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Learning new illustration techniques

14 August, 2016

A few months ago, I was asked to create an illustrated logo for A Girl Who Climbs , a blog about bouldering. The client wanted an illustrated version of a photo she used on her blog, a climbing crimp with four screws attached that looked like limbs. After seeing the photo I immediately knew that I could make it into a cute little character, but the illustration turned out to be more difficult than I thought!
 
The client really liked some of my Photoshop illustrations from a few years ago that had lots of texture and asked if this style could be used in the new logo. Initially, I thought I would make the basic shape in Illustrator, then put it into Photoshop to add texture. However, after reading some tutorials about adding texture in Illustrator (such as this one from Creative Bloq) I decided to try some new techniques.
 

Logo 1_grain textureVersion 1 – experimenting with grain effects in Illustrator

 
After making the basic logo shape, I added texture with different grain effects. However, this didn’t work very well as the grain effects were not close enough to the real texture. The next thing I tried was to take some textures into Illustrator and convert them into vectors. I tried this with my stock of textures including brick, cardboard, fabric, pencil, and charcoal until I found one that worked – cork. This was a texture from the bottom of a drinks coaster I scanned years ago and hasn’t been much use until now. When I converted the cork texture into a vector I was surprised at how similar it was to the rough, grainy texture of the climbing crimp.
 
G_Ward_Logo-01Version 2 – converting a cork texture to a vector created the right effect

 
With the texture sorted I was able to complete the logo and send it to the client, who was really happy with it. The logo took a lot longer than I anticipated, but I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of this illustration and I’m glad that I learned some new skills along the way. I have started using this technique in my other vector illustrations to add some texture to the flat colours.
 


A review of my career goals for 2016

31 July, 2016

CC_Cool-Grey2

Hopefully by the end of the year I’ll pass my driving test so I won’t
be waiting in the rain for the bus like poor Totoro

 

Way back in January I set myself some goals for 2016 and I thought I’d review them to see how I’m getting on:

 
1. Get a permanent job

I did it! After seven months and lots of interviews I finally have a new job as a graphic designer. Job searching was tough and I didn’t expect it to take so long, but now I realise that I was naive to think it would be easy.

I’m really excited about starting my new job in a few months and I’m looking forward to all the new challenges it will bring.
 
2. Do more illustration

I haven’t done very well with this goal. I’ve only taken part in Colour Collective six times this year because most of my time has been spent doing things like job searching, taking driving lessons and working part time. However, I still have five months left this year to do more illustration.
 
3. Improve as a graphic designer

I have definitely improved in the last seven months and I’m eager to improve a lot more when I start my new job. I find that even learning something small like a new Adobe Illustrator shortcut is an improvement (and it makes work a lot quicker).
 
4. Get involved in more creative groups

I’ll admit that I’ve been rubbish with this goal. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve only taken part in Colour Collective six time this year and sometimes I struggle to get involved in the conversation, but I do like to leave positive comments about people’s work. I haven’t been to any meet ups yet as Draw North West in Manchester is a bit too far, but I’m still interested in finding groups around Wrexham and Chester.
 
5. Pass my driving test

I passed my theory test at the beginning of July and I’ve booked my practical test which I’ll be taking in a few months so I think I’m on target for this goal.
 
After reviewing my goals for this year I think I’m doing well. However, there is room for improvement with regards to doing more illustration and getting involved in creative groups. I’ll review these goals again at the end of the year to see if I have achieved them.
 


My career goals for 2016

4 January, 2016
MyCC2015 copy

Some of my work from 2015. I’m going to do a lot more this year!

 

I thought I would start the new year by making a list of career related goals that I want to achieve in the next 12 months. Having this list will make me feel more organised and hopefully it will keep me focussed. I feel very motivated to get stuff done this year and I’m a lot more confident than I was this time last year, so I know that 2016 will be amazing!

 

1. Get a permanent job

My current job as a graphic designer is on a temporary contract which ends in a few months so I am aiming to find a permanent job as soon as possible. It feels scary to be job searching after such as short time but now that I have more skills and experience I hope that finding a job won’t be as difficult as it was a year ago. In the next few weeks I am going to update my CV and put together a graphic design portfolio, then I need to apply for jobs. Wish me luck!

 

2. Do more illustration

Unfortunately, illustration took a back seat in the last half of 2015 as I was concentrating on my graphic design job. However, I am aiming to get into a better routine this year so I will have time to illustrate in the evenings. I want to develop my skills and the only way I can do this is to practice more.

 

3. Improve as a graphic designer

When I studied illustration at university I never thought I would be working as a graphic designer and always imagined myself as a children’s book illustrator, but as it’s a very competitive industry I found it hard to get into and had to look at other career options. I’m so glad I did that as I love my job and I’m looking forward to continuing my graphic design career. I have learned a lot over the past 9 months but there is still room for improvement and I am very keen to learn more this year to become a better graphic designer.
 
4. Get involved in more creative groups

In the first half of last year I regularly contributed to Colour Collective on Twitter, but I found that I had less time to get involved when I started working full time. This year I want to take part in more groups like this as I really enjoyed looking at everyone else’s work and exchanging feedback.

I would also like to get involved in meet ups with other illustrators and designers, such as Draw North West. I joined their Facebook group a few months ago, but I have to admit that I was scared of travelling to Manchester on my own at night to meet people I don’t know and I hate that I let this fear stop me from going. I would really love to talk to other creative people so I need to have the courage to go to one of these meet ups! If anyone knows of any similar groups around Wrexham or Widnes please let me know via email (contact@helendennettillustration.co.uk), Twitter or Facebook.
 
5. Pass my driving test

This is something I’ve been meaning to do for a long time and I am determined to get it done this year. I first learned to drive about 10 years ago but didn’t pass the practical test (3 times!), then I took a break and haven’t been back to it since. Having enough money to pay for lessons and tests has always been the main reason, but now that I’m working I can afford to start taking lessons again. Not being able to drive is very frustrating and I can’t wait to have my own car so I can be more independent and can get to work without having to rely on rubbish public transport.
 
So that’s my list of goals for this year. I think they are all achievable and I tried to keep them realistic as there is no point having goals which are impossible to achieve! I’m going to keep going back to this list throughout the year to see how I’m getting on and to keep me on track. Here’s to a brilliant 2016!
 


Pushing myself out of my comfort zone

2 November, 2015

Log-Lady

A few weeks ago I posted my illustration of the Log Lady from Twin Peaks on my social media accounts and I thought I’d write a blog post about it too because it’s different to my other work and took me well out of my comfort zone.

This the first illustration of a person that I’ve done for a while. I find humans really challenging to draw and usually stick to animals, but I wanted to do a Log Lady illustration as a tribute to the late Catherine Coulson because she was one of my favourite characters from Twin Peaks. It took me a few attempts to draw something that looked right but I’m happy with the final result as I think it is recognisable as the Log Lady.

I used Photoshop to create the final artwork so that I could add textures, which is different to my usual vector illustrations. I love the multiple layers and textures the character wears and I wanted to use these in my artwork so I went back to Photoshop for the first time in over a year. I used Photoshop a lot in university as I liked to experiment with different textures, but about a year ago I tried Illustrator and found that I preferred it so I never went back to Photoshop until now. For future artwork I’m thinking about using a mix of the two so I can add textures to my vector illustrations.

After completing this illustration I was pleased to find that I’m still comfortable using Photoshop. I realised that I’m not so bad at illustrating humans after all and I should probably push myself out of my comfort zone more often!

 


Finding the perfect work/life balance

6 September, 2015

Ok, I don’t actually believe that the perfect work/life balance exists but that doesn’t stop me from striving towards something like it.

 

uniexhibitionI had a good work/life balance in uni and dedicated most of my time to illustration

 
When I was at uni I was quite disciplined and I think being a mature student helped a lot because I didn’t feel the urge to go out every night to stupid student events. However, in my final year I got a boyfriend and discovered Netflix, and although I still dedicated most of my time to uni work I had to find a balance between that and binge watching The Good Wife and Adventure Time with Joe.

 

blogphoto 3My little workspace at home

 
After uni I wanted to focus on establishing my illustration career and for a few months I worked from home. The start of this unfortunately coincided with Joe and I moving in together, and while this was very exciting it was also very distracting because we had both lived in shared houses before and it was amazing being able to binge watch Netflix without being disturbed by other people. Despite this, I was able to strike a good balance between work and my personal life as I would work for 7-8 hours during the day and spend the evenings with Joe, which seemed to work well.

This all changed when I started my graphic design job in March. The job is in my hometown of Widnes which isn’t that far from Wrexham where I currently live, except that I don’t drive so it takes two trains and a (very unreliable) bus to get there. I decided that I didn’t want to do this journey twice a day, four times a week so I thought it would be better to stay with family in Widnes while I was working and go back to Wrexham at the weekends. So now I only see my boyfriend at weekends and although I love spending time with him, I feel guilty about not doing much work when I’m at home.

 

  blog photo4

What I should be doing in the evenings vs what I feel like doing

 

 I’ve also really struggled with work related guilt during the week. I work as a graphic designer for 8.5 hours a day, four days a week, and the last thing I want to do when I get to my Auntie’s house in the evening is turn on my Macbook and do illustration work. I usually want to sit down with a cup of tea and, you’ve guessed it… watch Netflix*. I always feel tired after working in an office all day, but I feel really guilty and disappointed with myself if I don’t manage at least an hour of illustration work a night. I don’t know whether I need to be more disciplined or if I need to give myself a break. At the moment I’m illustrating for about an hour a night which is going well and it means that I’ve still got some time to relax after work.

So I don’t have this work/life balance thing totally worked out yet but I’m trying and I hope that I’ll find a good balance between the two soon.

*I don’t spend all my time watching Netlix, I promise!
 


My first year as an illustrator

28 June, 2015

I can’t believe it’s been a whole year since I finished university and took part in the New Designers exhibition in London. I’ve learned a lot in the last year so I thought I’d write a blog post about it to share my experiences. Here are the main things I’ve learned since leaving uni and starting my career:

1. Getting a 1st class honours degree doesn’t guarantee you will get work

 

newdesigners1My work at New Designers 2014

 

I was really exited to be going to New Designers in July last year. I had worked hard to gain my First Class Honours degree and I was selected as one of ten students from my university to take part in the exhibition, so I must have been doing something right! My dream was that agencies and publishers would love my work after seeing it at the exhibition and it would be the start of my amazing illustration career. I knew that this was a completely unrealistic idea but I thought that I would at least get a bit of work after uni, because if I wasn’t good enough then why did I get such a good degree? Turns out that your degree classification doesn’t equate to successfully gaining employment when you graduate.

 

2. You need to be prepared for a lot of rejections

DailyDoodleLudoHow I felt about rejection emails

 

This kind of links into the first point because getting work as a freelance illustrator isn’t easy. I spent a lot of time and energy doing research about agencies and publishers that might be interested in my work, I updated my website and professional social media profiles and created a digital portfolio before emailing lots of illustration agencies and children’s book publishers about working with them. I felt like I had done all the right things so it was very disappointing to receive rejections from nearly every one, or not get a reply at all. I’m getting used to this now but it still doesn’t get any easier.

 

3. Have other things to do apart from illustration work

 

ColourCollectiveUltramarine

You have to go outside sometimes!

 

After a few months of sitting at the desk in my spare room all day every day I started to go a bit mad. Not having social interaction on a daily basis was really affecting me because I had been used to working in a studio with other people, so I found it quite lonely and boring working on my own all day. Luckily, my university has a really helpful careers service called Zone and they hold an enterprise club once a fortnight for graduates and local people who are starting up their own businesses. I started going to these meetings and got lots of useful information, like how to use social media successfully and other helpful stuff for starting a business. It got me out of the house regularly and I also made some friends.

 

4. Don’t limit your opportunities

DailyDoodle-ballerinabear

Who says bears can’t do ballet?

 

During my illustration degree I specialised in children’s publishing because I wanted to create children’s books. However, after a few months of not getting freelance illustration work I started to apply for design jobs because I needed money and I thought that the best way to do this was to find a stable, full time job. Unfortunately I found myself getting a lot of rejections from graphic design jobs I’d applied for, probably because I was an illustrator and didn’t have any graphic design experience to prove my skills. I decided to spend some time creating work for a graphic design portfolio to help me get a job, which paid off when I applied for a position as a graphic designer at my old college. They loved my portfolio, which was a mix of graphic design and illustration work, and offered me the job. I think it helped that my illustration style is quite simple and graphic as this enables me to apply my skills to more design based work. I would never have imagined that I’d be working as a graphic designer but I really love my job and I’d be happy to continue on this career path and just do illustration part time without having to worry about making money from it.

 

5. Don’t compare yourself to others

ColourCollectiveTangerine-01

Don’t worry about what others are doing, just do your own thing

This is a really difficult one for me and I regularly have to remind myself not to compare myself to other people. When I first started to look for freelance illustration work after uni I followed a lot of successful illustrators on Twitter as I thought it would be helpful to see what they were doing to get work, and it was nice to interact with people who were doing the type of work that I wanted to do. However, some days I would see lots of tweets about their successes, and while I was happy for them I also felt annoyed that I was still struggling to find work. I often felt like my work wasn’t good enough and thought about giving up many times, but then I reminded myself that we are all on our own paths and I shouldn’t compare myself to the success of others. I try not to let all the rejections and failed job applications bother me because now I have a job that I love, and who knows what I will be doing in another year?
 


My new job as a Graphic Designer

15 June, 2015

It’s been a while since I posted any work here because at the end of March I started my new job as a Graphic Designer. It’s not the job I was expecting to have when I left uni a year ago but I’m really enjoying it, I’m learning a lot and developing my skills. In some of the projects I have worked on so far I have been able combine illustration and graphic design, which works well because my illustration style is simple and graphic.

I’m going to continue illustrating and posting my artwork as often as I can, and the Colour Collective on Twitter is a great way for me to do that. Since I started my new job I haven’t had time to do illustrations every week, but I still take part when I can. Here are a few of my most recent character illustrations that I did for Colour Collective. More of these illustrations can be found in the Character Illustrations section of my website here.

ColourCollectiveLemonYellow

Week 19 – Lemon Yellow

ColourCollectiveFuchsiaWeek 22 – Fuchsia

 


Another Christening Card

2 March, 2015

A few months ago I designed a Christening card for friends and really enjoyed it, so I was happy to be invited to another Christening because it meant I could design another card! I used the same idea as the first one and illustrated the church where the Christening was taking place to make the card more personal to the parents.

The Christening was at the Church of The Immaculate Conception in Flint and I found this more challenging than the first one because the church was bigger and had a lot more detail, so it was harder to simplify into basic shapes. This church also had a path and small area of grass at the front, which I included in the design to make it more recognisable. I used a blue and green colour palette because the card was for a baby boy, but it was hard to restrict the church illustration to one colour as I had to find shades of blue that worked well together. However, I am pleased with how the card turned out and hope the parents like it!

ChristeningCardBoy


Logo design

17 February, 2015

A few weeks ago I was commissioned to create a logo for a small local business called Crwban Design who recycle items with special memories and make them into new products, such as cushions and key rings. Crwban is Welsh for tortoise, so the client wanted a tortoise to be the main feature of the design.

LogoIdea1copy LogoIdea2copy

After doing research about tortoises and sketching their shape I simplified the sketches so they would work well as a logo. Above are some of the sketches I did before developing a final design.

LogoIdea3
This is the final design I scanned and coloured in Illustrator. The client wanted a colour scheme that would fit in with their existing labels which were grey and gold, so these were the colours I used. I created a stitched effect inside the shell so it looks like it has been sewn together because most Crwban Design products are made this way. I was inspired by looking at how their cushions were made and wondered how this could be incorporated into the logo.

LogoOutlined400pxThis is the final logo design which will be used on their Facebook page and website. I added the business name to the logo in a style that matches their existing product labels. It was an enjoyable project to work on and has given me more experience of designing logos and drawing tortoises!
 


Colour Collective

2 February, 2015

For the past few weeks I have been taking part in the Colour Collective on Twitter after being asked to join in by the founder of the group, Penny Neville Lee. Every Saturday a colour is announced and artwork is posted on Twitter the following Friday at 7.30pm. The artwork can be any theme or medium as long as it features the chosen colour for that week.

I have really enjoyed the challenge of creating illustrations based on one colour and I love being part of the Colour Collective community because I am always inspired by the artwork that is created each week. You can find all of the wonderful artwork via the #colour_collective hashtag on Twitter.

Here are the illustrations I have submitted so far…

ColourCollectiveOperaRoseWeek 2 – Opera Rose

UltramarineWeek 3 – Ultramarine

SapGreenWeek 4 – Sap Green

BrillintVioletWeek 5 – Brilliant Violet


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