Over the past two years, I’ve worked in various different formats but have never settled on one idea or practice that I want to pursue and haven’t narrowed my work down to just one style. I’ve worked in collage, screen print, textiles, vector graphics, photography and illustration. I never had any idea what sort of designer I saw myself as or what I should be focusing on.
Recently during the publication project I think I really narrowed my work down to one particular style. I started working in ink and watercolour to create my illustrations and ended up using this style for my book. I then decided it had worked so well, that maybe I should focus on this technique more in other pieces of work.
I’ve always really liked children’s illustrations and it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I wrote my first children’s book when I was 8, sent it off to about 5 publishers and each of them replied back to me saying I was too young and they weren’t able to publish my book. 11 years later and I’m still writing children’s books and I don’t think I ever really stopped wanting to pursue it as a career, but recently it’s become a lot more realistic.
I really like Tony Ross’ illustrations. Some of my favourite books were illustrated by him and he’s probably one of my biggest influences. It’s only recently that I realised just how much his style must have helped me to create mine. His illustrations are mainly done in ink and watercolour or pencil, which is the style that I think suits my work best.
I also really like Peter Firmin’s illustrations. He’s probably most famous for illustrating the clangers and Bagpus alongside Oliver Postgate but one of my favourite books when I was younger was Noggin the Nog, which is also one of his creations. I found out whilst researching him that his daughter does the cover illustrations for the No.1 ladies detective agency books by Alexander Mcall Smith. They’re really nice relief prints and I emailed her asking some questions about her practice.
I asked her what made her want to become an illustrator and she said it’s because she grew up surrounded by people drawing and doing creative things and watching Peter Firmin and Oliver Postgate working on their books and films. I also asked her if she had any advice for aspiring illustrators and she said you need to concentrate on finding a way of working that suits you and if you want to earn a living from that you have to really enjoy what you’re doing and believe in your work so that you can go out and sell it. She also said that you need to be adaptable and you might end up doing some thing’s you won’t necessarily like but in the long run they’re for the better good.
Ideally, I think I would like to be a freelance illustrator but I don’t think that’s necessarily a good way to start getting a name for yourself. I think you need to try and make some contacts, get some experience, and develop yourself a good sense of style and way of working. I think I have a better idea of what I want to be doing in the future since narrowing down the way I want to be working and what I want to be creating.
I definitely would love to go into children’s book illustration but again I don’t think it’s practical narrowing down the types of work you want to do before you’ve even begun. As well as illustrating the books I really enjoy writing them as well, which maybe gives me a slight advantage. Other than creating children’s books I think my illustrations could lead themselves well to card design and maybe just as pieces of art. I’m not sure I need to be narrowing that down yet.
Since realising my main strength is as an illustrator, I’ve decided to focus on this as a career path and my first step is to get some experience in the field of work I might be interested in. I’ve applied for some work experience in Penguin publishers over the summer, which would be a really good opportunity. It would be good to get to know some people in that industry, make some contacts and get some experience.
Penguin has various different categories of publishing. ‘Penguin’ is mainly novels, ‘Puffin’ was created specifically for children’s books and ‘Pelican’ is mainly for classics. I would obviously be aiming to get experience mainly via Puffin. They’ve published some of the world’s most famous children’s books such as ‘The hungry caterpillar’ and all of Roald Dahl’s books. The internship offers a chance to be given a project to work on individually, which would be a really good thing to do.
I don’t think there are necessarily loads of jobs available in such a highly competitive and tough market. Being freelance is an option but it would be easier if people knew what you did which is why an online presence is really important. Since having a Facebook like page, I’ve been asked to do some commissions including album artwork design. I don’t think some people realised what I did until I made the page so it was a really good step.
In third year I think I would really like to try out some of the live briefs. I also think I’d quite like to take part in some student collaborations. I read an article in wrap, which said all about how collaborating with other students is sometimes a really good starting point. Being part of a collective could start to make more people see your work and give you a wider audience. Working alongside others can be beneficial.
Project wise I think I really want to focus on continuing to develop my style and creating work that becomes recognisable as mine. I think I need to start by writing some more children’s books because I really enjoyed doing this and would like to get the chance to do some more. I might try and write a sequel to my publication as well as starting some new books.
I would also like to focus on creating some images that stand-alone and could be replicated in print. As well as this I would like to create some series of images that could lend themselves to card design. I could also begin to focus on book covers. I think the most important thing in third year will be working in the style that I’ve decided is the type of illustrator I would like to be seen as.
At the moment I’ve been focusing on creating work that isn’t uni related to put up on my website. I think I need to build up a wider portfolio of work now that I’ve decided the style I want to use. There’s a lot of previous work that I don’t want to put on my website because it doesn’t represent the type of designer I’ve now decided I am.
I’ve been building up a web presence. I started by creating the logo so that people could recognise me by it and by narrowing down my style. I started by making a Facebook page, which was a good starting point because it has started to get my name out there. I also have twitter connected to it because it’s good for people to be able to contact you.
I then made myself a website and brought my domain name. I’ve only put up work that I think represents the type of designer that I am and the theme for the website matches my Facebook and twitter pages.
I’ve also made myself some business cards that also have the same theme and my logo repeats throughout everything. I chose 4 of my favourite illustrations and included only the most important contact information.
I’ve realised you have to see yourself as a serious designer for people to take you seriously. It’s important that you’re designing something because you want to do it. I think now that I’ve realised the type of designer I want to be I can continue to build on my online presence and identity.