Saturday, 25 April 2009


I realised that most of my inspiration comes from contemporary art and illustration so I decided to visit Manchester Art Gallery to see if I could get some more traditional and classical influences. I looked at a lot of Pre-Raphaelite paintings but found myself most excited by the works of Frederick Lord Leighton. Although not part of the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood, Leighton associated with many of the Pre-Raphaelite artists, and his paintings had a similar classical aesthetic. The painting that struck me most was Captive Andromach (pictured). This painting shows a scene of women collecting water and is painted in the Pre-Raphaelite style. It is a very traditional scene and the stylised clouds and trees are similar to those of other painters such as James Collinson and William Holman hunt. The first thing that made Leighton stand out for me was his incredible ability to paint fabric. The dresses of women and draped cloths are represented so beautifully and he works so delicately and precisely that his paintings are mind blowing to see in real life. His work also seems a lot more poetic and lifelike than other artists at the time. His portraits have a mood about them that makes them seem that little bit more alive than other portraits but in a beautiful way rather than being eerie or disturbing. 
Seeing this work has influenced me to seriously consider the use of fine detail in my work as small details can make something look incredibly beautiful. I always seem to lack a certain beauty in my work and I feel that Leighton has  inspired me and shown me how to capture this. 
Another thing that struck me about Leighton's work is the way he paints his figures. It is not the actual faces or expressions that I was interested in, but the poses. Every figure in every painting looks relaxed and natural. Many artists paint people in stiff and unrealistic poses but Leighton's figures always look so organic and peaceful, giving his paintings a calmness and in turn making them easy and pleasant to view. 


Otto visited our college to give a talk about his work and afterwards I got the chance to talk to him one-to-one, show him my own work and to discuss ideas with him. It was very helpful to have input from a working illustrator, see how they work and how they would interpret the same brief that I was set.
I was asking Otto questions about how he starts coming up with ideas as this is the most important and often the hardest part of a brief. Otto explained that if he had been set our brief (which was to illustrate a short story from a text) he would read through the text drawing in it and around it, recording every idea and every possible piece of imagery. He would draw objects from the story, record any description about places or people, and also record the mood of the text using colour and pictures."This way", he said, "you never run out of ideas". I took his advice and drew everything even if though I didn't think I would use most of it. This way of working was very helpful in the way that if I came to a dead end or run out of inspiration, I could look back at all my initial sketches and it would start me thinking again.
Otto does a lot of work for magazines and newspapers, he also does advertising work and campaigns. His work is a mix of photography, shape and flat bold colour. Otto believes that it is this mix of media that makes his work unique and different. The thing that impressed me most about Otto is his ability to think of numerous ideas for every brief he is set. When answering a brief for a newspaper or magazine he said he tries to come up with 6-8 final ideas to present, giving the company commissioning him the choice to pick their favourite image rather than him submitting one image which they would have to use. This way of working also shows people his different styles and that he is strong at creating multiple different answers to the same question.

Otto spoke about his studio and how he prefers to work on his own as opposed to being in a team or sharing a studio because he finds it easier to concentrate and come up with his ideas. He told us how sometimes the most simple things are the hardest to do, such as getting a photo of a swimming pool for one of his commissions, where he said that it took him days and he eventually had to climb up onto a swimming pool roof and take a picture through the skylight.
Otto went into some detail about his commissions and his earnings, saying that it was difficult to keep a steady amount of money coming in as an illustrator because the work is not always guaranteed. He also spoke about how important self promotion was to make sure that you reach enough companies that could possibly give you work. Otto still does a lot of self promotion work now even though he is quite well known in the Illustration world.

His images are often very simple and free of clutter, much like the work of Gillian Blease who came in to discuss her work a couple of months ago. Otto's work differs to that of Bleases' in his use of photography and mixed media whereas Blease tends to stick to flat colours and sometimes incorporates a bit of pattern or texture in her work. Both designers are very good at coming up with ideas quickly and producing images that are easy to read and understand.
Otto explained that when you are producing an image for a text, you do not simply have to draw what is in the text, you can leave it a little more abstract. This is because, unlike other types of art, Illustration normally has an explanation with it, such as a story or an article. The text and the image work together to form a whole with the 'story' explaining the image and the image there to attract and draw in readers.

The talk gave me a huge insight into the life, the mind and the work of a practicing illustrator and I would like to thank Otto for giving up his time to present his work to us.

Thursday, 23 April 2009


After visiting the Lowry in Salford and looking at all his work in detail, my opinion of L S Lowry has completely changed. In the past I had only seen a few of his paintings and had not been excited by his work. Although I always liked his use of muted colour and his gloomy, realistic approach to painting, I did not connect with his figures or use of line. His bold black outlines on everything seem to take something away from the mood of his paintings and reduce the realism he gets across through his colour. 
I often wondered whether Lowry's drawing style was due to lack of skill as his paintings do not hold the same incredible detail as a Leighton or a Di Vinci and they also don't have the same sense of creativity or perfection such as the works of Dali. Viewing Lowry's early work and much of his pencil and ink work made me instantly realise that his simplified and stylised way of painting was definitely a choice rather than a lack of education and skill. His eye for detail and precision is incredible. After seeing his early work I instantly gained respect for him as an artist and started to think that everything in his paintings must be there for a reason. There must be a reason he chooses to simplify his people to their basic lines when, if he wanted, he could draw them realistically. I do not fully understand Lowry's reasoning behind his style but I feel that he just works in a way he enjoys. If he wanted to get across the dirty streets and worn out people he is very capable of representing them as he sees them and including more detail but he chooses to leave this out. Maybe he feels he gets across everything he needs with the way he works, or maybe he loves the city he draws and although somewhat grey and unwelcoming, he doesn't want to make it seem  awful. 
I enjoyed seeing Lowry's work and finding another side to him that i had never realised was there.

Friday, 17 April 2009


My brief was to produce an A2 colour screen printed poster for Snow White. I wanted to keep my work as simple as possible as posters need to attract attention immediately. I decided to stick to a basic colour scheme of white, cream, red and black as these colours work well together and the black and the red stand out against the white and cream. I also wanted my design to be a bit eerie and i went for the idea of using two hands, belonging to the witch, and Snow White. The witches hand was drawn to look pointy, angular and knarled to get across her personality. Snow Whites hand is rounded and innocent and holding the apple which is a key image in the story. I chose to make the information on the poster act as the poison from the apple entering Snow Whites body. This looks decorative and interesting and I am happy with the outcom
e of my design, although the screens were printed with an unwanted gap in which is visible on my final poster. This seems to work with the image though. One of my big influences for this project was Jason Munn, I looked to him for ideas on how to make poster images that would stand out while still looking interesting and without looking too simple. I also looked through his work when thinking about my colour schemes as he has a good sense of colour as well as composition.

Poster by Jason Munn:

Here is my final poster:


We were set a brief to design either a superhero or supervillain. I was given the supervilain Renyard Rappoport, a rogue art dealer and master forger. We had to use illustrator to produce a poster showing our heroes/villains, and here is my main idea for mine:


No real reason for these, just a collection of work I have produced in the last 2 weeks mainly to practice using Illustrator.

Thursday, 16 April 2009


 I recently went to Manchester Art Gallery to see the Di Vinci exhibition. They were showing about 11 original sketches done by Di Vinchi dating between 1480-1510. His skill and imagination are incredible and his drawings are so precise and accurate that it is amazing to think that they were produced 500 years ago. Di Vinci was very intelligent and drew his ideas for inventions such as helicopters, which  back in the day would have seemed completely insane. Looking at his drawings in real life gives you an indescribable feeling, you are held in awe of what is in front of you. Seeing his drawings has made me want to practice and improve my own drawing skills to the point where I can draw almost anything perfectly. Since seeing this exhibit I have noticed that I do draw a lot more, whether I am sitting watching a film or just on the train and I try to keep a sketchbook with me most of the time now.


I went on a trip to Cambridge recently and was blown away by the architecture and the detail of the buildings that I saw there. Everything that i walked past looked perfect and classy and it made me question the quality of my own work. These photos were taken inside one of the university chapels. Every bench in the chapel was individually carved and beautifully decorated and the carvings in the photos are just a few of the 100's of different creatures and animals there. I want to find a way to bring this idea of perfection and beauty into my illustration work. 

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

DAMIAN GASCOIGNE- Stockporticus Talk

Damian is an Illustrator/graphic designer/animation director and lecturer who came to Stockport to give a talk about his work.

It was interesting hearing him speak because he appears to think in a similar way to me. He finds inspiration in absolutely anything, whether its a film, people in the street, or even disgarded litter that nobody else would give a second glance. He always has a camera or sketchbook with him as you never know when you are going to see something interesting or get inspiration.

He told us about how he likes working in a team and how effective it is for helping him come up with new ideas. He spoke about his students and how the mix of people he associates with helps him with his work, whether it is an idea that one of them has or even just the way they dress or a pose they pull.

Damian said that he is obsessed with posture, the way the body sits and the way it moves. His sketches of people in strained and odd positions are amazing, as he captures the tiny things that sometimes we overlook. He enjoys photographing everything, people in the street, people eatng a meal through a restaurant window, anything he sees that interests him. His observational drawing skills were very ipressive and instead of having a picture in his head about how people should look, he draws exactly what he sees which in some cases looks strange, even though it is in fact completely natural. The way the human body moves is extremely interesting when you actually look carefully. Most of Damian's sketches are quick and generally line drawings as he has to draw things quickly when he sees them and before they change.

Damian believes that you have to be obsessive to be an illustrator. He showed us his work 'The love books', in which he kept visual diaries for about 8 years, following his life, feelings, and the girls he was interested in. After completing all the books he put all the images together in a slideshow which flicked through very quickly, stopping on the images he felt were important. This was a really interesting piece of work as it gave us a look at not only the his way of working and ideas, but also a deeper look into the mind and heart of the artist. This is the kind of personal work you don't come across too often, so when you do it is very exciting.

This was a very enjoyable and informative lecture. Damian has taught me that I need to be more observant and passionate, and to keep my eyes and ears open consantly because inspiration, is everywhere.