Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Portfolio Visit: Scholastic

Whilst in London I was fortunate enough to get a portfolio viewing at 'Scholastic', a publisher that specializes in books for children and teenagers. As someone that would like to pursue a possible career in childrens illustration, I was very excited for this visit. I was also very nervous, 'Scholastic" is such a mayjor publisher that I couldn't help but feel intimidated.

When I arrived, I met with Andrew Biscomb, the Creative Director, who within five minutes had put me completely at ease. What followed was one of the most thorough, helpful and enjoyable portfolio viewings I've had yet. Andrew was very generous with his time, going through each piece of my portfolio in turn and mentioning what he felt were the pros and cons.

For example with my character designs for 'Helping Uganda Schools' he liked the monkey and the crocodile, saying that although they were stylized they were still recognizable as the animals. However, in the case of the elephant (that wears glasses and stands on its hind legs) he felt that it was too 'human like' and needed to bear a closer resemblance to the animal in question, like the previous designs. He went on to say that he would be interested in seeing a collection of animal characters in the same ilk as the aforementioned monkey and crocodile. I was really pleased, to find that there was an area of my work that he felt was strongest and worth developing was really helpful and encouraging.

When it came to the character design for 'Why Are Girls Always Right?' he felt that the characters were too stylized and abstract to appeal to children in a storybook (perhaps better suited to a medical context). I can totally see what he means, now that it is a year on from this brief, the characters do seem slightly 'distant' and 'sparse' and lacking a certain warmth. When I compare these characters to my more recent designs I feel that I have moved on and that my recent work has more of the warmth that these designs were lacking.

He liked the pieces I had designed for 'Music' (the poster and the 'Heroes' piece), he said it is encouraging to see elements of graphic design in an illustration portfolio, as it shows that the illustrator is able to work with text and composition. He said that it is rare to find illustrators that can create and work with type as well as the image. Again this is encouraging and helpful, it is good to know that the design skills that I have been taught will be thought of as useful and it has encouraged me to experiment more with text and get some of my own typography in my portfolio.

Once we'd discussed my portfolio, he went on to mention other illustrators that I might be interested in (he recommended Oliver Jeffers and David Hitch). He then went on to mention illustration agencies that represent the kind of work I am interested in: 'The Bight Agency' and 'Arena Illustration', both of which I have since looked into and both of which are full of just the kind of illustration that I admire and aspire to.

When I left 'Scholastic', I did so buzzing with enthusiasm and excitement. It had been everything that you'd hope for in a portfolio visit, with lots of helpful feedback and advice. I left feeling that I had a clearer understanding of the direction that I'd like to take my work in the future and of where I'd like to work within the illustration and design industry. I feel very grateful to Andrew for giving up so much of his time and for helping me to get more of an idea of where I'd like to aim towards after finishing my degree.

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