Monday, 27 April 2009

when illustration and basic mathematics collide: a lament

Typically I work on A4 photoshop canvasses. They're something like 21 by 29 cm. I understand that. I know them.

My major project started on a4 and at some point I made the jump to 12x12 so the pieces would represent 12 inch records.

I changed all the pieces i'd done to 12x12 and all new pieces i started working on were on a 12x12 canvas.

Except instead of 12 by 12 inches I was working in centimetres.

Wasn't I supposed to have stuff like this figured out by primary school? You have failed me education. I will not forget.

The problem now is that alot of the work is quite intricately put together. I can't drag the images to fill a 12 inch canvas because the resolution will be terrible. To be honest alot of the resolution in the photographs I've used is too poor for that anyway. And recreating the images is just too much of a ball ache; they won't come out quite the same and I will fly into a rage everytime I look at the end product.

I fucking knew something was wrong the whole time, goddamnit.

So my only real option is to make the final images 7x7 inches, which is an increase of only 3 inches all round but 3 inches, in this instance, I can be proud of.

Plus 7 inch is, I think, the same size as 78s which was fairly popular in the day (that I am representing with this project), even though 12 was standard. I believe this because I did some research.

Bottom line: I hate maths.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

guest lecture: Andy Pavitt 2

Andy Pavitt talks about Big Orange.

I can barely read my own notes for this mini lecture. A lot of it looks like it was written backwards. Entire lines took apparently a second to scrawl out.

I have a pretty clear image in my head of Andy Pavitt. The first time he came to speak to us Pete commented how he had the atypical look of an illustrator. So I drew a little picture of him, from memory, before he turned up. I got Pete and Dave to do the same.

Mine was fairly inaccurate. Pete’s involved a swastika.

Andy Pavitt spoke here once before, in our second year. That talk was about his work and influences and rather than repeat that he opted to talk more or less exclusively about life at Big Orange, a well renowned illustration studio based in London.

There is also mention of an internship down there for two students. That’s kind of a buzz word for me. The idea of being an “intern” makes me a little sick. But the internship down there sounds genuinely great and I start thinking about whether or not I want to be an illustrator. Then I started thinking about my life in general, trying to plan around what I assumed would be an epic undertaking in London, perhaps lasting months. I don’t want to live in London, I can’t afford to. It would screw up literally all of my plans.

I realised I was getting ahead of myself. The internship would only be for a week. I could afford it, probably. It would be do able. And it sounded like it would be the best possible way to get started as an illustrator given the amount of experience and contacts that would be available. I wonder how I’d react in a situation like that; if I’d let it slip through my fingers like a fool. Or maybe I’d have a characteristic mood swing and throw myself into it with the awesome force of a flaming zeppelin. Maybe, probably, there’re others in the class who would benefit more.

Pavitt has been at that studio 7 years. It has been around for 15 or 16 years and was started by a few RCA graduates including Andy Something (I genuinely cannot read this name, maybe Lovell?) and Darryl Rees who runs the prestigious Heart Agency.

The space is large carrying, at it’s peak, 18 illustrators.

Now it’s split in two with the AOI taking up half. We (me, Pete, Dave, Kachia, Sarah) actually saw this in person, AOI people doing AOI stuff. One grenade and it’s all over Pete said about that when we were right there looking at them.

The AOI help pay the studio rent and other bonuses to Big Orange include: free membership to the AOI (Andy Pavitt says this is cheeky) and they get free advice about prices for illustration and contracts and the like. The AOI, basically, are good guys.

The studio sounds good. The rent is split between all the illustrators there. The rent, cost of which we’re getting to, pays for cleaning, phones and an up to speed computer network as well as other fanciful London things like, presumably, robots (unconfirmed).

Advantage: there’s a mix of illustrators there for you to bounce ideas off. Everyone has doubts about their own work, according to Pavitt (who seems like an extremely earnest guy, very personable), and you can quickly get other opinions with a lot of experience behind them.

Location is important, but not everything. Big Orange is in trendy Shoreditch, inhabited by haircut warriors I learned to quickly despise when I was there.

When they moved in there it was a ghost town. There are some good galleries and studio/shops around there now though.

QUESTIONS. I put my hand up.

Maybe this will sound cold, I say, like an idiot, but what does the rent cost?

Pete says something unintelligible. He's telling me, I later find out, that Andy Pavitt already mentioned the cost.

Andy Pavitt repeats: £200 a month.

Of course he already said that. I have this problem with numbers. As soon as I see them on a page I skip them. As soon as I begin to hear them my mind goes blank. I just can’t deal with them. They almost don’t exist for me. It does get me into a lot of trouble.

By contrast Rose’s studio costs £50 a month. But it sounds like a send up of a “Northern Art Studio” with lots of damp and no heating and etc. But maybe I could dig that.

Pete and Dave are thinking about getting a studio in town and I would be up for that, except I will definitely never have any money ever again. So if they literally mean a shoebox, as in using a shoebox as a studio, maybe I could stretch to that. But what would be the point? I mean it’d be a shoebox.

PAVITT, A., talks about name dropping Big Orange. Not everyone knows his name but he can say I work at Big Orange and everything clicks into place. This would be another advantage to doing an internship there, GODDAMNIT.

On sharing contacts: Some people are more generous than others. I’ve written: respect this. Presumably in relation to the sentence that went before.

Big Orange is open 24 hours a day, perhaps because everyone there has a key? I don’t know! I DON’T KNOW.

It’s not common. Someone that works there, “Toby”, sometimes comes in early, 5 am or so, to work. Sometimes he’ll be out drinking til 2, then he’ll drop in to do his work and fall asleep on the sofa all day which sounds like something I’d do.

Art Directors don’t really care how the work gets done. Often you’ll get 2 day briefs and you’ll have to work really hard and fast at ridiculous hours to get them done. Like jobs from out of the UK. Apparently New York art directors are the worst for this, having (either consciously or not) no comprehension of time zones. They call you at 11pm and expect you to have the work done in 12 hours.

Art directors apparently sometimes think giving out a job is a privilege for illustrators, like they’re doing you a favour. The Guardian is meant to be bad for this.

So disadvantages to working in a studio: if you get BAD DYNAMISM it is BAD. If someone “takes over” a bit too much.

So it seems like the internship is the way forward and I’m thinking about that when I realize very clearly that I want to go surfing.

I wonder if I have some kind of weird synaesthesia where instead of mixing up sensory information with other sensory data I’m mixing up my sensory stimulation with other desires. The desire to get ahead in illustration leads me to want to be a surfer.

A surfer.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

what i did recently was this

had trouble focussing lately, feel like a dick about it, want to sort my life out. Basically saw this film at the start of this project: Searching for the Wrong Eyed Jesus and it had a couple of quotes in it that stuck out, for me, with regards to the brief I'm working on. One of them was You know you're alive when you're sad and I wanted to make an image about that for my major project, without being all emo and that.
So I made this today:

Oh GOD it looks so emo with that big red heart thing and that little tattoo style swirl. Well shit. The idea was I liked mixing this big ink streak thing and a more rigid graphic shape, I did that a couple times for this project already and I liked the shape of the heart on this. Those little swirls are "traditional" looking bits of decoration you might get on signs and boards and things in the 1930s South of America. So that's not a huge idea really, is it? I am sort of just basically essentially throwing things together at this point to try and make a picture.

[edit: I revised the image to make it marginally less stupid]

Feel free, though not obliged, to enjoy it.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Comparison between Otto Dettmer and Damian Gascoigne

The main difference for me between these two illustrators is Damian Gascoigne’s lecture made me want to go and draw and take photos and explore things whilst Otto Dettmer’s made me want to go and read a book, or something.

Not that it wasn’t interesting, it just seemed very academic, very dry. I thought his work was good, he was very polite. It’s only that he was quite an insular figure, solitary seeming, whereas Gascoigne seems in his element around people, soaking up inspiration from his encounters with interesting students or things.

It seemed like Gascoigne more or less processed the world in terms of images. He clearly loves drawing and learning and this came across in the work he showed us.

Otto Dettmer didn’t seem like some huge misanthrope, it’s just his apparent approach to illustration was a lot more direct, whilst Gascoigne’s is maybe more winding or scenic.

But this sums up their different illustrative styles as well, fairly succinctly. Dettmer’s a little colder, more graphic based, Gascoigne’s slightly more ramshackle, personal.

(piece by Otto Dettmer)

(piece by Damian Gascoigne)

My understanding of the illustration industry, and achieving success within it, is that you have to be really, really good in terms of ability, productivity, efficiency, professionalism. You also have to really love illustration and just creating images, the way Damian Gascoigne seems to process the world in that way. You also maybe have to be incredibly lucky with meeting people and being chosen to do certain jobs and all of that good stuff.

A middle ground between these two illustrators, in my mind, is Paul Davis.

(piece by Paul Davis)

He has been in the business for years on end, probably more than I’ve been alive (which really goes for all three of these figures). But he just seems so prolific. I saw his desk when I was at Big Orange and it was covered with drawings he’d done and was working on. He has shelves and draws and things full of stuff, lots of pens and drawings and pieces of paper and whatever. Otto Dettmer seems maybe to have done even more pictures in his career, but I can’t be sure.

He has spent a lot of time making all these books, his commercial work for newspapers and this huge archive of stock illustration (which is maybe a really good idea but seems deeply impersonal and inherently skeptical with regards to the illustration industry and clients attitudes. But he didn’t seem so skeptical so I don’t know).

Then again Gascoigne didn’t go on about how exciting he found every job and fresh challenges or anything. But he did talk about how much love he had for his students, how he loved to draw, how he stood for half an hour watching a Korean couple on a date and wondering about their lives and the circumstances that brought them together.

Gascoigne is a teacher as well as an illustrator and an animator. He talked about how he’d had a year of terrible pitches which had all been shot down and talked about illustrators needing the nerves of a gambler and that sounds about right to me. But as much as he makes a living from illustration and his hard work pitches he also gets paid for teaching and this must be a two way bonus for him.

On the one hand it means he can relax a little, because he’s getting paid regularly. On the other hand, which is actually the wrong phrase to use here because these are both good things, he gets to spend time with fresh minds and new people every year: his students.

This seems like it would be extremely important to Gascoigne, both in terms of inspiration (in life as well as illustration). Maybe that’s the big difference between these two cats. Illustration follows Gascoigne wherever he goes; he walks it like a dog. Dettmer approaches it, brings it out to perform tricks, like a bear maybe, or a monkey.

The other way in which Davis shares, in my mind, a connection with one of these two is his emphasis on drawing (something he shares with Gascoigne). I remember visiting Le Gun and one of their boys (Chris Bianchi) saying we like the pen. Gascoigne and Davis do too. It seems like use of the pen inherently gives you a class that is rare in other illustrators[1].

(piece by Chris Bianchi)

It’s like there’s a sort of respect, amongst illustrators, for people who can actually draw. Not a sort of sighing, laughing relief sort of respect that we have for Paul Davis doing funny drawings like oh yeah he can draw but ha ha so can I, I guess.

David Hughes, Charley Harper, James Jean: these are the stone bastards we’re all in awe of.

(piece by James Jean. Link to bigger version:

When I was in London speaking to a guy from the Telegraph about my work he said he’d never seen anything like it and it sort of broke my heart a little. I’ve seen so much work like mine. That makes sense and everything but it sort of goes to show: there’s so much because it’s sort of easy maybe. And it’s like there’s different standards within illustration and outside of it. I’m not often amazed by my own images. Likewise if some other student had produced the same maybe I’d think it was quite a good attempt, as I imagine they’d feel about mine. But when it comes to raw drawing talent I have a tendency to step aside and let it pass, as I think a lot of illustrators/illustration students do. Whereas to an outsider, so to speak, it all looks good.[2]

What’s harder, although I don’t exactly know what I’m talking about, is bringing an entire life into illustration. I mean we all do this, all of us, at least subconsciously. That’s why my blog had, pretentiously maybe, all those song lyrics as headers. Why I write about buying a hat in my visit to Le Gun. Gascoigne does it very consciously, so does Davis, in a less stupid way than I do.

They pick up on the earnestness of things they over hear, people they see in the street. This comes into their drawings; knowingly quite rough and sort of innocent, though that’s not really the word I want. And, like I say, I’m assuming that’s why they draw like that, along with that subtle difference thing I was talking about before.

Dettmer’s work is not devoid of humanity, or anything. There’s still quite a lot of humour in it, for example, it’s just under a couple more layers, a little more removed.

(piece by Otto Dettmer)

I think his love is with screenprinting. You get a feel for that when you’re holding the books he makes. But he just has to produce work so fast, it seems, he has to leave the screenprinting to side projects.

I understand that illustration happens fast, generally, so it makes sense for Dettmer to use a computer in place of screenprinting and I would be the same. Technology is obviously there to make things easier.

It seems like you need to work really, really hard as an illustrator and be almost constantly making images, or else just really love it and try to explore and learn as much about it as you can, and explore the world through illustration, almost process all your experiences through imagery. And that might get you somewhere.

[is this post any good? is it even remotely like what it's supposed to be?]

[1] But not impossible to find. I would say Dettmer has this classiness; Matthew Richardson, Martin O’Neill. Illustrators who don’t draw, who make use of digital stuff but aren’t huge slags about it, like, say, me. Where people like Gascoigne, Davis or David Hughes deviate, in terms of style, from the guys at Le Gun, is that their styles seem very personal and distinct and whilst the work of the people I spoke to at Le Gun seemed very personal it was also very similar. Which is not exactly a bad thing. Davis’ work shares a lot, stylistically and even in terms of content, with David Shrigley to the point that they’re compared in almost every essay either is mentioned in. Do you see what I did there?

(piece by Neal Fox, from Le Gun)

People are largely the same, and similar people are drawn together (that’s not an illustration pun, please believe me). The differences are subtle, like the work of the guys at Le Gun, like Shrigley and Davis. At least I think that’s just how it is.

[2] Case in point: these computers games covers someone did. Basically computer games covers are the worst of the worst, the most trashy, awful, dull shit. And they sort of sum up, in a way, all that is bad about games today. But we won’t get into that. Someone, a while ago, redid these film posters in a sort of Saul Bass, Penguin Book Covers style and now someone has just peddled the same thing with games covers. Your average gamer is age 15 (actually I think someone told me it's 23, but we're talking hypothetical mental age) and they are used to covers featuring explosions, tits and exploding tits. Possibly aliens also, who gives a fuck? So you show someone a very basic redoing of these games and they will think God has literally shat on the page in front of them.

I’m not saying these covers are bad exactly. I think the one for Grand Theft Auto is complete genius. It’s just anyone with a design degree and half a brain (and has played the games) could have done this and wowed the entire gaming world – a world which knows largely nothing about design.

Sunday, 5 April 2009