The monotony of existence

Chosen for comfort as opposed to any pretense of an ensemble. Tracksuit bottoms and an old ragged t-shirt. Four walls, looming ominously like sentinels – guards that watch over the only resident within. The constant hum of a computer fan battles a droll of music to combine into white-noise that becomes a dull ache focused deep between the eyeballs. Shackled to a daily endeavour that has long lost any significance. Life has become a routine, time broken only by sleep. Sustenance, shower, sleep. What is it all for? Every day is the same…

Sometimes I loose track. Maybe this is my own life. Maybe it is a fabrication.

Sitting alone at my drawing board I find it difficult to articulate my feelings. Focusing on a blank canvas, I put pressure on myself to conceive something original to express my frustrations. At once I am both exhausted and inactive.

Naturally, I start to think of a character, endowing them with these emotions. Boredom, fear, lethargy. Soon a form starts to follow, with a personality beginning to develop. A creature of the night for which time has lost all meaning, the reference points long since removed by a prolonged sense of solitude.

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Finding expression in the language of the line

Emerging from beneath my rock I decided to take a respite from my solitude and re-engage with the outside world. In no way was this to be in any physical sense for that would involve a clean shave and fresh underwear; this was purely going to be an exercise to participate with the online community by contributing to Friday Illustration.

A simple concept, Friday Illustration is a weekly art activity with no obligation and very little restrictions. The premise is simple, each week members of the community suggest a single word theme and the chosen proposal is used as an open brief for those who participate. This week the topic was ‘Stuffed‘ and there were already plenty of submissions early doors. People stuffed into boxes, strange taxidermy experiments, and (of course) characters who have over indulged.

This would be a chance for me to play with a casual brief and take the opportunity to work on a few things. In this blog post, I will discuss this project, and use it to demonstrate a key part of my aesthetic: the attention to line expression.

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Focused brief for specific clients

'Sustainable Design' editorial illustration

In what often feels like an over saturated market with feral illustrators stalking every corner, it can be difficult to cut through the noise and attain the attention of those who wield the power to commission your next project. With a growing population of aspiring freelancers, it has become more and more difficult to make contact with increasingly shy art buyers. Creative directors and art directors have plenty of other obligations to busy the day, so wading the flood of phone calls, emails and mailers may be quite an inconvenience. This means submission requirements can be strict while opportunities to sit down to discuss one’s work in person are becoming rarer.

For a fledgling freelancer, this can make it tough to catch a break. Without any pre-existing relationships within the industry, it can be onerous to secure that first project and begin to build a portfolio of commercial experience that demonstrates one’s talent in a realistic context. But even with the portfolio and experience behind you, self-promotion is key for a sustainable career.

Admittedly this sounds bleak and can be a kick in the morale for an isolated illustrator. With opportunities limited it means that every lead is of great value, and care should be made to maximize the chances of standing out from the crowd. In this blog entry, I will use a case study to discuss the importance of being specific when approaching a potential client and how to best demonstrate your value to increase the chances of securing a commission.

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Capturing the creative monsters

It is a well-known anecdote. Archimedes, an ancient Greek scholar is struggling with the problem of calculating the gold content of a votive crown. Taking a break from his work he climbs into the bathtub and ‘Bam!’ – a solution hits him. Realising the principle of displacement to measure irregular volumes – the key to his task – Archimedes famously jumped out of the bath and ran down the street naked exclaiming ‘Eureka!’.

Creative block is a common problem and a situation every designer is faced with at some point. With clients demanding results and deadlines looming, it is the job of a designer to overcome these problems regularly. So what is creative thought and how do we address the issue of writers block?

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A return to the frontier

With Tarantino’s return to the Western in The Hateful Eight and Alejandro G. Inarritu producing one of the most anticipated movies of a packed awards season with The Revenant, there has been a striking return to the frontier in the cinema. The latest in a string of movies to reinstate the cowboy to the big screen, I find myself consciously taking notice of the genre. Slow West was a beautiful debut movie for John Maclean, and one of the gems of 2015, while 2014’s Young Ones had a distinctly western feel, although set in a desolate future.

But let’s not get carried away. I’m sure there will be those who point out that the American classic never actually went away, citing titles such as the remake of True Grit, The Assassination of Jessie James by the Coward Robert Ford and the ill-conceived Lone Ranger all released within the last decade. Not to mention some of the Western movies of the mid 20th century that still remain engaging and relevant to this day with themes of self-reliance and perseverance in a harsh environment.

With a growing appreciation of the genre, I have been catching up on some of the classics and in doing so taken reference for my own work.

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From mild-mannered Architect-elect to unstable gun-for-hire

Upon graduating from the Newcastle School of Architecture, it was widely believed to some relief that I had finally found my vocation. Having toyed with the Sciences – and later with three different disciplines of Engineering – it was hoped by many that a career in design would satisfy both my inquisitive mind and artistic desires.

Taking work in a medium-sized architectural practice, I was exposed to the glitz and glamour of life in the profession, throwing myself into the rigours of working long hours and taking on much responsibility. Becoming unenthused by the day-to-day grind, I found my job satisfaction wavering and began to recede into the sanctuary of my own creative pursuits. Sitting at my drawing board in the studio, I found myself drawing at any opportunity. On the phone to consultants I would sketch out ideas, and on post-it notes I found myself doodling characters to later be developed.

Around this time I had been developing a character as a semi self-portrait, bringing together ideas from previous drawings to create a vibrant composition. As I incorporated facial elements and the flowing forms from doodles made in a spare moment, I now had a project with which I could experiment and express my primal artistic urges.

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