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.


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