Tuesday, March 03, 2009

update

just a note to say i'm still here, i've been getting quite a lot of emails requesting updates and new stuff - i am working on updating my website, and am holding back on any major updates here until that's done. it's obviously taking me forever, and this is due mainly to other work commitments, which have to take priority. watch this space meanwhile, a proper update is not far off now. you can also check the blog over at http://www.bigactive.com, which gets weekly updates.

on a slightly different note - a quick message to all illustration students. i've been getting an overwhelming amount of emails from students referencing my work for various projects and essays, and rather than copy/pasting the same reply to everyone, here is a little bit of advice:

if you study graphics or illustration, my most serious piece of advice to you would be to stop looking at my stuff for inspiration as soon as possible. if you want to be genuinely inspired or influenced by what i do, then look outside the tiny and insignificant bubble that is contemporary illustration. watch films, read books, look at other forms of art and design, learn about what's going on around you - anything that takes you outside illustration. despite of what your tutors may tell you, as an illustration student, referencing and studying other contemporary illustrators' work is not only going to damage your own work, but it will only help to homogenise and water down illustration as a whole. there is a big problem with illustration students at the moment - they are spending too much time referencing and copying other illustrators' work, and this will end their career before it has a chance to start. i'm only stating the obvious here, but as a student, you should do everything to make sure your work looks nothing like anybody else's out there, otherwise it will never be noticed, and you might as well get a job in mcdonalds.
i and most other working illustrators i know generally go and see a lot of degree shows, and anyone referencing other contemporary illustrators tends to be seen as ignorant and a bit second rate and crap - nobody wants to see the same old, but we all love seeing things we've never seen before, it's what moves this industry forward. as a new graduate, it's your job to move things forward, and by referencing other illustrators, you are doing the opposite.

so if you're using me as your contextual reference (or whatever), then do the following:
- stop looking at my work for inspiration, it is based on my own background and cultural references, and therefore no use to anyone but me
- look instead at your own cultural and personal background for inspiration, it's what i do
- look at 20th century graphic design and see how much of it you really understand. (i wish i had studied that stuff more at college)
- look at every piece of work you've done over the last year - how much of this work do you feel represents you as a truly unique individual, and how much of it is 100% different from what everyone else is doing? unless the answer is 'all of it', it's time to re-think everything. (i'm not saying i'm exempt from this rule, i have to remind myself to do this a lot).

your tutors have a responsibility to educate you properly, and if they're making you reference nothing but contemporary illustration, they are failing massively. it's your degree, you should demand more.

that concludes my rant, feel free to prove me wrong by showing me amazing new work. there's a lot of new talent out there, it would be good to see some of it put to use.

site update coming real soon.

44 comments:

Pete Adlington said...

here here

Poodle Soup said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
david foldvari said...

hey poodle soup, why did you remove your comment? i thought what you wrote was good, im interested in what people have to say on this subject.

Poodle Soup said...

Hey david, I didn't mean to remove it, I wanted to correct something, but all of a sudden it was gone. Duh.

I guess my main point was that sometimes, using other peoples visual vocabulary can be an exercise that helps you find you own. It can never be your final destination, but it might be a useful detour. Or something.

david foldvari said...

what you said made sense, but the main thing i'm trying to point out is that you shouldn't be looking at contemporary illustration in the first place to find your own voice, that's exactly the thing that's damaging it. instead of that, look outside illustration, and try to build your voice from things that are not so obvious. you will find that your work will be a lot more original as a result. i don't just mean 'listen to some music and draw some pictures' - i mean study the fundamentals. observational drawing, typography, graphic design - it's vital to have at least a basic understanding of these things. otherwise it's the same as trying to cook a 3 course meal for 15 people, when you can't even figure out how to make toast. when you look into it, you'll find things that are a million times more inspiring than any contemporary illustration out there.

Gao said...

as a current student, not in design but printmaking, i can say that my professors do stress the fundamentals. but the overwhelming feeling i get is their fear of producing ignorance - kids who leave school without an idea of what's going on in the art world today, and this fear is passed down to us more than anything else. we should be making work that's "informed," a word that gets tossed around my classrooms during every critique, but also beautiful and unique snowflakes in their own right.
it's like fashion designers using antonyms to describe clothes, saying "stark opulence" or "thoughtful frivolity." christ. still trying to figure it out.
to make matters worse, it's difficult to find something even worth holding on to in this contemporary cesspool. when i do find something, i want it to stay with me for a long time, as a reminder to not get caught up in all the bullshit.

Mr Father Time said...

i couldnt agree more, As a student studying illustration i am becoming sick of my peers that lift work from others and get arse licked by our tutors. I feel that they don't give me the time of day for doing my own thing. I am begging to question weather university is a massive waste of time.

fengfk2008 said...
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fengfk2008 said...
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Angie Andrews said...

I showed your work to my class taught by Andrew Bawidamann the other day. Everyone thought it was sweet. I love your design sense. The piece that makes me the happiest is the "sex is bad" one.

jonathan.chapman said...

I agree with Mr Father Time.
I study graphic design and look at various areas of life/culture etc not just graphic design for inspiration for my work, as i believe looking outside of graphics helps me develop stronger ideas. When work produced by other students is created as almost exact replicas of something already out there by a famous designer, they get praised. Yet when a student designs something out of the ordinary it gets commented on in a negative way.

matchboxpeepshow said...

Hey David, I'm tempted to copy your post, photocopy it and hand it out to all my students. This might just be the best bit of advice they read in their entire 4 years at Art College...

I doff my hat Sir.

stranger in the night said...
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Flint Eastwood said...

i'm an illustration student and i love what you have said. I agree as my tutor insists at referencing at other artists, which okay fair enough do a tiny bit but not make it the whole project about everyone's else work!
Thank you for writing what you have written as it's motivated me to do what i want to do in my studies!

chris said...
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david foldvari said...

given that their work is less likely to be noticed if they're just copying others, i find that difficult to understand. there is nothing 'unorthodox' or strange about learning to draw and finding your own voice.

AMU said...

i totally agree
as a art student myself i think that most institutions these days teach you to get a job and not create great art or ideas.

Most tutors/profs are there to pay their mortgage and constantly have people with lots of sheets of paper with boxes and mark sheets telling them to provide evidence of this or that...
they battle with it just like we do.

i ask myself all the time is my degree really worth it?
the problem is you cant mark or grade 'Art'

sometimes you gotta do what you 'have to' to be able to do what you 'want to'

Serge Seidlitz said...

I found this thread though Jody bartons blog, I whole-heartedly agree with you sir, and I hope you don't mind, but rather that repeat what you have so eloquently written I have directed people to this article from my blog - http://sergeseidlitzblog.blogspot.com/

Rob Ryan said...

Hi,
This is good good good advice.

david foldvari said...

thanks to everyone who's left a comment here (apart from the chinese guy advertising viagra, i deleted that one), i appreciate your input regardless of whether you agree with me or not, your points are all valid. it's good to talk about this stuff rather than just ignore it.

claudia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Peter James Field said...

Hi David, I was really interested in your post, which raises massive issues about how illustration is being taught these days.
I have written a post about it on my blog - http://peterjamesfield.blogspot.com/

david foldvari said...

you make some interesting points peter, i agree with you that talking to working illustrators can of course be beneficial when it comes to practical stuff and doing this can help you understand how to get started with freelance work etc. and this is a different thing completely to basing the work you do around contemporary illustration.

someone called claudia left a comment here but deleted it which is a real shame, because she made a really good point. here's a small section of what she said, i hope she doesn't mind me posting it:

"For so long I was looking at other's artists work and thinking -wow, i'd wish i did this- but then I started to just draw how I could and although not everyone might like what I do I feel happy."

this is a really important point - spending too much time looking at work that people around you are doing can have a very negative effect, and has a tendency to make you really self-conscious about your own work. you end up comparing yourself to everyone else out there, and that in turn just has a detrimental effect on what you do. looking for inspiration outside your chosen field will stop this from happening.

Scteve said...

I feel that the induction into the world of contemporary illustration can throw young illustrators and graphic designers off coarse, they are immediately hit with a barrage of what they feel is expected of them so there's a tendency to latch onto someone elses work for security, my advice would be if you are caught in a situation when you feel your work isnt representative of yourself or true to you, look back over your work and try and pin point when this change happened, you'll find your work before hand was more pure and true to yourself in terms of subject matter and where the work is coming from.

HAJiME said...

Surely uniqueness is only part of the puzzle? The main thing is finding something people like, if you're trying to be commercially successful? Being unique in that environment is probably a negative thing for most people in that situation.

But I totally agree that people shouldn't look to other artists for the majority of their inspiration. But this is something that we are taught to do at A-Level and it sticks. I was always criticised for not having enough artist research. Personally, I couldn't give much of a toss what other artists are doing, and I'd naturally find inspiration in unrelated areas.

david foldvari said...

You're wrong. Uniqueness is precisely the thing that makes someone commercially succesful, and that's the whole point. If your work is similar to other people's, you become part of an already overcrowded mass, and you will sink. On the other hand, if your work is unique, you effectively have no competition, and are therefore far more likely to be noticed.

People who imitate others for commercial success don't last long, not only that, but they make everything stale and predictable at the same time. Doing original work does not mean people will not like it - in fact the opposite is true. Who wants to see the same thing over and over again? Nobody. It's boring. Art directors looking for illustrators are going to be far more interested in seeing something they've never seen before than seeing the same old crap wherever they look.

HAJiME said...

I think the people who do get noticed for being truly unique are a lucky few. Popular work does usually conform to style expectations.

I get less views the more unique whatever I do is.

You seem a bit black and white about this. I'm not saying people should copy the works of other artists. I think originality is far more interesting, bringing new things to any subject from unrelated areas - but I am skeptical about whether it's the primary key to commercial success, because, that's just not how it looks from here. Nor is it how we are taught. Copying and fitting in are completely different things. Copying isn't going to help, fitting in... certainly will. I think your visual, and definitely conceptual approach does fit in.

david foldvari said...

It depends on what you mean by 'fitting in'. If you mean having a certain amount of cultural awareness that is relevant to whatever is going on now, and directing your work to be able to express that - I fully agree with you, and there's certainly nothing wrong with it. If, on the other hand, you see fitting in as a stylistic choice - ie. working in a specific way because it's currently fashionable and you think this will get you some work - this is what i have a problem with.

You are right, there are not many people who get noticed for being unique, but I don't really think luck has much to do with it - being unique in itself means nothing. The person doing the work has to have a certain amount of ability to begin with, and more importantly, a strong will and desire to get somewhere with the work they're doing. My point was that without originality, no matter how much talent and willpower you may have, you will find it a lot harder to be noticed than if you were producing original work, and this is where a lot of students manage to wreck their careers before they are given a chance for it to begin.

I maintain that as the next generation of illustrators, your priority should be to show everyone how much better you are than whatever is already out there, not to fit right into the middle of things. If your tutors fail to understand this, ask them what happened to illustration at the end of the 80's and at the start of the 90's, it was almost an identical situation to what's going on now. If the new generation of illustrators don't move things forward, they will find it very difficult to make any kind of living from illustration. This is fact and not something that's worth arguing about. And as I said before, I myself am not exempt from this either - I am simply making a point here, not trying to put myself above anyone else. It's just as much in my interest as it is in yours to make sure illustration doesn't disappear up its' own ass in a sea of mediocrity and boredom over the next few years.

Mort said...

After leaving that comment a while back asking about SCF, i didn't actually read anything you said in your blog, but I had to come back to write a small bio on you. I get what your saying and strongly agree, not only is copying other artists work making us go backwards but its incredibly boring. Don't get me wrong seeing what's out there does make me think "WOW" but having to Copy and Imitate over and over is getting on my nerves. Not to mention the fact that when asked the question "have you come up with any ideas for your final piece yet?" I found my mind completely blank and I usually have an incredibly vivid imagination. The most annoying thing is that it's actually part of the course, I get marked on how much research into other artists I've done and how thoroughly I've done it. I'm currently debating whether or not to drop the course in the second year, something I never thought I'd be doing because I love graphic design. Still for now, I power forward.

david foldvari said...

hey mort if artistic research is bothering you i would suggest looking at it a different way - look at artists who have nothing to do with graphic design - film makers, architects, musicians, photographers, writers etc. the idea behind artistic research is to give you some awareness of what's going on around you, so it's fundamentally not a bad idea at all, but the kind of art you choose to research doesn't need to be restricted to what you're studying at all, so long as it helps you get some ideas together.

Ben Tallon said...

Best thing I've read in ages. Bins, second hand book stores, pro-wrestling, human behaviour, breaking into Blackpool North Pier dressing rooms are just a few of my sources of inspiration of late.

Ben Mercer said...

reading all these made me massively happy. next time my tutor tells me to go look at someone i dont care about i shall refer them to this post. aha. many good points raised by all i think.

im not really sure where i get my inspiration from. i talk alot of bollocks amounting to some weird ideas for images usually. i definately love antlers.

and as for how illustration is being taught, it is definately a little stale. earlier this year we genuinely had a studio session where we were told to copy rob ryans style... wherein lies the creativity in this? who knows.

i think the important thing is to find the line to aspiring to be as successful or as accomplished as and illustrator you love, and aspiring to be LIKE the illustrator you love. because, as you suggest. copy cat images will get you nowhere.

Peter James Field said...

Copying Rob Ryan's style? Really? Your tutors should be ashamed. I don't think it's even about finding an illustrator you love or aspire to... find someone else to look up to, a fine artist, a poet, a director...

Ben Mercer said...

i know, terrible right. fair point. i like a lot of different stuff, keeps it fresh. i suppose the word "illustrator" in my previous comment could be replaced with just about anything you want. the point is to create and not to reproduce.

david foldvari said...

peter, ben & ben - well said. that's what i'm talking about. thanks for your input.

lisa said...

i find reading interviews with illustrators/artists of other practises much more inspiring than simply looking at pictures. finding out what drives them and why they do what they do. this then reminds me why i do what i do and gives me more drive. just looking at images makes me want to create images of my own but i tend to be blank when it comes to it if i don't delve into an artist's mind too.

the tutors on my course encourage looking at different types of artists in briefings and lectures then tell you to look at more contempoary illustration in your feedback. i get inspiration from absolutely anything, which they're liking less and less. most of my research for my previous project involved playing ps1 games and watching loads of 90s telly. it was really fun and i throroughly enjoyed the work i created. the more i enjoy my work however the lower my mark tends to be, i feel like i'm going in circles. like others who have commented on here i've considered quitting my course ...at least once a term. but uni gives me the kick up the arse i need to take risks with my work and provides access to materials with which i can experiment and see what i can do 'til i take on the world outside graded education.

if you can gain anything from uni and are quite a way through you may aswell stick it out, right? job searching is lame. plus we can challenge our tutors and bring different ideas to the course about how it could be run and try to improve it for future years, no? i don't want loads of students being as fustrated as i am taking a course in something they're supposed to love doing...

david foldvari said...

yep, quitting university is generally a pointless excercise, you'll just have wasted a load of money on nothing. it's a much better idea to find a way to make the course work for you. if it means changing a tutor's point of view, so be it. most tutors (should) welcome and encourage discussions about this kind of stuff anyway, talk to them and ask them how they see things.

MissOakland said...

This has been one of the most useful things I've read about illustration. The tutors do encourage unnecessary concentration on contemporary styles. I've always thought this- but you David have spoken the truth!

Falco tinnunculus said...

I agree with you to an extent.Although if your natural style is similar to that of other illustrators, by coincidence alone. Should you change your style?

david foldvari said...

well, that's entirely your own decision. if you don't mind being branded as "the guy whose work looks a bit like someone else's", then don't worry about it. it just means you will have to fight at least twice as hard to get noticed.

a better way to look at it would be to carry on doing what you like doing, but at the same time, concentrate on evolving it. there are a lot of ways to do this:
- think about different outlets for your work.
- try different materials, alongside the ones you already know how to use.
- find new subject matter, so what your work SAYS seperates it from everyone else's, and you're not just reliant on how it looks. bring more of your own personality into it.

this is all straightforward stuff really, none of it is rocket science.

sugarplum said...

I have found this post extremely insightful. I'm currently doing a degree in English Literature, but constantly regret not pursuing a degree in either fine art painting or illustration. Over the last couple of months I have seriously considered quitting and changing to illustration, even though I'm at the end of my second year! Reading this has made me realise that I would probably be best off producing work that has come directly from my own self-teaching and inspiration rather than a University lead course, which from reading all the comments here sounds like it's basically copying others. The only downside to this would be the lack of like-minded creative students. Does anyone know of any friendly and welcoming online communities, or groups in Brighton, UK?

But, David thankyou for this post, it's certainly helped me out alot :)

Ben Tallon said...

Sugarplum- my advice for what it's worth would be see the degree through but get sketching/photographing/creative writing or whatever interests you around it. Don't regret as much to the point David makes, it's another experience in your life that will feed into whichever direction you eventually pursue. Starting a course/new direction later certainly has it's benefits. If I'd gone straight to illustration degree at 18 there's no way I would've embraced it like I did starting at 20, the stuttering 1st year on a design degree and time spent in other jobs were crucial for forming the person I am now despite not being very happy at the time, it's how you channel the things you perceive as negative. Anyway just chirping away from my own experience, hope it helps. If you do feel regret then there's never a better time to get started! Ben.

Jinesh said...
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Dwiejudha said...

Hi David, I have repost your article to my blog and my studio pages. it's like a glimpse but it's very enlightening, and hope it help everyone to start rethink that drawing it's more than just practically what we see. beyond of it its about a thought.
I do believe it! I had some experience that makes me realize how its important the history subject,and the cultural understanding it is. especially at the process of making an artworks. But sure we not just use it as an tools at all. you have touching with your own hand, try to live on it. and I guaranteed that you will meet an exciting experiences.
Thank you for sharing David :)