I’ve been working as a freelance illustrator for the past four years but my path started since I graduated from university with a degree in Graphic Design in 2007. I’ve been on quite a journey and I’ve worked with some interesting clients, I wouldn’t go out and say I’ve seen it all but I’ve had some interesting experiences in my field of work. I’ve doodled murals in the offices for Facebook, Microsoft, Leeds and Sheffield’s Children hospitals and other great companies and all because of the illustration style that I’ve honed over the years with practice and motivation. I will say that it’s not always about style but staying motivated, reaching out to an audience, using common sense and understanding you as the creative in charge of your work.

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It takes a degree of knowing yourself too, knowing how far you want to go and believing that you are good enough. I’ve been asked many questions from various students and young illustrators trying to get into the field of design and the such so I thought I would answer some of these questions in my first post, hopefully some of you might find it a useful insight but I would advise you just to take it as you will as everyone treads their own path.

 

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1) How do I develop a style and when do I know it’s the right one for me?

This is a tough one to answer because I feel that I’m still searching for my style and being the person I am, I like to adapt so I don’t like the idea of pigeon holing myself in one sole style. I’d say that during my college and university years I was constantly experimenting with style but at that time I didn’t feel a need to nail a final look but to have fun and play and experiment with materials, pen line etc.

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I’d also say that once I finished my studies I kept at drawing and painting in my spare time and managed to piece together certain styles that borrowed elements from comic books, manga, cartoons and video games. I’ve always made sure to take these elements and make them my own, much like how famous musicians re-appropriate sounds and styles but put their own twist on it. Through the act of playing and experimenting I’m always coming to new junctions with my work, even with slight little changes to my visuals which excites me a lot and keeps me spurred on to see how far I can push the style. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. It’s important to ask people around you of their opinion, be prepared for harsh criticism at times which can only really help you in the long run. But as an individual take the advise as it comes as you see fit. You know when you find a style that is right for you when you’re happy with it and other people are buzzing off it too.

I’ve found that my drawing and graphic style has slowly evolved over time, something that is quite inevitable in life, for example the older you get you might slowly change your own personal sense of style and dress sense, even to the music you listen to. The same is said with the way you create and draw, you may take in many different things that feed into your style and work template. As creatives and designers you should be taking in stuff around you, the cityscape, the graphics on buildings, buses, your phone, everything. You can be inspired by a lot of things without realising and it will feed into your work one way or another.

2) How did you start out as a freelancer? 

I get asked this a lot from college and university students, ready to take on the world. I did feel that in my studies, this topic was slightly glanced over at university, it’s something that tutors don’t really break down or explain to you. Maybe it’s because it’s such a multifaceted path, to work for yourself and set up as a sole trader or even company later on. Being a freelancer myself for some years has taught me a thing or two about myself as well as the industry, so tutors would struggle to nail an explanation as to how you work for yourself in what could be an exciting but sometimes volatile industry. I’ll try and break down the path to freelance designing in a couple of pointers.

– You need a portfolio of work, whether its a physical A3 black leather binder with 15 sheets of good work or an online gallery (website) A good website will reflect back on your work ethic and sense of style. Same goes for a physical portfolio but I’d say concentrate on nailing a good online portfolio first as it’s a quicker means to share your work for people to see. It’s instantaneous and not many art editors or buyers will have time to view and flick through a portfolio if they’re looking for an artist in a short space of time. For sit down meets with publishers and art editors, a portfolio is key and especially if it’s a tidy one with a good selection of work.

 

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– Research and reach out to those who may be interested in your work. I spent quite a while researching publications, magazines and marketing agencies that would lean towards illustration and reached out via email in hope for some feedback on my style of work. Going off the bat and asking for work isn’t a good way to start a conversation with someone you don’t know, especially over email but it never hurts to be polite and to use common courtesy in reaching out. Once you’ve built a rapport with the right commissioning editor you can always send them updates on projects or new images you’ve been working on. I still send out printed postcards with my work on as well as stickers to previous clients to let them know I’m still around but importantly just as a common courtesy to say thanks for their support.

– Promote yourself. In my early days I used to produce home made stickers, zines and comic strips that I would distribute or sell on at independent market stalls. Later I realised they were great tools for promoting myself and my work as everything I created had my website and contact details on it. Business cards come later but anything of that ilk is very handy for those formal and informal occasions. Social media is a great means to spread your work far and wide and with careful attention, you can build a rapport with your audience and let them in on your world as you publish sketches of new work, let them know about the tools you use etc. In the digital age, we are more open to sharing, look at the everyday impact that platforms like Instagram, Twitter and Facebook have on our lives.

– Get your work out there. Through uploading my work via social media, I was lucky enough to have people repost, share and talk about it. I made sure my work was printed in independent magazines and zines as a starter, I didn’t expect anyone would want to pay me for my work which was a bad precedent I set for myself but I did believe that I needed to earn the trust and attention of potential clients. I was also fortunate to put my work out in exhibitions and shows in bars and small galleries which help boost the word of mouth and the buzz.

– Get organised. It helps to keep notes and lists of your daily tasks, especially when you’re working for yourself, you’re learning the ropes to your trade. Being organised just means setting out your agenda, and getting your tasks completed. Being organised means knowing to send your self promotional emails out at the start of the week and scheduling enough time to turn around your projects.

3) How do you get work as a freelancer?

Typically, people who look to start off freelance, have already worked within their chosen industry, made contacts and professional relations. This helps them on their first days of freelancing as they have ears on the ground and some contacts and clients from years of work. If you’re starting to freelance right off the back, the path is a little slower but not impossible.

There are many ways of obtaining work but in order to do that, you need to demonstrate you have the style, you have the understanding and you need to show people you’re ready to work in your field. In the creative field, a picture speaks a thousand words so create promos that pop out to an audience. I obtained work through my free time projects, putting t-shirt designs together for Hantu Collective which I also ran as Creative Director. Working with t-shirts and street clothing was a great platform for me. It opened up many doors because of the word of mouth it generated, off the back of that I worked on club flyers and posters, I showed everyone that I could work reliably and keep the clients happy.

Networking can be very useful, in my younger years I was quite active in going to gigs and show openings and was very fortunate to meet people who would throw me a job or two designing flyers and posters for nights and gigs. I’ve worked off the back of good word of mouth. mostly from jobs that I produced reliably. Sometimes off the back of one job, you can use it to promote yourself and show people what you can do as it’s important to remind yourself and other clients that you provide a service and execute it well. Networking can be a bit off putting but it does help you make contact a lot quicker, the alternative is to work behind the scenes, send out emails, social media postings and keeping your ears to the ground on a commissioning opportunity.

There are often online design competition which serve as good practice and a chance to creatively vent, note if you have enough spare time to enter open calls for submissions they can be worth it too.

4) Should I hold down a part time job whilst freelancing as a back up?

I certainly worked part time in bars and cafes when I first started off with my freelancing. As I mentioned before I hadn’t built up a contact list before I’d started freelancing, I more or less just jumped straight in, but I realise from the start that it would be safer to have a separate part time job to keep me afloat. Money woes can really get you down at times and I think it’s a good idea to steady your base before you venture out looking for your own work. I started off with easy to manage projects and eventually those projects would help the snowball effect with my work and after around a year I was able to pack in the cafes and pub shifts to concentrate on my own work.

Before you jump in with both feet its wise to consider your financial management, I’m no whizz with money but I released as long as I wasn’t over spending and I was living within my means, I was doing fine. Eventually you may have some over heads to look at, such as a studio space, paying for materials, magazine subscriptions and such, that’s when your financial common sense is at play and should help you evaluate your situation.

Another bonus to working part time, is that it can be a great motivator for you to launch your business full time. It also helps you appreciate the time you’re given to work on creative projects and in my case it helped me from procrastinating too much. My productivity was hot when I was delegating my time between part time work and freelance project work, thankfully that desire and motivation has followed me into my own studio space and I can manage my time and financial operations adequately.

5) How do I find my audience?

The ideal situation would be that your audience finds you. The way you piece your work together and how it looks will be based on your own personal liking and opinion, so in that respect once you find an audience who buy into your work, you can project your work towards in a certain way. Your sense of graphic style is bound to slot into a range of audience, it’s always the case of getting eyeballs on your graphics to build that following.

I found that my audience slowly grew over time with my social media presence of sharing my work online, showing people and asking of their opinion whether good or bad helped build a following for me. With the right attention, your group of followers can utilise social media to spread your images and work to their own followers, it’s almost a game of chance and numbers but always aim to garner a following on the merit of your work and not too many gimmicks.

6) How do I price my work?

This is a bit of a taboo question and an awkward one to answer. Many different artists will price their work accordingly to the following, time taken to complete, the materials covered, the depth of detail in the work, how many sketches and how many amendments they’ve had to make for the client etc. Whenever taking on any job you need to weigh up the client and weigh up how much time you can afford on the project, if it’s a job you can manage and how much you would be happy to work for. You need to consider that clients will work to their budgets and you need to find a way state your price whilst letting the client know that they’ve come to you for the job. It’s good to remember to never set a bad precedent to yourself by undercharging and letting clients believe that the fee they will pay is expected.

I always remind myself and other people that if you have a leak in your house or your car is having engine trouble, you will always pay a plumber and an electrician to solve your problem. The same can be said of people in the creative industry, clients come to them to solve their problem, therefore they can be expected to be paid. If you are offered work on the pre tense that you won’t be paid but it’s “good exposure” you need to weigh up if it is worth doing, if the exposure is the sort you want. It’s never a good idea to accept too many jobs that won’t pay you, but if you’re inclined to do so, you can use the opportunity hone your skills on the job.

7) What tools should I be using?

I don’t believe there should be specific tools you should be using, other than you do need access to a computer. You’ll find that the job market requires a lot of communication so a means to have good access to emails, social media and phone calls is essential. If you work totally offline, it doesn’t mean that you won’t obtain work, but you’re limiting yourself to the endless possibilities from your corner of the world.

Talking about tools and what I use, I have my MacBook Pro, Wacom Tablet, Apple iPhone for instant web access when I’m on the move. My drawing tools include, mechanical pencils, pens, brush, indian ink and posca markers. A lot of my work is then manipulated and tidied up on Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator to give it a finished look.

In terms of what you should use, that’s up to you, it depends on what you want to use, what you’re good at using, whether it’s paints, inks, vector graphics on Adobe, it’s down to you as the craftsman. I don’t believe there’s a write or wrong way to illustration, at the end of the day the objective is create a visual that suits a purpose it’s been intended for. Does it matter if you can draw like Da Vinci? I don’t think so, some of the best illustrators I’ve seen have utilised drawing in different ways. My good friend Billy, is a great graffiti artist and illustrator, she has amazing drawing skills and yet she pulls off a great naive style that pulls you in because it’s so inviting. Marian Deuchars is know for her brush work and loose sense of drawing style. I’ve know some illustrators to create images purely on the computer using blocks of solid colour. Tools are merely tools, your mind and your ideas require constant sharpening. Once you get your head around that, your use of tools will come into play, as I mentioned before through play and experimentation you will be able determine your style and utilise whatever method and means you see fit.


For starters, the North Side UK works on two major principles. ‘Support Your Scene’ and ‘North Side State of Mind’. The ‘scene’ for me is my home, where I reside, where I first started my journey, where I kick started my passion. And that place is in Huddersfield in the North of England, hence the name ‘North Side UK’.

Northside Manchester Dance and Art

Some people are actually quick to up sticks and leave in search for something better, even though they had noooo idea it was under their nose the whole time, all they had to do was dig a little.

Here’s the thing, Rome wasn’t built in a day and immediate gratification is only a means to gain something quickly because your not patient enough resist the small things that enable you to accomplish a larger, more enduring reward further down the line.

Northside Manchester Dance and Art

For example, being hungry and choosing to snack instead of waiting for your mother to cook you that delicious meal to relish your need for food. This, my friends, is why I founded the North Side UK. I wanted to build the coliseum and eat that sexy ass meal. I wanted to reap my own rewards.

After only being one and a half years young (established in January 2014), the NSUK foundations are still being set and the people involved are HUNGRY! Being such a young organisation we are still experimenting with what we are capable of and are now getting an idea of how to operate, kind of like a baby learning to walk. You can say we have accomplished quite a bit already since the beginning:

– Throwing consecutive successful events

– Having events in major cities in the north of England (Leeds and Manchester)

– Releasing clothing people want to wear and support

– Collaborating with other local independent artists/clothing designers

– Releasing a project that has spanned the world from the UK to Australia

Northside Manchester Dance and Art

What we really aspire for though, are more people to join us, to share our consensus and to share our values. It’s all good saying we have done x y and z, but what the point if what we do doesn’t make a difference?

We give people a platform in which they can excel, we push them towards their own goals, we help instil growth into our scene, and we do it all for the love.

Luke Adam Mackley (North Side UK Founder & Artistic Director)

Northside Manchester Dance and Art

INFORMATION

Instagram & Twitter
@thenorthsideuk

Facebook
https://www.facebook.com/thenorthsideUK

Website
http://www.northsideuk.bigcartel.com/

Youtube
https://www.youtube.com/user/thenorthside2014

Email
the-northside@live.com

VIDEOS

NSUK 1 Year Recap

NSUK x Obsolete Collaboration

Improv Show #2 Recap

Improv Show Testimony

 

 

 


Hey there, my name is Abigail and I am a watercolour artist from Sheffield. I studied at Leeds Metropolitan University where I graduated with a degree in Fine Art. Before and during University I began to develop a personal practise of sketching and drawing, which evolved into the watercolour paintings I currently do. For my studies, I found a love of sculpture and creating strange but beautiful objects. Now I have graduated, I love creating both, though it is my paintings and drawings which I promote and focus on career-wise.

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My main subject to paint is animals, which has developed from consistent pet portrait commissions into my own colourful style. I choose the pose of the animal depending on the ‘mood’ I am going for, though the colour is always completely spontaneous.

Sheffield Watercolour Art

I support local/small art businesses, and it is my aim to help make the art world seem a lot less ‘formal’, a lot less “Please do not stand too close to the paintings”. I enjoy sharing works in progress and snippets of studio life, which is creative and fun and hectic and stressful! Due to the growing recognition of my art, I have been given the chance to take part in some exciting opportunities, from exhibiting to selling to supplying creative content and helping contribute towards organisations, such as Hantu Collective, whose ideals and intentions align with my own.

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Throughout the coming months, I will be working more closely with the ARTbound Community (http://www.artboundcommunity.com) to be involved with upcoming events and exhibitions as well as creating more artwork for myself. I will be conducting artist interviews explaining their creative practise and showing the ‘behind-the-scenes’ into their studio life and artistic processes and works in progress.

You can find me online in these various places:

http://www.aleigh.co.uk

https://www.linkedin.com/in/abigailleigh

http://www.instagram.com/aesmind

http://www.facebook.com/aesmind

http://www.twitter.com/aesmind


masaaitribe

masaaitribe

The Maasai are a proud people with a rich cultural tradition. They continue to live in some of the harshest savannah conditions with poor access to education, medicine and other benefits of the more developed areas. Our communities are based around cattle and the semi-nomadic pastoralist way of life. We have been romanticised in much Western media, and the iconic spear-wielding warriors with their herds on the vast plains, and beautifully be-jewelled women, are classic safari images. And these images are not without some credibility. We are tough and have adapted well for life in these harsh conditions, (particularly the women who are tasked with the majority of the domestic work), and we’ve maintained many of our customs in the face of continued development and change in Kenya.

In a small Maasai village 30 kms from Narok in Kenya. I grew up in the late 1970s as the second youngest of nine children. As a girl I quickly learnt my position within the family and wider community. Formal education was not valued by the Maasai in those days. Tending to the livestock was seen as more important. Education was reserved for males especially those who are regarded as  unskilled in looking after the livestock as it is a very physically demanding job. Even then going to school was seen as a form of punishment. A woman’s role from a very early age in the village would be to learn how to maintain the house, taking care of other siblings and to a lesser extent herding livestock.

masaai tribe

masaai tribe

Within our society women have a subservient position. Girls are often married-off for dowry, from 12 years of age, to much older men, many of whom have several other wives. In a society where the virtues of a Western style education are not rated highly (even for boys), educating girls is hardly considered at all. The law, as it is, states that all children should receive primary education but in practice, in the remote rural areas, girls receive very little, and those that do get a few years are withdrawn from education to be married or work at home when they are 11 or 12 years.

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One day the chief came to our village and collected us all to go the school,  i remember being very excited as my dream was to be a ranger with Kenya Wildlife Service. I liked the uniforms. But my grandmother was against me doing anything that meant holding a gun, and advised me to become a teacher. I went to the class and I was taught in Maasai, Swahili and English. I loved school; it was interesting learning something new. Having passed my exams with very high marks,i was offered a place at a National School in Nairobi.  So I trained as a teacher and when I passed my certificate I taught for 5 years in the government Sekenani primary school in the Maasai Mara. It was here, in 1997, that I met my future husband, Chris. A British tour guide bringing tourists to our school. Chris and I moved to the UK in 2001 and now I work part time for the Development Education Centre in Sheffield. I spend a lot of time in South Yorkshire schools talking to children about the reality of life in Kenya.

kids4The small Maasai community of Oldanyati in southern Kenya has many young children with no nearby school. Older kids walk the 7 kms to their primary school but the youngsters stay at home. In 2013 two pupils lost their lives tragically commuting to school. One was drowned in the floods and another was attacked by a lion.

In 2013, my aim was to raise enough money to build, equip and maintain a small learning centre. It will be used as a school for the infant children, and a community-learning centre for the Osotua Women Group. The building will consist of 2 classrooms, a teacher’s room/office, and a kitchen all set in the legal minimum 5 acres of land. The building will also function as a learning centre for the Osotua Women Group. The Women Group will use the school building as a social/community centre for these purposes. It would also be used for adult literacy classes and marketing advice/training for work on income generating projects such as making and marketing their traditional beadwork jewellery and making fly-traps from recycled materials.

The community has already donated the 5 acres of land required for the school and its grounds.
Move forward to 2015, we successfully fundraised in the UK and USA, the 2 classrooms are now built with over 120 children attending the school in the morning and in the afternoon are classes for the women. Now the men are asking when they can learn as they don’t want to be left behind…

This is my story, which is shared by only a few Maasai girls who have been lucky to make it in one way or another.
My determination in making a difference, even for a few women and children, is the main reason behind this Alton Maasai Project. It just shows with determination you can achieve what you aim to do and more.
Keep on persuing your passion and eventually what you thought was a dream piece by piece comes together.

Suma olayioni nisum oltung’ani obo. Suma entito nisum oloosho….

Educate a man, you educate an individual. Educate a woman and you educate a community…


I started my journey as a theatre director in 2014 when I set up my very own creative company, URBAN conceptz Theatre. Times were changing and a recent life changing back injury spurred me on to make the transition from mid career performance artist to that of an struggling emerging director.

For over a decade I had forged a career which saw me travelling the world working for theatre acts, commercial artists and media companies, earning a living doing what I wholeheartedly loved. I was a dancer, turned physical theatre performer who was lucky enough to work consistently across the globe on many exciting projects and productions sustaining a fruitful career for over a decade.

Whilst performing in Munich Germany, I was seriously injured in a aerial accident whilst performing in As The World Tipped with Wired Aerial Theatre.

I sourced out specialists in Munich to treat my back and once flown home received a intensive program of physio and treatment, but the damage was severe and I was given the cold news that I needed to maintain a less physically demanding lifestyle and would inevitably have a lifelong condition with my lower back.

What does a performer do?
A performer who has built his life and reputation around being a robust, highly physical and determined theatrical performer? He sinks… He sulks… He sacrifices… But most of all he assesses the situation, stands back up and dusts off his shoulders from the devastating blow. He retrains, he regroups and recuperates.

It’s been almost three years since my injury and everyday I’m faced with new challenges, new pains and new ways of working. There’s not a day that goes by when I don’t have chronic back pain but I’ve re-learnt my body entirely and this has influenced my mind, my work and my approach to creating theatre. I see things differently, I work through things in a obscure manner but I still manage to create… That’s what’s got me noticed, that’s why I’m currently making waves in the Hip Hop Theatre and Movement Theatre realms… That’s what’s got me travelling all expenses paid to beautifully creative places like NYC working with creative artists and inspirational individuals, all within 12 months of launching my company.

UrbanconceptzNYC

UrbanconceptzNYC

Urbanconceptz

Urbanconceptz

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NYCskyline

 

I may be injured, I may have been knocked back a million times… but I’m forever evolving, I’m constantly seeking inspiration and advice and I’m always willing to dust my shoulders off and get back up.

Everyday has the potential to be the greatest day of your life.

Until next time… Chase your potential.