Find me here at helentowrieillustrations for posts and art during my final year Cardiff Metropolitan University.
Second year, for me, has been a long year with many ups and downs and the confidence I have hadin my work as fluctuated along with it. The projects I was given over the year, I feel, have been designed exceedingly well in a way that has helped me to develop my identity as an illustrator and has pushed me in the direction I want to be heading. They have left my confidence on an overall high.
At the beginning of the year, having been advised to move away from fineliner in the first project, Kaplan, I was originally apprehensive. Believing that fineliner was going to be “my thing” as an illustrator, I was determined to work towards improving my skills with that rather than trying out anything else. However, once I put the fineliner down, I realised very quickly that that wasn’t what this year was supposed to be about for me. Rather than choosing one thing and practicing it, I needed to try out as many different things as possible, playing with concepts and designs as well as medias in order to refine myself as a good illustrator.
Since that project, I decided to stay away from fineliner as much as I could, realising it wasn’t doing anything to help my work. I took advantage of the print room and did some plastic etchings. I also used the technique of creating line with a needle and thread to create the lines I may have originally thought to draw with fineliner.
As well as this, I used my digital tablet to attempt to create some more clean and professional small scale images. It was great to hear positive feedback for the work I did through this because it is probably by far my favourite method of illustrating and is one I’d like to explore more in third year. However, I am also going to keep in mind to carry on experimenting with methods and materials in order to push the boundaries of my skills yet further.
The projects which we were asked to do were often difficult in terms of handling potentially delicate subjects. I think it’s valuable as a story teller to understand as many difficult subjects as you can and be able to consider them in your work. This is why I chose to do gender representation for my dissertation.
I am glad that I had the support of my tutors and peers to help me push my work and ideas in the right directions, just as I am happy to have had to opportunity to observe and critique my peers. I always found the tutorials – group or single – to be very insightful and, looking back, I wish I had gone to more of them.
Personally I feel like I have really grown as an artist and illustrator this year; I feel like I have somewhat found my footing and am ready to take the challenge third year head on. The projects I have faced this year have been difficult, but not unnacomplishable – despite what I might have thought at the time, so with this new found confidence and enthusiasm I am looking forward to a summer of self-directed project work.
Final deadlines are always worrying, but I was actually really happy with all my work once I saw it all together. I feel like you can really see my progression as an illustrator throughout the year as well as the variety of approaches and medias i used to create each project.
This year was the year of trying out and experimenting with my work. I know that some ideas worked better than others, and that I struggled with some projects more than others. Putting all my work together like this was also a great way to remind myself of the techniques I’d used earlier in the year which I would love to use again – for example, I had done some etchings for a project before Christmas which I feel were pretty successful and strong.
I think if I were to do this year again, I’d try to worry less about final beautiful images and experiment more.
All in all, I believe this year has been outstandingly valuable for me in terms of gaining understanding of illustration as a concept, and growing as a person. I look forward to next year when I can really get stuck in and let my illustrations and ideas take flight.
Here are some images of my setup:
Kinetic Environments: A Reflection
At the beginning of the five weeks, not a single person in our group had a clue how to write a code or link up a circuit via a board. We were more of less going in blind, but we were eager to learn since it linked strongly to our own interests – Plus, personally, I think that in this day and age electronics are a pretty useful thing to know.
Although three out of four of our group was on illustration, we hadn’t previously talked much, so it was nice that the Field project had brought us together. Our last group member was in product design, and found it really valuable to meet and interact with this person from a different subject since they had a very dissimilar and interesting way of approaching things.
When coming up with our initial designs, we used a piece of A1 paper to sketch down ideas and thoughts that we had. We very quickly came to the conclusion that making a robot that could draw was something we were all happy and eager to create – plus it linked back strongly to most of the groups’ illustration background. We also decided that the robot would have a strong aesthetic appearance, thus connecting to both illustration and product design (Maria, the product design person was very interested in making children’s toys).
Subsequently, one of the illustrators in our group, Jack, had a huge interest in sea creatures. He works a lot with marine life and knows a lot about them. Because of this, we thought it would be interesting to link back to link our robot’s aesthetics to that.
During the construction of the robot, we often found complications with the coding and wiring. It, at times, seemed like as soon as the arduino coding was working, the robot would break; and as soon as the robot was working, there would be a new error in the coding. Over all, we quickly realised quite how big a task we had set ourselves – but it nevertheless this didn’t deter us from trying to achieve our main goal.
Lastly we decided to make a short movie of our deep-sea creature in action. Maria then edited the video and added sound effects. Despite this not being a necessary addition to our project, we thought it was a strong extra touch, and highlighted the thought processes of our illustrator and product design minds (being it a sort of exhibition piece as well as an advertisement for our robot).
Over all, I think that as a group we worked together well throughout the duration of this project. I have personally found it very valuable in the relationships I’ve formed, and the skills I’ve gained from Kinetic Environments. I feel like, in the future, if I wanted to create a piece of illustration which reacted with the person viewing it (something I’ve been very interested in producing in a long time) I now have a very good head start in doing it.
Beyond Fiction: A Reflection
I believe that I have gained a huge amount of confidence from this project in regards to animation, technique and my own abilities. I discussed my ideas with professional animators, bouncing ideas back and forth until settling on using paper cut outs which I would move frame by frame in order to create a moving image.
Working with my own story and own characters was great fun and pushing the boundaries of the reality the story would be set in was a wonderful challenge. I decided that (since as a child this fact had always bothered me if left un-thought about by the producers of a show) I would create a story that would be standard to the world of children’s books and TV shows, where a fox travels to the city to explore and discover what it’s like, all the while writing letters about his experiences to a friend back home. I would create an animation of the fox arriving at the city, setting up a home and writing a letter before getting a pigeon to send fly the letter back to the forest, plus I would write the letters themselves as individual items that people could read.
This idea in itself was not particularly unusual, but what I did to go deeper into the realms of fiction was to consider the kind of universe the fox was actually in. Many children’s shows have intelligent animals which either hide their intelligence flawlessly from humans, or interact with humans without any question of why or how. My idea was to create another story within this story, by documenting the reactions that people in the real world might have to a seemingly intelligent fox. I created fake social networking statuses and news articles talking about the fox as if it was some sort of local celebrity, giving different people different reactions. The purpose of this idea could even be served as a joke towards all the narratives which the animals either are aware they have to hide their intelligence, or it is the norm for animals to be intelligent, since the fox is completely unaware of how humans are reacting to its strange behaviour.
Before this project, I had always been a little afraid to show off my digital drawings, since, unfortunately, many people still do not consider it real art. Nevertheless, upon showing my tutors and peers my work, they gave positive feedback and encouragement which was greatly reassuring.
I drew out each tiny animation component via my digital program and set to work cutting them out and creating an animatic. It was a shame I didn’t have the time to make the full animation, however I was incredibly pleased with how the animatic turned out, and was happy to see it on the 1st and 2nd year’s animation reel at the degree show.
How This Has Affected My Work:
I feel like over all, I was very lucky to get these two field projects since each one had aspects of it which helped my personal growth as well as the growth of my practice.
The type of illustration I always do is very un-technical. I have never had much of a brain for methodical things like electronics and science, but taking a breather from drawing and having to consider illustration in a more technical way was definitely valuable to me. Normally, a challenge like this would be far too daunting for me, and admittedly I was worried prior to starting the field subject that I wouldn’t be cut out for it, but as soon as I formed a group with some other class members I knew that our combined skills and enthusiasm would be enough to get a good project going.
Playing to our strengths whilst still learning things that sit within our weak points was incredibly valuable. The project has not only given me connections to people who may be able to help me with projects in the future, but also given me confidence to step into a more technical way of working in my practice.
This new found confidence is evident in the second field project where I gave digital animation a go. I had to use a much more complicated program than one I usually use for digital art, but it paid off and I ended up with a short run cycle.
The creative freedom that the second field project encouraged me to exhibit was, in my opinion, crucial to my development this year as an illustrator. It has affected my study in the fact that I now feel more confident about my own work rather than trying to imitate the type of illustrator I simply am not at this moment in time.
As someone who worries a lot, I tend to overthink my projects until they are no longer creative but instead rigid and impersonal. The two field subjects pushed me out of this habit in individual ways – Kinetic environments making me work as a group and having to do things that were somewhat out of my control, and Beyond fiction teaching me to play around and have fun with my ideas rather than worry about whether they are good enough.
My personal confidence in standing up in front of a crowd also grew. In the first field, I was responsible for organising and directing the presentation we had to give. And in the second field, I had to present a formal presentation all on my own. Both times I spoke to a relatively large group of unfamiliar people, which was nerve wrecking but good for me.
Both fields taught me a priceless lesson in how taking a leap of faith with your work is very often worth it.
After choosing to do a talk on the Number’s Stations, I created a series of images which I hoped would reflect back and compliment on the information I was telling. I wanted all the images to be similar to one another so that the video would flow smoothly as I talked, so I chose a palette of a rusty orange, deep blue, white and light blue to create all the images. Keeping this strict and basic colour scheme I think helped develop my understanding of the importance of colour in illustration, since often if an image is too crowded colour-wise it can become horrid to look at. Plus, with multiple images like this, I believe it can become disjointed somewhat if there are no reoccurring colours or themes.
I also used this as an excuse to practice using colour, since I still feel I need to understand it more in its effectiveness and importance.
Making some images into short looping animations was an idea that came to me whilst trying to figure out how to keep the images interesting as I spoke for long periods of time. By keeping the images moving, it keeps the eyes and brain moving and therefore more likely to process the information I would be speaking. I hoped that, since the images were also directly corresponding to words, it would help keep the memory of the information by association.
This video below of my images combined with words and sound-clips of various numbers stations.
(if video doesn’t work, click here)
The Ted talks project was a two week brief given to us. The aim was to choose a Ted talk video and illustrate it with at least 10 images, an animatic or animation.
After searching through many Ted talks, I couldn’t find one which really spoke to me or inspired me. However, I did get inspo from something I remembered back in the beginning of 2nd year when one of the tutors played a radio broadcast discussing the phenomenon of Numbers Stations.
Numbers Stations are radio broadcasts on shortwave frequencies which started appearing during the Cold War. They broadcast a number of different things in a number of different languages from songs, dial-tones, code words, and numbers. Some of these numbers are read out by an electronic voice, but others are read out of men, women, and even children. A lot of these station are still broadcasting today.
I decided to make my own Ted talk on this subject, and combined my words with samples of audio onto a video. My images are a mixture of animatics and still pictures which i drew to help the viewer remember all the compact information in the video.
I also stuck to a colour scheme, and practiced my digital art for this project – something I would like to do a lot more on next year.
I went to a recent talk by artist and Cardiff Met alumnus Victor Hagger, who showed us his work and shared his story on how he managed to become a successful illustrator after graduating.
He showed us his “rich-pictures”, which are images with the information of entire business presentations in them – something I’d previously not been introduced to before.
He explained to us the importance of practice and patience. He also mentioned that if you end up coming out of uni and doing illustration jobs that you didn’t see yourself doing it’s okay because each job is a learning experience which will earn you money to be able to do the illustration jobs you really do want to do (in his case, it was to illustrate a children’s book).
I found this presentation valuable reassurance about my own future as an illustrator, since it is often expected of you by non-artists that you should leave uni and should be able to go straight into doing exactly what you want to do – which just isn’t the case unless you strike incredibly lucky.
The most important thing that Victor told us, is that it is a great thing to just go with the flow when it comes to jobs. Do a job for a bit and move on when you are ready. Don’t be afraid to try new things or accept certain jobs.
His talk made me look forward to graduating and experiencing life as an illustrator myself.