Monday, 23 January 2012

Unpaid Internships - Rights and Wrongs | Watercolour Illustrations

Advice for Graduates When Considering Unpaid Placements

Technically, the title is a little misleading, because all unpaid internships are a bit wrong - in that they break the minimum wage laws. But lets ignore this fact for a minute - because lets face it, employers certainly are, and it's a very real part of being a graduate at the moment.
I have worked one full time two month internship in marketing, one part time three month internship in arts admin and various part time internships in social media. All were unpaid, but thankfully all covered my expenses. I'm not sure if my experiences are typical for a graduate with a creative degree, but I feel able to give my opinion on the matter, and maybe also advise others on making the best choices.

Firstly, if you're not getting paid, it's important that you pick an internship that ticks as many of the following boxes as possible:

  • Maximum enjoyability (technical term). Though technically slave labor, it shouldn't feel like slave labor. If it seems like a whole lot of hard work, or if you're going to be stuck in the storage room arranging stationary all day - AVOID.
  • Expenses paid. VERY IMPORTANT, unless you are incredibly lucky and left uni with more than a fiver to your name. If you're going to be helping out all day every day for free, it's only fair your "employers" cover your travel costs. You don't want to be getting yourself in debt whilst working for free because, quite frankly, being an intern is tragic enough. 
  • Will make sense on your CV. There's no point diving into an internship on a complete tangent from your degree, just because the company have accepted your application. In fact, this should start alarm bells ringing - "employers" should care that the internship will be beneficial to you, and should question any disconnections between it and your degree.
  • Contact creation. Will this internship open doors for you, by allowing you to meet 'ladder-leg-up' people you wouldn't otherwise have access to? If yes, grab with both hands.
  • Chance of employment on completion. This used to be a given with internships, that if you preformed well and excelled at your duties, you stood a very real chance of employment at the end of it. Now...not so much. Definitely something to look out for though.

Secondly, some things I learnt from interning, that should be avoided or if you must endure them, should at least be moaned about:

  • Not feeling like you can say no. Working overtime every night whilst paid employees leave at five is not fair, and should only be undertaken if you are a) having a great time or b) gaining something vital for your future goals.
  • Being the office punch bag. You are there to learn, and be as helpful as possible. It is unfair for employers to expect you to know everything, and take their stress out on you. I had this with one of my internships and the bad attitude and stressful environment completely ruined my experience.
  • Being part of a long line of interns. In this day and age most creative work spaces will have an office intern, but it's worth being aware when you're just 'an extra pair of hands', part of a long history of interns or when you could be a future employee. Strive for the later - and go into the first with open eyes and a determination to get what you want out of the experience.
  • Not learning a thing. It's expected that you will be doing the boring jobs, the jobs no one else wants to do, the unglamorous jobs. However, alongside that you should be learning about your environment, about what others in the office are working on, and how the business works. If those around you are leaving you to do the filing all day long, you've got to SPEAK UP and let them know you want to learn as well.
  • Over-staying your welcome. Know when enough is enough, when it's pretty clear they're not going to employ you and when it's just plain exploitation. Then announce you're moving on.

I hope this helps anyone considering internships in the near future! I'd love to hear if you have any comments on this, your experiences, or if you feel I've missed anything. Please do leave your comments below. 


Saturday, 21 January 2012

Baby Doll Watercolour Illustrations

I found this digging around my old portfolios this week. This is about the time I started using watercolour frequently, and I can see how my style has progressed - but at the time I quite like the bright candy colours I used. Maybe I can bring these back again?!
Hope you're all having a lovely weekend.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Secret 7 - My Entry | Watercolour Illustrations

So...below is my entry for the Talenthouse Secret 7 Competition. I do usually avoid "competitions" that involve artists competing to be the winning entry unless a) theres a lot of money involved to make it worthwhile or b) it's for a good cause because I just think, if you want a new design, why not just commission an artist the normal way?!

BUT, having said all that, I think Secret 7 is a really great cause, and kind of worth the effort. Here's some blurb:

"Secret 7" is an exciting project combining music and art in aid of Teenage Cancer Trust. Seven bands and recording artists (Florence + The Machine, The CureDJ ShadowBen HowardCSS,Noah and The Whale and Bombay Bicycle Club) are inviting creatives to design the artwork for a seven inch vinyl sleeve inspired by one of their songs. The project will culminate in 700 unique vinyl sleeves displayed in Idea Generation Gallery in London in the week leading up to Record Store Day 2012. On that day, each of the vinyls at the gallery will be available to purchase with all of the profits going to Teenage Cancer Trust."

So, without further adieu this is my submission. I'd really appreciate all the votes I can get, so if you like my design please do vote/like/support and share it with whoever you think will be interested. Thank you!

Vote for my design >>>here<<<

Thursday, 19 January 2012

New Printy Treats | Watercolour Illustrations

Fine Art Prints from Holly Exley Illustration

I just wanted to let you know about a few new prints you can buy on my Society 6 page. I realised I haven't updated my profile in a while, so I thought I'd give it some love. If you haven't used Society 6 to buy prints before, I have only ever heard good things about the site - high quality prints, you choose the size, quick delivery AND a framing service. Pretty good if you ask me.

I think this last one is a cute print for a Valentines gift. Why say it with flowers when you can say it with sausage dogs?

Visit my Society 6 page >>>here<<<

I'd love to connect with fellow artists on Society 6 too! Leave your links in the comments section, I'm thinking of treating myself to a few new prints for my new Bristol home.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Art School Days

Today I spent a bit of time clearing out all of my old 'creations' dated back to GSCE Fine Art, and let me tell you, it was rather cringe-worthy! There was a lot of smudged charcoal, a lot of dodgy collages and just generally awful studies and ideas collected together in plastic folders. In one way it was encouraging to see how far I've come, but on the other hand it was worrying - was I really that terrible?!

This is a self portrait in oils I painted at Art College whilst completing my Art Foundation degree. It's not a particularly skilled study (it doesn't look much like me!) but looking at it made me remember how focussed I felt whilst painting it, absorbed in mixing colours and catching the light. We all painted together in this big studio, all facing the wall where our mirrors were pinned, so it was easy to forget where your were whilst painting.

Don't mind my mum's silly cat Otto, who decided to show off for the camera whilst I photographed.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Unnecessary Preparation - Artists Advice | Watercolour Illustrations


I've challenged myself to produce more work in 2012 and I must admit, I've already come up against a big time waster: 'faffing'. I'm sure every artist must do this; I guess it can also be called 'prep' or 'getting in the zone' and I'm sure it can involve a lot of different rituals, in order to 'properly' get down to work.

For me, 'faffing' consists of tidying. I'd tidy my whole room before every work session if I wasn't strict with myself. I find it harder to work with my bed unmade, or if I have a huge pile of laundry to put away, or if I haven't hoovered for a while...but is that really true, or is it just a way of putting off painting?

In the same way I'm convinced I can't work unless I have some form of entertainment set up, whether that be an audio book, tv, youtube or even a film to watch. But have I ever tried working without these (lets face it) distractions?

For me at least, I always have this feeling, I can only describe it as a "pull", which pulls me away from work, and gets me unnecessarily focused on the small things - on cleaning my room and 'prepping' my environment. I'm not in any way trying to suggest that prepping for work isn't necessary or even a little bit enjoyable -  but I'm finding it more and more crucial to find the line between necessary and unnecessary.

Unnecessary faffing is caused by fear. Fear pulls me away from starting a new project, or finishing an old one - because I'm scared today will be a 'bad' day, and I wont achieve what I want, and it will all look like an awful mess. Faffing is my way of coping with the fear of failing; very often the scale of faffing reflects on how big a failure I'll feel if the project goes wrong - sometimes I will faff for DAYS when a big project is due.

For now, I want to concentrate on small scale faffing, and how I can shave time off this activity and get more illustration work done. I want to look back on this year and be proud of the work I've produced, and in order to do that I must face my demons - starting with the 'faff monster'.

Some tips, henceforth:

  • Learn your method of 'faff'. Are you a cleaner like me? Or do you require constant refreshments, and subsequent tv watching?
  • Recognise when you are most likely to faff. Is it when you're stressed? When you're distracted? 
  • Be honest with yourself - do you really need all of your pre-work rituals?
  • Keep an eye on the clock - if you must faff give yourself a strict time limit.
  • Give yourself regimented breaks - faff during this time eg. if you can see your unmade bed in the corner of your eye, tell yourself you will sort it in your break. If you see how much it then wastes your break time, you can better understand how it cuts into work time.

As for now, the real question remains: are you all sick of the word 'faff' yet???

I'd love to hear your pre-work rituals, and whether you consider them necessary or not. Can you cut anything out today? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

Friday, 13 January 2012

Getting on with My New Years Resolutions | Watercolour Illustrations

Hi guys! So, after my incredibly earnest New Years Resolutions post a few weeks ago, I bet you're all dying to know how I'm getting along. Well, I'd quite like to know too! These first weeks of January have been a blur of unpacking, starting and finishing projects and settling into a new city. I haven't had time to reassess, and see if I'm on the right track or not, and so I'm afraid you're all reading it here, as I work it out for myself.

I'm scoring myself out of ten for how well I think I've done on each resolution.

Think Less, Do More

I have finished a series of food illustrations recently (find them here) which involved many a night spent at my desk. That definitely put my 'head down' approach to the test, and it worked!

Practice, practice, practice

This is something I want to build on, but I don't think it's something I can suddenly cram into two weeks. I've painted rather a lot already this year though, which surely counts as practice, and is why I'm awarding myself a seven!

Take Time Out to be Inspired/Get Some Fresh Air

Bad Holly! I've been such a hermit this fortnight and do you know how I know this? Because yesterday, I took a walk to the shops and my eyes were blinded. Blinded by an overcast day in January. If that isn't a warning sign that I need to get out more, I don't know what is.

Set Goals and Reach Them

All going well on that front...though two weeks is probably too soon to say!

Plan a Project Throughly - Stop Being Impatient

I now spend a good amount of time planning a project (currently working on my Secret 7 submission). I write a ton of notes and have been going back to my Uni days and the joys of thumb nails!

Make Work an Unshakeable Habit

I have been doing a little work every day (or a lot in some cases) but I feel as if it's not part of a routine yet. My goal now is to get a routine for myself - exercise, my social media work, blogging, self promotion - so that I can fit my work time into place.

Take Inspiration From Others, But Stop Comparing Myself to Them

Not great on this front!

Thursday, 12 January 2012

My Favourite Art Materials | Watercolour Illustrations

I've had a few people asking for advice on techniques etc (I'm amazed this is happening to me!) , so I thought I'd take a moment to list my favourite art materials that I use to produce all my work. I always used to struggle with what to buy - budget being a HUGE factor - and have been disappointed so many times with my purchases. So now, after many a trial and error, I have my 'kit', and I'm sharing it with you!

1. Winsor & Newton Cotman Watercolour Tubes

I've tried many different watercolour sets, but have found using these tubes the best, and most cost effective. You only need a really small amount (about the size of a pea) of each colour on a paint palette, and even if the paint dries, it can be softened with water to be used at another time. I'd guess an 8ml tube lasts roughly a year for me.
I've also found colour mixing much easier with tubes as opposed to pans, as you're not mixing directly onto a pan so you can see the colour clearly.
I'm not saying this range is the best you can get, but if you're on a tight budget (as I am) these will fulfil your needs. That being said, the pigments used are cheaper alternatives to the rest of Winsor & Newton's range, so if you're creating an extra special painting, or if you have more money in the pot, I think I'd explore other options as well!

2. Pro Art Prolene Plus Brushes

These are cheapish (of course!) but slightly more expensive than what I was using before. As a result, they hold paint well and keep their shape. Another plus is that the varnish doesn't crack off the handles onto my hands and subsequently get wiped all over my face. (This used to happen. A lot.)

3. Langton Watercolour Paper 140lb /300 gsm NOT cold pressed

Again, this isn't the cheapest option for paper, but it's the cheapest I would go, if you want quality paper. I think its a good weight for me as I apply paint quite thickly and without much water. I'm not quite sure how this paper would fair with heavier, water soaked washes, but for smaller, illustration-style paintings it's ideal, and detail doesn't get swamped in texture. I get an A3 pad and an A4 pad - and I would avoid ring bound books.

4. Winsor & Newton Designers Gouache Gold 30ml 

I've recently started adding this to my paintings, it's a really clean gold colour, not yellowy or brown like some gold paint. It has a lovely metallic quality without being too thick and so contrasts nicely with watercolour.

Do you have any materials to recommend to fellow artists? Anything you can't be without?
Please share below!

Monday, 9 January 2012

Wedding Invitation Artwork | Watercolour Illustrations

Illustrated Wedding Stationary

These are some illustrations I've been working on for some wedding stationary. It was really fun to do something a little different, incorporating a colour scheme and making something decorative. I can't wait to see these in print, and will be posting some photos when they arrive.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Breakfast Food Illustrations!

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so they say.

These are some illustrations I worked on over Christmas, just as a way of honing my skills and building my portfolio. I hope you like them!

Sunday Market Breakfast

New Year New Me Breakfast

Saturday Recovery Breakfast

Valentines Breakfast

Snooze Button Breakfast

Moving Out | Bristol to London & Back Again.

Making my way to my 4.35am coach to London.
Old memories to be boxed up - look at our delightful faces (!).
My room in the roof.
The delightful sights of Walthamstow, from my bedroom window.
Bubble wrapping.
Lots of painty plates to clean up.
This guy has moved in already.
Driving home in dad's noisy van.

And there we have it. I'm back in Bristol for a new year. I hope this year goes well for me, and that it's the right choice for me to come back. I have lots planned with my work, and a few announcements to make once I get myself settled (exciting). 

My work space is slowly getting there, and does look rather nice, even though I say so myself! I will be posting photos shortly, so you can all have a peak around, and I've also been working on a food illustration project, self initiated work for my portfolio, so I'll put the images up very soon.

Thanks for reading! 

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Doubting Yourself | Artists Advice

How to Escape the Panicked State of Minimum Productivity

Whether you've been comparing yourself to others or you're going through a creative block, I think most artistic types are familiar with that rising panic that starts when work isn't going quite as well as usual.

This panicked state I'm sure comes in many forms, but for me I get the 'delayed panic'. Picture the scene: I'm working on a painting that started well, I'm feeling relaxed, I've got some music on and I'm singing along (badly) and working and working on it. Five hours in and I return from making a cup of tea to exclaim "What is this?!" , probably spilling tea all over the floor in the process. What I have before me is a completely over-worked, idiotic illustration that belongs nowhere else but the bin. I'm such an idiot! I'm talentless! What a waste of time!

I think everyone needs a remedy for this panic. I don't have one exactly, but there are a few things I do to ease the panicked pain.

1) Change my scenery.

This depends on the time of day as to what I do. If it's day time I try to get outside; in the summer time I used to go sit in the fields behind my flat or walk along the canal. If it's the evening, I might just unchain myself from the desk and go make a phone call! Or watch some tv. Anything to escape the scene of the panic.

2) Assess what I did wrong.

eg. I over worked it.

3) Get over it. 

Everyone makes mistakes.

4) Be creative in other ways.

Sometimes I collect reference imagery online, or update my blog, or make collages to work from.

5) Draw/paint something you're comfortable with.

 I find this helps build confidence again, and relaxes the hand.

6) Take the opposite path from the one that caused the panic. 

Draw from life. Or from imagination.  I often splash a quick self portrait and it reasserts my concentration.

6) Accept defeat and go to bed. 

Tomorrow's a new day!

One final thing I think is important to mention - is how regular practice minimises the chances of this panic setting in. One of my New Years resolutions is to make my work a habit, and so I'm hoping I'll become more familiar with my preferred way of working, and more in tune with my state of mind.

Here's to less panics in 2012!