Ann Bridges graduated from Glyndwr in 1999 with a First Class Honours. She is a member of the Royal Cambrian Academy, and has developed her own style of stencil based mono-print. She mainly produces, original artwork to sell on, but some of her work has been used in editorial work etc. After college, Ann felt it important to keep putting her work in exhibitions, as a way of building her C.V. This makes a lot of sense to me, even though I won't be working as a freelance artist, I will be working as a illustrator, so this is the same as getting your work known to publishers, and/or agencies. This is an important factor to take into account after leaving college, as it is your way of making contacts and getting work in.
Ann had to get into something straight away, so she saw an advert in Artist Newsletter for an opportunity to work as a artist-in-residence at Chester Zoo. She quickly set up a website, and balanced her Chester Zoo work with freelance work.
Ann still gets involved in educational work, in particular, short projects in schools and educational centres. This is something that I would really like to think about doing in the future, as it would be great to work with schools to create a piece of work, as I believe that working with children is a very rewarding experience. Ann has also worked on several pieces of collaborative work with fellow ex-student Helen Bate, which were a series of picture books designed for adults with dementia, you can visit the website here.
Since 1999, Ann has been keeping a visual diary for writing and drawing. She doesn't draw everyday, but may spend more time drawing on certain days. She is now on her 33rd sketchbook! Her reasoning for using sketchbooks so passionately is that sketchbooks document all your work done over a certain period of time. Sketchbooks are the point of reference. Personally, I never realised the importance of keeping a sketchbook until I started at art college. In A-Level, I always used to hate presenting work in a sketchbook, and had to pull pages out to put them in a display book. Now, it's the other way around. I do admit, I still need to push my sketchbook work, but I am starting to see the importance of sketching every idea down, no matter how simple or silly the idea is.
Ann loves discovering new things when something goes wrong. She's always experimenting to try to achieve new techniques. Her favourite thing out of all of her work is when she discovers something new about the piece, and "when an idea takes you on a journey." She is part of the open studios network, Helfa Gelf. She describes this as a inexpensive way of getting your work seen. At the last Helfa Gelf, Ann sold just under £5,000 worth of work.
When pricing work for a gallery, be aware that the gallery will take anywhere from 30% upwards of selling price. The average is 40-45%. Ann had already started exhibiting work, so that helped her gain some knowledge about pricing her work, but the advice she gave us was:
Start noticing what other people are doing
It's still difficult to get it right
A lot depends on the context the work is being shown
She evaluates her work all along the process. Ann never gets to the end stage and thinks that she hates it, it's usually in the beginning she feels like this. If you don't have the facilities available to you, then you need to make your style not so dependent on this equipment (you need to limit yourself), for example, Ann couldn't afford a press and had no where to put one, so she developed a way of working where she didn't need a press. You also have to adapt your way of work depending on the time scale. This is something that I need to consider, as I am working partly digitally, I need to keep in mind size constraints for scanning work in, and printing it off.
Her number one piece of advice for anyone before you go freelance would be, you need to have experience behind you before you start.
Overall, this session was quite useful. It was interesting to get a different view point with a different type of media, and from more of an artist's view point. As for advice, it wasn't the best session, but that could just be because I don't want to work in print, so didn't really relate to her advice.
Andy Cheetham is the owner of Cheethambell JWT, which has been around for 20 years. This session was, again, one of the best of the week. It was very insightful and also very inspiring.
In 1991, Andy had been made redundant 3 times in 3 years. He had never worked out of Manchester and there was also a recession on, so he had no job to go to. He had 5 years experience, had never been in a management position, and had no reputation to get a job. It ended up getting worse, as his car was then stolen. He asked himself 'what do you do now?' His answer was to get a reputation; he would do this by getting a portfolio. On his side, he had youth, boundless enthusiasm, a little talent, and he had no significant debt or assets that he wouldn't gamble. He also thought that if no agency would employ him, he'll start his own, the only problem was, he had no clients, no money and no contacts. The idea was to make/buy a reputation, using 3 creatives in similar conditions/situations, and all the money he had.
Barnacles is a fish and chip restaurant in Llandudno. It's owned by Andy's mum and dad. Andy started creating press ads for the shop, which were low cost, full page ads in the local press. They started to enter these advertisements into awards; the awards rulings said the ad has to run, BUT it didn't say how long/many times it had to run. The ads were really simple ideas, playing on the quality of the food; after all, people love a good concept! They then started to move onto bus campaigns. These are a good idea, especially in small towns, as there's not many and they tend to run an ad until they get a new one through. Eventually, though, there was an uproar about the ads; any ad for a small brand became known as a "chip shop ad."
One year later, the awards loophole was closed, as they tidied up the awards. They couldn't enter Barnacles any more, as award owners had gotten many complaints from creatives.
Twenty years later, many people don't know why they're called 'chip shop ads,' it's just what they've always heard them called. The Chip Shop Awards came about because of these 'chip shop ads', which is a global award ceremony. "The Chip Shop Awards is about fostering and recognising creativity with no boundaries and no rules. It's an international creative awards, open to anyone with great ideas." The slogan for the awards is "Creativity with no limits." The results, twenty years later, include:
CBJWT is rated as one of the top UK agencies outside of London
Andy has been a campaign A-List member since its inception 9 years ago
Made a fello of IPA
D&AD executive committee member
Part of JWT World-Wide Creative Council
300 plus awards, plus 2 lifetime achievements
An Atlantic yachtsman
And also has a property portfolio
When asked if Andy is proud of his achievements, he answers yes and no. It's a dog-eat-dog world, where most creatives have manipulated an awards at some point. It has, however, created opportunities he never would have dreamed otherwise.
What's changed since the Chip Shop days?
The world became digital! Making things became easier than ever and cheaper than ever. People still love great ideas, and it's up to you to make it happen with new tools etc. Finally, the economy was bad in 1991 too, so don't be disheartened by it now.
The advice Andy gave us was:
Show your personality when e-mailing your portfolio's etc
Make an effort in EVERYTHING you do!
Interrogate the brief, find out what the brief's about and get your core idea
When it comes to awards:
The best work wins
Only enter your absolute best work
Try to spend more time getting the few bits right, than scatter-gunning the awards with rubbish
Always play to win!
Know what's good out there (know what's commercial out there, why things work etc.)
Self-filter - if you can spot a flaw in something you've created, a creative director will too, and will grill you about it
Edit, edit, edit
If it's been done before, it's likely a creative director has seen it
Get your core idea right
"Be what people are interested in!"
Overall, Andy's session was really insightful into how you can make a success out of the most simplest idea. Although I don't agree with his approach of manipulating the awards, it was only because of this deception that Andy hit the 'big-time'. It is such an inspiring story, of someone who was so down on their luck, after being made redundant 3 times, in 3 years, and then no one wanting to hire him, and eventually going on to start your own company, just working small time for your mum and dad's business. It just shows that ideas come from anywhere.
Helen Papworth is an ex-student from about 6 years. Helen has always loved bright and vivid illustrations, in books that were small enough you could fit them in your hand. She became a teacher and taught art in Yorkshire in 1987. In 2003, Helen decided she wanted to work overseas and became a VSO volunteer in Ethiopia.
After spending 10 weeks in Rwanda, Helen came to Glyndwr, and started the Illustration for Children's Publishing course in November 2006. Her reasons for choosing this course were: she loved books, loved writing, loved drawing, wanted to be flexible, wanted to work from home, didn't have another job, and she had enough money to pay the course fees. Her influences were Arthur Rackham, whose illustrations she described as "magical," and just lately Shaun Tan. I completely agree with how she described Arthur Rackham's illustrations, because they are so enchanting, and out of this world. A lot of her influences also come from sketching from life (or using TV and Media, if not available). Helen was encouraged to do one sketch a day, which she felt was a great learning/exploration process. Her number one tip for anyone in the illustration industry is to try to capture anything you can; get your sketchbook out whenever you can! A great place to do this is Illustration Friday. I think that this is a great way of drawing for just the sake of drawing, and for people to see your work. This is something I will definitely start soon, when I suddenly feel inspired by a topic.
Helen is influenced a lot from her African experiences; she visited Ethiopia for 2 years (2004-2006) and spent a couple of months in Rwanda (2006). So much so, she started work on her thesis at the end of her second year, which was a study of the influences on Ethiopian illustrators/illustrations. Helen returned to Ethiopia in June 2008, where she was asked to design books for primary and secondary schools and teacher guides to go with them. There is now at least one of these books in every school in the country. This is how she gains satisfaction; the fact that every child in Ethiopia will be learning from her books/illustrations. It was refreshing to meet a illustrator who works mainly for the satisfaction of children learning from her illustrations, rather than just for the money. I'm sure that every illustrator works partly for the satisfaction, but there is always the big factor of money. Helen made it clear that she is in a situation where she is comfortable for money, so doesn't need to work for it. I'm also pretty sure that every young illustrator sets off into the industry saying that they don't care about the money side so much, they just want the satisfaction of knowing people are creating that personal relationship with their work, however, after a few months of trying to break into the industry, and struggling, they soon realise that this 'dream' is not the reality.
Helen was worked for several publisher in Ethiopia, including Shama Books, who are publishing a no-words picture book entitled "Ten Donkeys", and Hable Books, who published a introduction to Amharic which is designed for people adopting Ethiopian children, called "Amharic with Amen". The biggest issue facing Ethiopian publishing industry is how to improve it; the artwork is lost when printed, as the ink runs over detailed pieces of the illustration.
Helen firmly believes that if you're illustrating for a foreign country, you can do it if you study the country enough, and embrace the culture. This is something that I agree with to a certain extent. I think it is very brave to start illustrating for a audience who's needs you are not used to, and respect Helen for this. However, I believe the same as Helen, that if you are passionate about it, and are willing to learn and experience a new culture, then you should be fine.
This session was quite interesting in the fact that Helen illustrates for an entirely different market, and it was good to see a different insight into how you could work in the future. Although Helen's work didn't exactly connect with me, I can appreciate the fact that she has so much passion about her job, and really just does it for job satisfaction, rather than the money. Helen was a refreshing insight into the industry in the sense that she recognises her limitations, and boldly says so. She also knows that she is still learning, and knows she doesn't know it all. Any person who can accept this and admit it is at the top of their game in my opinion; you (well, I personally) don't want to get to the point in my career where you think you know everything there is to know, and so start being arrogant or cocky, and start not enjoying your work, it becomes more of a chore then rather than a passion, and you may start loosing loyal followers. This is the point where I would hope someone would come up to me, and say I need to step back, and take a look at the bigger picture.
This session was a talk with Martin Steenton, a publicist at Blank Slate Books, via Skype. Martin couldn't make it down to the university, so our lecturer set it up that we could talk to him via Skype. This was probably the most useful talks I attended over the week. I made PAGES of notes, so this may be a long post (sorry). The format for this talk was mainly questions and answers, with the odd bit of advice thrown in, so that's the way I'll post it on here.
Martin studied Media Studies at uni. Though he's not an artists, he always had a huge passion for comics. He and his girlfriend, set up a blog about comics, in particular unpublished French comics. The aim was to build an interest in the comics, and then hopefully be able to publish them. This blog attracted US publishers, which helped him attract UK publishers.
Martin started working at Blank Slate Books as the Translator Editor, which then led to more and more odd jobs, eventually becoming a Utility Man.
How do artist's 'weasel' in to publishers?
Have a name that already exists - e.g. published works, etc.
Be smallpress - through Twitter, Facebook etc.
Pitch to them at conventions and/or on the internet
The main piece of advice Martin gave with this question was, the more visible you make your work, the higher chance you have of your work being seen, and that quality ALWAYS shines through.
What does a publisher do?
It varies from publisher to publisher. Some want to see fully formed ideas/pitches, which they can assess on the spot and buy for a certain amount of money.
Whereas other publishers, like Blank Slate, don't mind seeing unfinished pitches, that have a few pages, a good idea and a formed talent (i.e. skill set), they would then pay you to finish the book. This approach is usually more for smaller companies.
Bigger companies want to see a full body of work, but Martin would advise against this, as he said you could spend years designing the work, but then find that nobody is that interested in buying its rights.
You HAVE to know how to sell your work - know your key selling points of the text and the images.
You need to research what each publisher wants/what style of work they are after.
You have to tailor your work to the people you want to be published by.
Martin, then went on to say that you have to stick at it; some people work years and years, with no success, but it's because they have gained attention because of this. Martin gave an example of this, using Darryl Cunningham, the author and illustrator of 'Psychiatric Tales', which has gone on to be Blank Slate's most successful book. Daryl knows the strength of his work, and is confident in his narrative. He also got lots of eyes on his work through Blogger etc.
Established artists will be more than willing to help you - ask them for quotes on your work, which you can give to publishers; publishers love it! After all, there's nothing better for a publisher than an artist with an established following from their peers. If you have any heroes, get in touch with them, and ask for a quote. Conventions are also a good way to interact with professionals.
Do publishers have house styles?
Yes, a lot do. Look at the "semiotic values" of what's on the page.
Blank Slate has no house style, just as long as it has an appeal. They have a big scope of styles, ranging from cartoon to photo realistic.
Whereas, publishers like Self Made Hero, and DC Comics have a house standard, that's marketable and has a very high quality.
You need to think about what sort of artist you want to be - do you want to make work for the market? Or for yourself to sell?
Again, this varies. A small company tends to be small money. The general rule is, an artist comes with their work, then the publisher buys it with an advance, but the rights they buy will depend on many factors. A publisher can buy its copyright, but it's often time limited.
You'll find a lot of the time, if you sell the rights to one of your characters, then you lose YOUR right to it.
Most of the money is invested in what happens between after publishers have brought your rights, to when you're work is actually published; it provides a marketing and publicity platform for you.
Is traditional publishing going the same way as vinyl records?
He can see companies like DC Comics etc, going digital because it's an entertainment form, while independent publishers going/staying in print. But this is just speculation, because no one really knows for sure.
Publicity and Marketing:
Have a fully formed pitch - have as many pages as possible (even if you have just a few, use your roughs)
Give your artist insight into your work - why did you do that? Why does it work? Strengths? Key marketable points?
Quotes from peers - quotes are easier to get from your peers, as reviewers will tend to go more with published artists
Send your pitch to them, by e-mail's fine - if you have more than e-mail address for people at the company, send it to BOTH
Don't be afraid to talk to publishers - get their attention long enough for you to show them your portfolio yourself - show them a few pages, then leave it with them - if they liked it, they'll look at it, and remember you personally when you contact them again
Don't be too arrogant! - if they think you're going to be difficult to work with, they won't go with you, as it will cost them more money and time
Try not to be too unfocused when showing your work - it's got to be your most coherent work possible
Don't send your work to people that won't be interested
Don't ask for honest feedback unless you're ready for it - don't be afraid of honest criticism from peers and editors.
Convention dos and don'ts:
Make your table look as nice as possible - make it look like a shop with book stands, table cloths etc
Be friendly and polite
Don't bring everything you've ever done, bring the work you think is your best
His number one tip for making a living out of comics would be: try making money from illustration as
The International Markets:
The UK is a fractured market - to get a comic book, you have to go to a comic book shop, not your local book shop
Almost entirely all of the market is defined by the US market; we are an extension to the US
Over the last 5 years, publishers like Self Made Hero, Nobrow, and Blank Slate are now in book shops.
This market is dominated by mainstream work
The UK needs the US market to survive - we need to to grow so we can stand on our own two feet
The French market:
Comic books are seen as another respected art form in itself
All type of comic books are available in one place.
Definitely pitch to French publishers if your work's suitable - try to do a French cover letter.
A lot of people get published in France first, and then in the US, UK etc. e.g. Joe Daley author of "Dungeon Quest"
France is more accepting to more diverse work
Is there a specific thing publishers are looking for? What makes work more publishable?
A good mix of understanding comic grammar, layout, a good storyteller, draws coherently and knows what's good about their work and expresses it!
You are pitching to people just like you! People who are passionate about comics.
This session was incredibly helpful, and was a great insight into the world of publishing. This isn't something that I have encountered yet, and is quite a scary thing to think about, but Martin's talk really helped to get my knowledge of how publishing houses work etc up to scratch.
The aims of this session were: to explain what's included in a portfolio, and how to impress with it. Jason studied at Glyndwr, and then sent to Manchester. He worked for several artists, then decided to work for himself, then went to study for his MA.
One of the important things Jason told us when putting a portfolio together, you have to remember that the things that interest you, may not interest the person who's interviewing you, but it gives them an insight into who you are.
Think about the order you put your work in. The order of your work, should be like a story; it should IMPACT the viewer, with a very strong beginning, a strong middle, and a strong end. Information about each piece of work should be on the back and should have a plastic cover on to protect it.
Getting your work professionally printed looks so much better than some pieces of copier paper, that you have printed at home.
Get your work out there! Whether that be through a website, blog, or twitter.
A showreel is about 'how do you show what you're about in 4 minutes?'
Who you're showing?
What's relevant to them?
What do you want out of it?
How much time do you have? Can you plan it properly with this time-scale?
Be prepared! Be confident in what you're showing your potential clients.
Portfolios are ongoing things, you don't just stop updating them.
This session didn't prove to be as useful as I was hoping it would be, but I did gain some useful bits of information from it. I was hoping that it would show us how you would literally go about putting a portfolio together, for example, how do you choose work to go into it? And how much work you should include? That sort of stuff. Saying this though, some of the advice etc Jason gave us, was really helpful, for the beginning of a long process I will be doing in the near-future.
Tim McCracken owns his own agency, Gin and Tonic, which is an ideas agency, that works graphically, but also works 100% digitally. He is currently based in America. The aims of this talk were: to tell us about his journey through college, his inspiration, your era and culture and key people.
Tim started this talk by asking the question, 'Are you in the right place?' His answer? HELL, YES! His reasoning for this was that it's not where you are, it's the people and lecturers around you that make your experience. I agree with this. Though, I believe that part of it, is where you are. You have to make the most out of the people that are around you, after all, they will be your competition, but they will also be your friends, and ways to collaborate with people. You also have to make the most out of your time with your tutors, as they are there to help you become the very best you can be, and know what they are talking about.
Tim came straight to art college from high school. During his first week, two of his tutors (surprisingly, the same tutors that I have now), set a mark-making exercise, which he had to complete pages, and pages of work for it. This was his first ever case of hard-work. This is how I connected with Tim, as I came straight to art college from A-Levels at high school. I found that first couple of weeks very intimidating, as I was surrounded by all these people, who all seemed to have more knowledge about the industry than me, and the work that was set, was a lot more than I was used to at A-Level.
One piece of advice Tim gave, was, if not you're already doing so, look at your era; i.e. the movies, music, typography in these etc. (the fine details that make up all of these things). Lately, I have found that I am doing so much more of this, for example, when the credits come up in a movie, I pay attention to the typeface they used, and/or the way they laid the text out using grids. I am starting to appreciate typography as an art form itself nowadays, and a lot of that is to do with the fact that we have had several briefs set about typography, and this has really helped me look at things more critically.
Tim wanted to do T.V., but didn't have the experience, so any company he went to, wouldn't hire him. This led to him animating in PowerPoint, and then started learning Flash.
Catalyst Studios saw his work, and hired him. Clients of this company included, Hello Kitty, Target, and fashion labels. While here, he had one of his most important learning curves, he was told his designs were too masculine, and had to get in touch with his feminine side. The main point he learnt from this was to listen to the consumer!
He eventually hit the big time, when he moved to Boston, and started to work for Arnold! Here, he came up with an advertising campaign for ESPN's Fantasy Baseball league. This was a spoof of a American soap opera series. The website is still active now, you can visit it here.
Tim ended the session with asking the question, 'So, you've made it, what next?' He answered this by saying, just be happy, and maybe you could also start your own company. This is a extremely important factor, and piece of advice, as if you are not happy, then you aren't going to be motivated to do your work, and it wont be worth it in the end. You have to have passion, but also be happy doing your work.
This talk was one of the most interesting, motivating and positive talks we had this week. Jonathan has been at this for 20 years, starting out in editorial work, comic books and animation design.
The first major character that Jonathan came up with was completely by accident. It started out as 2 doodles on a page in his sketchbook, which he combined, to create Inspector Cumulus. A 1950s/60s detective, who is made up of a cloud as a head, and a human body.
Jonathan was always interested in having a toy produced. He thought that you had to wait for something to come to you, but they don't; you have to be proactive. So he used this design to make it happen. He had a CGI model of the Inspector Cumulus made, and took it to PlayLounge, where he asked about the possibility of making and selling the toy. They liked the idea, and could see it selling, but suggested he try CrazyLabel, a toy manufacturer in Hong Kong. They were very keen. It took several attempts for the company to get the sculpt right. He wanted the toy to not be realistic; he wanted to keep it how it was drawn; graphic and simple. The next stage was to design the packaging. The toy was released March 2011, with 500 produced in total. Hopton Moss is a new character in this series. Another version is to be released at the San Diego Comic Con this summer, with another 500 being produced. All the characters are to put into a comic book.
After this phase, Jonathan went onto designing t-shirts for a sports brand. Some of these designs included various monster designs. His partner, Louise Evans, said she could make them out of felt. The pair went on to make these monsters, and sold 200 over 18 months, all through one shop in Chester.
Louise was trained as a dress-maker, and so they wanted to make something more bespoke to show off her skills. This was where the monster politician came into play. Jonathan was watching the News one day, and they were showing repeats of the 1982 elections. This is where he came up with the idea for the monster politician.
One day, Louise decided that she would like to make monster versions of the lead singer and his then wife, Brixx Smith, from her and Jonathan's favourite band, The Fall. Louise tweeted this, and by chance, Brixx saw this, and replied to her. The two got talking, and Brixx saw Louise's and Jonathan's work. Brixx owned a boutique in London, called Start. She commissioned some of Jonathan and Louise's work to go in her windows.
Somebody from Selfridge's saw this window display, and was interested in hiring them for their Christmas window display, which was all about 'Adult Play'. They commissioned Jonathan and Louise to come up with a doll's house, with the monster's in each room. The display was up in Selfridge's Oxford Street for 2 months during Christmas 2010.
All of the monster's have back stories, which interconnect with each other, and Jonathan's planning to create a book with all the characters, which also includes a family tree.
The advice that Jonathan gave us was:
Get your work on as many places as possible, e.g. blog, website, twitter
It's important to have a back story with your character, not just a character
When suffering from drawing block, you've got to get through the bad stuff to get to the good stuff. Set a goal of 10 or so drawings a week, and this should get rid of the bad stuff.
People either work in lines or shapes; it's important to figure out which you work in, so you can work to your strengths.
Overall, this talk was probably one of the best I attended during this week. He was very positive, and proved that ideas taken from a side hobby, or a whim, can be very successful. I really like the idea of actually making your character in 3D after you have designed it. I especially like the idea of making it out of material and fabric, rather than the plastic toy route, but this is something I could perhaps research into, and see how easy/difficult it is to get into this area. The idea of someone gaining a connection to your character in a book is a great feeling, but the thought that by making your character in 3D, and it being someone's favourite toy is really wonderful to me. The thought that your toy could be a child's all time favourite and would never leave home without it, is really, really inspiring to me. I would love to take this sort of thing into practice in future work.
David Newell started his career by studying the sciences, but soon decided it wasn't for him, and went to study art at college. He began working in mostly gouache, and eventually went on to use an airbrush. After leaving college, he started sign writing as a way to make money. TranSound, a local business, had just had a new garage built, and he decided he wanted to paint the shutters, so he went to talk to the owner who agreed to this. This opportunity eventually led to David designing their newspaper and magazine advertisements.
After a while of working traditionally, he changed direction and started to work digitally, for companies such as Linnhoff March. This has been his chosen medium, and now works in Adobe Illustrator. It is very clear in a lot of David's work that his inspiration comes from American comics. After spending a significant period of time with Linnhoff March, he decided to leave, and went to work with some agencies.
David designed the advertising campaign for the 2002 Clothes Show Live. This was a collection of characters, which included, a model scout, a DJ girl and the main character, Chloe. This campaign led to an issue with copyright. He was accused of copying a CD cover from that time. The case was later dismissed, but it was quite interesting to gain a different insight into the industry, and the sort of thing that that does to you. The advice on copyright that David gave was, it's mainly about who's got the most money? How many points of similarity is there in your and their work? ALWAYS keep your prep work, sketchbook work and references.
David now works with Multi-Brands, and designs the packaging of products like the batteries SupaCell, Flouorodine Contour toothbrush, and Ultra Loc superglue.
His last words of wisdom to us were, you can work anywhere in the world, but it's the people who make it enjoyable. I fully believe in this statement, you could be working in a tropical paradise, with the best pay and best jobs coming in, but if you are not comfortable with your work colleagues, then you are not going to be happy and motivated to get your work done on time. Whereas you could be in a building where pieces of the wallpaper are hanging off, and there's buts of mould in the corner on the ceiling, but surrounded by friends who are your peers, who you feel so comfortable around, and are happy to get on with your work.
We started this years Creative Futures by a quick introduction by Dr Stuart Cunningham. He began by giving us some context of the Creative Industry, with things like stats etc.
One of the stats that Stuart gave us was that over 95% of graduates went into employment within 6 months. This was a good statistic to give us, I believe, as it was very positive, and was a great way to start this week. He also explained the aims of Creative Futures week , and they are to: improve our employability, and professional development.
Stuart ended the introduction with a Pink Floyd quote:
"And then one day you find
Ten years have got behind you
No one told you when to run
You missed the starting gun."
The point to this was, that our starting gun has already begun, and to make sure we don't miss it.
The speaker, Michael Scott, then came on, and talked about William Shakespeare, who he described as "the greatest businessman this country has ever produced." This is because his business is still around today. William Shakespeare used creative thinking to improve his business, and was probably one of the first recorded examples of doing so.
One of the important parts that I took away from this talk was where we were given the example of one of Rembrandt's self portrait which is housed in Edinburgh's National Gallery. He completed this months, even weeks after being made redundant. Another example given was William Shakespeare, when his son Hamnet died, he wrote his greatest play. The point of this is that everyone gets to the point in their career where they can't go on anymore. It's during this time that you produce your greatest work.
Angus Montgomery is the editor of Design Week. He's been working there for 3 years, and was made editor last year. He's from a multi-disciplinary background, and has been a journalist for 10 years. Design Week mainly reports on the design industry and design education.
The aims of this talk were: to pass on advice, to show examples of his favourite design projects over the last 2/3 years, and to explain why he's so envious of people with the skills to become a designer.
There have been two major points that have come up over the last few years. These being:
How to break into the design industry
The cost of education
Design Week asked several senior professionals in the industry for advice on how to break into the industry. Simon Manchip, founder of SomeOne advertising agency, says, pitching yourself is very important; work hard and be smart. His agency looks for lateral, excited thinkers straight from college. Rhiannon James, the D&AD Director of Education, says, 'we should nurture the best talent', and that D&AD winners gain employment within 3 months of graduating. Lizzie Mary Cullen, an illustrator, and winner of New Designers One Year On, says, 'more emphasis should be placed on marketing yourself, with a business mindset being vital.' Greg Quinton, of The Partners consultancy, says a 3 point action plan should be in place:
Encourage students to get off the internet, to stop them looking at what every one else is looking at
Collaborate with your peers - find a space that's big enough for group working
Love what you do! PASSION is a MUST! Show it and promote yourself with it.
Greg's three-point-plan, sounds like it could be very effective. The steps seem very reasonable, and seem like they could quite easily be achieved. I think that this may be something that I think about in my work. I am incredibly guilty of the first point; I find myself looking on the internet for artists and illustrators a lot of the time. I need to get in the habit of looking more at books or magazines, and I believe if I start looking somewhere else rather than the internet, then I will already be well on my way to this three-point plan.
On the topic of student fees, the same senior professionals were also asked, 'would you pay £9,000 a year to become a designer?' Not a single person said 'no', they all said they would pay this within a heart beat. I suppose that once you have become a successful designer, then it's easy to say this, but if you are a struggling designer, then it may not be such an easy question to answer. Saying this however, a lot of this job is based on passion, and even if you are struggling, if you have the passion, then it would probably be an easy question to answer. I would like to think in the future, that, even if I am struggling to enter this industry, and/or to get work, that I would still have the passion to carry on with it, and not give up. But that may be another thing altogether when it's actually happening.
Angus then went on to show some examples of his favourite projects from the last 2/3 years. He showed his favourite print project, which was by B&W Studio, who designed the homelessness charity, St. George's Crypt annual report. The report was A2 size, because that is the size of the blankets homeless people sleep under. The report had pictures of people affected by homelessness and included their stories.
Angus also showed some of his favourite student works from the past few years. His favourite of which was a project of several posters for the Olympics, by a student called Alan Clarke, a graphic designer who graduated from Falmouth. The concept of movement in this set of work is amazing. It really looks like the posters are moving.
Angus finished with this piece of advice, it's up to you to take your talent and package it professionally so that you can break into the industry. I believe that this is a very important piece of advice. Yes, if you are lucky enough to be university, then you do have tutors there who can help you prepare, but overall, it is up to YOU to package yourself as a professional, and how you want future clients to see you. You can't rely on someone else all the time, and you have to learn to stand on your own two feet, even if that means success or failure; we learn from them both.
John Allison was probably one of the most entertaining speakers that we had this week! He really made the lecture a positive experience, and made the future sound not quite as scary as it really is. His most recent work is Scary-go-Round and Bad Machinery.
John had no artistic training, but he had loved making comics since 1997. Between graduating from university and finding employment, he completed a strip a day, and put them up on the internet. He kept drawing and drawing and putting them up on the internet, and his audience liked this; after all the relationship with your audience is all about TRUST!
Any change to your work will shock people, and you may even end up loosing some of your audience. John found this out the hard way, when he changed his media several times; he started with traditional methods, then moved onto Adobe Illustrator, moved to another computer program, and then went back to traditional methods.
John puts his work up on the internet, because he says putting your work on the internet allows you to try things you can't with printed work, for example, changing the typeface, or composition etc of designs, as you can upload the new version and delete the older one.
John gave us some advice on making contacts:
People doing work like you - become friends with people who work like you but are slightly better. as you can use each other for support and advice
Conventions - meet people who are further along
This lecture was mainly about giving us some advice, rather than him telling us about his background, though he did mention this at the beginning. The advice he was giving included: Write for yourself, but keep in mind your audience, as there has to be people ready to read your work. Don't by shy to have confidence, especially at conventions, e.g. to literally hand people your work like it's the best thing since sliced bread. Do-It-Yourself is a good way to go about things nowadays; if no one's interested in publishing your work, then do it yourself, with websites/firms such as Inky Little Fingers. Anything you can afford to produce, so that you can sell it on, and is a reasonable amount to make back, then try it; create a portfolio of things you sell, e.g. t-shirts, coasters, tea-towels etc.
Advertising is free money! Although it's a good way to get free money, John advises not to opt for this when you are starting out, as they just cram up space on your website. This is something that you should consider when you are more successful.
Another helpful piece of advice John gave was pinch pennies like there was a war on; take a job that you're not so keen on, to pay for another job that you want to do. BE A BUSINESS BARON!
Some of the things that he wishes he's been taught were:
"Exposure" is meaningless
The difference between success and failure is usually a lack of intellectual curiosity
The lower the price of job, the more difficult the client will be
Learn how to be a pain about money
Always charge the price that you think the job is worth
Fake mistakes - mistakes you do on purpose so that the client can notice them, and put their input into the discussion
Most publishing deals aren't worth anything, but a good one is worth everything
Business cards get thrown away - they give us your details, they don't tell us that you exist.
Overall, John Allison was very entertaining, but was also inspiring with it. The advice he gave was very helpful, and very insightful. He is a great example of someone who has had no artistic training, but has got by on passion alone. I particularly liked the advice John gave on self-publishing and ways of selling your work. This is something that I may seriously think about once I have a larger portfolio (selling work through t-shirts, accessories etc.) as I think this would be a great way of keeping a relationship with audiences, and will be a new experience of making things, and getting them out there to your readers.
The aims of Karen's lecture was; to tell her background story, and to explain how she ended up where she is.
Karen didn't have the most conventional start as a designer, she started as an scientist, studying Natural Sciences at Cambridge. She started again, with illustration this time. During her second year, she made an animation called 'Headache Hotel', which she entered into the BBC New Animator competition, which she was eventually shortlisted for.
To see the various animations, and Karen's showreel click here.
In her final year, Karen created a children's picture book named 'Shleepless', which is about a little boy who can't get to sleep. One night, he sneezes and an animal flies out of his nose and tells him that he must go inside his own body to find out why he can't sleep, because he has been counting so many sheep that they are starting to take over his body. Karen went on to win the MacMillan Prize of Children's Book Illustration.
Even though winning this prize led to meetings with many publishers etc, Karen was very shy, and so has admitted herself that she didn't follow these contacts up enough. Because of her shyness, Karen eventually went to work with the agent Jelly, with their mission statement being "jelly services the global market with intelligent content across all platforms." The reason she gave for having an agent was: she was shy, so didn't like asking for money, and with an agent you don't have to talk to the client. The agency will take a cut of the money but will sort everything out the client (almost being the middle man). Karen stressed during this lecture the importance of having a good relationship with your agent, as after all, it is them that are bringing you your work and living in. If you haven't got a good relationship, then you won't get the most out of this opportunity.
I think I am a lot like Karen in the fact that I'm shy, and wouldn't like asking the client for money etc, and because of this I can see the benefits of having an agent. Not only that, they would bring in work that you couldn't ever imagine getting, and so I look forward to (hopefully) working with an agent in the future.
When looking at Karen's work, you can instantly tell that her inspiration is taken from, in her own words, "weird" continental children's books, and her science background.
Karen gave some advice on portfolios and agents. On the topic of portfolios, she said that every agent is different, so they are after different things in portfolios. Portfolios need to be concise, so don't include everything you've ever done. For children book illustrator's portfolios, a couple of dummy books would be a good idea. The advice she gave for choosing agents was to look at their roster of artists, and see who is on their, and if an are doing similar work as you. You can't be doing the same style as someone else there, as you will be fighting for the jobs etc. Also, think about the question, do you want to work for a big company or a small company? Each is different, and each have their own pros and cons. The last piece of advice Karen gave for when choosing agents was that you have to almost target them, e.g. look at the way you work and see if your style fits into their company, and if you could fit into the company.
After graduating from uni, Karen was added to the books of Jelly, and then went to work with 12foot6, with clients such as Paramount Comedy, Virgin Central, Virgin Media and Bookstart. However, she left here in 2009, when deciding to go on her own. While by herself, she got her first real big job with the company Investec, which is a specialist banking, wealth and investment and asset manager. Some of her clients now include:
Proctor and Gambel
And her latest client, Oxford University.
Karen ended the lecture with some general advice and tips and some advice on getting work and self-promotion.
Don't push yourself to do things you don't want/don't like to do as you wont feel motivated to do it. For me, I believe this is important, as I went through this phase in my first year, where we were set an animation brief. Animation just didn't suit me, and so I wasn't motivated at all to get the brief finished.
Listen to your tutors - they know what they're talking about
Keep playing around
And most importantly, TRUST YOURSELF.
Don't sit around waiting for someone to come to you, you have to go out to them!
You have to learn to take rejection, and have a thick skin; don't give up, just keep going
Work even harder
Don't take rejection personally, you're just not right for them at that time.
Websites and blogs - get your work out there and seen
Sell your work, websites such as Etsy, Spoonflower and Envelop are good places to start
Don't forget your tax return.
Keep people around you who keep you inspired
Keep pushing yourself
Most importantly, HAVE FUN!
Overall, Karen Cheung has made herself a versatile illustrator, who's reliable and meets deadlines. She admits that a lot of her chances have come through luck, and she had a lot of help from family and tutors etc. I think a lot of the illustration/design industry is a lot to do with chance, and luck, and being in the right place at the right time, and if you recognise this, then you are on the right track. Karen is the first to admit that she is no role model by any means. I think because she thinks this, then she may just be one of the best role models. Her work is designed for a range of viewers, from children to adults, and she is so versatile, that she gains a very wide client list, all of which she completes to her highest standard. I admire the fact that she is so versatile, and can design to any brief or client. I think this is because my style is such a simple, child-like style that it seems quite stuck in children's book illustrations at the moment. I think this may be something that I could do with working on in the near-future; developing my style so that it can speak to various audiences, not just children. Ok, she's shy and doesn't like dealing with clients, but she gets around this and deals with it, and I think this is to be admired. So, yes, I believe that Karen Cheung is a great role model, and has done extremely well in this tough industry.
Welcome to my new blog! This blog is for my notes and thoughts and opinions on the Creative Futures week we have just had (5th to 9th March). We had guest speakers come in and speak to us about their backgrounds and how they got to be where they are today. It proved to be very insightful.