Saturday, 28 April 2012

Portfolio Visit - Aurea Carpenter at Short Books

My second portfolio visit in London was with Aurea Carpenter, co-founder of Short Books, a book publishing company. Prior to the trip I'd scoured the internet for possible visits and Short Books caught my eye firstly because of its lovely website! I then noticed that in the contact section there was a small note saying illustrators were welcome to send their work in. This was an encouraging sign that they might be willing to see me so I went ahead and emailed them. I requested a visit for myself, Becca and Chloe and sent them a links to all our websites. A lovely lady called Clemmy got back to me and said her colleague Aurea would be happy to see us!
As it happens, our hotel was within walking distance of the Short Books office. It was a lovely day and it was nice to walk rather than get the tube and have a look at the area. The actual building was just off a cute little square with lots of shops and cafes - we all agreed that we preferred this quieter area to the busy centre of London!
Short Books is located in a shared building so we had to walk up to the right floor - we were all quite hot at this point, a mixture of nerves and heat I think! Once we had found the right place we were shown through to where Aurea was. If I'm not mistaken, Short Books are in a partnership with another publisher called Profile Books. I think it was these offices that we had to walk through before reaching Short Books. Anyway, all the offices were lovely - it had a mixture of old and modern, with creaky floorboards and glass rooms. There were books everywhere (as you would expect) which made it feel quite homely and cosy. When we reached the Short Books 'section', we were met by Aurea and led through to a glass walled meeting room. We all sat down and as Becca was closest, Aurea began with her. I wasn't too bad when we arrived but as Becca was going through her portfolio I was getting more and more nervous! When it was my turn I could feel myself shaking, but I tried to keep my cool! It perhaps helped that the first piece in my portfolio was a book cover (James and the Giant Peach) so she was immediately interested. She liked the concept and the colours a lot, saying it was very eye-catching - which is what a book needs to be when it is on a busy book shelf. She also liked how it was inspired by the 1960's and was very different to Quentin Blake's work.
Next up was 8x8 and Aurea was really interested to hear about the collaboration between us and Manchester Metropolitan Literature students. She was also shocked when we told her that our writer didn't really seem to like my work even though I got picked to illustrate her story! Again Aurea liked the colours in this piece and how the individual elements were linked so closely to the story.
When I showed her my Japanese book covers I was a bit nervous in case she didn't like them, but I needn't have worried as she said I coped very well with the characters. She also liked the muted colour palette and said it was appropriate to the subject matter.
In the rest of the portfolio, the other pieces she particularly liked where the Russian page from the Zine book and Wellspring building. She also said I had a strong style that carried through the portfolio and everything was nicely presented.
Aurea took her time looking at all our portfolios which was really nice. I thought as it was a group visit, she might not spend as much time with each of us - but she did! She then took us all through to the main office and showed us a book cover that she is commissioning at the moment. Several drafts had been sent in by the illustrator and she was in the middle of putting the cover together. It was really interesting to hear the process that goes into making a book cover and we were amazed when she started asking our opinions on the piece. It was great that she was treating us 'equals' and valued what we thought.
Overall it was a great portfolio visit which we all really enjoyed. I think we were all pretty jealous of Aurea's life  - working in those lovely offices, in a lovely part of London! Thanks Aurea for a great visit!

Portfolio Visit - Johann Chan at Digital Arts

My first portfolio visit in London was at Digital Arts magazine with Art Editor Johann Chan. After arriving at Euston train station I had about an hour to compose myself before the meeting - I was feeling pretty nervous at this point! The Digital Arts office was on busy Euston Road and was situated in quite an imposing building. After signing in and travelling up in the lift, I arrived at the Digital Arts floor. There was three doors and I had a mini panic attack as I wasn't sure which one to go in! However, after a quick peer through the small windows I managed to locate the right one. The lady on reception was lovely and made me feel more at ease. The offices were really amazing and had lots of meeting rooms, large desks and a funky waiting area. I only had to wait a couple of minutes before Johann arrived and greeted me very warmly. We went into a large meeting room which was quite scary, but I tried to keep my cool!
We started off with chatting about what I was in London for and I explained a bit about what I was doing in Uni. Johann then said that he gets loads of emails from students requesting portfolio visits but he doesn't always have the time to see them. But as my email was so polite and enthusiastic, he couldn't say no to me! I thought it was really nice of him to say that (plus the lecture that Stuart from Thoughtful gave on constructing emails was thoroughly worthwhile!).
We then went through my portfolio and as we were sat opposite each other, I was careful to face the book towards him (another tip from Stuart!). He liked my James and the Giant Peach book cover and was interested that I was shortlisted for the competition. He liked the typography and the fact that I had illustrated the lesser obvious characters. Next up was 8x8 and, like other visits, he seemed to like the spot illustration a bit more than the main one. Perhaps this is because it is more graphical and sits in its own shape, much like the Wellspring.
In his initial reply to my email he had stated that he really liked my Wellspring image and again, when we reached it in the portfolio he commented on how he loved the arrangement of all the elements. He also liked the elements themselves and in particular the fact that he could see I'd hand drawn them first. It became apparent, as we went through the rest of the portfolio, that he liked the work where it was fairly obvious I'd hand drawn it first. This was really surprising as no one has ever mentioned this before. He was curious to know more about my working process and was quite interested when I told him I draw things out first in my sketchbook and then trace over it in Illustrator with the pen and shapes tool. Johann found this intriguing and said it was a different way of working - he liked it though, as many digital illustrators use Illustrator as their first port of call.
Everything in my portfolio has been drawn in my sketchbook first, but over time I've tried to develop a personal style. In my earlier work, such as James and the Giant Peach and Wellspring, the style is quite soft and is less graphical. Whereas I have tried to progress my style and move away from that sort of illustration, Johann liked it as he said he could see more personality. He said he didn't not like my other work, just that the 'hand drawn' pieces appealed to him more.
After finishing looking through my portfolio, we talked about what I wanted to do after University and the ways I could go about getting work. One particular piece of advice Johann gave stuck in my mind, as I thought it was really useful. He said that rather than contacting art directors with your 'normal' work, you could mock up an illustration to suit their needs. For example, if you wanted to get commissioned by a health magazine you could find a relevant health article, illustrate it, and send it to the art director. Johann said art directors, more often than not, don't have time to trawl through lots of illustrators, so if you present a piece of work they could easily see fitting into their publication, you're more likely to get a job. Of course, this would take a lot of time if you were to do it for every publication you wanted to work at - but for bigger clients, I think it's a really good idea.
At the end of the meeting Johann gave me a couple of Digital Arts magazines, which was awesome as they're £5.99 each and usually only available through subscription! I then gave him a business card a box chocolate biscuits to say thank you. He loved the gesture and said it would be sure to keep me in his mind. Sure enough, a little while later I saw that he had mentioned me on his Twitter feed. Love the picture of the chocolates and business card! Thanks Johann!

Friday, 27 April 2012

The Times visit

Whilst in London Becca, Chloe and myself went to The Times for a guided tour of News International by Jon Hill, the design editor. We tagged along with some graphics students for who the tour had been organised but Jon had said we were welcome to come.
The News International offices were really impressive, though not overly busy, as I would have expected. This was probably due to the lovely weather and the fact it was mid afternoon! Anyway, we were taken up to the first of two floors that The Times occupy and from here you could see right down the middle of the building. Jon pointed out which floors The Sun is on and also where The News of the World used to be (that floor was dark and empty which was pretty funny!).
We then walked around all the different departments such as sport, travel and world news. It was really interesting to see all the reporters working on their pieces and impressive how slick the 'machine' of The Times was. Everyone had huge computer screens which you could see the layout of the newspaper on and lots of research and past newspapers littered the desks. We also got to see the large offices of the editor and deputy editor which had the best view in the building overlooking the Thames.
As we were walking round Jon pointed out a little office that the in-house illustrator works in. Unfortunately she wasn't there, which was a shame, but it was nice to see how an illustrator fitted into the system of things. We did, however, see the in-house cartoonist working on his latest drawing. He had a much bigger office than the illustrator but this was to be expected as he is an established political artist that is well recognised.
We then came to the design section which was a lot bigger than I expected, it was larger than a few of the other departments. The designers all had big Macs (of course!) but didn't have much of a desk space - but I suppose the majority of work is done on the computer.
Jon also gave us a sneak peak at a special office designated to the Olympics. Here they have mocked up loads of articles and front covers which cover all eventualities. They had one for if Usain Bolt wins, if Chris Hoy loses and so forth! They also had lots of charts and diagrams which will go in the newspaper every day of the games - they're so prepared it's untrue!
At the end of the tour we had hoped Jon might take a look at our portfolios but unfortunately he had hinted he was really busy so we felt rude to ask. I think it would be more convenient for him if we emailed him and he'd probably be able to take more time over it. Despite that, it was a great tour which was extremely insightful. Working at a newspaper is not something I would choose to do (it looks too pressured and hectic) but it was great to see the professionals at work.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Jon Hill from The Times Lecture

On Tuesday 13th March Jon Hill, design editor for The Times came into Uni to give a lecture on his professional career. Admittedly, this lecture was aimed at graphic design students but I thought it would be interesting to hear about his line of work - as he is the sort of person that will hopefully commission me.
He talked about his life at Kingston University and how in his second year he was told to go and find a work placement. He found such an opportunity at Atelier, where he worked for two weeks. After the placement the company asked him to go back whenever he had spare time and after finishing Uni this was where his first job came from. After working there for about 18 months he was put in touch with another company who happened to be looking for a senior designer. Esterson Associates are a design firm based in Hoxton and Jon stayed here for about six years before deciding to relocate to Wilmslow in order to start a family.
For a couple of years, Jon was self employed and used all of his contacts from his previous jobs to source work of his own. He said he really enjoyed working on his own things and although he wasn't hugely successful money wise - he was having fun, which says a lot. He worked in his attic until he collaborated on a large project which in turn presented the opportunity to become design editor at The Times. The jump from rural Wilmslow to the hectic lifestyle of a London editor must have pretty mad!
The next part of the talk was centred around his role at The Times which was all really interesting but perhaps more aimed at graphic students. He spoke a lot about grids and typography which was all about confusing but I tried to keep up! However, it was interesting to see how a newspaper comes together, especially when they do special supplements for big stories. I particularly liked a double page spread which when folded out became the exact size of the capsule that the Chilean miners had to stand in to escape.
Overall it was a great talk and Jon seemed like a genuinely nice guy. At the end of the talk three of us went and spoke to him and asked if we could visit him when we went to London. He said he was giving a tour to some graphics students and we were more than welcome to come along!

Wednesday, 11 April 2012


I have my own website! Woo hoo! I'm so excited I finally have one, it makes everything feel so much more official and proper. I set it up using Cargo which is really easy to use and had some great templates to choose from. I chose a fairly simple template that keeps the title at the top of the page when you scroll down - a nice little touch I thought. I even got my own personal URL - thank goodness I have quite an unusual name! It was a bit confusing to set up and link to my website but thanks to Becca and Rick I got there in the end. Well worth the effort!

Check me out here: