|Anne's feature in Mac User|
I have been practicing as an illustrator for the past 15 years or so...the time seems to have flown past so fast at an unbelievable rate. During this time the technology I've experienced has evolved tremendously. One of my very first commissions for example was completed through to the finals stage using a fax machine! Email now is second nature, and the format now in which discussions on projects tend to take place in the main, to the point where now I cannot remember the first time I began using email! It has always been a highly competitive industry and unless, for the most part, illustrators keep an eye on the technology available to them and embrace it in their working practice, those around will most likely have the upper hand.
I love the global feel of the industry, now more apparent than ever. Often I get work via the USA and recently I have completed a few jobs for various clients in Korea. The days of hiking around London with my portfolio focusing in the main on UK based clients, has passed and evolved into an exciting mix of cultures, opportunities and inspiration on a world wide basis.
On the one hand there seems to be a constant barrage of fightingly good illustrators graduating and entering the industry today, bright eyed, fast paced and full of imagination, which is both wonderful and overwhelming for me. But on the other hand it provides a pool of fantastic inspiration which serves to keep me well on my toes year after year. As this career tends to be a rather solitary one, the reality of the competition for commissions is important, a good reason I feel to take the time and energy to enter industry led competitions when ever possible. They serve as a good tool to sharpen your creative processes and a bench mark for where you are at within the illustration world.
New creatives are certainly one source of inspiration. More and more creative collectives are appearing such as the illustrator led groups of Ohh Deer and No Brow, but global culture in the main endlessly fascinates me, from intricate details, patterns, textures, colours and beliefs people possess and live their lives by.
What would I be lost without? Well the traditional side of me would undoubtedly opt for my Swan Morton scalpel, with blade 10a, and the current side of me would say my Wacom drawing tablet and pen (teamed up with my Mac and Photoshop.) I think it is important to embrace both sides, to pick up a pencil, or my dip pen and ink and commit to a drawing, or make marks with mono prints and any other mixed media I might care to throw at a surface in the moment. Neither are seen as a separate entity and when the two working methods are brought together, exciting things evolve from their meeting. I enjoy the physical process of colour mixing and mark making according to what might be suitable for the project I am working on. These results then get scanned and imported into Photoshop to create a final image. Increasingly it is my Wacom pen and eraser tool which becomes my scalpel.
I certainly don't even pretend to be remotely wise, but if I had a little wisdom to share, I would say keep it all positive, be 'can do' in your communications with clients and get plenty of fresh air!
I have always felt compelled to draw and create something on paper or whatever comes to hand. I loved picture books as a child and as my reading progressed I would still look for the pictures! I think since school I had in my mind that creating pictures to tell a story or describe something was what I wanted to aim for, just to see if maybe I could give it a go, and maybe I might be able to keep doing it, and just maybe, if that happened I could make it my job! The funny thing is, that I still don't feel I have a 'job', so in an obscure sort of way that makes me a very lucky person!
So I progressed as follows; school, (start drawing) A levels, (keep drawing) Art Foundation course, (more drawing) Degree - BA Honours at Bath, (definitely some drawing here) and then I went to do an MA in Communication Design at St Martins College of Art in London a few years ago, where I was lucky enough to get a Distinction, (masses of drawing stuff went on here!) There was no other obvious career paths for me, in my mind it was simple, I love drawing and creating images, so all I have to do it keep creating and I felt that one day I would become a professional creative of some sort - illustration fitted the bill nicely.
Some of my favourite projects have been children's picture books, I have completed several for Barefoot Books, but other recent clients include The London Transport Museum, The Independent On Sunday, The BBC, Mojo Magazine, Francis Lincon, Feast Creative, Beam, Crocodile Creek and Save the Children.
So that's me in brief! I would add though that one thing I have learnt through time, frustration, joy and the general madness my creative world involves, is that you can over think things to the point where you just can't see...my answer, is to take a deep breath...and just do what you do.