How to carve your own creative path by putting yourself and your community first.

My name is Callum. I have a BA in Illustration and an MA in Communication Design from Norwich University of the Arts. I run a small creative studio called Site Collective which takes on adhoc design, illustration and the expanded arts commissions as well as running events that provide a vital hub for local creatives to network, sell work and collaborate on live briefs. I also work as a freelance copywriter and PR agent.

After struggling through a dysfunctional school system which didn’t support my learning style, I learnt to be fiercely independent and proactive in my approach towards my professional and creative life. When approaching the end of my BA I noticed that there was no support network available for recent graduates and decided to step up to create a platform for everyone to stay in touch and begin to build a community around. It started as a singular art exhibition and pop up shop showing illustration, design and art which me and my close friend and talented animator and illustrator Dominic Lovegrove collaborated on. We worked so well together and managed to create a firm interest from our peers and wider local community by selling over £1,000 worth of small artworks that we decided Site Collective was here to stay.

cred.: @_____ronja

Since that day we’ve branched out our network hosting four shows with different local creatives as well as expanding into various social events which provide a more casual environment for our creative community to engage with. The business has grown naturally allowing us to take on printmaker and illustrator Julia Triay Sarasa and we now sit at the centre of a large circle of hugely talented local creatives and industry professionals. Part of our growth can be attributed to our niche filling a gap in what is a relatively quiet city, but the other part can be firmly attributed to our open and approachable attitude. This attitude underpins our ethos, that if we can help others then we will in turn get help from others.

cred.:@_____ronja

There is a lot to be said for collaboration beyond just sharing resources and audiences. It can teach you whole new ways of working and understanding different creative skill sets. You can then build yourself a support network of specialist talents centring around yourself. In our experience this sense of community will always go further than you can imagine.

Obviously, it is important to remain strict and at times ruthless when it comes to functionality of the business but we very much like to consider ourselves firmly rooted in our community. This is what drives our practice and is both our passion and profit. We have more recently set up commissions for local creatives and in turn been set up on commissions. Norwich is a great place for us as it hosts people who very much agree with our grass roots and community focused ideas.

cred.: @_____ronja

We recently received funding to help us grow and put on what will be our biggest and most industry focused event yet. We aim to provide a platform for young people to grow their creative careers in a similar way to us by putting their communities first. We will be hosting an event featuring market stalls, live crits, panel Q&As and pep talks. This will aim to be accessible and support a wide cohort of young people local to Norwich wanting to start a creative career or just pursue a passion. We have dreams to grow bigger into a fully-fledged design studio with printmaking facilities and a physical shop eventually. The future is different but a lot easier when we work together to understand the complex maze that is the creative industry.

www.sitecollective.co.uk

@sitecollective

We don’t earn aloe vera

In this post I’d like to share with you my experience and things I’ve learnt (and constantly keep learning) as an art student/freelancer. I think it might be helpful to those of you who are just starting in the business but I would also really appreciate some feedback from more experienced artists. I’d really like to open a discussion here because even if “freelancing” starts with “free” there are some rules and guidelines which we should keep in mind.

My freelancing patch is very broad. From selling paintings, creating works made especially for an order, caricatural/comic-like portraits to murals and videos. Am I proud of all the works I’ve done? Hell no. But some of them were pretty great. So let’s talk art freelancing:

1. You’ve got to be flexible. Do you think that the greatest of all – Diego Velázquez – felt the great urge to create so many portraits of Philip IV of Spain? Nope. I don’t think so. Our clients pay and have certain demands so we’ve got to be smart enough to do what they want but in a way that also doesn’t make us cry while working. My hack to do that: negotiating and not procrastinating. Putting off the work that you don’t really enjoy might make you fall into a huge rabbit hole. Remember, you should always do your work up to standards but if you don’t enjoy working on a said project – rip off that band-aid as soon as you can, simply – just get it done.

2. That brings us to the big green subject of money. Discussing payment usually sucks. On one hand if you’re a student some of the clients might not treat you seriously. On the other hand – maybe you don’t treat yourself seriously enough to ask for money? Remember, always before you start working or buying materials ask about the budget. It’s not being greedy it’s called having respect for what you do. What to do if you’re not sure how much is your job worth? I usually start with the subject of materials, sometimes it might get quite expensive. I also try to count hours I will spend on creating. And then, a thing that’s essential and I recommend to you all: discussing the pay with art professors, other artists. Just to make sure that everything is reasonable and beneficial for both sides.

3. Recognize the differences. In your creative job there are going to be situations in which you will have to decide if a project is worth investing your time if it’s not a paid gig. Some projects are definitely worth it! If they are connected with the art world, bring you contacts, marketing opportunities and additionally you can place them in your portfolio it’s definitely worth it! Maybe you and your friends are a group of people who just want to do something great (just like us, My Best team). Try it and I promise you won’t regret it. Sometimes it’s about what you love doing and about exploring opportunities as a creative group. And who knows, maybe someday it will be your golden ticket to doing the job you love.

4. But be careful with people who will try to give you unfavourable *trashy* propositions. Last week I got a call from a woman who claimed to be interested in buying my painting, telling me that she can give me a creative job. She invited me to a meeting at her private house with a group of women where we would talk about our professions and do home spa. The whole thing seemed stinky from the very beginning. I decided not to go and confronted her through the phone. It turned out that she wanted me to sell “natural” cosmetics and that she would give me aloe vera in as a payment for the painting. Guys, don’t get trapped like this. Art job is like any other. We don’t earn aloe vera.

5. There are going to be great people on your path and I can’t stress it enough that it’s crucial to keep in touch with them after your engagement is over. Keep inviting them for your vernissages, exhibitions, art events. If they enjoyed working with you the first time it’s very possible they will want to try that again or they will tell their friends about you. That’s how you build a network and in the mysterious environment of art- it’s a crucial element.

Keep creating, stay healthy,

Maria

Without art, some people lose meaning

I’m an artist because I’ve always enjoyed books, movies, and art of all kinds. Some
people in my life would say writing isn’t an art but I don’t agree. I believe anything creative that involves someone creating a product or end piece is an artist whether it be a movie, book, article, painting or music. I write because I think it’s fun to do. Watching movies, playing video games, and reading books always gives me ideas. If I really like something and a book doesn’t include it, I write it into mine. I think writing is a good opportunity to put one’s own thoughts and ideas for others to read.


I started doing art at a young age, I drew silly comics of a superhero and filled tons of notebooks of the adventures. I didn’t do art as much in my beginning years of high school but seeing some of my close friends drawing and animating and doing music I began to try it too. I loved music and still do. I then started to try art classes and drawing and reading some more books.


Being an artist is a way to express oneself through different media. To me it’s writing books and stories about things I enjoy reading myself. I love fantasy video games and movies and books and that’s what I like to write about. Without writing, I feel like I wouldn’t have a good drive to continue being productive.


I’m not a professional writer but I do hope to be someday soon. On a normal day I write for a few hours on my book and my online blog. When I write, the story or topics flow out from me and I usually can write quite a lot in one sitting. I apply to writing jobs every day, to hopefully find somewhere that I can show my art and fulfill one of my dreams.


Writing brings me a lot of motivation. I hope to have a book published, seeing my own writing in a store is one of my biggest dreams. I think being an artist isn’t just about professional work, but more importantly it’s about doing something you love regardless of recognition or the expectation of money in return. Sharing something for the world is one of my favorite things about writing. Hearing feedback from others may be difficult sometimes but I think it always makes for good criticism to improve writing.

I posted a writing online and there were quite a few responses to it. Some of the feedback was negative but regardless, I learned a little more about the writing style I have and my writing flow. Even though it doesn’t feel great to see negative things about my own writing, I used that and tried to improve my writing in the future.


All in all, if you love to write or draw or whatever your art may be, I think it’s always a good idea to try it and share it with the world. Without art, some people lose meaning and need it to inspire them. One of my favorite quotes is “a professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit” by Richard Bach. I believe that quote because I think everyone can be a professional regardless of their age or years of experience. It can take just one writing piece to have someone realize they have talent. Sometimes people are overlooked for lack of experience or their age but I believe some younger people with less experience may have more talent than most others.