Thursday 23 October 2008

Guest Speaker Gillian Blease 17.10.08

Gillian Blease: Guest Speaker 17th Oct. 08

Gillian Blease worked as a fine artist first before becoming an illustrator.

MMU foundation course before studying fine art at Newcastle Univ.
Japan trip & typing course. Worked at Whitworth Gallery & had artist studio at Bankley Studios, Manchester. Interested in installations & conceptual pieces.

Fine Art Residency, London
From 2001, had a 3 year residency at ACME, London. Neighbour Martin Creed, who won Turner prize. She found the constant need to be original with fine art very pressured. Working part time to pay bills.

Terry Frost, Goya etchings, Claus Oldenburg, Julian Opie & Andy Warhol (showed eggs image). Interest in graphic design & logos.

Contacted AOI & read advice & built up a portfolio showing how her work could look in context. Did a series of mail-outs. Elle Magazine was her first commission – for sushi.

Got a call from the Guardian 6 months into starting as an illustrator – for ‘Food’ column (Richard Urlag?). Did weekly illustrations – 150 columns! Built up a good relationship with Guardian & prepared to be flexible. Did ‘Relationships’ column too. Now does ‘Letters’ page 3x per week (gets info. midday & illustration needed by 5.30pm, but in reality sometimes only gets an hour!). Started illustrating Stephen Fry’s ‘Gadgets’ column, but they wanted more gadgets to be illustrated & she decided to let someone else do this column instead (now Andy Martin).

Also did work for Resturant magazine (2-3 years), Daily Express (but not a good place to promote her work), Blueprint architecture magazine (worked together with art director to produce a wonderful layout with a rake & its furrowssweeping around in a great curve around the text).

Also work for Waitrose Food. Showed a turkey sauceboat illustration which client not convinced their audience would understand. Gillian Blease therefore had to quickly produce another image.

Southwark Arts Centre Poster commission – pleased to get this, but found the brief particularly prescriptive, with so many people on committee with strong ideas about what should be in image.

Barclays commission – had to keep a certain amount of free time in her week to allow for development of this work & had to turn other work down at times – and sometimes unnecessarily). Also book design covers.

Developed patterns which were taken up by Bright Agency for card designs.

Method of Working
Very conceptual. Uses visual metaphors/puns. Clear shapes, pared down images. Reminds me of work of Abram Games & Luba Lukova. Believes in wit & fun & frivolity. Empty spaces particularly important, since illustration surrounded by type – it needs space to breathe. Doesn’t usually do roughs, but ‘scribbles’ (her words, they looked clear to me!). She is prepared to change what she’s done if the client is not happy.

Prefers to work on her own & socialise separately. 95% of her work is commissioned by people who have seen her illustrations, often in Guardian. Has to compromise 40% of time.

Informal Chat in Studio afterwards
Gillain Blease very interested in our work – particularly the graphics slant, concepts & pattern. Keen to know if any of us had entered work for the AOI Images book (she has an image in this year). She sends out mailshots (once/year?) of about 200 cards. Need to be flexible & prepared to compromise. Although hard to get work, clients are keen to get ‘new blood’ – so worth persisting. It is possible to make a living as an illustrator, but takes a while to build up. Need to put any largerr sums of money make aside to give yourself time to develop your ideas (this is how Gillian Blease was able to develop card design patterns).

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