Sunday, 18 August 2013

I done updated my website! And some related ponderings...

So I'm not entirely sure what came over me, but at about 10.30 on Friday evening I became overwhelmed with the irrational desire to update my website.
For some reason it suddenly started to massively bother me that I'd basically not updated it since I got my job two and a half years ago. Mainly because anything involving html, ftp transfers and 'backends' fills me with dread.

But I overcame that dread, and thanks to the wonderful Tristan's beautifully crafted html from back when we first built my website, (plus a couple of years more experience and patience on my part), I managed to pop some new content up there without too much stress and tears and banging my head against the desk.

So, if you're so inclined, feel free to stop by my website and see some new stuff that isn't actually new at all, because if you've been reading my blog you'll have seen it all already.

As I say - I'm not even sure why I felt so compelled to do it - I've no plans to leave my job any time soon, so I'm not in full-on self promotion mode, but I guess I'm aware that when I do freelance work, prospective clients might google me (hi!) and may judge me poorly if all that's on my website are projects which were clearly done in university.

But now that my website is updated, it's got me to thinking about something which has always given me some concern.

It's all just a bit… varied.

Some might say variety is a good thing, but I've always been concerned that I've never really found my style. And for prospective freelance clients that's also (rightly) a concern - if they commission me, they really don't know what they're going to get!

If I look at it from a positive perspective, I guess part of the reason my style has never settled is because I'm always challenging myself to try new things. Looking at it from a negative perspective, I'm a magpie. I look at things a lot, I see things I like, and I take them and build them into something new. This means that my work has never really settled into a style that is distinctly my own.

At this stage of my career, I would say that I am a confident graphic designer. I might even go as far as to describe myself as 'middleweight'. Ooh-er. I use grids and paragraph styles, I know how to build a pretty badass table in InDesign. (And much more, obviously)
I work in-house for a group of international colleges, and, at present, my graphic design 'style' is the in-house style. While I do influence the development of that style, there's no doubt that I am also good at adapting to fit what had already been built by my senior designer. I enjoy my work, and I love working in-house - not least because it forces a 'style' upon me, which means all my work with them does have an element of consistency. When I do freelance graphic design work, I am influenced by the aesthetics of the work I do in my day job, while tailoring that to meet the clients needs. I guess not having a distinctive style isn't such a worry with graphic design (at least, not at this stage in my career)… it's mainly about meeting the needs of the client. It would be nice if people hired me because they've seen my work and like it, but realistically most of my freelance work comes via word of mouth, and people just want 'a graphic designer' rather than 'Emma Charleston'.

But illustration is a different story. I do envy illustrators who have a style so distinctive that anyone who sees it can tell it's their work. Apart from some recurring themes (I love circles, and I like using the 'outline stroke' tool in illustrator), there are very few things which link all of my illustration pieces together. I wish I could settle on one 'look' and then gradually evolve that look over time, but then someone asks me to do an illustration for something and I have this amazing idea that looks like nothing I've ever done before, and ho hum, still no 'style'.

I'm still trying to work out how to get my brain to focus in one particular way, but so far that's not going particularly well. I also don't feel like I've got particularly good at any specific way of drawing yet. I guess I keep hoping that by trying lots of different things I'll stumble across something that just 'clicks' and I'll want to work in that way forever more. Is that how it goes? Or maybe that's not something to aspire to. I don't know.

Anyway, this is meandering and not particularly well written, but I have a habit of writing blog posts and then thinking I'll come back and perfect them later, and then I never do, so I'm just going to go nuts and post this one RIGHT NOW.

Now go visit my website and give me some page views so that I feel like paying the server fee is worthwhile. It made me giggle irrationally to make every instance of me saying 'my website' into a link, so I hope you'll click on at least one of them.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Plastic Pieces and Cardboard Worlds

My partner Alex wrote a blog about boardgames. You can read it here, it's a good 'un.

I did a drawing for it, because, much to my surprise, I've come to quite like playing boardgames too.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Visual Diary: July

I'm still slightly surprised that I've managed to keep this up. Past visual diarying attempts have generally lasted little more than a couple of months, but I've managed a drawing a day since January. It's got to the point now where I feel actively guilty if I haven't done it by about 11 at night, so hopefully that bodes well for keeping it up till at least the end of the year, if not longer.

Anyway, without further ado, JULY:

In which I bought myself a ridiculous giant iMac. I got it from Solutions, and thanks to their massive ineptitude yet astonishingly good customer service, I got it £500 cheaper than I should have done. It's a 27", 3-yr old ex display model, and when I asked how much, the guy told me £600. I agreed that price, asked them to put it on reserve, and told them I'd come back with a taxi to collect it the next day. However, the next day came around, and when I called them to confirm, the guy sheepishly told me they couldn't sell it to me for £600, and it should actually have been £1,100. The guy had accidentally read me the cost-price. Well, I didn't even throw that much of a strop... I just told them I was really disappointed, and they agreed to give it to me for £675! Which is a ridiculous price for what it is. It's my first big purchase since getting a full-time job 2 and a half years ago, and I'd been saving the whole time with something like this in mind. Suffice to say I spent about three days just sitting in front of it, basking in it's glow.

Although I did pretty quickly realise that having full screen skype is terrifying. GIANT FACES.

Giant screen distraction is also my excuse for why the above drawing is so utterly terrible.

And here we are, lying on my bed in the dark, watching the Apprentice on my GIANT SCREEN. We're so cool. (I did this drawing in near darkness. That's the excuse why this one is also pretty terrible.)

That makes it sound like I spent all day drawing this shoe and it was exhausting. Obviously not. I had a tiring day AND I managed to make time to draw this shoe.

There is a reason though. It was for this illustration...

For this piece by Alex, about Warp records heyday.
Basically he mentions having the rug pulled out from under your feet by hearing certain incredibly moving new music when you're a teenager. I took this a slightly different way, and the illustration is supposed to represent the world shifting and changing around you as you're growing and maturing during those formative, music-loving years. The shoes are the kind of trainers I spent most of my teenage years in, and the ground beneath the feet are some pictures I took a long time ago of the ground back in North Wales where I grew up. I used to walk in the countryside near my house for hours while listening to new music, and something about this idea resonated with me, even if it probably makes very little sense to anyone reading the piece. BUT I'D HAD A LONG DAY AND I WAS TIRED, OKAY?


I was pretty psyched about how hot it was that day. Little did I know it was ONLY THE BEGINNING.

The beginning of things like being able to go to the beach in the evening and not even having to take a coat! Admittedly I did get a bit chilly and Alice had to lend me a snood to stretch around myself like a wooly straightjacket.
Anyway, I'm a bit less pleased with the quality of a lot of my diary things this month... But I'm hoping that's a good thing, because I've been trying to challenge myself to actually make the effort and draw things, and often to try and draw things from memory. Clearly these don't really look like people, let alone the people they're trying to represent (Adam, I am so, so sorry.) but it's a start.

And here is more of a start. On the 13th, the wonderful Chris and Anna got married at a beautiful farm north of Shoreham on the most ridiculously sunny day you could possibly hope for. It was an absolutely beautiful day of all their favourite people in one place, with plenty of amazing home-made food, music from their many incredibly talented musical friends, and festivities into the early hours. Oh, and camping, but let's not mention camping.
It was such a wonderful day, and the only way I could think of to capture it (in my sleepy, exhausted state the next day) was crude, childlike drawings of the bride and groom and everyone else I could remember at that moment. I've probably forgotten some people. Also, Adam, I'm sorry again. I really can't do beards.

Anyway, I didn't quite get back up to full power for a couple of days afterwards. I mostly blame camping and heat for that though...

This isn't a particularly creative one, but... I decided to take a couple of disposable cameras to the wedding, and this is my favourite photo which I got from one of them.

I love Mildred dearly, but she can be spectacularly annoying when you're trying to hang out washing or do the gardening. She'll be moving out soon though, (to go and live with her owner Jess in her new house) and I'm going to miss her so much.

More with the heat. But in case you haven't noticed, it's been really quite hot. I'm not complaining though.

Colleague Dave kept some ragworms in the fridge all day. Ever seen a ragworm? They are not things which you want in your fridge with your sandwiches.

I'm a member of my church's PCC. Ever seen the Vicar of Dibley? Just like that. Except probably less funny. It's nice though, I love the people. But I do find finance deathly dull.

I don't want to be one of those boring people who goes on miserably about their weight, but... I'm getting a little pudgy. I'm the heaviest I've been since I was a teenager, and if I stand wrong, my tummy is bigger than my boobs. And I have fairly big boobs. Currently in the process of trying to decide whether I need to do something about this, or whether to embrace the pudge and just start buying bigger clothes. Until I either a) find a sport that isn't horrible or b) decide to stop sneaking down into the kitchen late at night to dunk giant chunks of bread into olive oil, it may have to be the latter.

Slightly soppy one. Sorry. But I'm proud of the perspective! A person and a room and a screen and they're all at the right angles and in the right places!

Decided to start going to Quaker church again every so often. I went there for the entirety of my first year of university, but the sad truth is, I'm not very good at sitting in silence and emptying my mind. I just find myself composing food shopping lists, or wondering where the lady next to me got her shoes, or counting the number of repeat patterns in the carpet. And I don't think that's what you're meant to do. So I started going to a church with a bit more structure to try and keep me focused. And it worked, but I really miss the Quaker community. For those of you who look for any excuse to diss the church/religion, read a bit about the Quakers. Throughout their history they have been an incredibly ethical, forward thinking community, and their thoughts on sexuality, the environment, worship and many other topics may surprise you. They offer a quiet but warm welcome to absolutely anyone who enters, and conduct themselves with an incredible dignity and selflessness. I honestly can't speak highly enough of them, and really want to try again at being part of their community. But I tell you what, sitting completely still and silent for a whole hour is a very challenging exercise. At least, it is if you're me.

I love impromptu meals out. 


Don't feel like July has been my strongest month, but ho hum, hello August!