Wednesday, 25 May 2011

'Heroes' Update

So, I've been busy with this 'Heroes' brief. To start with, there's been a change to the line up: Elvis Costello has gone; he was the only one of the faces that people didn't recognise. So I've decided to replace him with 'Lady Gaga', she arguably has more of an iconic look and is more 'of the moment'. See what you think:
I've also been testing out some 'prototype' vinyl faces on glass, and I'm really pleased with the results:

Finally, here's my proposal:

Sunday, 15 May 2011

The Chase

 A few months ago we had a visit from a design agency called 'The Chase'. 'The Chase' are a design agency that formed in Manchester in 1986 and now has multiple offices, a staff of 46 and a turnover of 5.6 million. Needless to say, when it comes to the design industry, these guys really know their stuff.

The people from 'The Chase' gave a very interesting and informative talk to us all about the design industry. They also gave us some very useful tips on contacting agencies:
  •  When contacting an agency via Email, find out the name of the person who will receive your Email and be sure to spell it correctly.
  •  Be careful not to attach too many folders to the Email, only attach your strongest work.
  • Follow up the Email with a phone call.
  • When visiting an agency be sure to be nice to receptionists.
  • Try not to get too nervous.
  • Be sure to know something about the agency you are visiting.
  • Be enthusiastic.
  • If there are no jobs available ask if there is a brief that you can help with.
We were also given some top tips on creating and presenting a portfolio. Illustrators take note:
  • Don't like it? Don't include it. Illustrators often include work in their portfolio that they are less than pleased with only to then dismiss it in front of a potential client. Which begs the question: if you don't like it, why include it?
  • Have a good mix of work. A variety of briefs.
  • Keep your folder clean and spotless.
  • Layout is very, very important. A poor layout can overshadow even the best of work.
  • Clients like to see an original piece, it gives them an idea of your technique.
  • Don't put foam board in your portfolio, it is far too cumbersome and unwieldy.
  • Find out how much time you have with the client so that you can use this time constructively.
  • Don't take all criticism to heart. But do take notice.
  • Practice talking about your work.
  • Start and finish with your strongest work.
  • Remember the importance of 'self promotion'. Clients like to be left with something tangible that they can keep (perhaps something self published), that will remind them of your work at a later date.
As you can see, we were given some very practical and helpful tips that will no doubt prove useful in the future. Thank you 'The Chase'!

Development of 'Shine in Your Corner'

Usually with this blog, I only post my finished work when I am totally happy with it. This doesn't really feel in the spirit of blogging though, and having shown some of my missteps on the previous post I realize that it is just as important to show what works as what doesn't as it is only through the latter that you can achieve the former. So, with this in mind, here is my development work for 'Shine in Your Corner':

 First of all, a few sketches:

With the full page illustration, I decided to break the character down into shapes:
I did at one point try printing these shapes, but that proved unsuccessful in the end: 

When I eventually made the character digitally, I still felt that there was something missing ( I eventually added shading and a subtle texture):

This is the pattern I created for her dress:

 Finally, here is a 'digital rough' of the spot illustration:


A while ago now, we were asked to pick an editorial and come up with a new illustration to accompany it. I chose a piece called‘Relationships’ by Mariella Frostrup from 'The Observer Magazine'. The article is a 'Q and A' piece in the style of an 'Agony Aunt' column. 

In the article a young and confused student writes in asking for Mariella's advice. His problem is that he has recently become infatuated with his 23 year old 'German language assistant'. He is uncertain whether or not h should make his feeling known to her, he has to decide quickly though because time is against him and in four months time he is to leave to go to college. Mariella responds by telling that what he really ought to do is throw caution to the wind, follow his heart and go for it.

When I read the article it occurred to me that most of the text is taken up with Mariella's answer and that the recurring theme is the notion of being brave and 'taking the plunge'. So I decided that I would show a character cautiously preparing to take this leap into the unknown. After much discussion with my tutor and colleagues about possible ideas, I came upon the notion of the character preparing to jump from a diving board, perhaps grasping a bouquet of flowers to further illustrate the concept of uncertain romance.

So, now all that remained was for me to create the illustration and unfortunately this is where my problems began. I spent the best part of a week struggling with a complicated image that simply wasn't working. And so after speaking to my tutor about it I decided to start again. It was actually a big relief when I admitted defeat and went about creating the image in a different and simpler way. Although I can't deny that my failure to successfully create the illustration the first time around had a considerable knock on my confidence.

After all that I eventually came up with an illustration that I am happy with as I feel it successfully reflects both the mood of the article and my 'style'. I did consider only posting this successful outcome, but now think its important to show the images that didn't work, as they ultimately lead to the final piece.   

So, this is the original article:

Here is a sketch of an idea:
Here is my first unsuccessful attempt at the image:
Here is my latter more successful image:
Finally, here is that image in context:


So, 'Music' is a very cool, successful and award winning design agency located in Manchester's achingly trendy 'Northern Quarter'. In keeping with their reputation for sleek, simple and effective design they have just installed an office with floor to ceiling glass walls and door. Unfortunately, this trendy and transparent  development has become something of a hazard, with staff and visitors not realizing where the glass panels are, and bumping into them.

This is where we come in. By 'we' I mean me and the rest of my illustration class. We have been asked to submit ideas for design solutions that will solve this problem, reflect the agency well and keep to the 'Music' design philosophy. We have also been asked to submit designs based on a music track.

My proposal is based upon the song ‘Heroes’ by David Bowie. The idea is to give people using the office the chance to become their musical ‘heroes’. I propose to display the key recognisable facial features of a particular musical icon on each of the glass panels (and the door), leaving space for the viewer to put their own face and ‘become’ that character.

Each individual icon is created through cutting simple, graphic shapes out of vinyl and sticking them to the glass. I have deliberately chosen musicians that can be defined and recognised by certain prominent features( for example hair and make up). It is for this reason that I have chosen the following: Freddie Mercury, Ozzy Osbourne, Slash (Guns ‘n’ Roses), David Bowie, Bob Dylan, Amy Whinehouse, John Lennon, Elvis Costello and Gene Simmons (Kiss).

Part of the reason for my proposal is because I wanted to create a design solution for the office that was interactive and made use of the glass. Hopefully the artwork would be popular with both those who work at and visit ‘Music’.

 I also think that the artwork is a good representation of the design agency in that it brings together both a love of simple and effective design with a love of music.

'Shine in Your Corner'

For the last few weeks now I have been working on what has quite possibly been my most enjoyable project  of the course so far. The project has been to produce two illustrations (one 'full page illustration' and one 'spot illustration')  in response to the story 'Shine in Your Corner' by Jennifer Guilliard.

The text is a beautifully written and very moving memoir that Guilliard wrote about her time working in an impoverished school in South Africa. What struck me when I first read the story was how although the situation would appear to be difficult and harrowing, it actually made for a very uplifting read. I think the tone of the text can be nicely summed up in a quote made by 'Mr Sali' the headmaster of the school who described the school as being: "...the poorest primary in the township but the happiest...".

The story is all about the triumph of the human spirit. It is about how the teachers, headmaster and pupils of the school remain joyful and optimistic in the face of devastating poverty. I wanted my illustrations to reflect this and portray the sense of fun and energy that I got from the story. This is what I came up with:

Tuesday, 10 May 2011


These are the best three pieces of advice I've had all year:

1. "Careful not to look at other artists work too much"  Jo

This was a point that Jo made quite recently when I was obsessing over trying to get my work to resemble that of the artists I admire; to the point where I was stuck: unable to move forward with too many influences and not enough confidence. But it all fell into place when Jo made the above quote. It made me realize that I have to find my own style, my own working method and have confidence in my own abilities. 

2. "Just forget about it and move on, dude"  Jordan

Jord said this while we were looking through our newspapers for 'The Wellspring'. I was looking at my own illustration and going through all the issues I had with it. That was when Jord gave me the above advice, and he was totally right. I know fully well that given half the chance I could spend months obsessing over one piece of work, never being quite satisfied with it. Or I could take Jord's advice, decide that the piece is finished and move on.

3. "You'll create your best work when you're having fun." Jack Teagle

It seems obvious enough, but often in all the stress of meeting a deadline it's easy to forget about enjoying the process of creating. And of course, that lack of fun is reflected in the work. It’s not difficult to distinguish work that was created with enthusiasm from work that was forced. I genuinely believe that if your having fun creating your work, then it will show in the illustration and your work will reflect the fun you had making it. I suppose this point connects to the previous two: if you enjoy your work and you approach it in a confident manner and avoid worrying too much about what you or the artists you admire may have created in the past; then your work will be all the stronger for it.

Friday, 6 May 2011

I Wish I'd Done This: Chris Ware's 'Unmasked' (2009)

'Unmasked' is the title of Chris Ware's cover for the November 2nd 2009 edition of 'The New Yorker'. The image shows Ware's talent for setting a scene, giving it an atmosphere and creating a narrative. The scene is set in the suburbs of America, in what looks to be a typical middle class neighbourhood. The night is Halloween and a group of parents are taking their children door to door throughout the neighbourhood 'trick or treating'. As the children go to the door the parents keep a distance, enough of a distance to give the children the notion of independence, but close enough to keep an eye on what's going on. After all the children are essentially approaching strangers door to door and the parents want to be able to step in should they feel the need. Well, in theory the parents are keeping an eye on the children, but in reality they are busy checking their iPhones. Ware makes a big point of this; he uses white as a spot colour to highlight the glow of the iPhones on the faces of the parents, which bares an eerie resemblance to the 'spooky' masks that the children are wearing. This resemblance between the mask and the iPhone glow is clearly the basis for the illustration; Ware is clearly implying a similarity between the two. 

This leads us to the question: What point is Ware trying to make? A quick scan of Internet forums, shows us that many are asking the same question and no one seems to have the definitive answer. One interpretation is that it is a comment on over protective parents who do their children more harm than good by denying them independence. 

On the other hand, some argue that Ware is making a very different point: a point about parents not paying enough attention to their children and instead being too distracted by their iPhones. Looking at the image I notice that the adults may be all standing together, but really might as well be alone. After all they don't seem to be at all engaging with each other at all. Although this would seem to be a prime opportunity to socialize with other parents of young children, to get to know the neighbours and to become part of the community. Instead the parents are shunning all of this potential face-to-face socializing with others in favour of socializing electronically with those outside of the scene.

In my opinion, although this piece could be interpreted as a comment on neglectful parenting, I feel that this is too narrow an interpretation. I think that Ware's intentions are much broader. I think the piece is intended to point out the irony of how technology like the iPhone that is intended to bring us closer together is making us more and more isolated. The parents busy with their iPhones

So, onto the next question: why do I wish I'd done this? Why this image? Part of the reason why I love this piece is because it manages a perfect balance of moods: To an extent it is a humorous satire of the middle classes, following in a long tradition of New Yorker Cartoons that ever since the 20's have been poking fun at the absurdities of modern American life. Then on the other hand the piece is a somewhat sad and melancholic view of a world where we keep ourselves isolated from those closest to us. 

And my appreciation for the piece doesn't end there; I'm also completely in awe of the way that Ware has created the image. He has managed to get across what is potentially quite a difficult and complicated scene through an intelligent and sophisticated use of simple and dynamic shapes. With these simple but beautifully designed shapes and a colour palette that is also subtle but incredibly effective he has created a scene and an atmosphere that are instantly recognisable to the viewer. 

As far as I'm concerned any piece of work that manages to be so funny and sad at he same time; a piece that laughs at it's audience whilst simultaneously sympathizing with them; in a way that is both subtle and striking, is certainly a piece worthy of attention and acclaim. That is why I love it, that is why I chose to write about it and that is why I wish I'd done it.