Thursday, 11 February 2016

BAIL302: Creative and Professional Development: Reflective Stage: Skills Audit

Back in late September I filled out a skills audit - a sheet where I judged myself on a scale of 0-5 on how competent I am at performing within certain areas and tasks of illustration. 

It looks as if there are only a few '5s.' 

One of which is 'to develop, correct and modify work in response to art direction', which remains true. I think some of the most successful outcomes in recent work have involved a lot of reflection and feedback - such as my book cover for Emil and the Detectives. 

Another is 'to locate and appropriately use visual research/references when required' I often work from references for buildings, animals, objects - especially if I'm trying to evoke a specific time period. I don't recall ever being in a situation were someone has suggested a reference doesn't make sense

There are a lot of '4' answers - basically me saying 'I'm pretty good at this, but there is always room for improvement.' 

I think 0-3 scores are probably worth addressing now, particularly as the audit was filled out a few months ago and I think I am more confident with a few of these skills as a result of BAIL301. 

Generic Skills:

To be stylistically consistent - 3. 

To work in black and white - 3. 

I think these two scores can be attributed to the state of my portfolio at the time. There was a definite mix of styles and contexts in my portfolio - understandable as this year is the first that we have been able to focus on specific areas of interest. At the time I obviously felt that because I had yet to choose a niche that I wasn't capable of consistency, which I think is untrue.

I don't often work in black and white, I much prefer working with colours. I think this score is low as response from Tristan Manco in the first portfolio surgery suggested my black and white work was a lot weaker than other work. However I do think that I work well with pencil when creating caricatures/cartoons as both Tristan and Fig Taylor both enjoyed my self-portraits. These are more areas of consideration when creating further work - putting together separate portfolios for separate contexts and applying slightly separate styles to separate contexts - rather than areas of concern.

To undertake personal/self-initiated/authorial work - 2

This is an area that I think has already started to be addressed this year. At the time of filling out the audit I didn't have much in the way of personal practice - I wasn't really drawing much outside of college work. However this year I have been setting time aside to produce work specifically for my social media - such as my collage robins over the Christmas and new year period. Since January I've also undertaken the #365creatives challenge to produce a piece of self-initiated work each day. Self-authored pieces have been part of the focus of my exploration of narrative images for children within BAIL301 also - with two of the three projects based around self-authored content.
This personal work is going to feature heavily in this BAIL302 module - with changes to my portfolio, website and social media going to be taking place. I think after graduation it will be a key area of my illustration whilst I try to establish myself within the industry - If I don't have commissions coming through then I'll be doing self-initiated projects to make sure I keep producing work and getting it out there.

Technical Skills:

To work in varied artwork formats and scales - 3

This is very much me saying 'okay I can probably do half of this quite well.' In terms of working in different formats I think I've had enough experience over the course to do quite well to think about the physical application of artwork or working with specific 'canvas' shapes etc. In terms of working with different scales of artwork however I'm not that savvy. Anything between A6 and A2 is familiar, but in terms of working at bill-board size or larger corporate banners, I think I would require some help. I can't really see myself working outside of typical paper formats anyway, so this score isn't much of a concern for me and I imagine I could always do some reading or ask around if I were ever faced with producing artwork for such a large scale.

To use type and layout skills within your work - 3

This was a modest score, simply because I'm not a champion calligrapher or graphic designer. I'm not completely incompetent with producing or using type, but I wouldn't credit it as one of my specialties. After completing a book cover and poster design in BAIL301 I do think my confidence with type has improved - I think I just need to take the time to stand back and take a look to see if a layout works. Book covers are something I'm interested in looking into as a series of self-initiated projects so I'm sure this skill will develop.

To consistently generate artwork that meets desired aesthetic standards - 3

I wasn't too sure about this skill. It's quite a subjective notion. In part this score is in the middle because I was unsure as to what is meant by it, but also because of issues with consistency in my portfolio at the time. I think that I can achieve a consistency of style within my work, presumably clients will be coming to me for the specific aesthetics of that style - so things ought to work out okay. But if we interpret this skill from say a textile design agency context where I might be asked to replicate the specific aesthetic of a certain time period or artist, I would most likely struggle. Which is okay, because that isn't an area of interest of mine.

To generate artwork digitally - 3

I am relativity competent with photoshop and using a pen tablet. My knowledge of illustrator is pretty poor though and I detest the pen tool within it. I think it will be an important program to learn to use properly as vector graphics have their advantages. I can always learn to use photoshop more efficiently too. These have been big 'summer plans' over the last few years that never really came about. I think setting time aside to pick up these skills is going to be easier after graduation, and will also be a natural progression as I continue to generate digital images.

Transferable Skills

To be self-motivated - 3

I think everyone experiences troughs and peaks of motivation, as long as I am producing work that I enjoy I think this will balance itself out. A large de-motivator for me at the time of filling out the audit was worrying I think. Fear of not getting something done can rather stupidly stop you from getting something done. I need to avoid comparing myself to others too, as I can often be a bit harsh on myself when I compare my body of work produced compared to someone else - I feel like I've failed to use the time I had properly or that I could have been better.

To organise and manage time - 3

This has definitely improved since the early stages of BAIL301, I think efficiency will come with practice, but I will continue to put systems like time planners or mini-deadlines in place to make sure I can handle projects.

To work quickly when required - 3

I'm not a bumbling oaf, but in terms of producing illustrations I can become rather involved with the various stages of production and I'm not the quickest at rendering final artwork. I think this will improve over time as I try different projects, different processes and become more familiar with them. But I think the more sensible approach would be to be wise with choosing projects based on their lead times. Can I really produce a good piece of work in two days? Or am I okay shoveling something out under loads of pressure that isn't that great just to get a pay check in?

Business Skills

To know your legal rights such as copyright, intellectual property rights etc. - 4

To understand the commissioning process - 3

To undertake a brief - 3

To manage finances including constructing a budget and working to it - 3

To write briefs/applications/proposals - 3

To prepare appropriate paper work e.g. contract/license agreement/invoice - 2

To work out/negotiate a fee or to cost work and time - 2

To negotiate terms and conditions wen taking on a brief/commission - 2

To understand how to support yourself financially - 2

To understand tax for self-employed/freelance illustrators - 2

There are a few low scores here, but I'm not too concerned about them.

I've covered these areas before last year and didn't struggle with understanding them, I might need a little help with taxes. These will all become familiar with a bit of revision and practice. Some of these scores I would change to a little bit higher already simply because of recent 3Es or I'm a Creative lectures. A good hour or so reading through 'An Illustrator's Guide to Law and Business Practice' or 'How to be an Illustrator' as well as the tasks involved with this module will undoubtedly refresh the memory.

It would be a good idea to get a checklist system in place for each job to help me remember to send off invoices and make sure I have the signatures or have raised any concerns in the agreement etc before cracking on with the work.

In terms of supporting myself financially, I'm going to look at working part-time within whatever workplace I can find whilst spending the other half of my time generating personal work, researching potential clients and producing work for and sending it off to them alongside portfolios etc.

Promotional Skills

To communicate with clients, collaborators, agents, publishers etc. - 3

I don't think there's anything lacking in my communication skills, it's just that I haven't experienced communicating about my work beyond my peers and tutors so far.

To identify potential clients, collaborators, agents, publishers, mentors etc. - 3

To research in order to raise your awareness of the industry, other illustrators etc. - 3

At the time of completing the audit I was in the middle of a large research project so felt perfectly capable of doing this, particularly looking at the work of other illustrators. However I can do more to gain an understanding of the industry.

To know who you need to influence in order to get your work noticed. - 3 

I don't really like the terminology of this one - I don't think I will be influencing anyone. However I will need to build relationships with my audience in order for them to invest time in sharing my work with others. I'll also have to approach the right members of organisations - the art directors or editors of publications for example.  I think I have a good idea of who to contact, it's just a case of finding specific people for specific places and actually putting it into practice

To understand the market and audience for your work. - 2

I think this score was so low at the time again because of the state of my portfolio, I felt like I didn't have a niche yet/ I have a much better understanding of what areas of illustration specifically I want to work in. I didn't really interpret 'audience' as publishers or publications either, more as members of the public who follow my social media.

Some market research will really address the above skills.

To use social media and online networks professionally - 3

I've not been obscene or rude with my social media and my use of it has improved recently. I think I could work on it's potential as a networking tool and could use it more effectively though -things like holding competitions or using it to advertise items for sale etc.

To create self-promotional material - 3

I'm capable of doing this, I just haven't produced anything of a great quality so far. I have some comments from last year to respond to alongside changes to my portfolio and website that will help inform what I produce for this.

To set up and add content to a website, blog or online promotional platform - 3

I think I've improved using social media accounts since the beginning of the year, but my portfolio website needs a big overhaul in response to some comments last year and the addition of new work.

To use contacts and build networks - 0

I'm not sure why I scored this at 0. It's not like I'd be clueless with how to use contacts. I don't have many at the moment though, I think it'll be something that happens as I establish myself within the industry. This is just basically knowing people who know people or know something useful, which I'm not too worried about addressing within this module.

Roles Genres and Jobs within Illustration

September 2015

Things I'd love to do:

  • Children's books
  • Editorial
  • Packaging Design
  • Pattern/Surface Design
  • Concept Art
  • Independent/Self-initiated/Gallery work
  • Art Direction

All other areas fell within 'Things I'd consider doing'

Feb 2016:

Through BAIL301 and other briefs/experiences there have been a few changes.

 Things I'd love to do (Love might be a bit of a strong word for a couple of these):

  • Book jackets
  • Children's books
  • Editorial
  • Packaging Design
  • Greetings Cards
  • Independent/Self-initiated/Gallery work
  • Art Direction

Emil and the Detectives really helped my confidence with creating book covers. And interacting with Paper Rose made the greetings card industry seem a lot less daunting and approachable.

Pattern/Surface design dropped off because I don't think I would enjoy having a place in that industry, however that doesn't mean that those sorts of images wouldn't appear in self-initiated work.

Similarly I don't think my work fits within the concept design context - unless I were to specifically focus on cartoons.

Module Goals:

From completing and reflecting on this skills audit I have identified a few areas of focus for this module;

  • Produce portfolios for different illustration contexts. (Illustration for children [books, products], Editorial)
  • Set up a project list for potential self-initiated projects to keep me creating post-graduation.
  • Plans for developing skills in Photoshop, Illustrator and any other relevant programs (InDesign?).
  • Develop a system which can be used to managed ongoing projects by breaking them down into smaller deadlines. 
  • Develop a checklist system for accepting commissions that ensures all the legal elements have been covered and any issues have been addressed so that you are legally in favour if any issues should arise.
  • Revise business skills.
  • Carry out market research to get a better understanding of audience, potential clients and collaborators.
  • Revisit branding/self promotion, including websites and business cards and develop any other self-promotional materials. 

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