Tuesday, 20 November 2012

New York

Tues 6th Nov: 10am Andre Da Loba

We were up and out bright and early on our first morning in New York. We made our way via the subway to Brooklyn to visit the studio of Andre Da Loba . I first became aware of his work on our last visit, where I saw his work on display as Parson’s The New School for Design after he had completed a stint of teaching there.

We wondered through the autumn sunshine to his studio based in The Invisible Dog Arts Centre – the building used to be the home of a factory that made invisible dog leashes, famous in the 1970’s. We were greeted by, Andre who showed us, into the ground floor gallery space. The current exhibition was by Brooklyn-based brothers Steven and William Ladd. Their intricate installation work utilized materials found in the linking memories and the past to this exhibition and the building.

We were then taken upstairs in a very ramshackle life to the studios. Andre allowed us to wander through his studio, which was a magical wonderland of intrigue, strange figures, wooden blocks, a half painted horse. He surrounded himself in objects from his culture, reference books, paints, brushes and curiosity. This was an active and very alive space. He shared his studio with another illustrator called Joanna Nerborsky, whose work I am not familiar with but was beautiful. I could tell Andre enjoyed sharing a studio with her and they were much influenced by one another.

We were free to wander in and out of the other studio spaces and came across a door with a sign that read ‘Oliver Jeffers’. We had no idea that they shared the same building and all of us are huge fans of his work. We went up to another gallery floor and Oliver came to shyly chat with us.
Andre then treated to us to a little performance, where he pulled objects he had made out of an old box and told stories about them. He was very entertaining and talked about how he enjoyed to challenge what a story could be. Why does it have to be in a book? He liked ‘story telling devices’ – a theme throughout his work. He believes that the illustrators who get the most work are those that tell stories. He enjoys how illustration makes him learn new things. He likes having a reputation as being a bit of a ‘wild card’ and encourages clients to take a risk on him. He believes that ‘style’ is a word that belongs to fashion, not illustration which should be more about the way you think, the way you see the world and your personal voice. He wants clients to think, “He can do things like no-one else does”, because he thinks in a particular way. Andre gave us an absolute treat into his world and made us more welcome, than we could ever have imagined. 

Tues 6th Nov: 2.30pm Stephen Byram

Stephen Byram is both a professional commercial artist and a fine artist, and for many years has been finding innovative ways to combine the two activities into a singular body of work. His best known work is most likely the famous plane wreck on the cover of the Beastie Boys album Licensed to Ill.

He was so generous in inviting us to his home in New Jersey, which was about a half hour bus ride through the Lincoln tunnel. As we entered New Jersey an iconic view of Manhattan was visible across the Hudson. This was when the students really realized they were in New York. The view of the city was one they had seen a thousand times before on postcards and on TV. When we arrived at Stephens’s studio (which was also his house). Our students were amazed at the amount and variety of work from sculpture to canvas paintings to CD artwork and poster design. He had laid out a great selection of his work and gladly answered all questions from students. This was a fantastic visit, informative, illuminating and very welcoming. Stephen also offered to respond to any future enquiries our students might have as they progress with their studies. He is someone we will certainly look up again when we visit New York in 2015.

Thurs 8th Nov: Michele Zackheim, School of Visual Arts

I came across the work and teaching of Michele Zackheim during my ‘play’ research. Michele teaches writing for illustration students or ‘Writing from a Visual Perspective’ at SVA. I found this to be a very interesting concept. I actually contacted Michele about a year ago after reading about her in the ‘Teaching Illustration’ book, as I am really interested to develop this area in the curriculum on the BA (hons) Illustration.  I can see how being able to write alongside or before image making has so much potential and could help to make visual images richer.

I have been in contact with Michele throughout the year and have shared a few projects with her that I have trialed and thought she may find interesting. When I told Michele that we were coming to New York, she invited us to attend her class. I took a mix of Level 5 & 6 students (who were particularly interested in narratives of their own) and we joined a class of 20 masters students on the Illustration programme.

The students had been issued with a short story called ‘Yellow Woman’ by Leslie Marmon Silko, prior to the session.  Written in 1974, the story tells of woman who momentarily goes off with a strange man she meets on a walk along the river. The woman is swept up in the traditional Native Ameriacn myth of Kochininako, the Yellow Woman, who left her tribe and family to wander for years with the powerful ka'tsina, or spirit, Whirlwind Man. The story becomes unclear and blurs the boundaries between myth and everyday experience. The session was then led by one of the students from SVA who addressed the class and asked them questions regarding their interpretation of the text. They were all very opinionated and clearly used to discussing work in this way without fear of being chastised.  Our students joined in the discussion and offered an alternative view of the text.

In the second session of the class, Michele provided a range of postcards splayed out on a table. They were a combination of photographic and artists cards. We were asked to select an image quickly and without overthinking our decision. It was important to choose an image that instantly connected with the individual. We were then asked to answer a series of questions to embellish and add layers to the image:  Was it a male or female voice that spoke when you looked at the image? What era was it from? What colours did it evoke? What did it smell like inside the image? How do you relate to the image? What does it say to you?

We then spent 45 minutes, unpacking these initial thoughts and wrote a short story from the perspective or point of view from something or someone in the image. We then took it in turns to stand at the front of the class and read the story aloud. This was a wonderful experience. The students’ stories were so imaginative and we talk so much about visual language in our students images on our course but when they read aloud, you could also hear their personal voice, stance and how they see the world. It was obvious that there is a connection between, the way they write and the images they make. The SVA students were keen to talk with our students and some exchanged contact details. I would be very keen to extend this new link and hope to work on collaborative projects on the future. 

Wed 7th Nov: 11am Charles Hively (3 x 3 Magazine)

We went back across the bridge to Brooklyn to visit the house and offices of Illustration Magazine 3 x 3. 3 x 3 is a magazine devoted entirely to contemporary illustration. It is published in the U.S and distributed worldwide. Not that widely available in the U.K, we were keen to meet the man behind it.

Charles Hively the founder of 3x3, is its design director and publisher. His background is in advertising agency background, but he started out as an illustrator, as an art director he seeked to use illustration wherever he could. We all crammed into his tiny workspace and listened intently as he talked passionately about Illustration as a practice, which should be thought of more highly than it is. “Everyone draws in Kindergarten, then when everyone grows up the want serious jobs, like lawyers or solicitors. You guys are special because, you still draw.” 3 x 3 Magazine put out the message that the illustration industry is active and needs to be used.

Charles would like illustration to be thought of ‘communication design’, and it is their job to solve problems visually. He sees Seymour Chwast from Push Pin studios as a classic example of a designer who was able sustain a long career through the way he solved design challenges. He thinks there only a handful of very successful illustrator (lots more men!) and that the key to maintaining a career beyond 10 years, is to have the ability to re-invent yourself, through pushing the boundaries and not getting stuck in a rut.
He advised the students that they have to be an entrepreneur the minute they graduate and think how they can constantly promote themselves (every 4 – 6 weeks do something new to remind people you are there.) Charles thinks that Illustrators tend to under sell themselves, but should look as themselves as a brand. Look at examples of Photographers website and marketing material for great examples of ways to showcase your work. Illustration graduates should also know their worth and not do work for free as it undermines the entire industry – the only caveat to this, is unless it is something that you really believe in. You should be prepared BEFORE you leave college about the industry.
His key do’s and dont’s, are:
  • Always show work in context,
  • Bombared, but target the right people with your work – give them opportunity to say ‘no’!.
  • Never use Hotmail or Googlemail accounts as you contact
  • Have a clean, well updated website with good thumbnails.
  • If your work has too distinct styles then put it on different website – don’t confuse potential clients.
  • Interact and collaborate with Graphic Design students, as they will be the ones commissioning you in the future.
  • Make sure you learn how to make things move.
  • Make sure that what you are doing is ‘you’ – copying is not a blueprint for success.
  • Credit who you did work for – it’s a good endorsement.
  • Embed images into emails – don’t send a link – no-one can be bothered to look.

This was all really useful and practical information. We all bought copies of ‘Nuts and Bolts’ and stocked up on past and present copies of the magazine.

Charles’ closing words were, “Figure out your own voice, now. The one word you want someone to say when they look at your portfolio is WOW!”. Charles has also made a blog post about us.

1.30pm Caitlin Hackett

This report and photo's are  by Cat Webb Level 6 – Thanks Cat.

A small group of us visited the home and studio of Caitlin Hackett, and yet again we were warmly welcomed! Caitlin studied Fine Art at College (university), graduating 3 years ago and got her first commission straight off her end of year show. She admitted that she has never really properly self-promoted, but a lot of her work comes from shows she does at galleries.

She has a love for nature, mythology and animals, all of which are heavily featured in her work, and which also has a surreal quality about it. Caitlin works in various sizes, from huge scale wall-filling drawings, to CD covers for matal bands. All of her work is highly intricate and done with ball point pen, fine line pen and watercolour paints. She explained that she loves to keep drawing in her spare time, when she's not doing a commissioned piece, just to keep up with it.

When asked where she gets her ideas and references from, Caitlin explained that she works mostly from her imagination, especially the personal pieces and animal pieces. But, for work featuring animals she has never drawn before or humans, she collects reference images and even uses friends and her cat as models. This is because people can be more forgiving if an animal doesn't look quite like it should, but if a human looks wrong people notice straight away. Caitlin also explained that looking at the way and animal moves is very important to her, as that helps make her animals look right, ie. her vulture drawing looks like a vulture (however surreal it has become!) because she understands how the vulture moves.