On the 28th July Rachel P and Rachel L went to the ‘Life As An Illustrator’ Talk from the YCC, in conjunction with Jelly London and Creative Floor, featuring Matt Lyon and Alison Carmichael.
Jelly London is a great multi-disciplinary creative agency, and so it was great to hear from two of their artists.
Matt Lyon was up first. I recognised his work immediately; he has a distinctive style which makes you want to stop and stare. So much detail and colour in his work! He described himself as a doodler (or freestyle drawing, if you want to make it sound more professional) and that’s how he starts all of his pieces; by obsessively doodling and filling the page until he finds something he likes, which he then works up on the computer. An amazing process and something which is quite alien to me; I have to have a clear idea in my head of the image I want to produce, do lots of little mindmaps and thumbnail sketches, then I get straight to it on the computer or in pencil. Doodling never really creates anything exciting for me…
The thing that struck me about Matt was his incredible prolificity, and his lack of worry over things going wrong or being too precious. He takes mistakes in his stride and often uses them as a way of taking the work in another direction. The other thing that made me think was how his career had panned out; starting out as a fine artist, not really knowing what to do with it once graduating, sort of falling into teaching graphic design, then getting into freelance t-shirt design through Threadless, and continuing from there. He strikes me as the kind of person that doesn’t particularly have a ‘plan’ – and I think this suits him just fine.
Another ‘aha’ moment he spoke about was the way he uses Photoshop and Illustrator – Illustrator first, to create the elements, then Photoshop to add the colours and textures. This interested me because that’s the way I’m starting to use them (I used to be entirely in Photoshop, now I seem to be almost exclusively in Illustrator, except when I want to add texture etc) and it was nice to hear about someone’s process of working.
His work isn’t my most favourite ever, possibly too digital/primary colours I think, I like to see hand-rendered elements, but I admire his work ethic very much and his energy and passion was amazing. His client list is so enviable and he seems to have an amazing career both behind and in front of him.
Next up was Alison Carmichael, who’s one of those creatives who you’ve probably seen her work everywhere but just not realised it was her. She’s worked with so many amazing clients, a really varied portfolio. A quick look through her website shows just how much she has done – it’s amazing. My favourite pieces are her retro-wall-inspired-ads for Anchor, which I love. They look so genuine and heartwarming!
She also talked about the reference/scrap books she keeps – amazing treasure troves of ephemera which always came to her when was was tackling a tricky brief. A lesson there, definitely. I collect bits and pieces but I stopped doing scrapbooks after Uni – as such things happen – and I really should pick it up again. I just have tonnes of bits of stuff floating around my room now.
Another nugget of wisdom from Alison was ‘always take a brief on the phone’ and use visual reference between you and the commissioner too, so that you’re on the same page. Emails are great but I completely agree that you can’t get the full picture unless you actually speak to the person. Emails can be so impersonal.
At the end there was a Q&A session, lots of great questions asked, including the age old ‘What do you think of free internships’ – Alison said they could be invaluable in terms of real world experience, but only do what you can afford, and don’t do it if you’re not learning anything. Matt was more wary of doing free work in the context of ‘exposure’ etc – while experience is good, you can’t undersell yourself.
It was a great evening, and thanks for the free beers too YCC; good stuff!