In early summer 2012, I was informed by a friend of mine at Salford’s SU (Students Union) that she had passed details of my web and illustration work on to someone in charge of marketing within the union. I was very pleased to hear this as not only was it someone I know spreading the word of my otherwise insignificant little web comic on to someone who were looking to possibly commission some work, but the mere fact that she knew my work at all was quite exciting; at the time I wasn’t prolific about my on-the-side art work.
Helen at the SU was looking to commission a cartoon to go on the back of a new T-Shirt design that the union staff will be wearing during the welcome week and beyond (welcome week is in September when new and returning students are greeted.)
She approached me saying that she had passed my web address to the head of marketing because the union needed a new illustration for this years sabbatical officers; those are the guys that get voted in each year (student union president, vice president and so on.) T>he deadline was about two or three days away, she said; I’d have to act fast on such short notice. I decided this was something I would need to discuss in person, so I went in to see her in the union building.
Initially she asked if I could illustrate the sabs in the same was that the original artist illustrated Caroline the previous year
I was polite but firm in explaining that while I know how long it takes me to illustrate my way, and how the item will look, if I was to try and emulate another artists work I would first have to practice developing art the way they do, and so can’t guarantee how long it would take to complete the work. I was very concious not to make any promises I could not keep, and there was a flat fee of £50 for the illustration.
I knew that if I am to do professional work, I must think like a professional, and be honest about my abilities and limitations. The marketing manager Helen only had a few days to turn this around and already had something in mind that she wanted for the piece; I would need to be honest with her and say “I cannot do it this way and predict the time scale accurately, but I can do it my way and have it back within this time.” Helen basically took a gamble on me as she probably couldn’t get another artist at short notice, she just had to trust that the work I do will be good enough, and so she agreed to the commission.
It was pretty simple stuff, I was given a photo reference and asked to create work based on it, she was keen that the illustration was similar to the photo reference, so there was little by way of artistic posing and so on. I began work immediately on a rough pencil sketch. after some rough pencilling, I added some ink and scanned the work in, ready for digital colouring.
Fortunately I managed to get all the digital work done on my parents’ computer back in Wigan, as mine had to be packed away in storage (I had to move house that week, you can imagine how busy I was) even with losing an hours worth of work due to a system crash (my parents’ computer isn’t the most reliable.)
Helen was really pleased with the result! It was such a relief that her gamble paid off, I really felt like I had accomplished something by being able to meet and perhaps exceed her expectations on my first real commission. I started seeing the T shirts pop up around welcome week (when I was also working for the university as a student life host) and couldn’t help feeling a little smug seeing my work up there. Good work.
“Sye Watts was commissioned by the University of Salford Students’ Union to complete a set of cartoon designs to raise the profile of our sabbatical officers to our student members.
I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Sye, who was a pleasure to work with and met the brief in a very short timescale. His rates were very reasonable.
Sye’s quick turnaround of the project ensured we had a quality piece of design we could use regularly throughout the year.
- Helen Robinson,
University of Salford Students’ Union.”