VR Labs Future Artists 3 day workshop 02/18

VR Labs Future Artists workshop at MMU February 2018

These links below showcase a range of work and the process undertaken in the third VR Lab / Future Artists event at the Digital Innovation Labs, MMU with Mark Ashmore.
The workshop projects are team-based, thematic and involve a range of students selected from cross-faculty programmes at MMU. Individual skill sets are brought together over a 3 day period, the students selected from IWA and MFA Illustration each had a particular interest or skill to bring to the experience and are featured at various points in the videos below reflecting on their contribution and experience at the event.
YouTube links were provided by Hayley Walsh: Relationship Officer in the Digital Innovation Shed MMU.
Delia Derbyshire
Rosalind Franklin:
Katherine Johnson
IWA 3rd year students participating: Hannah Williams, Edel Fernandez and Harriet Russell
Digital Innovation is an initiative from MMU designed to respond to the rapid speed of change in the digital sector. Situated in a refurbished engineering shed on the MMU city centre campus, Digital Innovation brings together start-up businesses, digital research and teaching under the same roof.

Future Artists is an independent studio and co-working space set up in 2009 by Mark Ashmore FRSA.

VR Workshop 19/03/18

Workshop based on the development of an Innovation funding bid for IWA and the participation of 3rd-year students in VR Labs at the Innovation Centre MMU over the past 6 months.

19th March 2018 Grosvenor Basement.

A morning with Alasdair Swenson Research Associate at MMU, and second-year student Reece McDowell working with Google Tilt Brush software / VR drawing. The session was exploratory and aimed at scoping out ways that our illustrators and animators could work with VR as content-drivers, responding to location, observation, and archive. This is also looking forward towards a potential live workshop broadcast with a partner university in Shanghai. (TBC in July)

The interface is more intuitive than we anticipated, with the toolset accessible and navigable with only a limited introduction. The main learning curve is trying to work out ways of owning the drawing space rather than being owned by it. The experience is not dissimilar to early days of photoshop where you are distracted by the gimmicks and showy effects rather than thinking about what you want to say. The need for restraint and preparation in terms of either preloading assets and /or importing 2D resource to act as a reference is important, this could mean photographs, drawings or 3D models, and maybe best approached as a collaborative undertaking.

The use of drawing and photography is where my own interests intersect with a background in hand-drawn 2D/3D artwork right back to training in pre CAD technical drawing. The role of memory in a VR context is interesting in the way that you are required to re-imagine a scene or create an object based on your own capacity to recall in 3 dimensions, the object you wish to recreate. It requires a recognition of the subconscious function of time and shifting viewpoint in observation. Does this impact on the way we prepare? or teach drawing? or learn how to draw?…all questions the workshop usefully generates.

Alternative ways of using VR discussed whereby drawing is loaded and pre-rendered in a space using a games software engine (?) then exported to a VR equivalent? There is a need to test this as a potentially viable stepping stone for drawing to VR outcomes.

Having a clear problem to solve – in this case responding to the Silk Museum in Macclesfield with VR, is beneficial to focusing an agenda for testing. Access to a VR ready PC is essential.

The takeaway tasks from the morning are:

  • A need to pre-record the museum space through drawing and photography using multiple perspectives.
  • A need to create asset files of relevant context material – these could be documents, oral history, photographs or preformed 3D objects.
  • Consider what the workshop seeks to convey? audience? is the technology or the location content the aim of the workshop live cast?
  • Consideration of storyboard and script – if appropriate, also duration.
  • Workshop based drawing labs with VR are essential in driving origination and confidence to escape the gaming language currently prevalent in the examples available online.
  • Learn to use the tools through defined problem-solving tasks.


Advertising Unlocked

Student placement success

In October 2017 a group of 10 students from third year illustration signed up for attendance at an event running across the UK  called Advertising Unlocked. https---cdn.evbuc.com-images-35707306-145111949589-1-original.jpg

Advertising Unlocked was a unique Open House event where top UK agencies opened their doors to those curious about a career in advertising.

Visitors had an opportunity to learn about the wide range of creative and production roles in an exciting industry which makes everything from high profile adverts (like the John Lewis Christmas TV ads) to bus stop posters, public health campaigns, web banners and much more.

We had most students attend an event at McCann Manchester – (which is actually based in Cheshire just outside Macclesfield). As part of the day the agency set all the students who attended the event a challenge and offered a negotiated paid 2 week internship as a prize for the most successful applicant.

We are pleased to announce that both Alexandra Boocock and Amy Needham from third year were both successful and will be undertaking the placements in mid November. In addition Ella Brown has also been offered further work experience later in the year. Great opportunities to see how the creative sector operates and the variety of roles that exist within these organisations.

McCann Manchester

Thank you to Jeff McCarthy Senior Lecturer, Digital Marketing at MMU for bringing this event to our attention.

Alumni: Amy Veried – Junior Agent at Handsome Frank.

Amy Veried graduated in the summer of 2014 from BA (Hons) Illustration with Animation at Manchester School of Art. We caught up with Amy in her latest role as a newly appointed Junior Agent at leading artists agents Handsome Frank.


Amy has responded to a series of questions from Senior Lecturer Ian Whadcock that asked  her to reflect on her path from graduation to employment. Amy has passed on some valuable advice on what she wished she had done more of at university, where the moments of key advice came from and how she has achieved her ambition so quickly.

Amy Veried: Brief timeline since finishing Uni/ Background

In the last year of Uni, I knew that I didn’t want to be a freelance illustrator, (something I never would of known without doing the course,) but I wanted to be around illustration and help people achieve great work, I had a bit of a light bulb moment after a talk by Fig Taylor (AOI) and knew I wanted to be an agent, so much so I immediately called my mum and told her I knew exactly what I wanted to do.

I used my days off when I wasn’t working to make huge lists of agencies mostly in London, as that’s where I wanted to be. I had a brief moment where I did a Sotheby’s summer course in Art History, where I spent a month sofa surfing around London thanks to friends who let me stay. After that I spent my days in coffee shops emailing and ringing everyone, until I was offered some work experience. I went down to London and a week turned into two, which turned into a 3 month paid internship, which turned into a job.

I learnt a lot about children’s illustration, something I never swayed towards at all at Uni, which I now have a massive appreciation and understanding of that I didn’t have before, but this was mostly in the publishing industry, and I knew there was something more.

Strangely, my dream was to work for Handsome Frank, an agency that I personally thought had the best illustrators, who had a handle on contemporary illustration, and had a nice approach and interesting voice. One day I was looking on Twitter, which I never do, and I saw a tweet advertising the position of Junior Agent. Anyway, a couple of meetings and a few beers later, I got the job and am now in a team of great people who deal with illustration across so many sectors, it’s a very exciting and interesting place to be!

What would I most like to pass on

Don’t get disheartened but be savvy.  There’s lots of illustration out there and it can sometimes feel overwhelming. It does on this end too, and there simply isn’t enough time to respond to every submission, but if you’re looking for an agent, do your research and find one that you think is appropriate to you, look up who works there and tailor it to them. (I.e.- Dear Sir/Madam’s not a good start!)

If you’re going it alone, brush up on some contract law and jargon for when you receive contracts, otherwise you could be handing people a lot more than you bargained for, worst case scenario you could give someone all your rights, so the image you created isn’t even yours any more and you can’t even show or tell anyone you made it.

When negotiating a job if you don’t have an agent, set out exactly what you’re going to deliver, where it’s going to be and for how long, and the fee. If they change their mind or ask you to do extra work, then that’s more work which requires another fee. As a rule I would say know your worth and don’t work for free. Also state that you always retain your copyright.

What did I do wrong

Underestimate the need and absolutely necessity to understand and to be competent with computer software. If you wish to be a freelance illustrator, although there are exceptions to the rule, you really need to know how to at least use Photoshop and some Indesign. Something I’ve learnt despite going to all the workshops, at the time it didn’t seem for me, as I thought I liked prints and handmade work more, but with the type of illustration I mostly deal with now it’s not commercially viable. If you need to change a colour or move something around if the client wishes, you need to be able to do that quickly without redrawing the whole image.

What I wish I had done at uni

I wish I had gone to every single workshop and every talk with a guest speaker to glean all the information I could and to meet interesting people. Also use all the facilities, you think printing is expensive, it’s no compared with the real world..

What really makes the difference.

Finishing work to a professional standard. Sometimes you can see student work straight away because it just doesn’t seem quite completed and have that polished edge. This is something that obviously comes with time and practice as you refine your skill, but it can be easy to be glanced over if you don’t have this.

Having an audience for your work. Art School is a time to experiment, but by the end of third year you should know or have an idea of where you want your work to be and the kind of people you want to commission you. Wherever you go, does your portfolio and website reflect this?

Being proactive. Go to exhibition openings/ creative nights/ art fairs/ talks/ workshops. Meet people, make connections, build up a rapport with like-minded people in your area. It’s good to be on someone’s radar when they quickly need to hire an illustrator.



Reportage Event November 2016

Drawn from Life: Reportage event Manchester School of Art 04/11/16

Keynote Lecture: Olivier Kugler


With additional short presentations from Dr John Hewitt and Robin Sukatorn.

This event first began as a conversation with Olivier Kugler in 2014 around a bid for Arts Council funding to develop an extensive body of work based on observations in conflict zones and refugee camps with Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)

By expanding the scope of the day to cover reportage from three distinct speaker perspectives the intention was to explore some of the tensions around definitions of reportage and the distribution of content through traditional and evolving media platforms. The Q&A discussions also covered the contextualisation of layered content through the relationship of contemporary and historical narratives in the body of the drawing or post and the use of photography as a part of the reportage process.

The lectures were attended by staff  and students from Manchester School of Art undergraduate, postgraduate, foundation and alumni: Julia Midgley and Cherie Gerrard.  Also present were our invited guests: staff and students from Stockport College Illustration programme. I am grateful for the article below written by MFA student Robin Sukatorn as a reflective record of the event and to Dr John Hewitt for his contributions on the day.

In a world where news is increasingly consumed in endless rolling feeds, where political campaigns are fought in a media frenzy of ‘post-truth’ rhetoric and bombastic headlines, and where the minutiae of daily life is framed, curated and shared across a swelling smörgåsbord of social media platforms, questions of representation, authenticity, truth and engagement have become particularly pertinent. Amongst this bustling melee of information and visual content, where do we find space for representations of nuanced, individual lives; for local and personal moments and experiences; and for authentic, unfiltered portrayals of the human condition? Where do we find time to pause and observe the people and places in the world around us?

One medium which has the potential to cut through the noise is reportage illustration. This unique creative process involves the recording of events, scenes, people and places through direct observation and on-location drawing, and offers a novel and engaging way of shining a light on more local stories and personal experiences. Reportage artists place themselves in the unique and intimate position of a witness and reporter, producing visual records of a specific subject, responding immediately and intuitively to the observed scene at hand and capturing its essence and vitality through their own individual perspective,style and technique.

Olivier Kugler, a prolific socially-engaged illustrator and visual essayist based in London, is one of the most prominent practitioners of this reportage tradition, and this Autumn term the Manchester School of Art Department of Illustration with Animation hosted a special public event, convened by Senior Lecturer Ian Whadcock, in which Kugler discussed the development of his practice and presented a selection of his illustrations to an audience of students, educators and creative practitioners.

I was privileged to be invited to participate in the event myself, opening proceedings with a short presentation of my own reportage drawings developed over the course of my first year of MFA Illustration studies at the Manchester School of Art. I spoke about my own experience scouting out and documenting various scenes and events from contemporary political, cultural and community life: drawing newly-elected Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn speaking outside Manchester Cathedral, culminating in an illustration for which I was delighted to receive the 2016 John Ruskin Prize Student Award, as well as regular excursions to draw city council meetings, music concerts, political demonstrations, public vigils and parades in Manchester and the North of England. I also presented a selection of my drawings from a current project with the responsible-investment charity Share Action, in which I am developing a series of compositions documenting scenes from the Annual General Meetings of several FTSE 250 companies including Marks & Spencers, National Grid and United Utilities, based on my personal observations and sketches of the characters, interactions and proceedings witnessed from within the meetings.


I was followed by Dr John Hewitt, a Senior Lecturer in Illustration at Manchester School ofArt and the winner of the Hugh Casson Prize for drawing at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition in 2016, who in his presentation offered his own take on reportage illustration and his experiences using drawing as a means of representing and documenting the world around him. He spoke of his role as a ‘psychogeographer’- one who wanders through the urban environment, observing and recording the relationships between places and people, including the histories and ghosts of the past which linger seen or unseen in specific locations. He also recounted his experience documenting the 7/7 bombings in London, through drawings committed from memory based on his personal observations in the aftermath of the attacks, and how he felt a strong moral duty not to invent or inject himself as the artist into the image due to the sensitive subject at hand. I was particularly struck by his words on the ‘evidential value of the moment’ as a core feature of reportage, the important role of drawing in building empathy- particularly evident in his own moving sketches of homeless people on the streets of Manchester- and the positive utility of social media as a platform for sharing and building wider engagement with his drawings and the stories behind them.


As our special guest for the afternoon, Olivier Kugler then took to the podium to share the story of his development as a reportage illustrator. Born into an artistic household in Germany, Kugler spoke about his love for drawing as a child, with a particular focus on the human figure and documenting the world around him. Although initially pursuing the more economically-secure option of studying and working as a graphic designer for a number of years, Kugler eventually broke away from this path and threw himself into the world of illustration, bolstered by a scholarship to study a masters degree at the School of Visual Arts in New York.

It was fascinating to hear Kugler talk first-hand about the development of his creative process as a reportage illustrator, in which he works from direct observation, on-location drawings and personal photographs, subsequently incorporating text, digital colour and narrative composition and creating vivid and characterful visual essays which capture the unique personal stories of particular individuals and places. While presenting us with a selection of his drawings, Kugler offered an insightful commentary into the stories and experiences behind some of his most engaging projects: with particular highlights including his sketches and interviews of diverse characters encountered on the streets of New York and London; drawings of aged locals and railways conductors in China as part of a field trip of Guardian journalists; spending four days travelling through Iran with a truck driver and documenting the experience through reportage illustrations based on personal photographs, interviews and memories, for which he was awarded the overall prize at the 2011 V&A Illustration Awards; drawing discreetly from within the home of a characterful ‘super-grass’ ex-mafioso named Luigi; witnessing and documenting the desperate living conditions of refugee families in Iraqi Kurdistan- and subsequently the island of Kos in Greece and the Calais ‘jungle’ in France- and offering a crucial and poignant insight into the human stories behind the headlines which so often pass us by as faceless and sweeping reports.

To hear Kugler speak so passionately and movingly about his experiences meeting and drawing such a diverse array of individuals around the world- whose stories are told with patience and detail through his characterful and engaging illustrations- was incredibly inspiring and eye-opening, both for myself as an aspiring illustrator and no doubt for the other students, practitioners and educators in the audience. Through bringing together different approaches and experiences of documentary drawing, visual journalism and reportage illustration, and offering a platform for Kugler in particular to share the stories and insights behind his remarkable work, the event built a compelling and optimistic picture of how drawing can be harnessed to reflect a more nuanced, intimate and engaging perspective of the world around us.

Article by Robin Sukatorn MFA Illustration Student at Manchester School of Art

©Robin Sukatorn 05/12/16

Dr John Hewitt’s drawings and account of the 7/7 London bombings are on permanent display at the Museum of London

Guest Speaker: Olivier Kugler 3rd Nov 2016

Coming soon on 3rd November BA (Hons) Illustration with Animation are pleased to welcome award winning illustrator and visual essayist Olivier Kugler to Manchester School of Art.

muhamed_a4_300-2As part of an Arts Council supported project, Olivier will be discussing his career to date with a focus on the development of a large body of work collaborating with Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontiers). The work  concentrates on drawings derived from periods spent at the Domiz refugee camp in Iraqi Kurdistan.

The afternoon event will commence with two twenty minute presentations.

Opening the event will be MFA student Robin Sukatorn, winner of the 2016 Ruskin Student award for drawing, talking about his work with local politics, community activism and reportage drawing.

Followed by Dr John Hewitt Senior Lecturer in Manchester School of Art and winner of the 2016 Royal Academy Hugh Casson Drawing Prize, talking about the role of drawing as daily record and his observations on the impact of social media as a way of generating and importantly curating audience.

We are also pleased to have MMU alumni and visiting speaker from 2015 Julia Midgley attending this event as our guest for the afternoon.