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.