The past few months I’ve been busy setting up as a freelance graphic designer in Bristol. Before I decided to start my own business, I had booked myself onto this 10 week Professional Illustration evening class at Bath College. I truly value continued professional development as a creative, but I did find it a bit of a challenge doing the course while getting used to managing my own business!
I mentioned in this blog about creative side projects that I like to do different projects and classes to develop my creative skills and ideas, but I had another reason for wanting to do this particular course. I have suffered in the past from what is known as imposter syndrome when it comes to illustration work, probably because there wasn’t an ‘official’ illustration module in my degree course. So, as well as addressing those irrational thoughts, I had hoped that this course would provide a good overview about what it involves to be a professional illustrator, while helping me to develop my illustration skills, and it did.
Insights into the illustration industry
The tutor gave regular insights into the working life and practices of a full time illustrator, and it was interesting to hear how the industry has changed over the years. From times when you just had to leave your portfolio at an ad agency or publishing house (full of original artwork!), and come back later to collect it, to being smart about how you present and post your work online.
We were given a choice of illustration briefs, so I chose to create some spot illustrations for a poem I love: The Walrus and the Carpenter, by Lewis Carroll.
Having worked as a designer in agencies and publishing companies for more than 15 years has meant that I’ve become very used to working to tight deadlines and budgets, where’s there’s not always time to sketch or develop ideas as much as I’d like to. So I really enjoyed taking time away from the screen to develop my ideas for this brief using a good old pencil and paper.
I wanted to create some sweet little characters, and to make the walrus look cute, round and fat!
Brushing up in photoshop
I like to think I have expert-level skills in Adobe Photoshop, but it’s been a little while since I used it to develop my own artwork or illustrations (some of the recent items in my illustration portfolio were created using Adobe Illustrator, or traditional methods such as ink drawing, printing or painting). The range of brushes available in Photoshop has massively improved with recent versions, and, combined with my pressure-sensitive Wacom tablet, I took time to explore all of the different textures available for my illustrations. I wanted to use a grainy, sandy texture, so I eventually settled for this airbrush effect.
At one point towards the end of the course, I thought I wasn’t going to have the time to finish my project, due to having a heavy work load and a lot of other personal commitments. Travelling to Bath for the class after a busy day was tiring, but I was determined to have some good work to show the rest of the students in the final class, and to make sure that I felt happy with myself by knowing that I’d made a decent effort with the course that I’d chosen to do (and paid for!). I am really happy that I now have some lovely illustrations to show in return for my efforts.
The final class was a really lovely end to the course. Everyone showed their work, from initial sketches, through their developments, to the finished illustrations, and they were all amazing! I feel lucky to have shared the class and seen the processes of so many talented people. And the feedback I received for my work was so encouraging and inspiring, that it may just have cured the imposter syndrome. I left the course feeling warm and fuzzy and happy with myself for making it happen.