The 30 days of the John Vernon Lord inspired challenge started by the House of Illustration ends today and so I am ready to review the experience which, for me, was a bit of a learning curve. I am looking back on the huge collection of 1 inch squares, the many attempts and failures at documenting a thought, or something I saw and wanted to test out and feel pride tinged with sadness. This was a fun challenge and I don’t want it to end, even if it ending means the start of Inktober and a new adventure in creative-land.
As this is the first challenge of this nature that I started, and also the first I finished, I wasn’t entirely sure about how to approach it. Yes, I had some boundaries to work within, but felt like I needed more in terms of parameters. Should I draw flowers, birds, animals, imagined scenes?
For the end of my MA summer term I decided to test out my research on travel by working on a subject I know best and address some stereotypes most people gravitate towards in connection with my native country. Make no mistakes, we all have stereotypes about all manner of things and places and so, while the stereotypes about Romania bother me quite a bit I am also able to understand that a lot of them are due to a lack of more profound education about our people, customs and traditions.
My research took me to websites that listed the top 10 or 20 stereotypes and sometimes purported to correct them, and to wonderful visuals about many other countries in the world and the stereotypes surrounding them. What I found interesting in the end is that our beliefs define us, they tell something about our own culture and upbringing so you can actually stereotypify (there, I made a new word) stereotypes by their places of origin.
To say that I am late with my blogging is certainly an understatement so instead of making up excuses and providing an explanation I will go straight into telling about my latest work. I have no holiday this summer, not in the purest sense, as my part time MA stretches right through the season as “term 3”. This is my chance to do some preliminary research and test out ideas for my major MA project. My chosen topic is travel and I kept it deliberately loose so as to be able to chop and change according to where the research takes me, but more about that will follow as an additional post once I’ve handed in work for assessment.
Alongside my course work I decided to respond to a call for art to be auctioned in aid of an animal conservation charity. #sketchforsurvival is a call to artists and famous people to donate a 26 min sketch which will be auctioned by the charity later this year, but not before all the donations are shown in exhibitions in London and the New York. It is 26 minutes because that is how often an elephant is poached for its tusks in the wild. The deadline for submission of work was the 31 July and a list of all artworks will be available online (link here). I donated 2 pieces, a watercolour of an Amur Leopard and a print of a digitally manipulated linocut featuring the sweet Pangolin. Both pieces required quite a bit of research, especially the Pangolin which appears to be a little-known animal, certainly compared to how endangered it has become through poaching.
A month on from an amazing artistic experience as a student visitor to the Bologna Children’s Book Fair I am still buzzing with ideas and working on polishing my work to competition standard. Being there at the fair, in the presence of so many great creators and those supporting them (publishers, editors, agents, rights dealers etc) has reinforced my commitment to this new career path and made me want to succeed at it even more. If you wonder what success means to me, imagine having your own book deal and seeing your illustrations in a nice book on the welcoming shelves of Foyles or Waterstones or in your local library during a story time session run as part of their literacy programme – and I know that means an awful lot of hard work and idea generation….
I will go off on a limb and risk a generalisation based on my personal experience - the majority of artists / creatives are introverts. We are the ones behind the camera because we dislike exposure and wield a pencil because a picture is worth 1000 words. Where does that put us in relation to social media? How do we use it?
The most successful artists on social media appear to be extroverts but note a caveat that under the shroud of anonymity everyone can gain a few extra pounds of courage. Most artists I looked at a little closer use several platforms at the same time, trying to reach a wide audience. Some remain faithful to one or two platforms only.
So what is the recipe for (online) success? Does virtual success translate into a busy offline career? If at this point you feel yourself holding your breath for a definitive answer, stop reading – I don’t have an answer, but can offer a small overview.
I was reminded today, attending the MFA Symposium at the UCA Farnham, of the importance of artists. Far from just putting work out there for everyone else to scratch their heads at in wonderment, good artists research, analyse, interpret information through a myriad of creative filters and then present it, all the time referencing writers, critics and artists before them – because the inescapable truth is that we constantly reference the world around us, our culture, our DNA. The phrase that comes to mind is that we are, as T S Eliot and before him Bernard de Chartres put it, dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants, ie we need that which has passed before us to give us an understanding of that which lies ahead of us. So, in that context, I was both impressed and disappointed with my fellow artists in the room whose presentations were aimed at bringing together their research to date, something like a justification of what went ahead and what they were doing in consequence.
Of course, I accept that the artist is also an activist, and satirist, and historian, and archivist and possibly also a scientist and many more other things all rolled into one, but to me the ethical responsibility of the artist is also very important. There was one speaker whose work left me
As it is Christmas Day and you are all out there celebrating, this is my first chance in the past few days to put my feet up and update my website. I won’t take long of your time, after all who wants to spend longer than necessary on their electronics when they could be spending this special time with their family?!? That said, this is also all of our chance to stop, look around and think – how could I have done this better?
I haven’t sent Christmas cards this year. I like to have new stock every Christmas and somehow, between the realities of life and a feeling of bah-humbug towards the holidays I resisted buying or making my own this time. It wasn’t until the last minute yesterday, in the middle of wrapping presents, that I thought what a shame it was that I didn’t even have a couple of cards to hand for the people I would be seeing over these few special days. What follows is an account of my quick fix solution:
"Learning is the only thing the mind never exhausts, never fears and never regrets." (Leonardo da Vinci)
Attributed to da Vinci, the words above illustrate my philosophy and open attitude to learning. I love learning new things, especially things that relate to subjects that interest me and that can push me as a growing person a little bit further to question and explore the world I live in.
I am an owl, not a lark....
I don't know about you other owls out there but I work best and feel at my most clear-headed and most creative in the dead of the night. On the other hand, mornings have always been a bit of a challenge and the motivation of an exciting day ahead has never been enough to prize me out of bed without a grumble.
When it comes to making a successful linocut illustration there are quite a few things to consider. I am still learning the right way through various bits of project, the latter on the theme of ‘nonsense’, as part of my course.
I find nonsense to be quite a fascinating topic and so my little sketchbook filled up quite quickly with brainstorming ideas, from ones based on typography to more involved ideas, including one suggested by someone else (tip: talking about your project with others outside your usual group can spark new ideas which have the potential to be quite interesting). However, generating ideas and roughs is not the problem I am up against. Most of the time I get so excited by new projects that the actual problem comes from choosing the right image to complete.