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Word to the Wise

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Published date 15 July 2014

As part of this year’s Artsmart Festival, Student Enterprise and Employability (SEE) invited ten UAL alumni to design posters as part of the Word to the Wise exhibition (which runs till the 25th July), giving vital advice to our 2014 graduates. The UAL Alumni Association decided to delve a little deeper and find out more about how some of  these artists sustain their practices,where they see themselves in a few years’ time, what inspires them and how they juggle work loads.

 Black + White + Colour – Emma Kalkhoven

black and white and colour

What were the most important lessons that you learnt at Chelsea College of Arts and Central Saint Martins?
I think both at Chelsea and at CSM, I learnt to be self-motivated and self-reliant, both very necessary skills for self-employment!

What would you say are the benefits of working collaboratively for Black + White + Colour?
The best thing about working collaboratively is that you can never predict what the outcome will be – and if you’re stuck you always have another person to bounce ideas off. Read more from Emma…


 Graphic Workman – David Ottley

David Ottley image

How would you suggest new graduates pursue a freelance graphic design career?
For anyone considering entering the graphic design profession I would suggest that any graduate find work in a studio where they can learn professional skills and methods of working. I started out working for Turnbull Grey and spent four years learning how to manage projects, speak with clients, present work and think commercially about graphic design. Once you reach a senior level and have a good solid skill set it’s much easier to pursue a freelance career as your skills are much more valuable and transferable to a potential client.

How do you go about meeting new potential clients?
Finding new potential clients is always a challenge, as a small business I often struggle to find the time to actively market myself or call people up and introduce myself. So I rely on word of mouth and opportune moments to seek out new work. I do believe that if you produce good work, are easy to work with and are easily approachable then clients will find you. Read more from David…

 Hi-Artz press – Helen Ingham

If_image 2

How do you find the time to continue to make works whilst also teaching at CSM, among other places?
After graduating, I decided I wanted to make my living from letterpress printing, but also wanted the freedom to produce my own work as well. My technician role at CSM is term time only, so during the holidays, I have plenty of time to develop other work.  I try not to waste any time, if the weather is too cold for printing (and it has been extremely cold in my own workshop at times), I do something else like cutting lino blocks, updating the website or research. I’m always on duty.  If I’m travelling on the train, I’m drawing or researching more work.

I know my strengths, I’d rather spend my time printing or working towards printing, rather than dealing with clients, mailing out printed items or managing online shops, all of which I’m not very good at!  I usually get someone else to sell my work for me and negotiate deals.  TAG Fine Arts sell my limited editions and do a very good job at the major art and print fairs.  The Art Market are my illustration agents.  I also have other sub-agents licensing my prints for digital reproduction with clients like John Lewis and Art Online.  Everyone charges commission, of course, but that’s OK if they are bringing more work in. Read more from Helen… 

Crispin Finn – Anna Fidalgo & Roger Kelly

Art is Work

How did your collaboration come together initially and how does it work?
Crispin Finn started out as a hobby and an extra-curricular activity – it was a guise under which we could make things that didn’t fit in with our other day jobs – Roger being a fine artist painter and Anna a graphic designer. All our early work was made for screen printing so we imposed the 3 colour restriction at the beginning purely for printing and practical reasons, and in turn it became a way of informing how we composed images, and helped us develop a clean and economic aesthetic.

What has been the highlight of your work to date?
The overall highlight has been to take Crispin Finn from what was essentially a labour of love to a full time pursuit. We love the variety of projects that we get invited to work on and that leads to a great range of design and illustration work, as well as being able to continue develop and make our own work and products. It’s amazingly exciting and we feel very lucky to get to work with some really brilliant clients as well as each other. Read more from Crispin Finn… 

Holly Stevenson

Sunshine, 2013, Collage_Postcard archive with magazine cut outs

What is it that excites you about the idea of fiction or storytelling in your work?
I am intrigued by the idea that fiction has the power to intervene with the truth, intrinsic to this intrigue is my view that capitalism’s deployment of psychoanalysis has created a platform for fictitious moods which arbitrate our existence via forms of advertainment: My work researches the Western drive to have a good time, a concept I have termed as the Palmy Bonheur mod.

How did you find your MA at Chelsea College of Art prepared you for what was to come since graduating? Are there any areas that you feel could have been improved?
College is a bubble… I think UAL is very conscious and caring regarding the fact that student artists have to leave and try and become ‘real’ artists. Read more from Holly…

Kyle Platts

Born to Kill_Kyle Platts

Who are the artists and illustrators that inspire you most at the moment?
I’m always attracted to work that is silly and aesthetically pleasing but also has the potential to provoke an erudite discussion. Illustrators and artists I’m into at the moment are Mike Kelly, HuskMitNavn, Jacob Ovgren and Edward Carvelho-Monaghan. Also I went to the Camberwell degree show recently and I was really impressed with this guy from Sculpture named Chris Campbell-Palmer.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received and what advice would you pass on to students or recent graduates?
I was watching this YouTube clip the other day of Jim Carrey giving a speech as he received his honorary doctorate, and his message was that you can fail at what you don’t want to do, so you might as well take a chance on the thing you love. I thought that was a great sentiment to share with graduates. My advice would basically be what he said. Read more from Kyle …

 Olly Gibbs

Imaginary worlds doodle

What are your memories of being a student?
I spent a lot of my time as a student working freelance and trying to balance my Uni work. Proved very difficult as my uni projects took the hit to the dismay of my tutor. Fortunately he was a great inspiration and gave me the drive to push my work when I slipped. I’m very thankful to him! Aside from that I used to enjoy discussing projects with my mates and helping each other to develop new ideas. The crit sessions were vital in improving methods or coming up with new ideas. And then there was the SU Bar…

What drives you to create new work?
I’m someone who likes to dive into new projects all the time. I’ve got a bit of a scatterbrain approach to doing anything new – I’m all over the place playing with ideas. That’s what I’ve always enjoyed, trying new methods, learning new skills. Just looking at my portfolio shows a diverse range – I’m a bit of a hybrid designer and quite hard to pinpoint! It also proves difficult to choose an image that represents me. Read more from Olly…

 Purpose and Worth etc.

Bloody_well_done image 1

How did the Purpose and Worth etc. first establish itself?
I’d worked for myself since leaving Art college and freelanced solidly as a graphic designer and illustrator before accepting the position of Creative Director at Bisqit Design in London, overseeing design comms for a broad range of global clients and managing and mentoring a small team of designers. After leaving my I CD role, I went back to freelancing and it was during the next five years of freelancing, that I started seriously planning the start-up my own business.

What has been your proudest moment in your career to date?
I still think the proudest moment was my first trade show and taking my first order. It’s a fantastic feeling to realise that your instincts we’re right, the hard work has paid off and customers seek you out because they love your products and want to stock them in their shops. Read more P&W etc…

Read More:

UAL Alumni Association 
Inspiring Alumni
Artsmart 2014