which could potentially lead to going into something which would enable me to write [about art]. So for now, the goal is to make it through this exhausting year, continue working where I'm currently employed (and hopefully still will be, come summer) and attempt to illustrate for actual monies(!!!), while trying to save to do an M.A. the following year! Eek!

This has become pretty long winded so I'm going to quite speedily sum up my fears and opportunities. My fears are definitely more related to how well I do on my degree than fears about the future, because I haven't a clue what's going to happen, and I'd rather not anticipate the worse, my head's already pretty full of doom and gloom as it is thanks! Opportunities-wise I'd like, again, to make the most of what the degree has to offer me, particularly when we go down to London for portfolio viewings. I might do another post regarding opportunities, with a more positive outlook. Hopefully.

Creative Review - Book Recommendation

Company of liars is a fantastic novel, set in 14th Century England, and amidst the engulfing onslaught of the plague we meet the story's narrator, gradually becoming swept up by the relationships between the small group of travellers, each with their secrets, and all trying the escape the plague's spread, hoping to find somewhere untouched where they may be accepted, despite their mysterious pasts. 

I absolutely loved this book as it encompasses so many elements of intrigue from a time long forgotten, filled with concepts which are lost upon modern society. It's this sort of novel which I enjoy getting lost in. While the story itself was fascinating, the way it is written is equally important. A book can have a brilliant plot, but executed badly and it does nothing for me. I don't like to be reminded that I'm reading, I prefer writing which is seamless and allows you to be drawn in. 

Filled with relics, folklore and slowly unwinding mysteries, Company of Liars is a hard book to put down, and I found Karen Maitland's writing conjured up powerful imagery of Medieval England.

Creative Review

On Thursday we were due to have our first Creative Review as a group in uni, where we were each to bring in:

- a recent article of interest relating to design or our particular practice
- a book recommendation
- a film recommendation.

I'd been really looking forward to this, as I find it interesting to see what kind of things motivate or inspire others; I suppose it's an aspect of blogging and 'tweeting' which is appealing, being able to get a sneak peak into other people's processes. But, I missed out, having caught the bug going round at the moment. Joy. So, this is just a little post on my recommendations / reviews, and I might go a little crazy and post a few recommendations, as I found it pretty hard to narrow it down!

Two articles, both from Varoom (15), interested me most amongst those that I found.
The first, a piece written by Esther Dudley ( a Lecturer at the University of Plymouth and founding member of Varoom Lab), focuses upon her discovery of a lone fragment of illuminated text: the letter 'H'.


Through her research into illuminated texts, Dudley deduces that, due to the lack of embellishment, application of gold and the fact that it is decoratively patterned, as opposed to illustrated, this 'H'

"...could be described as a utilitarian decorative flourish: very useful for the location of one's place in the score, when sharing the book with a group of choristers in a dimly lit church. It may well have come from a humbler church or abbey with fewer resources for choir book embellishment. It might also indicate that the hymn was composed for a specific feast day or service, in some haste, requiring a speedy response by the illustrator or scribe".

I particularly enjoyed this small article, as it highlighted the fact that, despite an image being removed from its description, the text or source of what it's illustrating, we are still able to interpret its meaning and origins, even if it does take a lot of piecing bits together.

As Dudley mentioned at the beginning of her article, using a quote from William Morris, 'stated in his first public lecture The Lesser Arts':

"...history has become a book from which the pictures have been torn.".

I think this is partly what I love about history, what makes historical imagery and artifacts all the more interesting: the interpretation. 

The other article I chose:

"Lacking Vision - As illustration and design departments in England prepare for an unprecedented withdrawal of government funding, Des McCannon uncovers the deep-rooted cultural prejudices shaping education, and asks whether traditional text-based educational practices are relevant for an image-based culture."

This fascinating examination of the way image-making is used within education today, looks at how it has yet to be fully accepted, despite there being obvious 

'benefits of drawing [being] embedded in the curriculum' and how it 'fires children's imaginations, sparks an interest in learning, inspires learning across the curriculum, illuminates complex information in an accessible way, increases children's visual literacy and confidence, and includes all learners regardless of background, ability and language.'

McCannon emphasises the need for there to be more of a compromise between the existing curriculum and the incorporation of pictorial learning, due to its obvious benefits as a learning aide, as well as making learning itself, interesting to a youth who's culture is predominantly image-based. She states that "this needs to be funded and supported however, and in the current economic climate this seems unlikely.". 

Go read it.

Mmkay, this has become a lengthy post so I think I'll end this one here and pop my book and film recommendations on separate posts, as there's a fair bit I'd like to write about each of those!

Shazaaaammmm! Type that into Google and...oh oh! It's meeee! Cargo's really great, as it allows you to follow other creative types and be followed back. Forever networking,  jumping up and down shouting "look here, look at me!". Many thanks to Father Dearest for helping with all the domainy stuff and performing magical feats with html. I shall soon endeavour to play around with the design/layout etc of my little space. But for now it's £50 worth of motivation to get more work up there.

Itty bitty baby steps...

...back into blogging, after a very long summer. I happily procrastinated away a great deal of time fiddling around with a new twitter background, using the cut-outs I made for the Music brief towards the end of last year. I follow a ridiculous number of illustrators on Twitter, and find it really useful for discovering new work, and hearing about the ins and outs of being an illustrator. Some of which are positive, and some...not so much. But it's good to hear what goes on out there in the real world, within the industry which I'm attempting to pitch myself. Recently it was advised by tutors that when using networking sites to 'advertise' yourself, so to speak, it's best not to use 'inappropriate' language. If I've learnt anything from Twitter it's that Illustrators and Designers can swear more creatively than anyone, so I don't tend to worry about censoring myself too much. Besides, I mostly tweet about my cats and food anyway...

David A Smith - Sign Artist from Danny Cooke on Vimeo.

Found this a while ago, I'm still in awe at his dedication.

Contact with Emma Block

Not long ago I wrote a little feature on the illustrations of soon to be Illustration graduate, Emma Block. She's very kindly replied to a few questions I sent her, in order to learn a little bit more about her as an Illustrator.

- What do you plan to do after leaving university?

My plan is simply to stay in London and to work as a freelance illustrator, which probably isn’t going to be nearly as simple as it sounds.

- Do you prefer to work in an entirely analogue way, or do you employ a mix of analogue and digital processes?

I prefer a mix; my last project has been entirely analogue and it’s been a real challenge to get my head around the fact things can’t be changed in photoshop. If make something too big or make a mistake I’m stuck with it. The advantage is that I’ll be able to show my actually artwork at my degree show.

- You evidently produce a huge amount of work, have you at any point struggled to balance uni work, commissions and your personal work?

All the time, I am hugely grateful for the professional projects I’ve had but sometimes they come at the most inconvenient times. I work on my uni project for a few days then feel guilty about my professional work so work on that for a few days and the cycle continues. It’s hard work but I love what I do.

- How do you go about motivating yourself?

To be honest I have a bigger problem getting myself to stop working. Starting to work in the mornings is difficult though, and I like to take it easy and potter about in my jammies eating yoghurt and reading twitter before the serious work begins. I think it’s important to know how you work. I’m not a morning person so I never really expect myself to do anything before 11am. :)

- Within your work you use rather dusky, pastel colours; do you choose the coloured papers you work with depending on the brief, or are your colour choices intrinsically part of your style?

I think it’s a little of both really. I have a huge horde of coloured, patterned and found papers in my room, and once I have a sketch I’ll sort though my papers looking for a few that feel right. I suppose I’m looking for something that fits my style and makes sense for the brief.

- As an Illustration student (soon to be graduate!), what is your perception of Illustration as an industry? Do you feel it's flourishing as a result of Illustration becoming such a popular degree, or will this simply mean there are fewer jobs to go around and greater competition?

It’s difficult to say really, I’m certainly hoping their jobs out there! I’ve been very lucky so far in that respect. I think there is really, and if you’re good at what you do, hard working, professional and know how to self promote a little bit, I don’t see why you can’t make it.

- And finally, what's your favourite book, and have you / do you plan to produce illustrations for it?

I’ve been lucky enough to illustrate a few of my favourite books as uni projects, including Scott Fitzgerald’s short stories and The Secret Garden. I would love to have a go at Three Men in a Boat.

Emma's recently posted some images of her illustrations for The Secret Garden, visit her blog to see more, they're absolutely gorgeous and perfectly recreate the mood of The Secret Garden, for me!

Emma's Blog
Emma's Website / Portfolio

The Fox & The Bee

Once again it's lovely rainy Summer-time, and I finished uni a week ago. Since then my friend Megan and I have taken the first few itsy bitsy steps to set up our joint craft and illustration extravaGANZA! We've called our little venture 'The Fox & The Bee'; Megan's the fox, I'm the bee! Buzz buzz.

We've wrangled a table at Stockport's Vintage Village fair in June, set up a facebook page (which is the most important part, obviously..), a twitter account and are working on our individual etsy shops! So hopefully we might get some attention and possibly even sell some of our creations!

Little peak at one of my pieces...

I'm extremely pleased to have a project to immerse myself in already, and it's fab to be working on things that have been swimming about at the back of my head for months!

The Fox & The Bee Facebook page

Lindsay Grime

Lindsay Grime is a Glasgow based Illustrator, having graduated from Edinburgh College of Art in 2009, and was kind enough to spare some time to answer a few questions!

 Do you have a particular artist / illustrator / style of working which you draw inspiration from for your own work?

I've never been too directly inspired by one single artist or illustrator – I think that's a slightly dangerous place to make work from as it could end up being rather derivative, and that wouldn't be a nice feeling! However, of course no man (or woman) is an island, so little inspirations in terms of style will feed into my work from the general millieu of what's going on in illustration - some contemporary favourites of mine are Jonny Hannah, Michael Kirkham, Laura Carlin (who's recently started making beautiful ceramics) and Valerio Vidali. I'm also fond of the work of textile designer Ellie Curtis, and the work of artist John Byrne, who recently brought out a fantastic picture book. But in terms of inspiration I'm much more interested in looking at visual sources that don't come from illustrators, like old scraps, 19th-century engravings and books of photographs (or my own photographs from foreign holidays)- I think this is a much richer source of ideas, and helps you avoid the uncomfortable feeling of making work that's too close to something you've seen recently elsewhere.

 - You have a very distinctive style, is there anything that has had an influence upon your style or the content of your work? i.e. Day of the Dead skulls seem to appear here and there within your illustrations...

Yes, I'm quite fond of all that ritualistic/religious imagery - in the latest project I've done, illustrating short stories - one of the tales was set in Haiti and involved some Vodou shapeshifting - so this set me off down a trail investigating Vodou art and religious altars. I was excited to discover photographs of amazing sequined Vodou banners with symbolic animals and patterns and home altars bedecked with dolls, skulls, painted bottles, scarves, crosses, and images of a black Virgin Mary. I'm not too sure why all of this fascinates me so much, I think it's the mix of Catholicism and natural religion that seems so intriguing and mysterious to me, since I have no religious beliefs of my own. Also, it's just visually rich, and ambiguous too.

 - When did you first begin working with ceramics, and what led you to experiment in this way?

It all started in my final year at college when I was struck by a vision of an illustrated blue and white china plate. Years before I can remember seeing hand made cups and saucers in a Dundee gallery (I forget the artist, sadly), decorated with quirky figures in a charmingly naïve style. Then in 2008 I came across lovely pieces in a similar vein when I was on holiday in Berlin. My flat in fourth year also housed some very pleasing white Alessi mugs, simply decorated with amusing blue images. So I suppose all these things were probably simmering away in my subconscious and suddenly came together when I was back at home in the Scottish Borders, in my mum’s studio. She’s a ceramic artist and has a kiln, as well as glazes and extensive know how, which I decided to take advantage of. So I made a set of six blue and white china plates for my degree show (related to a children's pop-up book I'd created) and then went wild making ceramic brooches and earrings to sell in our degree shop illustration shop. It was so exciting getting the first plate out of the kiln. It all snowballed from there and now I show jewellery and plates in galleries and shops in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Newcastle and Margate. I've also had a solo ceramics show in Made in the Shade's Tiny gallery in Glasgow and have another showcase of my ceramic work coming up in Concrete Wardrobe in Edinburgh, where I'll be Maker of the Month this July.

- In one of your recent blog posts you mentioned being unaccustomed to working with Photoshop. Is there a particular reason that you work in more of an analogue way than digital?

Well, I'm not sure, I think it's probably come from the start point of preferring hand-drawn work - I used to occasionally look through those 'Illustration Now' books and just think most of the work was hideous, its soul Photoshopped out of existence! However, I've since come to see that in the right hands, Photoshop is just a tool like any other, and some people achieve brilliant results with it. It certainly speeds up the process, and having different colour options and the ability to edit easily is a bonus... however, I'd never use it exclusively; I think the hand-drawn still needs to feature within it. And for non-commercial artwork, working with coloured pencil and gouache is what suits me best. I think it's important not to lose the ability to make visual decisions without the option to 'apple z' them if you change your mind!
Logo Design, Scottish Borders Council

Do you keep a regular sketchbook?

Yes, I rely heavily on the sketchbook when planning out ideas for all my work - I'm getting through them pretty fast these days! My thought processes are really clear to follow within my sketchbooks - they're a combination of words and pictures recording my approach to creating images.

What are your thoughts on Illustration as an industry at the moment, with Illustration degrees becoming more popular, despite claims that there is less work to be found?

Well, I kind of feel like there's maybe too many people trying to make it nowadays - it's overwhelming the thought of how many illustrators there are in the world, and all the new ones who come along every year hoping to make a career - but it's probably best not to think about that too much, and just concentrate on developing your own work and niche. It is kind of scary thinking about everyone competing for a ever-dwindling number of jobs - but I don't think I've been around long enough to be aware of a decline in commissions... anyway, hopefully these things go in cycles if that is the case.

Do you have a particular process when working? Certain stages of development which you go through?

I always begin by going to my sketchbook and writing down, often in the form of a question, what it is I hope to do, what the brief is, or what my idea is. Then I move to small, rapid sketching of ideas and hone to a certain point until I'm ready to start on the final piece, whether that be illustration or ceramic. In both cases I'd usually map out the drawing in pencil before moving in with paint...

What would be your dream commission?

I've thought about this before and I think it would probably be to decorate the entire interior and exterior of a bohemian café, with a combination of mural and painted ceramics tiled in to the wall. That would be so much fun - and I like the thought of it being permanent and also housing life and conversation. The other thing I'd like someone to commission would be a solo exhibition of handmade paper and cardboard painted objects, like little houses, boats, masks and the like. 


So much about Lindsay's work interests me, and I found it particularly interesting reading her responses and discovering more about her inspirations. I love that her illustrations have expanded beyond the 'orthodox', and that she has gone on to create her own canvases for her illustrations with her beautiful ceramic pieces. I'm very interested in 'illustrated jewellery' and seeing illustrations becoming something else entirely, which is something I'm attempting to experiment with at the moment, in my own way. 

What's wonderful about Lindsay's work is that her style of drawing remains just as unique when it's applied to ceramics, as on paper; though there are similarities between her work and others which makes her one of my favourite illustrators. She has, like Jane ray, a way of incorporating decorative elements within her images, and deals with imagery and content which similarly inspires me. 

Like her ceramics, Lindsay's editorial work keeps her style, and yet becomes evidently more refined, showing a great ability to create diverse work. It's also nice to see that Lindsay doesn't rely heavily on what other illustrators produce to inspire her work, having her own interests, rather than relying upon illustration trends to feed her ideas.

I look forward to seeing Lindsay Grime's future work and more of her amazing ceramics!
All images have been used with permission, courtesy of Lindsay Grime.


Lindsay Grime's Website
Lindsay's Blog
And Shop!

An article from Illustrator's Partnership of America

A Man of Unlimited Income

by Gerald Rogers
May 2001

I love my job. To me, this is the beautiful thing about being a freelance illustrator. I am a man of unlimited income! It's true. For better or for worse, I have absolutely no idea how much money I will make next month. To some, that is an unnerving concept, but for me — that's the point of the game.

There are reasons why we chose to be illustrators. We are a breed of creators, problem-solvers, and in general, visually-obsessed people. We enjoy being able to recreate the world we see in our own way, with our own hands. As kids we loved the smell of crayons, the taste of pastels, and the feel of finger-paints as we oozed them across the paper. As adults, we still do. We love the process of watching a canvas be filled with the strokes of our brushes. To us this is power.

We also love being able to explore for ourselves the roads that lead to our future and the opportunity to define our own success. As an illustrator, there are no artificial boundaries to what I can create or how much I can earn. I truly am a man of unlimited income.

These are the things that lead me to leap into the world of freelance illustration when I graduated from BYU two years ago. I knew that with illustration, anything was possible. I thrive on the idea of a career that gives me endless opportunities to develop as my art and the world around me change. For me, it's the idea of not knowing what lies around the turn that makes me keep walking. In front of me is nothing but a beautiful blank horizon, like a fresh, gleaming white canvas waiting to be filled. Life runs on change, it is our only constant. As freelancers we must always be capable of responding to that change.

Among some, there is a deeply imbedded skepticism regarding the present and future health of our industry. I understand that there are dangers, and enemies, and endless uncertainties that face us as illustrators. Illustration is a much different world than it was even five or ten years ago. But despite those differences, I am among those who believe that there are more opportunities for illustrators than ever before. More money is available, and more outlets for our talents are emerging. But to find them, we first must understand the limitless potential of the work that we create.

We need to seek and be open to new opportunities. There is a need for illustration in places beyond just magazines, books and advertising. The entire world is filled with the creations of illustrators, artists and designers. There are no limits to where our work can be sold. In illustration, one road will often lead to another that we had never expected. New doors are always there if we keep our minds open enough to find them.

In my brief career, I've been amazed at the variety of opportunities I've had. In addition to the standard editorial and advertising work, I've found myself designing a hot air balloon, creating murals for a restaurant, and developing artwork for neckties. I've created posters for the home decor market, published several children's books, and done character design for an e-learning website. Perhaps it is because it's still early in my career that the portfolio of work that I've done is so eclectic, but to me that is indicative of the opportunities which lie waiting for all of us.

As illustrators our greatest success will come as we develop a unique style and create our own niche in the market. Having a niche, however, does not prevent us from seeking new outlets for our talents. For example, I know of an illustrator whose work led him to also explore photography and then film, and soon he found himself art directing music videos. Another illustrator found his work was suitable to a niche in the apparel industry and was able to form a lucrative business in that market. Yet another illustrator who was doing editorial work for years found an opportunity to develop characters and do layouts for a film studio on a freelance basis. There are thousands of similar examples. To grasp more of our unlimited income we must learn to reach beyond the box of conventional illustration. We need to view ourselves as more than just illustrators, but as visual creatives. We must never be too timid to explore.

Beyond this, we can also consider the potentials of having residual income from our work. It is a beautiful concept that I can create something today and be paid for it for months or years to come. This includes, of course, both working on a royalties basis and capitalizing on the re-use of images as stock. In both instances, if we are careful in our protection of the rights and uses of our images, they will continue to work for us long after we create them.

One example of this lies in the gift and novelty market. I know of a woman who created an illustration for a magazine then sold it for use as a greeting card. In turn she sold the image to make paper plates and napkins, and then with a slight modification also sold rights to another company who created a balloon, and so on. Each time, on a royalty basis with an advance, limiting the usage rights for the companies producing her work, and thus maximizing the ability to earn more by selling other rights in other markets. In the end, she made over $10,000 on an assignment that originally only paid $800.

Continuing revenue from our work is also possible as we sell our old images as stock. I have no interest in delving into the issues of stock and stock houses, nor do I think I need to because of the debate that it has undergone for years. If nothing else this debate has brought to our awareness that even our old work has a residual value and potential for us. Hopefully, the IPA will succeed in it's efforts to create an artist friendly resource for marketing our previously created work.

There are so many possibilities that it would overwhelm both you and me to list them all. Contrary to the perception of some, illustration is not a dying industry. In my opinion, it's not even sick. It's just changing. Perhaps it's a lot different than we would want it to be, but the opportunities to succeed are more prevalent than ever. The world will always need creative people. And hopefully, we will always be there to fill that need. In doing so, why not claim our unlimited income.

An extremely positive outlook on the Illustration industry, by Gerald Rogers.

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