An Exciting Trip To Birmingham

Theo Paphitis presenting Jack with his SBS certificate

Yey!! Happy days.

I’m pleased as punch. Last Thursday I was at a fantastic get together in Birmingham, it’s an annual networking meet up for all the winners of Theo Paphitis’ Small Business Sunday people. For anyone who doesn’t know about this I’ll quickly try and explain, basically it’s all on Twitter for a start, as a former member of the Dragons’ Den team Theo was often getting messages from people about their business ideas or ventures or whatever. He decided it would be a good idea to get people to focus all of these messages within an appointed time at an appointed day each week, so it’s between 5 and 7pm on a Sunday evening, you send him a message with the hashtag #SBS included about your business and then the following night at 8pm he retweets six of those messages to him enormous amount of followers, generating fame and interest in those six companies.

So, he got together with some business sponsors and they set up and organised this massive convention for all the winners to be able to get together, meet each other in person, receive award certificates and meet Theo. It was held at the ICC in Birmingham, a large and splendid place that does a lot of events. They really pushed the boat out in my humble opinion, they gave everyone a name badge on arrival and then started serving teas, coffees and biscuits. Then moments later, they got out the wine and beer too – which to be truthful, a lot of people just weren’t ready for at 11.30am. Then they brought out tray after tray of sandwiches, nibbles, quiches, cakes and gorgeous macaroons. We were blown away by the splendour. We did our best to network and mingle with the 900 other people in the room before taking our seats for the speakers. The sponsors had their moments to chat to us before finally the man himself was introduced onto the stage, Theo Paphitis. Everyone was very excited and pleased to see him, and he was a really nice guy too. Chatty, friendly, nothing was too much trouble. People were asking him all sorts of things during the question time and he was really going out of his way to be as accommodating as he could be.

He was very inspiration with his speeches, saying about how we should be getting out there and making a success out of our businesses, how he built a business from nothing during a recession and we can do anything we put our minds to – that kind of thing. It was really motivational for me and I hope I can bring it to bear on my business in some way and really move forwards and upwards.

The rest of the event was equally brill, I had my photo taken with Theo when I got my certificate, went to a couple of advisor sessions with some of the top people from Rymans and other big companies. It was brilliant, I collected many business cards, met scores of interesting people from a diverse range of businesses. I felt a little overwhelmed with the sheer volume of people, and I think I only managed to work up the nerve to talk to about 1% of those who were there, but I hope that quality and not quantity is what counts.

Apparently there’s going to be one every year, so I’m really keen to relive the experience that’s for sure, it was brill!

 

 

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Market Trading

Market Trading

I felt like I was on “The Apprentice”! I got into the city centre around 8am. Which is early for me to be in town, but it wasn’t early for all the experienced trades-people. They’d been there since six, fitting their stalls together, setting up their tables and displaying their wares. They all had vans or trailers, I had to borrow the boot space of a kind volunteer and their car.

The very kind owner of the Little Sweet Shop Company loaned me a spare gazebo, which he even helped me to set up too. What a nice man!

Once the gazebo was up I then spent about half an hour or so putting up my fold out table, getting out my stock, setting it up and generally faffing around with the placement and display. Which I kept on tweaking throughout the entire day.

I watched the early morning stream of pedestrians go back and forth. An average of 23 people passed in front of the stall every single minute in the morning, that definitely increased as the day went on. It was Saturday after all. Soon town was heaving with shoppers and students and every one in between. There must have been thousands of people going past over the course of the day.

The early morning shoppers weren’t up for browsing or deviating from their plans, they clearly had somewhere to be or something specific to buy and they had eyes only for that. Everyone else was probably still at home having a weekend lie in. It wasn’t until lunchtime that the browsers emerged and saw the new stall in Lancaster market.

People really seemed to like my “geek chic” merchandise, and a lot of people didn’t realise that I’d actually designed everything myself. One browser asked me “do you do any One Direction t-shirts?”, alas, I’m afraid not.

It was a great day, chatted to a lot of people, gave out many, many business cards and leaflets. Saw plenty of people that I knew and many more that I didn’t, the weather was pleasant too – which helped.

Eventually the day ended and I packed everything back up again, happily there was a lot less to put away.

If I had a van, and a gazebo, and I could drive, and I had free time – then I’d definitely do it again. As it stands though, I’m not going to appear regularly, but I’ll let you know if I’ve got any special market days planned. The next time I’ll be behind a stall will be at the Kendal comic art festival on the 18th and 19th October. :-)

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Girls and Boys

I don’t want this blog post to come across as sexist, so hear me out. The thing is, more and more recently I’ve noticed that Twitter, the internet…maybe even the world – is snowed under with women only stuff. Every time I see an award opportunity available on Twitter, 9 times out of 10, it transpires that it’s only available to women. I saw someone looking for writers the other day but upon closer inspection it became clear they only wanted writers of the female persuasion. Time and again out and about I see ladies night, ladies days, ladies only gyms, ladies only insurance companies, women in business networking events etc.

There’s #WOW every single Wednesday on Twitter, an award that I found out this morning stands for “Women on Wednesdays”. There’s also #mumpreneurs for mum sole traders too, is there a dad version? Well, yes, but they’ve not posted a single solitary tweet!!

In real life, there’s the EVA’s which I’ve heard ladies talk about many, many times, it stands for Enterprising Vision Awards and it’s “specifically for ladies who excel in business”. I decided as an experiment I’d do a quick internet search for that exact quote lifted from their website, only instead of ladies I’d substitute the word, men. Unsurprisingly, no results.

I know I haven’t scoured the length and breadth of the internet and the world to see if anyone has set up men only awards but as far as I can make out, the only thing I can see at the moment appears to be a Twitter award called #Kingof which pairs up with its equivalent #Queenof and takes place once a month.

My thoughts are, if these female only awards were men only awards, there would be a hue and cry and protestation. If these things were specifically and exclusively available only to men, surely women would feel extremely left out and cry “sexist!”

I’m not saying there shouldn’t be awards, or that I should win them all or anything. I’d just like the opportunity to at least put my hat in the ring and give it a go, you know? Yet every time I find an award opportunity, the door slams shut in my face simply based on my gender. It’s a little hurtful. Let me make it clear, I don’t actually want “men only” awards, I’ll be honest with you, I find large groups of men really rather intimidating, and the thought of business driven suit wearing power houses clustered together swilling beer in a dog eat dog race to the last man standing finish line gives me the chills.

What would a woman do if the situations were reversed? Would they have the time to set up and monitor their own version of an award? Would they complain and write a blog post about the inequality and unfairness of it all? Would they just enter the men’s competitions anyway like the suffragettes of old and say “to heck with you!”

Something for me to ponder anyway, and like I said at the start, I’m not being sexist am I? So I hope you don’t think badly of me for feeling left out.

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The Metamorpolitan Exhibition

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Official Press Release
Saturday 1st June saw the opening of an exciting month long art exhibition in Lancaster City Library.  The “Metamorpolitan” exhibition by local artist Jack Knight was officially opened by Madam Mayor June Ashworth, accompanied by her daughter the Lady Mayoress, Alex Ashworth.  Over sixty guests arrived for a champagne reception at 7pm and had just a short time to peruse the artwork on display before Madam Mayor arrived to officially declare the event open by cutting a pink ribbon.

 

Vibrant pink and black was the main theme of the reception, and by a happy coincidence, the Lady Mayoress had chosen the same colour scheme for her outfit!  Madam Mayor said in her opening speech that she was delighted to see such a wonderful array of vibrant artwork, and that she was equally delighted that such an event was taking place in Lancaster.

 

Jack Knight the artist and organiser of Metamorpolitan thanked Madam Mayor for opening the exhibition and expressed his gratitude to his sponsors, family and friends for their help and support.  Jack also thanked the library staff for their invaluable assistance in setting up the event.

 

After the speeches, the champagne glasses were refilled, the canapés unveiled and the guests were able to leisurely examine the Metamorpolitan paintings in greater detail.  Within a short time, four paintings had been sold and a number of orders had been placed for prints.

 

Jack was delighted with the successful unveiling of Metamorpolitan.  The exhibition will be running at Lancaster City Library for the next three days, and there are still a handful of original artworks available for sale. Jack is focusing on his illustration business, Knight Time Creations, for the present but hasn’t ruled out the possibility of another exhibition next year.

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Prologue

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A selection of delicious canapes

What an awesome exhibition it was! A fantastic launch party. Everything went to plan, which was jolly good because I’d spent long enough planning the thing. I had an itinerary and timings set out, everything was in place and everyone pulled together. I couldn’t have done it without all of the tireless help of the people that rallied round to give me a hand, I was really touched so many people cared so much about me and my exhibition. Over sixty guests turned up, including the Mayor and Mayoress, the wine flowed and the canapes were delicious.

I even got a bunch of bright pink helium balloons and inked my logo onto each one of them, they looked fab’. I put some nice relaxing music on the sound system and arranged the tables and chairs into cozy clusters for the guests to sit and chill out if they wanted to. It was a magical night, I was walking on air. And I sold a few paintings too, which was marvelous. I’d like to have another exhibition, maybe next year, I’ll have to wait and see.

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“Getting Seen” Workshop Coming Soon

The Lancaster Guardian this Thursday ran a little article about an upcoming business support workshop entitled “Getting Seen”. It’s going to be at The Storey Institute in Lancaster on Thursday 13th February, if you think your business needs a little marketing boost then it might be worth investing in attending this course. It’s rather pricey at £150, but it does take all day, you get to choose two out of four of the workshops on offer, plus you get refreshments, plus you get a corporate photo head shot that you can use in your marketing literature, or you can get a cartoon drawn version. Or if you’ve got time, probably both! PLUS they’re also offering follow on support after the day is over.

If you’re interesting in finding out more or booking to join then you can sign up here: http://gettingseenmasterclass.eventbrite.co.uk/

Why do I mention all this? You ask. Well, because who do think will be doing all the cartoon avatar drawing? Ah, now you get it! Sketch you later…

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Skeleton In Leicester Revealed!

Skeleton In Leicester Revealed!

Upon closer investigation, our crack team of paranormal investigators make a startling discovery about the true identity of the Leicester car park skeleton.

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The Right Tools For The Job

“A poor workman blames his tools”, that’s how the old adage goes, or at least, it’s something like that anyway. To an extent, it’s right, if you’re good at what you can do you can create a masterpiece with shoddy equipment, but it won’t be super easy and it probably won’t be all that fun either. I for one am a big, big fan of having the right tools for the job. If illustrating is your job, or you want it to be, then here’s some ideas for pointing you in the right direction of what equipment you’re going to need – in my humble opinion.

Top of the list, you’re going to need a work surface. Not exciting I know, but there’s no getting around it, you’re going to need somewhere to do your artwork. I’ve got a desk and a drawing board and a lap top tray that fits on your knee. I use all of them from time to time depending on the situation. The desk I use the most, it’s right there after all and it doesn’t take any kind of preparation, whereas with the drawing board I have to prop up its little kick stand and the lap top tray I only use when I want to sketch and watch TV at the same time.

Where ever you have your surface, you’re going to need light. Ideally the best kind of light for creating artwork is natural daylight, not dazzling bolts of sun mind you, they’ll reflect off the paper and blind you. If you live in the North West of England like me, and natural light is in short supply, then you might want to look into getting a desk lamp with a daylight bulb. You can even get energy efficient daylight bulbs which helps the environment.

Next, we can start on the really fun stuff, paper and pens. I adore both, I suppose you have to really to be in this line of work. There’s few things I like more than some gorgeous pens and a pad of fresh white paper, so much potential!

The kind of paper you get is important of course. It depends entirely on what kind of medium you’re going to be using on it, are you a painter? Do you use watercolour, acrylic or something else? Each kind of paint will have a preferred paper to accompany it, different grains and gradients, hot pressed, cold pressed, thick and thin. Cold pressed paper is quite textured and very absorbent so it’ll swallow the water from your brush whilst you’re painting. Hot pressed paper is the opposite really, it’s smooth and much less absorbent so the colours are easier to blend and adjust before they sink in, and because of this colours tend to be more vivid on hot press. Bear that in mind when you’re deciding which paper to use for which paint job, if paint is your medium of choice.

If you’re more of a pen and ink kind of a person, like me, then you’re going to need to get some decent paper that is smooth and doesn’t bleed. Poor quality paper may have speckles in it, or it will likely cause your ink lines to bleed slightly. You might not be able to notice straight away, but when it comes to scanning your pieces into the computer you’ll see the frayed lines and despair! At the moment I’m using the comic art pad from Letraset it’s been treated to reduce bleed and it’s thin enough to be able to trace through.

Although if you’re looking for assistance when it comes to tracing things, you can’t go far wrong with getting a light box. I picked up a really great A4 sized one from a car boot sale for just a couple of quid, what a bargain! It’s small enough to store away when I’m not using it, then when I need it I can get it out, plug it in and I’m away. A light box, for those who don’t yet know, is a box that has a large Perspex surface area on top and a light bulb within. When it’s on the light gleams through the Perspex, you place the original image onto the surface, place a blank sheet of paper on top of that and you can see the original through it with crystal clarity. Then you just need to trace it. Although if you have to choose between buying a light box and buying a scanner, get the scanner. You’ll need it much, much more than a light box.

Then we come to the really fun bit, the weapons of mass creation! A good selection of black fine liners is a great start; you’ll need them ranging from ultra-fine, (0.05mm) to quite thick (8mm or more). You’re also going to need some pencils, I for one really like mechanical pencils – and I know many other illustrators who use them too. They’ve got a permanently sharp point for doing intricate detail, and you can get them to shade too if you practice. I’ve also got some blue lead for my mechanical pencil, a lot of the time I do my sketches using the blue lead because then you don’t really need to do any rubbing out. You just sketch away until you’re happy with the drawing, ignoring the mistakes, then you use your black fine liners to ink in the bits that you’re happy with. Scan the image on a black and white only setting and it’ll ignore all of that blue sketchy stuff. Brill!

When it comes to colours, it really is up to you what kind of medium you go for. I wouldn’t recommend oil paint though, it takes longer to dry and if you’re an illustrator, time is money. Acrylic is great, really bold and vibrant. Dries very quickly though and isn’t as easy to blend on the paper as, say, water colours. Watercolours are lovely to use, very subtle colours, great for children’s illustrations and landscapes. I’m a big fan of Letraset pens , I’ve amassed a fair collection so far but I’ve still a way to go before I complete the full range of about 148 of them. I’m using their Pro-Markers. They make different kinds of pens, so I can’t tell you about all of them, but from my experience Pro-Markers are very good and fun to use. They’re felt tip pens basically, but a rich pigment with an alcohol base which gives you the chance to colour an entire area in without the pen streaking. The colours meld together seamlessly and the overall image looks like a cartoon, it’s perfection.

So if you’ve got all that kind of thing, you’re pretty sorted in terms of hand drawn illustrations. When it comes to digital software for illustrations, I know that a lot of people swear by Adobe Photoshop and the images I’ve seen being turned out by it look pretty hot. However it’s expensive and takes time to figure out how to use. There are other image manipulation programmes out there, such as Paintshop Pro, works well and is much cheaper.

Well, hopefully all of this has given you some ideas for the kind of things you might need if you’re exploring the world of illustration. There are of course tons and tons more things you could get if you wanted to, or scale it right down to just a pen and a pad of paper…and a scanner.

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