Mike Bennett Lecture

Today’s lecture was given to us from Mike Bennett (no relation) who is a musician/graphic designer/curator/artist/business man from Liverpool. His talk was lively and interesting and he’s had a huge variety of roles. Unlike the other lectures, his was more focused on getting yourself motivated to achieve what you want rather than specific information about how to do that. The main things I took away from the lecture have been:

  • Put your logo/brand everywhere. On your social media, in every picture you upload, on your walls, outside your building, on all your handouts, business cards and so on
  • Go the extra mile to get people’s attention and participation. For example, when he owned with a group of creatives they’d hang fabric with writing on outside of the window so people would know what was going on in that building and where it was. In the same building they’d throw elaborate parties which led to a career and owning a business planning parties, festivals and so on
  • Pay your business rates/taxes. His company got shut down because of not doing this. It’s just a good idea
  • Find you collective. Identify your strengths, your role within a group (eg/ are you a leader, a follower, an ideas person…) and try to pick other people whose strengths are your weaknesses 
  • Make yourself indispensable
  • Instead of looking for a job create one
  • Network well
  • Research thoroughly
  • Educate yourself
  • Focus on what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. It should be because you’re enjoying it
  • Make sure you are doing what you want to. If you are, you should be a whole lot happier. Don’t be afraid of being too ambitious

Exhibiting Fine Artist Lecture

We had a lecture from Rosalind Davis who is a well established fine artist, curator, writer, teacher and consultant and has also written a book called ‘What Uni Didn’t Teach You About Art’. This lecture would be useful for me to refer back to if I ever change my mind and decide that I want to become an exhibiting artist but there are still lots of elements and advice that can be applied to careers in art instead of just being a gallery artist.

Here are some of my notes:

  • ‘Being picked/chosen’ is generally not a thing that happens. You have to find the opportunities, build the relations etc
  • Even in galleries there are still different world between them eg/ The Tate, local galleries, galleries that are in people’s houses, studio spaces and so on
  • Don’t aim to sustain your practice completely alone. Build networks, be ambitious, meet other artists
  • Research the galleries and curators who would probably be interested in your work. Contact them, invite them to your shows (she invited some to her degree show and a few actually turned up), send them postcards with your work on but don’t spam them
  • You can engage in competitions, residencies, art fairs, site-specific projects, commissions and so on as well to sustain your practice and become more established
  • Some sites with opportunities are artquest, artsadmin, artsjobs, ukyoungartists and artistsnetwork
  • Just having a website and Instagram isn’t enough. You have to do other things along side them too

Ways of getting opportunities and exhibitions:

  • Do your research – on companies, on curators, on galleries and so on
  • Do promotional material and press
  • Network well and build relationships as often as you can. Talk to gallery staff, owners, curators, engage in artist groups and societies, other people at competitions, support fellow artists and curators, remember to use manners…
  • Be organised, reliable, professional and responsible
  • Holding your own competition is a good way of meeting other artists
  • When you send images name them properly. Put your name, the title, media, size and date. This is so if people download them they can still see who it’s by and won’t get it mixed up with others and it won’t be an ordeal trying to find out who made it
  • Make sure pictures of your work are high quality

Things not to do:

  • Don’t approach a gallery at an art fair
  • Don’t send generic spam emails that begin with Dear Sir/Madam
  • Don’t make cold calls/cold emails
  • Don’t just add someone to your mailing list without their consent
  • Don’t be pushy/needy

Advantages of exhibiting:

  • It gives you an intensive to create work
  • Gain new audiences
  • Expand your network
  • Builds your professional reputation
  • You get to learn, teach and maybe even sell work
  • Receiving reviews about your work

Things that you need to be taken seriously:

  • A CV
  • Artist statement – avoid cliches like ‘it explores’, ‘the juxtaposition of’, ‘inspired by’, ‘interested in the micro and macro’. Use synonyms instead
  • Images of your work
  • Promotional material – like business cards, postcards and your site. Make the business card aesthetically pleasing, a snapshot of your work with your contact details and social medias. Exhibition postcards are basically adverts and they contain mostly images but also sponsors. Your site should have a home page, CV, artist statement, blog, images, news (optional), other social media links and a contact page. Put personality in your bios on social media, like on Twitter (which is more spreadable for news than Instagram) don’t just leave it as ‘an artist from…’
  • Biography
  • A professional email and signature. Put your website, social media and exhibition dates in at the end of the signature
  • A history of selling work (before applying to a gallery)

Selling work and limited editions:

  • Using the method of calculating how much income you need and using the number of hours you spent on a piece isn’t enough to calculate the cost it should sell for. It doesn’t take into account that fact that you get quicker the more experienced you are, your years of expertise and that you should be earning more once you’re more well established. Research what cost other similar works have sold for with both well established and not so well established artists. Take into consideration the cost of the material and the size of the piece too
  • If you’re selling limited editions you need to number each one (the number in the edition also dictates the price), decide on an odd number of editions (for some reason this is common practice eg/25 prints of…) and once this is decided it is the final decision and you can’t do the exact same limited edition thing again

Self Employment and Benefits Lecture

So this one is very dry and long-winded but very informative. It’s all about self-employment and the benefits you could get in the UK.

Self employment is not the same as a 0 hours contract and you get to work in the field you are trained for, have the freedom to decide your own hours, ways of working and have the flexibility to also have a part time job to financially sustain yourself (this is often the norm).

About portfolio careers:

  • you can pay less tax by claiming the cost of self employment against PAYE earninsg
  • Approxiately 1 in 7 people are self employed
  • 30% of creative graduates are self employed within the first 5 years of graduating
  • Expect the first year to be a financial struggle

The benefit system of self employment:

Regarding tax: if you have a part time job you’d normally get a pay slip (PAYE is the tax on that slip) but if you’re self employed you’re in charge of making sure you pay the taxes. If you’re self-employed with a creative part time job it is likely you will spend more than you earn for the first few years. If this is the case there is a box you can tick that allows you to get some of your money back on tax forms as long as you explain how it is that you’re earning your money (becaue you are only taxed after the business expensives are accounted for).

More ways of making money through your creative skills are:

  • Selling your work
  • Selling your skills – teaching, being a technitian, writing guides/tutorials
  • Educating and training – workshops are a regular reliable source of income
  • Competitions and awards
  • Freelancing

It is possible to get grants from the Arts Council to fund some of your projects or thinks like workshops and classes. Places that are a low income poverty area are the most likely to get the funding and young people (especially from disadvantaged backgrounds) are the most common target group. The minimum you have to apply for is 1000 pounds and you do not necessarily need a massive amount of experience with things like running workshops in order to get the grants (although obviously it helps). If you get the grant you need to supply 10% of it in kind – some ways of suppling it are through means such as advertising, Sainsbury’s vouchers, and crowdsourcing. Indiegogo is basically an art version of Kickstarter. Do your research before pitching a project  look at what projects have been successful on Indiegogo and what these projects have offered their backers. Always have something you can send out to someone who is intersted in your work at any given moment – sometimes these people could be people who can offer you some great opportunities. Treat applications to funding as they are a first draft of an essay – expect critisisms and know there is a high chance of rejection. Approximately only 1 in 5 applications are successful so don’t take it personally and try not to let it put you off applying again or for other things.

Benefits you can claim:

  • Job seekers allowance (you can still sign up for this if you want to be self-employed)
  • Working tax credit
  • Housing benefit
  • Council tax reduction scheme
  • New enterprise allowance

This may change soon because of the upcoming Universal Credit where there is a benefit cap. Currently as it stands if you are self-employed and are not earning enough to live on you need to go to the job center and emphasise that you don’t have enough hours to earn money (under 16 hours a week). If you estimate to be working over that then the Working Tax Credit is an option (approximaately over 30 hours per week), just read the rules before applying and note that you may need to meet certain conditions to qualify for it.

The New Enterprise is basically a grant that gives extra money to the newly self-enployed – in some areas this will be on top of other benefits and in others it won’t be so check before signing up to make sure you don’t end up getting less money because of it. You will need to produce a business plan (it needs to be specific but there is also room for lots of guesswork) and you will have a monitor. You can 1200 pounds over 6 months with this.

Where to work – there are three main options:

  1. At home. This can be isolating and not very motivating. You should have a space in the house or shed solely used for business so a council person can come around to assess it for business rates (although this only tends to happen if you have disgruntled neighbours) and it good to declare this on your insurance.. If you have a shed there are different rules and specifications for it.
  2. Studio groups. These are great for graduates to get to know other artists and there are often events involving talks and exhibitions.
  3. Private rented studio. You often can get good cheap deals for a large space but it is not the landlord’s job to tell you what the business rate for it is. If the space is over a certain size then it has a rateable value – if the space is under this size you can get relief from the council. You mostly don’t have to worry about this for years unless you have a huge space all to yourself (an enitre floor, for example) or unless you’re in the middle of a city centre.

Legal requirements:

  • You need to register as self-employed
  • You  need to keep records of your income and expenditure
  • Once a yearyou have to send a HMRC form – a self assessment tax return
  • You need to pay what tax you owe – both income tax and national insurance
  • You do not legally need an accountant and solicitor
  • You have to keep your records for six years. It is advisable to keep them all your reciepts in a folder and separate them month by month. There are also free packages online for accounting
  • Register with HM Revenue and Customs as soon as you start trading with the intention of making a profit. The latest you much register for tax is before the 5th of October. This form is on the gov website and it may be called the ‘sole trader’ form rather than the ‘self-employed’ form.
  • You do not need to have a separate business bank account but it is advissable that you have two different personal accounts
  • You will need to submit the new annual tax return and self-assessment and digital quarterly returns that are being introduced in July 2018

You can claim for:

  • Business – including materials, train fares (including visiting exhibitions)
  • Capital items – such as a van, computers and so on – evevn if you already own them
  • Costs of working from home – a proportion of the bills, flat rate and so on
  • Travelling costs
  • Petty cash vouchers  eg/ for second hand items, paper you’ve had to use to make your own reciept

You pay your tax in advance two times a year and estimate the HMRC you can be charged and can save around 30% a year


  • AA2A Artist booklet online contains links to loads of websites
  • Chainlinks – a local Chester Arts newsletter
  • Indiegogo – an art version of Kickstarter
  • A-N – this is an artist’s database for networking, job adverts and so on. It costs 36 pounds a year but this includes insurance
  • Axis Web – for professional profiling. This also has good insurance deals included in the membership
  • DACS – this has lots of information about payback and copyright informatin for artists. Copyright lawyers are very expensive and companies often rely on you not being able to afford them
  • Eye The Prize – a networking site. Sign up for newsletters so you’re less likely to miss out on opportunities
  • ArtQuest – a copyright and exhibition information site
  • Advileguide – benefits and tax information for the self-employed
  • The Price’s Trust – support and grants for creatives
  • The Start-Up Donut – resources for businesses and self-help
  • Brightboole – a free online accounting package

Graphics Lecture

We had a talk from two people involved in the graphics industry – one is a creative director and the other is a creative stategist for a company that has a lot to do with designing new technology items and re-designing companies products and things like their catelogues and websites. Some examples of their projects include designing a new football, ‘Oodles’ the scribble ball and using virtual reality as an indoor climbing guide.

The structure of their creative team is split into different sections:

  • brand
  • technology
  • film
  • digital
  • creative technology

As a company they have to make apprximately 66K a month and 100K per person a year. In order to achieve these goals they sometimes have to balance the creative aspect with the commercial aspect in order to reach their target so sometimes compromises have to be made.

Advice they have is:

  • Say yes t clients even if you’ve not done anything similar to what they want you to before and figure out the logistics of it later
  • Show obvious images and words to the client to make it straightforward and easy for them to understand and you to get your ideas across

They gave an example of one of their more ambtious and creative projects – ‘Solo’ an emotional radio that reads your mood based on your expression and uses Spotify to find you a song or playlist. Some things I noted from this section was the ethics side of it – apparantly a large obstrusive moving handle that sticks above the device and wiggles when it’s working is there to alert the users that it’s currently functioning and monitoring them through a camera. They have found unsettled users if the seemingly unfunctional and not very aesthetically appealing component was not a part of it. Another aspect was the timespan of the project – within two weeks a cardboard prototype was made and in another one and a half months later a full prototype was made.

Another interesting point that came up during the section about the ‘Oodles’ project (a children’s football covered in illustrations of monsters that they can draw on) was that sometimes even with all the new technology it can actually be easier to do it the old fashioned way. They needed a seamless design of monsters where all the sides met up and they needed it to cover all of the hexigon shapes that made up the sphere. They found it easier to draw on the football and then take all the stitching apart and from there make calculations for how to design in using a 2D illustration program.

Lots of their projects were interesting projects but are fundamentally based in the field of design and speak more to those studying graphic design. With their less instersting projects – such as redesigning a catalogue for doors – they advised that if you approach it with the attitude of you making it interesting then it can still be a relatively fun project and they ended up producing these abstract landscape looking catalogue of doors which were actually very interesting to look at.

They also had a number of book recommendations:

  • Damn Good Advice (For People with Talent) by George Lois
  • We, Me by John Simmons. By the sound of it it’s about writing for the creative industries so I should look into this
  • Predaory Thinking by unknown author

Graphic Design Lecture

The first speaker was Scott Duffey, a past student and a designer/illustrator based in Liverpool. He spoke about:

  • Taking inspiration from peers
  • Value of meeting people eg/ he met a band poster screen printer in Liverpool which later led to him going into studios and printing places
  • Through a friend he met he did voluntary band photography for a magazine which led to him being able to illustrate for them as well whilst he worked at Pizza Express
  • Self-taught web skills (HTML and CSS) and got a first freelancing job as a web designer. Later he got more commissions from them and when they found out he was a designer he was able to design packages for them as a job
  • He put his illustrations up online on his website which led to being invited to do illustrations by commission after people saw them. Also he did some collaborations with other people and he talked about how it was an opportunity to get more recognition and a wider audience but how it doesn’t always lead anywhere
  • At work he was able to learn animation in design studio and do commissioned work through that
  • Started an online print studio
  • Value of art/design community – meeting people, going to events, listening and talking to the creaters of podcasts, sharing work and so on leading to many connections, opportunities and just in general being good for your skills. Most of his connections were made in Liverpool as there’s a lot more going on there in terms of art & design

The second speaker was Jonny Kimber, a web designer. Notes:

  • Did voluntary work for Non-conform in Liverpool and was offered a job two weeks later. He talked about making a good impression with willingness, personality and initiative as often students doing a work placement lack the enthusiasm and it’s very obvious they would rather be somewhere else. Strongly recommends doing free work experience and placements to make contacts but there is a point when you need to know when to move on if you’re working for free if it’s not going to lead to anything and you’ve gained enough from it to refer to in your CV
  • He works in digital design (redesigning websites, apps and branding) and claims there are many jobs available (contrary to what a lot of people believe but he didn’t back it up with any evidence)
  • Uses Invision, Photoshop/ Sketch and Adobe X D
  • Referrals from clients are great for you and you need a good website and emailing system

A good question at the end was about how to find out about events going on where you live and a website called meetup was recommended, as was following designers, studios, companies and artists on things like twitter.

One of the main things I got from today was how much getting the job you want can depend on who you know and ways of making those contacts. A realistic expectation for me when I graduate is to try to secure a standard entry level job, do voluntary jobs and commissions on the side and try to make those contacts so that I could potentially be employed by them


Copyright Lecture

Firstly there was some information about an art scheme for post-graduates where we would be able to get access to university facilities such a printing, programs and so on for a limited amount of time.

Notes from lecture on copyright:

  • Copyright comes into effect instantly, you don’t technically need the copyright symbol and it is referred to as your intellectual property. Copyright is automatic and you don’t need to register. If you need to prove you were the first to create it, seal an copy in an envelope then address and post it to yourself but do not open it. Other options are leaving a copy with a solicitor or you can register with sites like copyrightservice.co.uk but it costs money to do so
  • Copyright lasts 70 years after the death of the original creater or 50 years later for sound recordings but laws change over time so you may need to check. With unviewed or unpublished work whoever is the first to publish it owns the rights to it for 25 years
  • Example of the makers of the Obama screen print being sued over a million because they used a photo they didn’t own the rights to
  • If you make something for a company or as a part of employment then the company owns it, not you. Technically this applies to everything you’ve made in university too eg/ for the degree show – the university has the rights to use the catalogue images to promote courses
  • If you’re freelancing you need to make it clear what rights you are giving a company with the license (as in the license to use whatever it is or whether the thing belongs to them). The same thing applied to selling fine art – you need to make it clear who owns the right to it (the customer, the artist, the seller…). If you’re buying a painting you often don’t have the rights to reproducing the image and a commissioner does not own the original
  • Photographing a landscape object (eg/ a sculpture) is fine in terms of copyright in the UK and most counties but is not fine in the US
  • You can’t use snippets of music without owning the rights to them, this is a very common issue and often people are sued over this
  • If you’re using reference materials as an artist you need either relevant permissions obtained or you to change things like poses, the positioning of objects in the image and so on. Representational artists should consider insuring themselves against this because it’s very easy for claims to be made
  • With collage there is a danger of infringement is you reproduce a significant and recognisable form or part of a material but there is no copyright on ideas, names, incorporate images or colours in collage

Assigning copyright:

  • assigning copyright is not necessarily giving away everything. A license is the best way to keep control
  • Complete license – means it is all theirs. You have no right to reproduce it
  • Even with a complete license you still have the moral rights to paternity (meaning you are credited as the producer of the work) and integrity (if the image or thing is used in a different context than the one agreed)
  • Licenses are exlusive (all rights), sole (you can’t grant the license to another party) or non-exclusive
  • Licenses are limited to four areas; use, area, duration and exclusivity

This lecture was a bit dry but still useful in terms of information about licenses and what is/isn’t copyright that would be useful if I was to go into freelancing or commissioned work.


Portfolios Lecture

Fig Taylor has worked as an illustrator but her main area is as an illustration agent and she is very experienced in examining portfolios for illustrators.

Notes from lecture:

  • Everything an illustrator does is freelance
  • The submission criteria for a gallery would be very different to the world of ‘creative industries’ so she recommends looking on the galleries website as galleries are not her area
  • There are more illustrators than there are illustration jobs in the UK
  • Few students have professional portfolios when they graduate – they have the ability but not an industry-ready portfolio. Mostly this is because the work they have produced academically is because tutors want to see experimentation, development and so on but commissioners just want you to fit their criteria
  • There are four mainstream areas of illustration; magazines, books, design and advertising. The pay tendency increases as the list is read from left to right and the difficultly of getting the job also tends to increase as read from left to right and the more people are involved
  • With magazines it is the art editor who hires you. With books there is interference from both the publishers and retail

What to include in portfolio:

  • Portfolio needs to be a considered consistent body of work
  • Needs to be directly accessible and to be easily accessed within a short period of time. Often a quick look by whoever you are trying to get to commission you/doing a presentation is not a bad thing because they can assertion what they need to know in a short period of time and don’t need to hear a long speech about what you did and why, they often like to think for themselves
  • Doing a presentation of your portfolio is often nerve wracking for the first 20 to 30 times
  • It’s normally very easy to tell when someone is uncomfortable talking about their own work. Therefore you need to take out the stuff that makes you particularly uncomfortable and replace it with stuff that you’re more confident with
  • Don’t include things if you don’t want to make things similar to it in the future – start as you mean to go on. Don’t include things that aren’t representative of who you are and what you intend to do in the future. Take out anything not relevant to the area/areas you want to work in. Take out things that are very outdated if they’re just in the portfolio out of habit (recommends not to visibly date your work). Take out things you cannot physically replicate eg/ due to not having the software anymore or it being too labor intensive
  • Need to tailor the portfolio to the type of people you are targeting. Can still include your work in different contexts than just a drawing/painting such as on display in shop windows, as murals and so on as long as it is relevant to your illustration
  • With illustration clients want to see a style that is you. They want to be able to pigeon hole you (it’s not the same story with graphic design)
  • Be careful not to make your portfolio too niche eg/ if everything is black and white, if all of the drawings are of the same specific objects
  • How many pieces of work to include depends upon your area eg/ if it’s very detailed than around 20ish or if it’s more cartoonish/minimal then around 50

Presentation of portfolio:

  • Agents are still often shown printed portfolios and they are still popular with certain kinds of commissioners. Illustrators often have both a digital and a printed portfolio – they should be no bigger than A3 or A4 because it needs to fit on a small table and be light and portable
  • No mounts within mounts within mounts
  • Need plastic sleeves to protect the work with illustration
  • Better idea not to put the originals in the portfolio in case of them getting damaged or lost
  • Plain black portfolios are fine as long as they don’t look nastily cheap. Still don’t need to spend a massive amount of money on the portfolio though
  • Can feel free to mount the images on different coloured paper as long as you use your common sense eg/ don’t put dark images on black paper as it will lose the contrast
  • They just want to see your finished work, not your thought processes (see next bullet point for the exceptions). By all means bring along a sketchbook that can be offered for them to look through at the end but don’t include in within the proper portfolio
  • Exceptions to the rule of them not wanting to see your development and thought processes are with character development, children’s books and full time graphics jobs
  • For a digital presentation she recommends using a tablet as it is direct, simple and intuitive. Often laptop presentations go wrong and take too long
  • Still have a running order and a finite amount of images. Organise back-up images or anything else that might become relevant on the off chance that they want to see it
  • Don’t show life drawings or academic drawings unless they’re somehow very relevant or you’re applying for something within fine art rather than illustration
  • Need to know exactly where stuff is beforehand eg/on your website, on youtube, where in folders it is
  • Porfolio can even be a PDF for a specific client
  • Need a wide web presence. With each different platform revealing something that maybe another platform doesn’t showcase as well
  • Hard to get face to face interviews for illustration so you need to engage online – in your bio section have links to all your stuff across different platforms. Have straightforward professional information in the bio for potential commissioners
  • Everything on your blog needs to relate to your work – can include your influences, your studio and so on as long as it is relevant. Treat blogs assuming they will be read. You want to draw them into your world and give them an idea of what it would be like working with you

Reflection on lecture:

  • Very very helpful on how to prepare a portfolio for illustration. Great because I’m interested in the possibility of going into illustration and freelancing. Also the knowledge widely applicable to knowledge to preparing a portfolio for any specific field. Great lecture, loads of information. Lecturer really knew her area and what she was talking about and was able to give very straightforward advice from her years of experience working as an illustration agent
  • I’ll be referring to these notes in the future if I need to prepare a portfolfio