University Blog 2: The Myth of the Lone Illustrator?

Welcome to the second installment into my professional practice blog. Within this post there will be discussion and analysis into the ideals and functionality of contemporary design collectives within the industry.  I will be putting this topic in the spotlight from my own personal experiences and opinions as well as those from professionals in the industry.

What is good and what is bad about life now, in 2017?

This area of debate was brought about by the brief that all the visual communication students were given which was just stated above. The one day project was subject to creating a front cover for either newspaper or magazine around the theme just stated. All the outcomes had to be the result of a group effort, which meant creating a small but temporary collective of illustrators, graphic designers and animators for the brief.

Initially being placed in the company of people you don’t usually work with or have no interaction with was quite daunting, yet the awkwardness of bringing strangers together from other disciplines soon become the focus point that made us all feel more comfortable.  Within my group were myself and another illustration student, and one graphics and animation student. After a brief period of getting to know each other and basically having a laugh to ease that annoying awkward silence all come together to plan our thoughts on what was the good, bad and the ugly of 2017.

(Sorry more clichés inbound).

By the end of our splurge of a mind map, it become clear that in contest with the other groups that become it had only been the first month of 2017, that the major themes were too few and mainstream to be original amongst the other groups.

Thoughts included:

(Warning- a certain current president is mentioned try not to cry too much.)


  • Still being alive
  • Another year of memes
  • Mexico won’t pay for trumps wall
  • Article 50 has been delayed by the supreme courts
  • President Trumps inaugural parade looked more like a state funeral
  • Women Protests austerity became united
  • Internet speeds are getting better


  • Donald Trump was elected President of the united states of America
  • Still a massive divide between the social classes
  • No clear Brexit plan
  • Freddo’s are still outrageously expensive (Serious Crime)
  • Politicians are out of touch
  • NHS is failing
  • Fascism is on the rise
  • Trump bans people from ‘Dangerous countries’


This was our process and outcome.

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We as a group couldn’t escape the temptation to mock the new American president Donald Trump, we combined satirical humour with serious provocative symbols. Our idea as you can view above puts a caricature of Mr Trump with a head excessively enlarged that  represents how enormous his ego is or has been portrayed in the media. We wanted him to basically consume the article by blocking the headline out ‘Deep in Trump’ both as joke to his name by being crude in English slang; but also, to show his defiance to the media by his attack on them as ‘fake news’. We decided that to visualise his many controversial stigmas that leech onto him like a shadow, we thought having multiple arms like a transcendent being would suffice. The idea of being a god is more of satirical joke to his own delusions or statements.

Although we did consider put out of context and in real world setting that this multiple armed form related to Hindu faith; therefore, may come across as an insult by portraying a man like Trump in a similar fashion to their worshiped deities.

My thoughts on the project were that the outcome was successful in that we combined the skills of visual problem solving from all disciplines while combining our graphic and illustrative talents to create a clear satirical piece. The shared commitment to a common opinion allowed for an efficient work flow as well as being enjoyable to do. From the experience, I gained a more creative motivation, be it from discussing other views or just working alongside other creative minds like a design super team. Yet there was as sense of reliability on others to get the job completed to a deadline.

In comparison to further brief in my illustration module of direct projects, we had a one day brief as group with solely illustration students, as you an see below the outcome had a more consistency visual language due to the colour scheme despite all of our different visual identities; whereas in the editorial brief  it felt that the visual unity clashed slightly. Albeit there were both just as fun and enjoyable to work on with others in comparison to the solitude of working alone, mostly due to lack of pressure which can be shared in a collective.

I thought it would be interesting to compare my own thoughts against those of designers in the industry, to which I found some open and refreshing perspectives about the subject collective projects. As I pondered the question :

Can an illustrators work as a group despite being a solitary beings?


I found an article online which was written by Madeleine Morely on the site dubbed ‘AIGA Eye on Design’. Within this article there was discussion about how modern illustrators should join collectives, boasting advantages of shared responsible, agreement towards ideas and deadlines, and social community to advise each other and learn from. Morely focuses on groups such as the Peep Show we bring together multidisciplinary members together on high end projects.

The common theme that I addressed where consistency is key when working as a group to create a complete piece of work is echoed within this article. Collectives like Peep Show and Biografktion are interviewed and mention that their attitudes as group comprise of a critique and nurturing I order to truly grow as a company of creatives as well as individual within the creative industry. It seems that this energy towards being involved in what seems to by hybrid company of creatives working towards a greater good essentially. Collectives seem to benefit as a team and as individuals from the family like experiences, its seemingly a constantly progressive state which I would want explore later in my life.

These positive ideals can be cross referenced with a VaroomLab journal entry written by Alice Moloney which was titled ‘A new breed: How should we champion the mavericks and pioneers of the illustration industry?’ She discusses how contemporary illustrators are now taught into creating a visual language while be deeply analytical in terms of having a strong problem solving prowess. Moloney is arguing that by our lone carers in illustration that we must adapt or adopt skills from the design spectrum to show that we are designers and not just artists.

Linking back to collectives, we can learn and develop these needed skills of design strategy and further technical skills like the full Adobe suite, just by working with other disciplines. The individual potential is just as bountiful as the collective goals of such groups; despite the reliability I mentioned before, the pros indefinitely out way the cons.

Ultimately, for future actions I would want to incorporate my self within collective projects to aid my own personal development as a lone illustrator, yet the communication and community of a group mission. This seems like a more professional form of escapism; away from the pressures of solitary freelancing which I would want to explore further own. Even at university doing one day projects, with friends and stranger as it builds up a networking persona through organic working, which I would want to carry on with others from my discipline in later years.

This revolution in the design industries that is unheard of in the mainstream can be backed by this quote by Madeleine Morely, sums up my opinions of this subject.

There have always been collectives, but the fact that so many formerly solo-going illustrators are banding together is telling. In some ways, it’s another sign that illustration is mirroring the multidisciplinary design studio model. And as illustration is increasingly treated like a design solution rather than a decorative element, there’s more need for larger collectives that can put their minds and pens together like an agency might.

Madeleine Moreley



University Blog 1: The Origin Story

Welcome my insanely awkward beginning to Professional Practice. Here I will be discussing and analysing my own academic as well as personal working practice in my pursuit to further understand and advance my journey from being a cliché student to a full-time illustrator.

Unfortunately, this story doesn’t start with a gripping plot line, but instead with a begrudgingly stereotypical beginning. This was like most of my generation in Art and Design courses who spent their childhoods doodling illogical nonsense rather than playing outside. Although I was always drawn to sketching (Mind the pun) throughout primary and secondary school which can be seen as a means to an end, as it was an enjoyable hobby that built me up as person. Always drawing from new perspectives yet my true engagement with the topic of illustration was aided by my other passion in History; which lead me to see the value of cultural and moral thinking.

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(Sketchbook Doodles- Evidencing my Addiction to Pen & Ink)

This combination I will call is my lethal dose where I finally found my path in the world apart from squandering on just doodling as a form of escapism from own anxieties. As with my history course I traveled to Berlin as a part of a module studying Nazi Germany, here I embraced a new cultural hub despite the freezing temperatures.

The experience really opened my eyes to the social and cultural effects that both world and historical events can have. Especially when wandering the city that pays delicate homage to the atrocities the German people suffered through its memorials, even more so in the concentration camp of Sachsenhausen. Such cruelty on a vast scale truly put into perspective the power to argue and oppose acts or ideologies that would restrict our thinking or freedom. In short hand, this was the point where I became more invested in world affairs as well as finding my liberal political alignment.

To which my interest in world affairs, anarchy, politics backed by my own sarcastic humor guided me towards satire illustration, to which is a vital milestone I wish to achieve in my illustration career. Although my ideal situation would be to work for the likes of the guardian, new scientist, New York times as a free-lance practitioner. I would also envision working in a studio as part of a design collective within publishing or advertising on the scales of books, to posters and billboards. Yet my overall focus feels that with my precise line work and analytical passions would prosper more in the editorial field; which can be backed by an author that inspires a more philosophical dynamic to my own thinking.

“I am basically analytical, not creative; my writing is simply a creative way of handling analysis.”

Philip K. Dick


As I have mentioned my art and history passions leave little to the imagination in terms of visual inspirations, which have an endless sea of.

From a young age, I implored the sketches of John Howe who illustrated J.R.R Tolkien’s ‘The lord of the Rings’ with a rich yet dark precision of hatching to create a visual world for Tolkien’s creative madness.  Howe’s covers for the trilogy pushed me into draftsmanship yet Tolkien’s books themselves set me up to enjoy the value of a plot and visualization of my characters.

The Dark Tower
John Howe, The Dark Tower, 1990

This became apparent by my interest in more mainstream media such as G.R.R Martins ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’, TV Series such as ‘Breaking Bad’, ‘Mr Robot’ and ‘The Stranger things’; who all span different periods and genres that allowed me to apply plots, history, composition and dynamism into my own work in visual communication. The writing of Philip K Dick in books such as ‘The Man in High Castle’ and ‘Do android dream of electric sheep?’ pushed me further to search for new angles that I can insert into my work to add more layers of depth while still providing a clear message.

Image result for the man in high castle coverImage result for do androids dream of electric sheep cover

To narrow down my current illustrations heroes if you want to think of them like that (Illustrators and spandex would be a deadly combo, for all the wrong reasons); both Paul Blow and Tom Gauld are what push my aspirations in illustration. They both provide editorial work with the publishers I have previously mentioned, while Paul takes a more serious visual approach, Gauld provides a mundane or dry opposition to creative briefs. It’s fair to say I want to usher a hybrid of the two as my own personal style reflects clean lines and hatching to create forms, my composition with visual clues can be both humorous and appropriately serious.


Policy Restrictions By Paul Blow 21/05/10

Four Obstacles To Writing By Tom Gauld



This quote by G.R.R Martin sums up in an odd juxtaposition that more black and white media is just a skin for a grey or more philosophical undertone.

“I prefer to work with grey characters rather than black and white.”

George R. R. Martin

Even Gauld’s and Blow’s websites have a contemporary aesthetic, albeit a mainstream and clichéd setup, yet it provides the vital aspects of their portfolio and clients with ease of access. That professional accessibility to artwork and the manageable layouts accompanied by simple captions which maybe a reliable source to base this blog on.

This finally leads me to the end of what now seems like an essay (I cannot seem to shake essay writing out of my system, academic gift or social curse?), my feelings on my professional practice. Although confidence has been an issue, it’s not the lack of ability to create work but the lack of belief that it will succeed. I thoroughly analyse and base my work on ideals and founded arguments yet it leaves me vulnerable to over thinking. This anxiety into what is expected of me is more self-inflicted, but with my progress at undergraduate level I have found that with briefs there is no time to over think or worry as it will not result in success. Deadlines require decisive and creative thinking, the pressure itself is a distraction from any anxiety which has now become a strength from what was a weakness of mine. Its fair to argue that I want to push my boundaries but be realistically ambitious to maintain my sanity and nerve within a competitive career such as illustration.

This now leaves questions on what other creative industries do in terms of free lancing or working within their respected industries, and whether it could add my discussion and research into professional practice.

Artist References: