Evaluation, Employment and Enterprise
I started the EMP unit knowing that I wanted to create a children’s picture book. In the Negotiated Practice unit I felt like I had finally found my own style that I liked working in and that was unique to me. The style is a mix of drawn and printed images, with found papers and patterns and digital elements such as flat colour to contrast with the patterns and textures. I think this style evolved from my love of collage and found papers and realising that full collage might not be the most economical way of creating images in the industry and each element of each image takes time to create and get right. Mixing collage, textures and handmade elements with the digital side of things, meant that images can be put together quicker and they are easier to change if needed, whereas if you need to change a bit of a collage, you need to start all over again! This means that I can complete illustrations in a good time which will mean I am more employable in the long run because I will be able to get commissions done within deadlines.
I knew that in EMP I wanted to push this style further. I wasn’t sure how I was going to do this so I started by playing with different media while I was deciding on a story to illustrate. I originally wanted to illustrate an old folk story that hadn’t been widely illustrated before because I wasn’t sure I would be able to write a strong enough story, but in my search I found that most of them were not suitable for young children or they just didn’t inspire me. I decided to try writing my own story. I tried a few different ideas, but decided to use ‘The Little Bird’ which is inspired by a little boy I know who suffers from Down’s syndrome. I am always so impressed that although he is obviously different from the other children and struggles with certain things, he has found that he is brilliant at some things (for example, he is quite the comedian!)
My story is about a little bird who struggles with coming to terms with her differences; she cannot fly like the other birds, so gets teased and she ends up feeling terrible, lonely and runs away. She meets some other animals who all have struggled with their differences, but realised that although they are not very good at one thing, they can be amazing at something else, meaning that being different doesn’t have to be a bad thing. I thought this story could inspire children to not focus on what they can’t do but focus and embrace what they can do. I like stories which not only look good and sound good but that have a meaning and a lesson to tell, because then children can be learning things without being lectured or preached to.
Once I had my story written out, I then started storyboarding it, planning how the story would look, how each page would reflect the words and how each page would work with its neighbours. I think it is important not only that each page looks good as a single image, but also that it works well with the previous and next pages. You can create a lot of tension with a calm page and then a big bold one when you turn over for example. I haven’t had a great deal of experience with storyboarding, but in a few tutorials I was told that I had a good eye for layout and how a page works, so that was really confidence building and helped me feel confident enough to create more interesting and exciting pages. I then started working on my characters. I started by drawing them, in different ways, different styles and in different media. I quite liked the style of one of the characters but felt it didn’t quite feel right in the medium it was done in, so I remembered that I wanted to push my collage/digital style further, so I tried the characters in card with layers of card creating depth, and found that the characters just suited being made in this way. They had a certain delicacy to them, which made them feel special. I looked back over my negotiated practice work to see what I especially liked about the images, and I really liked the mono-printed elements and how the roughness and handmade feel of them contrasted with the digital feel of the background, so decided to incorporate mono-printed elements in my EMP images.
A while ago a tutor told me that elements of my work reminded them of Sara Fanelli’s illustrations and that I should look at her work. Since discovering her, she has remained one of my favourite illustrators. Back then I hadn’t found my own style, but elements of my work were standing out and I knew I liked those bits but I don’t think I could work out how to develop those bits into a style or method of working because I wasn’t confident enough in my work. My work has developed a lot within the last few units, and I have become more confident in my own way of working because I know that it is different, unique and tries to push illustration. Still today I can familiarities in my own work and the work of Sara Fanelli, as my tutor did back then. She creates children’s books and adult books, using collage. The collages are built up with photographs, patterns and pencil drawings. She creates the collages by hand and then scans them in and adds the digital text (if any) afterwards. My style is similar in the fact that I create children’s books using collage, but I have tried to push the materials that I use such as patterns, textures, cut outs and mono-print and I also use the computer a lot more in my images. An element of Sara Fanelli’s work which I would like to try within my own work is the photograph elements, although if I do try this I think I would have to use it sparingly so not to ruin the unique and ‘cute’ look of my work. I think that is where the two styles differ; Sara Fanelli’s illustrations are more stylish and slightly abstract and surreal, whereas my style is more ‘cute’. Although I realise now that some elements could be seen as surreal. I use cute, simple characters so the younger children can relate to the characters and the whole image is quite easy for the younger children to read. I think using cute-ness can be a really helpful tool for children’s illustrators when illustrating books for younger children. Sara Fanelli’s work doesn’t tend to use cute as a tool but she uses more abstract characters and environments which I find are beautiful and experimental for a children’s book, but they seem to work. I think children’s books in general could push the boundaries of illustration a lot more, as children also appreciate illustration, and although more traditional methods of illustration can be beautiful, I think it is nice to see some children’s books pushing the illustration boundaries. I found an interview in which Sara Fanelli agrees with this point when talking about her illustrations; “I would hope that they can appeal to everyone. I have noticed that sometimes adults have a preconceived idea of what children might like and this is not necessarily correct. For instance, though some adults might consider collage as a "sophisticated" technique, in my experience, also visiting several schools and doing workshops with children, this is one of the most basic and easy technique for children to relate to.” I think this is refreshing to hear from an illustrator, because many children’s illustrators are too wary to try out new techniques because they think children won’t be able to read the images as well as the more realistic or simple illustrations.
What I also like about Fanelli’s work is her use of layout. Sometimes she doesn’t use a realistic background or environment, and uses just a pattern or negative space and lets the characters find themselves in various places on the page, and not necessarily in a realistic space in relation to the other characters or page elements. I think this is really interesting and brave, as it can be hard to get right. I think this particular use of layout works best on the busier pages. I did try this style of layout in Negotiated practice unit, but couldn’t get it to work quite as well as this. Fanelli’s use of the surreal in her work reflects her outlook on the world; “To me the world is surreal and I find its absurdities and surprises make it worth coping with all the rest. There is also an element of playfulness in the surreal side of things that is equally fundamental, for me, in order to live.” Fanelli, S.
During this unit I have been thinking about what I might like to do when I finish this course. Ultimately I would love to be illustrating children’s books, and I think I would like to do some editorial illustration too, as this seems quite exciting, and I like the idea of having a new issue to illustrate each week. My dream would definitely be to illustrate children’s books; either my own stories or a story that is in need of an illustrator. To realise this dream I will be contacting a number of children’s books publishers with some examples of my children's illustration work. I will be taking the advice which I have gained over the course of this unit, of how to get your work to publishers and editors. During this unit, I realised that I had not had an awful lot of experience in the design world, only a few pieces which I have designed for free, so I decided to do something which would enhance my CV and give me experience of working in an office environment, as part of a team, and in a design environment. Although working as a children’s book illustrator generally involves working individually in your own studio, I wanted to get some work experience which would allow me to gain confidence. I contacted a magazine which I read regularly called Horse. It is a monthly magazine which is all about riding, horse care and all things equestrian. I thought this would be a good place for me to start as I have a strong interest in the magazines topic and design, (I feel that Horse is the best designed out of all the equine magazines) so thought I would see how my two strongest interests could work together. Obviously going into a magazine office I thought I might be mainly stuck doing admin work or watching the designers at best, but the whole team were really supportive and gave me a whole range of tasks, which varied from researching for articles, writing, organising the image database and even choosing images for articles. I found all the tasks really interesting and even though some of them didn’t relate directly to illustration, they all helped in some way to my confidence and understanding of how a magazine and design office works. I was lucky to be able to sit with the design team and watch them working on the layouts for the pages and asked them questions and even got the chance to show them my work which they said they will keep in mind as they occasionally commission illustrators. At the end of the week, the editor, Lisa Reich, gave me some wonderful comments, saying that I was diligent, used my initiative and said that she was happy to let me get on with things without supervision. She also said that I could go back another time to get more experience with the design of the magazine, so I will definitely be taking up her offer in the near future. I also had a challenge which was to phone to gain research about a story which the editor had been told about but didn’t have the details. This really gave me a confidence boost on calling people, which I will have to do a lot of when phoning potential clients about commissions.
To help me start in the industry of illustration and design, I have created my own website, set up and updated a blog for many months and designed some business cards which I will be giving to as many people as possible, so I can get my work to as many people as possible. I will also be putting together a mail out pack, which I will send to publishers and editors with a selection of my work and my contact details. I have also been thinking about how else my work could be used and decided to get my pattern which I designed for the end pages of The Little Bird, printed onto fabric. This will allow me to create products such as pillow covers, tote bags and tea towels from my work which I could sell to boost my income. To make sure my work stays current and fresh, I will continue to try and push my style further and develop as an illustrator even after I finish this course. I think there is nothing worse than a stale portfolio, so I will continue to make images and update my portfolio often to show what I can do. I will make sure my portfolio has a variety of final outcomes and developments showing that I can find different solutions to different briefs but always in keeping with my own style. I think is important to show you can work in different media and not always end up with the same solution, as some illustrators and designers do, and this makes their portfolios look really bland and samey.