Monday, 21 September 2009

Year three

Going back after summer is always a daunting time and i know this year there is going to be even more pressure as it is my final year. Alongside university briefs i will need to create my own website, contact people in the industry that i would like to produce work for or with, produce an interview ready portfolio and carry on with my personal work. I think at some point, personal work and uni work will merge into one and make things easier, but for now they are separate things that need to be addressed in different ways. Over this summer i have contacted a few designers in relation to my work, my dissertation and just purely for chats. I think this will need to be an ongoing thing throughout my final year, so i can build up some contacts and relationships with potential employers and maybe even future clients! I will also need to find some more work experience through university holidays, before i finish my final year, to help me decide the direction i want to go in design. On another note, I don't want all my hard work over summer on my personal mrYen blog (promoting my shop, getting work created for it and building up followers and contacts) to be wasted so i will try and keep it going alongside university blogs/briefs/deadlines.

Also as i stated in my first post for this summer blog i will answer the following questions:

Work Placement/Professional Research
* What activities have i undertaken over summer that have broadened my understanding of the design industry?
I have had a two week work placement with the Leeds Guide magazine and have produced Layouts, adverts, ideas for re-branding the Student Guide and been interviewed by the magazine. I have also created a programme for Opera in the Park for Leeds City Council, from start to finish that went to print and was sold at the event.

* What have i learnt from these and how will they inform my design practice?
I have learnt a great deal about inDesign, communicating with clients, working to tight deadlines and working within strict parameters for designing layouts and adverts for clients. All this experience will really help my personal design practice in the future as i now know where my strengths and abilities are and how to use these to my advantage. I can also now use a limited amount of content with restrictions and still create something creative.

* How have i evidenced this?
I have created a box set of booklets. Three booklets that house all my work created for the Leeds Guide (cover designs, layouts and illustrator experiments) a personal booklet that includes all my doodles, sketches an illustrations from summer 09 and a booklet which i created that is an A-Z of illustrated Birds. I have also received my free copy of the Opera in the Park brochure and will soon be getting my free copy of this years Student Guide.

Dissertation/Theoretical Research
*Summarise the progress i have made on my dissertation in relation to primary and secondary research.(visits, interviews etc)
My dissertation topic in "What is the Value of Handmade Publications" and I have read the six books that i planned to read over summer and taken appropriate notes, gathered quotes and sentences for citations, I have emailed interviews to people who create zines and are well known in the zine culture (Craig Atkinson and Alex Wrekk) and have started to look for zine events and handmade book fairs within my time frame of my dissertation.

* How this has influenced decisions that effect my studio practice.
My dissertation topic and research has influenced my studio practice as i have created my own small publications that show my progression over summer and my interests that have developed over summer too. This has affected my thoughts about what i want to focus on next year and why. Also my work experience has changed my mind about working for a magazine creating layouts. This is something i no longer aim for as a career and have veered more towards illustration and typography with handmade publications being the end product.

Design Practice/Independent Research
* What do i want to be?
I would like to be an illustrator who creates imagery using paper cut art work and hand drawn typography, while still having a background in graphic design.

* Who do i want to work with/for?
I would love to work with other paper cut artists, professional illustrators and some serious graphic design companies. I would also really like to get some work experience with an illustrator and see how they react to a brief, their methods, their organisation and their processes.

* What kind of work do i want to produce?
I would like to produce editorial illustrations, illustrations for posters, my own handmade books, my own promotional items, custom hand made paper cut art works and small publications/zines.

* What kind of audiences/contexts or areas do i want to aim my work towards/engage with?
I would like to aim my work towards a commercial audience, to gain commissions for books, magazines, newspapers, posters, promotional work and any that really focuses on open and free illustration.

*Identify and discuss how i have maintained my design practice using visual/type journals, live briefs and independent practical research (such as sketchbooks)
I have maintained my design practice by creating illustrations, paper cut designs, booklets, blogs, an online shop, having my work on international websites front pages, a presentation and constant evaluation. I think this constant stream of work has kept me up to speed with designing to deadlines and with specific ideas in mind (such as the A-Z of Illustrated birds) I think the mixture of personal development, opening an online shop and creating work for a university type brief has kept me interested in design, wanting to develop my skills further and has also really helped when contacting designers/illustrators. Also having my work on front pages of websites and regularly updating a blog has been a great way to show my work to designers, the design and blogging community and potential clients/customers.

A Professional Skills Plan
* Evaluate current skills (periodically over summer)
Done. I filled out a skills questionnaire at the start of summer and just at the end of my summer too, comparing where my choices and decisions about my practice are.

* A 10 minute presentation (powerpoint/pdf)
Done. I created a pdf presentation in InDesign, that includes all my summer work, work experience work and dissertation research.

* A completed skills profile from before summer (which you can find here and after summer, which you can find here)

* Blog entries that document my progress over summer (which you can find on this blog)

Skill Evaluation

I did this at the start of summer and before work experience and since then i feel i have learnt so much that i am doing this again as my views/skills and focus has changed since then. So here is my current Skill Profile...

I think my focus as a designer is still on materials and technique with a heavy obsession for paper cutting for illustration purposes and handmade publications. I prefer design for print in general and definitely prefer it over digital design as i like to have a hands on approach to designing, to get a feel for the materials. I will and can use a mac but i don't really have any interest in designing things like websites or animations. I see computers as a way to produce something with a specific end product in mind and not a tool to produce everything. I feel that I am reasonably good at researching and writing things for critical studies, blogs and when i have to analyse briefs and annotating design sheets but lack the confidence and skills when it comes to verbal communication, such as presentations. I would like to further develop my typography and layout skills and my work experience placement at the Leeds Guide definitely helped me to focus on these areas of weakness for me. I feel as though i have really improved on these and have a greater understanding of how basic typography and layout works which will help me in my personal design process. I have also realised that magazine layout design is not something i am actually interested in pursuing a career in anymore. I feel as though there is not enough creative freedom. I understand that this is prevalent in many other jobs too but if i am at the point of choosing a career path then i would rather focus on something i find fully creative, even the monotonous parts! I also think i now have something more 'real world' to put into my portfolio and the experience of working on a magazine, to their deadlines is also great work experience. I would like to play around more with illustrative type and illustration in general too, while trying to incorporate my style and techniques i find interesting (such as paper cutting) into my future work. I feel i need to improve on my drawn illustrations too as i have always put off drawing. This is something i feel i have focused on over summer too as i have created an illustrated alphabet of birds, a small zine of doodles and experimented with different materials and techniques. I feel the practice in Indesign and illustrator i have had over summer has greatly improved my understanding of both and have figured out and been taught new things i didn't know before. I feel i have also developed my skills when contacting designers/illustrators and people who's work i admire and have been doing so over summer. Some people i have contacted to ask their opinion on my work and for information for my dissertation include Michael Nobbs (illustrator), Heather Moore (aka Skinny laMinx - illustrator and paper cut artist) Craig Atkinson (zine creator and distributor of Cafe Royal) and Alex Wrekk (zine creator and Author of "Stolen Sharpie Revolution") I have had positive responses and some have even promoted my work on their twitter accounts!

All in all i have had a productive summer, learnt so much, changed my opinion on my career and gained clarity and focus for my third and final year at university.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Finished booklets

I finally finished my five booklets today. I hand cut them, hand stitched them, and even made a small box for them to be kept in. I am really pleased with the final result and feel quite proud of them as they show all my achievements from this summer.

They include:

Booklet 1 -
My personal summer illustrations.

Booklet 2 -
An A-Z of digitally illustrated birds, accompanied by hand drawn typography.

Booklet 3 -
Experiments i did in illustrator that were to be used for the rebranding of the Student Guide

Booklet 4 -
Cover designs i produced for the Leeds Guide Student Guide.

Booklet 5 -
Layouts i produced for the magazine (that actually got printed) while at my work placement.


As part of my dissertation research i contacted Alex Wrekk (the author of "Stolen Sharpie Revolution" zine - which i bought from her) and i asked her some questions relating to zines and zine culture. Below you can read her answers and find more questions that other people have asked her, here on her blog.

Here you go. I hope this answers the questions in a way you were looking for. Sorry if I played around with your words. I'm no really one to accept a single definition of anything. All our lives are subjective no matter how much we try to be objective so I'm perfectly understanding of people having different ideas on the same topic and accept them both as true. Let me know how your dissertation goes!-alex

1. What makes a 'zine ' a zine for you?

In my brain I sometimes think of any printed folded and stapled pamphlet as a zine. Although I think what really makes a zine is the intent for it to be a zine the election to being involved on whatever level with other people who also enjoy independent publishing their thoughts, ideas, or artwork. I have known people who have created a zine and not known it was a zine but when they found out that there was a name for it they were excited. There are people that dismiss the term zine and prefer to call their creation a "chapbook" or "mini comic" I place no value on their decision and honor their exclusion.

2. What do you think about zines being used as a political expression?

Zines are a versatile medium and blank canvas. they can be whatever the author wants them to be and that's one of the beauties of zines. I also don't think that politics are always so overt. We all have politics and I think they seep into everything we create in subtle ways.

3. What do you think of mass production in today's culture?

hold on this might be a long trip: I'm vegan and I sort of compare the reason why I'm vegan to what I see is wrong with mass production. I can from a family of hunters and even have family that own family cattle ranches. From a very young age I was expected to deal with dead animals to understand the process of how something is alive and how it becomes our food. I became a vegetarian at 14 partly based on animal cruelty but more so being disgusted with how society is able to buy a Big Mac in a box and have no thought about where any of the ingredients let alone the cow, came from. I didn't want to support an industry or a world that is so disconnected from the very thing that keeps us alive. Mass production keeps us distracted and keeps us from asking where something comes from just because it gives us convenience. With that all being said I think there is something of value in a hand crafted over a mass produced item.

4. Do handmade items have more value for you and mean better quality, while having more thought and effort behind the product than mass produced goods?

Handmade means simply that made by hand. This does not always mean better quality. And, to me, "value' and "quality" are not always the same thing. I prefer the term hand crafted. To me it means there was a level of skill involved in creating it. If this is what you meant then yes. My friend Jess says that I wrap too much of myself up in my work. But she works for a big company doesn't understand that my integrity is all I have in the business of creating things. There is no one to blame if my quality isn't up to par. I expect that level of responsibility of someone who calls their work "hand crafted"

5. What value do you think the public opinion is on zines?

I'm not really sure they public has an opinion on the value of zines. Those that aren't involved but heard of them once probably think that the internet killed them so whatever. I also think that the public might have some sort of value applied to zines if say, a person who created a zine became famous for something else thus placing a collector value on what they created before they were famous. To be less cynical though there are a lot of librarians and educators who see the value of zines in preserving 1st person accounts of history and not allowing all of history to be written by a shrinking group of people and corporations.

6. What does value (in relation to small publications) mean to you?
Maybe this question should have come fist! I'm actually not sure. The zines that have the most value to me personally are the ones made by my friends. This value isn't really transferable to a broader spectrum though. maybe if we get back to the idea of craft where the person creating the item has honed their skill and put the best that they had right then into the publication. I'd like to think there is value in someone being proud of the thing they created.

7. What do you think makes a hand made object have value?

The craft involved in making them.

8. Do you think the short runs and limited editions of small publications makes them valuable?

It may make them collectible to those that value collecting, but I don't think that necessarily gives them inherent value.

internet promotion

I have recently been uploading my work to several websites and have got quite a good response. I uploaded my paper cut illustrations (which you can find here and here) to my shop on (an international website, based in Boston, USA) for sale and it got put onto the front page, then they got put into their gift guides for Halloween! This brought over a 1000 views to my store and two sales of my products! Another website that i have only just recently started using is a great place for inspiration - Society6. My "studio" on Society6 (the space where i upload my images to) is here and within a few hours of uploading my paper cuts, they were on the front page as people had promoted them and commented on them. I think i will be uploading my work to websites more regularly and even approach some websites/blogs with my work.

Michael Nobbs

Michael Nobbs is an illustrator who i found on the wonder that is the internet. You can find his blog here. One thing that he does that i found really interesting is "75 ways to draw more" which you can find details of here at flickr. I recently added him to my twitter account and he started following me back. He posts regularly to inspiring work and websites that he finds on the internet and i thought i would share my first real digital illustration with him to see what he thought of it. I got a great response and he promoted my illustration on his twitter account, which led to my illustration getting about 100 views in a short space of time. The illustration i showed him was this illustrated bird which i then developed into my book of A-Z illustrated birds. I then showed Michael my finished A-Z of birds and he promoted that too! I didn't ask him to do this, i just wanted his opinion on my work, but he thought it was good enough to share with his 23,301 followers! Below you can see a couple of spreads from his booklet of "Start to draw your life"

Thursday, 10 September 2009


I recently sent an email to Craig Atkinson from Cafe Royal, where i bought my zines for some primary research, to see if i could ask him some questions for my dissertation research and he said yes!

A little bit about Craig first:

He is an Artist, Illustrator, Lecturer and Publisher @ Café Royal where he publishes his own work alongside other artists and distributes zines and books.

Emailed Questions:

1. What made you want to start making zines?

I wanted a way to make art free / disposable / affordable and collectible, zines were a way of passing my work about but also making a multiple.

2. What makes a 'zine ' a zine for you?

It's very subjective I think. If it's high street it becomes a magazine, if it's glossy it becomes a book. So neither of them!

3. What do you think about zines being used as a political expression?

Thats how it started but I'm not sure how relevant it is today with blogs / web etc. I guess in some countries with high levels of government censorship it still works.

4. What do you think of mass production in today's culture?

I don't mind it, depends in what context. Things have always been mass produced.

5. Do handmade items have more value for you and mean better quality, while having more thought and effort behind the product than mass produced goods?

No. I like hand made things but I like mass produced too. Both are tools and each should be used when the time is right. I love well designed things, mass produced or otherwise.

6. Do you think that, as blogs can reach the masses quicker and cheaper in comparison to zines, they are making zines obsolete or is the physical publication of a zine that makes it valuable?

The zines I'm into mostly are art zines. They are a multiple, collectible piece of art, like a print is. Blogs will never come near that. Blogs do compete with political zines, as mentioned above.

7. What value do you think the public opinion is on zines?

They have a following but it's fairly small, I don't know, I guess people don't understand them if they're not familiar with them. Same with art generally I think.

8. What does value (in relation to small publications) mean to you?

They have more value to me as publications / editions that they do financially.

9. What do you think makes a hand made object have value?

It's quality, on all levels.

10. Do you think the short runs and limited editions of small publications makes them valuable?

Possibly. Depends on whether you mean monetary value or not. Collectible, yes.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Scherenschnitte (germanic style paper cutting)

I have been researching scherenschnitte, which is a form of germanic paper cutting and i have fallen for this style of paper cutting since i did my postcards from the edge brief, where i created postcards from the Black Forest that were based on dark and edgy fairytales (Hansel and Gretel, Red Riding Hood and Sleeping Beauty) This style has influenced my ideas when i create my own papercutting and i have found a blog of the same name here. Below are some examples of my recent paper cuts....

Personal Sketches

These are some of my random doodles, sketches and drawings. These will be put into a book and all the doodles i have created over summer 09 will be going in it too and I will try and create a zine like feel with these when i create my book of summer doodles.

Final A-Z imagery of birds

I can't believe i have finally finished them! These have taken me the best part of two weeks, i did a few every day, first illustrating them by hand, scanning them in and then drawing over them in illustrator, then colouring them. I have put them into a booklet that will become an A-Z of Birds and as soon as i have created some hand drawn typography to go with them I will get a few printed, maybe with a poster too!

(Click the image for a larger view)

Sunday, 6 September 2009

A-Z Bird Update

Opera in the park

I have finally taken some pictures of the brochure i designed for a client of the Leeds Guide - Leeds City council and the brief was to create a layout for the Opera in the Park brochure. Below is a small sample of the layouts i produced (i designed the layout of the whole brochure, minus the adverts)

Saturday, 29 August 2009


I thought.....dissertation on zines and handmade publications?!?!? i need to buy some to get a feel of what they are like! So i did. I bought some zines from Cafe Royal (Craig Atkinson) in London. This independent publisher has a HUGE amount of zines and small publications for sale and i decided to buy one of his very own publications - Cafe Royal 4. I am also going to be asking him a few questions about zines and handmade publications for my dissertation (I've already asked if he will and he said yes, i just need to think of some worthwhile, thought probing questions to ask of someone with so much knowledge of small publications) So i just thought i would update with a few shots of the zine i bought and the zine i got free! Cafe Royal is having a 25% off sale on distro titles and a free zine with every purchase! Well worth the money for what you get!

My free zine (the top 4 images): and The zine i bought (the rest of the images):

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Too Cool For School

There has been something i have wanted to do for a while now, which is create a poster out of cut out letters, using random patterned paper . I have also wanted to do something with a certain quote for a while now too and decided i should put both ideas together and i created this!

It now hangs on my studio wall, all nice and neat in a frame.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Progress Update....

I have put the first lot of illustrated birds into and set up an Indesign document, I have set up an Indesign document for my summer doodles zine and started placing those images too, I'm now in the process of creating another of the sayings for brief 4 (A Piece of Cake) and finally starting my dissertation research !

oh and on another note, i finally got my copy of the Opera in the Park brochure i created for the Leeds Guide during my work experience. I think it has only had one slight change to it since i worked on it and that was just a picture they changed, so i now have something to put into my portfolio that is commercial, professionally printed and for a well known client which I created at a well known place!

Soon Learnt, Soon Forgotten

This is another of my sayings/quotes that i have been working on. I think i would like to try this one as a paper cut out with the rest of the words printed, or just have this as a hand drawn poster to add texture and personality. I think it would look really nice printed onto a really thick, quality off white paper.

Saturday, 22 August 2009


Fever Zine - A great pink zine that you can buy here (i just have, it was only £2. You cant go wrong!)

Shebang Zine - taken from their "about us" section on their website - "A light blue homemade zine crammed with music features, travel guides, artist profiles, craft and many other interesting goings-on."

Analogue books (artists books and zines) - (taken from their "about us" section on their website - Analogue is a bookshop and gallery in Edinburgh, Scotland, We've been going since 2001, We hold regular exhibitions by great artists and illustrators, We also publish a series of zines called Running Amok.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

A-Z of Birds

I have started my Bird Series for Brief 3 and have decided to do an A-Z of Birds for a small book. I started at Z as i already had a Zebra finch all drawn out, so I'm going backwards, making my way to A. I will be putting these into a small book once i have drawn them all and I have already drawn out the following (which you can see below) -

1. Zebra Finch

2. Yellow tit

3. Xantus Hummingbird

4. Warbler Finch

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Home Sweet Home

This is something i have started today and will be working on as part of Brief 5. It is on tracing paper and i used a black 0.5 black fine liner pen from Muji. I have started to embellish the text and i think i will develop a border or use this scan with a photograph as a background. I might even turn this into a paper cut design. hmm.