Name: Pippa Elizabeth Curnick
Full Programme Title: Visual Communication: Illustration. Graduated: 2012.
Job Title: Illustrator, Self employed but previously worked as a Designer at Scholastic Children’s Books
Why did you feel a degree would help you?
I completed a foundation course at Camberwell in London before deciding to pursue a degree. I knew I wanted to be a children’s book illustrator and felt that a degree would challenge the way I worked and would push me to develop my skills.
Was the work interesting?
We covered a range of illustration disciplines from narrative to editorial. We were set briefs and encouraged to explore different ways of approaching the projects.
My digital studio training was invaluable and, after initially really struggling with it, I found I really enjoyed experimenting with the programs. When I began the course I worked solely with traditional media- pencils, paper and pens. By the second year the skills I had learned through my digital studio sessions had pushed me to experiment with digital techniques. Now, I combine both to create my illustrations. After graduating, I worked in London designing picture books for Scholastic, which meant I had to have an in-depth knowledge of Photoshop & InDesign,too.
Were the lecturers supportive / friendly?
Yes we had regular one-on-ones and they were always available to talk through ideas and help when I got stuck.
Did you manage to combine studying with making new friends and ‘experiencing’ Derby?
Yes! I actually met my partner on my first day on my course. We’ve been together for seven years and we now have a little boy! I loved the nights out in the town and I really fell in love with the city … so much so that I’ve moved back here.
What were the facilities like?
I absolutely cannot fault the facilities. I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a better-equipped university. The screen printing studio was brilliant and we had access to the laser cutter and dark rooms.
What did you do once you graduated – did you continue your studies or go straight into employment?
Soon after graduating, I exhibited my illustration work on the Derby University stand at the New Designers show in London. Whilst at the show I met the creative director at Scholastic Children’s Books and was asked to interview for the role of junior designer. By September of 2012, I had moved to London and was beginning my new job as Junior Designer for Alison Green Books; an imprint of Scholastic. I was lucky enough to have both Alison Green and Zoe Tucker as my bosses. Alison was the editor behind The Gruffalo, and is extremely highly regarded in the publishing world, and Zoe is an amazingly talented Art Director who’s worked with some of the best children’s illustrators. I learned so much from my time at AGB, but in 2014 I made the decision to move back to the Midlands and set myself up as a freelance illustrator. I was signed up by Claire Cartey at the Holroyde Cartey Literary Agency and since then, my illustration career has gone from strength to strength. I am now working on books with some really exciting authors.
What was rewarding and what was challenging about the course?
My final major project was a real highlight for me. I really enjoyed the independent study. It was a huge challenge but, looking back, it was a turning point in the development of my style. I loved putting my degree show pieces together and was thrilled to receive the ‘Vice Chancellor’s Award.’ We were also encouraged to enter national illustration competitions. In my second third year, I was shortlisted for the AOI, Serco & London Transport Museum Illustration Competition. It was amazing to see my work exhibited in London- that was a definite high point!
I found the first year particularly challenging. As well as settling into a new city, we had to explore a range of disciplines from photography to screen printing and, having already done a foundation course that covered similar areas, I struggled to find my ‘niche.’
Where do you currently work, what is your job title and what does your job entail?
I am currently a freelance illustrator. I work mainly on children’s books and my first UK picture book published this year (2016) I have worked on a range of projects since graduating, including pop-up books for US publisher Jumping Jack Press, and sticker books for Lonely Planet Kids. Recently, I have illustrated books for Orion and Kids Can Press in Canada. I also work as a freelance designer for a number of UK publishing houses.
How does the knowledge and experience gained during your studies at Derby benefiting your work?
I use digital practices every single day for both my illustration and design work. Without the skills I learned at Derby, I wouldn’t have gained the confidence to explore digital techniques.
Would you recommend a degree at Derby? If so, why?
If you are looking for a really friendly city with loads going on, and a course that allows you plenty of space to develop your style then Derby is for you. To get the most out of the course, you need to work hard and enjoy what you’re doing, and be able to take constructive criticism on board and learn from your mistakes.