Monday, February 26, 2007


Early this morning I went off on the one hour train journey to Brighton to visit their illustration course. I didn't need to get to the department till about 2pm, so I took the opportunity to spend the morning walking round Brighton - sat and ate my packed lunch on the beach, walked around the pier (where I drew the horse opposite), walked around Brighton Pavilion and some shops, and then turned up at the Art and Design Faculty (which is diagonally opposite the entrance to the Pavilion).

It wasn't an open day, but they run little tours for people on Monday afternoons for those who couldn't make the open days. There was about 10 people there and we were shown round the department, building and told abut how the course ran. I really liked what I saw in the way of the student artwork. I also know that illustration "God" Lawrence Zeegen, he who writes books on the subject, is the course leader there.

Everyone had their own desk space, they are very big on drawing skills, and also on broadness of materials used and application, and there was very little I could fault - maybe the fact that they don't necessarily give you inductions to 3D workshops (ceramics, wood and metalwork) - but hey, can't have everything.

The biggest issue really was the fact that they are one of the top illustration courses in the UK, and so are HEAVILY oversubscribed - ie, it's REALLY hard to get in. The other issue is of course can Sunshine get work here.

Currently at the top spot on my list ...

Student link :

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Graphics and Design taster days

[picture of letterpress print to go here!]

Spring term Week 7 at Art School

This week at art college I've been to the Graphic Design (yesterday) and Design (today) BA course taster days for here at London Metropolitan. I didn't think I was going to do either course, but I thought I'd go along for the taster days anyway to see what was on offer (and to get something different to what I usually do on Wednesdays and Thursdays)

The Graphics taster day was really quite well designed. We (there were about 16 of us) had short versions of some of the lectures/tutorials the first year students get and learnt about things like "tautology", the connection between image and text, looked at newspaper contents and layouts, and even got to play in the letterpress workshop (yay! love getting my hands dirty!). It was the whole day and I felt I got a lot (although I'm still quite sure that graphic design is not the way I want to go).

Today was the Design taster day - considering the name of the course though it wasn't very well designed. We were put in with one of the first year classes - I don't think they had planned on getting quite so many Foundation students come along so there wasn't much space in the room. They got us to draw each other's expressions, but never really explained the context under which we were doing it ... we all felt a bit lost. We only had that one hour, and then one of the senior tutors took us away and talked to us about the course for about 20 minutes ... don't think I'm going to be studying Design at London Met...

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Whitechapel Art Gallery

Spring term Week 7 at Art School

Week 7 will come in chunks - firstly I've been in college yesterday and today working on loosening up my drawings and working on a larger scale. Tutor John said to use cheap material so that I felt less inhibited (of wasting a perfectly beautiful expensive piece of good quality white paper). So I grabbed hold of some newsprint and looked round for something to do on it. I realised that I had a great view of the Whitechapel Art Gallery from the window at the back of the room. So I set up a board on the window sill, and a chair for me to stand on (the bottom of the window is frosted so that was the only viable way to do it). First I had a go at doing a large quick very loose sketch with charcoal; and once I had loosened up I proceeded to draw a still loose, but cleaner version, using a 6B graphite stick. I got it about three-quarters done before it got too dark to see clearly, so I came in this morning and finished it off. I'm quite pleased with the result - its HUGE for my standards, about A1 size, but it has a lot of potential and I'm thinking of doing another piece based on this drawing - just not quite sure what...

The picture above is not very good as the fine pencil lines don't really show up and the light from the window on the left give it a funny glow ... sorry!

The view

The setup - you can even see my reflection in the window...

The first sketch

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Middlesex and Bristol

What a long weekend this has been... On Friday I packed my bags ready for the weekend, the wondered off to an openday at Middlesex University, just on the northern fringes of London. I wasn't very inspired by the area, or by initial inspection of the college. While I sat there waiting for the introductory lecture, I drew the dreadlocked lady in front of me (more attempts at loosening up!). After some mind-numbing jabbering by some higher up in the college, we finally got split into groups - the illustration and graphic design people were ushered into another room where we finally got to hear about those courses ... and the more I heard, the more I liked it. We were taken round the workshops, and as we toured, I asked a few more questions. This is EXACTLY the kind of course I want to do. They are very big on drawing skills and have organised life drawing classes throughout the three years; they encourage people to make the most of the workshops to do more than just drawing and they also have a lot of collaborations with the graphic design people. Drawing, broadness in application, and elements of design - just the combination I want.

Sunshine came round in the car to pick me up from Middlesex so we could drive directly to Bristol, as on Saturday, I was to go to an open day at the University of the West of England, there. Sunshine used to live there so during the journey he told me more about the city. I've been there before too, and I remember thinking I wouldn't mind living there. On Saturday he drove me from the friends we were staying at, to the UWE art and design campus, which is set by a huge park - beautiful. Sunshine then wondered off to the city while I sat through the introductory lecture to their illustration course. The lady giving the course was actually head of the faculty, rather than head of illustration. She was incredibly off-putting and spent the time being negative, and telling us how difficult it was to get into their course. I also found out that although they value drawing and will only take people with drawing skills on their course, the only organised drawing sessions they have are for half a year on the first year. After this lady spent 40 minutes not telling us any lovely things about the course, we were all packed onto a coach and driven to where the course is taught from -30minutes walk away, in the city. I didn't mind the place, but all the workshops are over at the main campus, so you'd end up bouncing between the two all the time, and that just didn't appeal to me.

Anyways, I haven't discounted UWE completely - Bristol is a nice (cheaper than London) place to live, and Sunhine would love moving back there. I still have a bit more research to do - I just wish I could move the Middlesex course to Bristol, then I'd be happy ...

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Loosening up

Spring term Week 6 at Art School

This week I was mostly trying to get my act together to work out what I want to do for the rest of the term and how I want to develop my portfolio for an illustration degree course. On Tuesday I went to see Annabelle Hartmann, one of the tutors on the BA Design course at my college, to do a portfolio review and talk about illustration courses (and the design course) . She has taught on some of the other illustration courses in London, and she herself went to Kingston which is my current top-of-the-list, so I got to find out a bit more about how the different courses run. She seemed quite pleased with my work, but I asked her how I could improve it and she answered "loosen up a bit more and don't be afraid to make a mess!". It's true - my drawings are small and tight because I'm afraid of letting go (throwbacks from my scientific days I guess...). So when I was stuck waiting at Liverpool Station on Wednesday for an hour, I did some quick loose sketches. VERY difficult mentally for me, but I enjoyed the challenge nonetheless - infact I quite like the the shoes/boots on the right hand page.

Also yesterday I went to another openday at LCC - this time on their Graphic and Media design, Illustration pathway one. I was initially quite taken by the broadness of the course, but then I realised that they had NO drawing instruction - drawing to me is fundamental to illustration. Infact they didn't care whether you could draw or not - it was all about being 'creative' and 'conceptual' - nothing wrong with that, but SO not me. Well that's LCC off my possible s list anyway.

Today I mostly spent talking to my own course tutor, working out how to progress from where I am now, cut some wood veneers into tree shapes and hanging out out with my coursemates. Nice.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Dubai in colour

Well here it is as promised, Dubai in colour. Initially I'd scanned the line drawing in and tried to colour it in digitally, but I got quite bored and wasn't enjoying the process at all. I think it may be because there are so many elements to this picture. Half way through I gave up and opted to try watercolours - something I haven't really done and have very little confidence in, but I thought, "gotta start sometime!". And so I did... I didn't want to spoil the original drawing (and it was on too thin a paper), so I printed out the scanned line drawing on to watercolour paper.

There are lots of things I'm not happy with, but for a first attempt, its passable. At least I've got into using watercolours and I can explore more. If only someone would have told me earlier that the printer ink is NOT waterproof!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Belated Dubai

Spring term Week 5 at Art School

After the last two days of open days, I collapsed in bed yesterday feeling quite exhausted and having succumbed to a nasty cold. When I woke up this morning I was feeling even worse, AND it was snowing! - I was in no way going to make it into college (it didn't matter in the end as I rung one of my course friends up to say that I couldn't make it and she said only four of them had come in!).

Looking at the student portfolios in Kingston yesterday also made me realise that I needed to increase the amount of illustrative work in my own portfolio if I wanted to get into an illustration degree course. So that's what I ended up doing today. I started working on this Dubai grid while were were on holiday over there during Christmas. Somehow I lost inspiration and never finished it. Today I sat down and filled in all the leftover grid squares (more than half of them were still empty), and then inked the lot. This has taken me all day so you get this as my post. Eventually I might colour my drawing in, or I might even attempt to digitally colour in the scan.

EDIT - I thought I might get a comment about how lovely Dubai looks ... there is a reason I lost inspiration when I was drawing Dubai the first time - I found it really really quite an uninspiring place, a building site in the dessert with no soul and very little history. It was all about commercialism and everyone was out there to make money. That sounds mean and I'm sure there will be people out there who disagree with me, but Dubai is not a place I'd want to live in, or even ever go back to. It was very hard finding positive images to put in the grid (and I'm the sort who just would prefer not to draw anything if they couldn't find anything nice to draw). But this also served as a challenge to me to find the best bits of something I really didn't like.

My advice, don't go to Dubai. And if you HAVE to go, go visit the
flamingos at the bottom of the creek (and try to ignore the building site that surrounds them) - these beautiful pink creatures must be Dubai's most redeeming feature.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Where to go ... where to go ...

This, unfortunately, is going to be an image free post ... yes, I know ... BAD Mithi ... but sometimes, I just haven't had the time to do any art. And that's what it seems like these last couple of days ...

I've been running around doing open days to try and work out where to go next university wise. Last Thursday we had a couple of talks specifically for us by the London Met design and graphic design people. The graphic design here didn't appeal to me, but the design course was presented to us by a practising illustrator. They are changing the course somewhat to be more studio based, and there was the opportunity to do illustration within the design degree. I hadn't contemplated staying on in London Met - it's put a spanner in the works now!

Yesterday I visited the University of Westminster campus out in Harrow. Their illustration course looked interesting, especially since their big thing was that they encouraged people to apply their creativity on non-standard illustration pathways. For example they had a student who was working in ceramics, drawing directly into clay. Having open access to the print, ceramics, metal and woodwork studios whilst studying illustration really appealed to me as I'm a maker as well as a drawer. But other than that, it didn't jump out at me.

This morning I took the train our to Kingston, which is a lovely little town just on the outskirts of London, by the river Thames. I made sure to get out there early so that I could have a look around first - must say, it seemed lively and nice, and only a 28 minute train ride from London (16 minutes of you go from Surbiton). Anyways, Kingston University's illustration course has to be one of the most renown ones in the UK, and I'm always a bit dubious of places with too big a reputation. But I wasn't disappointed - as I arrived we were shown to a room where some of the first years were showing off the portfolios that got them into Kingston in the first place - VERY high standard. Made me realise that I have to put in quite a lot of work if I want to get in here. Later we were given a talk by the course heads. First we were shown some student final year work - wow! that's the kind of work I want to produce! The Kingston course is quite traditional as in they are very drawing based. In fact the whole of the first year is devoted to drawing (the second year being devoted to ideas generation), and students keep doing life drawing classes well into their final year. I also managed to corner a third year student who gave me a personal tour round the place (where I saw Jonny Hannah, an illustrator hero of mine, having a tutorial with some of the third year students). Yes, it's good, they work you hard, they have connections with the biggest in the industry and they really prepare you for a life as an illustrator. But it was a larger class size distributed over the same amount of resourses as the other unis, and my other worry is that it was so much drawing based, that I wouldn't get a chance to do my more crafting/collaging/embroidering other type of image making.

After I got back from Kingston I legged it to LCC to have a look at their book arts and design course. It's not illustration per se, but it has an illustration basis, and it also has something I really like which is book arts. As I arrived so late, I got to speak to the course director personally. He showed me some of the work their students had produced and it was lovely, but I could tell straight away that as much as I would love to be on this course and enjoy doing the work, I wouldn't get that introduction and networking into the illustration industry which I think is very important if I want to survive as an illustrator.

Well, I've still got a bunch more to go to - I'm gutted to not be able to go to Brighton and Falmouth, which are another two very renowned illustration degrees in the UK, but I'm sure I'll be able to find people to talk to about them, and I've got enough other ones to go to to keep me busy. Wish me luck!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Projects galore ...

Spring term Week 4 at Art School

After the uninspiring, creative-block week that was last week, I decided this week that I was just going to start on a new image (on the left). I had originally avoided it as the number of people seemed too much to handle. But after I had a second look, I was quite taken by the birch trees in the background. Thinking back to my see-through book from the first week this term, and the idea of hidden things and layers, I though maybe I could do layers of birch trees to make some kind of forest, and in amongst the trees would be little woodland creatures like birds and rabbits etc, and maybe even a Little Red Riding Hood kind of character. By this point I got quite excited, and started working out possibilities that were slightly different from my book - and some cutting and pasting of bits of paper later I made the mock up you see above, with the concertina like base. I also went down to the architectural model shop and rummaging through found the gorgeous bag of off-cut veneers you see above too. The thought now is to cut tree shapes out of the veneers and make a many layered forest book or box-thing ... watch this space for developments!

Then today we had been told to each bring in an object, preferably something that could be taken apart, and something that we were happy to give away. I brought in a can-opener (we have about 5 in the house!). Everyone's stuff was put in a black bin bag, and then you had to pick one out blind that wasn't yours! I ended up with beaten up old broken radio ... Firstly we were to draw it and take lots of photos, and then pull it apart and do the same - just so that we could get really know our object. On the left is my starting sketch - you'll also notice on the sheet a mind-map of word associations I did as the project is basically to come up with some piece or pieces of art based on or inspired by our object.

Below is a picture of its inside - its full of little colourful bits and bobs and wires and transistors and things and I'm quite excited by this project too. Whoopee!