At the start of this semester at uni, we were asked to write down and think about our hopes and fears for the forthcoming year and also to think about our overall aims, and any opportunities we could take advantage of.
My hopes for this year and beyond were to be able to get a job or commissions, to be more confident in my way of working, and to also improve and build on my skills. Overall I don’t think I’ve done too badly with these so far. As far as jobs are concerned, I was lucky enough to be picked to illustrate a children’s book, and I’m currently working on a window installation that I was approached about due to someone seeing my work, so although these aren’t paid jobs, they are a little bit more challenging and high profile (for lack of a better word) than things I’ve done in the past.
I think I have become a little bit more confident in my ways of working, and this kind of goes hand in hand with improving my skills. I think that the children’s book definitely helped with this as it was something I had never tried before, both in terms of the concept of creating and designing a book aimed at children, and also in terms of my working method. I can honestly say I was really not confident that my children’s illustrations would work out when I began, but just thought I would give it a go anyway. I tried a new method of cut paper and digital work for the book, which I think helped improve my skills a bit, and also improved my confidence as I felt that I was able to make the imagery for a different audience, but not go too far away from my usual way of working.
This made me think that all of us as illustrators are probably able to stretch in different directions quite easily without completely changing our work. I think ‘diversification’ might be word of the year at the moment.
Also, going to portfolio visits, and coming runner up in the MASI competition also makes me feel a bit more confident in my work; it’s good to have other people’s views on it rather than just from inside the uni bubble I guess!
My fears for the year were that I wouldn’t get any work, that I would lose motivation, and that my work won’t find a clear aim or direction. I think that these fears still stand and I’ll probably have to wait and see at the end of the year as to whether they will happen or not. I think that portfolio visits and contact with industry professionals is a step in the right direction when it comes to getting work, so is actually creating more new work. But I think that keeping up motivation and finding a clear direction will probably come with finding a project/subject matter that I’m really interested in, or a way of working that is exciting. I think this could be a real aim for the final major project. Picking a project that is genuinely interesting and something I think I could do an extended body of work on will be really important and will hopefully be both motivating and, if successful, will help me find a direction for my work (or if unsuccessful, at least I’ll know what I don’t want to do!).
The opportunities that I wanted to take advantage of this year were to enter student competitions, to take advantage of college facilities, to work with other students, and to visit some shows/exhibitions. Overall I think that I have had a good go at taking these opportunities. I entered the Manchester and Salford Illustrated competition which worked out quite well, and I definitely got to meet a few new people through it, and also submitted a couple of pieces for the V&A illustration awards, as well as working on my Little White Lies cover for the D&AD competition next year.
I’ve made a start at using some more of the college’s facilities; screen printing for example. I’ve been able to do screen printing a couple of times this term, which is twice more than last year! I really like doing it and the Christmas cards we printed in particular, worked out really well. Maybe having a go at using the vinyl cutter, or trying other forms of printing could be things I could aim to do next semester.
I’ve definitely been able to work with other students this year. For instance, I’m currently working on an animation collaboration with Tom Mathieson from moving image for my bugs project, and also worked with Matt Bray on a short brief where we made a 3D birdhouse (complete with beak and wings!). It was also a lot of fun to work as a group on printing the Christmas cards we designed to raise money for D&AD. Hopefully this will continue into next year and beyond as I really enjoy working with others and I think the results are generally more exciting.
As far as going to shows and exhibitions, I think this is something I could improve on next semester. Mostly down to lack of time and location of exhibitions, I haven’t been to as many as I would have liked. I did manage to go to the Leeds Thought BubbleFestival, which was really interesting; the MASI exhibition, the BLAB night, and a quick look around the studios at AWOL studios in Manchester. I think I need to do a bit more research into this aspect for next year.
My aims for the year were to create a good portfolio, to get some portfolio visits with industry, and to have some work published. I’m quite glad that I’ve achieved these to some extent. I think my portfolio will hopefully improve as the year progresses, but so far feedback has been generally positive so hopefully it’s on it way. I’ve managed to have 6 portfolio visits so far which I’m quite pleased with, as thinking back to the start of September, I was really nervous about this and had no idea how to go about it! And these have been quite helpful, and have given me a bit more of a sense of what designers are looking for, and has also familiarised me with some of the agencies in Manchester and the people that work there. I think this makes it just a bit less intimidating for if I want to make contact again in the future.
Overall, for the final semester, I think that I need to firstly come up with a good proposal for my final major project. I think finding something I’m really interested in will hopefully keep me motivated and make me produce better work. I’m looking forward to working on a longer project, and will hopefully have some good pieces for the final show next year. I’m also hoping to work with other students even more, because I think it’s good to combine skills and work with people who are as interested in a project as you are, and it’s also more fun! Hopefully it will all come together and I will have improved my portfolio and worked on some good projects that will help set me up for when I leave. Fingers crossed.