Q & A (part 2)

Flux - Holly Sharpe 72 dpi
Flux’, prints here

Finally got around to writing up another Q&A post! (See my first one here) Below are some questions I have received in emails from people, and of course my answers to them. Similar themes seem to come up, so thought it would be useful to share in the hope that they may be helpful to others reading this! If you have a specific question please leave in the comments below, or email – hollysharpe@live.com And I will get back to you as soon as I can, and possibly feature it in my next Q&A post.

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Q. Can you tell me a bit about your background?

A. My background = Born in Edinburgh. Studied printed textiles at Duncan of Jordanstone, Dundee- got a 1st. Went on to travel and then moved to London where I worked as a textile designer full time for a while. Realised it wasn’t for me, and spent all free hours trying to work on my own drawings and illustrations as well as promoting it as much as I could mainly via the internet.

Q. When/how did you find your own signature style and work method?

 A. Uh, I guess it has been an ongoing thing that continues to develop and change, whilst still retaining my ‘style’ which comes naturally for the most part. I think it started to take shape after lots of experience, practice and knowledge/ experience in different disciplines. 
Q.Where do you usually get your inspiration?

A. Everywhere. – I answered this in previous Q&A which you can read here.

 
Q. How does your day-to-day routine when working look like?
A. It varies, but for the most part I will be in my studio all day. I spend a lot more time on my computer doing less exciting admin – type stuff, which unfortunately seems to take up a chunk of time. I will also spend time packaging and posting sales made from my online shops. And then of course time to work on new work whether on or off my computer…
Depending on how my day has gone, I sometimes stay and work late in my studio or I will keep working at home. Although I never do this every night as I think it is very important to take time off and create space, physically and mentally from your work in order to stay creative. 

Q. Who are your favourite illustrators or artists?

 A. Oh, also made a blog post about some of my favourite artists/ illustrators here
And a couple more which aren’t on there because sadly they are no longer alive are : Egon Schiele, and Lucian Freud.

Q. You’ve worked on commissions for products like Derwent and Chloé in Marie Claire magazine, how did these commissions come about?

A. Those commissions all came about by them contacting me basically. I am not sure where each of them first found or heard about my work. I think for this reason it is important to put your work in a lot of places, whether that be online or offline as you never know who is going to see it and when. So therefore the more places you have it in, probably the better. I try to post my work and news on social media a lot and I think that has definitely helped get my name and my work out there. 

Q. I’ve noticed that there is a reoccurring theme within your work and most predominately the use of women. Is there any particular reason for this?

A. Not exactly no. I guess one piece leads to another and I like to explore something that worked. I have always liked drawing people, and for the most part find women nicer to draw – having said that I did draw a couple of men last year and hope to explore that some more this year.  

Q. Do you still take any classes, or partake in life drawing sessions. If not do you use models for the subjects within your work?

 A. I occasionally go to a life drawing class, but don’t have the time to go anywhere near as much as I would like to. I find it very relaxing and enjoyable and would much rather be able to draw from real life all the time, but unfortunately it isn’t always possible. I did do life drawing at uni a lot, this is definitely one of the best ways to enhance your drawing skills.  

Q. Are there any interesting projects you are currently working on or plans for the future?

 A. A few things in the pipeline, but still in the process of making plans etc so I guess you’ll have to wait and see 🙂 

Q. I’ve followed your work on Instagram & your website for a while now, but how else do you get your work into the public eye

A.  Yes I also use twitter:  https://twitter.com/hollysharpe
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HollySharpeDrawings
etsy: 
https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/hollysharpe?ref=hdr_shop_menu
pinterest: 
http://www.pinterest.com/hollysharpe2012/
and my blog which I mentioned a few times. Apart from that I guess it is word of mouth, trying to get my work shown and  / or sold in different places etc. 

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….I am currently in my third year at the University of Lincoln, studying Fashion Design. This year I am writing my dissertation which is based on fashion illustration. After finding your portfolio on Association of Illustrators, I loved your work and I would be very grateful if it was possible for you to answer a few questions that would help me with my research, and that I can also include in my dissertation.

Q. How would you describe your style of illustration?

A. I will try and answer these questions as best as I can, I have actually answered at least one of them in this interview here which might be helpful to you:

http://castlefoundations.com/2014/10/03/feature-friday-illustrator-holly-sharpe/

Q. What methods do you use to create your final illustration?

 

A. The methods I use to create a final illustration are – I always start with pencil, pen or paint and paper. Sometimes I will draw/ paint the main image and then scan it into the computer to play around with it, or add to it in photoshop. Other times I will just use pencil, ink and watercolour and keep it that way. And sometimes I will draw/ paint the main image and some other elements separately, then scan them all in and play around with composition etc in photoshop to bring together the final illustration. I hope that answers your question? I don’t really have a strict method which I stick to, but I think starting with paper and paint etc will, for me anyway, always produce a richer result, rather than doing it entirely digitally. 

Q. Do you read any fashion magazines? If so, do you believe that there are enough illustrations included throughout the magazine?

A. To be honest, not often at all no. Sometimes I browse the Sunday Times Style magazine if I am at my parents house. Other than that, I may occasionally buy something obscure that catches my eye, but unfortunately there aren’t that many shops that sell the smaller, less mainstream magazines that I would rather buy. The last time I bought Marie Claire, it’s because I had an illustration in it – which was exciting of course – but I don’t buy it regularly. Oh, so to answer your question, no there are no where near enough illustrations in them, and if there was more I would definitely buy them A LOT more often! I just think it becomes very stale when flicking through a hundred generic photographic adverts for Chanel, Gucci, Burberry etc, I pretty much glaze over at most of them now. They need illustrations to bring them to life again!  – don’t get me wrong I love some fashion photography, but there is so much of it these days that only some of it really stands out.

Q. Finally, what do you think the role of fashion illustration is today and how has it changed over the years?

A. The role of fashion illustration today…. not sure to be honest. I like to think it helps to capture the essence or feeling of something, rather than describing a specific item or object. I think a lot of fashion illustration has become an art piece in itself. And once it becomes art it is hard to define what role it actually plays? I think it has changed a lot in that it is probably a lot more broader these days, people are so creative and we now have a lot more tools to help enhance that. Whereas in the earlier times of fashion illustration it was there to fulfil quite a clear purpose to illustrate clothes, when there wasn’t any/ very many photographs about, whereas now it has to do something more than that.

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Q. ….
I started drawing and painting this year, and although I’m not aiming to break into the illustration field , I would love to improve my work.
 
I wanted to ask you about what brand of watercolour you use, I’m trying find the brand that works for me but I want vibrant colours and good pigments without  breaking the bank.. I had been thinking of giving Dr. Ph Martin’s watercolours a try but I see you use watercolour pans or tubes.. what are your thoughts?

A. I’m not sure what country you are emailing from as I haven’t actually heard of Dr. Ph Martin’s watercolours….?? I use Windsor and Newton. They have two types which they sell, one is either called ‘professional or artists’ watercolours, and that is the more expensive and much better quality out of the two types that they do. The other one is still good, but the pigments are a lot stronger in the artists’/professional one and seem to be less likely to fade etc. To be honest I actually haven’t tried that many other brands, I probably should test out some other ones to compare! The ones I buy are pretty expensive, but they do last a long time, and if you buy them as a pack, rather than individual colours it works out cheaper. 

Q. Another thing is that I’m very intimidated by beautiful paper.. If I set to draw on nice watercolour paper, I get so nervous I ruin it, while if I draw on the ipad or on scrap paper… I make actually pretty good stuff..

Any tips to get over this?

A. I totally understand why you feel like this sometimes, and I think a lot of people get this ‘blank canvas’ complex. If I’m drawing in a sketchbook I pretty much never draw on the first page, I always leave it blank, or I’ll stick a postcard or a picture/photograph by someone else that I like there. So I guess that’s my thing, too much pressure to make the first page amazing that I avoid it all together! When working on loose leaf paper however, I guess because I have done it so much now I am rarely afraid to ruin it. That’s not to say that I don’t sometimes ruin it, I am just a lot better at accepting that I spend a lot of money on paper, and that’s ok because it is now my ‘job’ so if some of it gets wasted because I messed up, it’s not the end of the world (and I do try to always recycle it!). I suppose the best ‘tips’ I could give you are 1. Maybe warm up/sketch on a scrap bit of paper first and 2. Practice, doing it more and getting used to working on nice paper will hopefully make it more ‘normal’ and not so different form working on a scrap piece. 3. try not to think so much about this pressure that you are putting on yourself – which itself may just come with practice – not everything you do is going to be great, everyone has bad days, and work that they hate or that just didn’t work, so don’t stress too much if it doesn’t work out. Another thing I would say, is that it’s ok if you do great work on scrap bits of paper or on your ipad, you can keep them too and it is just as much a piece of art as the ones you create on ‘nice’ paper. The scrap paper may even add something to the work, maybe you should embrace that way of working?

Q. And lastly, do you work from reference photos? I struggle a lot with proportion.. and yet as most people I’m very concerned about originality…I feel like a cheat when I use reference photos from magazines and such..

A. Yes I usually use photos for reference. I don’t like doing it either, but it is not practical or possible for me to always have a model to draw from. I know what you are saying about originality, but I am pretty much never trying to copy the photograph, I may even be looking at a few and combining elements I like from each and putting that together with my own ideas and sketches to create my own piece of work. The photographs are for reference only. I have been going to life drawing classes for years, and although I don’t go to them as much as I would like anymore, I still go when I can. This is by far the best way to practice proportions. It is thought that the human body is the hardest thing to draw – which is why architects often go to life classes to practice their drawing – so don’t beat yourself up if you struggle with it, it takes time and practice and a lot of times you may not get it right. Just remember to keep looking – your brain/eyes play tricks on you so it is just practice. It should start to come a lot more naturally with time.

 
 
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Room for imagination = creating space to unleash your creativity.

Yoga sketch - Holly Sharpe
Recent drawing, idea I hope to explore this year, to somehow express my love of Yoga through my work. Pic from my Instagram.

“There are always flowers for those who want to see them.” – Henri Matisse

I know what I want to say here, but I have so many thoughts, ideas and words jumbled up and going around my head this morning, (well in reality, I have that most of the time, it’s just slightly muted sometimes, and it seems to switch off, or at least fade A LOT, when I am drawing = bliss) that it might take a bit longer for me to get it all out… hoping you’ll stick with me till the end though!

*Before I go any further, I want to stress, that all these words are my own, but I am not claiming to be discussing anything groundbreaking either, as most of it is an accumulation of things I have read, watched and listened to – and from their formed my own opinions on how I currently feel. I also want to say that this is how I feel, or think right now, it is not set in stone and maybe I will look back and cringe that I was ever so honest, but I’d like to draw your attention back to this first entry where I try to explain why I wanted to start this blog in the first place, and if nothing else it helps me put some of these nagging thoughts and musings in my head, into writing! *

What I want to try and talk about is the importance of creating space, physical and psychological space. I am usually directing my words at creative people, but in fact, I think more and more companies and intelligent people out there are realising that everyone can, and should be more creative. Just because you don’t draw or physically create stuff, does not mean you cannot or are not creative. In most jobs and in day to day lives, things would be improved a lot if creativity were encouraged more, if the option to fail was encouraged and therefore people would experiment and take risks a whole lot more, in theory… The problem is there is a lot wrong with, or to put it better, there is a lot of room for improvement, when it comes to the education system, in this country anyway, and my understanding of the US is similar. Sir Ken Robinson does a phenomenal TED TALK on this, ‘How schools kill creativity’ believe it or not it’s from 2006, he is extremely likeable, engaging, and speaks a whole lot of sense. It is hard not to become passionate about what he is saying.

Along with a lacking education system, we are now living in a society that never wants to give you a second to just be. A moment to reflect. With advertising, brands and general consumerism constantly being forced in your face, probably without you even realising it most of the time – at least in cities anyway. And technology meaning most people, in most modes of transport, queues (lines) for the till or a bus or whatever, are glued to this little rectangle that in many ways is the essence of how far we have come, and demonstrates what humans are capable of, smart phones are incredible, I am not denying that, but must they take over our lives, must they dictate what we do every time we have a spare second, or minute. I have read and listened to a few things this past week which talk about this obsession we now have with smart phones, which makes me think that there is going to be something of a revolution, or perhaps just a revelation, about how we are using our smart phones.

It is only since listening/ reading about people talking about this more recently that it seems to me that a lot of people don’t really daydream or let their thoughts be left without interruptions…? I feel like I have spent most of my life daydreaming and people watching, so I find this almost incomprehensible. I know that I don’t have the right balance either, as it probably isn’t healthy to be caught up in daydreaming so much either, but I still think it does wonders for your imagination, and therefore for your creativity and in developing your own intellect and ability to form your own ideas and opinions.

Since quite a few people have asked me how I stay inspired, it makes me wonder, do you ever just daydream? Do you ever just sit and be with your own thoughts. Do you ever go for a walk and not take your phone, and not feel the need to share it on facebook, or twitter or whatever. Do you? Maybe you do, and that’s great, you still have a grasp on living in the real 3 dimensional world and not the one that dampens your ability to think for yourself, to imagine, and to generate your own thoughts and opinions on something before something you have just scrolled through has changed your mood or your feelings towards it. The point is, we need to (in my opinion) channel stimulus from inside us to really grow creativity, rather than always relying on external stimulus. And if we don’t create space for this to happen naturally in the first place, then we may loose the ability altogether.

Another point on creating space, which I think is important for everyone, but possibly even more so for any one that is self employed and/or a creative. It can be all consuming ‘sailing your own ship’, as I seem to keep putting it recently. It is wonderful and exciting and extremely overwhelming and draining all at the same time to work for yourself. This is exactly why it is so important to take breaks, by that I mean lunch breaks, a break to go for a walk or an exercise class, but also longer breaks – a holiday! I know a lot of freelancers, and people that work for themselves only dream of this, but I honestly think that you will be more productive, proactive and focused if you force yourself to take a proper holiday. It doesn’t have to necessarily mean going away somewhere – although in an ideal world the further you can get from your normal everyday surroundings, the better – but just a proper break where you try not to think about your work, and definitely don’t do any work, no emails, nothing. Only by switching everything off – which is why I hope the whole mobile rant, along with the breaks thing have now tied in…. – can we really let out minds wander, be free, and work their magic.

Phew, another long one. If you’re still reading, thanks! Happy to hear your thoughts on the above, or on anything I have raised really.
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Email: hollysharpe@live.com

– Holly

*No secret formula* – tips on making it in the creative industry. Part 2/2

Paul Coelho

 

Following on from part 1 (read here) here are some more ‘tips’ which I personally think are important if you are trying to make a career in the creative industries, or if you already are but need some reminders to help keep doing what you’re doing.

– Be yourself. –

 Focus on what makes you unique, on your own strengths. It makes a lot more sense to build on what you already have rather than try and change into something you are not. The same goes for your work, of course take inspiration from others, but trying to copy what someone else has done is futile, as you will never be able to do it as good as them, just as they would never be able to do exactly what you have done.

– Create something unique –

Following on from the point above, it will be a whole lot harder, in this already highly competitive industry, for you/ your work to stand out if it isn’t truly your own and there are already a 100 people out there doing a very similar thing. If you create something unique it has a much better chance of standing out. Rather than creating a similar take on something that has already been done. Find your niche and this will give value to what you do and the product/ service you offer.

– Experience –

  • Take risks, do internships (although don’t be one of these guys that works for free for 6months – a year!! *some companies will take advantage*).
  • Meet people/ connect with people in similar fields – find out what it is happening in your area or even online. Go to lectures/ talks / seminars, expand your mind and GET INVOLVED!
  • Experiment with your work too, keep pushing the boundaries of whatever it is you are doing, try new techniques, technology, whatever it is that applies to your discipline/area. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. I know this is hard sometimes, and in some ways the more ‘success’ you have, the harder it is because more people are looking at you and your work, ready to ‘judge’ it. But if you don’t take risks your work will become stale and stay the same. Some of my best work has happened when I least expected it, when I was playing around and trying not to worry about the final result and really letting go.

– Be nice –

This might sound basic, but hear me out. I believe that you should try and be friendly, polite and courteous to everyone that you come into contact with. Whether that be through an email, on twitter, or in person. In your personal life and especially in your business life (although if your situation is anything like mine… they tend to merge into one.. and yes I know that isn’t very healthy!). My reasons for this are:

  1. Because it’s nice to be nice and positive energy is infectious.
  1. From a professional point of view, I think it is important to remember that you don’t know who the person you are in contact with knows, for example their Uncle could just so happen to be the CEO of a design company you desperately want to work for, or an editor at a major magazine you want published in, or the curator at a prestigious art gallery. You get the idea. The point is, any of these people that you are in touch with, could lead you to a person that may be able to help you on your way to that dream career/ project/ commission! Building connections and a client base does not happen over night, yes I’m sure you could buy a long list of names and addresses in your field, but even then, they don’t know you, or have any personal affiliation with you. Professional relationships take time and effort to naturally flourish. It is a two way thing and they need to know they can trust and rely on you.

This whole point came to me after being amazed at the number of people who have emailed me asking my opinion on something, advice, questions etc And after I took the time (ok sometimes 3 weeks later, but still) to send them a well thought out response, a lot of them never even replied with a simple ‘thank you’. Without wanting to start a rant, I really don’t understand this. I completely understand that people are crazy busy/ stressed etc. But 30secs is all it would take to say thanks. Call me old fashioned, but I just don’t get how they don’t see that it’s all connected. I know I rave on about how you are the main driving force behind your own destiny and everything, but there will undoubtedly be a number of key people at different stages in your life that help you along the way, and sometimes they appear when you least expect it.
Oh AND of course-

3. No matter how much your client or the person you are working for/ with is annoying / frustrating you, take a deep breath, step away from the computer, go for a walk, come back to it the next day if you can, and be NICE to them. Clients can sometimes be tricky / demanding, but they are paying you and it is not always going to be a match made in heaven whilst working on something together. Especially when it is something creative, there will be clashes. One thing I like to remember and have really appreciated when working with a couple of clients is that you are only half of the picture. You need them as much as they need you. So please, don’t get too on your creative high horse and try to respect that their vision is just as valid as yours, and hopefully if you find the right balance together you can create something way better than either of you would have done separately.

– Baby steps. –

It is great to have a long term goal/ ambition, but this can often be very daunting and seem unattainable. I think the best way to get there is to break it down into smaller, more manageable sized targets. Perhaps by making a monthly, weekly and daily list of smaller steps/ actions which you can realistically take now to get you closer to your end goal.

 

I hope you have found some of the words in these two parts helpful! I have no doubt I will think of more things, and there are so many factors which help or hold you back when trying to make things happen in your life. But for now, think about the things I have said and decide for yourself if they perhaps apply to you and if it makes sense to try some changes which will hopefully help you achieve the things that you want to. Please get in touch or leave a comment below if you have any questions or want to discuss some of the things that I have said.
email: holly sharpe@live.com
Twitter: @hollysharpe

Thanks again for taking the time to read my blog!!
Holly
x

courage