It's been a while since I last posted on here and, although excuses can be pulled out endlessly out of the hat, the simple fact that I tend to hibernate post-Xmas and well into February is my one and only justification. Being busy with teaching is an understatement when talking about the amount of planning, paperwork and 'red tape' I've had to take up during these past months, leaving little room to document my illustration/sketching on this blog.
Naturally, as the daffodils emerge (cringe), I emerge from my cave and start using the extra hours of daylight to crack on with all the work that's been dormant for the past couple of months. Although I have been working as usual all this time, only now do I get the chance to actually have an objective overview of what's happening on my desk and my sketchbook. So, (no drumroll, I save that for the more glorious showcases) in no particular order, I have: an educational picture book series about badgers living in the rural world of Britain, an urban sketching project about the hidden pubs of Manchester with one of my good friends, Carla, who is an absolute pub connaisseuse of Mancunia and a cartography project I am freshly starting.
Where the badgers live. The colour version of this will be seen in the book. Stay tuned!
Some character development sketches. Badger dad looks unimpressed.
With 3 different 'jobs' running, it made me think about the idea of multitasking in a creative field. As multitasking is a term generally frowned upon and looked at as the universal creativity-killer, it is easy to jump on the bandwagon of avoidance of any activity that shares time with something else in the background. However, this time I am not talking about multi-tasking in the sense of sharing the drawing board with the washing-up sponge, but rather the idea of having multiple creative projects running alongside each other. So, to contradict the negative twinge of this trend at least on a microscopic level, I had to share my own take on the issue as somebody who works in education and freelances at the same time.
First off, I'll start with urban sketching. The activity of going out and drawing on location started as a complete accident back in 2012 when I attended an urban sketching workshop held by Simone Ridyard at Bench, Manchester. As somebody who always creative architectural visuals as a necessity, this was a new 'distration' in my life and soon, a constant addiction. My urban sketching made me discover new people and new ways of representing spaces, an activity that feeds into my illustrative work as well as my teaching. In my view, a day when my partner works and I'd normally scramble for something to do has gained a new function and is often spent sketching somewhere new, or in a place I am just plainly curious about. If you want to have a look at my urban sketching adventures, please have a look at my other blog posts and also, here.
Now, for my illustration work, there is no less to say. Having landed in the illustration pot by a weird and great alignment of the stars, I am the genuine self-taught illustrator with a background in architectural design/interior design. Even when I worked in commercial design, illustration kept creeping back into my work. Distraction? Calling? I will never know. One thing I do know, however, is that a creative job has always a fundamental drive behind it. With me, it was always about telling stories and I clearly recall story boarding being part of every project I ever worked on, including university projects. The migration of canada geese in black pen may have little to do with the retrofit of a windmill but I HAD to do it because it felt like a useful distraction that spur me on to put an interesting spin on my work. As confusing as this may read, my distraction was a voice inside that was whispering 'go on, give me some room here'.
Thirdly, all my other ventures: the urge to get into illustrating maps, pub guides and other miscellania are all voices that draw energy from the same place: curiosity and engagement with what is going around me. I would be brave enough to say that observational sketching such as urban sketching has only sharpened my senses in picking up various ideas and having a go at each and one of them and elevated all my other work to a much higher level. Of course, a very creative partner in the art of storytelling is a wonderful bonus and I can say, I couldn't wish for somebody more inventive than my partner-in-crime, Kenny.
My very first urban sketch: Peveril Of The Peak, Manchester.
Having talked about my illustration and urban sketching, I have to give a few lines' credit to teaching which is a vocation that will never stop inspiring me. The students are a constant source of surprise and information I would perhaps not come across otherwise. Whether they are working on a project in set design or their final major projects, I feed off their ideas just as they feed off my thoughts. Because teaching forces you to bang your head against the wall and constantly up your game, it couldn't be a better energiser for creative freelancing.
In the middle of a second year lecture on storyboarding. Image credit: Craig @ http://innereyeimages.com
Summing up, I realise this post may not be a research/quote-laden piece it may (falsely) present itself from the outset. To be frank, it is exactly what I mean it to be: a reflection of what multitasking may bring to your creative life if you ever think about what takes up chunks of your days, weeks, months or years. I have, hastily perhaps, come to the conclusion that a tunnel-vision approach in design/illustration is a difficult juggling act but even so, beneficial in mysterious ways. Having recently gone through a nice bite-size book of Austin Kleon's, I have had a few 'aha' moments and realised a creative diary that shows your bumpy ride and erratic work pattern is like homeopathy. Sometimes works, sometimes doesn't but it will hardly kill you.
As Charlie Chaplin put it - and I'll trust him on this one:
That's all any of us are: amateurs. We don't live long enough to be anything else.
On another note, look how clean my desk was in January. Argh!!!