I am very happy with the final products from each of my projects, for a variety of reasons; they are all visually interesting and different from each other, each tells or hints at a narrative (which is where my passion for illustration lies) and together they show how varied my outputs can be.
While it is disappointing that none of them won any competitions (although with the second project it’s not surprising as I missed the deadline for entry), I do think that they are all strong pieces and definitely worth the time and effort they took to make.
However, this year has not been my best. At some point in each of my projects, I have struggled not only with my motivation but also with inspiration. Sometimes it was a case of pursuing a bad or weak idea, not knowing when to let it go and try something else, other times I had ideas, but couldn’t work out how to progress with them; I’ve tried to learn from them, to develop my work practise and my methods of approaching projects. While I know that I will always be refining methods in my practise, I think that this year has been particularly useful in making myself aware of my flaws and limitations so that I can address them.
A few things I’ve learnt:
That I can respond to a brief in a short amount of time. For example, the first project was done in just six weeks, during which my ideas changed dramatically but once I found an idea that I felt really enthusiastic about, I was reluctant to change it too much, which is the second thing I’ve learnt upon reflection; once I find an idea I like, I tend to latch onto it even when there are obvious problems with it. When I did finally change it to make it conform more to the brief, it worked fantastically. This problem has persisted throughout the year, but I’ve acknowledged it now so I can hopefully notice it and correct myself in future.
Another thing I have learnt is how illustrate a piece by getting across the tone of a piece of work instead of simply illustrating the scenario. While in theory I already knew this, I didn’t really know it i.e. display that knowledge through my practise. This realisation really helped in the second project as I found it challenging to work out how to illustrate a book cover; to interest the reader and communicate the content of the book whilst at the same time not spoiling it before they’ve read it. It was also useful in the Final Major Project as I found it to be crucial that the final images work together to portray a certain tone rather than a series of events.
My skills with typography, specifically with how it relates to imagery, have improved as I’ve learned things such as how to restrain myself from filling an entire space/page with type/imagery and how type can still stand out whilst still being subtle. At the same time I experimented with the functions of InDesign and learnt more about the various ways in which it can be used in tandem with Photoshop; this has paved the way for a new and exciting way for me to work which I look forward to.
The Final Major Project has been perhaps the most informative, as I’ve developed a new theory for what to do when uninterested with a project (try and rethink the idea, take it back to its basic components and decide again what you want to do with it) and also because I’ve concluded that perhaps I am not best suited for children’s illustration after all. While I would love to make another attempt at illustrating a children’s book, I’m not sure I want to pigeon-hole myself into that career. I’d like to explore my other options and try my hand at pretty much anything with a narrative. Maybe someday I’ll find that a specific career choice works for me, but right now my future’s uncertain and I quite like it; it makes me feel less pressured about how I define myself as an illustrator and lets me focus me more on simply creating.
P.S. Just making a note here that I was a little dissatisfied in how empty this final year felt, though I don’t think it’s the fault of the tutors, more on the way that final years appear to be viewed by this university. While I learned more on how to work independently/professionally, it felt like it was largely self-taught out of desperation rather than actively taught by the university. I am left with the feeling that this last year could have been spent just as well at home, creating work and asking for feedback from friends and acquaintances. True, I wouldn’t have had the facilities, peers and tutors that the university provides, but nevertheless for how much this final year has cost I can’t shake the feeling that more could have been done and I know that I am not the only person in the Art and Design department that feels this. Please not that I am only highlighting that this is a problem that requires addressing, I don’t have any answers or ideas on how to fix this.