REVIEW: Life as an Illustrator

Mon 15 Aug 2011

On the 28th July, Jelly and The Young Creative Council hosted the first of a two-part event full of expertise and creativity. Here's how we got on... EVENT: Life as an Illustrator We are incredibly proud to say that "Life as an Illustrator" was a huge success! Both Alison Carmichael & Matt Lyon did an outstanding job and we would like to start with a massive thank you, not only to our splendid artists, but also to everyone who attended, The Young Creative Council, The Creative Floor and Tag for the hospitality. THANK YOU! Jelly and The Young Creative Council joined forces in presenting splendour to an open audience with two of Jelly’s most prolific artists; Matt Lyon and Alison Carmichael. The talks focused around their career; a rare opportunity to gain an insight into the who, what, where and why of being a successful illustrator. Here's what they have to say: EVENT: Life as an Illustrator Matt Lyon: “Mistakes? I keep on drawing, it’s not like the end of the world” Matt kicked things off by going back to how he started out. Having studied Fine Art he moved on to teaching, before starting to develop his now immediately recognisable style. He talked about his early love of buildings and structures, themes that have clearly stayed with him. The evolution of his work was fascinating; shapes to buildings to hot air balloons, boats and graphic typography. Fun fact: The name "C86" which Matt still works under, was originally a handy alias to give himself anonymity in case his burgeoning new style flopped. It didn’t and the name stuck. The sheer volume of his incredible work was staggering. From his typography ("I don’t really care what it says") to the daily drawings (which this year he intends to colour as well) the love for what he does is apparent in everything he showed us. Inspiring doesn’t cover it - it was totally infectious! EVENT: Life as an Illustrator Alison Carmichael: “Oh you’re the cunt lady” Famed for her brilliantly bold self-promotion print of the word Cunt (‘Words look much nicer when they’re hand lettered’), the internationally recognized hand lettering artist was our second speaker. As with Matt, Alison started by talking about her early inspiration. She showed photos of the reference books she makes herself, groaning scrapbooks filled with everything from the 1970’s copy of U&LC filched from a library to cards and letters sent from friends. She also talked about the title sequences to her favourite childhood programs - Bewitched and The Pink Panther - and how she used to copy the type from memory. The pre-Google way to practice! After studying the Bauhaus method at Ravensbourne (“Lot’s of pushing paper around in grids”), a chance encounter with calligraphy pushed her out of graphic design and into hand lettering. Years of traipsing around ad agencies followed, and then that self-promotion piece finally catapulted Alison into the big league. Alison Carmichael & Matt Lyon Advice: After both talks were over, both Matt and Alison took the time to answer some of your questions. Here are some of the best pointers: - Stick to what you do the best. Rather than be everything to no one, hone your skills and stay true to the work you love. - See as many people as you can and do it in person if possible. Get there on time, be polite and SMILE! - There was a slight difference in opinion on whether you should ever work for free. Alison said yes, Matt was less sure. The thing to remember is go with your gut. We know when we’re being taken advantage of so don’t be afraid to say no. But remember, most of the time, people are just trying to help. - Seems obvious but make sure your portfolio is presented properly. By that they meant on decent, clean paper, well ordered and ideally not just online (it’s best to have both). Many thanks to the The Young Creative Council for supplying images. You can see more shots from the event over on their Facebook page. If you would like to read more, there's a fantastic review over at - go check it out!