'The size of your audience doesn't matter- its who's listening that counts'
One of the biggest reasons why I was so excited to attend university, was getting the chance to meet incredible artists and illustrators, who had made for themselves a life within the creative industry I so wished to be part of. Hearing their stories, and taking note of their lessons is a rare opportunity most young people like myself don't get, so when the opportunity arrives, it always creates an impact.
One such example is when a couple of weeks back, the incredible illustrator and designer, Louise Byng, came into my class to give a talk on her work, and how it was she came to be working within Birmingham, at a place known as the 'impact hub.' A cauldron of creative minds, the impact hub is part of the many blossoming art collectives around the uk, which celebrate the values of community within the design world, and use it to share knowledge not only amongst themselves, but also amongst the general public too.
Louise herself ,however, had just as interesting a story, and listening to her, I am sure a lot of our class could relate to what she was saying. Speaking openly about how scary it was to leave university and suddenly find yourself independent and without work after studying a massive degree that was meant to 'ensure' a career, at the time she completed her course, Louise had to return home, and try to eek out a living from what she had spent so long learning.
Sending portfolios off to numerous companies, I was really moved in some way to finally hear from someone who wasn't trying to gloss over the fact that getting into the creative industry is hard- so often students like myself are not taught skills which prepare us for the world outside of education, and to see that Byng also suffered from this lack of teaching was in someway reassuring:
'After a while I accepted that I shouldn't keep expecting things to happen after leaving university- if I wanted to make a life for myself out of my talents I was going to have to have to graft like everyone else, and get myself off the ground without help for once'
This quote from her talk in particular stood out to me- for sometime now I have harboured secret fantasies of leaving university and immediately finding work in publishing houses like Penguin or Bloomsbury , but in Byng's words I instead found a new dream. Even though it wasn't necessarily as nice as the idea I would simply find a career after completing my degree, hearing those thoughts aloud made me think over how exciting and frightening it must be to literally start from the foundations up, and finally have that independence to say that this is where you were going next. You could see the pride she felt as she spoke of how she had picked herself up and pushed herself on, and for me, that was enough to know that although it was not going to be an easy ride, just like Byng I would just have to keep working, until eventually, I would discover where I belonged within the world of design.
Moreover, her work ethic is also something to be truly admired- it seems from the get go she didn't know how to sit still, and it was incredible to se her progression from a relatively unknown portrait artist, to being the manager of festivals which until her, had been left to gather dust.
One such festival, was her re-introduction of the zine festival in Birmingham, which thus far, had been falling behind in regards to these 'pocket pamphlets.' Louise was determined to bring these back into the cultural landscape of Brum, and I am so happy that she did, because hearing the success of her first festival made me want to attend the next one! Not only giving zine artists a space to sell and display their work, it also was a festival where the general public could come in, and learn for themselves how to make a Zine. It was a really nice touch to do so, as I feel the public is often shut out when it comes to the world of art and design, which is why perhaps so many harbour such a negative view upon it. In allowing people other than artists into the festival, Byng had broken down these barriers, and had created a new type of art festival, which allowed everyone to participate in a craft which could create universal joy and excitement.
Finally, her own person work is something to be truly appreciated, as its style is so fresh and unprocessed. Going through her slides, she gave us little glimpse at the portraiture and observational work she had performed throughout her career, and it was refreshing to see such an honest take on the rea world. Mostly done in pencil, her sketches of the general public fascinate me- there was a sense of reality in them, and the sensitivity she had used was apparent. you could see how long she had taken to get those drawings right, and also, just how much time she had spent, making sure the personality of the person she was observing was recreated as well. I loved it when she described how
' I love drawing the in-between non-spaces of life- like when a superhero takes of their costume after the end of a long day, and begins to process what happened- capturing that moment or feeling and taking time to truly observe it is something I love doing'
Because that joy was so apparent in all of her pieces. It was something I myself wanted to investigate- having already performed many observational drawings of my own, I wondered if I could use this quote to inspire me, and see what came out- would they be different to what I had initially made? Better even?
As you can tell, it was a talk which made an impact, and was an opportunity I appreciate even now. When artists take time out of their busty days to speak to young students like me, just beginning to dip their toes in the creative industry, its quite a reassuring experience to know that although things will inevitable fail and go wrong, you will eventually make it, and find your place within the world. As Louise herself said: