Integrated Practice Research
- MA Writing for Young People and MA Creative Writing Live Brief
- Self-initiated brief 1: Promotional posters for comedy shows
- Self-initiated brief 2: Publication - Independent Comedy Appreciation Society magazine
Live brief: MA Writing for Young People and MA Creative Writing
The live brief I chose to complete was the illustration project, in which I produced 5 illustrations for manuscripts from the MA Writing for Young People and MA Creative Writing anthology. This is not a consumer anthology, but rather aimed at the publishing industry as a writing showcase. The brief was given very close to the deadline, so as soon as we were given the list of stories to be illustrated I selected three, Winston the Winner, Chicken Boy and Feather and Fox, and got to work immediately. I produced a further two illustrations, What We Never Said and Hollow, as I had time before the deadline.
We were given set dimensions (A5), and a line or two from the manuscript to work with, as well as requests from the authors about what the image should be. The images had to be black and white, and as I needed to work quickly I drew out all the illustrations by hand in my sketchbook using pen and markers, and finalised them using Photoshop. The full duration of the project was about one week from briefing to submitting final pieces.
Reflection on the project:
This was a short and intense project, and new territory for me as I wasn't working directly with the authors but rather going through a middle-man. I imagine this is similar to how working within an agency or under a publisher might be, and in terms of turnover time not dissimilar to editorial illustration. I found that in creating the first three images, which I selected initially as the full project, I was working quickly and with firm intent and vision. There was no time to revise ideas, so I relied heavily on my own confidence as an illustrator to guide the work from sketch to final submission. Were I to undertake a similar project again, I think I would work digitally for the entire project, as combining traditional media and digital was slower than I would have liked. I also think I should not have undertaken the fifth illustration, and in future I will be firmer to decline additional work under tight schedules. I also think I didn't do the story justice on that one, and would actually have preferred to recommend another illustrator to produce that image.
I am very interested in further work as a book illustrator, and I believe this was a valuable experience in teaching me to work efficiently and trust my own decisions when producing illustrations for clients.
Original drawings are in my folder, in the sketchbook marked 'live brief originals'.
SELF-iNITIATED BRIEF 1: Promotional posters for comedy shows
Reflection on the project
I chose to create a series of comedy posters for my first self-initiated brief, because this was the subject of my dissertation. I was interested in producing more illustrated posters for comedy as this is an under-utilised way of promoting comedy shows, and as I found in my previous research, non-photography based posters work best to promote alternative (or independent) comedy, which is the direction of comedy I want to work with more in the future. The most popular designers of comedy posters are Idil Sukan, Haiminh Le, Alex Leam and various other hobbyist designers who are frequently comedians themselves. Nobody is creating illustrated posters specifically and on a large scale for comedy, so I think this is something I want to try and carve out as my unique selling point as a designer.
Three of the posters I produced for this project were effectively live briefs; the poster for a regular comedy night (Oppo), the poster for George Rigden, and the poster with lots of acts (Komedia) were commissions. I sought the advice of my tutors to make sure it was acceptable to submit these as part of the project, as they fit so neatly with what I wanted to create, and was granted permission.
With the Oppo poster I was given a free hand, as the client wasn't quite sure what they wanted, they simply needed something that embodied the spirit of the night without being specific about who they have performing or where the venue is as both are subject to change. I chose to depict an audience instead of an act, in vibrant colours and patterns with influence from screenprinted posters of Jason Munn who uses bold shapes and clean-cut edges, and Drew Millward whose work is full of colour and detail with mad otherworldly elements combined with the subject matter. I also drew influence from the way Bristol Comedy Garden lays out their posters - with illustrated elements around the borders of the poster with the centre free for type. The clients were very pleased with the result as soon as I showed them the initial version without type, and this project had a very quick turnaround as the client needed it to promote their shows immediately. I like this style of illustrated poster, and it actually influenced the visual language of my second self-initiated brief, which utilises a similar approach influenced by printmaking and layering solid blocks of colour to create shapes within illustrations. Another illustrator whose work I find utilises this type of technique is Helen Dardik. She works in guache to create opaque blocks of colour through traditional media, and I have been working to replicate this effect in my digital work utilising separate layers for each colour. To look deeper into techniques I could translate from traditional media and particularly printmaking into digital work, I read Image Making for screen printing by ottoGraphic, a local printmaker in Bath. I was particularly interested in using block colour, and creating contrast between this and small detail and lines, and looking at ottoGraphic's examples of making images by layering these elements in chunks helped me work out how to put together the layers for my design. What I drew from the screenprinted examples was that it is possible to make a colourful, full image with a limited palette, and I chose to use only a handful colours throughout the image to create something vibrant but not messy.
The George Rigden poster had a very specific brief; portray George as though he was in the A-Ha video for Take on Me, with a photo mirroring the illustration. I worked with Ed Moore, who photographed George posing as though on both sides of a panel (photo 1, photo 2), and worked with a lightboard to line up both parts of the image. This one had to be walked through from beginning to end with the client, but was a smooth and open process as both the client and I knew exactly what the poster needed to look like based on his clear instructions. The drawing for this one is based on the kind of drawings I was producing for the cities brief, it's quite an accurate representation of the photograph, with scribbly markmaking to emulate the jolty, hand-drawn nature of the video. The palette is muted, George wanted his poster to stand out from other colourful, headshot-based posters in Edinburgh, and I think I managed to produce exactly what he wanted.
The poster with lots of faces is for Komedia, depicting every act coming up in their Edinburgh Fringe Previews this summer. This image was also commissioned to be used as the cover for their summer programme, so it had to work as an illustration as well as a piece of information. Komedia were very keen on this being both a piece of art and marketing material, and I initially thought about creating a vintage-inspired collage of faces, a bit like what Amusical used last year for their Edinburgh show, or perhaps brightly coloured pop-art style faces like Andy Warhol created using black and white photographs with splashes of paint to colour them. I drew up all the faces by hand ready to scan in and lay out on Photoshop, however there were so many that it didn't seam feasible to produce a bold retro-inspired piece like the Amusical one. I started looking at the design more as a pattern, and using gouache sticks I created a series of paint blots inspired by Warhol's work, on white paper. On top of those I laid out all the line-drawings of every act, and played with the colours to create a colourful, grid-based design. I'm pleased with the result, and Komedia are now circulating it.
The Bridget Christie and John Kearns posters were both for acts I admire, that I wanted to try and imagine working for. For Bridget, I chose to draw a portrait of her, which I think is one of my strengths in illustration, and make an otherwise bold and clear poster, again influenced somewhat by Jason Munn. This was an experiment in how minimal and muted in colour I could make a portrait based-poster, playing with contrast in textures. I also wanted to improve upon the existing poster design she has for her upcoming shows, which is very generic and doesn't highlight her or the name of the show (which I wanted to have lots of impact and emphasis within my design).
The John Kearns poster was entirely an experiment into the unknown, as I've not worked with photography for posters at all. I chose a photo I took of him when he played the Bath Rondo theatre, where he is unconventionally facing away from the audience. This isn't often used in comedy posters (I enjoy this subversion of the standard comedy portrait poster used by alternative act Frank Foucault, for example) and I thought it would be interesting to try and create a poster that still has impact despite not featuring a face. The main inspiration for attempting this, was the poster for Tim Key's Megadate, which is a black and white photograph with Key facing away from the camera. That poster includes yellow type, but I wanted mine to be entirely black and white including the written elements. I used a similar typewriter style typeface for the majority of the text, with Kearns' name in dotted type as though in Hollywood-style lights, but more subdued. Both these posters were interesting to produce because throughout the process I was thinking about how it would look printed - I was very keen to try the risograph machine, particularly on the Kearns one, as I wanted to create variations in solid colour by using a medium that cannot produce it, but struggled to operate the machine. I think in hindsight I would have sought further guidance from somebody who knew how to use the risograph, but as it was I ran out of time between this project and the magazine, so opted to simply print using the Epson Stylus r3000 archival printer and the university photocopiers instead, creating variations using different paperstocks instead of experimenting with the actual ink output as I had intended to do.
Create a series of three mock promotional posters for comedy shows exploring different methods with which to integrate an illustrative image making approach to challenge the current norm of photography based posters. This will require defining what each poster must include to function as an advertisement, and what the illustration needs to tell the audience (which must also be defined – is it an hour-long Edinburgh show which is being marketed to an audience of festival-goers with many options to see in the time-slot? Or a touring show that is the only comedy on that night in a large venue? A work in progress
show that needs to scrape an audience together? Each type of show needs to speak to a slightly different audience). It will involve combining image and type to create an effective
piece of marketing material. Clarity of the illustration must be considered, as posters often need to work both as a full-sized print and as flyers, thumbnails in programmes, online advertisements, website imagery, DVD covers, and merchandise. Building on the type of drawings I was creating for my previous project (Cities brief), I would like to experiment with drawing on a larger format (A3) to match the size of the posters I’m designing. I would also like for one of the posters at to not be grounded in a realistic depiction of the act, to see if this is a potential avenue for further poster design. I want to create posters for the following shows:
Bridget Christie: What Now?
A show that doesn’t ‘exist’ yet, to emulate the kind of brief I would receive for a professional commission. I would base this design on what I find would suit the act based on past shows as well as current poster trends, and the information supplied on the work-in-progress version of what this show will be: Brexit. Trump. Nuclear apocalypse.Environmental catastrophe. At least Hugh Hefner is dead. Is rolling news affecting your ability to enjoy the simple things in life? Like baking, gardening and autoerotic asphyxiation? Then this brand new show from multi-award winning member of the metropolitan liberal elite and star of her own Netflix special is for you. Join Bridget (Room 101, Have I Got News for You, Harry Hill’s Alien Fun Capsule) for a night of hope and despair.
George Rigden: George-ous
A show I’ve seen, and have a very specific brief from the act for. This poster needs to depict George Rigden as both characters from A-Ha's video for Take on Me, as portrayed in this still. The poster needs to combine a photograph and illustration very exactly, like the rotoscoped video does. It must highlight his competition credits, and all the show details.
Komedia - A poster for a large amount of acts
I want to practice finding a neat method of depicting a large amount of faces on a single poster - many Edinburgh Fringe preview seasons need to display every show they have coming up, and I want to work out how to do so effectively.
A poster for a regular comedy night with a changing lineup
The kind of poster I’m likely to be commissioned for in the future, to promote a regular comedy night. This needs to have the potential to change the written information, whilst showing off the branding of the night as well as details of the venue, date and time in a clear manner.
John Kearns: Don't worry they're here
An experimental poster, utilising the risograph machine at university combined with a photograph and type. This one is to test my skills in creating an artful poster that isn't illustrated.
Additional poster: Gavin Osborn & Isy Suttie
I also produced an additional poster outside of the set I outlined here, which is for Gavin Osborn and Isy Suttie's joint show. I wanted to try creating a poster inspired by Rhys Cooper's poster for Bob Dylan, though more toned down. A lot of my posters so far are very colourful and I wanted to see if there was a capacity for my realistic portrait posters to be more minimal in their colour scheme than what I was producing (eg. the poster I made for Chumbags last year). I made three variations, one with yellow as a block colour background, one featuring the name of the show in large type across the page, and finally one featuring orange detailing across the yellow. This was an interesting experiment, and led me into experimenting with the Komedia poster later, as well as inspiring the use of patterns and texture in both the Oppo poster and within my magazine.
I'm genuinely pleased with the result of each poster I created for this project, but Oppo and Kearns are the strongest for me, Although the printed version of the Oppo poster came out more faded in colour than anticipated - this is due problems with my Epson Stylus R3000 printer, which is coming to the end of its lifespan. This is unfortunate, as it is one of the most highly recommended printers for professional reproduction of illustrated work, so I need to find a new solution for production on a small scale. I'm finding interesting ways of creating posters that stand out from the masses, and I think the range of work I've created has been varied and different to my past poster designs. The commission work showed me that in order to create my best designs, I need to be clear about what I will be producing for the client. I created a simple page of guidelines to help clarify the entire process to my commissioners off the back of this project, which has been very useful for recent poster commissions. I also need to manage my time more effectively, I really struggled to produce prints for the deadline while working on the other projects, as well as commitments outside of university.
Mounted copies of each poster and all originals are included in my folder, labelled on the back.
Self-initiated brief 2: Publication - Independent Comedy Appreciation Society magazine
This project changed more than any other throughout the process. The initial brief I wrote for myself was vague; I wanted to create a publication that somehow dealt with the subject of kindess, but wasn't sure what form that could take, and I knew that I wanted to produce more illustration that wasn't reliant on photographic references like I was used to with poster work and that worked together with writing like editorial work. In tutorials I worked through the idea of producing a kind of kindness manifesto, full of my own writing on various angles on kindness inspired by several comedians. I couldn't quite wring out a solid idea down this path, and tried to think about alternative ways to express my ideas. We discussed a twitter account that responded to arguments with illustrations of the arguers as literal insults (a pair of melons, two ballbags etc.) with captions boiling down the argument to demonstrate how they were actually being silly and should treat each other with empathy and kindness instead, but again this didn't quite feel like the right project for me (though I do have a couple of test illustrations in my sketchbook based on this idea). Eventually I stumbled upon the idea of creating a magazine all about thoughtful, kind comedy - this is my specific area of interest, and I wanted to produce something I could use to promote my ethos for independent comedy at gigs I run, as well as something that can platform nice acts and serve as a kind of playground for me to try out ideas for my illustration practice.
Once I had the idea for what the project would be, I posted a call for submissions across my social media, floating the idea and seeing how much interest there would be from acts for something like this to exist. I received lots of messages and support for the idea, as well as ideas for submissions. I talked through these ideas and collected nine pieces of writing from friends in comedy, then set about laying these out for the publication. All my prior publications have been quite loose and illustrative, so I didn't know where to start in creating a proper magazine design. To help, I consulted Angharad Lewis' So you want to publish a magazine? , which provided lots of examples of existing magazines and how they are put together. I used this to work out on paper what my magazine needed to include, and answered some of the questions in the book to inform my process (these questions and answers, as well as some rough sketches of the flat plan are provided in the sketchbook titled plan book for posters and magazine). I also used the Layout: A Practical Guide for Students and Designers by Richard Poulin to help get my head around grids. I've never used grids to design a book before, so this was an interesting method to plan the project. On some spreads I adhered quite strictly to the three column grid I created for myself (this seemed to work best for the longer articles), and on others I broke out of this to give text a full two column space to sit in. It still works with the grid, but this created variation between the different sections.
Funding the project
In order to launch the magazine, I needed to secure some money for production. I applied to Bath Sparks with the following application:
A quarterly illustrated contribution-based magazine about independent live comedy
What's your idea called? The Independent Comedy Appreciation Society
What are you planning to create? The launch issue of a fully illustrated magazine about supporting and encouraging independent live comedy on a local grassroots level as well as on a wider scale, with curated contributions from acts, venues, and comedy enthusiasts. No other publication exists on this topic, and having trialled the distribution of handmade zines at comedy shows and venues including Komedia in Bath, I have found that there is an audience that isn't being catered for. If you’re not sure what independent comedy is, here’s how I’d describe it; interesting, original and thoughtful comedy where the end goal is not fame or money. Those things are nice, but the point is to create something that is unique to the performer rather than emulating the material or style of big telly comedians. This magazine will exist not only to provide a platform for those kind of acts to have their work published, but also as a show of love and encouragement for all of the independent comedy community.
How much money are you asking for? £250
What will you use the money for? I am asking for the full £250 in order to produce as many copies of the magazine as possible (I can produce 100 copies with this), and will distribute it across Bath and Bristol as well as online.
The outcome of this proposal was partial funding (which I will use to produce 50 copies rather than 100) and the following feedback: The panel felt your idea was innovative and agree there may be scope for this type of publication. However, to test the market and consider how further editions would be funded we are proposing to give you £125 to help you produce and distribute 50 copies. You can then reapply for the other £125 to create it if it goes well and you have a plan to make it self-funding.
Videos of illustration process
Further illustrations, sketchbooks, a rough mockup and research are supplied within my folder.
I need to develop my illustrative methods to be able to produce artwork that is fully or largely imagined. My current practice relies entirely on the use of reference photos, and I want to challenge myself to create a book or zine that utilises illustration that is less grounded in reality than what I am used to producing. My goal is to produce a publication of at least 24 pages with the option of an extended length should it require further pages.
February to mid-March: Develop the writing for the project and work on drawings to find the look of my project, flat-planning the publication.
Mid-March to mid-April: Producing the full artwork for the book, typesetting written components, designing for print production. Cover design, with a goal of improving the link between this and the inner pages from my Cities project.
Mid-April to early May: Proofing and printing, final production of publication. Look into what next, how the publication can be marketed, what further work can be created based on this.
To fit with the DIY ethos of independent comedy, I wanted to make a font for titles and details myself. I didn't really know how to do this - I just wanted it to look a bit like the handlettering I'd made for use on the Bath Comedy Calendar, influenced by Josie Long's zines. I downloaded an simple fontmaker app for my iPad, and drew out the letters by hand (using Helvetica letterforms as my guide for what the letters should be shaped like). Designing a typeface is not necessarily something I'm going to pursue (this is a very simple hand-drawn adaption of an existing font), but for the purposes of my magazine it works and was what I wanted to be able to create.
The plan for funding further issues is to raise money from sales of the first, with each copy costing £5. I learned from Angharad Lewis' book that I must emphasise collectability and the unique nature of the publication, as well as using social media to my advantage. I made up badges to go with each copy of the magazine, and am currently in the process of promoting it on social media and taking pre-orders through my Etsy shop. This works quite nicely as with the magazine being contribution based, the writers are also keen for people to see their work (and if the magazine is a success, I will be able to offer them paid work instead of calling in favours from friends). This seems to be working decently, within the first 24 hours of making pre-sales available I've sold 15 copies, which is promising.
Taking the publication to print took a long time, as although the design of it came together within a couple of weeks, I spent a lot of time waiting for contributors to send over their work. For the next issue I will need to set a firm deadline for submissions, to give myself more time to lay out the magazine and illustrate each piece than I did on this occasion, where I was still illustrating submissions sent in the day before the last possible day I could send it to print. I was quite lenient with acts who I like and whose contributions I was particularly keen to include (Christian Talbot, for example, is a comedian whose work I'm a fan of and I was so pleased to have him on board for the idea that I gave him till the very last minute to send his piece in).
I weighed up the options of printing and binding the magazine myself, in order to produce only as many copies as absolutely necessary. I read Indie Publishing: How to Design and Produce Your Own Book by Ellen Lupton which has practical production instructions on how to lay out a book or zine to print, and how to bind it in various ways ( I was considering using the single signature pamphlet), but this looked too complicated for what I hope to become a regular publication.
Since making the magazine available to order, I've had lots of interest from writers for the next issue, so I think by keeping the hype up on social media is useful not only to push the product but also to rack up contributors. I have created a very simple single-page site for information about the magazine, with little illustrations mirroring the style of the magazine, for people who are interested in submitting or stocking the magazine, or simply finding out more about it. I may migrate this to it's own unique domain if the magazine feels like a success, but for now I want to keep costs low and keep it tied with my name. What could be a solution to keeping up interest and continue funding the project is to create a Patreon or similar contribution scheme, where readers and fans of the magazine (and my work) can pay a monthly subscription, and receive copies of each issue, and bonus content. This method has for example worked to fund the work of Ian Boldsworth which includes podcasts, a film, writing and other creative pursuits. I think this is an interesting way to ensure payment for creative work, so I shall probably use this method following the first issue of the magazine being published, in order to demonstrate to potential Patreon supporters what their money is going to help fund.
Another magazine about comedy doesn't really exist, let alone one that is very specific in its creative direction and ethos. The only other one I know of is Fringepig, which includes both illustrations and photographs, but mainly writing. It's a satire zine that is published during August in Edinburgh, making a case against reviewing comedy shows at all. That's a very narrow niche with a limited scope for distribution, and as nearly every contribution is under a pseudonym, very few creators can be linked with the work. It is essentially a fanzine, drawing from the punk and alternative publications of the 80s and 90s. I like what they do, and their DIY nature, but I wanted my publication to have a wider appeal to comedy fans than just during the Edinburgh festival and located very specifically IN Edinburgh. I also didn't want to distribute it for free, as although it's a nice project that's close to my heart in terms of subject, I want to be able to fund further issues through sales of the previous one. In America, there is a publication called the Lowbrow reader. This is A comedy journal, but not a journal ON comedy. It's a humour magazine really, that includes illustrations in the vein of New Yorker cartoons. I think this is quite rigid, and it's audience is slightly removed from who I wanted to cater to. The ethos of my magazine is to fascinate, not necessarily entertain. There can be funny articles, and features, amusing games, and silly pictures, but it is not intended solely to make people laugh.
Because I wanted to make an entirely illustrated magazine, I looked into publications on any subject that were similar to what I had in mind. I found there were many examples of children's magazines, the most relevant one being Scoop. It was founded by Clementine Macmillan-Scott, and art directed by Luana Asiata. The idea of this magazine is to appeal to children from the age of 7 upwards, and their ethos is to never talk down to their readers - they simply want to share great stories and artwork to kids and their parents. I bought the most recent issue (15), which is all about feminism in celebration of the 100 year anniversary of women gaining the right to vote in the UK. The cover is graphic, and clearly influenced by letterpress printmaking. It's printed on thick, matte paper, and full of illustrations that seem to be influenced by printmaking with clean bordered shapes making up layered images. There are lots of examples of what looks like handmade type, and each story and feature has it's own unique look - but all of it is printed on thick matte paper and largely illustrated. This magazine is weighty, it feels very tactile and as a consumer I would feel inclined to treasure it and seek out more of the same kind of thing. This magazine is fun, but not childish - and I found that combination inspirational to how I wanted my magazine to feel, although mine isn't for children I think there is universal appeal in illustrated, joyful publications for all ages.
At the opposite end of the spectrum of illustrated magazines, I looked at Consented (Resistance - issue 6). This is a publication for adults, which comments and tries to find answers on social issues, and it is art directed by Sophia Yuet See with illustrations and some photography from many contributors. This is more uniform than Scoop, each article starts with one full page illustration on the left, a large title on the right, and underneath the author and illustrator names are always formatted with a _ between job and name. Some single pages are coloured to match the main illustration, with most of the written pages being printed on white. Each article has it's own font and visual presence, every story could stand alone but they are tied together with the way the type is laid on the grid of the page. The body of text is always in two wide columns, in a clear sans serif typeface. The magazine is printed on matte paper, and is substantial in weight. Though the target audience is different, the feel of this as a designed product is very similar to Scoop.
I believe there is an increase in independent and mainstream magazines that forgo glossy photography in favour of a thick matte stock for rich illustrated work. I collected lots of new magazines, from small publications like Little White Lies (Isle of Dogs issue, no. 74) to Project Calm which is widely available alongside regular magazines in supermarkets, and the aesthetic of tactile matte paper with illustration seems to be a current trend. These magazines feel like books, and I think this is probably what makes them appealing to buyers now, as they feel like they are intended for extended use. They are also quite separate to zines - looking through The Newsstand (a book about independently published zines, magazines and artist books, curated by Lele Saveri), there is a start difference between the scrawled, quickly produced drawings photocopied alongside photographs or handwritten text and current illustrated magazines. They are more considered pieces of design, drawing influence from illustrated books rather than DIY publications from the past. However, in Teal Triggs' Fanzines, there is evidence that more recent zines have transitioned into a design territory not dissimilar from the magazines I've been looking at. Perhaps with the rise of digital illustration, handmade zine design has been able to incorporate more of the style of magazines than in the past when zines were reliant on handmade elements entirely. In Stephen Duncombe's Notes From The Underground: Zines and the Politics of Alternative Culture, he talks about how 'hand-done' drawings, particularly those that aren't of 'professional quality' bring the status of the artist and reader together, and there is a connection created. There is something very human and personal about an illustration, that doesn't translate in photography. This is why I want to produce illustrated magazines, just like I want people to know that my illustrations were made by me - it's about making design personal, and I think that speaks to consumers.