HomeTICE Creative AreasIllustrationPersonalised Tote Bags and Comic Book Archives

Personalised Tote Bags and Comic Book Archives

We often don’t realise that Illustration is in many things we see and do every day. It is on the books we read, the clothes we wear and the billboards we idly stroll past. So how could we possibly showcase the variety of opportunity in two days? Well, you’d be surprised. For the young aspiring illustrators at Jarrow School, they were about to be shown exactly what they could do with their talent on Explore Stage of the TICE Programme.

Day 1

Newcastle College’s Mandela Building, the home for art, design and media, was where students met with Illustration mentor, Helen Turner. Once they were settled and had a break down of the day ahead, they were quickly on their feet again for a tour of the college facilities which included a visit to the widely recognised art gallery.

Students were also introduced to Sarah Claydon, Senior Lecturer of FDA Visual Communication and Lucy Tranter, Lecturer for Level 3 Graphic Design. Both ladies kindly showcased some pretty impressive examples of graduate portfolios and explained the expectations set for students in any design related course at the college.

We then gathered around to hear from the founder of Floss and Co., Lottie Maddison.

“Lottie is a freelance illustrator; her work reflects her personal style, impeccable eye for detail and love of colour, mark making and all things offbeat and charming.”

From arranging her coloured pencils in order of a rainbow to playing with paper dolls, Lottie had known from early childhood habits that her passion for illustration wasn’t going to disappear anytime soon. Over the years, her career has become a vibrant palette of various accomplishments including her commercial work on Not On The High Street and her claim to fame for the new Gateshead College branding which has since been plastered proudly around the city.

Lottie firstly argued that even for creative career pathways, core subjects such as Maths and English are integral to success and growth. Equally so, professionalism and attention to detail are vital: ‘When it comes to providing a service, I work to their brief and it has to be the style they ask for, not the style I like working in.’

She also shared that building a technique is all about practising and sticking at it. You can’t expect to watch a YouTube video and become Rene Gruau overnight! For example, many things are pre-defined when we draw such as a round circle for a face or a square with a triangle for a house. Lottie suggested some useful exercises to take away those pre-conceived notions, as well as ensuring students that even the likes of Van Gough had to consistently work on his technical skill for years before he found his individual style. All in all, a very positive and motivating conversation was had in preparation for the day ahead.

The morning was followed by a quickfire Photoshop masterclass led by Helen. Back at the Insight Stage, students were asked to illustrate an animal of their choice in preparation for the session. Using their image, they were challenged to experiment with colouring the image as well as working with opacity, shapes, colouring and layering of their designs. By the end of the session, an array of beautiful creatures were digitally brought to life.

After a little break, we were welcomed to the print room and introduced to Specialist Print Technician, Steph Oliver. Students were in awe of the space filled with huge work stations, machinery and enough paint to decorate the city centre! They were pleased to hear that it was their space for the final task of the afternoon, where they were challenged to use their animal illustrations again to decorate with paint. Although some ended up painting themselves instead…

We know what you’re thinking. We couldn’t just let these designs get folded up and stashed in a drawer. With that in mind, through either the hand-made decoration or finalised photoshop edit, they were able to screen print their designs onto t-shirts and tote bags of their choice. By the end of the day, Jarrow School were flaunting their very own TICE merchandise and left the college with a smidge of pride at what they achieved.

Day 2

A week later, the team gathered outside the Great North Museum Hancock with their sketchbooks in hand. To warm up their creative muscles, Helen sent them on a ‘sketch crawl’ – in other words, wander around the building and visually capture nature’s most exotic and historical species. They doodled away using mini watercolour palettes, fine liners, oil pastels and pencils. Helen even did a little competition for the best quick sketch and the winner was awarded a brand new sketchbook and pencil case. #stationarygoals

After a quick to bite to eat in the pleasantly surprising North East sunshine, they crossed the road to the Phillip Robinson Library at Newcastle University. Of course, we associate the library with aisles of relatively large (and somewhat scary) academic books. But for the students at Jarrow School, they were introduced to a completely different side of the University’s curations. Comic books.

Ghost Cat by Craig Conlan.

Dr Melanie Wood was the first to introduce students to the library, explaining her fascinating role as the Special Collections and Archives Librarian. Before handing out the rare Comic Book collection, Melanie talked through a procedure to ensure that the material wouldn’t be damaged. This was followed up by a chat with Lydia Wysocki, Research Associate of Newcastle University and Co-host of Applied Comics Etc., who shared her own passion for comics and the importance of the stories they were about to read.

Comic books from all decades and themes circulated around the room which created some insightful discussions about what people felt were the most appealing. It was interesting to find that preferences varied – some took interest in vintage, black and white storyboards whilst others were attracted to the more colourful and contemporary styles.

The afternoon ended with a comic-themed illustration task led by Lydia. They were asked to draw inspiration from their most preferred style of comic book and create their own storyboards. Considering the short amount of time they had, exciting narratives and colourful characters were coming together at an impressive pace. Not to be biased but we definitely had some future comic book writers in that room…

‘I particularly enjoyed hearing what stood out for these students as they started to read the archive comics. For some students it was the character design, or panel layouts, or drawing style, or a specific joke… there were so many details within the archive comics that appealed to different readers in the group. Students used those details as inspiration to make their own short comics – so we rapidly progressed from reading old comics to making new comics, to reading and enjoying those new comics. Self-publishing is a great way to share comics you’ve made, developing your own skills at the same time as building an audience for your work. The TICE students’ visit was a real boost for Melanie and I as we continue planning for how this archive will be catalogued and made available for more people to use.’

– Lydia Wysocki

‘It was a pleasure. Hosting the visit gave me an excuse to engage with the collection of comic books and it was a nice opportunity to see how they could be used in the future. It was a lovely group: the students were well-behaved and engaged, with a sense of humour too – I enjoyed meeting them.’
– Melanie Wood


And there we have it, the first Explore Stage of TICE Illustration was a roaring success. A massive thank you to Jarrow School for your continued enthusiasm and to the venues and professionals mentioned who made these two days so incredible. Here’s to inspiring the future Illustrators. Next up, Create Stage!

See more photos from TICE Illustration Explore Stage here:

Other Comics as seen in the gallery:
The Gentleman Ghost by Jack Fallows.
Good Morning Vietgrove by Dave McKinnon and Terry Wiley.
Giga by Cuttlefish.

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