Monica

As is usual with this blog my posts have been few and far between, proving that my confidence in my ability and interest in blogging to increase, post-university, was complete rubbish. Is there any point in me reassuring myself that I WILL get into it and get loads done this week? ...I won't hold my breath. But I do have plenty to post about.

However, before I get into updating this blog with the terrors of post-uni life (or not, depending on my determination / whether I get distracted by that book / papercutting / other blog / search for pizza), I'd like to do a little post about my cat Monica.



I was ten when I managed to finally convince my parents to let us get a cat, and when we reached the animal rescue centre Monica was in a little cage with another cat. They were both gorgeous, but I decided I wanted a black cat more than a tabby, so I was over the moon when we were told that, as they were brother and sister and only five weeks old, they would prefer that they were given a home together. And so Ross and Monica came home with us (originally Jimmy and Kaiya, my recent discovery of Friends meant they absolutely had to be re-named).

It's twelve years later and Monica has become my little shadow and the most beautiful, deeply loyal and  cuddily cat. She rarely leaves the garden, unlike Ross who likes to go prowling, and she prefers to curl up on my bed, and I don't think of her as a cat: she's very much a person. However, the last few months have been spent feeding her tablets as she became hyperthyroidic, something very common and long winded in cats, which is treatable with tablets, though it is somewhat traumatic for her and unpleasant for me to have to inflict on her twice a day. Despite the prospect of the tablets managing the symptoms of an overactive thyroid, she got very thin and weak and in the last week or two, much more distant and constantly panting, struggling to get very far without a break.

On Wednesday we took her to the vets, who arranged for us to come in the next day to have some blood taken from her and see if we could change the dosage she was being given. The trip to the vets itself left her extremely distressed, and on Thursday, after having blood taken she became so distressed that she had to be put in an oxygen tent in order to breathe as fluid had built up around her heart and lungs; we're not sure whether it was the side effects of the tablets or the hyperthyroidism that took it's toll on her heart, but it was agreed that her quality of life had obviously deteriorated massively.

I've never had to make such a heartbreaking decision and I think I'm going to hate myself for a while, but it was the best decision for her, and we brought her home and made a lovely little spot for her in the garden. The house feels entirely different without Monica, and it's only a couple of days later but I'm still struggling, and it's even harder seeing Ross looking for her.

I'm sure there are people out there who might think it's silly to be so utterly devastated by the loss of a pet, but I imagine they're heartless arses, so it's okay. Now, picture time. If you don't like it, sod off.




X

Dead little ditty. 

Breathe

Three years have finally come to an end, culminating in a huge (inevitable) amount of stress, a lot of alcohol and a bout of flu, but it's all over! I finished putting up most of my exhibition today, so the pressure is now more or less off, and it feels fantastic. I've rediscovered early nights and reading, and couldn't be happier. Saying that, I'm dreading results; I think when it comes down to it I just didn't tick enough boxes. I'd be super happy to pass with honours and get a 2:2, but I'm trying not to think about it too much.

Since the final hand in date I've been keeping myself busy! Paper-cutting still feels new to me and I suppose I'm a little worried that if I don't keep it up, that lovely flow that i've discovered with my work may just disappear. So, I've done a couple of pieces which I've been hankering to do for a while. I've become one of those people addicted to Instagram, but I don't regret it. The more people that see my work the better, surely, so what's wrong with that? And the occasional cat picture... I've been quite successful on the social networking front, and Instagram's just another outlet, and I've found it's been a fantastic source of inspiration and quite the ego boost. I've had a fair amount of interest in my paper-cuttings and made some  connections with others who work with paper, swapping scalpel recommendations and what-not! Here are a few bits and pieces I've been working on over the last two weeks or so...



This one's based upon the Russian story of Baba Yaga, and I shaped her into a Matryoshka doll shape to keep with the Russian feel. It's also fitting, as I always call Matryoshka dolls Babushka dolls, but that means 'old woman' and isn't their correct name, but Baba Yaga is definitely a Babushka.



This cutting got the best response of anything I've shared on Instagram yet! I suppose with the rise of craft and the 'vintage' aesthetic, something so simple as a pair of stork scissors was bound to be a bit of a winner. All freehand, and no planning. Paper-cutting has become easier than picking up a pencil these days, I love that cutting away creates something! If that even makes sense!


I bought a soldering iron / pyrography iron (?) / general burny - hot thing and tried my hand at pyrography. For a first go it's not too bad I guess, and I didn't set anything on fire! Cute and fun to do, but I don't imagine it'll make an appearance in the old portfolio!


And last but not least, two pieces I knocked out to frame my frames in my exhibition space! It'll be clearer when I get round to posting pictures of the finished space!

I've got a couple of exciting projects to be cracking on with, as well as just getting all the things I've been wanting to work on all semester out of my system! I don't know whether my choice of Final Major Project will have done so well getting me marks, but it's motivated me so much, and led me to discover a niche, filled by people who work with similar subject matter and I'm constantly coming up with new things I want to cut! But for now it's 10pm and I think I prefer 10pm bedtimes to angsty 2 am ones!

More soon.

Self-Evaluation

The last few months have been rather intense, however I feel as if I've really found a way of working that could become successful. Before this brief I had been very self-conscious of my work, and forever feeling displeased with what I'd created, knowing that it didn't reach the standards it ought to be. 


Though there was somewhat of a slow start to the FMP, it picked up dramatically after our trip to London and I feel I got into a real flow; sitting down and working has felt exciting again. Despite this, I am acutely aware that I've let myself down again with this brief. I've been so wrapped up in the excitement of finding a new style, that I have neglected areas which would boost my marks. A sketchbook for example. I haven't worked in one! There has been little to no sketching or planning with each paper-cutting as I've literally just put scalpel to paper, without drawing anything out and without detailing what i'm going to do. Initially with each piece I start with a silhouette and work inwards, working off the quality of the silhouette. In some ways I'm actually quite proud of this ability to create some of the pieces that I have, as I've been going along, but it's not going to tick all those boxes is it!? 


And yet, I know that I've spent all my time on this brief. But there's that niggling feeling that, because I haven't got a sketchbook to prove it, it's going to look like I haven't! While paper-cutting time seems to pass quite quickly, because I'm enjoying myself, but I'll look up and several hours have gone by. It is my discovery of this new style which has dictated the work. I become much more interested in churning out work, which, though aesthetically pleasing, isn't necessarily doing me any favours in the development of an idea. 


Plus, I spent more time on continually paper-cutting, than I did on the development of my little book; I got far to engrossed in the process, as opposed to the presentation of the work, and as a result I'm not happy with it, but it's my own fault! I'm painfully aware of this, and honestly, haven't high hopes for good marks from this brief. Despite this, I'm just so motivated to explore more of what I can produce in this way, that I'm not going to beat myself up about it too much. The degree is now, more or less over; but low marks and an unorthodox way of working doesn't mean I'm going to fail with regards to going out to find illustration work. It's all development, and I know now that if I want to produce better, then surely more development will secure that, as I'm only going to improve from here.


I am happy though that I succeeded in doing the headdress, as it's something which i've been wanting to do for a long time, and I'd like to attempt to develop this side of my work, expanded into 3d pieces.


I've got so many plans for the exhibition, as that's what's going to be important, as that's what people will see; there's not going to be a huge number painted over my degree show, highlighting the exact mark I got, so I need to make sure that the work I put up and the way I present it, distracts from any disappointing numbers!

Hopes, Fears and Opportunities (2)

So, since my first Hopes, Fears and Opportunities post, which I wrote towards the end of the last module, pretty much every aspect that I addressed then, has done a complete U-turn. Last semester I was struggling a great deal to combine two ways of working, as well as struggling with accepting that one way was considerably stronger than the other, despite encouragement from both Ian and Gary to work more with paper.


It took an ill timed tutorial to drill it into my skull. I had seen the conversation coming, and anticipated the lack of enthusiasm for most of my work, though it didn't make hearing it any more comfortable. However, considering how much I'd enjoyed producing my Bee mobile, I essentially threw myself into focusing on the paper-cutting. As a result, I fear that that is exactly what my Final Major Project has become. I suppose instead of exploring my subject, I've ended up exploring what I can achieve with the cuttings. Despite some really amazing responses from the tutors (which made be so happy), I don't feel as if the project has seen much illustrating going on. I've hugely enjoyed working on the project, and done some work which I'm really very proud of, but on its own. When it's come to compiling a book I've absolutely hated it. And no matter what, the cuttings just don't look as striking scanned in and edited, as when they do on their own. So I'm fairly certain that's not going to boost my marks.


As in my first 'Hopes...' reflection, I'm still not entirely sure that Illustration is for me, and this has been reinforced by my lack of narrative within the FMP. The cuttings themselves have had great receptions, but I haven't made them with a narrative in mind, so they feel a little forced when put in the context of a book, but I'm not sure they'd have worked even if I had! I think this year, as we've essentially had free reign on our subject matter, I haven't produced anything with a solid narrative, attaching a great deal of pressure to the title 'illustrator'.


However, after my portfolio viewing with Art Director Peter Dyer, at Serpent's Tail while we were in London, I do feel my work could slot in quite neatly into the book cover department, as I feel i'm capable of producing a single image which encompasses a theme or idea which represents the whole.


Before we went down to London, I took the opportunity to hand in my notice at work, as I was well aware that I wasn't at all balancing my time during the previous module, and I wanted to be able to focus entirely on my FMP. It became clear, especially during the Easter holiday, that this was exactly the right thing to do as my productivity rose tremendously, and Gary was extremely pleased with the results. Sadly though, being able to focus entirely on producing work isn't going to be possible after I finish. 


Since last year I've been going back and forth and back some more over the idea of a PGCE, and I suppose it's something that could still be in the future, but it's not something I'm interested in yet. I'd like to have time to create work and hunt down commissions, rather than focusing on other peoples production of work, and I'd like to prove (if only to myself) that I am capable of doing so, regardless of whether this means getting commissions or becoming successful selling work online, etc. But of course, the idea of just stepping out of the degree and into, well, nothingness, is scary; the idea of going back to my part time job renting dvds and making it full time wasn't exactly appealing either, as I can see how easy it would be to just get sucked into doing that forever. I'm obviously not going to be able to find immediate success freelancing, and I don't imagine i'd miraculously find a full time creative job, so I set out with the intention of finding something that I'd still find stimulating and satisfying, while still allowing me to [attempt to] illustrate.


Luckily that wasn't exactly too hard. My mum had mentioned when I first went back to my old school, to assist in the art department, that a lot of the Learning Support department's staff were my age, and graduates without teaching qualifications, but looking to move onto PGCEs. Several of those staff members are leaving this year as they'll be going on to do their PGCEs in September, leaving the department short staffed, so I asked whether they'd have a place for me. Thankfully they were very pleased to have me, and so I've managed to get a contract for next year, as a learning support assistant, assisting the English department. I went in and shadowed the young gent who's currently in the position, and really enjoyed myself. In fact I can't wait, it'll actually be amazing to do something different!


I'm pleased that I managed to set things in motion so early in the year, as it's made me feel much more secure knowing that it's not something I'm going to have to try to organise post-deadline. It's there. It's something I know I'm going get enjoyment from; I know that I'm going to come home tired, but much more satisfied than if I was stuck in a crap job that didn't even remotely interest me. Plus, it's that bit more experience that may make getting onto a PGCE a bit easier, should that be the path I eventually take. Though who knows. If anyone would like to give me a couple of dozen thousand pounds I'd rather like to go do Jewellery and Silversmithing at Sheffield Hallam. No? Fair enough.


While the job I have lined up may not be a creative one, I'm so very much looking forward to it. I'm looking forward to using my brain differently! I have felt like my ideas have been kind of clouded throughout the entire degree, indeed since starting, I've stopped working in a sketchbook regularly, and honestly, I only get really enthusiastic about my non-uni related projects, not that I have had time to do any. The degree has been all encompassing, and I'm so tired of that. I'm looking forward to looking forward to creating and making! Really appreciating the time that I get to do so, and making sure that I do, rather than wishing I didn't have to. I have no fear that, perhaps after a teensy break, I will make the most of my available time to illustrate, and I can feel all that motivation bubbling under the surface of all the pressures of the degree and the feeling of being constantly judged on every. single. thing. I can't wait to just do my own thing (that's that stubborn whiney Laura talking again, sorry).


I have made some amazing friends during the course of the degree, and I will undoubtedly miss the fun of the studio environment, though for social reasons, rather than how the environment affects my production. I don't get nearly as much done in the studio as I do at home. I'm forever being drawn out of my head, into the external goings on, and I just can't work like that. I have heaps of fun, and I always come home happy. But unproductive. I suppose that will make the transition from working in a studio to working at home easier, as I won't miss it in the sense that it improves my work. I will greatly miss seeing good friends so frequently, and I sincerely hope I won't do what i've done with other friends from college and high school, and lose touch, especially as it's been lovely having a group of creative - minded friends who enjoy talking about artsy things.


As soon as the degree work is handed in and I've had a week of catching up on sleep, I'm planning on setting up an Etsy shop, as since I got my super precious Iphone (yes, I've become one of those people, believe me, I'm not proud) and Instagram, I've had a few people contacting me asking if I'm selling the work I've been posting, so I think I need to make the most of such a good response and set up that outlet. As well as that I'm looking forward to getting a few bits and pieces which will help with my little jewellery making schemes ( which I've rabbited on about in previous posts) and we'll see if I can apply more of my work into that context.


I'm also determined, considering I'll be working full-time, to find an agent before Christmas, so that there will be someone out there, helping me with the promotional stuff etc. Whether I'll succeed in knabbing one, I don't know, but it's something I'd like to aim towards, as it'll keep me motivated to improve my work, to make it more appealing to an agency. 


I'll be doing my best to make the most of any opportunities that come my way, and hopefully make a few on my own. I can't say I'm particularly fearful of anything. In the big picture I think I'm just going to take things as they come, and try not to put too much pressure on myself with the label of 'Illustrator', because I don't know if that's what I am yet. Doing a degree in Illustration certainly doesn't magically make me one, and I think it's going to take a good few years of blood, sweat and tears before I'll feel comfortable calling myself an illustrator. Things like contracts and invoices and all the chaotic financial stuff will stress me out if and when they arise, if and when I get work! Until then I see no point in stressing about things like that when I haven't even come across them yet; you learn as you go, and nothing's as hard as it seems. Plus I'm sick to death of panicking and getting stress heartburn over deadlines and marks...which i'm paying for. 


I think I'm past worrying about marks, because my marks in uni haven't dictated how people recieve my work; that's not what they're seeing. They either like it or they don't! I'm aware that I haven't dotted all my i's and crossed all my t's over the last three years, and that my marks are incredibly average, but I know that I have put all my time and effort into my work, and if that's still not getting me a first, then what the hell is the point in angsting over it! I was talking to my dad the other day about the fact that I was worried that I wasn't more stressed, and I couldn't work out why! But I've realised that I've put as much of myself as I can into the work that i've done this project, and yet I know that it still won't be good enough to achieve a first; a 2:1 would be lovely too, but I'm honestly not holding my breath. And that realisation, that it's out of my control has been quite liberating


1888+ words. Still reading? Well done and commiserations if you are. 

Portfolio Visit with Peter Dyer at Serpent's Tail.

On the last day of our trip down to London we headed over to Serpent's Tail, an independent publishing house, set up about twenty five years ago. It prides itself on committing to publishing works which have otherwise being neglected, rejected or shunned by mainstream publishers, and it's commitment has paid off as it's become very successful, even gaining notoriety for their choice to publish books such as We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver.

On arriving we were met by Niamh Murray who talked to us about what Serpent's Tail looks for in an illustrator and how a decision is made, based on the appeal of the cover to markets such as Amazon, who rely heavily upon the success of their online sales and therefore need to ensure that the products they're selling are presented well; so, for example, an illustration needs to be able to stand out as a thumbnail on an online site. With her Niamh had varies copies of books which Serpent's Tail had published, giving us an idea of the kind of artwork they tended to go for, as well as the range of paperbacks they printed, some being embossed or textured. Like we've heard so many times, Niamh also spoke about the importance of self promotion, and that email was essentially best, as if you're constantly receiving promotional packages, some are bound to end up the bin, and the illustrator therefore forgotten.

We were then introduced to Peter Dyer, the in house Art Director, who kindly offered to see us individually in order to review our portfolios. I was the last one to be seen but it turned out really well. Rather than just throwing my portfolio at him and leaving him to it, or babbling on about every single page, I asked if they often had students coming through, and we had quite a nice conversation as he started to look through my work. Like my other portfolio visits he remarked upon the difference between the quality of my paintings and the quality of my papercuts; I mentioned that this was the direction I had recently begun to move in and with probably stick with, and he agreed that it was a good decision, but that perhaps I shouldn't entirely rule out my paintings, as I had some lovely detail in them. We came to my Little White Lies cover for Black Swan and he mentioned that he really liked it, and was surprised to hear that my tutors had very much not liked it; he felt it conveyed the atmosphere behind the film very well and that he liked some of the ideas I was working with throughout my portfolio, and that I was 'there' with the papercuttings, perhaps now they just needed to be presented more in context. Peter said that it's be good to see some of my future work, and to keep in touch.

I was so pleased with Peter Dyer's response to my work, as well as Niamh's when I told her the subject of my FMP.

Anderson M Studios and DDB




Just a couple of stills from the idents for Biosphere Connections for Star Alliance, which  were created in collaboration with Anderson M Studios, showing just what can be done with two Star Alliance plane tickets. Fantastic to see paper-work amongst DDB's collection of work. To watch the choice of idents click through here.

DDB Appointment

Within an hour or so of landing in London, myself, Holly, Mil and Rosie we were making our way to a group appointment at DDB advertising agency, which Jo had kindly set up for us. Because of our train times and hostel check-in we were running a little late and so I went into ratty-anxiety mode, completely unnecessarily as it turned out; as we arrived and were led into a meeting room where Jo and others were already waiting for Daniel Moorey to come and speak to us.


Daniel Moorey is Head of Art Buying Buying at DDB, and inevitably had an extensive collection of names of not only illustrators, but photographers, graphic designers and who know what else in his bookmarks folder which he kindly showed us. Nothing like a gigantic list of names to hit home just how inconsequential you are in the big wide world of illustration! Daniel was, however, lovely and gave a really comprehensive presentation, breaking down the commissioning of an illustrator or designer within their environment. He gave us various examples of DDB's top clients: Volkswagen, Marmite, Virgin Media etc, and how the agency related to their clients and found what they were looking for for their advertisement.


He spoke in detail about every aspect of dealing with the illustrators they commission and what he stressed in particular, was the way in which illustrators wanting work ought to present themselves when contacting agencies such as DDB. Evidently he receives an excessive number of emails from illustrators wanting to get his attention; Daniel stressed the importance of keeping your email short and sweet and not overloading the page with all of your information in one big lump; similarly he stressed the importance of a website which someone in his position could quickly and easily click through, as he's a busy person and doesn't necessarily have the time to wait around for a swish website with fade-ins and animated bit and bobs to load. 


I really appreciated hearing what he had to say as I'd yet to get the sense of how an agency such as DDB worked, having not really considered my work in the context of an advert before. As Daniel ran us through his presentation he did point out that while photographers were often the first port of call for advertisers, illustration was making it's comeback into the world of advertising and becoming more interesting. By the sounds of it he did seem to prefer his experiences of working with illustrators, though that could be, as he pointed out, because they are much less expensive and demanding than photographers, though he said that it wouldn't do any harm for illustrators to adopt some of the assertiveness of photographers!


Sitting within this professional environment, around a large table, behind a glass wall, in such a busy and successful company, it really did put the degree in context, and it was amazing to be outside of the rather closeted little world I'm so used to being tucked up in in uni. I felt more motivated on this career path than ever before.

Londinium

The run up to our trip down to London was somewhat fraught, especially as we're now several weeks into our Final Major Project and everyone's beginning to feel the pace picking up! I'd been begrudging the visit a little, as it collided with a comfortable flow which I've just settled in to, nevermind the costs; considering I handed my notice in at work the other week, I 've been feeling a teensy bit tense about how much it drained my savings, though it definitely turned out to be worth it.


Many of us were unsuccessful in our hunt for portfolio viewings, partly because the timing of the trip clashed with the Bologna Book Fair, and, in my case, because I left it until the last minute to even consider where I'd want to get a viewing. Our itinerary was pretty packed though, and I got increasingly excited (but mostly nervous) about actually putting things into motion.


Despite my lack of pre-arranged visits, I made sure to update my portfolio, including some of my recent work created as part of the FMP, and I actually downsized from and A3 to an A4 portfolio, which I feel my work sits much better in. The intricacy of my paper cutting is lost when scanned in and presented at a larger scale, and I feel so much more confident with them at A4. Perhaps if I work on anything on a larger scale, then maybe I  will consider A3, but for now, it's looking lovely and snug.











In three days we managed to pack in heaps, and while keeping on track with the 'business' side of things, we also had a blast. And I definitely spent far too much money, with a little bit of encouragement from Jo! She agreed that I needed this ring, and I was too weak to resist...






I regret nothing.

Thumbtack Press

A good few months have gone by since my last blog post, though they've been an extremely productive few months indeed! So, prepare for a barrage of posts, there's an awful lot for me to catch up on!

Last week I was contacted by the curator and owner of Thumbtack Press, Barry Friedland, as he'd come across my feature and interview with Olaf Hajek. He was kind enough to inform me that Thumbtack Press had recently acquired Olaf Hajek as one of their many prolific, contemporary artists and illustrators selling their prints through the site. As a huge fan of Olaf Hajek's work (though having previously thought I couldn't quite afford his prints), I was happy to find that through Thumbtack Press I could buy a very reasonably prints of Hajek's work at around £12.75 or $19.99!

Natureman 2 - Olaf Hajek


They provide open-edition prints, with no limit on availability, making them much more accessible, particularly for art lovers, like myself, who may not quite have the funds to match their ever-growing collection. Thumbtack Press' collection of lobrow and contemporary artists and illustrators has been carefully curated and the site recently refurbished, providing a refreshing combination of features and functionality, making it easier to discover new artists and their artwork. This, in particular appeals to me as the useful 'Randomizer' feature has introduced me to loads of new work, which I'd otherwise have never come across! Plus, they're always expanding, adding new artists to the site; with most artists comes a biography and links to their websites and any blogs or additional information they have out on the web, which, as an Illustration student, is additionally useful, providing greater insight into their work.

Amazing Discoveries - Quincy Sutton


I'm currently saving up for a trip to London, but it's nice to know that there will still be plenty of Olaf Hajek's prints available on Thumbtack Press when I've got some money to spare! 


It's definitely worth a look: 


http://www.thumbtackpress.com/


Image source: Thumbtack Press

FMP Development

The first few weeks of the Final Major Project feel like they've gone incredibly slowly! Considering that I'm moving more in the direction of paper-cutting, as opposed to painting or drawing, I'm still adjusting to the change. I've found that I'm diving straight into cuttings, rather than sketching out ideas first, though not unsuccessfully. A lot of my plans for the project are circulating in my head, and when I've tried to plan things out in a sketchbook it's made then executing a paper-cutting a little over-wrought. I'm much happier 'sketching', as it were, with a scalpel and working out the details as I go along. 






Currently I'm just fiddling around with a few small pieces, as well as attempting sketchbook work, all of which is to be translated onto 'aged' pages, which i've begun to tea-stain, as I'd like the book to be tactile, the focus being centred however, on the paper-cuttings. So many problems could arise from this decision, I suppose, but I'm going to stick with it for now. 

With the trip to London looming, it does feel as if everyone's kind of putting off getting too stuck in, especially as there are things such as updating portfolios to think about, not to mention attempting to get portfolio visits. My head's a little bit all over the place. I am admittedly loving this new way of working. I may have dug my heels in a bit (a lot) at first about Gary and Ian's insistence that I  move towards the cutting, but I feel so much more confident doing it, and I'm rather loving the challenge of something new. Fingers crossed I still feel this way in a couple of months!

Business Cards



Last week I sent off to have five designs printed as business cards by Moo.com, in preparation for the upcoming pootle down to London. I've stubbornly stuck with my blog and website title image; the Fortuna piece from last module; a cutting which I've recently finished for the fmp, and inverted, as it looks rather interesting as a white cutting against black; and the stars which were leftover from another recent piece, which I felt worked quite nicely as an ambiguous, subtle image. They may not get given out much, but I'm fond of them; they're lovely and smooth to the touch.


I also decided to downsize to an A4 portfolio, as opposed to my A3 one. My old work looks dreadful on such a large scale, as it was produced on a small one! And as I'm not keen on it anyway, I like it even less when it's more 'in your face'! I think both my old and new work looks much cleaner and professional printed within an A4 boundary, and I'm already much more confident in the appearance of my portfolio at this size. Plus the inside's purple.








Over and out.

FMP Visual Research

Here's a link to the Tumblr i've been keeping since January, collecting inspirational imagery linking to my Final Major Project:


http://lauragilbertresearch.tumblr.com/archive


It had originally been to collect research imagery for my last personal project, but I've found it really useful to collect imagery all in one place.


Portfolio Visit with Wendy J. Levy



Wendy J Levy's contemporary art gallery has, in a way, influenced my interest in art for quite a long time now; having been opened in 2000, very close to where I live, it's been somewhere that I've passed frequently and regularly looked in. When it first opened it seemed incredibly exciting to ten year old me, to have an art gallery so near by, especially as art was my favourite subject. Back then I suppose my awareness of the art world went as far as thinking that if you made images, then you were simply an artist; the borders between fine artist, illustrator, designer etc hadn't solidified yet, nor had I come close to deciding what on earth it was I wanted to draw / paint / create.


With this in mind, and my current state of limbo concerning my ability to actually illustrate, I thought that I'd contact the gallery owner and curator, Wendy Levy, to see if she'd have a look at my portfolio, despite her dealings being mainly within the contemporary art scene.  Considering the way of illustration at the moment, I've noticed, while stalking other illustrators on the big wide web, that many do initiate or get offered the experience of exhibiting their work, and it's a good way to generate exposure for their work, as well as an opportunity to make sales. It seemed then, that it'd be worth getting a gallery curator's opinion of my work, so that I may consider how best to edit my portfolio to fit this context.


Ms Levy kindly offered her time and I met her and her gallery assistant, Molly, in the gallery space. I was early, which left me the chance to have a look at the current work on display, while Ms. Levy finished a meeting with two very American Americans, who sounded like they had cash to splash (a look on the gallery's website before my visit and I found a landscape painting going for £14,000. Eep). The work on display, while beautiful, was, as anticipated, very different to what I had to show in my portfolio (and much better), but the idea was to get the opinion from someone well established within the art world, not to compare fine art vs. illustration, so I tried not to worry too much.


The FMP's still not quite at the stage where I have anything that I'm particularly confident enough to include in my portfolio, so my A3 portfolio was as it was at the end of the last module, though I'd made a point of putting my paper-cuttings from the Insect brief, at the forefront, emphasising that this was where I'm heading.


Wendy was really welcoming and looked back and forth through my portfolio, pointing out aspects of work that she liked. While she had nothing bad to say, I appreciated her honesty in regard to the weakness of my watercolour and gouache paintings; even more so, I appreciated her enthusiasm when she came across the paper-cuttings. She remarked that while many people could produce paintings of the same quality as mine, there were far fewer people producing quality paper-cutting. Though Ms. Levy evidently preferred the cuttings, she did mention she liked my use of pattern within my paintings, something which I am attempting to incorporate into my new way of working.


She mentioned briefly that she was one of the judges for Mr. Thomas' Chophouse competition, something that has been mentioned in passing to us at uni, and that i've been aware some people from last year entered, though I'm not entirely sure whether they entered independently or with uni. Nevertheless Ms. Levy suggested that I should submit my paper-cutting work, as she felt it would stand out! 


We then discussed the possibility of work experience as an assistant at the gallery, for one or two days a week for an extended period! I said that I was definitely interested but needed to consider it, as I'm already juggling uni work and my part-time job. The meeting ended on a high and I came away feeling like I'm on the right track, and should once again, bow down to the wisdom of the tutors, and stop being so bloody stubborn, because I'm obviously doing something right with the cuttings. Sadly, considering the difficulties of timing and logistics, I can't accept the offer of gallery experience, though I really wish it was possible, as I think I'd really enjoy it, as well as it looking quite swish on my c.v. Oh well, these things come and go. Overall, I really appreciated Wendy Levy's input and the fact that she made time to meet with me.





Portfolio Visit - Desdemona McCannon

I first came across Desdemona McCannon while writing a creative review looking at an article in Varoom  about a fragment of illuminated text which had caught her attention because of its lack of ornamentation. I admired the amount of research that had been done in order to discover more about this small piece, and later I was able to hear her speak at the Illustration and Writing symposium which herself and colleagues set up as part of the Illustration Research network, of which Desdemona McCannon is the founding member.

McCannon is not only a working illustrator, but an academic, having her writings on various cultural aspects of illustration published, as well as lecturing at Glyndwr University and MMU. I suppose her academic qualifications, as well as the subject of her talk at the symposium: Gnosis in Illustration, is what interested me, and I thought it might be worth asking her opinion of my portfolio, as she is in a good position to give me useful advice, particularly considering her role as lecturer on two illustration degree courses!

After emailing her, expressing my interest in meeting her for a portfolio viewing, I was pleased that she replied saying she was happy to do so. We met at the Holden Gallery Cafe and chatted a little about the symposium before turning our attention to my portfolio. I gave a brief description of the purpose and reason for each piece, and she expressed an interest in my inspiration for certain pieces such as the Craig Oldham poster, where I used quite an obscure concept but managed to make it easy to interpret.

As we're only a couple of weeks into the Final Major Project I hadn't included any more than two new pieces of paper-cut work, so I was feeling a little self-conscious about my portfolio, as I have already come to prefer my new way of working, the only down-side being that I don't produce much sketchbook material, as the cuttings are time consuming and I don't draw them out or particularly plan the details of them. However, Desdemona had good things to say about my work, particularly the details of my gouache paintings for my Altar project. Once again though, it was the paper-cuttings that caught her attention, despite most of them having been done before I'd really begun to get into it. Otherwise, Desdemona picked upon the fact that some of my images looked stretched and didn't suit being printed at A3 ( a feeling which I share ), and that if I'm working small, particularly in regard to the paintings, then perhaps I ought to stick to presenting them at a smaller size too, rather than forcing them into a scale which doesn't work for them, as it entirely changes their effectiveness as the quality of detail at a small scale is lost.

All in all it turned out to be a successful little visit, and I appreciated everything Desdemona had to say, though talking to about my portfolio did seem very similar to talking to the tutors at uni, and we spoke keeping in mind the fact that there were still a long way to go as everything I ever do will be a development of my work, and that that development doesn't stop just as soon as I graduate, which I suppose is quite reassuring.


Manchester Museum's Big Saturday Bug Event.

Discovered this sneaky picture on Google Images! I'm obviously having a blast!


After the Christmas holiday we had to think about preparations for Manchester Museum's Big Saturday Bug event, which we'd produced work for in order to provide an interactive activity day for kids, an event which Manchester Museum frequently runs. The main piece of work which I created, working with the insect theme of the event, wasn't particularly suitable for interaction, though it was definitely a turning point in my work, one which led me to becoming much happier with my work! Here it is again -



In the last few weeks though I made a couple of mazes, a dot-to-dot and colouring in pages which were surprisingly fun to do. In order to keep the same idea of movement as with the mobile, I used one of the bee silhouettes from the mobile itself and made several photocopies of it. With this I photocopied a honeycomb and bee pattern which I'd made for the front of my portfolio, at A3. Rolling the patterned A3 paper from corner to corner, I made a lovely patterned stick! I then cut around the silhouette of the bee and attached this using clear thread to the stick! This made an awesome floaty bee-stick thing! It was oddly fun; as the paper was just standard printer paper, the bee floated brilliantly on the end of the thread and wafted nicely. 

Despite this being a kind of last minute creation, it turned out to be quite popular, and I had loads of children coming up asking for the bat on a stick...it turned out it was difficult to discern that it was a bee, understandably I suppose, so I encouraged them to colour it in on the other side. I also encouraged them to cut it out themselves while I rolled the and secured the stick, in order to get it the right length. It was lovely to see loads of little ones wandering around the Museum wafting bees / bats!

All in all the day was really fun! Exhausting, but fun! I'd had no idea what to expect from it, but it was great to see how busy it got, though I think perhaps some aspects of our brief were a bit defunct, as neither the children nor their parents showed a huge amount of interest in things like our posters. Never the less it turned out to be a very successful brief, and it was amusing watching toddlers colouring in. One little girl in an incredibly pink princess dress chose to simply rip her A3 colouring-in picture into tiny pieces without attempting much colouring in first. Kids are hilarious. 

A lot of the parents who came round had lovely things to say about everyone's work and seemed pleased to have us providing the entertainment. Once I've scanned in the honeycomb pattern and bee I'll pop it up on here!


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