Retrospective Part Three: Pirate Yetis & Sinister Unicorns, The Life Of An Illustrator

December 23rd, 2011

It’s June 2011 and I’m re-adjusting to freelance life. If you’re wondering what the life of a freelance illustrator is like, I can give you a rough idea by describing my daily routine. The goal is to stick to normal business hours so that I’m available to answer calls or emails from anyone who works the nine to five. The reality however, is that I find myself starting work between eight and eleven and working until midnight or beyond with two short breaks for lunch and dinner that often have to be enforced by my better half. I just can’t help myself, I’m good at meeting deadlines so I don’t need to work all day but once I start something my mind won’t sleep until it’s finished. I have a stubborn and grumpy cerebral cortex, I have to keep it happy.

If I’m not working on a piece for a client I’ll work on personal projects, follow tutorials , research, learn, try new software and techniques, shamefully self-promote, read something interesting or write something uninteresting to stay busy. Weekends are the same, which is probably not healthy and the main reason why I’ll eventually need to rent some studio space and confine myself to more sociable hours. Being your own boss is a strange experience and not for everyone, but despite the work-life imbalance and occasional bout of abject poverty, I really quite like it.

Anyway I get an email from a friend of mine who makes and sells screen-printed merchandise; shirts bags and that kind of thing. He asked if I would like to contribute a design to his range and I thought it would be a nice way to get back on the wagon without having to worry about serious deadlines. I came up with this huggable, hairy character to be printed on a cushion cover – because everyone likes to cuddle a cushion right?

Next up came a request from my friend Maria of Bubble Fusion who wanted a logo and character design to encapsulate her brand. I came up a rainbow-inspired logo and this slightly sinister yet strangely alluring unicorn; cute and colourful with a twist. If you’re a fan of awesome, colourful things then check out the Bubble Fusion Facebook Fan Page and Etsy Shopwhere you can browse and buy Maria’s work.

This brings me nearly up to date, in early Autumn 2011 where I’ll pick up from in the fourth and final instalment. Before I go, here’s a final reminder to get those presents wrapped and the turkey out to thaw – you don’t want to spend Christmas day tangled in sellotape, defrosting the old bird with a hairdryer and sobbing into the tinsel while everyone else is happily snoozing to the sound of her majesty’s annual lullaby.

Retrospective Part Two: Making Eco Cool & Other Projects

December 22nd, 2011

In june 2010, deciding that I needed some experience in a real business environment I went along to my first job interview since graduating almost a year before. I didn’t know much about the company I had applied to, other that the fact that they made eco friendly clothing and were offering a six month online marketing placement under the now sadly defunct Future Jobs Fund. Shortly before the interview I realised that my interviewers were to appear on an episode of The Naked Office later that same evening. Let’s be honest, I was scared.

It turned out that, behind all that environmentally friendly attire and nude frolicking, were two brothers who had built the business up from scratch and were expanding to make jobs for unemployed young people on the Isle of Wight. To cut a long story short; I moved from Online Marketing to Operations Management after a few months, stayed on for a little while beyond my initial contract and probably learned more that year than I did during three years at university – without racking up an enormous student debt!

I say this not to devalue my degree, but to emphasize the value of working at the core of a real-life, rapidly-growing business with supportive and knowledgeable mentors at the helm. I didn’t realise how little I knew until I joined Rapanui, and I will always be thankful for the experience and the knowledge I took away from it.

Aware of my interest in design, Rapanui’s creative director gave me the opportunity to collaborate on a number of creative projects alongside my marketing and operations work. I had a great time working with him on all sorts of things from packaging and product design to animation, including the examples below.

I’m happy to report that Rapanui are bigger, better and more sustainable than ever, and will be opening their first high street retail store in Sandown this year so if you’re interested in fashion or passionate about the environment I recommend paying them a visit. If you’re more of a virtual shopper, check out their website instead and stay up to date with all the latest news on Facebook or Twitter.

I didn’t have a lot of time to work on freelance projects that year, but I did help a friend with some branding for his new business, Overhaul Security. Plus, I couldn’t turn down an invite to take part in Illustration Rally’s European countries themed rally, in which the participants were randomly allocated a country and asked to create an illustration based on it. I got France, which is a galling prospect for any Englishman, but I did my best and came up with an illustration inspired by the French flag. I also wrote a short artist feature for the Rally, which can be found here if you need to read a bit more twaddle.

And with that, we arrive in early summer 2011, a freelancer again with a website to redesign. More about that in part three, thanks for reading!

Retrospective Part One: Be Good To Your Planet, Collaborate & Ride A Penny Farthing

December 15th, 2011

Hallo everyone, seasons greetings and all that.

As promised, this is the first of four retrospective blogs in which I try to recall some of the work I’ve done since November 2009 when my old blog ground to a halt. Being a considerate fellow, I’ve separated it into four manageable chunks to make it a bit easier to swallow between all those hot mince pies and cold turkey sandwiches, and included as many pictures as possible to punctuate the waffle.

We pick up in late ’09. A call from a man with a dream, a dream about a world without wrapping paper. He had invented the Evergreen Wrap; a reusable fabric wrap designed to replace conventional wrapping paper, reduce the number of trees felled in the name of celebration and basically help our poor old planet a little bit. The thing was, there were loads of traditional Furoshiki techniques – different ways of tying fabric to wrap gifts of all shapes and sizes – but he needed someone to illustrate them in a contemporary way that matched his branding. The finished illustrations feature on the packaging.

I went on to complete a number of projects for the guys at Evergreen Wrap, from brochure illustrations to greetings cards and animation assets – it was a great experience and I can certainly recommend their wraps if you don’t feel like wrestling with wrapping paper this Christmas.

It was shortly after this that I was approached by Claire Sambrook, who I had previously worked with on the Southsea Deck Your Chairs project, who asked me and fellow illustrator Ken to produce a bookmark and poster for her new project. Visual Libraries was a project designed to stimulate interaction between communities and their local library, encouraging collaborative creativity and self-expression. Participants could borrow a visual diary from their library and make their mark on its’ pages before returning it for the next person to interact with. We designed the posters to promote the project, and the bookmarks to mark the pages of each diary.

Following on from the Visual Libraries project, Claire asked if we would like to submit some work for another project of hers – Love Your Bike Portsmouth. I may as well come clean now, I haven’t ridden a bike since I was ten and even then I spent more time bleeding in the gutter than on the saddle, but it was a good excuse to draw something so I happily obliged. We each designed a spoke card to promote the event, and as usual I went for the most uncool approach possible – taking inspiration from the Victorian school of cycling. Jeeves, ready my velocipede!

Thus, we arrive in early summer 2010, concluding the first part of the retrospective. I’m hoping to get these wrapped up – excuse the pun – before Christmas to clear the decks for a new year of blogging, so keep those eyes peeled for part two. Until then, good luck with your Yuletide preparations!

Hello, Destitute Future-Self

November 1st, 2011

Wow, hello old blog. Been quite some time since I last wrote one of these but here goes.

When I first started writing blogs, during my final year at university, I thought to myself that this was probably a massive waste of time. Nobody will want to read this rambling prose, it’s not really making a point about anything in particular and so far I’ve yet to be visited my a smiling Mr. Pulitzer or his prize committee – and yet, blinded by youthful naivety, I persevered. Alas, experience (and Google Analytics) soon taught me that my instincts were probably right, and the thought that I was writing for nobody in particular made it difficult to find the motivation to continue – hence the gaping chronological void between this blog and the last.

Anyway, that was then and this is now. Now I realise that what this blog really is, and has been from the start, is a sort of career diary. It doesn’t matter that my mother makes up 50% of the readership, it’s just nice to throw up a quick blog about my latest project or something that I found particularly inspiring, because then I’ll always have a record of my creative journey to look back on.

One day, when I’m old and drunk and homeless, I’ll pack up my chalks and leave my paving-slab canvas to the rain, stagger into an internet café and hand over my hat-full of change to the clerk. I’ll pour my creaking bones into a plastic chair, warm my hands with a coffee, visit my old blog and smile, sans teeth, sans regret, at past glories and silly doodles.


Therefore, as not to deprive my destitute future-self, I’ll be writing a series of short retrospective blogs covering the two-year blackout since my last blog. There have been a fair few projects since then, but I’ll try to keep it short sweet, painless and picture-packed for the brave few who choose to read. If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you’ll see a notification whenever a new blog is posted, which should alleviate any niggling worries and bouts of insomnia caused by the thought of missing one.

That’s all for now, thanks for reading, enjoy the new site and I’ll be back soon.