So… We are now six (?) weeks into 2015 and I have managed to claw my way through the detritus – strewn across (seemingly) every square-centimetre of my house – deposited in the wake of pre- and post-assessment and Final Show prep, and am emerging into the February gloom to share a little of the illustrative endeavours I have been embroiled in since I last posted…
For much of Christmas I was an extremely dull, dressing-gown-swaddled, tea-guzzling hermit, frantically trying to watercolour my way through a 42-page (well, 46-page, if you count endpapers. Which I do.) wordless picturebook in time for assessment on 5 January. Predictably, I failed to startle and amaze myself with unprecedented efficiency and speed in order to exceed my (what transpired to be) entirely accurate estimate of how much I would manage to achieve over the festive season – having also to factor in a piece of written work (a critical reflection on progress over this final stage of the course), and the small matter of Christmas itself with all the visiting and disgusting over-indulgence that traditionally entails. I succeeded in completing half of the colour work in order to produce a mock-up – or ‘dummy’ book – to complement the sheaf of sketchbook and developmental work I was submitting (and earlier, distinctly scruffier dummies), and – once I had amassed all the extraneous flotsam of half-realised picturebook ideas and trial sketches, I ended up with quite a pile for delivering unto the assessment gods:
And then there was The Show: the focus of all our fundraising efforts over the previous semester, and subject – along with the beautiful show catalogue (see below), featuring cover artwork by the exceptional Dan Ungureanu – of our collective Kickstarter project (you can read about how a veritable colony of cats and dogs saved our proverbial bacon in a previous post [if you can bear to scroll through all the other drivel to the end…]), generously crowd-funded by our GLORIOUS family and friends (we love you all!!):
I had blithely assumed that the 4-ish weeks’ grace we had between our January hand-in date and the probable print-deadline for generating reproduction artwork for mounting and portfolio-filling would be more than sufficient to polish off the remaining 11 double-page colour spreads for my Master Stage project and then devote, say, 10 days or so to whipping up another dummy book along other themes already partially explored in my coursework, or to provide a home for all those errant Advent penguins. Ha! What a fool… Betwixt my annual tussle-with-self-assessment tax return, booking travel and accommodation to Bologna for the upcoming Bologna Children’s Book Fair, and a weekend beetling up and back down the M6 to recreate Christmas (and a couple of important birthdays) with the northern contingent of Family, I managed to complete the colour artwork and, er, not a great deal else… I spent a day or two wrestling all the edited pages of my dummy books, together with a few enlargements of a selection of images (including three new works, one very closely resembling an existing image but recreated first in traditional media at a much increased dimension in order to permit scaling up to approx. 400% enlargement, for mounting to foamboard for the show), into a GIGANTIC pdf – well, two to be precise – that could be printed on the marvellous Plan-It Repro‘s massive inkjet roller printer. I cannot recommend Plan-It highly enough; they were totally brilliant, patiently explaining why my plan for very-slightly-oversized pages would make the exercise of producing a full-colour dummy of the Seagull project a prohibitively expensive one, and the the most economical way around my plight (the massive pdf…). The resultant reproductions were kindly rolled up for me for, er, ease of transportation: at 0.9 x 3 metres and 0.9 x 5 metres they were some fairy hefty printouts…
It was at this juncture (see below) that I realised I was going to need a few more packets of scalpel blades:
It took many, many shiny new scalpel blades to first slice up these gargantuan prints, but – more crucially – then to carve up the foamboard (satanic stuff…), to which some of the larger pieces intended for wall-mounted display in the exhibition, were affixed. Before I could embark on that particular joyous endeavour, I had first to splutter my way through two 200ml cans’ worth of spray-mounting – after first strewing sheets of donated newspaper liberally about the place to prevent everything in the vicinity taking on a permanently tacky quality and attracting dust, hair and other rubbish for all eternity…
The foamboard-sculpting took much, MUCH longer than I had anticipated – particularly as it had been advised that we attempt to get a 45-degree angle on the edges so that the foam-filling itself (and any dodgy slicing action) was hidden from view, as far as possible, once on the wall. Even with a metal rule, it was also quite tricky to get a really crisp corner on the square pieces, and attempting to fashion the lovely fluid curves I had hoped for – courtesy of my massive arsenal of super-sharp blades – on some of the more ‘free-form’ shapes I had planned was something else entirely!! There were a couple of near misses in terms of spray-mounting errors (where I had designed a three-dimensional, slot-together affair that had to have printed material – that correctly aligned with the reverse – both sides), and a definite hit when I almost sliced a considerable chunk of flesh off the side of my ruler-gripping index finger (it has been bound in a succession of fabric plasters and masking tape since Sunday, but I’m pretty hopeful it will heal. Eventually…), but by Sunday afternoon it was all cut and bubble-wrapped ready for the nerve-racking voyage to the gallery inside my A1 portfolio on Monday morning.
The dummy books were a little fiddly to produce, and I definitely didn’t succeed in creating anything like a professional finish on the spines, but they are far and away the best ones I have ever produced myself and it’s thanks in no small part to this excellent photo-tutorial posted by the wonderful Margaret Sturton on the SCBWI Words & Pictures website: http://www.wordsandpics.org/2014/05/make-picture-book-dummy.html. Unfortunately, I was too immersed in the still-significant remainder of the prep task ahead to think about taking photos of the finished dummies, but here are a couple of progress pictures, and the completed articles are discernible amidst the other paraphernalia in the later photos taken at the gallery:
The show is being staged at the Candid Gallery, operated by the Candid Arts Trust, at 3-5 Torrens Street, Islington, London, Ec1V 1NQ, and that wonderfully light and spacious (if rather chilly…) venue was where we all congregated on Monday morning to begin the process of hanging the exhibition.
There was a little ‘touching up’ of the gallery boards to complete by way of preparation before we could start unpacking artwork and determining how each exhibitor’s work would sit alongside and among all the other exhibits, but there was a palpable ‘team spirit’ in the air (or perhaps it was just residual spray-mount vapours…) and all – marshalled by Senior Lecturer, Pam Smy and Course Leader, Martin Salisbury – pitched in with paintbrushes, masking tape and enthusiasm to ready the space for The Important Bit.
There was a (remarkably brief) hiatus in activity while a small committee walked around the space assessing how the diverse array of illustrative works could be arranged to best advantage and in such a way that there was no (or absolutely minimal) conflict between adjacent exhibits – a tricky but necessary exercise to ensure the uniqueness and appeal of each individual’s work was allowed the space and environment it needed to be most favourably displayed. There were a couple of ‘awkward’ set-ups, such as mine, that required particular apparatus – my suspended, slot-together seagull needed ‘a thing’ to be suspended from (a number or handy corner struts between the central installation of boards provided just such a thing…) – but, when all confirmed, it was declared to have been an unusually (nay, unprecedentedly) smooth process.
There followed a 4 (or 5, for some)-hour flurry of pinning, taping, drilling, cursing, drilling, hammering, re-pinning and perhaps a little more cursing activity as exhibits gradually went up (and came down, and went back up again slightly to the left/right…), and by 6pm most seemed to have developed mild tinnitus from the ringing of hardware on chipboard to go with their satisfied exhaustion at a show ‘well-hung’ (if you will…).We knew we had A LOT to live up to, most of us having visited last year’s exhibition of the 2014 graduates’ work, but I think we’re all pretty pleased with how the exhibition as a whole has turned out. It’s not really about us, though – you’ll have to let us know what you think… :)
Below is a little selection to whet your appetite for gorgeous illustration – come and indulge!
If you’re in the vicinity of Islington in even the vaguest sense over the next couple of days, please do drop by the gallery: we’d be absolutely delighted to see you there, and are pretty confident that you’ll be glad to have made the detour – the whole place is coruscating with beautiful illustrative talent, much of which I am sure we will all be seeing much more of on national (and international!) bookshelves in the months and years to come, and this is your opportunity to enjoy an exclusive first-look! :D