Sunday, 18 December 2011

Music: Portfolio Visit #6

Last week I was lucky enough to be offered an opportunity to go into Music design agency in Manchester to work on a Christmas installation on their glass office. I went in for a meeting and took along my portfolio, which designers Craig and Ed had a look through with me. 

They had obviously seen some of my work on my website before I went in (because of the installation offer) so it was good to hear their thoughts on it face to face. As with other visits, I just went through and explained what each piece was about, and showed them any printed material that I had. They remembered my piece for the 8x8 publication so it was good to show them the full colour printed version of that, and they also liked the astronaut piece I created for my Lunar project, and it wasn't until I mentioned it that Craig noticed the camera reflection in the visor. He suggested that it might be cool to have little twists like that in other work as it makes in interesting and gives in more depth. I definitely like the idea of including little details that aren't obvious at first glance, so this is something to think about in future work, if appropriate. 
This was the second visit I'd been to with my printed childrens book, which I showed to them. Fortunately they were able to see the link between the childrens illustrations and my regular portfolio work, mostly via my use of colour and textures again. They mentioned the fabric texture on the monkey and how it looked like someones jeans, and also that they had seen the illustrations by some other students on the same project at previous portfolio visits.

Overall it was a positive meeting and they didn't really have anything bad to say about my folio. I went away from the meeting to work on my designs for the window installation, which is based on the Christmas 'Grinch Song'. I've posted a sketch for this below, which it should look like more or less when I'm finished. Cheers!


Christmas Cards

So, a group of us 3rd year illustration students decided to create some Christmas cards to sell, in order to raise money for a stand at D&AD Newblood next year. There was also a group of students who held a bake sale selling all sorts of lovely baked goods, and managed to raise a good amount of money for D&AD!

We screen printed 5 Christmas card designs, one by each of us involved. 3 of the cards were 2 colour jobs, and 2 were single colour. It was a really fun project to work on as it was probably the first time we had been able to work as a group on something this year, and it also gave us the opportunity to get back into screen printing, which I hadn't done since first year, and others had never done.

I did a couple of quick designs for my card, but we opted to print the Santa one (below), which was a 2 colour print of black over red.


Head over to Kris Sale's blog post here, as he kindly took few snaps of us hard at work prinitng the cards!

Illustrations Digital Future

Throughout my time at uni studying illustration, its become more and more apparent that when we graduate, there is a good chance our work or illustrations could be used for digital output, possibly even more so than in print.
With the invention of new technology such as smart phones, ipads, and most people owning computers and using the internet everyday, there seems to be a shift in the ways that illustrations can be created and applied.
Firstly, new software for pcs and macs means that digital illustrations can be created quickly and therefore more cheaply, but they can also be created in the style of more traditional methods. The work of Matthew Lyons for example is created completely digitally with custom brushes and textures to give it a more hand made feel. It makes editing and amendments much easier if working digitally, as well as it already being in a format to send over to a client. Vector illustrations in particular provide greater scope for use as they can be resized bigger or smaller without losing quality.
Although there seems to have been an increase of people going back to handmade methods of creating illustrations by painting, print-making, papercutting etc, these inevitably will have to be scanned in or recreated into a digital format to send to clients in most cases. Email seems to have taken preference over phone calls, and also over sending hard copies in the post, as its just quicker and easier. So even if illustrators work by hand, there would rarely be a time when a computer in some form wouldn't make an appearance during a project. There is a really interesting article here in computer arts about the digital revolution due to software that is worth a look.

In terms of application of illustration, computers and the internet have provided lots of different outlets for work rather than print. Apps, digital magazines (webzines), websites and animations have created more outlets for illustration, whereas the opportunities in print seemed to have decreased, especially in a hard economy.
For example, I recently saw this video about how artist Raghava KK used the ipad to create in interactive children's book  that can be shaken to change up the characters!


There is a list here of children's e-books compiled by The New York Times, that is worth a look. 

There are opportunities in web design too, where illustrators are being used to create interesting artwork, and moving animated artwork for use on websites. I recently saw a piece of work by one of my favourite illustrators, Dan Matutina, where he created and designed a website for Revolver Studios. It required moving elements as well as backgrounds that also have small moving elements to them. (Check out the oil spray and UFO) So i think this is another way that illustrators are being asked to work more like designers, and to apply their skills more broadly across different areas rather just static images. 

The Internet has also provided opportunities for illustrators to show their work and find work. Things like twitter and facebook means that illustrators can network ore easily and get their work shown all over the world. Free portfolio sites that have their own networks such as Behance and Dribbble again provide opportunities to share work, as well as personal websites and blogs of course. So in that respect, I think that the internet can be helpful to illustrators.

Overall I think that illustrations digital future is probably a very rich one and provides many opportunities. Difficulties may arise for illustrators who work more traditionally perhaps, as the amount of print decreases. Also, if illustrators don't have any animation or digital skills on photoshop or illustrator for example, it may be difficult to get jobs when competing with people who can create, animate and design for digital output. Gaining some digital and animation might have to be the way to go for most illustrators,...I guess time will tell.

Website Research

I've had a website for a while now, but I haven't really spent as much time as I would have liked sorting it out and designing it properly, so it's quite basic at the moment, but I think I'd want to keep it pretty simple anyway.

It was about two years ago when I decided to set up a website, and I went about it in the more common way of buying server space and my domain name, and then using html/css and templates to put together a site, with the help of a friend that knew more about web design than myself. It had a splash page (which I thought was cool) and was then just a basic portfolio site with a selection of images. However, it really lacked the more professional look that I was after, and it was difficult to add content as it was all done through ftp via my hosting account (apologies as I'm probably using completely the wrong names for things).

When I did some research into illustrators websites, there seemed to be a split between professionally designed custom websites, and then sites that used content management systems, mostly either Cargo or indexhibit
At the time, because I already had server space, and I'd seen a couple of cool illustrators sites that used indexhibit, I decided to download the package (which is free) and install it. For example, Allan Sanders's website looks really nice and clean, as does Paul Blow's. hey are clean and simple looking, whilst still being easy to navigate, and are also slightly customised to make them a bit different to others.

At the time I didn't really know much about Cargo and thought it was less customisable and more of a portfolio site like Behance, but in hindsight, I think Cargo would probably be a better way to go as its already set up for you and is really easy to add content to as far as I know. Installing indexhibit was a steep learning curve in ftp, html/css coding and working through all the technicalities of installing the system via my server space. This probably wouldn't have been hard for a web designer, but as I knew nothing, google became my new best friend! I did mean a learnt a bit more about web design though which is always a good thing.
Once the package was installed correctly, its pretty easy to add content to, and its customisable through html/css. I liked the simplicity of some of the indexhibit sites I'd seen, so decided to go for just a list of the projects on the left (index), and then the projects images on the right (exhibit). 

It's quite simple looking, and I haven't really got anything on the main page at the moment which I think I need to change. There's the option of a splash page too, but I'm not sure about that yet. Things that I think I'd like to have on my site are possibly a news section on the main page, or a grid of images from the site that link to the separate pages, such as on Steve Simpsons site here,...

...The Silent Giants site here, or Andrew Rae's site here, that has a similar layout to my indexhibit site but runs on Cargo.
Chrisitan Montenegro's site is also built with indexhibit and has a nice and simple news feed. I think this could be something to look into so that I can post updates on there also so it doesn't seem like I've forgotten about the site, or relying on people visiting my blog to see what I'm up to.

Overall I'd like to improve the look of my main page of my site, try and get a news feed in there, and also try and improve the image placement on the individual pages. Finding a good way of presenting embedded videos is also something I need to look in to. Hopefully I can do this via indexhibit, otherwise making a move over to Cargo is definitely something I'd consider.

Here are a few illustrators websites that I really like, mostly because I think they are easy to navigate and have all the information about the illustrator, contact, blog etc. 

Scott Balmer - his site presents all his work in a grid, is really simple and easy to use, and all his vital contact information is right there for you to see. 

Matthew Lyons - his site is like a blog and portfolio site in one, running on wordpress. 

Heads of State - again this has a grid system but is custom designed as far as I can tell. It looks really professional and has a nicely designed header.


Hopes, Fears and Opportunities (pt 1)

At the start of this semester at uni, we were asked to write down and think about our hopes and fears for the forthcoming year and also to think about our overall aims, and any opportunities we could take advantage of.

My hopes for this year and beyond were to be able to get a job or commissions, to be more confident in my way of working, and to also improve and build on my skills. Overall I don’t think I’ve done too badly with these so far. As far as jobs are concerned, I was lucky enough to be picked to illustrate a children’s book, and I’m currently working on a window installation that I was approached about due to someone seeing my work, so although these aren’t paid jobs, they are a little bit more challenging and high profile (for lack of a better word) than things I’ve done in the past.
I think I have become a little bit more confident in my ways of working, and this kind of goes hand in hand with improving my skills. I think that the children’s book definitely helped with this as it was something I had never tried before, both in terms of the concept of creating and designing a book aimed at children, and also in terms of my working method. I can honestly say I was really not confident that my children’s illustrations would work out when I began, but just thought I would give it a go anyway. I tried a new method of cut paper and digital work for the book, which I think helped improve my skills a bit, and also improved my confidence as I felt that I was able to make the imagery for a different audience, but not go too far away from my usual way of working.
This made me think that all of us as illustrators are probably able to stretch in different directions quite easily without completely changing our work. I think ‘diversification’ might be word of the year at the moment.
Also, going to portfolio visits, and coming runner up in the MASI competition also makes me feel a bit more confident in my work; it’s good to have other people’s views on it rather than just from inside the uni bubble I guess!

My fears for the year were that I wouldn’t get any work, that I would lose motivation, and that my work won’t find a clear aim or direction. I think that these fears still stand and I’ll probably have to wait and see at the end of the year as to whether they will happen or not.  I think that portfolio visits and contact with industry professionals is a step in the right direction when it comes to getting work, so is actually creating more new work. But I think that keeping up motivation and finding a clear direction will probably come with finding a project/subject matter that I’m really interested in, or a way of working that is exciting. I think this could be a real aim for the final major project. Picking a project that is genuinely interesting and something I think I could do an extended body of work on will be really important and will hopefully be both motivating and, if successful, will help me find a direction for my work (or if unsuccessful, at least I’ll know what I don’t want to do!).  

The opportunities that I wanted to take advantage of this year were to enter student competitions, to take advantage of college facilities, to work with other students, and to visit some shows/exhibitions.  Overall I think that I have had a good go at taking these opportunities. I entered the Manchester and Salford Illustrated competition which worked out quite well, and I definitely got to meet a few new people through it, and also submitted a couple of pieces for the V&A illustration awards, as well as working on my Little White Lies cover for the D&AD competition next year.
I’ve made a start at using some more of the college’s facilities; screen printing for example. I’ve been able to do screen printing a couple of times this term, which is twice more than last year! I really like doing it and the Christmas cards we printed in particular, worked out really well. Maybe having a go at using the vinyl cutter, or trying other forms of printing could be things I could aim to do next semester.
I’ve definitely been able to work with other students this year. For instance, I’m currently working on an animation collaboration with Tom Mathieson from moving image for my bugs project, and also worked with Matt Bray on a short brief where we made a 3D birdhouse (complete with beak and wings!). It was also a lot of fun to work as a group on printing the Christmas cards we designed to raise money for D&AD. Hopefully this will continue into next year and beyond as I really enjoy working with others and I think the results are generally more exciting.
As far as going to shows and exhibitions, I think this is something I could improve on next semester. Mostly down to lack of time and location of exhibitions, I haven’t been to as many as I would have liked. I did manage to go to the Leeds Thought BubbleFestival, which was really interesting; the MASI exhibition, the BLAB night, and a quick look around the studios at AWOL studios in Manchester. I think I need to do a bit more research into this aspect for next year.

My aims for the year were to create a good portfolio, to get some portfolio visits with industry, and to have some work published. I’m quite glad that I’ve achieved these to some extent. I think my portfolio will hopefully improve as the year progresses, but so far feedback has been generally positive so hopefully it’s on it way. I’ve managed to have 6 portfolio visits so far which I’m quite pleased with, as thinking back to the start of September, I was really nervous about this and had no idea how to go about it! And these have been quite helpful, and have given me a bit more of a sense of what designers are looking for, and has also familiarised me with some of the agencies in Manchester and the people that work there. I think this makes it just a bit less intimidating for if I want to make contact again in the future.

Overall, for the final semester, I think that I need to firstly come up with a good proposal for my final major project. I think finding something I’m really interested in will hopefully keep me motivated and make me produce better work. I’m looking forward to working on a longer project, and will hopefully have some good pieces for the final show next year. I’m also hoping to work with other students even more, because I think it’s good to combine skills and work with people who are as interested in a project as you are, and it’s also more fun!  Hopefully it will all come together and I will have improved my portfolio and worked on some good projects that will help set me up for when I leave. Fingers crossed.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

The Neighbourhood: Portfolio Visit #5

Last week, I went into to The Neighbourhood, an animation and design studio in Manchester, to show them my portfolio. Creative Director Jon Humphreys and Designer/Animator Chris Moran had kindly spared some time to see me which I definitely appreciated so close to Christmas. 
As with other portfolio visits, I just went through my portfolio explaining what each piece of work was about. I showed them the pieces that I had in print, such as the 'transformation' newsletter, which they said did look better printed up big. This was also my first opportunity to show someone my finished children's book, which I wasn't sure if people would see the link between the book and my portfolio work. Thankfully they were generally positive about my portfolio and didn't really have any specific negatives about any of the pieces.
I had a quick chat with them about the projects I am working on at the moment and mentioned my interest in animation and the scarab animation collab I'm working on at the moment. They mentioned that they had seen work from moving image students from Stockport, but hadn't really seen much from the graphics or illustration courses; I was the first from illustration to go in.
Overall, the visit was pretty positive, and Chris sent me a really helpful AE tutorial for character animation to help me get started animating my work even more, which I'll hopefully have a go at over Christmas. Cheers!

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Nobrow : Portfolio Visit #4

Whilst I was at the Leeds Thought Bubble Festival, I was able to go and speak to Alex Spiro of Nobrow and show him my portfolio.They had a stall up in the main hall, and also gave a talk that I went to, about what they do and how they started out.

Firstly, I took my portfolio to show Alex, and I mentioned that although it was a comic con, I didn't have an comic work to show him! He seemed pleased to have an illustration portfolio to look at, and was impressed with the presentation and layout of the folio (thanks again Ian), so that was a good start. He went through the work quite quickly and didn't really have anything bad to say. He liked the lie detector editorial illustration and said it did the job well, and again appreciated seeing it context with the type and layout. As I've said before, this seems to definitely be something that people like to see; work in print or in an appropriate layout so they can see how it would work.
Overall, he said it was a strong portfolio, and I spoke to him about what he thought of having a variety of different work in a portfolio. He said this was definitely a good thing as generally most of your work won't be for just one thing, and its good to show that you can apply your work or style to a variety of different media. He also said that it would definitely be helpful to join the AOI because they have a lot of contacts available for work, as well as workshops and help with pricing and the legal side of things. I knew that the AOI did offer help etc, but I just hadn't gotten around to looking into it, so this is something I might try and do over Christmas.  

He was a really nice guy and I definitely appreciated his input and advice. Thanks!

Friday, 9 December 2011

Lord Whitney

A couple of weeks ago, Lord Whitney, aka Amy Lord and Rebekah Whitney, came in to uni to give a talk about themselves and their work, as well as setting a small brief for us all.
Leeds based Lord Whitney have created "life sized illustrations and installations" for a variety of different projects. They have created photo illustrations using hand made costumes and sets, as well as creating installations for events such as festivals, parties, window displays and for stage.


They spoke about how they got from uni to where they are now, which was really interesting. Rebekah was studying illustration, and Amy, photography, and it wasn't until the end of their 3rd year that they collaborated together on a project that sparked of their interest in making and crafting sets and illustrations that cold then be photographed, combining both of their skills. They were really great to listen to and spoke honestly about their experiences, which I think was really great for us all as we could all relate!

They talked about how they started out just making sets in their basements or kitchens and photographing them, using whatever they had to hand to build the sets. They also said that although they are getting more regular work now, it hasn't always been that way and they've had to have temp jobs periodically since they left uni. I think the overall message of their work was the power of hard work and dedication, and to just keeping creating and making work. They used a nice metaphor of people falling at the first hurdle, and the longer you keep going the more people will fall away around you, to describe working in the creative industry.

They showed us photos of their great studio in Leeds, that they totally transformed from an old, dusty attic space in a mill, into a huge and really cool studio realtively cheaply. I think that in itself had us all dreaming of getting a studio!

After the talk, they came up to our studio and we were able to have a chat with them and show them our work. They also set us a small week long brief that we could do if we wanted. It was to make an image (whether it be drawn, painted, photographed, etc.) of a compound noun, aka two nouns that together make another word e.g. blackboard, grasshopper, seafood, etc.

I'll post about it in a seperate post, but I teamed up with Matt Bray on the word 'Birdhouse' (or Housebird originally..), and we had some fun making a model. But for now I'll leave you with some more of Lord Whitney's work.......enjoy........

Leeds Con: Nelson - Blank Slate Books

Whilst at the Leeds Thought Bubble Festival a couple of weeks ago, I (accidentally) went to a panel discussion/launch of a comic anthology called 'Nelson', published by Blank Slate Books.

I had no idea what the panel or book was about, but I stayed, and it ended up being quite interesting!

The book is a collaboration between 54 comic artists, covering 54 days in the life of the title character Nel. Each artist did a day each (which was one day per year, so the book spanned 54 years, with a single day each year being told), and they had quite free reign to come up with their part of the story as well as doing the imagery for it. All the profits from the book are also going to charity.
At the panel there was one of the editors, Rob Davis, as well as four of the contributers. They spoke about how they each went about thinking of their day/year, and what it was like collaborating.

I think it was interesting that they spoke about why they wanted to contribute to this anthology inparticular (they got everybody they asked to contribute!). Firstly it was raising money for charity, but they also liked that fact that unlike many other anthologies which are just a collection of different peoples seperate works, this had a throughline and continuous thread of it being about one person. Each artist could put their own spin on it via their drawing style and obviously coming up with a section of the story themselves. Someone mentioned that this also helped in getting everybodys work seen too. In a normal anthology, people might just flick through to the artists they like, but because this was one long story, it meant that people had to read through everyones work so that they knew what was going on. Clever.

None of the artists knew what others had written before or after their day/year in the story, so I'm sure it was probably hard to make sure it all came together for the final product. Each artist worked independently and just liased with one of the editors, who gave minimal notes on the work, you know, like dont kill off the main character etc.

There are a couple of names in there that I recognised such as Luke Pearson and JAKe, but other than that I didn't know any of them, but having a flick through the book at the stall later, they all looked fantastic. 

Overall I think it was interesting to hear about a successful collaboration project and how they went about it. Definitely seems like something that could be applied to just illustration rather than comics, too. Maybe something to think about for next year...hmmm...


Thursday, 8 December 2011

Richard McGuire

Recently, the animation work of Richard McGuire was recommended to me because of an insect animation I'm collaborating on. McGuire is an American illustrator and animator, and the animation below is titled 'Micro Loup', and is a short film about a tiny wolf. The interesting thing about the animation is that it's all shot from above, and uses quite simple and abstract shapes to represent the people and objects etc., but is still incredibly easy to follow and understand. This birds eye view style of animation is something I'm trying in my own work, so its interesting to see it used here so successfully.
There is a great interview here with McGuire, conducted by Steven Heller, which mainly focuses on an animation he did as part of a collaboration, all to do with fears. I've posted his section of that animation below also. Enjoy.