Art Schooled: Chapter 6

Welcome to a brand new semester of Art Schooled! After a long Summer break, I’m finally back studying and so my blog series all about life in creative education is back too. As I’ll be graduating next Summer, this will be the last series of Art Schooled so I want to make it the best yet. The first series of Art Schooled (which I ran with graphic arts blog Inkygoodness) focused on a different topic relating to creativity and education each week. Series 2 (which was created for this blog) acted as more of a monthly round-up for me to share little snippets of what I’d been up to recently. For it’s final run, I want Art Schooled to be a sort of hybrid of these 2 formats. This time round, I’ll be focusing mostly on what I am creating during my final year studying but there will also be plenty of room for things that are on my mind as I prepare to enter the big bad post-graduate world and the odd life update too.

For the first instalment of my final series I’m not actually going to be talking about art school at all. Instead, I want to share some updates on what I got up to this Summer…

My Last Long Summer

The most notable thing about this Summer for me was that it was my last one as a student. Once I graduate next June, the days of having an excuse to laze around for months on end whilst I wait for the next semester to begin will be over. This is a fact I have come to terms with pretty easily as I both love and loath a long Summer. The concept of a lengthy break where I have complete freedom to do and create whatever I want always sounds wonderful. I imagine a Summer filled with sunny adventures which inspire incredible endless amounts of both artistic and written work. The reality however is a whole lot less productive and involves a whole a lot more mindless procrastination than I’d care to admit.

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Photograph by Etienne Girardet

That said, I have managed to somewhat break this cycle over the past few months. This has without a doubt been my most productive and creative Summer to date. I have been working away on quite a few different creative projects which I will get onto in a second. The realisation that it’s not too long until I won’t have the comfort of art school to fall back on has definitely been my main motivation as of late. I am equal parts scared and excited about the idea of graduating next Summer and having to make my own way in the world. If I ready myself as much as I can then hopefully this will balance out to excitement over-riding fear by the time it comes around.

Getting Competitive

I’ve entered a several competitions this Summer. I might not have actually won any but I am still glad I entered them all as they inspired me to revisit old ideas, helped me discover lots of amazing artists and, most importantly, pushed me to create new work I am proud of. The first competition I entered was for Computer Arts magazine. They challenged art students and recent graduates to design a front cover for the magazine’s Fresh Talent issue inspired by the theme of “creativity”. This open starting point led me to create the colourful, geometric artwork below.

The concept behind my design was an abstract look at the theme of creativity with the array of pleasing shapes showing how creatives fit the different pieces of design puzzle together in unexpected and exciting ways. It was a broad take on the theme so I wasn’t sure how it would go down with the judges. They must have liked it at least a little though as my design was printed in the magazine alongside a selection of other shortlisted entries.

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Next up, I entered Slowdown Studio’s annual art competition. Slowdown’s extremely open brief challenged creatives to illustrate up to 5 blankets. Whilst creating my entries, I chose to revisit a few old ideas that I didn’t feel I was quite done with just yet. My proposed collection includes a pair of inky nudes, wonky animals and lots of colourful shapes. You can read all about how I created my Slowdown designs here.

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As I said, I don’t regret entering any of these competitions despite not winning. I think a fear of failure is common in so many people - especially creatives. Failure-phobia has definitely held me back from chasing a lot of creative goals in the past but I now feel a lot less afraid to take the risk. And all the artworks I created are going to have a life beyond the competitions they didn’t win. I have wanted to open an online shop for ages but all of the work I had in my portfolio was very brief-specific and so not really the type of thing you’d hang in your home. Now though, thanks to these competitions, I have created a little collection of artworks which I think would work well as art prints. The Headless Store is currently still a work in progress but I am finally pushing ahead with it and plan to open it’s virtual doors very soon.

Collaborations Coming Soon

Competitions haven’t been the only thing keeping me creative this Summer. I have been working on some exciting collaborative projects too. I’m currently working on 3 collaborations which are all at different stages… 

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The first has been going the longest but yet is still at the earliest stage. It’s with my friend Isla Christie who runs my favourite jewellery brand Studio Isla. I have known Isla for years and we have been planning some sort of creative collaboration for as long as I can remember. We are constantly bouncing around ideas for projects we would like to work on together and we dream of a shared studio space which would allow us to work together as often as we liked. We are still very much at the planning stage of our project so the fruits of our collaborative labour may still be a while off. For now, you can read a bit more about Isla’s business in a blog post I wrote about Studio Isla here.

Next up, I am working with another of my creative friends - fellow illustrator Cara Rooney - on a wonky animal themed collaboration. Cara and I are in the same class studying illustration at DJCAD. We both love incorporating oddball animals into our work whenever we can so we thought we’d try and create some together. The image above is one of several drawings which Cara has started and I will finish and we have another set which will work the opposite way round. Be sure to follow @cararoooney as well as @headlessgreg on Instagram to see what we end up creating together.

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Finally, over the Summer my illustration class have been working on a collaborative cookbook. We are raising money so that a group of us can travel down to London next Summer and take part in D&AD’s New Blood exhibition. We are each contributing an illustrated recipe to the book and I chose to illustrate my great grandmother’s caramel shortcake. As you can see in the image above, it includes a drawing of me as a baby being held by my gran and great gran. I’m so excited to see the final book once it’s all be put together! Follow @djcadillustration2020 to keep updated on all our fundraising efforts and creative projects over the coming months.

Thoughts On Style

The competitions and collaborations I have been working on recently have helped me start to define my illustrative style. In previous years at art school I have enjoyed experimenting with all sorts of different drawing methods and techniques. Going into my final year I want to keep this variety within my work but also develop a recognisable style so that my portfolio appears cohesive.

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I had a little style-based revelation when designing this pair of prints for Slowdown Studios art competition. I realised that I am happiest with my work when it combine loose, expressive drawing with more rigid, graphic elements . Usually I either go quite geometric and clean cut or let loose but the most lively and original work has come from juxtaposing these 2 sides of my creativity. The importance of style is something which is discussed constantly in the illustration world and something I have really worried about previously. Now though, I’m starting to feel much more confident in my ability to stay experimental yet style-conscious. 

My Words In Print

I love working as a design writer. From working with an editor to research and develop engaging article ideas to chatting to creatives and writing up the final article - there as so many fun things about what I do. The best part though is always when my words get published. This is exciting if it’s an article being published online but even better if I get to see my words in print.

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Recently I got to experience this thrill thanks to Spanish graphic arts journal Mincho Magazine. I was invited to write an article for their latest issue and especially thrilled when I saw that my words had been spread over 6 beautifully designed, printed pages. The article looks at Jade Schulz’s Video Vixens illustrated alphabet series and how it has reignited the debate on hypersexualisation of women within typographic design. My work as a writer tends to be based on my taste in design but this piece was rooted in me deciding which side of the debate I stand on. I found it fascinating to compare historic, blatantly sexual and misogynistic examples of illustrated type with modern creations which are developed with the aim of empowering women rather than demeaning them. Research soon made my opinion on the topic crystal clear and if you’d like to read about it the you can order a copy of Mincho Magazine here

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Whilst my words ended up online rather that in print, my recent experience working with 91 Magazine was just as rewarding. I wrote a guest post for the 91 Magazine blog all about How To Build A Creative Community. As part of my research, I spoke to some lovely people including illustrator and shopkeeper Libby Walker, Ohh Deer Co-Founder Mark Callaby, Hester Van Overbeek from Mayke Collective and a few talented makers who sell at the Frome Independent Market. Caroline Rowland who runs 91 Magazine is always fun and interesting to work with. Every stage of the process was a pleasure and I picked up some brilliant tips from my wise contributors which are includes within the article. You can read the full article on the 91 Magazine blog here.

What Do I Want To Write About?

In what’s left of 2019 and beyond, I want to substantially up my output as a writer. There are countless things I want to include within my writing and am keen to branch out slightly beyond writing solely about design. There are 2 new topics in particular that I am keen to cover…

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Illustration by Jessica Walsh for @letstalkaboutmentalhealth

First off, Mental Health is a topic I am extremely passionate about. One of the best received blog posts I ever wrote for Inkygoodness was this article on mental health and I’d love to delve deeper into the subject. I was reminded of just how important and rewarding any kind of content which shows relatable portrayals of mental health is when I recently watched Aisling Bea’s new comedy This Way Up on Channel 4 (it’s brilliant and you should all go watch it once you are done reading this). From blog posts to lengthier creative projects, I have been working on a few different mental health related projects lately which I will be sharing very soon. The conversation surrounding mental health is an incredibly important one and I look forward to adding my voice to it.

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Photograph by Jiroe

Secondly, LGBTQ+ pride and the issues surrounding the queer community is a subject which I have very briefly touched on before but would once again love to delve a lot deeper into. There are lots of creatives online who are using their voices to raise awareness for issues facing the LGBTQ+ community as well as sharing their own experiences. Things have gotten a lot better but it is still a funny old world and not always the easiest place to identify as anything outside “the norm”. Reading, watching and listening to people who’s experiences you relate to can make you feel that little less alone. Recently I have been obsessed with Sam Smith’s new video for his latest single How Do You Sleep?. Not only is it a great song but the bold display of queerness within the video is something I never had within mainstream culture when I was younger and I love the idea of it becoming more and more normalised for the next generation. The content I am planning will of course be a lot different from this but I hope to make it just as proudly.

Turning 24

Another thing that happened over the Summer was my Birthday. On the 20th of August I turned 24 years old. Day to day I am not the type of person who likes all of the attention being on them but my Birthdays are a whole different story. Despite it not being a “significant” Birthday, I spread the celebration out over an entire week and across Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee. I am very lucky to have lots of amazing people in my life and very much enjoyed celebrating with them all.

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Photograph by Jason Leung

I am now officially in my mid-twenties. It’s funny when you think of where teenage-you thought you would be at this point in your life. I am not being so ridiculous as to say that 24 is old in any way but when I was still at school I definitely thought I’d be somewhere different by now. By 24, it thought I would have been out of university for a couple of years and working in a job, probably as a teacher as that’s all I knew you could do with a degree in design at that stage. It’s safe to say that’s not where I am. Instead, 24 year old me will be graduating and taking his first steps into the big bad world. It might sound a little behind my life plan but I am very happy to have gone off course in this way. I wouldn’t want to have taken any other route.

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What’s Next?

So that’s you all updated on my final Summer as a student. The only question left to ask is - what next? The short answer is a whole load of work. Over the coming months I’ll be completing 2 big personal projects alongside a handful of smaller briefs and then of course there is the small matter of my dissertation to think of. On top of that, I also want to make time for more writing and illustration work. If all goes to plan, it’ll be an extremely busy but exciting year.

I’ll be going into more detail about the projects I am working on during my first semester back in my next Art Schooled post in a few weeks so check back soon for that. In the meantime, you can keep up to date on all my creative adventures by following @headlessgreg on Instagram.