This project has been an experience, that’s for sure. I originally set out to do an MA because I believed it was what I needed to further my teaching career, to make the move from F.E to H.E, whilst also allowing me the time to explore my own practice, learn new things and to see if I was capable of being creative again.
I was not prepared for how much it would affect my creative process and practice. In so much as I haven’t done a painting and I haven’t planned a final outcome in the first two weeks of a project. Both of these are massive steps for me. I spent my time at uni,(the first time) searching for a process that I felt was most suitable for my creative outlet, one that generated a style, one that told everyone the illustrations were mine. What I realize now is that this is not what illustration is. Its fair to say that for some, the way that they draw, or make marks or create imagery is their style, their authorial voice. Investing so whole heartedly in a process as a way of defining practice can, in some cases cover weak ideas, a lack of creative thinking and a stagnation of innovation. The illustrator becomes tied to their process through fear. This was certainly the case for me. Is there any other time where a practicing professional illustrator is free to explore their own practice? Not likely. Not without jeopardizing their professional profile or affecting their commercial appeal. As professional illustrators we become trapped in our own process. Trapped by a style that becomes our only way of working. For the first time in my illustration career, I feel a sense of confidence in my ability to successfully problem solve, to be innovative and creative with my practice without relying on painting as an outcome.
In a sense studying an MA has freed me from the restraints of my practice but in a way it has done more than that. It has fundamentally changed the way I approach a creative solution. I, through obsessive time management and fear, usually plan a final outcome during the first few weeks of a project and then work backwards from that point. That’s not to say that I didn’t experiment or explore materials, processes and media, but these experiments were simply a tokenistic gesture, because in my mind, I already had the elements of the final outcome decided. Certainly when I painted, part of the reason for this was purely because I knew the time I had to invest to produce each painting. The project became more about efficiency of production, quality and quantity of imagery, rather than a real engagement with purpose or concepts of the project in question. This reluctance to relinquish the final product is also rooted in ideas about traditional illustration practice, that illustrators must be technically proficient in their draughtsmanship.
In reflection, illustration should not be only rooted in this, it should be about innovation, about communication, about create something visually engaging. Sometimes an accurate drawing or a beautifully realistic painting doesn’t offer anything more than a photograph would offer. The illustrator needs to bring in something more, something that is beyond the real, something magical, to make the unseen, seen and the unexplained tangible. This does not always require technical proficiency of process, but a comprehensive understanding of purpose. I have consciously invested time and energy into this exploration of purpose. What am I trying to say? What questions am I trying to answer? And how is my imagery going to convey that to the viewer? Through out each developmental stage of the project I have been asking myself these questions, reflecting on success and failings, trying to unpick the solution by discovering the real question. This has allowed each experiment to have its place in the journey of the project, each development has informed a creative solution that is an important part of the discourse of the project and the continued development of practice. At the beginning of the project I refused to commit to a final outcome and invested instead on documenting and exploring processes and practice through reflection and experimentation. This approach has opened my creative process and broadened my practice. There is still an inherent anxiety that somehow in leaving painting I will loose the core of my authorial voice, my commercial appeal and language, but I have to believe that the ‘New’ will bring something more to my practice.
Moving forward I hope to continue to develop my voice through experimentation and investigation. I never want to be stationary in my practice. I have a great opportunity through teaching to be continually challenging my authorial voice through practice, to share in the creative process of others and to always learn. I am going to become a Hermenaut:
‘an adventurer, a traveller, a map maker in the uncharted territory of creating something unseen, not experienced before. ‘