November

Advice for a creative arts career

Advice for a creative arts career

Advice for a creative arts career

Senior Lecturer in Illustration Tim Vyner discusses how he translated his creative arts degree into a successful portfolio career.

If you're worried about how you'll fare in the realm of creative careers, don't be. Take it from our Senior Lecturer in Illustration Tim Vyner. When he's not teaching, Tim leads a fascinating lifestyle. He uses simple tools - a pen, a sketchbook, an iPad and a camera - in locations all over the world as part of his work as a reportage illustrator.

In 2018, Tim worked for the Telegraph illustrating the FIFA World Cup in Russia. In the same year, he also documented the Street Child World Cup in Moscow. Other projects have taken him to the 2012 London and 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, FIFA world cup in Japan and Korea in 2002, the sacred and hidden world of Mount Athos monasteries in Greece, and even a war zone in Beirut.

If that doesn't sound busy enough, Tim is also the author of ten children's books, including World Team for Random House. He's every bit the proof that creative portfolio careers can be as thrilling as they are financially viable.

But it didn't just happen. Tim's advice to anyone looking to study a creative degree is to “experiment, be brave, try new things throughout your whole degree.” Our brand new campus at Locksbrook Road will provide a state-of-the-art learning environment for you if you're thinking of studying art and design, including modern teaching facilities, practical workshops, studios, a gallery space, a café, an art shop and rooftop pavilion for collaborative project work. “Make good use of all the facilities such as studio spaces and workshops,” Tim says.

International experience can be life-changing and inspiring, especially for an artist. Tim highly recommends looking into doing an Erasmus+ or International Exchange programme while at University.

"All these experiences have come about because of my love of drawing and the commercial skill-set that was defined during my time as an art student many years before."

Tim continues, "professional landmarks for me have been the first bursary I got to travel and draw, which helped to shape the commercial direction of my work. Publishing my first book. Going to draw in a war zone [Beirut]. Getting to cover my first FIFA World Cup in Japan and Korea on behalf of the PFA in 2002. Working for The Times at the London 2012 Olympic Games, and The Telegraph in Moscow at the World Cup this summer. And having the privilege to live and experience the sacred, hidden world of Mount Athos.

“Spend time acquiring a set of skills across 3 years that interest you and gives your portfolio a unique voice and personality. Take on industry placements, and participate in professional development experiences such as guest lectures, portfolio clinics, collaborative projects such as pop-up exhibitions and external ‘live’ projects whenever possible.”

The world was different when Tim first started out. “I graduated in the 1980’s, pre-internet, when the world was a different place. The range of professional opportunities were far less than they are today, but it was a lot simpler. My focus was always on my practice, and my portfolio. I didn’t have a long term plan in the creative industries, but I new I wanted to apply my interest in location drawing, and I knew I had to be proactive to get my work seen.”

He's under no illusion that the job market is tough. “Today it is an incredibly competitive environment and very hard to stand out. Art and Design is everywhere. Because of social media it is difficult to find anything distinctive.”

So the two skills to really develop for any art student are resilience and persistence that will help them to ‘monetise’ their skills and passion.

“If you are entrepreneurial (and you can learn those skills on a degree), it has never been easier to find an audience for your work. And if you have engaged in your degree fully and honestly, and you are able to bring theory and practice together in your subject, then you will be in a good place to start out.”

What inspired you to study an arts degree?

I was restless at school. I loved sport and art. In particular I loved the equipment in the art department. I could work with clay, woodwork, printmaking and drawing. I didn’t know that I wanted to be an illustrator or a designer, but I knew I wanted to make things and I also loved stories. After 6 years in HE, [1 year foundation course, 3 year undergraduate degree and 2 year MA] all these things came together and I realised I wanted to be a reportage illustrator, using drawing to tell the stories of the people and places I get to visit.

Were there any defining moments or choices in your career?

I started my undergraduate degree on a Fine Art course in Newcastle and I ended it in London on a Design course. The switch from Newcastle to London was a defining moment for me, as it opened up many more opportunities to discover the world beyond the taught studio sessions.

The best choices/decisions in life often make themselves. I liked Newcastle and I liked the course I was on, but I knew I wanted to widen the range of activities and experiences I was getting, so coming to London was something I didn’t think twice about. Once the opportunity presented itself I left without thinking. I still value those experiences I had back then in both places.

Professional landmarks for me have been the first bursary I got to travel and draw. This helped to shape the commercial direction of my work. Publishing my first book. Going to draw in a war zone [Beirut]. Getting to cover my first FIFA World Cup in Japan and Korea on behalf of the PFA in 2002. Working for The Times at the London 2012 Olympic Games, and The Telegraph in Moscow at the World Cup this summer. Having the privilege to live and experience the sacred, hidden world of Mount Athos. All these experiences have come about because of my love of drawing and the commercial skill-set that was defined during my time as an art student many years before.

What expectations did you have from your own arts degree, and how has the reality of a career in creative industries been different?

I graduated in the 1980’s, pre-internet, when the world was a different place. The range of professional opportunities were far less than they are today, but it was a lot simpler. My focus was always on my practice, and my portfolio. I didn’t have a long term plan in the creative industries, but I new I wanted to apply my interest in location drawing, and I knew I had to be pro-active to get my work seen.

You have to be resilient and persistent in order to ‘monetise’ your skills and passion. Today it is an incredibly competitive environment and very hard to stand out. Art and Design is everywhere. Because of social media it is difficult to find anything distinctive. But at the same time, if you are entrepreneurial, [and you can learn those skills on a degree] it has never been easier to find an audience for your work. And if you have engaged in your degree fully and honestly, and you are able to bring theory and practice together in your subject, then you will be in a good place to start out.

Disclaimer: The Bath Spa blog is a platform for individual voices and views from the University's community. Any views or opinions represented in individual posts are personal, belonging solely to the author of that post, and do not represent the views of other Bath Spa staff, or Bath Spa University as an institution.

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