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

10 Things i’ve learned on my freelance journey so far…

It’s pretty much 4 years since I went freelance now. It’s been a brilliant, rewarding experience, and I couldn’t imagine going back to working a ‘proper’ job. I’ve learned a lot since I started out, so I figured it might be a good time to round-up a few of the things I’ve learned so far:

  1. Working from home is tough: It’s hard to get used to being alone all day, it can get pretty lonely and having no-one to bounce ideas off can feel a little frustrating at times. Studio pets are great though and I’ve found it’s been really helpful to get out and see people too. Building up a network of friends and like-minded freelancers to meet up with, swap stories and experiences and even collaborate on projects and exhibitions with helps it feel a bit like you’re part of a bigger community.
  2. Time Management: You’re your own boss and if you want to get paid, you have to keep on track of your own time and put in the hours. Luckily there are ways to combat this, I’ve found tools such as Toggl really useful for keeping track of my time throughout the day and on different tasks and projects.
  3. Keep a record of your projects: It’s a great idea to keep a spreadsheet with all your jobs listed – it’ll help you keep track of clients, jobs, income and invoices, you could even add columns for time taken on a project, purchase order numbers, and any outgoings too. It’ll help you with your tax return at the end of the year, and make quoting for similar projects much easier.
  4. Manage your finances: Life as a freelancer is full of ups and downs, you’ll have a dry spell, wondering whether this is it, then several huge projects will come along at once. To make it easier on your finances, it’s a good idea to put some money aside during the good times, to see you through any rough patches. It’ll make it a much more bearable experience and you can get on with self-initiated work and self promotion without worrying too much about the next pay cheque.
  5. Creating extra income streams: A great way to use spare time is to work on creating extra income streams. Extra income streams support your freelance work and once set up, they can drip-feed you a bit of extra money every month. Examples include an online shop and selling prints and products, having products in local shops, teaching, tutoring, and creating stock imagery, eBooks, or resources.
  6. Create a routine: I’ve found it pretty hard to get set into a daily routine if I’m honest. BUT once I found one that worked for me, I found it a great way to make sure I get stuff done and make time for certain tasks. It means I start work at a reasonable time and stop work before having dinner. It also means I make time for a bit of downtime too.
  7. Downtime is important: It’s really important to take time out for yourself, to relax, unwind and generally take stock. You’ll feel better, happier and more inspired for it. I’ve struggled a fair bit with this, but over the past year or two, have realised that there’s more to life than work.
  8. Do some exercise: It makes you feel better, healthier, happier, more productive and it’s so easy not to do when you’re busy working from home. Last year, I got a Fitbit and realised how little I moved. I’ve since built going for walks (often taking a photo on the way as a little creative task) and doing a bit of exercise into my routine and have felt a lot healthier.
  9. Make time for personal work: It’s really important to make time to do some self-initiated stuff. It fuels your creativity, enables you to play, experiment and try out new ideas and ways of working. It can often lead to some of your best client jobs, and new ways of working can feed into client work too.

    IMG_6676 copy
    I painted this map for fun, but it has led to some of my biggest commissions.
  10. Nurture client relationships: Clients are the lifeblood of your business and word of mouth counts for a lot. A lot of my newer clients have come from recommendations from existing ones, so it’s really important to make a good impression.

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…”

Release the BEAST! (From the east…)

A lot has happened here in the past month or so, I’ve had my stand at craft markets, been to conferences, and have been getting out and seeing people, which makes a nice change from working at home in isolation. It’s good to get out and connect with other people.

One of the most exciting things lately came from a twitter conversation and ended up with a group of us starting an illustration collective here in Norwich.  – BEAST!

BEAST! are:
Grace Sandford
Karl Newson
Kellee Rich
Mark Standbrook
David Hurtado
Me (Fiona Gowen)

We gave ourselves  a little project to get started on first, put all our names in a hat, and drew a beastly portrait of the beast who’s name we pulled out. It was a super fun project, and there’s some awesome drawings!

You can follow us on twitter here @BeastNorwich
We have a website HERE
and a Facebook page HERE

We’ve been working hard on some christmas cards, and have chosen a charity (The Hamlet Centre) to donate all the profits to. They’re currently at the printers being finished off, and we should have them available to buy in all our etsy shops, and at local craft markets soon!

Hooray for collaboration!

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.

Zero2Illo 2013 ‘LIVE’ Illustration Conference

Last Saturday I got up super early, took the first train out of Norwich to Nottingham to attend Zero2Illo ‘LIVE’ a brilliant illustration conference set up by Jonathan and Lea Woodward. It was a series of talks and discussions centred around ways to progress your illustration career.
I arrived in Nottingham at about 8.30, so had plenty of time for a mooch around and to grab a coffee. What I saw of Nottingham seemed nice. There were some good looking abandoned factories as the train pulled in and there were also caves in the shopping precinct… I’d definitely like to go back and explore more of the city. 
The event was held in Nottingham Contemporary, a striking art gallery in the centre of the city. Architecturally it’s very bold, and apparently inspired by the industrial factories that were in the area, and the silk market.

The conference started at 10.30. After some tea, and a chat, Jacqueline Bissett – a prominent UK fashion Illustrator provided a keynote speech, and a great insight into her career and working practices. She stressed the importance of being open minded and keen; she also talked about how her style has evolved over the course of her career. 
Lea Woodward was up next, talking Strategic Business planning. She introduced us to her recommended business planning tool – the OGSM, – a kind of one page business plan – and with the help of brilliant illustrator Joy Gosney, talked us through how to fill it in, ensuring we get the most out of it. This was a really useful insight into how getting all your ideas and goals onto paper can help you achieve more. I’m definitely going to be taking this on board. 
‘Adding an additional income stream’ was the title of the next panel discussion. Featuring Gemma Robinson (illustrator / creative coach) and Alex Mathers (Red Lemon Club / Ape on the Moon). It was really interesting to hear how other illustrators are adding to their career. Alex focusses on helping people via his website and earning a bit extra from selling banner space, and stock illustrations. He stressed the importance of having a passion, and purpose for your ‘extra’ work. Gemma is a creative coach. After becoming disillusioned with the lonely freelance life (I think a lot of illustrators can relate to this), she decided to get out and coach others. She talked about the hurdles she has had to overcome – not least her crippling fear of speaking in front of people, but now she does it for a living alongside her illustration work. Both are very inspiring cases.

One of the most useful parts of the day for me, was having my portfolio reviewed by Victoria Pearce – a senior agent at Illustration Ltd. She talked about what agents look for in a successful online portfolio site. She reviewed three peoples websites – Including mine – and talked about what was, and wasn’t working in each of them. Her advise was invaluable, and she stressed the importance of keeping lots of work on the front page, and avoiding too many click throughs. She was a great advocate for the one page website – apparently there’s a trend for them at the moment. Her thoughts and review of the day can be read here.
Ross MacRae from Bikinilists – the events sponsor, joined in a panel discussion alongside Alex Mathers and Jacqueline Bisset. Together they gave us some very useful insights into smarter ways to market ourselves in the digital age and how to connect with more potential clients via email. He stressed the importance of following up on connections, sticking to a regular routine and staying in contact with people.  
Amy Taylor, a freelance accountant was up next. Her talk on accounting was fun, interesting and engaging, she gave us valuable advise on tax brackets, what you can and can’t claim expenses for (using a fab array of props) and the pro’s and con’s of becoming a ltd company. 
‘How to animate your Work’ was the final talk by Claire Cheung, of Wired and Esquire digital magazines. She gave us lots of tips about the best way to optimize illustration work to be animated, should the need arise, and how important it was for illustrators to know this in the digital age. She went on to give us some pointers on how to go about animating it yourself. It was really inspiring, and I’m definitely going to give it a go when I upgrade to Creative Cloud.

All in all it was a brilliant day. I met lots of lovely, inspiring people, learned a lot and came out feeling inspired and motivated. Jonathan and Lea did a fantastic job of organising the day and although they’ve decided not to host another Zero2Illo LIVE event again, I really hope they come up with something similar – It was a great opportunity to meet other freelancers and pick up lots of tips and advise. The speakers were all fab and everyone had wealth of knowledge and experience to draw upon. 
You should check out the Zero2Illo website for lots of useful resources. They’re on twitter too, why not give them a follow @zero2Illo

They have a fab blog post on the day here too.

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! 

‘Yesterday’s World’ Map – Behind the scenes.

Earlier this year, I was approached by the lovely chaps at Creative Sign Co. to produce a visitor map of ‘Yesterday’s World’ – an attraction/museum based in the sunny seaside town of Gt Yarmouth. It’s a fab collection, showcasing old packaging, tradesman’s tools and lots of other weird and wonderful objects. They have a great display of old cameras and even an apothecary too.

Now the project is all finished, I thought it would be nice to share some of the process here.

After a couple of site visits, conversations and hundreds of reference photos, I got to work sketching out a plan of the building, the rooms and areas both upstairs and down, onto squared paper.

Once both floors were planned out, with everything lining up, I transferred the drawing onto isometric paper, where I started working upwards, plotting in the walls and walkways and making sure the map was clear and easy to read. 

I altered the plan on both floors to accommodate the 3D nature of the map, ensuring all areas could still be seen. Once the detail was all roughed in, I scanned it and dropped the drawing into a rough indesign layout and sent it off for approval.

After a couple of inevitable tweaks, I was able to start inking up the final drawing. Using the lightbox I traced over the rough in ink, with crisp lines, adding in more detail as I went. Once inked the drawing was ready to be scanned again, imported into photoshop and coloured up digitally.

For the colouring, I used solid colour layers with vector masks for each of the large areas – the floor, walls etc. This makes the colours far easier to alter once it’s all coloured up. When the base colours are all down, I started painting in the detail, shading etc and when finally happy with it, I dropped it into the indesign layout again, and sent it off to the client for approval.

Once approved, I made the file ‘print ready’ and sent it off to the client.

It’s brilliant seeing the illustrations you’ve worked on in their final environment, in this case, printed as 2x massive panels, to be placed both inside and outside of the attraction, as well as on a printed map and as a downloadable file from their website. This was one of my favourite jobs so far and I had a lot of fun and learned a lot whilst doing it.

The final project can be seen over in my Behance portfolio HERE