Tuesday 30 September 2014

Draw North West

So tonight is the nineteenth Draw North West creative meetup! If you haven't been to one of these already (and you're even vaguely in the area) you should definitely come along.  

Held in the brilliant Kosmonaut bar in Manchester's Northern Quarter at 7:30, Draw North West attracts crowds of creatives from all walks to drink, draw and talk shop.  There's never a lack of chats about projects, collabs, films, exhibitions, music or *cough* Steve Buscemi. More often than not there's drawing games to join in with, and always someone up for a quick doodling session between the beers!

It's a great thing to connect with other creative people in the area, and it's always worth putting a face to those names you see bobbing around on Twitter and Facebook with their stunning portfolios.  There's been a few brilliant exhibitions and projects that have come out of the friendships people have made at Draw North West, and it's so good to have such a creative hub of ideas and support.  I personally live a fair trek away from the meetup, but every time I can go, I do go - it's absolutely worth it.

So whether you're a first year design student, a seasoned senior art director or just fancy a bit of a draw in your spare time - I really recommend heading down to Kosmonaut tonight.

You can find out more and keep up to date at www.drawnorthwest.co.uk or in the Draw North West facebook group here.  This month's poster by the super talented Kristian Duffy!

Friday 26 September 2014

Emmeline's BIG print giveaway

You could win one of three lovely signed prints.  It's an easy one, just comment on this post with which print you'd like to win (Wild Ride, Norwegian Wood or Summer Dip) before October 1st and spread the word!

All prints are signed and on 200gsm+ slightly textured paper. Wild Ride and Norwegian Wood are A3 size, whilst Summer Dip is just-right at A5.  Wild Ride is a limited edition original screenprint.  Open worldwide.

Three winners will be randomly selected and announced in the afternoon of October 1st. There will be three separate draws - one for each of the prints, with one winner per draw - you enter a draw via your favourite print comment.  One entry per person. If you can, please include your name and Twitter/Facebook handles in your comment. 

Find out more about the prints in the shop at www.emmelineillustration.mysupadupa.com. Tell your buddies!

Thursday 18 September 2014

Great Exposure! The moral dilemma of working for free.

A few years ago I wrote some Creative Tips and Resources articles for the fantastic Ten Paces and Draw website.  I thought it was about time to take a peek at my old work with that, and share and expand on a few of the highlights here. 

So first up, from the 'Getting Started, Getting Seen' article - Working for free.  

"I’ve touched on this before, and it’s a delicate subject which ignites flames of anger in some creatives: working for free, with the promise of exposure. You won’t believe how many ‘clients’ come forth with the glimmer of a fabulous commission but then drop the bombshell of “Oh, well, we don’t have the budget to offer payment to illustrators, but it’s an opportunity for some great exposure!”. It raises some particularly difficult morality issues if you’re starting out and don’t have any other offers of ‘real work’ on the horizon. It’s oh so tempting, and yes, I’ve been tempted into it before – mainly so I have something with a bit of direction to work on. But I have to say in a awful lot of cases I regret it – none of those promises of exposure ever delivered and it seemed like a bit of a waste of time, I could’ve been working on something I really love for my portfolio.
The main problem with clients seeking out illustrators that will work for free is that often they know there always will be illustrators willing to work for free. Post-graduates in this exact situation, like I was, and like you might be now. You’re waiting for commissions and will take what you can get for the exposure and practice – it’s nothing to be ashamed of, but it does become a problem when clients stop giving out paid jobs because they can prey on the newbies. Just look at these offers with a skeptical eye, weigh up if it’s really worth it and make sure you’re not undermining yourself for future commissions.
Of course in some cases working for free isn’t a bad thing at all. I’m very passionate about using my illustration work to help others through charity. It feels great to be helping others, gets you working to a brief and (without sounding like a cold-souled businesswoman) does often bring in good exposure. I’ve used my work to raise lots of pennies for some great charities in the last few years – It’s good to share the love!"
This is definitely one of the aspects of freelancing and the creative industries which really gets my storm clouds raging.  Even over these past few years since I've written this article this issue keeps cropping up.  I can understand why companies and illustrators go for it, but it's often an endless circle that saps a lot of life out of the industry in the long run.  

On the other hand, over the years I have made a lot of friends and allies who are going out bravely and starting up their own brands and magazines, and I've seen them struggle with budgeting and have to rely on contributors for content.  With a lot of these cases once they do have the funds coming in they will rightly pay illustrators for their work; but it's still a case of making it clear that illustrative content should have priority in a budget.  Personally, in situations like this - when I really love the ethos of a company, want to support them and build a business relationship with them; I will collaborate with them using existing work from my portfolio, or often they will look to feature my work or interview me - it's promotion and support for us both without the hours of unpaid work on the illustrator's end.

It's a complicated and often conflicting situation. We know the importance of building a portfolio and it's great to network and grow relationships; but in the end, like everyone, we have bills to pay too.  It's a risk either way, but in thinking of the career long game I would vote to stick to your guns and spend your time working on your portfolio through personal work, rather than feeding too many of the companies out for bargain content.

It's a case of knowing what your work and time is worth, and sending the message to the 'bad guy' businesses that crowd-sourcing, design competitions and free work isn't the direction to go to get quality creative work.

For more creative tips and resources head over to the Ten Paces and Draw articles here.

[Also, new illustration above! Getting my editorial illustration muscles working again with my own articles!]

Wednesday 17 September 2014

September is for sketching

Just a collection of some of the quick character sketches, a revived drawing and my new profile avatar from recent weeks.  September is for sketching.  It's fantastic to get back into the swing of character design by just drawing the first characters that pop into your head.  I haven't used any reference for these, so I thank my years of life drawing classes and people-watching for being able to coax out a reasonable degree of character movement and posture!

Someone asked me recently what on earth was up with the dude tying his shoelaces - I think we'd all understand: his little sister has just spent all his credit on rubbish in-app purchases, and he really can't deal with doing the washing up right now, Mum. "Ugh, I'm going to the park with Phil!". Cheer up little guy!

Monday 15 September 2014

15 for 15 award finalist

Exciting news, guys! I've been selected as one of the finalists in the 15 for 15 award for self-employed businesses.  

I wrote from the heart about the dizzying heights and the real struggles of working as a lone-wolf freelance illustrator, and I'm absolutely chuffed to have been chosen.  

I find that often freelancers and self-employed people are overlooked in business.  I know that I personally have struggled with getting support as I was starting out, and I have written many (ignored) letters to my local council about the benefits of supporting freelancers alongside the multitude of '3 employees +' grants and guidance programs they offer. 

Freelancers, in the creative sectors and further afield, are important - we're those people who know it will be hard, but are passionate enough to follow our dreams.  I'm so impressed that the 15 for 15 award (supported by ipse) is recognising that, and I'm so humbled to have been chosen to represent one of the 15 'brightest and best self-employed people' working in the UK now.

Here's a quick statement from the 15 for 15 team, and their ethos behind the awards-

'Enterprising individuals right across Britain are starting brand new businesses every day.

Most of them aren’t well connected entrepreneurs launching trendy startups and boasting millionaire backers. They are independent, enterprising people making the brave choice to go it alone because they want control of their own destiny.

There are now almost five million self-employed people working in the UK and that number is growing all the time. They are some of the brightest and most independent minds in business and 15 for 15 aims to give the most promising among them a little helping hand.

That’s why we are looking for the independent professionals who are set for big things in 2015. We want to find fifteen independent minds who truly represent the diversity, enterprise and bravery of Britain’s self-employed.'

I'll be heading down to London's LSO St Luke's for the awards ceremony on 19th November, where the fifteen finalists will be guests of honour (eep!) and one overall winner will be chosen.  It's all a bit exciting.  

Wish me luck, buddies!

Thursday 11 September 2014

Festival No 6 // Portmeirion

Following a very busy few months, I ended my Summer of travels at Festival No. 6 at the gorgeous Portmeirion in Wales. I've visited Portmeirion a few times over the years, it's a really unique place - designed by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis between 1925 and 1975 in the style of a quirky Italian village. You might recognise it from the famous surreal show The Prisoner, where Portmeirion was used as "the village". Great place for a festival!

The festival itself was really inspiring on a number of levels. The atmosphere was magical (very much helped by the setting!): people in fancy dress, pop-up performances, delicious food, paddle-boarding and a lot of dancing. It was great to just sit out and absorb it all; a good place for people-watching and building up story ideas.

I've definitely got post-festival blues, so I threw myself into capturing the spirit of the festival in the illustration at the top of this post.  It was a good kick-start to get back into work after the break as well. I had been thinking that this illustration was in a slightly different style than my usual work - but I've just been used to illustrating with ink whilst I've been away, as I've not had much of a chance to work fully digitally. It's definitely one of my more colourful pieces, but that does really reflect the environment and what it felt like to be there. It's certainly been one of the illustrations I've enjoyed working on the most.

I managed to steal a few moments from the music to sit and sketch.  It's often quite a shock at how much more you notice when you spend some time just looking at where you are.  I made a point of remembering some of the people I saw around the festival to sketch later as characters (I'll keep you updated!) - there were just too many interesting festival-goers around to draw them all at the time.

So now, for the first time in months - I have no travel plans, but a Summerful of great memories. It really did get to the point where I was feeling frustrated at not having the time to work (is that bad?), so I'm feeling content at having the foreseeable future to focus back down on my career, and use all that inspiration I've been storing up. I'll keep you posted!

Monday 1 September 2014

Summer // Cornwall

So this summer I decided to go back to my homestead and stay with my family in Cornwall for a few months.  Sometimes a change of pace and scenery is exactly the remedy to kick-start your inspiration and motivation, especially just after finishing a big book project.  Cornwall holds a big piece of my heart, and being able to spend most of my days by the roaring sea, or at least outside rather than basking in computer glow was refreshing.

I continued to work whilst I was staying South, but allowed myself time out to explore and adventure.  I visited a lot of castles and cliff faces, and indulged in just watching the mood of the sky and sea change and shift. Cornwall's fantastic for that connection to heritage and wild nature, and that's been really inspiring a graphic novel I've started work on, as well as a new picture book story.  

A lot of these photos were quick snapshots of things which sparked ideas, or had the potential to be useful as reference or to re-visit for inspiration in the future.  That ancient, engraved church wall in Launceston was beautiful, the scene of multi-coloured swimmers racing into the sea was unusual, and the colours and patterns in those leaves burst out.  It's a collection of pre-ideas and captured shards of inspiration.

Often it seems like taking time out is wasted time when you're freelance.  I know I personally find it hard to switch off from work-mode a lot (in fact, it's 22:30 now and I really shouldn't be working!), but to generate great ideas your mind needs some space.  Going for a walk or a little adventure is perfect for riling up that inspiration - it's not slacking off, it's feeding your creativity.  Allow yourself some time off, freelancers!

The Lavender Blue Dress at Edinburgh Book Festival

On August 10th there was a brilliant event at Edinburgh International Book Festival for my new picture book with Aidan Moffat: The Lavender Blue Dress.  

The room was packed as Aidan performed the lyrical, rhyming story and spoke about the release of the book this October.  Aidan's a brilliant musician (famously from Arab Strap), so the crowd was a good mix of fans of his work as well as parents and kids excited about the picture book.

The Lavender Blue Dress story is about a young girl called Mabel, who wishes (but never expects) she could have a dress for the school Christmas ball.  There's a lot of focus on handmaking and creating as a family, so as a great touch to the book there's a design-your-own dress for Mabel hidden in the jacket-flap on the hardback editions.  We thought it would be great to have a taster for this at the event, so the kids could design their own dresses for Mabel and show Aidan!

These are some of my favourite dress designs.  There were some serious budding fashion designers around, I'd wear all of those! I always love seeing kids interact with my books or illustrations, so it's really wonderful and humbling to see so many people engaged with the project.  Hoping to see more when the book's out in the wild!

Thanks very much to Cargo and Aidan/Godsal for the photos.