Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Lord Whitney

On Monday last week we had a visiting lecture by the creative force known as Lord Whitney. Lord Whitney is made up of Amy Lord and Rebekah Whitney who met at Leeds Metropolitan and together they create stunning 3D Illustrations. The talk was about their journey through university and how they began their collaboration.

After graduating from uni and working as temps the pair began building sets in their basements and experimenting with different props lying around the house. As they talked us through various projects they had been involved in the main point that shone through was how they were driven to create things not for money but because they loved it so much. There is great playfulness and fun in their work, which is the reason they are so successful in what they do. Later on in the morning they joined us in our studio to set us a brief on compound nouns. The brief was to create an illustration in any way we saw fit using a compound noun. I was fortunate enough to chat to the girls whilst working on the brief that afternoon. They were really down to earth and offered me advice on the way I work and said they would love to see my drawings without the computer element as they thought it looked strong enough without it.

I really enjoyed working with Lord Whitney and their project helped me find a different way of generating ideas that could really help me with my work. I came up with ideas that I perhaps wouldn’t have thought of before by mashing words together and creating a page of really quick sketches.
Rough Sketches

As usual I wanted to make them into characters and decided to submit the below image. I plan to turn this little cheese character and some of the others I created during the brief into comic strips or short stories.

Final Submission

Personal Project Completion

(Final artwork for the school mural before printing. Actual size 812.8mm high x 4000mm wide.)

It's been a while since I posted anything about my personal project and I’m happy to say I’ve finally finished it.

I’ve had a few late nights this week trying to get the artwork finalised so could get it printed and in the school before Christmas and here it is in all it's glory.

There have been a few teething problems along the way, these problems were mainly to do with how I would get my artwork on the wall, but after careful research into different printing materials I finally found a way of having it printed large scale without compromising my artwork.

One of the biggest problems I faced was ensuring the final print would still show my hand drawn quality and because I prefer to work small how that would have an effect on my work at large scale. I found from an earlier 2nd year project if I scanned my work in at a high enough resolution I could vectorise it in Illustrator without losing any fine detail. I scanned the final inked artwork in sections and pieced it together in Photoshop, I then took that into illustrator to be vectorised and tidied up.

The material I decided on after talking to expert printers XCEL Signs in Wrexham is normally used for banners. The durabiltity of the material means it can't be ripped easily, which was an important factor, as the children at Hayes Lane Primary School will eventually add colour to it. I collected the print earlier this morning and delivered it to the school, they were absolutely delighted with the final result and have asked me if I can spare some time to come in and work on the colouring in stage with the children before Christmas. They also asked if they can get a photo of me with the finished product to put on their website, which will be a nice bit of exposure.

The final concept for the mural is based on the Wacky Races with each character driving a vehicle that links to their profession.

I hope to have some photographs to post up soon.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Portfolio Visit – Taylor O’Brien

Earlier this morning I had another portfolio visit this time with the good people at Taylor O’Brien. I arrived 15 minutes early (as I’m still not too familiar with the streets of Manchester) and was greeted by Helen who very kindly made me a brew. Helen had a couple of things to sort before she could see me so I waited happily in the sitting and enjoyed my hot beverage. After a couple of minutes she was ready to see me along with head designer Lee. Before they looked at my work they asked me a few questions about what I’d done before and what I wanted to do when I graduate. I spoke a little about where I had come from and how I decided to become an illustrator and my love of character creation.

Helen and Lee were really easy to chat to and gave me an in-depth and helpful overview of my portfolio and advice on what they thought I could do to improve it. Helen thought my vector drawn work was really strong and said that this kind of work would be favoured in a corporate environment as it could be used for logo’s and branding. They could also see potential for editorial work in my pen and ink drawings and thought the characters drawn for the child audience would sit well in education or children’s books. Helen suggested sorting my work into sections in my portfolio so that clients could see how my style could work over different market areas.
They mentioned that I didn’t really need to put textures in my work and I should maybe think about playing with colour washes like I had done with the Craig Oldham poster. They thought by doing this it would be appealing for a corporate client who might want an illustration with their corporate colours.

Near the end of the visit I asked for some advice on how to best market myself and Helen told me it was a good thing to have a web presence don't fall into the trap of relying on a website bringing in work. She thought the best way was to visit a lot of different design agencies and speak to people in the flesh as this way you stand more of a chance of being remembered. They suggested sending people new illustrations through email with a note to say hello and keep you in mind should any relevant work come up. Another nice suggestion was to drop in samples of work with your contact details at the receptions of design agencies this way a small sample of work could be pinned to a notice board near a desk and help to keep you in peoples thoughts, it would also be a nice distraction for a designer to look at something different. They also thought getting an agent to represent you would be beneficial.

I really enjoyed this meeting as they made me feel really welcome and I think I kept them chatting for over 40 minutes. It was all good and I've come away with some nice ideas to think about.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Website Research

Having a website as well as a blog is a good way of getting your work out there and a well planned and thought out website will ensure the user finds it easy to navigate around your site without getting lost or worse bored. I don’t yet have a website as I want to make sure I have everything planned out just the way I want it before I go about designing it. I’ve browsed through many websites over the years and one thing that really annoys me when I reach someone’s page is when there’s too much going on and the page takes too long to load everything up. This is when I normally hit the close window button and go somewhere else. The sad thing is I probably missed out on something really good because of my impatience, but I’m guessing many other people will act in the same way as me.

One thing I like a website to have is an introduction page before you enter the site with buttons to navigate to different areas of interest. The McBess website is a brilliant example of this as it has buttons to direct you to his blog, main website, shop and his bands music. I like how the icons change as you hover over them and this is an aspect I’d like to have on my site. 

Another example of a neat and well organised website can be found here. I like how Neil has a nice crisp stylized look and feel to his site and how he has made it easy for people to navigate through his pages. He has a really nice portfolio page where it gives you info on the image as you hover over it. The image loads up at the bottom of the page instead of opening a new window so there's not the problem of having to try and navigate back to the page you were on previously.

I also found a nice website done by Simon Spilsbury. It has a really smooth animated opening page which then opens to the main page revealing his illustrations as thumbnails. When you click on a thumbnail it slides onto the page from the right and there are really smooth scrolling pop up menus at the bottom to navigate back to the main page or other pages of interest.

Edwina White has a really interesting page with some nice animated elements of her work that instantly give you an idea of what her style is all about. Each category has a different illustrated animation assigned to it that brings her work to life. My only criticism of the site is there are a lot of additional pages to navigate through once you choose a category to look at and they tend to load a little jerkily.

Here is an example of a website I’m not keen on. Although it has a nicely illustrated opening page there is nothing to say who they are and where to click to enter the site. I clicked on the main image and was greeted with a quite dull and unorganised page with loads of little circles that need to be clicked on to find out what the image is. They have categorised each section into posters, covers and a category called stuff which appears to be t-shirt designs and posters, but to be honest I was bored after a couple of clicks and gave up.

So I guess for my website I would like to have an interesting intro page with animated icons to guide people to different sections of my site and a nicely organized portfolio page with smooth opening images that don’t open a new window or get you lost. I would also like to be able to guide people to my blog, shop and twitter page so they can see what I'm getting up to and be able to contact me. Ha ha I don't want much!

A Welcome Bit Of Exposure

Last week I saw a competition on creaturemag.com asking for submissions for the Movember Moustache Illustrations Awards. They were inviting people to submit character illustrations of moustaches to help further promote the Movember campaign which happens every year creating awareness for men’s health, specifically prostate cancer and other cancers that affect men. 

The brief was open to interpretation and split into 3 categories of Moustache Characters, Moustache Wearers and Moustache Theme. As well as the three category awards there will also be a "Drawer's Drawer Award" which will be voted on by all entrants. All winners and runners up will be included in an e-book which will publish not long after the winners are announced. 

I decided to have a go at submitting some artwork as it seemed like a fun and worthwhile brief.
I received an email yesterday to confirm my work had been posted up on the site check out my submission here

There wasn't really a concept behind my work I just sketched out a couple of characters that popped into my head and imagined a cowboy duel scene amongst some other ideas.

If you fancy submitting an entry to this competition you still have time as the closing date is 23rd November at 12pm. Click here for the brief and how to enter......and remember it's all for a good cause.

Tim Harries Words Of Wisdom

Another person that gave me some great advice on my work yesterday was cartoonist and humorous illustrator Tim Harries. Tim hales from Newport, South Wales and has been illustrating for over 14 years. Given that he'd been working professionally for such a long time I thought I should ask some questions. I asked how he started out and he told me he held down a regular job to begin with and worked on his illustration on the side until he had built up a decent client base that was sufficient enough for him to quit his job and concentrate on what he loved doing best and that’s drawing.
I told him a little about myself and what I liked drawing and he asked if he could take a look through my portfolio. Like other people had mentioned this week he was drawn to the character sketches and thought I should develop some of my work into comic strips. He recommended I approach newspaper editors to try and get them published. He said I had strong skills in my hand drawn work and should continue to build upon those strengths and maybe consider going into children’s book illustration. Tim said it was important to have a website to begin establishing a good web presence and gave me one of his printed postcards with his contact details on. It was interesting chatting to someone who worked in a similar way to me and also interesting to look at some of the work he has produced in different formats and now I have his email address I will make sure I keep in contact with him and ask him further questions in the future.

You can check out Tim Harries website here  

Networking at Thought Bubble

After the Nobrow portfolio visit I started to feel confident enough to do a little networking and spoke to a guy called Paul Fryer who has a little zine comic called Rockfall. What I liked about his work was that it was black and white and he used a considerable amount of cross-hatching. I asked him a few questions about his techniques and how he started out. He told me he had been working on his own comics for over 8 year and that he held down a normal job until he became established enough to leave that work behind and concentrate full time on his artwork. We spoke a little about technique and he told me he used the same pens that I use to make his work, but also said although he loves cross hatching it is very time consuming and may not be ideal if you need to produce something quick for a client. I had been worrying a little about my technique over the last few weeks and this kind of confirmed to me I need to ease off on the cross hatching a little or find a quicker way of working that’s not so laboured. I asked Paul if I could show him my work to get some feedback and he was happy to help. He was impressed with my character designs and said he liked the hand drawn sketches and thought my work would transfer well into either animation or children’s books. I asked him how I could go about getting my name out there and Paul suggested posting up work on DeviantArt as it’s a good start to getting your work seen by a global audience although one criticism he had about Deviant was "don’t expect to get any useful feedback on your work there". I bought a couple of Paul’s comics and he kindly sketched some of his characters inside the covers for me. He asked if I had a business card, epic fail on my behalf, but I jotted down my email address for him.
You can check out the work of Paul Fryer here

Portfolio Visit - with Nobrow

Whilst at the Thought Bubble convention I managed to get in a couple of portfolio viewings. The main people I wanted to show my work to were Nobrow who are an independent publishing platform for new and established illustrators. They had a portfolio drop in session scheduled for 2pm which I was really keen to get to. It took me a while to work out where the Nobrow table was as it didn't have a plaque like the other main stalls, but when I did eventually find it I asked how I could go about getting some feedback on my portfolio. The guy said they didn’t officially start till 2 but he would be happy to look at my work there and then, which was a massive bonus as I got to beat the rush. It was a fairly brief session but the guy said I had some strong skills in character design and said I had the potential to branch out into animation, children’s books or editorial. He said I should consider adding more pages of the character design roughs and think about creating some narratives for my characters and maybe create some comic strips of the characters I did for the Disney brief and the Uganda characters. He thought that by adding more of the development of these characters to my portfolio would showcase my potential for animation and story book illustration and give me a greater scope of opportunity. He liked the hand drawn quality of my work over the digitally worked stuff and said he thought textures and digital inking were being used far too much at the moment and thought that by concentrate on generating more of the hand drawn work would be more beneficial to me. At the end of the session he asked me to leave my email details with him and recommended I set up a website to start showcasing my work to the world.

Portfolio Visit - Chase Design Consultants

On Thursday I went to Chase Design Consultants in Manchester for a portfolio visit. Having never been to the Chase before my first impression of the place was met with the delightful smell of coffee. I thought I had stepped into a posh cafĂ© with a sleek print of the Mona Lisa on the wall and tables and chairs set out in the reception area. After the receptionist confirmed I was in the right place I made myself comfortable at one of the tables. I had originally arranged to meet with Mika Shephard but unfortunately she was off ill. All was not lost though as Associate Director Lise Brian was kind enough to spare me some her time to look at my work. Lise was really friendly and gave me some excellent feedback on my work. She liked the layout of my portfolio and commented on how the presentation had been well thought out. I had a good mix of black & white and colour work. She asked me if I had considered working as a children’s book illustrator as she could see my characters working well in a book, she also said she could see my work transferring well editorially especially the black and white stuff.
Lise explained that she preferred the original sketch drawings of my characters to the finished coloured versions and said it could be a style all by itself.  She would have liked to have seen more of my work, but appreciated I probably had unfinished work which I could later add. She also said It would be a good idea to show some of my finished work in context so that whoever looks at it can fully appreciate the artwork. This could be in the form of a photograph showing a poster in the setting or the finished mural print on the wall of the school. I really enjoyed my visit to the Chase and appreciate the advice I was given. I still have a lot more to do to get my portfolio up to scratch but I’m starting to get a better understanding of what a potential client might want to see and what can strengthen the skills I have.

Leeds Comic Con

Yesterday I attended the Leeds Comic Con, this was the first time I’d been to anything like this and it was a real eye opener. As you would expect there were lots of people dressed up in costumes of their favourite comic book characters and the atmosphere was very friendly. The festival was split into various different buildings around Leeds with different activities going on but the main venue was split between the Saviles Hall and the Royal Armoury building. At first I was a little overwhelmed by the amount of stalls packed into one room and the amount of people, but after doing a couple of laps of the venue to establish where I wanted to go I soon found my feet. As I described in an earlier post there were some really big names there including illustrators from both Marvel and DC Comics and many different illustrators for Super Hero comics, Sci-Fi and Manga. Apart from these obvious stalls there were also a great many stalls of artists selling their own hand made merchandise including t-shirts, badges, zines, jewellery, figurines and masks. There were also a few children’s book illustrators and writers over at the Armories building including Sarah Mcintyre and Gillian Rogerson who were running a Madcap Pirate Drop-in art workshop where everyone was welcome to create piratey pictures and comics. After doing a lot of walking around between the two buildings I found that people were really easy to talk to and were also happy to impart their knowledge on how to get started in the business and this gave me the perfect opportunity to do a little networking and show my portfolio around. There was an epic fail on my behalf that I didn’t have a business card with me, but I wrote down my email address for all the people that asked for my card.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Thought Bubble Sequential Arts Festival

This week is turning out to be a really busy week for me with the opportunity for portfolio visits popping up everywhere. Last week I managed to get my grubby little hands on some tickets for the Thought Bubble Sequential Arts Festival in Leeds on Saturday 19th November, which is this coming weekend and I must say the line up is looking absolutely brilliant. At the moment I’m a bit spoilt for choice as to what to see and do when I get there (I feel a well needed list coming on). Just scrolling through the guide book there are some great looking workshops to attend including Manga, Madcap Pirate, Dr Simpo’s Drop-In Comix. Also listed in the guide are the opportunities to get your portfolio seen with drop in sessions from Nobrow and SelfMadeHero, which I will certainly be looking to get in on. There are also a couple of portfolio critique sessions with the big guns Marvels Steve Wacker and a Dragons Den style portfolio session with 2000AD, but to be totally honest I’m way too scared to book into those sessions as I don’t see myself as the next Will Eisner (I’d love to be a fly on the wall though!).
Another event advertised in the guidebook is an art exhibition at the Traveling Man in Leeds between 14th and 20th of November entitled “Comics, Creatures & Curios” it sounds really interesting and if I have time in my busy schedule I will be heading down there to check it out. 

Visiting Lecture - Craig Oldham

A few weeks ago we had a visiting lecture by Craig Oldham who is a designer and art director at the award winning design agency Music in Manchester.
The title of the lecture was “But Isn’t That Your Job?” and was an informative and funny talk about Craig’s personal experiences with illustrators through 6 different projects. The first project was a marketing campaign for Manchester City Football Club called the “Big Four”. The job of the campaign was to promote four new players the club had bought and whip up some excitement amongst the fans and I guess in doing so taunt the other big football clubs.  At some point in their career each of these new players had played for one of the top-opposing clubs. A poster was created for each player and was themed according to the player’s attributes on the pitch. The below posters left to right are Emmanuel Adebayor illustrated by Michael Gillette, Craig Bellamy illustrated by Todd Slater, Shaun Wright Phillips illustrated by Chris White and Carlos Teves illustrated by Shephard Fairey. Although I know absolutely nothing about football Craig made the presentation of the project really enjoyable and I must say I found his raw style of presenting very refreshing. Craig described the process from roughs to finished pieces and spoke about the many problems the project presented in terms of budget and artwork. Another interesting project that was highlighted was the re-branding of Chester Zoo. Craig approached illustrator Adam Hayes who is a master of typography and asked him to create several sets of lettering for the project, which were later turned into a font. Adams approach to the project was one of complete enthusiasm, and you could definitely tell he really enjoyed what he was doing.

Through each project Craig explained how important it was to find the right illustrator for the job and told us how difficult it can be to find illustrators out there. This just goes to show how important self-marketing is and having a good web presence is the start of making sure you get seen.