Up bright and early Tuesday morning, after a pretty ropey nights sleep, on my squeaky bunk bed. Today was my first day with a meeting, and two of them for that matter. I'm not somebody that is overly confident in their work, and so I was suitably nervous for my day of portfolio reviews.
I hopped on the subway, and headed to my first appointment: The Society of Illustrators.
Society of Illustrators
An enormous group of us met at the Society, from Falmouth - almost half of us that had come out to New York. Though we had worked in groups to organise meetings, and schedule in appointments, it seems that nobody planning this visit had made proper communication with The Society, and out arrival was not officially expected. After some words with the staff, Peter Lott kindly agreed so see us all, in the library, upstairs.
A quick group chat with Mr. Lott, and tour of the Society was first. I got the chance to spend some time looking around the in house exhibition: The Art of MARCH: A Civil Rights Masterpiece (well worth a look if you ever get the chance).
One by one, each of us went to sit with Peter at a small coffee table in the library. The setting was informal, and comfortable, while having a one-to-one meeting made sure that any feedback was more personal, rather than a blanket statement.
My feedback from Peter was the best I have received in 4 years in university, and my 3 years in Falmouth. I left my review feeling positive about my work for the first time in years, and feeling like I could push myself more. I was given advice, rather than open ended observational criticism, and more rounded feedback - focusing equally on what he liked about my work, as well as areas in which he could see room for improvement. We discussed:
Do more personal work - this will show what you're interested in, and more of you.
Be responsive to the personalities of art directors - change your approach.
Change your portfolio often - art directors need to see recent work to commission you.
Look at the best work you are interested in - better them, and push the field of your work.
Don't undervalue yourself - you can always negotiate a lower fee later if necessary. Aim for the highest fee the commissioner will go for.
Alter the order of my portfolio pages - ensure that the hard hitting stuff is at the beginning.
Peter LOVED my Welsh Lady logo on the front page ( in my logo at the bottom of the page!)
My traditional/digital work is strong, and the colours use are calming.
Look into young audience, and packaging work.
Characters are strong - objects should take a backseat for character development.
The meeting at The Society of Illustrators ran quite late, mainly due to the confusion, and how many of us were to be seen one by one, by Peter Lott. Because of this, there wasn't much time to be exploring in the afternoon and my next meeting was at 3pm, a little ways across the city. I made a small stop to grab some lunch near Times Square, and went straight to Penguin Random House.
Arriving at the offices, my group and I signed in and met our Penguin representative, Elizabeth, who took us through a very swanky foyer and up to Penguin HQ. Not something I had ever imagined doing!
Again, there was a large group of us that were able to be seen by the art directors. However, unlike The Society of Illustrators, we were given only an hour to be seen for the whole group. Because of this, we were seen as a group, by 5 or 6 art directors, editors, and artists from the adult division of Penguin.
Though there were a few Penguin employees rotating around our table of illustrators, I wasn't seen until almost the very end. The lady I saw, Monica, (THIS was all I could think, when she introduced herself to me) was so lovely and really made the time to look at every page. Monica suggested to me that I work on more book covers - being Penguin books, I was not surprised by this in the slightest. As well as this, the team suggested:
More text integration
Like Peter Lott, suggested a focus more on character based projects
To explore more adult themes - potentially darker genres
Practice more information based illustration - on topics I am passionate about
To develop more limited colour palette works - colour theory is strong
As well as darker themes, I should look into more children illustration, simultaneously.
Coming out of Penguin, I felt positive about my work again. The feedback I had received was honest and insightful, and the criticism was constructive. I felt as though today was one of the first times I have had feedback be useful, and mature - rather than just criticism for the sake of having an opinion.
My roommate and I were both at the same meeting in Penguin, and decided to grab a drink and some dinner together. We caught the subway back towards the YMCA, dumped our bags, and were on the lookout for something warm and comforting. We found a few places that looked good, and decided to go to Hide Chan... a little gem!! We had the most amazing ramen, that seemed to be an endless bowl of goodness.
Happy and full, we waddled to a nearby bar for a nightcap (or two... or three) - the one we went to was an Irish bar with a lovely bartender that gave us all the tips on the city. Hockey was playing on the 8+ TV screens, rum and cokes were expertly made by our new friend, we put the world to rights. I went back to the hostel tired, full, and happy with a good day of meetings.
Tomorrow is another busy day, and there are talks of a group drink at a bar across town. I'm looking forward to having a little more time to explore the city between meetings, and hopefully move out of the more dense areas later in the week.