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  • Kerrie McNeill

My final year at university and graduating!!

Following on from my first post leads me to when I went back to university to complete my final year of my degree after completing my placement/year out. I was so excited to start my final year at university! It also felt so strange that after this year that would be me finished! It was quite daunting and honestly I didn't realise how quickly the year would fly by.

The projects throughout this year were 3 week long briefs (some extended) that would make us work quickly coming up with concepts, sketches and the final products. The first project I tried way too hard to create something super complexed which would be a pop up book. I soon discovered this would be impossible to do in 3 weeks and therefore I created a small concertina based on cooking from the garden- growing your own vegetables at home and slow living. I kept a sketchbook for this project where I wrote down thoughts, sketched and painted different elements of the concertina. In previous years I would have ripped out pages from my sketchbook that I didn't deem nice looking or finished but after taking the year out I realised that my sketchbook is a place for me and no-one else and from that point I used my sketchbooks as a place for my own growth, taking notes and scribbling away.

Growing your own vegetables with or without a garden concertina and sketchbook pages

As the projects and year went on, I was still taking on client work and running my shop. I was extremely busy managing both and looking back I think I would have liked to have maybe focused more on university. It was hard to move between creating work that was very experimental and finished products like greeting cards and work for clients. I started to feel like I had different "styles" when I was in university and outside and my imposter syndrome started to come out again at full force. At the time it was quite stressful and I felt a lot of pressure to come up with a conclusion ASAP. In my head I thought I could only use one process to create every single piece of work forever and I couldn't use any other process. I suppose this came from thinking that your portfolio had to be really cohesive and you had to have everything looking like the same style. Ohhhh how I was wrong. For anyone reading this and feels somewhat similar- you don't have to have one specific way of working. That's the bottom line. I enjoyed creating digital and also painting and sketching and collaging and that was ok! After this point of discussing with tutors and friends about my worries I started to experiment using all these ways of working together!

Anthology Brief. Illustrations created using Pencils, Gouache and iPad

I really loved using the different processes combined to create new illustrations. What I really enjoyed about creating illustrations from pencils and paint were the different textures you could get. I found ways of creating textures on my iPad through adding in textured paper to the backgrounds and experimenting with new pencils on Procreate. So this was pretty much a game changer for me and so I spent the rest of my final year finalising this new way of working combining both processes!

Extended brief from the first project- Cooking from the Garden illustrated cookbook

I was really fortunate to get some client work during my final months of university. These being creating greeting cards for Uk Greetings for Tesco Stores, a greeting card collection for Sunshine Llama and painting an elephant sculpture for Elmer's big Belfast Trail. I pretty much realised at this point that I was really determined to work for myself as a freelance illustrator. I enjoyed working on numerous different projects for different things and knew this was what I wanted to do and so I took some time to polish up my website, create a LinkedIn and focus on my self-promotion which was one of the last modules to complete during final year.

Gardening jobs in May- editorial brief

As well as finishing off our final projects and self-promotion modules, we also had to start planning our degree show. This was an opportunity to exhibit all our work we had created throughout the year and get to know people working in the creative industry. Each student exhibited an A0 Giclee print and have a section on tables to include business cards and sketchbooks. The entire show was organised by the students and so it gave us the opportunity to really make the show ours. We organised an industry day where we had people from the creative sector in Belfast over to look at our work as well as a friends and family night. It's nice to reflect back to this moment as although it was super stressful it was so lovely to spend the night with all my fellow classmates and friends to celebrate the end of an era at Ulster University.

Degree Show

Graduation wooo! July 2022

After university I decided that I wanted to take a break. I had been working a part-time job at weekends as well as completing 5 years at university full-time so I really just wanted some time off to go travelling. In July just a week after my graduation until September I went inter-railing round Europe! Best decision I ever made. It was so SO much fun and i'd recommend anyone to do it! I took a large backpack and a small bag with my kindle, necessary items and sketchbook and drawing materials and off I went! I travelled 6,744 Kilometres, took 68 trains and visited 40 different places over 2 months. My favourite place I visited was Interlaken, Switzerland. We stayed in a massive old hostel that had the biggest dog I've ever seen called Kai. We walked A LOT up lots of mountains and trails and visited the surrounding places such as Grindelwald and Lucerne.

Switzerland photos

As I mentioned I took my sketchbook and drawing materials with me. I spent a lot of time drawing on trains and at the different places I visited. It was nice to take a break from creating illustrations for work and university and gave me time to reflect on where I would like to go in the future. I had a lot of ideas of things I'd like to do with all the inspiration I gathered when I was away (which I still haven't started) but it's something I'd definitely like to go back to in the future! Here's some photographs below of places I visited and drew! I took prismacolour pencils & my duo tip tombow pens with me as well as my Moleskin Sketchbook.

Sketchbook spreads from Zagreb, The Hague, Venice, Nice, Dubrovnik and Florence.

Drawing at the Botanical House in Zurich

While i'm writing this now it really doesn't feel like this was 7 months ago. When I got home I started my residency at the university where I have been taking workshops for the current illustration students. I am also completing my first steps to teaching to become an associate fellow of Ulster University where I hope to continue taking workshops and assist in teaching illustration. I never thought it would be something I would do but I really love it! A long side this I've been working freelance and running my shop. Over christmas I finished the biggest client job to date where I illustrated a book for Dorling Kindersley which will be published in July! So exciting to see this in shops eeek!

Right now i'm working on finishing all my assignments for the FST module and then I can hopefully focus on creating new work for my shop!

I hope you enjoyed reading this. If you have any suggestions of topics you'd like me to discuss on here I'd love to hear them!

Kerrie ✨💕

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