And then they left - From Students to Professionals
Written by Mario Minichiello
Sunday, 01 December 2002
Before I begin apologies to all ex-students NOT included in this report. It represents just a small cross section of graduates from the past ten years to whom I put the questions:
What were your art school ambitions?
What useful knowledge did you gain there?
Describe your work.
What helps and hinders your work?
What do you want to do next? and
Are there any changes you would like to see in the business?
LUCY TRUMAN left art school in 2001 and was that year an AOI Images Judge "At art school I learnt to draw. The most important aspects were establishing my visual language, learning the business side of the profession and acquiring the drive and discipline to succeed. My work is decorative and colourful and predominantly figurative and I have worked in just about every field since leaving. I think that clients expect a really high standard and that the quantity of work is not always reflected in the fee. Next I would like to learn Flash 5 animation and work for web design agencies."
MATT ROCK left in 2001 was featured as Guardian graduate for that year. "The most important things I did at art school were: develop my painting ability, try other media such as print and digital photography, become more open-minded and improve my time management and organisational skills. Finishing my first commission was of most value. It gave me a real boost. My work is based on well-observed drawing, communicated mostly through computer 2D animation. I need clear briefing and my own strong opinion on the topic to be reflected. I have experienced problems with over picky clients asking me to alter minor things, and problems with computer platforms compatibility. I would like next - a crash proof computer."
MARSHA WHITE: 2000 "I always wanted to be an illustrator but went to art college with a fairly vague idea of what that entailed. Once there, my perspective was widened a lot but my personal aim was strengthened rather than altered. The course provided the chance to develop my own language and test ideas. Also it forced us to be critical, both of our own work and other people's. The professionalism and high standards that were expected were very helpful things to take away! What do I value most from the past five years? Firstly my degree, and then the commissions I have had, mainly my children's book because I wrote it too and feel I was part of the process of it being published. Also working for Persil because it is such a high profile company. I am also pleased to be still going! I would describe my work as fun: bright, light-hearted, with a sense of humour, animal-obsessed, personal and vibrant. I take inspiration from other people's work, fashion, colours, animals, especially dogs and specifically whippets, music, interesting-looking people and humour, and cups of tea. I would like to continue to work in children's books and for an advertising agency. I like to think I am quite flexible and would love to be commissioned for a magazine. It does seem that because I have done a lot of dogs it is what I am most frequently asked to do. I believe that I work most creatively under pressure. Since leaving college I haven't been in a studio situation but found that very productive at college. I find getting constant well-paid work the hardest thing! Perhaps I need an agent. I promote myself through Contact. For two years that has been my main method. Keeping in touch with people that showed even the slightest glimmer of interest has helped. Other than that, sending out samples, being on the cottonwolf and Katch-up websites and planning my own and of course, going to meet clients with my A3 portfolio and a smile. I don't have a long-term game plan, just to see where illustration might take me. Since I have left the path has been more up and down than I could have expected! As to what changes would I like to see in the business? I don't feel especially well qualified to answer but I think better fees would be a start. Also technicalities with rights and licences sometimes seem a bit tricky and weighted in the clients' favour."
RICHARD JOHNSON left in1999 and was awarded a Silver Medal in Images 26 "My ambition and hunger to become a successful illustrator just got bigger and bigger the more I learnt. It was a constant battle to find my visual language, but I got great advice. Learning the actual process of answering a brief, the decision making that goes into producing an illustration that works - was vital. I use my sketchbooks for reference and I'd say my style is fairly traditional, relying heavily on drawing and colour. My best moments so far have been: my first proper commission, my first Children's Picture Book and recently being awarded the Silver Medal in Images But in the last few weeks, things have exploded! I've got 8 jobs on the go and I don't know whether to laugh or cry.
CYRUS DEBOO - Left art school in 1990. Established professional. "I wanted to be a famous graphic designer. Two thirds into my Graphic Design course, I went on a week's placement and reality rained down on me. I found the work very dull and tedious. So at the last minute I changed to illustration. I came out of my shell, had time and space to experiment, make mistakes, looked and absorbed. I was inspired by visiting practitioners, like Matthew Richardson. I use a digital line and flat colour. Nowadays I do spend more time perfecting the idea, and believe it makes my work more creditable. I'd love to have clear and realistically time-scaled briefs and I hate commissioners who are indecisive. It stifles creativity. I hate being asked to sell all rights for the job for a poultry fee and I'd like to see a law introduced to fine companies who withhold payment after 30 days of receiving an invoice. I occasionally find it awkward to fix a price and would welcome a generally accepted scale of fees for specific jobs. Good news is that the Internet and email brings the world to your screen, makes working for clients in different countries possible from my desk in London. Three cheers for WWW Dot."
FRAZER HUDSON left in 1990. He is an established professional who has long been involved with the AOI. "At art school I started by wanting to draw realistically, but progressed to using drawing more sparsely to communicate the main thing - the idea. I would describe my work as 'conscious'. My best achievements have been choosing to work a 3-day week and understanding the relationship between work, money and freedom. I hate an ill-thought-out brief and Monday mornings. I'd like to design political or issue-lead posters like Abram Games and I'd love to swap roles, commissioning other illustrators who I admire, working within advertising. Periods of illness have also given me some thought-provoking insights into what makes me tick. I would like to always be in the right place at the right time. I would like to see a major annual competition, which forms the basis for highlighting the power of illustration, as a competitor to The Turner Prize."