When I first announced I was returning to university to get an MA in Children's Book Illustration at Anglia Ruskin University, I may have intimated that I'd be keeping everyone abreast of my various class projects via THIS VERY BLOG. As it turns out, I sorely under-appreciated how my free time would be sucked beneath waves of schoolwork and dragged out into oblivion. Observant readers will notice I haven't even had time to post new Drewsdays lately. Really observant readers will notice the slight quiver in my voice that betrays the tremendous effort needed to hold the shattered pieces of my soul together. With my second semester only days away from beginning, I thought I'd take this opportunity to give you a quick update on how things are going.


Now that the update is over, perhaps I should elaborate on what exactly I've been doing in class for the past few months.

The first semester was broken down into two, two-month long modules: Observation and Experiment, and the Sequential Image. Observation and Experiment required us, the students, to pick a theme that we would like to focus on, and then draw it from life. Sketching, essentially. No imaginative input, no creative elaboration, just drawing what you see.

As many of you will recall the last time I posted life sketches, I would rather be tied to a cactus and have my eyebrows shaved off than to sketch in public. Not only do the pictures tend to be terrible, there's the added bonus of having a live audience as I feebly scratch out this junk. It was the emotional equivalent of getting up on a pillar in the middle of a busy part of town, dropping my pants, and going to the bathroom. Exactly like that, if all my hopes and dreams tied to just how well the #2 turned out.

Suffice it to say, the odds of you ever seeing the results of the first module are very, very slim. Though, if you're interested in seeing a facsimile of my sketches, open up MS Paint and give the mouse to your cat for an hour. Tada!

The second module, the Sequential Image, was far less like a humiliating fraternity hazing ritual. Focused on teaching us the process of creating a sequence of images, there were no boundaries to what we could draw; it didn't have to be for children, have a narrative arc, or even recurring characters (it could be an alphabet book, for instance). One of the best (IMHO) of my classmates' work consisted simply of a man wandering through a museum full of incredible creatures and artifacts. Another student created a horror comic, wherein an old lady is pummeled by ducks and dropped into a lake. That one had me in stitches.

Having a background in comic books, I felt I had a pretty good grasp on what a sequential story required, and took this module as an opportunity to try something a bit different. So my contribution consisted of a 17 page comic that attempted to visually recreate the rhythm and atmosphere of a neo-classical/ambient song. It couldn't have been more pretentious if it were smoking a pipe while wearing an tweed jacket, and it didn't work out as well as I would have hoped. BUT! I was happy to be able to stretch my understanding of what's possible with sequential illustration. A link to that will be posted on the blog soon.

Throughout both modules, we were regularly tutored by professional children's books illustrators and authors. These folks would see what we've been drawing, and give feedback and guidance for how we can improve, or make suggestions on where we could take our sequences. And let me say this, it's amazing to be in a situation where my work is regularly critiqued by such talented people. None of our tutors illustrates in the same way, and their diverse backgrounds and working processes help us see our work from a variety of different perspectives. However, one of the most important lessons I've had to learn is the ability to pick out the helpful advice from the not-so-helpful and out-and-out lousy advice. Thankfully, it's mostly helpful.

In the midst of the tutorial sessions, we've also had lectures by a number of visiting professionals, many of who I wouldn't hesitate to called living legends in the field, such as John Vernon Lord, John Lawrence, Fabian Negrin and current UK Children's Book laureate Anthony Browne. Surprisingly, I engaged most of these lecturers in a dialogue about illustration WITHOUT making a complete ass of myself. This is how I know I'm growing.

That's basically the extent of the program so far. It was a LOT of work (especially the last two month when I was pulling 12+ hours a day, 7 days a week), but it's exactly what I'm here for so I can't complain. On Tuesday, we begin the third module which will see us narrowing in on a children-specific, narrative project. This'll probably take up loads of my free time as well, though I'm dedicating myself to being more proactive with this blog. This includes a return of Drewsday, and even a return of the Monday Sketcharoo (GASP!). I'm also considering highlighting some of my classmates' and tutor's work every now and then, too, if anyone would be interested in that. Just let me know!

In the meantime, I'm going to take my mind off all being an obsessive to the point of self-damaging artist by taking in a nice, relaxing movie: Black Swan.