Daily Sketching Goal

They say you should draw something everyday if you want to improve. Lately I’ve been a bit slack on the drawing front. It’s so easy to fall behind when life gets in the way. Juggling projects, client briefs, admin, emails and trying to have a life as well, sometimes leaves little time for self development work and without a goal it’s easy to let it slip.

With that in mind, i’ve decided it’s time to set myself a little daily drawing challenge – to draw something everyday and post it up on my Instagram (#FGDailyDrawings) and my blog once a week. It should be a good way to get into a sketching routine!

I had a little warm up drawing session yesterday, both in town and with the birds. To keep it neat though I’ll start properly today – 1st August

Things to Consider when Creating Illustrated Visitor Maps 

Visitor maps play an important role in any visitor attraction. They provide an instant overview of the site on arrival, help visitors to easily navigate the area, promote walks, highlight services (e.g. toilets, shop, café), encourage people to visit key areas, and make a lasting visual impression of the site.

They’re usually found on welcome boards near the entrance, on information boards around the area and in visitor leaflets and guidebooks, allowing people to navigate on the move.

Although their main purpose is to help visitors to find their way around the site, they also need to be visually interesting and to enhance the visitor experience. They need to convey all the relevant information, in a clear, engaging manner to get both kids and adults excited about what the site has to offer.

With that in mind, I’ve come up with a list of things to consider when creating (or commissioning) a new visitor map. I have used my recent illustrated map of Conkers Discovery Centre as an example.

Understand the brief 

This one is pretty important. There are lots of things to consider when being briefed (or briefing) an illustrated map.

Area – Make sure you know the area that needs to be covered by the map.

Format / Purpose – What will the map be used for? Is it just for large format visitor/welcome boards, or also in leaflets? Will it be used on a website for online promotion too?

Size – How big will the artwork need to be. Will it need to be provided at different sizes to cover Web use, leaflets and larger signage?

Deadline / Schedule – When does the map need to be finished? You need to consider time to do the illustration, send and collect client feedback at various stages, and to output for print (or send to a designer). If you’re commissioning, you need to take into account any lead time that the printers have. You may also need to consider that the illustrator/designer may be busy and not able to start the work immediately.

Illustration Style – Make sure you agree to an illustration style before the map gets underway. Pick some examples out of similar styles, so both parties know what is expected.

Key Sites and Points of Interest – Make sure you know which areas need highlighting.

Colours – Will the map have to fit into any current branding? Is there a particular colour palette or fonts that should be used?

Any other specific requirements – Does the map need a key / numbers? Does it need to specifically appeal to children? Does it need to sit in a particular design/shape?

If you are replacing an existing map – Ensure you know what wasn’t working with the old one, and make sure that this issue is addressed within the new map.

Visit the site 

Take lots of reference photos, make notes, draw sketches, talk to the staff and visitors – anything to help you build up a clear picture of the area from the ground up. You gain a lot of understanding from walking around the site that you can’t get from aerial imagery or other maps.

Visual reference

Depending on the time of year of your visit, you may not be able to get enough info from your trip (I visited Conkers in the winter, when the trees were bare, some of the key areas hadn’t been built, and others weren’t open.) You will need to get your hands on as much supporting imagery as possible to work from. Other maps are also very useful. Any other maps of the area, including past visitor maps can help you understand the site and area a bit more. Look for online maps, Ordnance Survey maps, and any other supporting material to help you build up a good picture of the site.

Conkers map visit

Plan the map – what goes where?

I start by mapping out the different areas and pathways, to get a ‘base map’. For Conkers I used two sizes of paths, highlighting the main and the smaller walkways. You can jot down the locations of the key sites to make sure they’re in the correct places. Once this base map is done, I usually send it to the client to make sure they’re happy with the underlying map.

Conkers map visit

Populate your map

Once the ‘base’ map is approved, I start adding in the ‘points of interest’. I will rough these out and drop them into their places, occasionally tweaking the base map a little so they fit and the pathways are not obscured. Once the roughs are approved, I’ll do an inked version and finally add colour, giving the client a chance to see and approve the illustrations after each step. I will also add in some trees to indicate wooded areas.

Conkers map visit

Adding in a key / labels

Sometimes adding in lots of labels can make a map look very messy. I’ve taken to adding in a numbered key to a lot of my maps that have multiple areas and points of interest. This keeps the map clutter free, so labels don’t cover the map and fight for attention. The placement of the key will depend on the shape of the map, and usually tucks into an empty spot in the page. I tend to add in icons for services such as toilets, shops and cafés to keep them visually separate from the key areas. When working on the Conkers map, I combined the use of a key with labels for the few major areas around the site. This gave the labelling a sense of hierarchy.

Conkers map visit

Once the Conkers map was approved, I handed it over to their graphic designer who had been commissioned to design their leaflets and signage for 2016. He dropped the map into his designs and replaced my fonts with the ones he was using for the design work.

Conkers map visit

You can see the finished visitor map in the final design of the 2016 leaflet. By making sure you understand the brief, the requirements and the area, you can ensure you have an attractive, informative, readable map.

You can download the new visitor leaflet as a PDF from their website, and the new signage can be seen around site.

This post was originally published as a guest blog post on the PSLplan blog

I’m a Busy Bee at the mo…

It’s been a while since i’ve posted on here, I’ve been super busy working on new books for the Bolognia book fair at the end of the month, alongside some other brilliant projects.

Some great stuff has been happening lately though that I just wanted to share…

The little Illustration collective that I’m part of has an exhibition up at Cherryleaf coffee house in Norwich all this month. It looks fab, and i’m dead proud to be part of a group of such lovely talented and organised people. We all took a classic book, and re-designed the cover art. They’ve come out brilliantly and everyone has done a fab job.

Continue reading “I’m a Busy Bee at the mo…”

Autumn Clutter City and Winter craft market preparations.

On September 28th, I took part in the Autumn edition of Clutter City, a local craft market held at Norwich Arts Centre. It was a fab day, and I met some lovely people, Including the super-talented Kellee Rich, and Deerly Beloved Bakery, with their tasty cakes. 
I took along a fair bit of new stock: a good few of my new little notebooks, – Mushrooms designs and Norwich themed ones – as well as a new, improved stand setup.

For a couple of weeks beforehand, I’d been preparing some screenprints of my Norwich Illustrated map down at the Stew gallery and print rooms. It’s the first time in about 7 years I’ve done any proper  screen printing. I had a brilliant time, and learned a lot. I’m definitely going to go back and do some more work down at Stew. It’s a brilliant resource for local artists and printmakers.

I’ve also been accepted for several local craft markets in the run up to christmas. 
• Sat 26th Oct – Pottergate Crafts – Rackheath Holy Trinity 
• Sun 17th Nov – Pottergate Crafts – Costessey Centre
• Sat 23th Nov – Thorpe Christmas Fair
• Fri 6th Dec – Castle craft fair
• Sat 7th Dec – Norwich Makers 
• Sun 15th Dec – Pottergate Crafts – Costessey Centre
The Courtyard garden centre cafe is also stocking a selection of my earrings too. 
I’m currently working on some new stock, and should have some new screenprints, cards, notebooks and earrings for sale soon.

Autumn Clutter City

The past couple of weeks, I’ve been getting ready for the Autumn Clutter City at Norwich Arts Centre. 
It should be a good day, with live music, and lots of stalls selling arts, crafts and lots of handmade goodies. There’s always some pretty fab cakes there too. Yum. 

I’ve been expanding my stall a bit too, there will be lots of affordably priced illustrated earrings, notebooks, bunting and more.
Pop down and say hello! 

Illustration Friday – Robot

Just a little Illustration Friday post – I’ve not taken part in a while. This week’s theme – Robot

I actually did this a while back for a friend in Norwich. It was a t shirt design for one of his colleagues. It features a few Norwich landmarks – the Norman castle, and cathedral, and also the iconic market awnings.

TTS Warrior ©Fiona Gowen

Shirt proposal

Freelance – A Year In

Just over a year ago, I finally took the plunge and ventured out into the big, scary world of the freelancer.
My first new batch of business cards
Despite it being something I’d been considering for a while, the security of having a full-time job kept me from taking that initial leap. In spring 2012 however, the recession finally took its toll and I was made redundant from the little company I’d been working at. This was the push that I’d been waiting for. Rather than rush out to the job centre, I set about preparing myself for a life of freelancing. This was a fantastic opportunity and I was determined to make the most of it. Like they say, when one door closes, another opens.
Luckily, I’d been taking on the odd freelance project in my spare time to satisfy the urge to do my own thing. So already had a taste of what to expect.
Map – Work in progress

Although I had a couple of clients already set up, one of my major fears now was that they would stop giving me work for whatever reason. I was a tad worried about keeping all my eggs in the same basket. So I set about planning how to get some more. It started off gradually, but as the year has progressed, I’ve been gaining more clients. Mostly my enquiries have come through social media, chance meetings, and on the back of personal projects that I’ve undertaken. I feel pretty lucky that I’m yet to implement my plan… though it’s there, waiting, for when I need it.

 

Lily the studio bird
Working from home was something that I’ve had to get used to. I already had my studio set up in the spare room, so taking on a rented studio space seemed like an unnecessary cost. Although It would be nice to have a space where I could see and talk to other people, working from home has its benefits. You can drink as much tea as humanly possible, wear what you want, and listen to whatever music you feel like. Which is nice. I also got myself a little assistant too, a small parrot, (green cheek conure) who is a welcome distraction when things get a tad stressful.
Another thing that I’ve had to get used to is the lack of routine. There’s no-one to be annoyed if you’re late into work, and no-one to tell you to go home at the end of the day. It’s something I’ve admittedly struggled with to a certain extent, but am hoping I’m finally getting on top of. I’m still working longer hours than before, getting up earlier, and working later too. I still have to learn to put work down.
My skill set has grown with every new project, in order to accomplish the wide variety of projects being sent my way. I’ve learned a lot more about photography, 3D illustration and much more about working in Adobe Illustrator. I’ve also picked up a lot of new crafting techniques, crochet, needle felting and embroidery, as well as doing a bit of woodworking too for various books I’ve worked on. A fair few of these are now things I now want to carry on with in my spare time.
I’ve really enjoyed the journey so far, I’ve done some work I’m dead proud of and projects that I feel incredibly lucky to have been involved in. There’s been times of frustration, sleepless nights and stress, but they’re by far outweighed by the good. The best thing is that I’m now responsible for the work that I do, and that means doing every job to the best of my ability.
I’m incredibly grateful for the people who have given me a break, involved me in their fantastic projects, commissioned maps, illustrations and who have given me the chance to be my own boss.