Business decisions

Read my previous piece about Prices, Formats, and Markets.

This post is going to cover some of the business decisions I have made for my Design to Sell project.

Getting my poster printed

I have to check printing services regularly for my professional work, and have previously used the company Mixam for magazines, posters and flyers, because their products are a good price and quality, and they have a quick turnaround. I chose to use them again for this project.

I chose to order 100 colour A3 posters in silk with a paper thickness of 170gsm so that they were of good quality that would be hard to rip. I ordered them flat (not folded) planning to roll and wrap them myself.

Mixam has certain specifications that they want for uploaded artwork. For my upload to print at its best quality, my file needed to be in pdf format, at 300dpi, in the correct size including a 3mm bleed and a 5mm “quiet zone” all around. Below is how that setup looks in Photoshop.

Screen Shot 2018-11-29 at 19.14.21.png
3mm bleed shown in yellow, 5mm quiet zone shown in red

I put in my order to the correct specification and followed the (simple) on-screen instructions to verify everything and then pay.

Setting a price for my posters

I went through several steps to set my price. First I worked out my costs, including my time as an illustrator and the printing and materials costs, as well as a budget for display and wrapping of my product and a 10% contingency budget, then I worked out what I needed to charge per item to break even.

I then researched to see what the price was for A3 posters. I found there were three main price brackets – some types of A3 posters (for example, recent film or game posters) were usually on sale for around £2-3; posters for vintage movies or albums were a little more expensive, at approximately £5-8; rare cult movie posters and art posters (showing work by famous artists) were around £8-12. As I do not have a market yet for my work and am not well-known, I thought my work must fit into the lower price bracket.

Lastly, after my poster had arrived I asked my friends and family how much they thought my poster should be priced at, based on the quality of the poster and my artwork. Here are my results: 50% said £3-4; 36% said £5; 14% said over £5 (up to £10). No one suggested anything outside of this range.

I set my price accordingly taking into account all of the above. I may put the price up slightly in the future but as an introductory price I set it at £3.

My display at the Design to Sell event

Setting up my display

Although I know that a lot of people put posters directly on their walls with blu tack, I wanted to show that my illustration is a good quality piece of art that looks attractive framed. So the first thing I bought was a suitable frame. Unfortunately the frame didn’t stand up well on its own so I used my tabletop easel to hold it. I think that this worked out because it emphasises that my poster is a piece of art, even though it is affordable art.

I did look at postal tubes to pack my posters in but they were quite expensive, so I chose to instead buy plastic wrap from the flower arranging section of an arts and crafts shop, and I rolled and wrapped my posters with gold tape to keep them secure and be decorative. I did think about using tissue paper instead of plastic to be more environmentally friendly but again the cost was higher, and the weather has been really rainy recently – I didn’t want anyone’s poster to get wet on the way home! I put a sticker on every roll with my contact details on so that people can add me on social media and contact me if they are interested in working with me.

I bought a vase to hold the poster rolls and chose one that was good value. I wanted my display to be interesting and also refer to my design, so I purchased some artificial narcissus flowers and made them into a bunch, I also bought a real pomegranate fruit. I couldn’t buy as many decorations as I wanted with my budget, but even though my display is simple it still has a theme and I think it does look interesting and appealing. I think that this actually worked out as too many decorations would have detracted from the poster itself.

My introduction to the mythology of Persephone and my illustration

To finish my display I wanted to tell the story of Persephone in a short and straightforward way to draw people in and give context to my illustration. I included a small image of my design just in case the lighting created glare on the glass of the frame, so that people could still see the whole image. I printed this out, and laid it on the table where people could read it. I did see several people stop to read my piece so this did work to attract attention.



Digital editing and colouring

Here are links to all of my previous posts covering my creative process creating this illustration:

Changing my project

Inspirations for my new project

Art Nouveau Research

Research – Persephone

Sketchbook pages

Digital work so far

Process sketches for my decorative elements

This post will cover my digital work process assembling my scanned hand drawn illustrations, and then colouring them. I used Photoshop to create my illustration from this point.

I scanned in my hand drawn lineart of cascading flowers then cleaned the image up and edited it to create a pleasing archway of flowers.

Lineart scan of flowers
Archway of flowers

Next I scanned in my arch and column lineart and cleaned and edited it, then combined this with the flowers.

Scanned lineart
Cleaned lineart of columns
My archway of columns and cascading flowers

I combined this image with my illustration of Persephone and checked that it fit together well and that there was no leftover white from the page scans.

Persephone, throne, archway and flowers

I used clipping masks to block out the different areas for colouring on separate layers. Then I started to experiment with colours, sometimes using instinct and sometimes using reference photographic images of various elements. On the below image you can see how I used a reference photograph of the insides of a pomegranate. I kept a colour reference palette on a seperate layer throughout my work, which you can see here on the left.

Beginning colouring using clipping masks and reference photographic images

For the hair, I used a light base colour then hand-made a gradient using clipping mask layers – this gave me more control than just using a gradient tool so that I could create a more organic look for the curves and waves. This multi tone effect was also inspired by Art Nouveau posters.

Examining the way Mucha coloured hair (from a poster advertising the Salon des Cent)


I continued to add colour to my illustration. I used a cloud brush tool on the throne to give an interesting shaded effect so that it looked less flat.

More colouring, and using a cloud brush on the throne

To give the flowers the effect of being full of life at the top, gradually wilting until they were dead at the bottom, I used the gradient tool, choosing a murky tone which blended out to transparent. This makes the change in colour gradual. I like how you can still see the difference in tone of the different types of flowers.

I sampled colours from a photograph of a peach and experimented with them to find shades for Persephone’s skin, adding rosier tones in places to give her depth and life. I also looked again at Mucha’s posters to examine the skin tones he used, and the places he added rosy tones.

Examining the way Mucha painted skin (from a poster advertising Lance Parfum)


Bringing life to Persephone’s skin by sampling a peach, and killing her flowers with a gradient

I added colour and shade to Persephone’s dress. I looked at images of linen to find a colour I liked, but didn’t find one I wanted to use. Eventually I found a colour I liked in a photograph of a statue of Persephone. I played with the value of the colour to find one for the shade, which gives the fabric drape shadows and folds. Again I looked at reference images from Art Nouveau posters to see how the artists painted fabric, and found a great example from Henri Privat-Livemont.

Roman period statue of Persephone
Image result for henri privat-livemont pd corsets
Examining how Henri Privat-Livemont painted fabric drape (from an advertisement for PD Corsets)
Colouring skin, fabric, and archway

I used a photograph of some rocks to sample the colours for my archway, choosing grey tones. I used the cloud tool technique I used earlier on the throne to add some interest, so it wouldn’t look completely flat. I also used more clip layers to change the lineart colour around Persephone and the throne to two dark brown shades, as Art Nouveau always seems to use coloured outlines rather than black, and Mucha often chose to use brown.


I started working out how I wanted the frame to look by using a curved rectangle tool to lay out shapes. I didn’t like how the flowers cut off on the edge of the columns, so I went back to paper to draw new flower and vine elements to add in and make the flowers look more full. Once, they were done, I scanned, cleaned, combined, and coloured them until I was happy with the illustration.

At this point in the process, I was making regular prints of my illustration to find any errors or areas that needed cleaning or editing. I circled sections that did, and worked through each one. I intended for my final posters to be printed at A3 size so I printed some of my test pieces at that size too, to check for any errors that would show up. One element that I changed completely after looking at the test prints was the colouring of Persephone’s hair, which I wanted to be brighter and more vibrant.

I created a border design with curved corners and a dark brown layer, sandwiched between lines of a darker brown, again inspired by Mucha’s advertisement for Lance Parfum. All of this was on a background inspired by the colour of creamy weathered paper. I was already using a background in a blue shade with a noise filter behind Persephone.

Image result for mucha lance parfum
Examining the border of Mucha’s advertisement for Lance Parfum
Persephone’s brighter hair. The red circles show errors to be fixed.
Bringing together my image with a border, lettering, and Cerberus motifs

My next step was to try different colour schemes for the frame. I came up with a few different ideas, and printed them out to get a sense of how it would look on paper.

PRINTME-pers-stg8framecolcomparisons copy
Border colour scheme 1
PRINTME-pers-stg8framecolcomparisons2 copy
Border colour scheme 2
PRINTME-pers-stg8framecolcomparisons3 copy
Border colour scheme 3
PRINTME-pers-stg8framecolcomparisons4 copy
Border colour scheme 4

I chose the combination of colours that I liked, and applied it to my illustration. The colours I chose were actually taken from Persephone’s dress fabric and shadows, and then I experimented with darkening and lightening those tones until the combination was perfect.

Seeing it all printed, I found that I didn’t like the blue background at all. It was too flat and the noise filter felt too forced. I followed a tutorial to make my own backgrounds using other filters. The ones I wanted to use weren’t available in Photoshop, but I searched for support on the issue and learned that I had to design in RGB in order to use certain filters (I was using CMYK because my intention was for my posters to be professionally printed). I created a new document of the right size in RGB format, and played with the filters until I found a style I liked.

Screen Shot 2018-11-29 at 16.19.54.png
Render > Clouds filter
Screen Shot 2018-11-29 at 16.17.18.png
Close up of Texturiser > Canvas filter
Screen Shot 2018-11-29 at 16.17.52.png
Canvas filter over cloud filter background
Screen Shot 2018-11-29 at 16.20.56.png
Sketch > Water Paper filter to create a linen effect
Screen Shot 2018-11-29 at 16.21.47.png
Sketch > Reticulation filter

Eventually, I created one I liked. I used this as a base layer, and covered it with a gradient layer using the brightest pink in my pomegranate against the darkest red of the pomegranate juice (which I intentionally coloured to seem bloody). I set this pink gradient layer at 60% and together they gave my background shadows and highlights that seemed to glow, and brought out the pinks of the pomegranate and Persephone’s skin.

Final blue background using Sketch > Reticulation filter
Gradient background using shades taken from the pomegranate and juice from my illustration
My final background combines the gradient layer with the blue layer

Next I created a gradient using the same pomegranate colours to use for the lettering, and I used this “upside down” compared to the background colours as they looked better that way. I coloured the Cerberus motifs with the same dark brown as the frame and used the brightest pomegranate pink to colour their eyes to give them a demonic look.

Cerberus motif

Finally I added my signature (dark and small, as I wanted it to be included but not distracting). I also added my copyright information and Instagram name, @midnakit, together at the bottom, very small so the information is visible but does not detract from the illustration. I tried these out in a few positions, colours and sizes before I was happy with them, eventually using a pale brown/gold shade.

Here is my final illustration:

Persephone – Copyright 2018 Kitty McEwan @midnakit

I will cover the process of getting my posters printed and put on sale at the Design To Sell event in my next post.





Process sketches for my decorative elements

Here is a link to my previous post about my earlier work on this project designing Persephone and her throne.

Persephone on her throne

This post will cover my process work designing the decorative elements of my illustration, surrounding Persephone and her throne.

I wanted to look at iconography for Demeter, Persephone’s mother, and Hades, her husband.

Hades iconography
Demeter iconography

I really liked the vines and flowers I sketched in an earlier draft, so I decided to work with that as inspiration. Since Persephone was also queen of  the Underworld, I decided  to experiment with some ways to show that through symbolism in the decorative elements.

Thinking of ideas for decorative elements – possible shapes
Thinking of ideas for decorative elements – flowers and skulls
Thinking of ideas for decorative elements – souls of the dead, and Cerberus

After doing these simple ideational sketches, I looked at my lists again of recurring themes associated with Demeter, Persephone, and Hades.

Demeter is often associated with red poppies and grain, so I made sketches of these to get a better sense of their shapes, contours, and colours.


I also took another look at Persephone’s associations with pomegranates, their flowers and fruit, and the Narcissus flower.

Pomegranate fruit, flowers and leaves
Narcissus flowers and buds

I would have liked to have sketched these elements from life but as they are seasonal that was not possible, so I had to instead use reference images from the internet and books. Below are some of my mood boards collecting images to be inspired by.


I had to figure out a structure for the decorations around Persephone, so I played with basic shapes to see what layout was most pleasing to look at.

Thinking of layout ideas

Originally, I had intended to create a decorative border similar to the ones seen in Art Nouveau posters. However, I really liked the last layout on the page, and how she looked like she was framed by columns and an arch, so I decided to draw some Greek columns instead, but include some decorative spaces inspired by the Art Nouveau look. These I would cover with three types of flowers – poppies, narcissus, and pomegranate. In order to use symbolism to reference Persephone being both the Goddess of Spring and Queen of the Dead, I drew the flowers full of life at the top of the arch, gradually wilting as they descended, until the flowers at the bottom were completely dead.

A structure for my layout in simple blocks
Cascading poppy, narcissus and pomegranate flowers – full of life at the top, and dead at the bottom
Greek style columns and an archway with Art Nouveau style cutouts

Here are images of my final line art of these elements. I only needed to do one side, as I wanted to them mirror each other.

Lineart for the cascading flowers
Lineart for the columns

One of the last things I needed for my illustration was the name tag panel along the bottom. Since I have Greek myths as the theme for the print, I could have used a lettering style similar to (or inspired by) old Greek carvings, but I also looked at the types of lettering used in Art Nouveau posters.

Thinking of ideas for my lettering
Trying out lettering
The style I chose to use, inspired by carved letters in stone

I wanted to include an element to link Persephone with Hades, and I decided to use Cerberus, the Hound of Hades. I designed a motif for the three-headed devil dog to add interest to my lettering.

A symbol for Cerberus

The final element I needed was my signature, which I wrote by hand and scanned, and my copyright notice. I researched how to do this, and found advice to include it in the format “copyright symbol, date, name of copyright holder.” I also added my Instagram username, @midnakit, because I want people to know how to find more of my work.

My copyright notices

My next post will cover my process assembling and colouring my illustration digitally using Photoshop.


Five year plan

I have thought a lot about what I want to do in the future, but I haven’t made a definite plan. I can see value in planning ahead and working through goals, so I will be making a detailed plan for myself. For now, here are some ideas for what I’d like to achieve in the next five years.


  •  Achieve a Merit or Distinction in my current course
  • Achieve a good grade in BA (Hons) Illustration or Game Arts
  • Find out more about Post-graduate degrees, and have achieved a grade high enough to continue study if I want to


  • Set up an online shop
  • Keep tabling at events and spread beyond Plymouth
  • Be commissioned or employed to do illustration work for e.g. books, games, albums
  • Improve my zine and comic work, and work on independent comics, perhaps with a writer
  • Help YEA Plymouth to take on at least one more project, and pass on the organiser/director role
  • Achieve my Mayflower 400 project for Plymouth Zine Library, and potentially get funding for expanding the library, and a permanent base
  • Start earning an income from my work in the arts


  • Start/join a band, and write some of my own music
  • Spend more of my time organising and playing in D&D campaigns
  • Finally finish cleaning my room
  • Move out eventually and live independently


List of my skills

Here is a list of my skills:

I am an illustrator with enthusiasm and my own style.

I try to challenge myself to improve with every college project.

I have learned many skills through self-study and experimentation.

I am experienced at delivering projects within a limited time frame.

I have experience with managing arts projects.

I am dedicated to improving inclusion for young people in the arts community, and promoting zinemaking.

I am friendly and approachable, and able to work with people of all ages.

I am creative, and alongside my illustration I also play rhythm guitar, and use my imagination to create worlds and stories as a DM for Dungeons & Dragons.

I am willing to take opportunities wherever I find them.



My independent work so far

I have achieved quite a lot of work in the past two years, I have listed it below but understand I will need to be selective with what to include in my cv and university applications.



Plymouth Zine Library posters, designer, May 2017-current

YEA ‘18 magazine, art director, Aug-Sept 2018

YEA ‘18 posters, designer, May-Sept 2018

“The Tales of Trumpy Bum Face”, commissioned picture book illustrator, May 2018

TEX Comics, project organiser & illustrator for the Tate Exchange and PCA, Feb 2018

The Art Side, designer (competition winner) for their shopping bags, Nov 2017

YEA Plymouth workshop posters, Nov 2017- May 2018

NuKids gig poster, commissioned artist, July 2017

Small commissions:

I undertook several small individual commissions throughout 2017-2018 as well as selling my own illustrated greetings cards, zines, postcards and badges at art fairs.



Gurt Noodle #0 – a guide to zinemaking, April 2017

Gurt Noodle #1, Oct 2017

TEX Comics, March 2018

Our Solar System, March 2018

Gurt Noodle: Women of Fandom #1, Oct 2018

Gurt Noodle #2, Nov 2018



Plymouth Zine Workshop (founder & organiser), ongoing (from May 2017)

Tiny Mart art fair, Dec 2018 (future)

Game Over pop up shop, Nov 2018 (future)

Give Up Your Day Job art fair, Nov 2018

Nowhere Illustration Fair, Oct 2018

DevCon convention, Oct 2018

YEA ‘18 exhibition for Plymouth Art Weekender (exhibitor), Sept 2018

The Clipper art market, June-Sept 2018

Give Up Your Day Job art fair, July 2018

Tiny Mart art fair, April 2018

Counter book fair, March 2018

Animangapop convention, Feb 2018

Give Up Your Day Job art fair, Dec 2017

Tiny Mart art fair, Nov 2017

Behave. Collective zine exhibition at Tate St. Ives (exhibitor), Nov 2017

Devcon convention, Oct 2017



I have recently been awarded funding of £1500 from the Mayflower 400 Community Sparks scheme to provide zine workshops at different venues in Plymouth and produce a magazine filled with work by local people around the topics of Plymouth and the Mayflower. This project will be undertaken between now and November 2020.

Plymouth Zine Library, founder and curator, 2017-current

YEA Plymouth, co-founder and creative director, 2017-current

Visual Arts Plymouth, young activator, 2017-current

YEA ‘18, project manager & curator, May-Oct 2018 (funded by Horizon, Councillor Chris Penberthy via Plymouth City Council Community Grants, and Millfields Inspired)

Plymouth Art Weekender, Activator, throughout 2018

Plymouth Art Weekender, selection panel member for Plymouth Art Weekender commissioned artists, May 2018

Mayflower 400, selection panel member for arts project funding, Dec 2017

YEA Plymouth creative skills workshops, project manager, Nov 2017

YEA ‘17, project manager and art director, July-Sept 2017 (funded by Horizon and Vital Sparks)

Made In Plymouth magazine, I was invited to write an article about my work, Sept 2017

Finding Fanon (Larry Achiampong and David Blandy), I did work experience installing the exhibition and led a public tour of the work, July-Aug 2017

Research on Game Arts degrees

As stated in a previous blog post, my top criteria for what I want in a Game Arts course:

  • Professional and respectful atmosphere
  • Strong focus on developing technical skills, e.g. anatomy/life drawing, character design
  • Encouragement to develop our own original ideas
  • Lots of opportunities to work in game dev teams on real games
  • Good relationship with the games industry
  • Preparation to work in smaller indie studios as well as bigger triple-A studios

I have collected this information for Falmouth University (FU)’s BA (Hons) Game Arts, and will be updating at a later date with information from Plymouth College of Art (PCA) BA (Hons) Game Arts course, as I don’t have the information I need yet.

Professional and respectful atmosphere

FU: Falmouth University Games Academy includes courses in all sorts of areas, from game arts to programming, and game artists can specialise in different areas. Students work in cross-disciplinary multi-skilled teams. I was concerned to see some sexist posters up in one team’s area, I found it unprofessional and disappointing, because the rest of the course and the studio seemed amazing.
Strong focus on developing technical skills, e.g. anatomy/life drawing, character design

FU: In year 1, Game Arts students do a “Game Art Foundation” with modules in concept art and visual culture, character art, and environmental art. In year 2, they learn concept, character, and environmental art vocabularies. Students work from 9-5 in the studio, five days a week, including three hours of life drawing practice.

Encouragement to develop our own original ideas

FU: Game dev teams are encouraged to develop their own IP (intellectual property) which belongs to them, and they can take it to market. They are taught how to understand and develop their market and do community networking around their game.

Lots of opportunities to work in game dev teams on real games

FU: Gives experience comparable to the real games industry, as a “games education 2.0”. Students work in cross-disciplinary multi-skilled teams on game dev projects, and the game artists do this through years 2 and 3.

Good relationship with the games industry

FU: The main lecturers seem to have worked in the industry, and have good contacts. They invite people working in industry in for a “show and tell”, and look around the studios while students are working. They also take their work to trade shows, e.g. EGX.

Preparation to work in smaller indie studios as well as bigger triple-A studios

FU: Studio work based programme, not a traditional academic course, as they’re “doing it for real”. They definitely emphasise preparing for students to launch their own/join independent studios. The large working studio in the Games Academy would also prepare people for employment in bigger studios.

Access to good resources for working (e.g. software, hardware)

FU: The studio is full of up-to-date computer hardware and software, and large Cintiq tablets in every team space.

Research into Illustration degrees

From my last post, here are my top criteria for what I want in an Illustration course:

  • No house style
  • Great printing facilities, and access to workshops on how to use them
  • Good quality digital facilities – access to computers, laptops, scanners and printers, and drawing tablets.
  • Dedicated studio space for each student (rather than hot-desking)
  • Lots of studio access hours outside of class time
  • Weekly life drawing sessions and trips for location drawing and reportage
  • Potential to participate in a student magazine
  • Guest lecturers, graduates, working illustrators, and people from industry visiting often to talk to us about their experiences and advice
  • Support for self-employment and freelance illustrators
  • Real sense of community within the department

Now I will look at each of these in detail for the three Illustration courses I am interested in: BA (Hons) Illustration at Falmouth University (FU), Plymouth College of Art (PCA), and University of Plymouth (UoP).

No house style

FU: The course leader said that there isn’t a house style, but I could see that certain styles were popular.

PCA: I didn’t ask if there was a house style, but I know from visiting there for the last few years that there are definitely some styles that are really popular.

UoP: No house style, and a lot of variety in the work on display at their shows every year.

Great printing facilities, and access to workshops on how to use them

FU: There is a printmaking studio with several different presses, but I didn’t have the chance to look around them during my visit.

PCA: There is a digital printer that can be used for pattern design on textiles etc, there is also a printmaking studio with different presses available.

UoP: I went on a tour of the facilities open to Illustration students. In the middle of the first and second year Illustration studio there is a small area for printmaking, which is really convenient for quick prints or experimentation. There are also several large dedicated printmaking rooms with multiple presses, an enormous letterpress collection, and large digital printers for big format printing.

Good quality digital facilities – access to computers, laptops, scanners and printers, and drawing tablets.

FU: The class sizes are huge, and there only seem to be a small amount of computers within the studio. There are some Cintiqs, but I’m not sure how easy it is to access with so many students?

PCA: There are some computers in each studio and the hallway outside them, plus more in a large Mac suite available to the whole college – so it could be busy.

UoP: Each year has it’s own studio space, which includes a set of Macs with all the neccessary industry software, with scanners next to them. I’m not sure about access to tablets and laptops, I need to check that out soon.

Dedicated studio space for each student (rather than hot-desking)

FU: Yes, but there are 130 students in the year group, so the space might be crowded.

PCA: Yes, but only in the third year. The first and second years have open spaces, similar to GIGA.

UoP: Every student is allocated their own desk space in every year group, as well as lockers either under or on the desks. Several of the walls are available to students to write and stick things on for inspiration, sharing, and making the space their own.

Lots of studio access hours outside of class time

FU: 8am to 9pm Monday to Friday, and 10am to 5pm on Saturday and Sunday.

PCA: The studio is open from 7am to 9pm Monday to Thursday, and until 6pm on Fridays.

UoP: The studio is open from 7am to midnight every day.

Weekly life drawing sessions and trips for location drawing and reportage

FU: There is a strong emphasis on life drawing, painting, and printmaking skills. Third years get access to one to one tutorials via sign ups where they want them.

PCA: I know that there is a facility called the Life Room, but I need to check if it’s open to all or is scheduled to different classes at different hours. There is apparently a large amount of workshops available to students of all courses, some of which include life drawing sessions.

UoP: I think there are regular life drawing sessions available to all students, but I need to check for details.

Potential to participate in a student magazine

FU: They have an annual publication of graduate illustrators work, called Wunderkammer. I’m not sure if there is a cross-campus magazine, but there is a student run publishing house called Penryn Press, which publishes books.

PCA: They do have a magazine called Partake, but it mostly promotes PCA courses and interviews PCA staff and alumni. I’m not sure how much student content there is in there, and the style follows the PCA house design. There is also Pylon Press, which publishes a small number of zines by Illustration students every year.

UoP: Dean Owens, Illustration lecturer, suggested that they may be launching a student magazine in 2019. The Illustration department also launched Plymouth Press Club last year, which may be an ongoing project. There is also Student Life, which I think is another promotional magazine for UoP.

Guest lecturers, graduates, working illustrators, and people from industry visiting often to talk to us about their experiences and advice

FU: Yes, I need to get more info.

PCA: Yes, I need to get more info.

UoP: Yes, I need to get more info.

Support for self-employment and freelance illustrators

FU: In the third year, there is a strong focus on professional practice, including competitions, self promotion, building portfolios, social media, advertising, working practice, CV, fees and pricing, interviews, and collaborative practice. Their attitude seems geared to working in larger studios.

PCA: Lots of opportunity to work in professional context, including live briefs, commissions, collaboration, art direction, placements, internships, and competitions.

UoP: In the third year, a focus on professional practice, including live briefs, social networking, licensing, interviews and CVs, book-keeping, and commissions. There is also Uni credit available for doing outside projects.

It’s not clear how much support any of these give for freelance illustrators working on outside projects during the first two years.

Real sense of community within the department

FU: My impression was that most people in the classes felt comfortable enough to leave their things on their desks, but I wonder how easy it is to build a community with so many students in each year group (130 per year).

PCA: A class of around 50 students seems like it would have lots of opportunity for community building and collaboration.

UoP: I got a strong impression that there was a strong sense of community within each year group, and also across years one and two, who share a large space, divided by a printmaking area and dividing wall. Having the walls to draw and post on gives people a sense of ownership of the space, and each room had a small break area with sofas.

I still have some questions to ask, which I will be emailing to the relevant departments or asking in interviews (if I get them!), and will update this post as I get answers.

Researching uni options

I’ve become very interested in going on to university study, and have been gathering lots of information from different sources. This blog post is to help me arrange my thoughts and priorities.

Nottingham Trent University gave out Jon Burgerman posters from their UCAS stand in London!

In order to explore the options available, I went to two different UCAS fairs – one in March in Exeter, and another in October in London. I have also looked through several undergraduate prospectuses and at university websites, and have looked at reviews and articles comparing the different universities (e.g. from The Complete University Guide, and People of Print). I also checked YouTube for videos from the different universities as these are really useful to get a sense of the space and what people have to say about it.

At the moment, I’m considering taking a course either in Illustration or Game Arts. I’ve always wanted to work as a concept artist for games, however I really enjoy working in illustration, and I’m worried that studying Game Arts might narrow my options, whereas if I study Illustration, I can play with different types of media and different styles, and still do work for games too. I’ve included information about both types of courses in this blog post.

My top criteria for what I want in an Illustration course:

  • No house style
  • Great printing facilities, and access to workshops on how to use them
  • Good quality digital facilities – access to computers, laptops, scanners and printers, and drawing tablets.
  • Dedicated studio space for each student (rather than hot-desking)
  • Lots of studio access hours outside of class time
  • Weekly life drawing sessions and trips for location drawing and reportage
  • Potential to participate in a student magazine
  • Guest lecturers, graduates, working illustrators, and people from industry visiting often to talk to us about their experiences and advice
  • Support for self-employment and freelance illustrators
  • Real sense of community within the department

My top criteria for what I want in a Game Arts course:

  • Professional and respectful atmosphere
  • Strong focus on developing technical skills, e.g. anatomy/life drawing, character design
  • Encouragement to develop our own original ideas
  • Lots of opportunities to work in game dev teams on real games
  • Good relationship with the games industry
  • Preparation to work in smaller indie studios as well as bigger triple-A studios
  • Access to good resources for working (e.g. software, hardware)

My top criteria for what I want in a university:

  • A really, really good library
  • An active student union including clubs, events, and societies
  • Good on-campus facilities, e.g. cafes, gym, events venue
  • Engagement with local area
  • Long opening hours for extra study time
  • Living close to campus

I have decided that if I want to start studying at university in 2019 (when I will be 17), then I would like to stay relatively close to my family and to my current work (as an independent illustrator and maker-seller, and in my work for Plymouth Zine Library and YEA Plymouth). This means that the courses I am considering studying are:

Plymouth College of Art – BA (Hons) Illustration

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University of Plymouth – BA (Hons) Illustration

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Falmouth University – BA (Hons) Illustration

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Plymouth College of Art – BA (Hons) Game Arts

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Falmouth University – BA (Hons) Game Arts

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I have been to Open Days for these courses and listened to the course talks, I have also read through their prospectuses and checked websites and social media etc for all of them.  Below are my thoughts about these universities related to my “wanted criteria” above.

“A really, really good library”

Falmouth: Two libraries (one on each campus of Falmouth and Penryn) with a large arts related collection. Open til 9pm weekdays and 6pm weekends. I didn’t have a chance to look inside the libraries but I will try to on another occasion.

PCA: Small but it is a specialist arts library so crammed full of specialist information. Huge archive of arts journals and magazines. Quite limited opening hours, til 8pm Mon-Thurs, til 4.30pm on Fri, and 10-1 only on Saturdays.

University of Plymouth: Huge with a massive selection of books across countless subjects – the arts section is one small part of it (the illustration department also has its own small collections). Open 24/7 with lots of study rooms and a cafe.

“An active student union including clubs, events, and societies”

Falmouth: Joint SU shared with Exeter. Lots of activities and societies and an up to date website. It isn’t clear how many societies are based in Falmouth rather than Exeter but there are some that interest me e.g. Penryn Press Blog.

PCA: A small number of societies (it is a small campus) but lots of potential. Website etc needs updating. The SU facilities have just been moved and upgraded and they look good. I am currently SU VP for PCA Pre-Degree so I could continue to be involved and help grow the SU.

University of Plymouth: Lots of sports activities and a useful website to see whats on in the coming weeks. Regular open mic sessions with “Jam House”; a Rock & Live Music society; a student radio station; a Geek Society with video games socials and movie screenings; and also an active arts society. Best of all, they have a really active Games Society!

“Good on-campus facilities, e.g. cafes, gym, events venue”

Falmouth: There is an art shop on the Falmouth campus with good prices for sketchbooks, paints etc. Both campuses have a large dining hall with food and drinks to buy, the one in the Falmouth campus also has a nice area upstairs with booths for people to sit together and work collaboratively. There is also space for live music (bands were playing when I visited and it made a good atmosphere).

PCA: It has all been remodelled recently. There is a canteen/cafe, FabLab, The Gallery exhibition space, a studio theatre, and the Plymouth Arts Centre cinema is being moved into PCA.

University of Plymouth: Several cafes and shops on campus, really good prices on paper, inks are supplied for screenprinting, well priced gym memberships available as well as sports societies, there is a theatre for live performance, a 360 degree immersive cinema, the Arts Institute gallery, and an SU bar.

“Engagement with local area”

Falmouth: Lots of artists live in and around Falmouth and Falmouth University is highly regarded for the arts, so there are lots of opportunities to see work from different artists. The Cornwall Zine Library is nearby. Not really sure about how much engagement there is with the local area.

PCA: PCA is really heavily involved in supporting local arts and especially working with young people through Saturday Arts Clubs, PSCA, and the Tate Exchange. I am familiar with lots of PCA lecturers, students, and graduates, from going to arts events and exhibitions around Plymouth. Several PCA lecturers are involved in organising local events e.g. Ben Wright (Illustration) for Drink & Draw/Tiny Mart; Phil Trenerry (Illustration) for Pylon Press, Terry Maughan (Game Arts) for Plymouth Comic Book Collective.

University of Plymouth: The illustration department organise a lot of exhibitions so student’s work can be seen in different venues. Emma Carlisle (Illustration lecturer) is involved with Drink & Draw Plymouth. The Arts Institute is the University’s public arts programme. UoP is also the home of the South West Retro Computing Archive.

“Long opening hours for extra study time”

Falmouth: The library has study areas open til 9pm M-F, and 6pm weekends.

PCA: I’m not sure – will check this.

University of Plymouth: The library is open 24/7 and has lots of study space including bookable private study rooms.

“Living close to campus”

Falmouth: Falmouth is a really small town, housing is directly on the Penryn campus or next to the Falmouth campus, and there is a shuttle bus linking the two campuses. I checked out the Penryn campus halls and thought they were awesome.

PCA: There is nearby accommodation but I could also live with my family. I need to visit their halls of residence to check them out.

University of Plymouth: There is nearby accommodation but I could also live with my family. I need to visit their halls of residence to check them out.


Falmouth: Really highly regarded internationally. The Falmouth campus buildings are all really close together and the Penryn campus buildings are more widely spaced with walks between them. I think I would enjoy living in Falmouth as I really like the town, and it is close enough to easily visit friends and family back in Plymouth. The location is ideal for taking day trips out around Cornwall to do drawing and relax.

PCA: I think the transition to studying a degree at PCA from pre-degree where I am now would be quite smooth. I am really familiar with PCA and know several students and lecturers there already which would be helpful at settling in. I like that it is a specialist arts college with a smaller number of students, rather than a massive university with thousands of students covering all sorts of subjects, but that does mean there are less SU societies etc. I’m not sure how much the curriculum is going to change (there seem to be big changes afoot) or how I feel about the new “creative learning – social justice” branding or what that means for studying there. I wish there was a live music venue!

University of Plymouth: I do think the facilities at UoP are incredible. I am pretty familiar with the library, cafes, gallery, theatre, immersive cinema etc as I have been visiting them regularly for years. It is a big campus compared to the other two on my list, and there would be a lot of opportunities (I hope!) to meet people from all over the world studying different subjects, but the size could also be a bit intimidating. I do like the Roland Lewinsky building where the Illustration department and the Arts Institute gallery are both situated.

PCA and UoP are situated quite closely together and so the benefits of staying in Plymouth (work, family, friends..) are the same for both. Plymouth is a great city to live in as it is both big and small, there are lots of arts and cultural activities and events here, and we are close to the sea and the countryside for day trips out. There is also easy access to Exeter and Bristol by train/bus.

I will cover the Game Arts and Illustration courses against my “wanted criteria” in a second blog post.

Digital work so far

Here are the final sketches and lineart for my illustration of Persephone on her throne. In the next week I’ll be working on a decorative border and colouring.

I worked up a final sketch of my character in pencil, giving her an oversized narcissus crown.  I wanted a large crown to emphasise her position as Queen and a Goddess, and because oversized flower headdresses are a regular motif in Mucha’s work. I then scanned my piece and then made slight edits in Photoshop to her expression, arm position, and proportions.

Persephone – final sketch
Image result for mucha bieres de la meuse
Alphonse Mucha poster advertising Bieres de la Meuse showing a flower crown and arched framing

I printed my final sketch (above) and then used a lightbox to hand draw the lineart using Faber-Castell Pitt Artist pens. I chose to draw by hand rather than digitally as I prefer to work that way and I think it produces more organic lines and curves. I then scanned the piece and cleaned it up in Photoshop.

As a side note, when I scan my lineart I usually load it up into Clip Studio Paint, change my levels, and use the handy one click facility to “convert brightness to opacity” to remove the white paper background. I then save the file as png and use Photoshop to work on the rest of the picture, because it is widely used in industry and I want to build my ability with it.

Final Persephone lineart

I designed the throne seperately so I could focus on the pattern without obstruction. Part of it is unfinished as it would be obstructed by the figure and didn’t need any detail work.

In Art Nouveau posters, circles and circular windows are a common theme, especially framing the upper body of female figures. My throne design for Persephone incorporates this style and I have developed the detail to mimic the inside of a pomegranate fruit. The arm rest of the throne is inspired by Greek patterns.

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Alphonse Mucha poster for Amatller Chocolates, showing a flower crown, circular frame and thick outlining on the figure

Again, I hand drew this using Pitt Artist pens, and this time I added a thicker outline using my Pentel brush pen, as a thicker outer line is another stylistic detail often used in Art Nouveau illustration. This is actually part of my own usual style too so a shared trait and one I enjoyed discovering.

Persephone’s throne

Finally, here is Persephone sat on her throne in all her glory. I combined my lineart pieces again using Photoshop, which I plan to also use for my colouring work.

Persephone on her throne – final lineart