15 Tips for Making the Most of Art School

I recently graduated from Hereford College of Arts and I wanted to give you some tips on how to make the most of university; art school in particular. I just want to add, I didn’t live in student accommodation so can’t really advise on anything like that, but good luck if you are!

1. Be weary of buying too much stuff before you start.

For starters, if they give you a list of books to read over the summer, borrow them if you can. I still have a copy of Sagmeister’s Things I Have Learned in My Life So Far that I haven’t done more than flick through. Animal Farm and the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy are always good for adult you’s bookshelf though.

If they give you a list of materials – you probably don’t need to waste money on a drawing board you’ll end up leaving at your parent’s house and won’t touch, but things like pencils, inks and paints are probably a good shout. In fact, it was thanks to the list I got from uni that I discovered gouache – now I’m in love. More on that here.

2. Go on trips.

Yes, they may seem expensive, but that £400 trip to Berlin is going to be so worth it. They act as inspiration, but also a break from the studio/desk environment and get you exploring somewhere new. I don’t regret going on any trips as part of the course, I feel like they all helped me stay inspired and develop my skills throughout the three years I was studying. It may take some budgeting, but go if you can! Which leads us onto the next tip…

3. Budget.

This may seem the most obvious tip but it’s SO important. Over the three years I was at uni I managed to afford trips to Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam, Sweden (three times), London (three times), Glasgow, Totnes and Edinburgh. I lived in a flat that was more expensive than student accommodation. I ate well, socialised and had everything I needed. And now Max and I have enough savings to rent a two-bedroom house straight out of uni instead of having to move back in with our parents until we’ve paid off our overdrafts like most students have to. Now, I know the amount of money people get and have to spend is totally different around the country, and around the world, but I will be writing more posts on how I budget in the future, so keep your eyes peeled for that.

4. Don’t forget your student discount!

Nowadays you don’t need to spend money on an NUS card to get discounts, sign up with Unidays and Student Beans with your Student ID and you’ll get plenty of discounts! Also, don’t be shy to ask if a shop does student discount – might save you money!

I miss mine already…

5. Be at uni even when you don’t have to be.

I cannot stress the importance of this one enough. You are going to develop so much more and have a much more enriching and worthwhile experience if you physically go to uni every day, or as often as you can. For starters, it’s good to get into the habit of having a working schedule, but also the tutors, equipment and studio space that you’re paying ALOT of money for are all there.

6. Make your space inviting.

The worst thing about our studios was that they were so white. Like yeah, you get better lighting, it offsets things nicely but you need to make your space yours. Stick up all the postcards you’ve ever found, make a bunting, stick stickers everywhere, just make it a space you want to be in. We even got a load of spider plants in our last studio because plants are the best things ever. If it’s not against health and safety, I would even recommend getting a communal kettle so you can make your own tea/coffee throughout the day. Make it like a second home.

7. Go outside every now and then.

It’s so important to remember to get some fresh air every now and again. A short walk can do amazing things for your creativity and productivity. Take a sketchbook if you want.

8. Use workshops/facilities.

I definitely needed to listen to my own advice with this one. HCA has amazing workshops for ceramics, metalwork, woodwork, 3D-printing, screen printing and so much more, and I feel I didn’t make the most of them. You should. Remember you’re paying a lot of money to be able to access these things, learn some new skills! Expand your practice.

 

9. Your tutors know their stuff.

Now I know HCA is different to a lot of art schools because it’s so small and there is a lot of tutor contact. My tip is to talk to your tutors if you’re feeling a bit lost or need some specific advice – you don’t have to wait for them to arrange tutorials.

10. Your peers might also know their stuff.

I definitely feel having contact with peers helped improve my work, it gets especially interesting when people find their niches and you get someone who loves AR teaching photoshop to a computer-averse children’s book illustrator. It’s great. Make friends. And then talk about your work to each other, often.

11. Don’t be afraid to talk to visiting lecturers.

We were very lucky and had loads of visiting lecturers over our time at uni, from illustrators to event hosts to portfolio experts. Do not be afraid to talk to them if you’re interested in what they do, or think they might be interested in what you do. Just be friendly and make contacts, but don’t put too much pressure on yourself! They’re just people.

12. Find your own projects, or at least tailor set projects to you.

Your biggest asset is that there is no-one else on this planet who is identical to you. Your life, the way you see things, the way you think, the way you draw is totally unique. Embrace that and make sure you find a way to enjoy your projects and make them personal. Some, especially in first year, may seem restricting and uninteresting but you’ve got to find your angle. If you enjoy it, you will create better work.

13. Set yourself false deadlines.

This one is easy, but so effective. Tell yourself your deadline is, for example, a week before the actual deadline and be strict with it. Then if something happens that takes you longer, you’ve got an extra week buffer room. Try it, it takes so much stress away.

 

14. Take a sketchbook with you everywhere (and use it).

Again, this is something I needed to take my own advice for, especially in first and second year. Make it somewhere you can doodle, write notes, sketch, paint. Make it a scrapbook. Make it personal. Now, this is the important bit, you do not have to show it to anyone. It doesn’t matter if you do a crap drawing or get coffee all over it. It is your place to record your life, and if you’re happy with it then great, show the world. If not, it doesn’t matter, you will get so much better just by using it regularly.

15. Don’t expect everything you make to be perfect.

I’ve put this one last because I feel it’s the most important. It took me far too long to realise this, but you can’t worry about creating something that’s not perfect because you’ll never create anything. That’s why I think having a sketchbook that’s just for you is great for getting into the habit of just drawing, painting, collaging, writing without the pressure of making something that’s worthy of being shown. You will make something great. Just don’t be afraid to make something crap first.

 

Hope these tips help! Let me know what you think.

Amy x

ps. you can find my work at my website, or on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.

 

Winsor and Newton Designers Gouache vs. Turner Acryl Japanesque Colour Gouache

I started my gouache journey three years ago when it appeared on a list of recommended supplies when I started art school – I went for Daler Rowney’s Simply Gouache because it was the cheapest I could find.

Throughout the course of art school I, like everyone else, struggled with finding a medium that excited and inspired me.

I dabbled in gouache a few times throughout those three years but really started falling in love with it a couple of months into third year. I just thought it was great because you could use it like watercolour or use less water and have it be pigmented without the plastickiness (yes, that’s a word now) of acrylic. It’s also so much better for doing fine details than acrylic. It’s just great.

Once I knew I wanted to try out more colours and things I came across a set of Winsor and Newton Designers Gouache on Cass Art for £11.95 for a set of 10 (RRP £47.99) and asked Santa for them very nicely. (They are currently at £19.95 and I haven’t seen them cheaper than that since – I think I was very lucky!)

I haven’t looked back since.

So much more pigmented, smoother and just vibrant and beautiful.

However, as a poor student, I couldn’t afford more in different colours or anything and the Turner Acryl Japanesque Colours were recommended to me as a cheap alternative (I got a set of 12 for £8).

Something I didn’t realise at the time but may be worth bearing in mind is that they are acrylic gouache, which dry to a matt finish and aren’t re-wettable, unlike traditional gouache which is re-wettable once it dries in your palette (life saver) and dries to more of a velvet matt finish on paper.

I tried them a couple of times and found them really gritty and strange so they ended up going in a drawer for about six months until recently when I was packing all our things ready to move house and decided to try them out again – and I don’t think I gave them enough credit before.

So I thought I’d do a bit of a comparison/review type post, starting with how they look with varying amounts of water added:

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I noticed that the Japanesque paint kind of reached a perfect level of dilution and then became very even in coverage, which you can see in the fourth square along on the bottom row. As the W&N paint requires less diluting to get even coverage, I can see a tube of the Turner Japanesque lasting sightly longer.

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I don’t know if you can really see it in this image but the Turner Japanesque Colours (top row) look slightly gritty, and I’m not sure if that’s the case with all acrylic gouaches or just these ones. Also, the colours are less vibrant than the W&N ones, but that may just be the set of colours I bought.

The W&N paints are also a lot thicker straight out the tube, but I find that they really don’t require much water added to make them the perfect consistency to paint with so they don’t lose much, if any, pigmentation.

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I definitely prefer the W&N Designers Gouache personally, just because they’re re-wettable which means less waste and less clean-up and the colours are so vibrant and smooth.

However, if you’re on a budget or you want a matter finish, I would definitely recommend the Turner Acryl Japanesque Colour gouaches. Considering they’re the same price, they also make a much better starter set than the Daler Rowney Simply gouaches, in my opinion.

I think with any art materials it’s going to be a case of trying out different things and seeing what suits your work and your budget. If you just start off with one colour from a couple of different ranges and see what works well for you, you can decide what you prefer as they all have their own pro’s and cons. But I’d definitely say give Winsor and Newton Designers Gouache a go!

 

A quick disclaimer: I didn’t realise until after I bought them but the Ivory Black and Primary Blue in the W&N set I bought aren’t vegan. Winsor and Newton have published a list of their products that contain animal-derived ingredients here.

 

Thanks for reading! Let me know if you have any favourites or suggestions for me to try,

Amy x

Visiting the Art Chapel, Abergavenny

The other day I visited the Art Chapel in Abergavenny for the first time, after hearing so many good things. I’ve been to the associated Art Shop in the town many, many times but the owners recently opened up the Art Chapel as more of an events space with a cafe, keen on showcasing local, fresh  food produce as well as local artists and makers. (It also has the most beautiful stream running in front of it!)

We stopped for a bite to eat and I had the tastiest lentil and chard soup with sourdough (and apple juice – my favourite drink to have out). We sat in the garden area and it was so nice being surrounded by ALL the greenery.

They also had some plants for sale, I think Max and I will be returning once we’ve moved because, don’t know if I’ve told you yet, we’ll have a garden! 😉

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Inside, there were lots of books and art supplies for sale, as well as handmade ceramics, jewellery and artwork.

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I’d definitely recommend a visit if you’re in the area! And then go and visit the Art Shop on Cross St, it’s so old and narrow, with really wonky stairs going up to the gallery space – just such a lovely building!

As always, thanks for reading and let me know of any inspiring places you’ve been to recently!

Amy x

August Favourites

I have compiled a list of my favourite things this month, consisting of everything from bowls to paint – hope you enjoy!

In no particular order, I’m going to start off with this bowl from TKMaxx, which I’ve already mentioned in a previous blog post because I eat my breakfast out of it every single day and it just makes me enjoy my mornings a little bit more.

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Next up is this band tee from Oro Swimming Hour and Art is Hard Records, designed by Nicholas Stevenson. I actually picked this up from a recent gig they had in Bristol, not sure if they are available to buy anywhere else but I got a large and it is the comfiest and coolest top ever.

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I also got this zine in the post recently, which was a lovely surprise because I preordered it back in May – glad it arrived before we moved! It’s full of beautifully illustrated articles on mental wellbeing and profits are going to charities and non-profit organisations like Mind, Beat and Sisters Uncut. It really is worth a read – you can purchase a copy here.

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This month has been particularly significant because I’ve gone from brunette to pink! (There is a blog post about that coming!) so I wanted to include the Bleach London Total Bleach kits and Directions White Toner and Carnation Pink dyes in my favourites as they are all amazing products. The reincarnation mask that comes with the Bleach London kits makes my hair feel so soft and healthy even though I’ve bleached it three times over the space of about a month. Would recommend – you can also buy it separately if you don’t need the bleach, which is good!

Deodorant next – I used to use the lavender and vanilla version of Salt of the Earth’s spray deodorant but recently went unscented (in all honesty, it was slightly cheaper) and I love it just as much. It’s so nice having a natural deodorant in a spray form that doesn’t contain any aluminium or other nasty things that are in standard deodorants. It’s easy to use, I find two sprays under each armpit is plenty to get me through the day and a bottle probably lasts a good 8 months.

 

I’ve also been loving Rose Jam body spray from Lush, which I managed to pick up from the new Cardiff Spa store when it opened, but I recently saw them in my local Lush (#TeamWorcester) so I think they’ve probably been rolled out to most stores, in the UK at least. Now, if you’ve read my recent blog post about my everyday Lush faves you’ll know that (Spoiler Alert) Princess Cottongrass is my super duper all-time favourite perfume from Lush. However, I think it’s important to change it up from time to time so you don’t get fed up, and August has just been particularly Rose Jammy for me.

I also treated myself to some new art materials lately. I picked up this Clairefontaine Naturel pad from my local indie art shop and it’s so nice to work on natural colour paper – sometimes white is a bit too bright and intimidating. I find I can use pretty thick layers of gouache on it too without it buckling, which is really nice.

If you follow me on my “work” Instagram you will also know I’ve been loving Winsor and Newton’s gold gouache. It’s amazing. It’s like foiling in liquid form. I got mine from Cass Art and I must admit I’m now a bit tempted by the silver…

Hope that compilation was interesting! As always, you can check out my illustration work via my website, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

Thanks for reading!

Amy

Brunette to Pastel Pink

About 4 months ago, I decided I wanted to dye my hair a lovely pastel pink, but sensible me wanted to wait until after I graduated so that I knew my hair would look alright in the awful photos of me that would be on relative’s mantelpieces for years and years.

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Two days later, I was blonde. Just in time for being Swedish for two weeks.

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I (with the help of a friend) used two boxes of Bleach London’s Total Bleach on virgin hair and I was really happy with the results. It did, however, take over two hours to apply!

About three weeks after the first bleaching we bleached it again, avoiding roots this time (figured I might as well do those when they’re about 2-3 months grown out). It took so much less time when avoiding the roots! This took another one and a half boxes of bleach.

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(apologies for the awful bathroom lighting!)

I then toned it with LaRiche Directions’ White Toner…

Just under a week later I tackled the bits that still weren’t quite light enough with the leftover half a box of bleach. (side note – I now have a teeny patch underneath that looks greenish, and I think this may be because I used an opened bottle of developer, so if you can afford to use whole boxes at a time, I would defo recommend it!)

After washing the bleach out with Daddy-O shampoo from Lush (which I would recommend!)  I mixed a tiny blob of Direction’s Carnation Pink with three good squirts of conditioner and thoroughly ran it through my hair and left it on for about 5 minutes.

The result:

Almost a week later I dyed it pink properly, mixing Carnation Pink with conditioner to dilute it…

 

I absolutely love it! It’s just got a hint of pink in it and it’s exactly what I wanted! Also the pot of pink dye I got will last ages because I only used a tiny bit. I ended up mixing a butterbean-sized blob of dye with two good squirts of conditioner three times – so about a third of a bottle of Superdrug’s Raspberry and Macadamia conditioner (which is vegan and cruelty free and I got mine on offer for 95p! I think they retail for £1.99 but often have offers on). I would recommend using a white conditioner if you’re going to dilute dye just so you can see what colour it’s going to be a bit better, but I just had that raspberry one and I wasn’t too precious about the colour being too intense because I knew it’d wash out – and dyeing your hair crazy colours is all about experimentation, right?

Hope you find this post interesting/useful – let me know what you think!

Thanks for reading

Amy x

Ps. as always, you can find more of my illustration work (like the cover illustration one this post) on my website, Instagram and Twitter!

The Jacket of Glory – Part I: Pin Club

To start off my Jacket of Glory series, I’m going to show you all the pins I have from Pin Club, a UK-based monthly pin subscription service that showcases illustrators/pin designers and sends you a surprise pin every month for £5.

Above:
Hand: Pin Club
Houses: Abby Galloway
Flamingo Ring: Designosaur
Amour: Joanna Behar
Live a Little: Elleinadart
Carousel: The C Project
Dinosaur: Erik Buikema
Birthday: Pin Club

 

Below (bought via Pin Club but not part of the monthly subscription):
Fancy: Pin Club
Amor Eterno Lady: San Jones
Origami Fortune Teller: Paper Flour Ink
Pizza Club: Stationery Bicycles

 

Hope you enjoyed that quick intro, I’ll be going through the rest of the jacket in weekly instalments every Thursday, keep an eye out!

Thanks for reading

Amy

Nabbed myself some Northern Craft goodies

Recently it seemed like all my favourite illustrators had made amazing pins but they were all exclusive to Northern Craft‘s Pin Drop event (which is an amazing idea for an exhibition – they asked 21 illustrators to design pins and are now exhibiting them together up in Leeds).

Living so far away, I had given up hope of getting any of them, until… they made the pins available online and some fell in my basket. I did feel a little bit ‘eek!’ about buying them, since I’m moving house soon, and I’ve just embarked on the wonderful adventure that is self-employment, but they’re so beautiful and so exclusive and I could justify it by reminding myself I didn’t buy food or use electric/gas/water at home for two weeks while away in Sweden so, you know. PLUS supporting fellow illustrators, and all that. Right? Although I did restrain myself and only bought 3…

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[L-R] Dick Vincent, We Three Club, Kristyna Baczynski

If you’re into pins or illustration or the north of England, go and check out Northern Craft, and support these amazing people!

Amy x

Hello!

Thought I’d use this first post to introduce myself a little bit.

  • My name is Amy.
  • I’m Welsh, but am currently living in England for a little bit.
  • I just graduated with a BA (Hons) degree in Illustration.
  • I live with my boyfriend Max (who is very lovely).
  • I’m vegan.
  • I collect pins and patches and stick most of them onto an old Levi’s denim jacket I got for £5 in a charity shop about 4 years ago.
  • I don’t really wear make-up.
  • My all-time favourite band is The Cure but at-the-moment fave is Ezra Furman.
  • I drive a little blue car that looks like a cube.
  • My favourite season is autumn.
  • I love the idea of being out in the woods but I really don’t like bugs.
  • I wear glasses (currently roundish brown ones) and have prescription sunglasses, and hate that moment when I go into a shop and have to switch glasses before I can see anything.
  • I can’t resist a good bourbon biscuit.
  • Since starting this blog post, I have a new-found passion for making lists.

 

So expect posts about vegan stuff, illustration stuff, pin stuff, home stuff, that kind of thing!

Thanks for reading, smell you later.

Amy x

ps. my illustration work can be found on my website and on Instagram!