'Swamp' by A.R Vincent, copyright 2012

Illustration Friday – Swamp

I guess I should accept it, characters are what I do or perhaps I will do other things… I just shouldn’t go cold turkey on the character design!

As I mentioned at the end of my last IF post I wanted to try to do something that was less focused on character design and this weeks topic, ‘swamp’ seemed just perfect. So I started thinking about it and doing some doodles and suddenly there they were, looking up at me from my sketch pad, three gooey characters that had literally grown up out of the swamp! Not only did they stare up at me with the distinct expression of “this is our swamp and we’re not leaving” but they came complete with an entire short story for me to pen about them!

Well, after a little initial outrage at having my best efforts at creating a landscape scene hijacked by sentient gloop, I decided that I should just roll with it. So I have, with a fully Photoshopped illustration and a scribbled outline for a short story which, once I’ve eventually finished it, I will see about posting up as a podcast! 

And here they are, the Swampies…

'Swamp' by A.R Vincent, copyright 2012

'Swamp' by A.R Vincent, copyright 2012

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"Day Dreamer" by A.R Vincent, copyright 2012

What do you dream of doing?

“What’s your dream? Everybody comes here; this is Hollywood, land of dreams. Some dreams come true, some don’t; but keep on dreamin’ – this is Hollywood. Always time to dream, so keep on dreamin’.” ‘Pretty Woman’ (1990)

I popped on some music yesterday, whilst trying to write, and ended up getting all nostalgic. I started to think about the dreams I had for my career and my life back when I was a teen and how different they are from what I want now… and yet, with the wisdom of hindsight, how flaming obvious it was that what I’m doing now was always ‘there’, like the shy girl at the prom, waiting to be noticed.

These days we’re constantly barraged with messages that what we want is to be rich and famous and if we get these things all our problems go away and, despite plenty of evidence to the contrary, many believe it. But finding and nurturing a dream – whether it is of a career, family, lifestyle – is, I think, important and finding the right dream for us and the path that will lead us to happiness and fulfilment is something we should do carefully.

Of course it’s not always obvious, even when we get older and allegedly wiser, what we would be happiest doing… let me give you an example.

Dream a little dream for me…

Three friends in their mid-teens do what they always do on a weekend. They visit each-others houses. Like most teenage girls, these visits involve sweets, caffeine, films, make-up and much talk about boys and music. Unlike many teenagers though, the make-up is usually theatrical in nature, the films are being made on a battered old Hi-8 camera and music is often being composed on an electrical keyboard. But let us get back to the point.

This particular weekend they have an idea for a film, but it involves something they can’t possibly muster…  a cast! So one of the group, who desperately wants to be an actress/film director, suggests animating it. This one of the trio has spent a lot of time messing about making animations with the little camera and dreams of getting her own video camera one day with better functions for making stop-motion. Despite this it has never occurred to her that she wants to be anything but the next Steven Spielberg.

The next friend says that she will pen the script for this weekends film, she has written several scripts (mainly horror movies) for these ventures before. This girl passionately wants to be a make-up artist when she gets older, hopefully in the film industry, but she does spend a lot of time making up stories rather than faces.

The last of the trio, who unlike the other two does not want to work in the creative industries but instead sees her future as an academic, sets to work creating some music and sound effects to go with the film. She has studied piano nearly all her life, penned a musical in her spare time and often spends time composing at home but sees herself eventually becoming a university professor.

Now how many of this trio do you think works in the profession they claimed so fiercely that they wanted to work in? None! Unsurprisingly, the ‘make-up artist’ is a successful novelist, the ‘academic’ works in the music industry and the ‘actress’ works in animation. Bet you didn’t see that coming! You did? They didn’t!

A dream is a wish your heart makes…

Of course, these girls dreams did not develop in a vacuum. They were the result of what they had learnt, not just about the professions but also about the world and themselves, and were probably more closely associated with getting away from what they were then developing an art form and profession.

Perhaps what I’m trying to say here –if I’m trying to say anything – is that you shouldn’t listen to external influences when it comes to your dreams or even always trust your ego. Instead, I would suggest, finding out what makes you feel good. If you feel fulfilled when you draw or paint then do more of it and see where it leads. If helping someone gives you a buzz then keep on and find a path in that. It doesn’t have to be a dream job, it could be a hobby or lifestyle as long as when you reach your dream you find contentment there.

No matter your age, gender, race or circumstances, you can still find a dream that makes you happy.

"Mr. Animator - life cycle of a project" by A.R Vincent, copyright 2012

Does Freelancing Equal Freedom?

For some freelancing is the chosen alternative to permanent or agency work, for others it’s the way to start on the ladder whilst they find a permanent employer and for yet others it is the only route in their chosen profession. Many who have the choice as to whether to go it alone or work under the umbrella of an employer say they choose the former because it gives them a greater freedom. But for those naïve souls just bumbling in to the creative world, what does that ‘freedom’ actually entail?

The Customer Is Always Right

I think the first thing to point out is that freelancing does not give you carte blanche to be lazy, self-involved, isolationist or antisocial. In fact you must be the antipathy of those things – diligent, organised, hard-working, personable, professional, communicative and friendly.

Freelancing gives you a greater choice in which projects you work on, as long as you choose enough of them to put food on the table, but that doesn’t mean you can whimsically indulge your creativity and do things how you want. Oh no, you have a client to think about and by their very nature they will have a budget, a time frame, a brief and most likely a plethora of ideas. You may still need your mad skills to deliver on the projects but each project is about the client and not about you exploring your art and yourself. This does mean, however, that you can choose work that drives your career and your portfolio in a specific direction, again, as long as you can make that pay of course.

So Does Freelancing Give You Any More Freedom?

Yes. Much of the time, as a freelancer, you have the flexibility to choose when and where you work, both in terms of the contracts you take and the hours and environment you work in. Many freelancers work from home or their own studio (depending what they do) and freelancing can be a super option for those with other commitments to work around.

However, as ever, this can be a double-edged sword as great power comes great responsibility and you could end up working long in to the night to make sure a project is delivered on time. As any home worker knows, scheduling and discipline are your friends as a freelancer. Not having a separate work environment means that there is no clear-cut off point and work will happily chew up your entire life if you let it. Sometimes, especially when you are starting out and don’t know your own limitations you may take on too much and if so you will need to man up to the task even if it means running on empty in terms of social life, family commitments and sleep for a while to do it. Additionally for the freelancer, like those who self-publish or are in any way self-employed, those responsibilities also come in the form of promoting yourself, dealing with complaints and queries and filling out your tax return.

I’m certainly not trying to put anyone off freelance work – I freelance – and it does offer the awesome freedom of being able to pick and choose what you do. You are not constrained by the same obligations and chains of command as those who are employed on a permanent basis which means, as long as you can drum up enough to pay your overheads, you can seek out the jobs you want and create an interesting and diverse portfolio and working life. As with so many things, if you get it wrong the freelance world will become your prison and a tireless task master, but if you get it right then it will show up as a world of dream jobs and interesting, fulfilling and challenging opportunities!

"Independent" by A.R Vincent, copyright 2012

Creative Freedom

From online shops to web comics, film makers, writers and artists are moving away from conventional routes and finding their own to get their work to the public and make their passion pay.

The well-trodden path…

You are told at school that whatever you want to be in life you must follow a prescribed route. These paths usually involve continued education and eventual employment by a larger corporate entity. For most walking these well-trodden paths is the way to reach their goals, however for many more they have realised it’s not the only way.

Rise of the machines!

In many ways the rise of the internet and increasing access to better technology – from broadband to software – has freed things up. Once if you wanted to write fiction you would need to find an agent, then a publisher or there would be no way of producing enough copies of your work to distribute. Now the birth of epub systems with retail giants like Amazon, Waterstones and Barnes and Noble means you have a choice, and a simple online process can have your self-published book listed with the literary elite in an online store at little or no cost.

Similarly Youtube has made it possible to produce and screen your own short films or animations, while iTunes gives you the chance to sell them. Sites like podomatic.com let you upload audio content – be it audio ‘zines, fiction or how-to guide – while Magcloud.com gives you the chance to produce a high quality printed magazine. Not forgetting, of course, etsy.com or, the granddaddy of them all, Ebay.com which will let you sell your creations online or retailers such as Zazzle.com that will let you stick your art on t-shirts, bags and iPod cases!

Independence day…

It used to be thought that self-publishing or independent production was the last resort and the refuge for those who not be accepted through mainstream routes and were, in some way, substandard. However, though the move away from the mainstream options has come under attack from various critics, producing independent work has created some notable successes, including ‘Simon’s Cat’ creator, animator Simon Tofield, self-published YA author of ‘Tiger’s Curse’, Colleen Houck, and film maker Gareth Edwards, whose low budget film ‘Monsters’ ended up securing a cinema release and much critical acclaim.

Like more traditional options, being self employed is still a double edged sword for the Creative. Obviously, the independent route does not give the creator carte blanche to turn out a sub-standard product, what it does offer is substantial creative freedom and  a way to produce and distribute product without being constrained by an organisations views on fashions, future trend planning or global mass market appeal.

The concept of going it alone is not the easy option though, not least because you don’t have the professional and financial support, advice and backing of a studio, publishing house or agency. It is a huge responsibility and means you are not only the artist but also the publicist, accountant and company secretary. Taking this path puts you very much in charge of your own destiny and whether you blast in to the stratosphere of success or make an equally spectacular balls up of the proceedings you do it on your own time and your own dime!

Choices, choices…

In the end this explosion of creativity should be as exciting for consumers as it should for artists as it takes away the control of the big corporate studios, galleries and publishing houses. Original and edgy work, that may be too niche, nerdy or edgy to appeal to big concerns, is finally making it to audiences.  A brief search online can produce a diverse cornucopia of podcasts, art, crafts, eBooks, web comics, fashion and film to fit every appetite. I have, with only the most basic search, discovered some amazing podcasts, web comics and online boutiques that, in some cases, are every bit as polished as the “professionals” and far more interesting.

All I can say is long may it continue!!

Picasso quote

The Problem Of Nonconformity Is Not An Original One

It’s been said through time…

“I try not to break the rules, but merely to test their elasticity.” ~Bill Veeck

I was looking for a quote I half remembered about the law – something to do with bending without breaking it, possibly from a Tom Cruise film, but I never found it – but I found instead a fascinating website full of quotes about conformity. I found a bunch I really liked, including;

 “Most people are more comfortable with old problems than with new solutions.” ~Author Unknown

“If you want to look like the people next door, you’re probably smothering yourself and your dreams.” ~Clive Barker

“Do not follow where the path may lead. Go, instead, where there is no path and leave a trail.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Art and Originality

Most artists want to be original, the greats in any creative movement – be it Disney and his funny notion that feature lengths animations might catch on or Warhol and his block colour, pop culture screen prints – were always trend setters rather than followers. However, bucking a trend is not easy (many artists, such as Van Gogh, are never recognised in their life time because of it), often publicly unpopular and rarely, in a commercial setting, what the client wants. A good friend once said that you often had to show a mock up to clients because “you had to show them what they don’t want so they could tell you what they do.” Profound, huh?

But following the trend is rarely either satisfying for the artist or beneficial to the client.

“Do not quench your inspiration and your imagination; do not become the slave of your model.” ~Vincent Van Gogh

Van Gogh’s words bring to mind a dilemma a lot of commercial creatives – be they artists, web designers, film makers or animators – when it comes to a client who wants a “trendy” look for their product.

I was recently told by a friend who works in graphic design that they were asked to do something that they felt may contravene copyright. The client was set on doing something that was very fashionable and had fixated on a particular picture. The copyright issue was not clear cut, I would go as far as to say it was thorny, so my friend tried to work around rather than go through and suggested new ideas and variations on the theme.

The ideas were innovative and different and one half of the clients team liked them, but one of the group kept reiterating that they wanted a virtual duplicate of the image they had found.  She, unlike her partners, was quick to crush any new thinking and make sure that her vision would be made… even if, in the wake of the ruling made in the Temple Island Collection Ltd vs New English Teas case, it may get them sued.

The scenario brought to mind this quote;

“A new idea is delicate. It can be killed by a sneer or a yawn; it can be stabbed to death by a quip, and worried to death by a frown on the right man’s brow.” ~Charlie Brower

I guess my friend could have walked away completely. Stuck to their guns and walked the nonconformist path, alienating the client and risking the barrage of bad press that that could generate. But they didn’t, they stuck with the client and, as far as I know, are still trying to compromise the clients vision enough to keeps things legal. Which brings me to this quote:

 “Lots of times you have to pretend to join a parade in which you’re not really interested in order to get where you’re going.” ~Christopher Morley

One possible garden studio

Why Do We Need Creative Space?

Shed Heads

I dream about a shed in the garden! Perhaps you think this is setting the bar a little low, I know some people dream of Kardashian style wealth, Britney Spears’ super stardom or the success of J.K Rowling but for me these days, aside from a reliable income from my artistic endeavours, my big dream is a shed in a garden.

My dream shed (which some may call a garden lodge or summer house) would be of modest size wooden affair. It would have plenty of windows and maybe even skylights to let in plenty of light, would be well insulated to keep in the heat and would function as my studio. If I really indulge the fantasy it would have electricity either run from the house or from a small solar panel on which I could run some lights, my sewing machine and maybe a kettle. There would also be small wood-burning pot-bellied stove for heat. Heck, if I really want to visit fantasy land it sits atop a ragged cliff top and has a beautiful view over the ocean!!

The Perfect Place For The Muse

Little ShedWhy, you may ask, have I focused my hopes on a timber structure in the garden? Well, for starters I am a cat owner and, adore them as I do, it would be nice to have a place where I could paint, sew, glue, carve or sculpt without feline paws, tongues, fur or whiskers scratching, rubbing, ingesting or in any other way causing harm to themselves or the work. It’s difficult to get inspiration when you are worried that the slightest slip in attention could cause our furry friend (should that be fiend?) to require an urgent trip to the vets.

Additionally, being a primarily home based worker, there are always distractions around the house. Washing to be sorted, vacuuming to do, washing up to be done and of course the lure of that dreadful seductress, the internet! Not only does my muse, fickle beastie as she is, need to be kept away from these distractions but she needs somewhere where inspiration can be pulled from the air.

Real World

Of course, in the real world this wistful dream that creativity can be indulged only when the muse is up and awake is unrealistic for those who want to make a living. The path to money comes with deadlines, schedules and expectations.

I was chatting with a good friend this week, whose debut novel hits the shelves this autumn, and discussing how things have changed for us, creatively speaking, since our teens. During our teens we both plunged ourselves in to the world of art and writing, indulging our young muses by creating films and animations, putting together surreal photo shoots (the negatives for which have long since been destroyed… I hope), drawing, painting and writing.  We would come up with an idea and abandon all else, occasionally including school work, to explore it. Whatever else our teens may have been we agree that it was a magical time to be creative, but it was also indulgent in a way the real world does not allow!

In the real world we must be creative on demand, we must meet deadlines and please clients and to hell with whether we feel inspired. In the real world it is more important to be inspiring then inspired, which is why I dream of a shed! Since I need to be creative on demand, then a space dedicated to that creativity – somewhere that is part studio, part workshop, part sanctuary – is the way to keep the old magic alive. I may not get it any time soon but, one day, I will build my muse a temple to creativity… well, a little wooden house anyway… okay, okay, I mean shed!

Illustration Friday - Popularity

Illustration Friday – Popularity

“Please -It’s all about popular!It’s not about aptitude, it’s the way you’re viewed, so it’s very shrewd to be very, very popular… Like me!”Lyrics from the musical “Wicked” by Stephen SchwartzHere we are again with the challenge to come up with an image for the Illustration Friday word. I have no doubt that I could’ve done something very edgy for this weeks word, as ‘popularity’ is a real hot topic in these days of celebrity status, reality TV, product placement and social media.

Illustration Friday - Popularity

“Popularity” by A.R Vincent, copyright 2012

However, when it came to it I thought that all that seemed too heavy, so I chose a very domestic scenario I encounter everyday! No matter how many unpopular decisions I have made through out the day (even including trips to the vet and vaccuum cleaning) at dinner time all is forgiven. As soon as that tin of cat food is open my popularity among the feline residents of our house goes through the roof… until of course the food is in their bowls, at which point, though all sins may be forgiven, I am once again relegated to servant status and duly dismissed whilst they eat!

The illustration was sketched and inked, then scanned and coloured in my old friend, Photoshop.

Illustration Friday - Forward

Illustration Friday – Forward

I used to submit something to Illustration Friday regularly on a different blog but got out of the habit of doing them, but I’ve been using the new year (and a very chilly and unspiring January) to re evaluate the things I do with my time and IF is back on the menu. Its good to have a deadline and a brief but still keep almost complete artistic freedom.Illustration Friday - Forward

So, this week the word was forward which made me think of things which move forward and since time can only move forward I focused on that – both the human formulation (the clock) and the more physical manifestations, such as day and night and the seasons. This, by the way, is much deeper thinking then I normally come up with!!

As ever this was a drawing I scanned and then worked on in my old friend, Photoshop.