On a chilly December morning, I arrived at the D&AD Illustration Workout wondering just what I was going to get out of the experience. I was in need of something really inspiring and not looking forward to spending a day in a drafty hall. The warm room and Ian Wright, an internationally renowned illustrator and our tutor for the day, set me straight immediately.
Ian asked us to introduce ourselves to each other visually. At the far end of the hall was an enormous village-fête-style trestle table, crammed with a treasure trove of craft materials with which to fashion our images. This proved a great way of overcoming the initial self-consciousness of showing one’s creative underbelly to strangers. Soon we all had work up on the wall and were doing a crit. This was fun!
Things naturally morphed a while later into discussion and we explored what illustration may or may not be; the relevance/importance of drawing; how should/can one learn to draw? Always happy to be immersed in philosophical discussion, particularly around creative subjects, I was thoroughly enjoying myself and everyone else seemed to be as well, even though we were a diverse bunch, from very different backgrounds. And Ian seemed to be enjoying it too. He wasn’t just regurgitating this stuff, he meant it, and was equally happy to explore these ideas with us. What’s the old saying – ‘when you think you know the answers is when you’re in danger of stopping learning’ (or something like that)? Everyone was asking questions – it was very refreshing and also very levelling.
After lunch, we had to cut the chat and get on with the final task of the day: create something that communicates having only five hours left until the end of the world. Ian didn’t instruct us too closely, he came by and nudged here and there, leading me to focus on the ideas and block out the journey. I created something free of conscious thought and free of personal judgement – and that seemed to be the key.
Ian encouraged us to rediscover a freedom of creativity most of us had left behind in college. I realised I need to allow the process to carry the work at times when otherwise I might procrastinate or over-think, eliminating tangents of creativity. I need to select one or two ideas and take them down a creative path and produce work – and very importantly, produce enough work to edit. With my background in fine art I was no stranger to ‘letting go’ but perhaps had more issues with reining in, so this exercise was very useful for me in the commercial sense.
One never thinks one is stuck in the obvious, but it was plain at the start of the day that we had all had at least one foot firmly entrenched there. By the end of the day, courtesy of Ian, both feet were miraculously free. The challenge of course is to try and keep them unstuck.
Julia Fenby is a freelance designer. For more details on D&AD’s Workout programmes, contact Nia Evans on +44 (0)20 7840 1130 or firstname.lastname@example.org