Category Archives: ADVICE

Intensive work: a survival guide

Hi everyone!

Long time no speak!

If you have been following me on Instagram you might know that it is because my workload got insane for 10 days.

During those 10 days I worked on a variety of projects but there was one project in particular which, although super exciting, had a very short deadline for the amount of work that was needed.

I normally tend to work a lot anyway but I’m telling you, I haven’t had to work this hard towards a deadline in a very long time!

So in order to make it I ended up working more than 12 hours a day for 10 days.

Working long hours for an extended period of time can take its toll on you both physically and mentally.

Here I compiled my experience as a survival guide. Some of the things I did instinctively, others I didn’t and wish I had in hindsight. I hope it can help you too if you ever face the same situation:

  1. Plan your work and prepare your files at the beginning of the project while your brain is still fresh.
  2. Be kind to yourself:
  • eat well (both in terms of quantity and quality – don’t skip your fruit and veg!)
  • drink lots of fluids
  • work out if you can, move around, stretch
  • take breaks and also rest your eyes, look away from your screens (all of them!)
  • SLEEP! (It might be tempting to skip it, especially when the deadline approaches and you’re still nowhere near finished but it will come back to bite you, believe me.)
  1. If you can, ask for help. Not necessarily with your work although if that’s something you can do good for you! I mean with the little things of life like grocery shopping, food-making (not having to think about cooking meals even once or twice can be such a relief!), house chores if you like things to be spotless,… whatever frees you some extra time and gives you some peace of mind. And don’t feel bad about asking for help: chances are that the people who help you are happy to do so! Just find a way to thank them once you’re done!
  2. Once it’s over, celebrate! Reward yourself! You’ve made it through (well done you!) and you deserve it.
  3. Rest! Whether it is a whole day off, half a day off or a lay in the following morning plan yourself some rest. Your brain and your body deserve it for being such stars when you needed them (remember: be kind to yourself)!

That’s it people!

These are the things that worked for me or that I learned the hard way.

Feel free to share your own tips for when work gets tough and your experience with us in the comments!

Speak soon!

Editorial illustration practice and the lessons I learnt

Every now and then I like to make some time to learn new skills, get better at the ones I already have, and to challenge myself.

If you follow me on Instagram you will have seen that my challenge of the month is Inktober. Not long before that, I decided to step out of my comfort zone and to practise editorial illustration as this is something that I would love to do more of in the future.

Luckily I found Ed J Brown’s class on Skillshare which enabled me to ‘fake’ the conditions of a commission and set a strict deadline to my practice.

I picked the article about US economic growth as I felt that starting with an article that was a bit dry might help to make other articles after that easier in comparison. And this was challenging indeed!

DAY 1

After reading the article a few times and highlighting the key points I started taking a few notes and doodling, which was quickly followed by some rough sketches (I drew 14 in total but am only showing my top 5 favourites)..

Notes and initial doodles

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Top 5 favourite sketches

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DAY 2

Sometimes it’s a good idea to sleep on what you’ve drawn and to look at it with fresh eyes the next day. In the case of my editrial illustration practice, I felt that I wasn’t quite there yet and sketched 8 new images. I ended up choosing the sketch below.

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DAY 3

After facing several problems with my illustration and trying different colour palettes while trying to maintain my usual style I had to come to the conclusion that it was just not working and that if this had been a real assignment, I would have failed miserably .

Below some of my unfinished attempts:

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DAY 4

I decided to give myself another chance, because who likes failure? So I cheated and allowed myself to work on a few different concepts knowing that if this had been a real assignment my Art Director would have probably not been very happy with me, or he/she wouldn’t have allowed it altogether.

Besides my clear composition and planning problems, I think that my main issue was that I ‘cared’ a bit too much (read: I was taking it all a bit too seriously).

Fortunately, Ed was an absolute star and as well as giving me some constructive feedback, he gave me some words of encouragement that made me more determined than ever to finish that mock assignment and more importantly, to have fun while doing it.

So I simply followed Ed’s advice to not care so much. And it worked!

I started with a red background because I liked the contrast with the black and white illustration…

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But while I had chosen colours that I liked, I had forgotten an important detail: the article was about growth and red wasn’t quite the right colour to convey the positive message of the article. Ed’s feedback confirmed my own thoughts. So I tried a green and a blue version instead.

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And ended up choosing the blue one.

 

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CONCLUSION

Past the disappointment resulting from my failure to finish on time and to finish the illustration that I had initially selected, I was really glad that this was practice and not a paid assignment. And I was glad that I got to learn so much in the process.

Here is what I got out of the exercise:

  • Plan my illustrations more carefully in the future: take the final dimensions of the illustration and the title placement into account earlier in the process.
  • Keep calm: I didn’t mention this and it probably ties in with the first lesson I learnt, but I was overexcited when I started working on this personal project. This probably resulted in me rushing things a little (at least at the beginning).
  • Pick colours that reflect the message of the article.
  • … But don’t overthink it.
  • And have fun!

I really enjoyed Ed’s class and strongly recommend it if you too want to practise editorial illustration in near-real assignment conditions.

 

Testing paper

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Happy New Year everyone! I hope you enjoyed the festive season and that you are ready for the new year ahead!

Lots of new goals, lots of new possibilities, lots of new paper (at least as far as I’m concerned)!

I like working with dip pens and ink a lot but I sometimes find it hard to find the right paper. And by that I mean paper that is thick enough for the ink not to go through, that is smooth enough for my dip pen to slide comfortably without picking tiny bits of paper as I draw, that has grain but not too much, and finally good paper that is affordable (yes I’m one of those people who think about paper a lot!).

Today I tested some Daler-Rowney paper I got during the festive season and oh my! I’m in love! It is just the right thickness, texture, everything! If like me you work with dip pen and ink or you’re thinking of trying it I really recommend Daler-Rowney’s 300gsm Aquafine Smooth watercolour paper.

Thanks Daler-Rowney for the great quality paper, and thanks Mum and Dad for the present!

 

Why it is important to share your (art)work with others

As a person who draws a lot I fill in a lot of sketchbooks and sometimes it takes me about 50 or more bad sketches to get to a good one. I view my sketchbooks and sketches as very intimate objects as they are so unpolished and have many flaws, and until recently I only rarely showed my sketchbooks to anyone for fear of judgement (nobody wants to look bad). I am one of my toughest critics as I imagine many artists are and I have in mind that if a sketch is not good enough for me it is certainly not good enough for the rest of the world!

However, my attitude towards showing my sketchbooks changed  a little a few months ago after I met a fellow illustrator at the London Book Fair.

We started writing to each other and she told me that once a month, her and some illustrator friends of hers met in a cafe to share their latest work and their progress with each other, and she kindly invited me to tag along if I wanted to. I was thrilled, of course, but imagine showing your work to experienced illustrators who live off their art. A bit scary, isn’t it? My mind started a self-doubt process along the lines of “what if they think that what I do is rubbish and that I shouldn’t call myself an illustrator?”, that I quickly shut up by telling myself “thanks for your comment, now if you don’t mind I’m gonna go and see what I can learn”. I went to this first meeting with all the courage I could gather and my portfolio (i.e. my best pieces). And I ended up having a lovely chat with three really nice people, and left refreshed and inspired. On the following meeting I brought work in progress with me. Again it was very interesting hearing what people had to say about my work and to see how they were reacting to it. Again, I got some very useful tips, suggestions, and support. For the meeting after that – I didn’t have much to show as I had just come back from a holiday and was still working on the same projects as before – I brought some ‘lonely sketches’ (by that I mean sketches that I drew on separate sheets of paper) and two sketchbooks. And again, something magical happened when my turn to present my work came: I got a lot of enthusiastic reactions to my sketches. That’s right, the quick, rough, sometimes ugly doodles that I was talking about earlier. Ideas started being fired at me, suggestions started being made. They were seeing things in my sketches that I didn’t necessarily see myself since, as the artist, I was too close to them. For example, I know that I have a personal style but sometimes I draw without thinking and I don’t necessarily know whether what I am drawing enters the same ‘style category’ or a different one. It is a bit like looking at your work through a magnifying glass: you see the specifics but you’re too close to see it as a whole. You can always try to get some perspective by leaving your drawings for a while, then coming back to them and trying to look at them with objective eyes. But showing your sketches to different people can help you get the objectivity and the distance that you lack.

Sharing your work: a great way to get better at what you do and get support

When you look at your own work there’s only so much you can notice. By showing your ‘private work’ (sketches, recipes, prototypes, etc.) to other people you give yourself a chance to get feedback on what you do and directions that you could take to improve your work and develop your style.

My advice to you, whether you are drawing, baking, sewing, dancing, etc. is to find a group of people sharing the same interest and passion, and to organise regular meetings. It doesn’t matter whether it is online or in person (although I personally prefer the latter).

Choosing the right people for you

It is important that you feel comfortable with the people you choose to meet with since you will be talking about things that really matter to you and you want to be able to speak openly and feel supported.

Support alone is not enough though. It is better accompanied with some advice aiming at helping you to get better at what you do.

Giving criticism

When giving criticism it is good to be honest and to explain why you like or dislike another person’s work as it helps them understand the reason behind your comment and maybe adjust if they feel they should.

Not everyone responds to criticism the same way and it is also important to take the person’s feelings into account and to communicate with the right amount of diplomacy. You want to help the person improve and succeed, not crush them. It might take the time to get to know the person a little for you to know how to adjust the way you give criticism to that person. But generally: always be honest (but polite) and explain why you think the way you do.

Receiving criticism

When receiving criticism, make an effort to put your ego on the side. Sometimes you will get positive criticism, and sometimes it won’t be as good to hear/read. Keep in mind that any criticism – positive or negative – given on your work is subjective and specific to the person who gives it to you. You have the right to disagree with what someone tells you; at the end of the day, you are the creator and what matters is that you enjoy doing what you do. If you disagree with what someone is saying about your work, don’t be too defensive about it. Listen to the person (it is always good to know what other people think of what you do, good or bad), thank them for sharing their opinion (you might disagree with them but at least they were honest) and move on.

Generally remember this: criticism alone is not good without advice as it will make you (or someone else if you’re the one giving criticism) feel down just as support alone, as nice as it is, won’t help you to get better at what you do.

Giving each other goals

Finally, a great thing to keep each other motivated and to encourage improvement is to be positive and set goals together for your next meeting. While support really helps boosting confidence and gets you excited about what you do, setting goals gives you something to work towards and focus on. For example, as an illustrator there are many, many things that I want to try (techniques, subject matters, media, etc.) and I sometimes get a bit ‘lost’ trying them. As one of my illustrator friends once told me: it is good to try new things but it is also important to keep developing and improving one’s own style; otherwise, your portfolio ends up being confusing. Here is my next point: setting goals for each other is like being given homework. Yes, you do have to make them fit around all the other things you have to do – and if you are like me, that means a LOT of other things to do – but on the plus side, it gives you a chance to make some time for practice (and as we know, “practice makes perfect”). You may as well end up with a new piece to add to your portfolio! And it is always nice to have that follow-up and show each other how you approached the tasks you set during the previous meeting.

How about you? Do you have a group of friends or people with whom you meet on a regular basis to share your work (whatever that work is, on line or in person)?

‘You Are Brilliant’

Hi everyone!
 
Today I would like to talk to you about a great man and illustrator called Shoo Rayner. I came across his Youtube channel not so long ago while I was looking for some tutorials to watch.
If you are an illustrator in the making or if you simply like drawing you should check what he does and teaches. Shoo shares his knowledge and experience with the world in very short and simple videos (I have already learnt so much, and it’s been just over a week since I found his channel!) always with the same enthusiasm and a good sense of humour! I have become a real fan.
 
Shoo Rayner’s channel on Youtube – http://www.youtube.com/user/ShooRaynerDrawing
 
 
This it for now. Before I go I leave you with this feel-good video. I watched it on Tuesday this week and what can I say? It just made me super happy!

See you next time! And remember: ‘YOU ARE BRILLIANT!’