Saturday, 28 February 2009

Tracy Kendall Lecture

Although not technically an illustration lecture the ebullient Tracy Kendall provided us all with a healthy insight into how a surface and pattern designer of such high standing as hers works in the industry today.
For a little background, Tracy attained her BA in fine art at Manchester and then proceeded to work for the next 18 years at the Royal College in London as a technical assistant.

Her career as a designer did not truly begin until 1996 when she approached Ilsa Crawford, of Elle magazine, whilst she was visiting the college with a design that had initially been created for her own home. This image of a blown up knife and fork is now one of her most iconic designs.
She says this moment of her launching her career was fortuitous because at the time many of the old companies associated with the type of work she produces were dying off and there were not many new ones starting out.

Following her work appearing in Elle she then began to be approached by other magazines. Among these was Marie Clare.
She could not stress enough throughout her lecture the importance of editorial pieces as a means of promotion for her designs, as she does not spend on advertising; this is a major avenue for getting her work noticed.
She does employ an agent in New York and has showroom pieces on display in a design house there to.

She spent a fair amount of time talking about the effort that goes into her trade show appearances.
We had explained to us the way that shows are approached with the need to do them differently where one show had dozens of Christmas firs suspended from the ceiling by wire. She showed different examples where small samples were hung in sections in various surroundings.
One thing she did stress that was of note, was the rate of success when plain, 'masculine', black & white images are used as compared to colour, due to the fact that, outdated as it may seem, most of the people with money at this sort of trade exhibition tend to be men.

This subject also led to her also her into talking about the importance of her designs being tactile to some degree as she explained that people always seem to need to touch her exhibits. Something she did note does not happen when they are shown as fine art.

For a while she talked about her methods as a designer and the need for an amount of trial and error in her work. The example she used was of a photocopy of a grass stem, which she stated was quite an immediate piece of imagery. The point of this being that although she would only need one piece of grass and even though it may be the first one she picked there was a need to test this by picking and testing, say, 100 such blades of grass to be sure she had the right one.

Another thing she talked about at some length, something crucial to her success, was her relationships with her trade sources and people like manufacturers. This she stressed is an ever-changing list and something she evidently works very hard to keep up with.
Things like having to re-source things due to manufacturers going out of business in the recent bad-climate, as well as tracing the manufacturers from source, thus cutting out the middle man, were put to us as examples of just how hard she has to work at the business end of things.

Besides then the printers and laser etchers and screen making people then that she employs it came as something of a surprise when she divulged that she only actually employs one girl in her workshop/studio. Somebody that came on the recommendation of a friend and helps her in the assembly of her pieces.

Tracy has just completed her MA over four years in London and talked about her relationship with her tutor(s) whilst also maintaining a professional output. During this time she completed various elements that went into editorial pieces and provided some good publicity for her work.
One in particular she remarked upon as what she had at first regarded to be a mistake by the editor, who had sent her a request to be part of a '50 famous designers' lineup.

This led to her again talking about the value of a good editorial review, something she regards as 'priceless', or even making sure that the photos she gets for her work are absolutely as good as she can make them by hiring pro-photographers, that may cost up in the region of £1000 a day (having good contacts and friends again being important, then they charge you a lot less). This is used to give her the chance of the respective photo being good enough to go on the cover of the publishment in question.
A good editorial means that for the phone; 'does not stop ringing'.
When she receives a favour from one of her contacts, she will in turn pass on details of her own contacts to them, as a favour in-kind.

Now-a-days she will get offers from different companies to work in conjunction with them to achieve goals because she is so respected within her field. She has gained contracts such as designing wall decorations for 25 rooms for a hotel in Paris. Both things which she stated were a bit of an exercise in self-confidence as she had to have the presence of mind to be able to say when something was wrong and to state what her influence on the design procedure was/is.
Other recent work was on the Frost French changing rooms.

Another thing of note was he different sorts of red tape she encounters in different countries with her designs. Where as one country will allow anything to be put on the wall. Different guidelines for safety will, for example in New York mean that she cant use certain things or (as in one case) the entire wall covering has to be coated with a flame retardent solution!
She noted that when the installation though is regarded as an art piece all the rules change again.

She is still experimenting with new designs, still sourcing out new materials to deal with and is currently appreciating the minimal aspect of her designs. She stated that it was only necessary for her to use maybe a 5cm strip of colour on a whole wall covering to have the kind of impact she desires.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Da Vinci Exhibition

The Da Vinci Exhibition at The Manchester Gallery is a collection of 10 drawings from the royal collection by the Rennaissance master.
I went up to see it yesterday to get some appreciation of what it is that I've been loking at in books all these years.

The pieces on display range from preparatory sketches from observation and the imagination to contribute to later paintings and detailed drawings from observation of life subjects including some anatomical work.
His working method for sketching is described and most of the work is started as a charcoal drawing, then highlights were added with chalk, he then followed this by working into that with washes and/or ink. There is also some 'metalpoint' work, evidencing much of his famous hatching method.

The drawing of a great siege cannon being constructed in an arsenal with teams of men hoisting the great iron weapon up onto its bearings, shows well why he is appreciated as such a master draughtsman and why he was regarded in such high esteem by his peers.

What surprised me most was that all of the drawings were so very small. The intricate workings of all these sketches are more incredible for the fact that none of them are any greater than about 6inches in height.

Monday, 23 February 2009

Jonas Bergstrand

Jonas is a designer/illustrator working out of Sweden. I found his work as a double page spread in (you guessed it!) AOI Images 32.
I have had a double spread page of his work open on my desk for about the last week and still don't want to turn the page.
Then, when I wandered over to his web page, I was even more pleasently surprised.
His work has a lot in common with 60's and 70's design; it sort of reminds me of Ian's work a little. A sort of hybrid digital collage.

What he does that is so interesting
(besides his obvious
command of line and shape) is mix, so very
well, his textures and sources.
I get a lovely sense of proportion and depth when I look at his work.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Personal work; oils

I had been promising myself that I would pck up the oils again when I had time and space so, over the last few weeks I have made time getting started again.
This has been something of an experiment realy, as my training in this area is still somewhat limited. A lot of these techniques used here are quite new on me so I am pleased that it has not turned out a complete mess.
The image is just a copy of something something I found in the local paper regarding a local show..not sure who it is with the guitar is but it made for a nice composition anyway...
Gonna have to give it a title like 'serenity' or something.

Serge Seidlitz Questionnaire answers!

I chose to contact successful illustrator Serge Seidlitz last week, and after a little luck with my e-mails managed to gain his attention.
A successful illustrator with a great clients list and available through Debut Art, I thought he would be interesting for gaining a little insight into how the successful get along in the industry.

So, anyway, he was kind enough to reply to my e-mail questionnaire this week and here I have his answers and a little insight into how he works and his path into the profession.

• What was your first commission?
My first actual commission as an illustrator was a portrait of Brian Wilson for Mojo magazine,
I had been working four or five years as a graphic designer/ in-house illustrator at cartoon network before becoming freelance and taking on proper commissions.

• Did it take long for you to find work?
I got a job straight out of college which helped in giving me a foundation in the media industry.

• How was this achieved?
Portfolio and guidance from tutors.

• You're with Heart agency at the moment, but how did you promote yourself before that?

No I'm not! (He’s with Debut Art. My mistake, I had a cold when I wrote the questions!) I didn't promote myself before I was represented as I was full time in house (see above).

• Does most of your work come from repeat clients?
No, it comes from all sorts of different clients, - some comes from repeat clients.

• Is illustration your only source of income?

• Do you have to subsidize it?

• You have a very distinct style; do all of your clients expect your work to appear similar? Is this ever limiting for you?
I have enough scope within in my work to play with new ideas and push myself, so it doesn't limit me. It’s important as an illustrator ( I think ) to be ideas based and then everything stems from that, if you limit yourself to style over content you'll just be a passing trend. Most of the time, I think people develop their work as they go, improving and experimenting in order to keep fresh.

• What sort of work forms the bulk of your commissions?
Advertising, editorial, marketing, publishing, online content, a bit of TV.

• Do you have any plans for the future?
Keep at it, and see where it takes me.

• Where do you see yourself in ten years?
Wouldn't like to say Chris - who knows - hopefully doing something creative that makes me happy.

An interesting (and incidentally quite amusing) character and a little insight.
Thank you Serge. I wish you all the best.

Anybody interested should check out his animations for MTV and his superb, scrolling website.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

DaVinci in Manchester

Just a reminder for anyone interested that the exhibition of ten drawings by Rennaissance master Leonardo DaVinci is on at the Manchester Gallery from Saturday 14 February 2009 - Monday 4 May 2009

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Whitworth Gallery Exhibition

We went to have a look around the Whitworth on Friday.

There is quite a varied array of material on display at the monent.
In the first area we can find delicate drawing work by Tracy Emin and some etchings by Giovanni Battista Piranisi as well as various examples of textile work and the exhibit on wallpaper; Putting on The Glitz.

Of note to any illustrators reading this is the display of the Walter Crane Archive. A kind of illustrative format largely employed in the so called Golden Age of illustration. His work was employed for everything from book covers and periodicals, to vases and fabrics of various description. A large part of this exhibition though covers work centered around his support for the workers movement.

The majority of our time however was spent engaging with the Subversive Spaces exhibition featuring there at the moment. A collection of art focussing on the Surreal.
Herein we can find work by the likes of Salvador Dali, Max Ernst mixed with much more contemporary work such as Markus Schiwald's photography.
The themes of the surrealists are approached with notions of anxiety, unease and claustrophobia.

There is a large display of anthropomorphic furniture which I dont want to say too much about incase anybody reading this wants to go and see the exhinition . Suffice to say that these pieces follow on from some of Dali and Giorgio De Chirico's work whereby pieces of furniture replace or obscure parts (or all) of the human form.
Some of De Chirico's most famous work can be seen at the exhibition as well as Magritte, an inviting proposal for anyone at all interested in art.

The work follows on chronologically for the most part and pieces of video and photography begin to take up the majority of space within the exhibition.
Themes surrounding the role of women within society are largely prominent together with the associated attacks on faschism, religion and other institutional damage. Uneasy subjects such as rape and child abuse it seems, go hand in hand with the notion of the surreal and are brought to the fore in a few pieces and this notion available to explore in some of the supporting work and texts within the exhibition.
Moving forwards we see some evidence of Neoplasticism though the remainder of the exhibition with work from Yves Tanguy amongst others. We can also see the late surrealists, Dorothea Tanning's, Eine Kliene Nachtmusic, is on display here.

Following the theme of the surreal the notion of the strange is employed to lend a weight towards the 1930's photography shown towards the end of the exhibition. linked with poetry by Andre Breton, the images are lent a romantiscism and sense of loss and estrangement and provided (for me at least) one of the most moving parts of the exhibition.

Moving on towards more contemporary work then is the evidence of the change towards photorealism and the links with the emotive value of painting as a medium in George Shaw's works The Slide, and The Swing.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Noma Bar

Just been admiring the work of Noma Bar. Nice simple ideas with striking graphics. Ideal for anyone interested in illustration. As the creativereview blog puts it;
"Israeli illustrator Noma Bar depicts the faces of the famous using only a few lines, colours and drawn objects. But the key to the success of the London-based artist’s work is how the objects he assembles to create each face immediately relate to the particular person in question: evoking their personality, reputation or, even, their ideology.

A selection of Bar’s greatest hits have been collected together in Guess Who? The Many Faces of Noma Bar and what’s particularly revealing is just how hard-hitting his simple arrangements can be. No stranger to a controversial image, Bar’s Michael Jackson has the outline of a small child for his eyes and nose, while the unmistakable face of George W Bush is made wholly from a stylised version of an infamous photograph of a tortured Abu Ghraib prisoner.

Just as you’re remarking how cleverly he’s summed up Nick Hornby’s visage (using a record player), Bar throws in a Vladimir Putin, made solely from a test-tube pouring chemicals into an opened hand.

Second Contact request.

Yeh, you guessed it...another request.
The second illustrator I chose today is Serge Seidlitz. He has an ecclectic, crazy, and exciting way of illustrating, which is largely inspired by 'Mad' magazine.
His website is one of those scrolling mish-mashes of different ideas all blended together and should be checked out. He also has a blog on this site which you can look at.
He gained a Gold award from the association in 2006 and is currently represented by Debut art in both London and New York.
A graduate of graphic design at camberwell, his client list is one to be envied, including MTV, VH1, Volvic, Orange, the Times, Honda, The Guardian and NME magazine.

First contact request.

Ok so , as the titile suggests , I sent my first contact a mail today. I chose James fryer, who I found through the AOI images32 annual. I checked his site and client list and love the way his ideas are grounded in good solid illustration, with bold communicative ideas.
It seemed to me that he spends quite a while actually executing the final work for his commissions, something which I tend to enjoy myself . Anyway, I just hope I get some kind of reply.

Monday, 9 February 2009

Aaron Horkey

This is just a shout out for Aaron's work. This is a good link for anyone interested in this sort of screen printed work. I find his sense of space and attention to detail inspiring, good for getting your band's gigs noticed!
He has not got a website yet, but he is active on at least one forum and as I have mentioned his work is available as screen prints to be viewed in Manchester.

Manchester gallery; Richard Goodall Gallery

Had a trip around the Northern Quarter in Manchester this weekend, as well as catching the interesting, introspective and very intimate Patty Smith film at the cornerhouse we managed to look around a few galleries and things.

Of particular interest to me was the Richard Goodall Gallery. Containing limited addition prints of many of the most wanted poster artists of the moment and various other bits of parephenalia originating from the illustration industry the wealth of inspirational material is astounding.

There is a large display display of screen an giclee print work available.
There are some amazing Aaron Horkey prints available for perusal there at the moment as well as work from the likes of Emek, Mike King, Nicoletta Ceccoli (for the more spooky among you) to name but a few.
There are some nice Tim Biskup prints available too for not too much cash.

All I could afford though was last years Jeff Soto calender, which at only a fiver wasn't too hard on the wallet!
It comes with stickers! Yay!

Monday, 2 February 2009

Andrew Pavitt

Under Gary's instruction I have been looking more closely into Andy Pavitt's work.
Well anyway, I'm very glad he made me look. We had a small lecture from him last year.
His work has a very stylized approach towards the imagery contained within his illustrations and he has also just started a blog on this very site! HERE .
Some of his touches with space and line are genius.

Anyway..I have begun to pester him, maybe I can show him something that he might see as worthy of interest, or take pity on me.. I find his use of colour interesting and like the way he simplifies his shapes.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

New things.

A couple of books have been stirring my interest recently....

The first is Illustration now! A Taschen publication which may be of use to anyone who is trying to find contacts in the industry.It (the book) features examples of a few examples of each of the included artists work, together with a short introduction for them but it also has all the contact details neccessary.
Best of all though , for anyone feeling the crunch ( hasn't everything gotten more expensive!) the smaller version (pictured here) is available for around £8.

The next is a from the AVA series of fundamentals books, The Fundamentals of Illustration, by Lawrence Zeegen/Crush.
A guide on everything frominterpreting briefs and methodology in production to self promotion and creating a portfolio.
You may have seen recently in Varoom! that Mr Zeegen wrote the review of a recently released book entitled, How to be an Illustrator, by Darrel Rees and wasnt very kind. Well, from what I've seen this (fundamentals) is the superior publication... A little more in depth and well rounded.


After a pertty strange end to 2008 it's time to move on. Lots of new beginnings ( and I mean LoTS!) new flat, fresh outlook and fresh members of the family (gestating as they may be)...
Just moved from this;