Monday, 19 December 2011

Final Major Project: Thoughts and Ideas

I have thought a lot about my final major project, and I know I would love to create on a much bigger scale than I have done in previous works . I am thinking lots of cardboard, fairy lights and small details! I would love to create a scene or environment that people can get inside, and be taken back to childhood. I guess it's creating the sense of nostalgia that I am interested in. I want to make people feel a certain way. 

Artists I have been researching for inspiration are:

Andrew Macgregor

Taylor Mckimens

I will continue my research and also find some books on nostalgia and read up about the aspects of it. I want my project to have a deeper meaning/theme, which I think will come with research, so I will continue this over christmas! 

Illustrations Digital Future

I have read a few articles around the subject of illustrations future, and there seems to be different opinions about working digitally and making from scratch. I also have my own opinions around this subject! 

 Before there was an explosion of technology in the 90's, artists used to paint and make things using craft techniques. Almost everybody was thrown into this computerised world, and from a young age I can remember being forced into Information Technology lessons..and I despised it!! It made me uncomfortable and frustrated that I had to hit buttons, and I did not like the fact that I couldn't get inside to move things, it wasn't something I could physically touch. 

There was a lot of digital illustrations being created, and it seemed everybody was after this sleek, perfect look. Even today everybody wants the latest gadgets, it's a status thing to have a Mac or an ipod, or latest iphone. There has even been discussions on the future of books due to the invention of ebooks, ipad and kindle, where you can read digitally...who wants to do that?! I love to open a book and smell the pages! I like choosing a book by it's cover! If books disappear will there be a need for illustrators? I don't actually think people will stop buying books, its not practical to lug a computer around anyway. Besides, even ebooks would still need art work surely?

I think the thing I don't like about digital work is that it's too sleek and can feel like it doesn't have a personality. I do notice the need for perfection in society nowadays too, women are becoming more fake looking with false hair, eyelashes etc, and supermarkets will only sell veg that is a certain shape. I mean what's the world coming to?! I watched a program called 'The People's Supermarket' on C4, and they were trying to stock up their supermarket and went to some local farmers for some local produce. The farmers were explaining that the big name supermarkets will not buy vegetables that are oddly shaped or have knobbly bits, and lots go to waste. This just seems ridiculous to me when you have people starving on the other side of the world. Besides, I'd like to buy weird shaped vegetables! I hate going into supermarkets and being met with same boring layouts and mass produced items that all look alike..I can compare it to digital work.  I like imperfections, it's intriguing and I respect people that have computer skills don't misunderstand me, but the computer should just be a tool for finishing off a project i.e. for printing or doing a few touch-ups. I wouldn't agree that using a computer is a skill as such and anyone can be trained up to press buttons and move a mouse, that being said its the idea that's important and not the method. I found this quote by Milton Glaser from an article which really 'hit the nail on the head' for me, "Computers are to design as microwaves are to cooking." The man had a point: simply reheating ready-meals rather than cooking with fresh ingredients every time can leave the palette craving new tastes and experiences. Serving up mediocre and mundane dishes day-after-day isn't good for the soul - whereas experimentation is the spice-of-life. (

I think computers take away the element of chance in illustrations, which can sometimes be the making of a project. It's nice to hand make things and feel a sense of achievement knowing that not everybody in the world can do what you are able to do. I think sketchbooks and experimenting are a huge part in making individual illustrations, you can keep mistakes as they sometimes add a little something! Hand made work is quirky, imperfect and unique. It is so versatile, it has no limitations. 

 It seems that there has been a shift again and people are reverting back to craft, some think this a trend and may fade but I will never work digitally it's just not what I do. Maybe people never stopped crafting, maybe it seemed that way because companies were preferring the digital illustrations and so that's what was what we were being exposed to. I think nowadays it's a mix of the two, a lot more people are mixing digital and handmade together, and it works. I think the future for illustration looks bright, and that although people's opinions differ, there's a place for everybody.

Helen Musselwhite Creative Review Article

This article from CREATIVE REVIEW magazine gave me an insight into Helen Musselwhites work, and her working methods. I took it along to share at our Creative Review meeting.

I really admire the skill and patience that she has, which is apparent in her work. I can really relate to what Helen is talking about with regards to wanting to work on a bigger scale, and being able to let people 'jump into' your work, as I think this will be a natural progression for me too! 

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Helen Musselwhite: paper maker

Posted by Satara Achille, 21 July 2009, 14:40    Permalink    Comments (14)

For this month's issue of CR, illustrator Helen Musselwhite created a charming wildlife scene using nothing but a selection of the latest coloured, metallic and translucent papers. Here on the blog we thought we’d show the process of her making it and post some other images of her work...

A sketch plan of the piece in this month's issue

CREATIVE REVIEW: Where and when did you go to college – and what course did you do – illustration?
: I went to college in the late 80s in, ahem, Swindon (don't really like to tell to many people that, not because of the art school I stress, that was great and I met two of my very best friends there, it's just it's not like saying "Oh I went to St Martins" is it?!). I studied OND and HND graphics but veered towards illustration most of the time.
CR: Where is your studio / where are you based?
HM: I live in south Manchester and work from home.
CR: Do you take on many commercial commissions – or do you see yourself more as an artist than an illustrator?
HM: I suppose I’m more of an artist at the moment as a lot of my work is private commissions and I take part in quite a few gallery exhibitions. I would love to do more commercial illustration work, a book cover would be nice!
CR: How did you get into working with paper the way you do?
HM: I think I got into working with paper because I thought it would be quicker than painting (not true) and I also love the rich, flat and continuous colours of paper. I'm also very keen on watercolour paper, I like the different textures and brown paper and card for its utilitarianism. I really like that you can score, fold, curl and photocopy onto paper. I use a lot of pattern that I get from my collection of 60s and 70s pillowcase and duvet covers.
Japanese patterned fabric is good to use too. I like the idea of building layers, to create a scene that the viewer could jump into, another world that’s a bit like a fairytale or a children's story – everything’s nice and everyone's happy.
CR: Looking at images of your work (rather than at the artworks themselves), it’s tricky to know the scale you work at – tell us about the size of image you tend to create...
HM: I make most of my work to fit into any box frame that I can find to buy, I used to buy a tiny frame (until it was discontinued a few weeks ago) that was only 115mm square x 45mm deep. I've made pieces up to 800mm x 600mm and all sizes between.
CR: Undergrowth, woods and birds... Tell us about your choice of subject matter and what inspires you
HM: My choice of subject matter is inspired by things I see everyday walking my dog. I live in semi-suburbia, really close to the countryside. I really notice the changing of the seasons and am enamored by the beauty and complexity of Mother Nature. I really like leaves, the shape, colour, and uniformity, I like the shapes of trees and branches, the colour combinations that occur naturally and I like the character and natural engineering of birds, oh and I love owls! There’s nothing I like more than to be walking down the lane and being greeted by a Friesian cow looking over the hedge.
CR: Your images are a bit like stage sets – have you ever been asked to design a set for a theatre or film production? Stepping up to a larger scale – and perhaps working with materials like wood and metals – is that something you’d fancy doing ever?
HM: I would love to work on a much larger scale; I think it would be a natural progression as I said before I want viewers of my work to want to jump in – so with a film or theatre set you really could do that.
Metals, wood and plastic would all be great to work with, thinking about it a large sculpture would be fantastic to do... a life-size tree with owls and birds, I'd love to get my teeth stuck into a commission like that.
CR: What else makes you tick? What are your favourite biscuits and what’s on your stereo this week!?
HM: What else makes me tick? Lets see... the vastness and immediacy of the internet, buying a new book, listening to music, the scent of roses, sweet chilli crisps and rosé wine. And my dog when he sits at the top of the stairs with a stolen shoe in his mouth...
On my stereo this week: three tunes I've downloaded that will get heavy rotation then I’ll probably go back to Radio 4 until I find some more tunes I just can’t live without!
Misery Business – Paramore (my song of choice when playing Guitar Hero – I'm not very good but love it especially the end bit, only play it when we go to a friend's house, if we bought a Wii I'd get no work done at all). Jump in the Pool by Friendly Fires, and In For The Kill (Skream’s Lets Get Ravey remix) by La Roux.
My biscuit of choice is McVites plain chocolate digestive.
Here are some more of Helen Musselwhite's creations...

Sunday, 18 December 2011

PeepShow Collective contact

This week I emailed PeepShow collective to try and arrange a portfolio visit, as I'd love their advice and to see how they work in studio. Unfortunately they advised me that they used to see students but they no longer take part in portfolio viewings, which is a shame. I've been a fan of these guys for ages!

Creative Reviews

We have been meeting up as a group and discussing and sharing any books, films, exhibitions and articles that we have found interesting.

A book I started reading was 'Murderers I Have Known', by Marina Warner. It's an enchanting book with different stories in it. It's descriptive and you can almost see what you are reading. I  have yet to finish this book!   

I picked up a lovely book from a stall in Manchester when I was on my way to the German Market! It is called 'The Book of Lost Things', By John Connolly. It's no wonder I was drawn to this book as it is illustrated by Rob Ryan (one of my favourites)!! It's about a young boy who loses his mother and turns to his books on his shelf for comfort. The real world and the fantasy world begin to mix. I am still currently reading this book and really enjoying it, it's a pleasant read.

As a mum I tend to watch a lot of the new kids films that come out, and if I'm honest, I quite enjoy it! I bought my son a film by Tim Burton called 'Coraline'. One of his favourites (and mine) is 'The Nightmare Before Christmas', also by Tim Burton, so I knew we would both like this! Coraline is enchanting, and it's amazing to think that someone has painstakingly made every detail by hand. Really takes you back to childhood. Tim Burtons films are quite dark but I still get a warm feeling inside when I watch them. He's a really talented guy.

I recently watched 'Schindlers List' prior to my trip to Poland. I have seen this film before and I'm sure most people have. It's a timeless, very moving, classic. I recommend anyone that has not seen this film to do so. It opens up your eyes. Very tragic and hard to watch at times, but it's a must-see.

I found an article in 'Creative Review' magazine about an exhibition called 'Lost in Lace'. It is currently still open at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. There are a collection of artists work at this exhibition which features large scale, theatrical and visually spectacular work. Some of the work even expands out into public areas, the perceptions of lace are really being challenged and the artists are pushing boundaries.

I have been reading a few articles about digital work versus hand-made, along with digital artists trying to make their work look handmade by adding textures. Here's a link to a really interesting article about this topic which I found really interesting and agree with most points raised

Visit from Craig Oldham: Music Design Agency

 At the beginning of November we had we had a visiting lecture from Craig Oldham, who works for a design agency called MUSIC.

Craig was a very entertaining guy and I loved his enthusiasm, it was really nice to see a genuine down to earth person from industry, (as I've previously found some people a bit pretentious)!! During his visit he spoke mainly about the relationship between art directors and illustrators. 

Craig went through 3 or 4 projects that MUSIC have completed working with illustrators, and explained in some detail about these jobs. He spoke about the difficulties he has faced when illustrators do not get it quite right, and so he would have to look around for someone else to finish the job. He spoke about managing his budget, and said he still had to pay illustrators even if he didn't end up using their work. He spoke from his point of view, and it seemed like his job could be frustrating at times. He explained that it's hard to find us (illustrators), and advised us to have websites and do as much self-promotion as possible. However, you could sense his excitement when he was talking about successful projects, and working with compatible illustrators. He clearly has respect for illustrators, which was apparent when he was speaking about them. 

One project that Music completed was 'The Big Four'. These were a set of posters promoting Manchester City Football Club.

Craig gave us advise about negotiating money when we are working, and told us to ask what the budget is. Other advise he gave was to make sure that any e-mails we send to people within industry, are personal and to not send generic e-mails. Always address who you are talking to by their name, otherwise they most probably will not respond! 

This was a very interesting and eye-opening talk!

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Hopes, Fears and Opportunities

We were asked to have a discussion about our hopes, fears and opportunities, for the final year at university, and after becoming a design graduate. 

I think we all had high hopes for our final year and we all wanted to do well obviously. For myself it was about really finding my niche and progressing with my own style. I wanted to learn how to further my process, and have been doing a lot of research and have found lots of new inspirations to help with this. I wanted to learn a lot more about photography and lighting, which I feel so much more confident with now, and every time I complete a project I feel I have gained that little bit more experience with using the equipment. One thing I really wanted to do was to learn more skills on the computer, such as Illustrator and also how to make animations, I have not achieved  this yet. I do not want this to be my downfall! My main hope was to have a portfolio that I am proud of which I feel I have achieved, and I have had great feedback about my work which makes it all worth while!

My fears, well I have a few! Firstly it's time, I am a mum and studying at the same time which is real hard work with having such a huge responsibility. Juggling my personal life and professional life is a challenge to say the least. I feared I would struggle with deadlines, but I think is more a confidence issue and not trusting in my ideas at the beginnings of projects is what has sometimes got me behind. I fear that I may not be able to think of ideas when I am in industry, and I work much better when given a specific brief. I am not keen on open briefs that we have been given and I think that's where the problems start! Once I have started a project and I feel my idea is strong I throw myself into it and I really enjoy myself, I just hope I don't hit certain hurdles in future. Other fears I have are to do with technology! I am not a computer whizz and I don't want to be but sometimes I am lacking a few skills, but I am slowly learning through the help of my kind class mates! I feared that I would miss some important meetings at uni due to having to be elsewhere, which sadly has happened. I did not have the opportunity to meet my graphic guru and felt I missed out. 

My aim for my future is simple, I want to be a successful illustrator! Managing my time effectively will enable this and so university is great for preparing me for industry. I would love to further my style, try new things, be daring and experiment. I recently had a portfolio visit and there may be an opportunity to show my work to exhibition and events organisers who manage stage sets. It would be amazing if I was given the opportunity to design a set! I would love to see my work in a magazine one day, or to design window installations would be a dream! I know after graduating it is going to be a struggle to say the least with all the competition out there, but I feel artists who hand-make their art works have a slight edge, it's different and genuine and requires skill. It's only my opinion and I respect illustrators who work digitally but for me you can't beat hand-made! It is so versatile and can be applied in many different ways. I may like to make my own things to sell which is something I have thought about too. I think I'd like to work as a collective or have a studio space with other creatives around me to keep the inspirations flowing! For my final major project I really want to push myself and my ideas and move up a notch. I want to work bigger, I'd like to create something that can be experienced. Working on a larger scale will enable people to walk into my work, which I want to be about taking them back to childhood and creating a sense of nostalgia. I am currently thinking of a theme for this and will carry on with my research for ideas and inspiration.   

Website Research

The next thing I need to do is set up a website so people know I am here! I have been a little put off as me and technology are not the best of friends, but I am advised that there are simple ways of creating your own website. 

In the meantime I have been researching other illustrators/designers websites and deciding how I would like mine to look and function. I obviously want it to be easy to use and quite simple so my work can be the main focus.

I discovered an artist called Laura Heit who does some lovely work involving experimental animation and puppet films, and I really like her website. It is easy to use, and it's fun as she has incorporated some animation into it. It has a really friendly feel to it which makes it user friendly. I like how you are able to see thumbnails of her work before having to click and scroll through. There are clear headings separating illustration, puppetry and animation which is great and makes it easy to locate what you are looking for. 

Another website I like is Kate Slater's. It's clear and easy to navigate around. Kate has headings for her blog, facebook, twitter, shop, info and contact. Each piece of her work is displayed on the homepage and can be viewed by simply clicking onto it. I would like my website to be very similar to this. 

I think I will most probably have headings such as portfolio, about, contact, blog, and when I set up a facebook profile that is specifically for professional use, I will have that on there too. I would like my homepage to represent me so I will create something new for the design, something appealing to grab interest. 

Contact with industry

I have recently been trying to set up portfolio visits within industry to get any advice that I can! I have already had a portfolio viewing in Manchester's Northern Quarter at 'Taylor O'Brien', which was very helpful and gave me an insight into industry.

I have contacted a few illustrators that work mainly with paper as I think they can answer more specific questions I have about my working process, and I'd also like to know what sort of clients and jobs they tend to get, and what I should be aiming for. 

I have had recent correspondence with Hattie Newman who has invited me for a visit in the new year, which I am very excited about! 

I hope the other artists I have contacted have time to see me as it would be very interesting and beneficial..I will keep you updated with any visits!

Rob Ryan

I love this new and exciting piece of work by Rob Ryan. He has deigned a window display for Coutts Bank, it is on display right opposite Charing Cross train station in London. 

Rob Ryan is raising money for an organisation called Kids Company. Incorporated into his design are items such as a stuffed elephant, a dolls house and a rocking horse which will be auctioned off to raise money.

I am really growing fond of this large scale work I see becoming more and more popular. It makes it feel more like you are having an experience viewing it, rather than just looking at something on a piece of paper. I would imagine the design has been laser cut which I have experimented with for my Zine Brief, but I would like to expand on this and experiment further. I will be taking part in a workshop in Manchester to learn skills in the very near future!

I am realising that many artists that work with paper as their main medium tend to do installation work, and I am really keen to try this. I take photos of my paper cutouts but you can not quite capture the magic as much in a photo, it is totally different when you are in the studio with the lights off and it's lit up, there's something nice about it, something nostalgic. Having the freedom to move around and view the piece from different angles gives it a whole different aspect.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Bug Project for The Manchester Museum

We recently visited The Manchester Museum and was briefed on our new project. The museum are holding an event on Saturday 28th January where our work will be on display and there will be activities for children to enjoy.

The brief was to illustrate bugs for children. We were asked to create an A2 poster correctly illustrating our chosen bug, for educational purposes. We were also asked to create an activity surrounding our chosen bug, other options were to create a book or 3D models.  

Before choosing which bug we wanted to illustrate, we were shown the museums amazing bug collection! I fell in love with the butterfly wings! ..But I wasn't keen on the spiders I have to say!

Below are some photo's I took.

Obviously my chosen insect was the butterfly! I chose to work using the same method I had adopted for other briefs. I found this brief challenging because we are trying to educate children and so the insects had to be atomically correct, which made me feel a little restricted. Also I was trying to show the life cycle of a butterfly, and so instead of cutting out a million butterflies and suspending them and photographing them..(which is what I would of loved to do!!)..I had to make sure I had things in the right place and it was starting to feel more like a diagram. However, I did my best and I have my poster!

For my activity I am creating butterfly masks that can be cut out, and decorated with bits n bobs such as sequins and other nice things! 


Visit from Lord Whitney

A few weeks ago we had a visiting lecture from Lord Whitney. 

Lord Whitney are a collaboration between Amy Lord and Rebekah Whitney, They are two university graduates that have set up business together and they do some very exciting work! They are playful and inspired by all things wonderful! They have created work for a wide variety of events from festivals to exhibitions, they enjoy creating magical environments. One particular festival they continue to work on is the 'Just So' festival, it looks wonderful! 

They have so many amazing pieces of work, I have posted a few of my favourites above. I think I can relate to them as I work with cutouts and suspending elements. They tend to work with a 3D aspect and on a much larger scale which I feel is the next progression within my own work. 

They spoke about their journey from being graduates to how they have got where they are now, and reassured us that it can be a struggle but to persevere. There doesn't seem to be any set path but to just try new things and knock on a lot of doors! They advised to begin by doing work for free, this is great exposure, but also warned us not to let people take advantage.

 I asked the girls what  working in a partnership is like, and wondered what would happen if they had different ideas on a project, but they said they seem to cope with this fine and tend to agree on the same things and make decisions together. It made me realise that I would like to work alongside someone but it would have to be someone I fully trust with decision making, and someone who has similar ideas and ways of working as myself.

After the lecture Lord Whitney visited us in our studio and set us a quick brief. The brief was entitled 'Compound Nouns'. We had to mix two words together that wouldn't usually be associated, and then create whatever we wanted to illustrate this.

I worked with Emma Thorpe, we started by writing words on pieces of paper and picked them out of a mug! The compound nouns we had were 'jam river' , 'spoon moustache', 'ribbon tree' and 'cutlery tent'. We decided to create 'cutlery tent'.

We had so much fun on this brief and got stuck in straight away, we had almost completed the brief by that afternoon! We learnt we worked well together and there wasn't so much pressure on yourself when you have two peoples ideas and two peoples input. 

Here are a few pictures of our creation!


We would like to continue this brief if we can find the time! It was very enjoyable and I think we could create some great work!

Monday, 12 December 2011

Portfolio Visit at Taylor O'Brien

Today I had a portfolio visit at Taylor O'Brien in Manchester's Northern Quarter. 

I researched before my visit and was apprehensive as most of the work they do appeared to be digital. I didn't know if my hand crafted style would appeal but I received great feedback!

I gained an insight into industry and how tight the deadlines are in reality, sometimes with a 24 hour turnaround! This could be a problem with my process of working. I cut elements from paper, suspend them and photograph the pieces as a whole to get my final image. I was advised that the problem I could face would be clients changing things last minute and my work (once finished) is not very flexible. Helen O'Brien suggested that book covers, cards and other commissions with a longer time period to create images would be suitable. I do not like to  photoshop my work but I think maybe learning some new skills on the computer would also be handy!

Helen suggested I contact a few people that she knows that specialise in events and exhibitions, as they use set design at such functions and my work could appeal on a much larger scale, which is great because my next urge is to create much bigger artworks using a similar style to the one I have now. 

In the meantime I will be continuing to contact illustrators that work in a similar way to myself for advice on the problems I may face and how they work around them. I will also ask what sort of clients and jobs they get. I have researched other artists that predominantly work with paper and found that an artist called 'Zoe Bradley' does some exquisite shop window display for the likes of 'Tiffany & co' along with other high end brands. 'Lord Whitney' were commissioned to do the 'Just So Festival' and they create lots of lovely 3d pieces for the entire event. I think there are many avenues I could go down and research and contacting people within industry is going to be key in finding my path!