Dan Woodger

Weekends from now on are pretty much going to consist of searching for pretty things to decorate our new flat. One of the new prints waiting to be hung is from an illustrative artist called Dan Woodger. I’ve been a fan of Dan’s work ever since he designed one of the first centrefold posters when I was editor of our Brighton Uni student newspaper. He’s gaining a lot of rep with his work being featured in Creative ReviewAmelia’s Magazine and Fussed. I love his bright and colorful linear characters and ‘Fun-Time Funky Friends’ is no exception, a Illustration/CV which is sending out for free, and can be ordered from his website. Even the guys at Anorak Magazine loved his work so much that they are turning the conga line drawing into colouring project. I also caught up with Dan to see what he’s been up to.

Hi Dan! You graduated earlier this year, what have you been up to since then?

 Well since graduating I’ve been getting used to the idea of earning money by drawing at home in my pants. Luckily I’ve been managing to string together enough work to justify this practice to my parents and girlfriend. But I think they’re secretly glad I have an internship at YCN coming up next month which means trousers and the structure of a 9-5.

Your degree show in Brighton in 2011 with it’s clean lines and pastel shades had a definite 80’s vibe about it. What inspired you to take a nolstalgic trip to Miami? 

It’s been a progressive obsession, I’m a sucker for nostalgia, there’s something I find beautifully charming about the 1980’s.

You’ve personified pizza as a flying superhero, fruit as cool characters as well as countless friendly monsters. Was anybody in mind when you are creating these personas?

Not really, they just kind of appear in my head. I guess being a big fan of cartoon’s as kid has lined the walls of my brain in Cartoon Network wallpaper. But when I look at some of the comics I made when I was about 9-10 years old I think they still show an uncanny resemblance to the work I am doing now, I might have refined the lines and technique a little but the essence undoubtedly still there.

You have recently collaborated with a wealth of other character illustrators on the People Issue of Google’s Think Quarterly magazine. How did you get involved with the project and what was it like to work on?

The Think Quarterly project was really good fun, and came about very quickly. I got the job through YCN, who called the night before asking if I was available. It was a dream job really and we had pretty much free reign to draw whatever we wanted based on the idea of ‘Communication & People’, there were a few ground rules, no cocks, no guns, no riots but besides that it was a blank canvas. The best drawing’s came from the unplanned collaborations though, where you’d lay something down, come back a bit later and see somebody had added to it.

Aside from your linear character drawings you’ve been involved in so many different kinds projects, murals, zines, animation; which of these was the most rewarding?

That’s tough I’m not sure what is the most rewarding. I love being able to play back a finished animation for the first time, It makes all the weeks of work seem worth it. And meeting Roger Daltrey after painting him in a mural was an awesome experience. Collaborating with other Illustrators is fun as well, but I think equally, if not more rewarding than those is reading humorous and abusive comments about projects online! My favourite has to be one I saw on the Google Video which simply read – ‘Pointless art for pointless faggots.’ Classic!

Which three tools of the trade could you not live without?

Three tools I could not live without is a difficult question… I’d have to say laptop is number one, It’s scary how much time I have to spend on this thing. The second tool would be my Waccom tablet… I was going to say a pencil… but then I’d need to have a sharpener and a rubber which would leave me out of tools. And lastly it’d have to be the internet which is a sad realisation but unfortunately it’s become almost impossible to be an illustrator without it so I guess we must embrace it… I was hoping to list off three interesting, heart warming answers but instead I think I’ve given three rather predictable and uninteresting ones. So maybe I shall just show you my three favourite pictures of all time to end this on a more light hearted note.


Playground Magazine

One of my goals for this year is to get something published in a magazine. A nice, independent, slick-looking and internationally respected magazine. I think it’s a pretty achievable goal, providing my words don’t stink. Too much.

In the meantime,I’m trying to get words in as many places as possible, so writing for zines is a good starting point. In 2008 I submitted an interview with New York Trouble & Bass Founder Drop the Lime and his partner in Grime Star Eyes to the Brighton uni based Show Pony zine, which produced just one issue in 2008. When I was asked late last year if I wanted to write about my internship experience for a feature in Playground magazine, I jumped at the chance and soon words were spilling all over the place.

Playground is a very respected zine also set up by Art and Graphic Design students at Brighton University in 2009. Created as a platform to celebrate their visual and written work, they have now produced 4 issues. The last of which, the SOS issue, has the feature ‘Inside information from the Interns’ which as the title suggests contains some tips and titbits from media graduates who have interned for companies such as E4, Alexander McQueen, GQ Magazine, and myself at BBC Blast. The magazine also features interviews with Amelia Johnstone, illustrator and founder of the RCA’s ARC Magazine, and James Langdon, designer and co-founder of Eastside Projects.

This issue asks contributors to respond to the theme of S.O.S, as we are about to descend upon dark times of major cuts in education and culture. The second half of the magazine responds to those opinions and visuals, as the two halves are bound together in a Z-fold or ‘lovers seat’ style binding. The blue & orange contrast is visually arresting but also helps intertwine the ongoing theme of two sides battling to come to a peaceful resolution, which it’s success I hope echoes reality (here’s hoping).

The magazine has already been blogged on top design blogs It’s Nice That and Manystuff. To pick up a copy Brightonians should head to Resident Records, Ink’d Gallery, The University of Brighton SU shop (Grand Parade) or the LMNOP Bookshop. Londonists can grab one via The ICA, while Edinburghites should shimmy on over to the Analogue Books. Or you can order online. Now you have no excuse not to.

A graduate asks: “Is the university education system failing us?”

Tomorrow I will receive my results for my visual culture BA at Brighton University. The course fees for my three years of study almost total £10,000. Add to that my loan for my living costs and I will graduate with a debt of over £19,000. But I consider myself one of the lucky ones; as I was eligible for grants as I am from a low-income, single parent family and I don’t have a student overdraft or previous debts to add into the mix. Like many other graduates I am now asking if the of my higher education cost was really worth it, and with interest on student loans set to increase from 0% to 4.4% reflecting the recent jump in inflation rates, our repayments could still leave us in the red. And that’s if we get a job.

Potential students have applied in record numbers in the hope of bettering themselves, but it is estimated this year almost a quarter of million people will miss out on university places due to cuts. Unemployment is higher than ever at 8%, an increase of 3% in two years. Things are worse for graduates, research in November 2009 showed that graduate unemployment was up 44% in just 12 months, its highest rate since the mid 90’s. The recession is also grappling graduate schemes into submission,  the government announced yesterday it was closing its own home office scheme due to cuts. Job searching has now become so competitive people are finding that they don’t just need a degree, but relevant work experience or a masters before they can get a foothold on the career ladder. In three years the employment pool has changed so dramatically we are left wondering if University education adds value to our skill set.

I have worked for and received higher education. One gripe I have with the system is the way students are seen as customers, not learners. When we pick a university course, we window shop at fairs, consult and compare courses in league tables and brochures, even ask other people their experiences. There is almost too much choice around, some universities even advertise to get students to apply. Companies – sometimes affiliated with student unions – target students and their disposable income. Landlords and housing associations know that they can overcharge students to live in abysmal conditions because demand for housing is so high. As a result, complaints by students are up by over a third from the last two years and doubling in the last five years. More than ever we are demanding top education for the money we are paying, and with government funding being slashed by  £1billion as well as decreased employment prospects, we are not happy with the treatment we are receiving. University used to be a privilege. Now it is a business.

I watched this very interesting talk by Sir Ken Robinson at the recent TED conference on how education needs a revolution. Following from his influential 2006 talk, he suggests that we are facing a crisis of human resources because we are not creating a diverse workforce.  People don’t even know their own talents, something that education should help us to realise. He claims that education is too linear and standardised; it sets you down a path of expectations and guidelines created to fulfil industrial progress. Life itself is not that simple, it expands organically according to circumstance and its surroundings. University should not create graduates, but it should allow them to grow and realise their own potential. We need to realise our own talents, not pick which ones we prefer.

I firmly believe that university isn’t for everybody. Too many go because their parents expect it from them, or because it seems the next logical step. I think it should be a requirement that students should take at least a year out of education after their A-levels to reach the intellectual maturity a life away from home expects from you. Many may see it as a doss, but the life experience cannot be taught in a classroom. I took two years out after my art foundation, sandwiching a year in Australia between saving. Taking the time out to focus on myself and not the expectations of others helped me to realise what I wanted out of my life. This is something I think everyone else needs do before they sign that pledge with student loans; it could be a very expensive mistake realising half way through a course that uni isn’t for you.

This brings me to where I think university succeeds, which is the concept of it as an experience. My course was a reading degree. I could dissect for you the cost of each lecture, but really I was paying for the materials and guidance that I already had within myself to quench my thirst for knowledge; I have learnt a lot on my degree but maybe not £10,000 worth. The real skills that I have learnt and can transfer to my future career are the things that I have learnt through the whole university experience, not just on my course. This includes my volunteering, my work on the student paper and my experience with the different people I have met throughout my time in Brighton. The course you choose is just the foundation. The whole experience is an adventure, where at the end you emerge a well-rounded person, aware of their strengths and weaknesses, with a new determination to succeed at whatever life next throws at you.

I may be too late to be preaching to those that have already applied for this year, but I urge future students to pick a university not just on its credentials, but also on its location and the type of students that go there. Immerse yourself in a whole new experience. Try new things. Join societies and sports teams. Volunteer. Go out as much as you can and meet new people. Never again will you have the freedom to do absolutely anything you want. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, as long as you learn from them.

So three years and £19,000 later, was it all worth it? Absolutely. I would do it again if I could. But like life, uni is only what you make of it. Grab it with both arms.

Burt Brill & Cardens Brighton Graduate Degree Show – Preview

This is a preview feature on the Brighton University graduate degree show as featured in the June issue of the Verse. The last and most difficult piece I had to write for this issue. I estimate that I have written well over 10,000 words this month (not including the dissertation I completed the month before), so this was the most difficult 500 words I have ever had to write. Unless it is on a topic that I am really passionate about, I really struggle with the formal writing style that news writing commands. I guess I am getting a little too used to writing provocative tosh to flirt with one’s mind.

The real page laid out is here: Page 7, which also features Callum Kelly’s lovely review of the new Sea-life centre mural by Tunnel Vision.

Burt Brill & Cardens Graduate Degree Show

Grand Parade has been a hive of activity recently as final year students of the Faculty of Arts erect their degree shows. Every year, the building is transformed from a bustling teaching building of 25 courses to the largest

art gallery in the South East, showcasing the work of Brighton students. The title of this year’s show is Hook, Line and Sinker, revealing the time and patience involved for the students to put on a show of this level, and the sense of achievement that they will face after.

The show, sponsored by Burt Brill and Cardens Solicitors, gives over 500 students the opportunity to showcase their work to over 15,000 visitors. For many of these students, it is the first opportunity for their work to be seen and be purchased by the public. In some ways, the private view on the 4th June is as important as graduation day in July.

Brighton is well known for its forward thinking and eclectic artistic talent; previous arts graduates include Turner prize-winning artists Rachel Whiteread and Keith Tyson. Fashion graduate and founder of the Biba label Barbara Hulanicki returned to Brighton last November to give a rare talk on her life as a legendary fashion designer. More recent fashion graduates have also embarked on successful careers since leaving Brighton. Julien MacDonald was voted British designer of the year in 2001, alongside Gresham Blake who has now become a tailor to the stars.

Eyes are again on the Fashion graduates for the annual fashion show that taking place in the Sallis Benney theatre, which has always has sold out in advance. One student to look out for is Steven Woodward, who has already showcased some of his garments in London fashion week after entering a competition through Vogue.com. Highlights of the knitted Textiles show also point to Sophie Penn and Debbie Holman who have both won bursaries from ‘The Worshipful Company of Framework Knitters’.

Other popular shows include Editorial Photography, based in the Gallery, and Architecture, which has moved this year to the garden. The rest of the shows are based where the courses are taught: first floor houses the fashion and sculpture disciplines, the second floor showcasing the fine and performance arts, while the third floor is home to the majority of graphics, illustration and printmaking.

Third year Graphic Design students Pete Dungey and Miles Gould created the visually striking poster for the show. Responding to the open brief set at the beginning of the year to all graphics and illustration students, Dungey and Gould wanted to come up with a design that encompassed the release of tension that graduate students get at the end of their final show. The pair settled on a fishing theme with the idea that the final year show is about catching the attentions of the public.

Many students are hoping that their work will reel the public in to commission future work to kickstart of their artistic careers. However, it is not just the examiners that decide the fate of these students. The public can also vote for their favourite work to receive the Peoples Award. The winning student will receive a cash prize and local media exposure through Juice FM and Latest Homes magazine. Your vote also enters you into a draw to win an original artwork.

During this busy time, it is easy to overlook the degree show by students from the school of Historical Studies. That show is located just down the road towards the sea front, at Pavilion Parade. Third year students on these courses will also be putting on exhibitions, relating to their research for their dissertations completed earlier in the year. Their private view is a day later than the show at Grand Parade – on the 5th June. The exhibition will then be open to the public from 6th – 10th June.

Exhibition – Sneak Preview

Well… more of a teaser really…

This is the image that will be shown with my fellow students teaser images on a rolling video in Grand Parade with the major graduate exhibition. This is the first image I have EVER made in Photoshop. Now to attempt my first ever video…

Thanks to @hannahselectric, @undividual, @randomhero2k, @dancarreras for letting me snap them. And to @tristyb for gatecrashing flat during exam times. Big Love.