I have this theory that what seems like idle time can often be very productive. You know when you're chilling at a party and happen to make a great connection that ends up helping you out career wise somewhere down the line. Or an idea for a project pops into your head while you're watching a movie? As someone in a creative field, I know how difficult it can be to have to constantly come up with new ideas have the added pressure of deadlines that seem to creep up on you out of nowhere. Sometimes these creative juices just don't flow as freely as you might want them to. Anyways, being a student that has always juggled part-time employment, with classes and homework, I also need my idle time. You can call it procrastination, but that word has so many negative connotations attached to it. Sometimes when I'm just not feeling my assignments, (mainly school assignments in my least favorite classes) other tasks somehow make themselves priority. Its funny how my apartment is always the cleanest when I have a lot of homework.
Graduate Guide: Strength in numbers
Forming a collective can give you a headstart after graduation. And be fun too....
For many students, graduation can come as rather a shock. After months of working hard on your final shows, suddenly you are out in the big wide world trying to get a job. Competition is fierce, especially in the current economic climate, and if you go freelance you have to manage practicalities such as finances and self-promotion, as well as having creative ideas. All in all it can be a lonely business. One way around this situ ation is to form a collective with some of your friends from college, a tactic that has proved very successful for a number of design and illustration groups.
“The original members of Monsters studied on the post-graduate course at Central Saint Martins,” says the group’s co-founder David Humphries. “We were all in the same position, just left college, taking our folders around, picking up occasional jobs.… A few of us approached agents after leaving college, and we noticed that the terms which we were being offered seemed to involve a lot of expense for very little exposure. We thought that we could get better exposure and trade on our youth and energy to create some hype. By doing this ourselves we would learn a lot more about the illustration industry and this knowledge would serve us in the future. We were all very naïve, which helped us in many ways.”
One of the methods that collectives use to create some hype around their work is to build a website for the group and also stage shared exhibitions. “The best aspects of working together are that we have been able to do more as a group than we would have been able to individually,” says Harriet Russell, a member of the collective Gumbo. “We had an exhibition at the Menier gallery near London Bridge which is a beautiful space but quite large. Having a group show there I think made a bigger impact than smaller, individual shows would have, and several members benefited from the show, with it leading to book projects, sales of books and artworks, and various other commissions. We were also able to pool contacts, resulting in a larger number of visitors to the show.”
Illustrators Neal Fox and Robert Greene (aka Robert Rubbish) decided to create a magazine of their work and that of fellow students on the communication art and design ma at the rca. “We started gather ing stuff together and were joined by two other illustrators, Chris Bianchi and Bill Bragg,” says Fox. “We realised we needed some designers to help put it all together and that’s when Matt Appleton and Alex Wright joined in. That was one of the good things about that course, it mixes illustra tors and designers together. They helped give the magazine a strong identity, without them it would have been much more of a mish-mash. We started putting on parties to raise money to print the magazine where we would do big collaborative drawings to decorate the walls. Other artists joined in with those and a lot of them are still working with us today, as part of a loose extended group.”
Aside from help in promotion, all the collectives cr spoke to for this article cited that the encouragement and companionship of working as part of a team was crucial. “For us, the collective originally acted as a support group of sorts as after leaving uni versity you soon discover what a lonely pro fession illustration can be,” says Chrissie Macdonald of collective Peepshow. “We would meet up regularly in pubs to discuss our work and plan projects and exhibitions, which also encouraged us to keep going and pursue an illustration path when we may have otherwise given up. By joining forces you are able to share costs and contacts when it comes to self-promotion and exhibiting your work, as well as being able to pool your skills and knowledge. There’s strength in numbers!”
Inevitably there are downsides to working as a collective, with geographical distance, time constraints and creative dif ferences all being problems that can easily arise and create arguments. One solution to some of these issues is to work with people who have different organisational and practical strengths to your own, and who also offer a variety of different artistic styles to clients. “Each of us have different skills that we can adopt within the group,” say the members of ink Illustration (Rachel Gannon, Fumie Kamijo and Chloe Regan), which was formed at the rca. “Some are better at organising, networking, more technological etc – therefore you can just perform the roles you are better at, in the knowledge that someone else will be doing the jobs you find harder. Although we three share the same passion for drawing and storytelling, we have three distinct styles and approaches to our narrative. This means we offer multi perspectives and an infinite fusion of styles.”
All collectives are of course different, with some working together on projects, while others choose to work individually under the group umbrella. Yet all the groups featured here have found that friendship and collaboration has led to suc cess in their careers. “It’s good working with your friends doing something you all care about,” Neal Fox of Le Gun sums up. “There is a bit of a gang mentality like being in a band, or as we like to think of it, a pirate ship.” n