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Presentation script

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.

 

 

How to get published

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How do you get your work noticed and out into the publishing world??
When I was 8 i sent my first children’s book off to about 5 publishers but I didn’t really do any research into them first and I didn’t consider the type of publisher that would be right for my books. I spoke to a book shop owner and showed him my publication, he said I should do some research into Floris books as he thought my book would fit in well there. I will definitely be doing that in the near future. I also photographed my book in situ to see how it fitted in the current children’s market. This was a good thing to do because I think it actually is quite current and shows that i’ve done some research into the market.

 

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Hannah Firmin

After researching Peter Firmin and discovering his daughter was an illustrator, I decided to email her with a few questions.

What made you want to be an illustrator?
 
Who are your influences?
 
What are you favourite techniques/processes?
 
Do you have any advice for aspiring illustrators?
 
She replied saying:
 
Dear Bea, 
               Thanks for your nice email. I’ll try to answer your questions…
I grew up surrounded by people drawing/ making things ,it was normal for me and my five sisters to do creative stuff! So art college was a natural progression. At the RCA I started to enjoy printmaking more and it emerged as my area to work in. I always loved the ‘narrative’ , having stories read to us from an early age and seeing my father and Oliver Postgate working on film and books helped . My influences are wide , Edward Ardizzone for stories ,Edward Bawden ,Claire Leyton,Thomas Bewick ,Picasso for printmaking .Just a few of the people who have influenced me.  I use Lino and wood cut techniques but have often combined them with paint and collage , especially for commercial work that is a ‘one off’ piece , and not an edition. 
My advice ,briefly, is to concentrate on finding a way of working that suits you personally.if you seriously want to earn your living and enjoy doing that from your work you must find a way that you love and then go out and try to sell it! Things are changing hugely at the moment in the media .After 30 years (!) of working continuously I find I am doing most of my work for exhibition and selling at venues and galleries .This suits me now ,but shows how adaptable you need to be to make a living.  Look at and be informed about past and present work that is going on and most importantly enjoy what you do!
All the best with your studies and work. Keep in touch via my website ie see exhibitions I’m doing ect. Good luck! Hannah 
 
It was a really lovely email with some really helpful advice. Peter Firmin has always been a huge inspiration to me, so to talk to his daughter feels like a really big privilege. I can really relate to a lot of the things she says about growing up in a creative environment and just being inspired from a young age as i feel this is definitely a big part of my childhood too. 

Peter Firmin

Peter Firmin worked alongside Oliver Postgate in creating various children’s classics including Noggin of the Nogs, The Clangers, Bagpus and Ivor the Engine. 

The Noggin of the Nog books are some of my favourite and most inspirational illustrations, so I decided it would be beneficial to find out some more about the man behind them. 

Peter Firmin trained at Colchester school of art. It was while he was teaching at the Central school of art that Oliver Postgate came looking for ‘someone to illustrate a television story – someone who was hard up and would do a lot of drawing for very little money’. That’s where it all begun. 

I then discovered that one of his daughters illustrated the No.1 ladies detective agency series book jackets. These are some of my favourite books so this was really interesting to discover, and lead me into doing some research on the next Firmin generation. I found Hannah Firmins website and have decided to email her and ask her some questions about herself and her fathers illustrations. This is really exciting for me as i’ve always been a huge fan and it would be really useful as an illustrator to hear what she has to say.

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Peter Firmin.

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Hannah Firmin 

 

Business cards

I’ve recently designed and printed some business cards from moo.com. I chose 4 of my favourite illustrations for one side, and on the other there’s my logo and some information about me. I decided to keep it quite short and only included my name, email and my website address. These are probably the most important things to include on a business card. I’m pleased with how they’ve turned out and because the design matches that of my website and my facebook page I think they represent me as an illustrator quite well. I think it’s important to keep a running theme so that people can begin to recognise you.

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Korky Paul

Korky Paul is an award winning illustrator who I best associate with illustrating books from my childhood such as ‘Winnie the Witch’ and ‘The fish who could wish’. They are absolutely beautiful and i’m a big fan. He has a gallery section on his website where you can send in images and he’ll display his favourite ones. I’m going to do this because it’s a good way to get some publicity. He’s won various children’s book awards and since finding his website i’ve discovered he has an impressive client list and a long list of publications. I also planning on buying some more of his books as market research. I am just really inspired by his attention to detail and obvious love for his craft and illustration.

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How do you get started?

I found a really interesting article in a magazine called ‘Artists and illustrators’ all about going into a career as an illustrator. Children’s book illustration is a competitive business, so how do you get noticed? The article pointed out several factors to take into consideration which i’ve made a note of. 

1) Research the market and find out where you fit

2) Writing the story along with the illustrations will give you an advantage

3) You can never plan a book too much 

4) Make yourself stand out through previous projects and a reputation

5) Grow a network around yourself of creative people who can help

6) Never be discouraged

 

The next step.

Throughout this research process I think i’ve really come to grips with the type of designer that I see myself as and what I want to be doing after uni. I’ve been looking into the options available and discovered that there was several universities that offer MA courses in Children’s illustration. This seems like a really big step and i’m just not sure yet if I want to do an MA or not, I need to find out the benefits and read up on all the options. Another option after uni could be looking for some work experience in a publishing company for free and building experience and a reputation. This summer, i’m hoping to do something similar to help build up some knowledge of the illustration industry and see if it genuinely is the path I hope to go down. 

Tony Ross

Considering artists with similar processes to me, I was thinking about my main illustration influences. I grew up reading a of children’s books illustrated by Tony Ross. It’s only very recently that i’ve thought about how this might have rubbed off in my style.

His illustration style is predominately ink based line drawings with colour then added. This is the style that I have recently decided works best for me. With this in mind, It made me consider career paths and I really think I would like to go on to illustrate and write children’s books. It’s always been a huge passion of mine, I just never realised quite how much. I then went on to find out some more about Tony Ross. I couldn’t find as much information on him as I expected and he doesn’t even have a website but then I suppose he is not of the generation these days where everyone does. Most of his books are Amber brown books written by Danziger. I then did some research into who Paula Danziger is but only really found out that she wrote the books and had nothing to do with the illustration process. I found an interview with Ross about influences, he said that his main influences as a child were Rupert bear, Just William and Winnie the Pooh. He also says that he was strongly influenced by the illustrations of Tom Ungerer. I did some research into this and could really see similarities in style and content, similarly with mine and Ross’ work. He gave a bit of advice to aspiring illustrators and authors. He said ‘never give up’.

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Here Gallery – Bristol

Recently, I took a trip over to Bristol especially to visit ‘Here gallery’. Many people had recommended it as a great place to browse and buy graphic design. It took a while to track down the quirky little street but when I eventually got there, it had been worth the journey. Though it was a lot smaller than I expected, there was a large variety of works and a really nice friendly buzz of fellow illustrators and designers having a look round.

I found myself reading a book called ‘In the wilds’ by Nigel Peake. The book simply illustrates rural life through over 100 original drawings. i really liked the style and simplicity of the subject and for me this book was gold. There was so much detail and passion in each image and I thought it was really inspirational so that came home with me and was added to the growing collection. Since, I have done some research into Nigel Peake himself. It’s hard to sum up what I found, because from what I can tell he has done everything and anything. His illustrations just appear to be so versatile! He’s also published more than 20 books. One of the main things I have picked up on about success in illustration recently is the importance in having and maintaining a recognisable style. Now that i’ve discovered Nigel Peake, I think I could easily recognise his work anywhere. This is really important in design as people need to know who you are and what you do. They need to be able to look at your work and know that it’s yours. From this, I’ve decided to be really selective about what I put on my website. Also, the general layout and appearance of the sight needs to compliment the work. It’s all about creating a brand around your name and I think once you realise that, it becomes easier to see yourself professionally.

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