Thursday, 10 May 2012

Hopes, Fears and Opportunities (Part Two)

As I rapidly approach the end of my degree, now would seem a good time to reflect on how this 'Final Major Project' has gone. Now is also a good time to look forward to what comes after my increasingly limited time left as an illustration student, as I begin the journey into the world of freelance illustration.

At the end of 2011, when writing 'Hopes, fears and Opportunities (Part One)' I wrote of my fear of the 'Final Major Project'. I was afraid that I would write a brief that would turn out all too late not to be right for me. I feared that at this point in the course, I would look over what I had created and feel ashamed, embarrassed and gutted to have wasted the opportunity. Back then I was continuously haunted by the image of myself at the end of year show, surrounded by the brilliant work created in this module by my talented colleagues, and then looking to my own sorry offering and thinking: "Where did it all go wrong?"

As relentlessly pessimistic as this now sounds (and it really does) I don't think that I was alone in this fear. I think all creative types occasionally doubt their abilities. I'm sure that this is true for even the most talented of illustrators. And when your classmates produce work as original and beautiful as mine do, there are few that wouldn't fear their own work looking weak in comparison. In a way, this fear has helped me to improve my work. I've constantly been striving to create a better quality of work, because the quality of work amongst my colleagues is so high. Some would call this competitive, but I think of it more as a 'team spirit. We've been on a journey together, refining our skills for the last three years, and for me to produce work that doesn't meet the standard set by everyone else would feel like letting the team down.

Thankfully, some six months later, this fear of letting both myself and 'the team' down hasn't come true. I feel that I chose the brief that was right for me. I've wanted to write and illustrate a children's book for years now, and I feel that my personal 'style' has developed into one that suits children's illustration. If I had chosen an alternative, more 'grown up' and serious brief for my final module I wouldn't have been being true to myself.

I also feel that the project has been something of a success. I usually shy away from saying that I've produced work that I'm proud of. I suppose because of a lack of confidence and fear that others may not agree. But this time, at the end of this project, I actually do feel proud of the work I've produced. That is not to say that I think the work is perfect, or that there aren't millions of other, similar pieces done by more talented artists that have been executed better. But I do feel that the work I have produced is of a higher standard than the work I created previously and is of the highest standard that I am currently capable of. So for that reason I do judge the project to be a success, and for that reason I am pleased, relieved and proud.

Last year I wrote of how during the closing months of my degree I hoped to make the most of the time I had left with my tutors and colleagues; I wanted to soak up as much of the inspirational studio, atmosphere as I could while there was still time. As this remaining time becomes evermore scarce, I am pleased to say that feel I have made the most of it. I've spent a lot of time working in the studio, with my friends and tutors following the progress of my project and giving me help and advice every step of the way.

The fact that at the end of the project I feel pleased with my work, is all down to the support I have received during the previous months. Pretty much every element of my final piece would have been different had it not been for all the input I have received from the guys in the studio. No matter how hard I work on my own, there is still no replacement for the casual, regular advice that you receive from your mates, whilst you work together.

It is only really now that I am able to fully appreciate how important and influential this studio atmosphere has been and how my work has improved as a result. My fear now is that after university, when I can no longer rely on my friends and tutors for advice, that my work will suffer as a result.

My hope is that we all stay in touch, that we continue to keep each other informed of how our work is progressing and that we continue to offer each other hints, tips and advice on how we might improve.

A good way to do this could be through social media, through blogs and Twitter: Posting our work online and gaining feedback from each other. This is of course, no match for the studio atmosphere and I hope that we still regularly meet up and discuss work.

Another good solution to this could be through 'Draw North West', a monthly meet up for illustrators in the region that has been started recently and is proving to be a success. These meet ups could give us an ideal opportunity to stay in touch and to discuss work.

There are a few of us in fact, who enjoy working together and who find the feedback from each other helpful, that have talked of setting up a collective when we finish university. This would be an ideal way to stick together and to continue to support each other. And of course, to encourage each other to keep up the illustration work.

This brings me to my biggest fear, a fear that I had six months ago when I blogged of what was to come and a fear that still troubles me. This is the fear that I will not continue to utilize and progress with the skills I have learned during my degree once I finish university. The fear that all this work will have been in vain.

This is a fear that is often backed up by those in the industry, who talk of how few of their peers have gone on to pursue illustration post graduation: of how most of them spent three years learning skills that they will never use and learning of an industry that they will never be a part of. I so don't want this to happen to me. I have wanted to be an illustrator since I was thirteen and dreamed of illustrating children's books. Now at the age of twenty-two, after three years of studying the subject, my passion for it is as strong as ever. That's why I can't bear the thought that I might gradually give it up, that I would let all this enthusiasm slip away.

 This is why I need to stick by those who feel the same, to keep myself focused on developing my work. After all, university may be almost over, but as I begin to edge towards the world of the freelancer, I can see that the real work is only just beginning.

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