Tuesday, 29 November 2011

'But isn't that your job?" (Part One)

Meeting Craig Oldham recently reminded me that I still haven't written a blog post about the talk he gave at college a few weeks ago. It was called 'But isn't that your job?' and was essentially Craig talking to us about his experiences of working with illustrators. He did this by taking us through a series of projects from beginning to end and talking honestly and openly about how he had found working with illustrators on each of these projects.

For example 'The Big Four'. This was a series of posters that were created to publicize football matches commissioned by 'Manchester City'. The aim was to create a buzz around each match. Craig had the idea that the posters should be designed like gig posters. The thinking behind this is that football on the scale that City play has more in common with a music gig than a traditional lower league game. A City game is now a major event not to be missed, like going to see a band at an arena. 

So, as something different for this project Craig decided to commision illustrators assosiated with the 'gig poster style' to create gig- esque posters for the games. The first was a City vs Arsenal game and the agency commissioned illustrator Michael Gillette (famed for his 'Bond' Covers for Penguin) to create a poster, using his unique style of typography and form, that would make player Emmanuel Adebayor look like a rock star.

Here's what he was famous for:

And here's the finished piece:

Craig talked us through the process of commissioning the artist, discussing what was needed, discussing changes to be made to drafts, discussing money and even discussing how often they were allowed to reproduce the image.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Portfolio visit: 'The Chase'

Last week I had a portfolio visit at 'The Chase' with Associate Director Lise Brian. Lise had came to college last year to give a talk about creating and presenting a portfolio and how to go about contacting agencies. I based much of the construction of my portfolio around that talk, so when it came to organizing portfolio visits 'The Chase' seemed perfect.

I'd never been to 'The Chase' before so I was really nervous (I tracked the place down about an hour before I went in for fear of getting lost or being late) but once I got there the people were friendly and welcoming and after a bit I felt completely at ease. It's an amazing place too, I was particularly impressed when I saw that an entire wall was covered with a giant 'Mona Lisa' and another which presented a quote that neatly sums up their design philosophy:

"There was once an old Indian craftsman who carved elephants from blocks of timber. When asked how he did it, he would reply, ‘I just cut away the wood that doesn't look like an elephant.’"

So, then I started to show Lise my work and talk her through my portfolio; I didn't have much experience of this so was worried that I might find myself unable to talk about my work properly. I think I did OK though; Lise seemed to like my portfolio, once I'd finished she called over a colleague to have a look through it too, which was encouraging. They both seemed to like the idea behind the 'Why Are Girls Always Right?' project and the 'Heroes' piece that I did for 'Music'. They also seemed to appreciate the booklet I gave them (even if it is was somewhat rudimentary) when I explained that the whole notion behind it had been inspired by their talk.

I left 'The Chase' that day feeling far more confident and positive than I had that morning. It was a useful, positive experience and one that I really enjoyed. Thank you to Lise Brian and cheers to 'The Chase'.

Portfolio visit: 'Music'

Yesterday I went for a portfolio visit at 'Music'. It helped that I had already been there a couple of times and met some of the people that work there, it meant that I felt far more relaxed about it than I would normally. When I got there I met up with Craig and Ed, I talked them through my portfolio and then they gave me their feedback. They were both very generous with their time, really helpful with their feedback and I feel that the experience has made me more confident about approaching people in the future.

While showing them my work I mentioned that I now find that my favorite part of the design process is coming up with the ideas. While Craig said this was a good way of thinking he also said that sometimes it looks as though I have come up with the idea and then rushed the piece itself. For example when I presented them my 'heroes' installation concept a few months ago they felt that the idea was strong but that the images needed a lot of work, hence over the summer I'd send work back and forth to Ed until I'd got it as they wanted it.

The same was a true of a booklet that I had created, they liked the images but felt that the piece was let down by the text which looked to have been rushed, and so this diverted attention from the illustrations themselves.

I also got some advice on improving my portfolio, like sticking to either landscape or portrait throughout to make it easier to look through and bringing along some of the 3D pieces that are shown to give people a better idea of what they look like and how they are made.They gave me some tips for improvement in terms of the order and layout to make it clearer and to make it flow better.

Encouragingly they both seemed to think that I have a style, which came as good news as I've been worrying about 'finding my style' for a while now. They both agreed though that the 'Heroes' project seems to be the only piece without that style: whereas the rest of my work has a more textured feel about it (a lot of it being printed) this project stands out for being minimalist and digital.

Overall, they seemed to like the work and the feedback was really helpful. It was a really positive experience, I now feel like I know what I need to do in order to improve my work and portfolio and feel more confident as a result. Cheers guys!

Monday, 21 November 2011

Lord Whitney

Yesterday we were fortunate enough to have a visit from Lord Whitney, a collaboration between two talented and inventive visual artists: Amy Lord and Rebekah Whitney. 

They both studied visual arts at university in Leeds, were both studying different disciplines- but were both missing something: One was a photography student who was struggling to find her niche and was beginning to discover 'documentary photography' wasn't really her thing after all and that she preferred photographing unusual hand made objects. The other was an illustration student who was starting to work three dimensionally but was unsure of where to go next. And then they started working together and it all clicked into place: they had a shared love for hand made objects and sets; a shared sense of surreal humor and a shared love of 'The Mighty Boosh'. When they started working together it all made sense. 

Unfortunately by the time they discovered this their time at university was coming to an end. However, the pair remained undeterred and once they finished their courses they continued to create work together with the same passion that they had at university. Only now without the studio space or the money. 

What then followed was months and years of hard work:finding commissions wherever they could get them, with little space and no money they worked on these projects with a sense of playful enthusiasm that has since become synonymous with 'Lord Whitney'. During much of this time they were holding down full time jobs but they still found time to create work together, often completely self initiated, creating simply for the joy of creating. And now that 'Lord Whitney' is a full time studio based business, that sense of playful creativity still remains. 

We were told all of this during a talk that they gave to us yesterday, a talk that inspired us and motivated us to remember to have fun whilst designing (even if we are now in third year). At the end of the lecture during the 'any questions' section that followed, I asked if they had any advice for us for what to do when we finished university. The answer was to: 'just keep creating'. To keep creating work that we enjoy and that inspires us. Good advice indeed.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Two steps forward, one step back (Part Two)

However, in retrospect I think that a lot of that work was missing something. In much the same way that my first year work had the aesthetics but lacked the ideas I think that my second year work had the ideas but lacked the aesthetics. I would spend hours trying to stop my designs looking so generic, so cold, so digital. I wanted them to have warmth and a human quality but was struggling to do so.

I found myself in this position on this last project. I had ideas that I was pleased with (more of which later) and was interpreting them in what felt like an appropriate style. So far so good; except that the images were still lacking that certain something. For a while I was stuck, but then came the ‘Graphic Gurus’ event (again more of which later).

One of the ‘Graphic Gurus’ was a past graduate called Ben Jones, a successful and prolific illustrator who works mainly in print. And what amazing work it was too; looking at the beautiful and diverse images that Ben had created through printmaking reminded me of why I first fell in love with the process.

So, the next day I set to work creating the project through print, it felt great to get back to the hands on approach that I had been avoiding for so long, I realized how much I’d missed it. What made it all the better this time around was that I had established my ideas beforehand and the printing process had become a way to realize these ideas.

I think I found the right balance, between ideas and aesthetics. This time around I was using printmaking to bring to life my ideas in a way that feels all the more personal and honest. At the moment, this all feels like a step forward.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Two steps forward, one step back (Part One)

This last project has marked something of a turning point for me and my working method, it has been a turning point that I’d like to think has improved my work, but at the very least has certainly rekindled my excitement for creating images. I’ve returned to ‘print making’.

In my first week of first year I had a go at printmaking and it began an obsession that would go on to define the rest of the year for me. I became fascinated by it, it gave me a confidence that I had never felt with drawing and excited me far more than creating digital work ever had. It really felt like I had found my niche.

On reflection though, I think that this was something of a mixed blessing: on the one hand I was becoming far more out going and experimental with my work (trying everything from ‘linocuts’ to ‘collographs’ to ‘mono prints’ and ‘screen prints’) and was discovering a whole new range of diverse print based artists ( from Fans Masereel, to Helena Bochorakova-Dittrichova to Isabelle Vandenabeele). On the other hand I was becoming far too focused on the process and not enough on the ideas. With every new brief I would immediately start wondering how I could incorporate printmaking and the idea behind the images was coming second. As a result by the end of my first year I had ‘hit a wall’ with print making and now needed to focus far more on my ideas.

So in my second year, I pretty much stopped printmaking and made the majority of my work digitally. This meant that now it was the idea that came first and the working method that came second.

As a result I think that the work that I created in my second year was stronger from a ‘design theory’ perspective.
I was also becoming more interested in ‘style’ and was looking to modernist illustrators like Jim Flora and Charley Harper as well as contemporary practitioners like Jack Teagle, Ben Newman and  Stuart Kolakovic.