Monday, 29 April 2013

Hopes, Fears and Opportunities (Part 2)

The final term of my degree was ideally going to be the time where I perfected my practice and created something that was a truly successful culmination of my skills and experience throughout the past three years.
Unfortunately, as has a habit of happening, things didn't turn out as wonderfully as planned. However, this time has been valuable nevertheless, and I still feel I have learnt a lot. Experience itself has in a way hampered the smoothness of my progress, as it has opened up new options that have left me feeling uncertain about the paths I want to take, and I feel I'm questioning my work a lot more now. In a way, this is good, as it hopefully means I will continue refining myself for the better. But at this point, fast approaching the line between student life and the professional world, it is worrying me that my confidence is so wavering.

In Part 1 I discussed confidence issues and how I didn't feel as accomplished as my work was in 2nd year. I still feel the same way. I'm proud of what I've produced, but it isn't at the professional level it needs to be. It's the final week and I'm terrified at the amount of work I've to produce in order for my book to be a success for our degree show. The reason everything has become so last minute, however, isn't due to laziness. Because of personal reasons I've been unable to work at my full potential for a number of weeks during this project. It's frustrating that at such an important time in my life I've not been physically or emotionally at my best. I've refused to accept defeat because of this, but I regret not being able to achieve my full potential as I had hoped after the disappointing results of last semester.

In a way, deciding to create a picture book has made life harder for me in terms of the completion of professionally finished pieces, as I don't have a finished product at all until all the work I've done is refined into a book. The most labour-intensive part of the work so far has been the creation of my wolf character, and because of this, I think it's worth taking advantage of him as much as possible, for other uses apart from the book itself. My animation is a good example of this, and I have also created pieces made from photos of him for a college newsletter image. For the final show I might try and adapt the book illustrations slightly as well, to make them 'poster friendly' and have more of an impact on their own, so they can be printed larger and put on the wall.

As I have mentioned in previous blog-posts, I would have liked to incorporate print-making into the production of my illustrations. However, due to the unplanned time constraints, this hasn't been an option. Using drawn/print-made imagery alongside my made objects was an important goal of mine. I've been trying to merge the two ways I enjoy working which don't always blend completely successfully visually, and during this project I've not ended up having the time to achieve this. Instead, I've resorted to using found objects to speed up the work (e.g. real twigs to represent the forest). If I had longer to complete the illustrations I would like to draw extensive amounts of scenery to make paper cut-out transfers to place in amongst my made objects. The only project I can refer to where I feel this combination was successful is the Life Stories brief from last year. And the obvious difference this has to what I'm trying to achieve now is that the characters are the drawn element and the scenery is made. I don't know how effective swapping this combination will be, as my experimentation and development hasn't been thorough enough.

My proposal plans haven't changed throughout the project as I have never doubted wanting to achieve making a book. I wanted something precious and for my work to be bound lovingly as an object, like the objects that will make up its contents. From the beginning, I knew that planning and meeting deadlines was going to be my biggest challenge. Time keeping and planning each week carefully to avoid being over-indulgent in the made element production was always going to be important, to keep focused on the bigger picture. However, even with perfectly made plans and a disciplined pace of production, the work will have suffered because of the reasons beyond my control. I've had to adapt to make up for the lost time, but I will not be satisfied with work that is rushed or not a decent standard. So, I've had to accept that the work I will be handing in at the deadline will very likely be incomplete. I will continue working after the deadline and focus on making the work as good as it can be for the show.

Looking to the future, I'm very uncertain how my career will develop. I'm happy that during this semester we've been encouraged to develop professionally by building websites. I hope that in future I can rely on this site to draw attention from people that might be interested in commissioning me, or at least get in touch with me and open doors to potential opportunities. I will also look into how to professionally sell my work online. As well as hand-made animals (I plan on beginning to make a series of endangered African ones soon in my free time) I would like to sell things that can be produced more quickly and therefore sold more cheaply (like the notebooks I made to sell at the print fair). Furthermore, I don't think I've learned everything I need to create my work at its best. I want to continue developing my skills in animation and print-making after I've graduated. Also, although self-publishing and self-employment seems like the most logical route for my work to take, I will not rule out the chance of editorial commissions entirely. Just because there seems to be quite a narrow style margin that suits the industry, it doesn't guarantee nobody would be interested in something a little bit different (I hope!)

I had hoped that attending the taster day in Preston for designer/makers would help give me a more solid idea of what might happen after I graduate. But in truth, the strongest message that was reiterated throughout the day was that new graduates looking to start a career in such a business just need to grab every opportunity possible. Luck and determination have large parts to play, but you can make your own luck by working hard to achieve what you want. I hope that in the realistic scenario I'm facing (i.e. moving home for a while to get some money saved, and a part time job to keep me alive when I move out) I will have time to remain really involved in the illustration world. I want to stay passionate about what I love, meet people, see things and stay inspired!

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