I’m not too sure how to start this so I’ll do as the brief says and use last semesters experience as a starting point. I was very happy with my negotiated project in last semester, I felt as though I was able to properly express my interests in illustration, in terms of what kind of work I want to produce as a freelance illustrator when I graduate. Being able to pick my own brief was brilliant as I was able to choose exactly what I wanted to do. I chose Milton’s “Paradise Lost” as it is a great piece of literature that I had studied at sixth form college, and I had always wanted to make imagery based on it. It was great as I was able to pick the format and make many decisions for myself.
I think the negotiated project came at the perfect time in the course for me. At the end of the second year I was quite disillusioned with the course and my place on it and I could simply not see myself as ever being an illustrator in the “real” world. Many of the projects in the second year I felt were of absolutely no interest to me and although I was learning important lessons, I felt completely at odds with the briefs. I could see no way of making them enjoyable to me and this wasn’t really helped by the fact that my working method was constantly in flux. I was trying many different techniques and mixtures of handmade and digital elements and I never felt comfortable in what I was doing. I did in fact rather dread starting the final year as I was still all over place in terms of my working method.
So when we got handed the brief and I read that we were to write our own project I was very happy and saw it as good chance to get more in touch with exactly what kind of illustration it was I wanted to do, both in terms of content and process. I looked back to my first year [which I enjoyed vastly more than the second] and reminded myself of the projects I really enjoyed, the main one being Sinbad the Sailor. I enjoyed this not just because it was illustrating an adventure story, but because of the briefs’ simplicity. It was basically picking interesting lines/quotes from the story and creating images to go along with them. I really enjoyed the directness and pragmatic nature of this type of illustration, and hugely preferred it over the more concept lead editorials, which seemed very dry and uninteresting to me.
Looking back to the Sinbad the Sailor brief, I decided to write a similar brief for the third year Negotiated project, in which I would illustrate quotes from a story, and as I said earlier I had always wanted to make pictures based on Paradise Lost, and so that project came into being. I also wanted to return to the printmaking I had done in the first year on the Sinbad brief, and so decided to make the images as collographs. Another important breakthrough was that I discovered I had a bit of a knack for doing very fine, pattern like linework, while doing the 7x7 brief. So, armed with my new found skills and hunger to get making collographs, I set out to make my Paradise Lost images, which I think are successful, and they received positive feedback from my London visit.
After the conclusion of the Negotiated Project, I felt much better about my work and how it was that I was going to fit into the industry. I could see myself working on real briefs with the techniques I had developed, and on commissions that I was interested in, such as publishing work.
I did hit a bit of a wall again in the Major Project however, and this was nothing to do with the brief as again, it was one we had written ourselves. Rather, it was with my working method again. I was creating images for the first two of my Chinese Fairy Tales, and they were comprised of different techniques, such as lino cut, illustrator shapes, linework, and collographs, all assembled in Photoshop. For some reason I became very disillusioned with working like this, and just did not enjoy cobbling the various elements together. I felt as though I liked the individual elements, but that they completely lost all character, and lost everything I liked about them, when I assembled them in an image on the computer.
And so it was this, and a bit of a Eureka moment when watching a video of Illustrator Jake Blanchard doing lino cutting, that led me to decide to do all my images as full lino cuts. I was very happy with this working method, and realised that cutting the images actually doesn’t take that long, and that it is something I could easily continue at home, and that I loved the process and effect, and that there seems to be very little heavy Photoshop work to be done! All pros really.
Obviously I need to factor into this the reality of commissions in the real world, but I am still learning and I know I will become more and more able with the process and with making it as flexible as possible.
Going to London was a massive confidence boost and sort of life-changing moment for me. I went to London round about the time I was disillusioned with my working method on the major project. However after meeting with several potential clients such as Billington Cartmell and Faber & Faber, and hearing their very, very nice comments and great advice, I was injected with a new life and really wanted to get on with making some great images with lino printing for my major project. To hear clients who see a LOT of illustration on a daily basis say that your work is good is a massive confidence boost, and it really gave me a lot of hope, and allowed me to see myself as succeeding as a freelance illustrator in reality.
The advice we received was really good and I feel confident to make a good physical portfolio and go and see clients both locally and in London, and I also feel very confident in self promotion, using business cards, PDF portfolio’s, and other methods to get myself noticed. As much as I have really enjoyed this degree and I will certainly miss many things about it, I am also very eager to get myself out in the real world and get commissions and face the challenges that being a freelance illustrator has to offer, and to gain the confidence that will surely come from completing commissions that a client is happy with.
Obviously I am not without fear by any stretch of the imagination, and I am scared of letting a client down or not being able to come up with good ideas for a brief or mainly, just not being noticed and getting no work. However, I see it as a reap-what-you-sow situation and I am ready to put the hard work in to get the most back out, and now I simply cannot wait to get out there and do it.