Our 2014 artists & illustrators survey results are out!

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So you might notice that I’ve been a little quiet this week. It’s for a good reason – I’ve been busy putting together the data collected during the last survey (it’s the one that touched on money and income!) into a handy 32-page PDF that’s available for all to download.

I wrote down a few caveats for those who are interested in the results of the survey: the problems that went into it, and how I should have made it better. Some of the entries had to be discarded/disqualified due to technical errors, and while I was disappointed with that, I’ve learned to take this experience forward and have learnt how to avoid repeating the mistakes I’ve made the next time round. It was the first time I did such a survey and through your comments and suggestions, I learned a lot – so a big thank you to all of you who participated (and to those who chose not to, and wrote to me to tell me why!)

So without further ado, you can click on the below image to kickstart the process of downloading the survey! And remember, I’m always learning, so don’t hesitate to write to me if you have any suggestions or advice to share.  

 

Have a great weekend folks, and I’ll catch up with you next week!

When you’re not where you want to be

Pulling a Plant - Eleanor Taylor

The thought about being a landscape architect never once crossed my mind as I was growing up.

I didn’t spend my younger days thinking about how great it could be if I could be one – to spend my time designing gardens, parks and pockets of greens; carrying T-squares, measuring tape, wearing a hardhat and safety boot and all. So what made me write that down when it came to choosing what I wanted to do in university?

It was simple – I didn’t want to be stuck in a lab doing experiments (that’s all I thought scientists-to-be did back then). And I didn’t want to spend my time purely in lecture halls hashing out theories and being spoon-fed formulas. I wanted to learn about art and design, and that course was my one and only ticket.

Oh sure, I could hear you ask – why not just go to a college where you can pay to learn exactly what you want? I got an entry into the local university; and where I come from, to get that was as good as if you had struck lottery. The price of a degree at a private college could cost up to 10 times more than it did at a local university. I wasn’t about to go in debt by choosing to go to a private college, and I didn’t want to let my parents worry about funding expensive tuition fees only to get a piece of paper I might not end up using in the end (I was being realistic).

So I chose the best route to go about it. I knew I liked art and design – and if I were to chose a course within that university, the only one that was available to me was landscape architecture. I could learn about the fundamentals of art and design in a studio environment, I had access to art teachers and designers, I had more flexibility in how I scheduled things (studio-based classes meant that you had plenty of time to experiment with ideas); and I didn’t have to worry about money so much. I told myself I would figure out the rest later.

Four years later, when it came to deciding what I wanted to do after I graduated, I gave myself 6 months – it was when we had to be an intern at a real consultancy firm. The rules I gave myself were simple: give it my best shot, and if I still didn’t feel that it suited me, then I’m free to do whatever that I wanted. Six months passed – the boss’ firm passed me with flying colours and told others that I was one of the best interns he’s ever worked with. I left, happy.

It was also the last time I was a landscape architect.

“Why did you give up your degree?” was the common question I had in that first year after I graduated. “It was four years – all wasted, down the drain,” said others. Even my father was at a loss – he couldn’t understand why I would give up being a landscape architect. I could have a good job, a stable career. A title. I could be a professional. I could be Amy Ng, the Landscape Architect. I didn’t blame them at all – they didn’t know why I did it.

But I did.

Because when I went into the university to do a course on landscape architecture, I wasn’t looking to just be a landscape architect. I was looking to learn. I absorbed everything like a sponge – even the stuff that people didn’t care about. I inhaled snippets of knowledge and sniffed it out whenever I could. Lecturers were held hostage as I left them a barrage of questions. Little wonder that when it came time to decide to narrow down a focus for my final project, I went with campus design. I loved learning that much.

I went to the library often. I didn’t just go there to scoop up the latest architecture tomes – I went in to borrow books on art, illustration, cooking, exercise, writing and technology; all because I was curious. I maxed out my book limit every time because I there were so many things I wanted to know. I didn’t know where all of this digging would lead me, but I knew that deciding on a destination just because I was handed a ticket seemed silly.

Instead, I wanted to make my own fate. I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up. And when I look at myself right now I’m still figuring it out – just like everyone else. I try hard to not confine myself to anyone else’s definition of success, and to stay true to myself by constantly asking myself what I want. Being happy was always my goal – and I’ve been incredibly lucky on that front. Somedays I still pinch myself to see if I’m dreaming.

So for those who feel as though they’ve been handed a curveball in life, or that they aren’t in the place that they want to be – I want to tell you this: you can’t control the cards you’ve been dealt, but you sure can change how you choose to deal with it.

Oh, and no one ever asks me about that degree anymore.

SHARE WITH ME:

Have you ever been in a less than ideal situation? How did you make the best of it? Share your story with me below in the comments! 

** NOTE: This post isn’t mean to discourage people to not go to private university or art school – I think that if you can then it’s great, but more importantly, for whatever reason at all that you can’t, it shouldn’t be the excuse that you use to not be able to get ahead. My experience and my views are strictly personal –  being where I am (Malaysia), this is how I chose to deal with my lot, so it bears repeating that my challenges may be different from yours. 

[Illustration by Eleanor Taylor]

Tom Gauld

Tom Gauld

Tom Gauld

I first came across Tom Gauld’s work on Flickr, and once I started looking, I couldn’t stop. Tom works in the UK as a cartoonist and illustrator; counting The Guardian and the New Yorker among his clients. His comics are filled with robots, astronauts hapless personalities that combines innocence with wry wit – there’s so much eloquence in his panels, delivered in a deft swift kick.  I read an interview from 2011 where he talks about what he does, and I wanted to share some snippets of the interview that I thought was really thought-provoking.

On  his working process:

I sit and think and doodle in my sketchbook until I have a good idea. Then I’ll make rough pencil sketches on copier paper till I have things worked out visually. Then I hone these sketches on paper and in photoshop till I have a rough version of the image which I can send to anyone who needs to approve it. Then I will print out the image and use a lightbox to trace an ink version which I crosshatch then scan back into the computer where I can clean it up, tweak bits and add any colour. I love using the computer but I try to stay away from it till I’ve done most of the thinking for an idea, looked at it from all sides, because I feel that once the computer is involved things are on an inevitable path to being finished. Whereas in my sketchbook the possibilities are endless.

 

Tom Gauld

 

On illustrating a book cover versus a cartoon:

I feel more pressure doing a book cover than almost anything else, I think “This author has probably spent years writing this book: I mustn’t mess it all up with a crap cover”. So I have to try and find a way to react to the book and make something which is suitable, but is also strong and interesting in its own way.

Tom Gauld

On how Edward Gorey has influenced his work:

I like that what he makes is unclassifiable: he makes picture books for adults which aren’t comics, many are self-published but they’re beautifully produced. I love his drawing, the odd narratives, the design of the books, the compositions, the hand drawn typography: everything really. The way I crosshatch (with small “patches” of short lines rather than long ones) I learned from Gorey.

On what he thinks is next for books and print:

One thing which might happen with the rise of e-books is that the books that DO get published in paper may have to justify themselves by being better made, designed and illustrated. That would make me happy.

Read the complete interview here. Also: another in-depth interview about his comic-drawing process that’s really good.

Links: Tom Gauld’s website | Flickr

His books: You’re All Just Jealous of My Backpack [Amazon link] | Goliath [Amazon link]

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