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

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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.

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.

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.