Friday, 3 October 2014

Portfolios, pitches and microbiology.

In all my busyness over Summer, I've just realised that I completely overlooked this piece.  This illustration stemmed from my research for a pitch to The Eden Project, who were seeking written proposals for an exhibition on the theme of 'The Human Microbiome' and microbiology.

This was really only ever a quick sketch to wrap my head around my writing, but it was one of those defining pieces that has really snapped my work into a new direction.

There was a wealth of information to respond to in the brief, but the thing that caught my eye was the idea that our preoccupation with technology and the digital world could have adverse health effects. 'Is our disconnection from the natural world making us sick?'.  Personally, as a dual digital world explorer and fully fledged nature admirer, I found this idea really interesting.  The brief centred on the concept of us, as humans, being interwoven within a worldwide ecosystem; and the issues that can arise when we remove ourselves physically or consciously from it.  There's obviously the idea that getting outside, going for walks and taking time away from zombie-staring at screens helps improve our sense of wellbeing and connection to the world; but the report also considered the idea that interacting with nature and all it's muddy wildness exposes us to a far greater variety of microbes, which in turn help strengthen our immune systems.

That's what I wanted to focus on in this sketch, and I chose to approach it as if I was responding to the report as an article for an editorial illustration.  This is really where my work has turned.  A lot of my portfolio is centred around narrative illustration, which isn't a bad thing, but I've always wanted to strengthen my conceptual thinking in terms of editorial illustration.  It's those illustrations for magazines and newspapers that have such layered communication - the instant visual summary of the article, and those subtle little details that enhance the writing and fit snugly into place as you read through the text.  

I chose to work in a simple visual style (for me!), with cut-out figures and a limited colour pallete. I've had a great response to this style of illustration, so I'm hoping to keep it up with more editorial work, both personal and client-based.

In the end my exhibition proposal didn't go through with Eden. But, as always, it's something to grow from.  I always enjoy taking the opportunity to write out my ideas, and I'm a sucker for learning new things.  But really, the main thing I've taken away from that proposal is the re-boot in the confidence I have had in my own conceptual visual thinking.  There are always benefits in taking a critical look at your portfolio and knowing where you need improvement, or what you need to work on.  No illustrator is ever perfect at everything (although there are certainly some that seem that way!), but it's always worth a shot at adding another string to your bow.