Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Contact with Kate Slater

I recently contacted illustrator Kate Slater for some advice, and to gain an insight into her working method. Below are some examples of Kate's work, and the questions I asked with her responses.

1. I really like the hand crafted nature of your work. I can appreciate how much time, patience and effort goes into each piece. How long does it take to create a piece? Do you work quite quickly? 

Publishers used to ask me this when I went to see them after I graduated and I used to say something ridiculous like 1 day (they would look rather incredulous). It depends... I have come to appreciate the value of a good rough! I used to make things up a bit as I went along but now I find I work much more quickly if I plan. Perhaps a couple of days to make the image and a day to photograph/photoshop? Obviously completely depends on the work and also the deadline.

2. What do you do to prepare? Do you sketch out your designs? 

Probably some crossover on the last question! Yes, I do for the above reason and also because clients always want roughs. It's a bit strange sending them something that looks completely different from how the finished result will look, but I think they usually understand this! I draw in pencil, scan and colour in photoshop.

3.I find it hard when you have specific size requirements for an image and you work in this method, it's sometimes hard to get the right layout and can sometimes feel as if I am guessing a little. I know if I am working within a certain shape to stick within that shape but sometimes it doesn't always result in what I had hoped for! Do you have the same problem and if so how do you personally resolve it? 

Yes ALWAYS! I think it's basically because it's really difficult to square the camera up with the illustration so it's usually slightly wonky. I try to leave extra bleed and I almost always work larger than the finished image has to be (normally about x 1.5) so there's a bit more leeway. If all else fails I fill in missing gaps down the side on Photoshop. (I feel like I'm mentioning Photoshop a lot but I'm terrible at it and don't like using it much!)

4. Do you use a specific type of paper/card? Or just any scraps you can get your hands on?! ..maybe both? Also do you use any other medium with your cut outs such as paint? How much digital work is done on your pieces after they are photographed?

Any scraps I can get my hands on! Loads of magazines, especially Gardener's World and also home/country ones because they have lots of lovely colours and patterns. Also insides of envelopes, I have an enormous stash. If I need a really specific flat colour I'll buy any kind of paper which is that colour rather than a particular kind. I've also recently started painting some paper to collage with.

5. While I am at university I make good use of the photographic studio, however when I leave I worry my work will suffer without such facilities. How did you made the transition yourself after you graduated?

Ahh, these problems sound so familiar! This is exactly what happened to me. I have struggled a lot with photography and still do to be honest - I'm always asking for advice! For about my 4th ever commission I was asked to create posters for a chocolate shop, one of which had to be FIVE feet high. They dropped that size in the end because I just couldn't do it and I think they realised! I'd ask for all the advice you can get from your photography dept while you're still at uni - what kind of camera you need and lighting etc. Crucially, which I find most difficult, how to take a photo which will print at a big size at 300 dpi!

6. I can see from your website you have been commissioned for illustration jobs. How popular is your work with clients? Do they like the style? 

I think so, it obviously depends on what they're looking for. Sometimes I get commissions where they're particularly looking for a collage artist, but other times it's just because they like my work in general. I think it can be quite decorative which works well for book covers and some editorial work, children's books are more difficult because publishers generally think that collage can be too still and harsh, but hopefully when they see mine they realise that's not always the case! Andersen Press were really helpful - we spent a good 6 months reworking the sample illustrations I'd done for Magpie's Treasure at uni.

7. Lastly I would like to know who or what inspires you? 

Reading, writing, theatre, countryside, other illustrators - Nathalie Choux, Brecht Evans, Lizzy Stewart, Isabelle Arsenault...

I'm so glad Kate replied to me as I found her responses very helpful!

Monday, 16 May 2011

8x8 Project Final Outcomes

I nearly lost the will to live today!!..after previously losing my images for this project (due to a faulty pen drive), I then dropped the box containing all my cut outs this morning, on the way to the studio for re-shooting, and nearly cried as I watched them floating in the biggest puddle of doom!!!!

So I sat in my car sulking as I dried them all using my car heaters!!..which took forever! Then I ran a quick iron over them in the print room, and they were as good as new! 

It took me a good three hours to set up my scene and shoot, but finally, I have my images!! 

Above is my full page illustration.

I wanted to depict an African scene with the natives rejoicing as they do at the end of the story. It seems after all their hardship they are still very happy people, the cut out hearts represent this. There are serious issues raised in the story but I wanted my image to be quite light hearted and focus on the people and not the issues.

I chose a certain colour palette relating to descriptions in the story, such as the red dust. I wanted to keep basic shapes and a naivety about my piece, my influences came from the African flags, and other African books which gave me a sense of place. 

Above is my spot image.

In the story there is a little boy who's mother has passed away and his father is suffering from AIDS. The head teacher from his school is making a home visit and takes one of the British helpers along. It is very sad to read how poorly his father is and the conditions which they are living in. The boy makes Red Bush Tea which is what i decided to display in my image along with shoes which are also talked about quite a bit in the story. The tea represents home, warmth and caring. The shoes represent the people.

I continued with the same colour palette.

I hope you like!

Sunday, 15 May 2011

8x8 Project

My current project 8x8 is a publication which will bring together eight short stories by creative writing students from Manchester Metropolitan University and design talent from Stockport College.

The book is being published and will feature at Didsbury Arts Festival, which is a high profile national event. 

Each person in my class has been allocated a story to illustrate, but with there being only eight stories and a lot more students this meant we were competing against each other to win the chance of having our work published. We had to present our ideas to our tutor and the guy from Man Met and then the decision was to be made about who would get the job!

I was very nervous while we were waiting for the decision as i was under prepared due to being poorly for 2 weeks and had also missed the briefing, so I felt behind. I was overwhelmed to find out that my idea had been chosen and my work will be published in the book!! I really am very happy!! 

I am sticking with my method of cutting shapes, suspending them and then photographing the outcome. I started this process, took lots of shots and unfortunately lost my work..terrible!!!
But I have a week until deadline so I am back in the studio tomorrow morning to set up again and re-take my images! This is a good opportunity not to be missed!! Luckily with the way I work I have all my elements cut out and they are physical pieces so I can easily set it all up again and photograph, and it gives me the opportunity to improve anything that i wasn't happy with before!

The story I have been allocated is entitled 'Shine in Your Corner' by Jennifer Guilliard. It's a story set in Africa portraying some of the struggles that people face on a day to day basis. It describes the red dust of the earth and the people rejoicing, but also their struggles, I am trying to combine all of this into 2 images.

My inspiration for this project has mainly been African flags! Some are absolutely gorgeous with such lovely shapes. Quite naive and colourful, almost childlike. I love them! 

I borrowed a book from the library showing a variety of African flags of the Fante, they are just delightful!! Lovely stitching and shapes! I want this naivety in my work. I want a feel of the African spirit, to represent a sense of place but still sensitive to the story while showing the peoples courage at the same time.

I will update with my shots once they are taken, and my final will be up very very soon! 

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

1 2 3

I have been given a lot of advice in my lifetime, but when asked to think of the best 3 pieces quite a few popped up in my mind! Obviously relevant to my studies and my future within illustration, not just general life!!

Here goes...

1) SET UP A WEBSITE!..if people can not find you they do not know you exist!! When contacting Art Directors send hand made packs as it is more personal and they are more likely to look at it rather than an email. Choose carefully who you send your work to, make sure your style is relevant otherwise it is a waste of your time. 
Also, do not give up!

Garry Parsons gave this advice when I attended a Business Master Class in London run by AOI.

2) Enter as many competitions as possible when you are an aspiring illustrator to get your name out there. And never change your style to suit anyone else. 

Olaf Hajek gave me this piece of advice when I visited his studio in Berlin, and it's true you should not be what you think people want you to be or do work you think people want to see, in a fashion they prefer (i.e. digital work)!! but you should just do what feels right for you and keep your own style. Olaf is a very talented painter and he said he will not change what he does to suit other people. I think it's fantastic he has retained traditional methods and he is highly successful.

3) Making mistakes is just as important as doing it right!

My tutor Joanna Nelson gave me this piece of advice today and it is so true, you have to make mistakes to move forward with your work. Be daring and try things, if they work great, if they don't then at least you learn!

I wish I'd done this!!

If there was one piece of work that I wish was mine, it would be the stunning installation that I have posted above by Kirsten Hassenfeld. It is entitled "Dans La Lune" which roughly translates into "daydream" or "daydreaming" in French. I think the title is very appropriate.

  Hassenfeld has an obsession with paper which I can relate to, however she pushes boundaries and her work really is quite exquisite. It's amazing how someone can create something so beautiful out of just paper and a few bits of tape and glue to hold it together. Her designs are elegant and dramatic, and her use of lighting just enhances how spectacular they really are. Hassenfeld can make paper take on different forms, she can make it appear shiny like china, she turns paper into shapes that suggest everything from cut glass to natural rock crystals. Her installations are so delicate and pretty, I would love to go and see her work, I imagine it has a really calming atmosphere about it almost dream-like. The lighting element creates a soft glow at the centre of each piece, making them appear lantern-like and dreamy.

Dans La Lune contains the biggest objects Hassenfeld has ever made. Structures four to eight feet in diameter hang like gigantic droplets. These huge droplets are embellished with beads, chains, gem-like crystals and a whole load of other surprises. I adore all these elements! It is just my taste!

 Above are a few close ups of Hassenfeld's installation, they are really quite extraordinary! It is hard to believe that anybody could create something so ornate out of paper, the most ordinary of materials. After looking closely it is easy to see how obsessively detailed the objects are, they reference luxury goods, classical architecture and decorative arts. I really wonder how long such a work of art takes to create, the detail amazes me. Even the pony in the picture above is made to look like lace, under the gazebo with the elegant lady. Hassenfeld clearly has a fascination with the beauty or adornment. These obsessively crafted objects create a world of decorative excess. It is almost like a 'wonderland', a place to escape to. It reminds me of fairy tales.

Hassenfeld has played around with scale which is something I would like to do in my own work in the future as my own style progresses. By lighting her installations they appear more dramatic and it creates a mood or a feeling.  

It is obvious to see that Hassenfeld is extremely talented in creating these painstaking installations. It obviously takes a lot of time, skill and patience to create such works. I chose to look at Kirsten Hassenfeld's work as I felt I could relate to it even though her stuff is at the other end of the spectrum to mine! I aspire to be as good one day! I am thinking of moving my own work forward and experimenting with such techniques, and I am considering this for my personal project that we will be doing in our final year of university. If i did chose to experiment with this method it would be on a much smaller scale and I'd have to try things out as I currently cut 2D shapes out of paper, which I then compose by suspending to create a 'scene', and then I photograph to get my outcome. Maybe moving towards 3D is the next step for me!   

Tuesday, 10 May 2011


It seems like I have been away forever! Unfortunately I was poorly and my blog was neglected but all is well now!

As promised I have my final outcomes for 'James and the Giant Peach' brief and the 'Wellspring' brief too.

I hope you like!