London-based illustrator Michael Driver is only a few weeks out of his BA Illustration and Animation course at Kingston University, but he’s already swimming in commissions. His rich, textural work often condenses diverse and intricate concepts down into easy-to-swallow images and neat, cheeky animations, so it’s not hard to see why. But as it turns out, his decision to study a creative subject was something of an afterthought.
“After finishing A levels and not quite getting the grades I thought I’d get I gave up on education, and moved into full time work as a chef,” he tells us. “I was cycling 16 miles a day to work, and working around 60 hours a week at a restaurant back in Nottingham. About eight or so months in I realised that, although I could do the long hours and cope with the physical demands, it really wasn’t for me.
“I’ve always been really interested in art, particularly illustration, and thought that enrolling on a art foundation course might be a better, more fulfilling path to go down.” There were some lessons to be learned from taking this divergent path, though. “Although catering didn’t work out for me I think it really motivated me to work hard, and taught me a lot about self discipline and making deadlines.”
Like many of our Graduates, university wasn’t all fun and games, as it’s often advertised as being by students. “It took me quite a long time to settle in,” Michael says “and out of sheer anxiety I worked myself into a bit of a mess at times. I don’t regret coming to university at all. I’ve not necessarily enjoyed the entire experience, or taken full advantage of being there, but I don’t think I’d have been able to learn as much as I have without having gone.”
“It’s really important to work hard, but if you don’t look after yourself, you crumble like a Ryvita.”Michael Driver
His final project before leaving Kingston, entitled Skills, called for him to explore a skill he hadn’t yet used, or a facility he wanted to make the most of before leaving, and Michael chose to try his hand at editorial work. “My girlfriend would email me with articles from various news websites and I’d have a few hours to agree on a rough idea and come up with a finished image,” he says. “Admittedly it’s not the most mind-blowing project, but it allowed me to explore making visuals for complex articles that have current relevance to the wider world.” This also encouraged him to give animation another go. “About a week or so in I animated all the content I had previously illustrated,” much of which can be seen over on his Tumblr. His animated GIFs are concise and easy to understand, but communicate complex, multi-layered concepts as though Michael was born to create visual aids for articles.
His projects haven’t always been so successful, though. “I have had so many bad projects that I’ve really struggled to pick one,” he admits. “Back in my second year I had a project which was a term long, and was about the unpicking of process. It was a really great brief – some of my class mates really went for it, and their responses were brilliant. I, on the other hand, chose gardening as a process. I spent so long confused by all the possible outcomes that I spray-painted some fruit and told the entire class that it was about the genetic modification of plants. It’s possibly the only time I’ve ever stood up in front of the class and tried to sell a idea which really didn’t even convince me."
If Michael could show his portfolio to anybody, it would be Swedish designer Olle Eksell, who he has always been a big fan of. “I really appreciate the diversity of his visual craft and how he worked with colour and form. It would have been great to show him my work and get a few pointers.”
Having cut his teeth in a Michelin star restaurant, the most important lesson Michael has learned is not to run himself into the ground. “It’s really important to me to work hard and be passionate about what I do, but leaving time to have a real life has become just as important.” It’s a lesson he learned over the course of a final major project in his third year: “I had a two week stretch where I reduced my hours of sleep to around four hours in order to get a comic book done in time for the final hand in.” It’s a wise philosophy. “It’s really important to work hard, but if you don’t look after yourself, you crumble like a Ryvita.”
At the moment Michael is concentrating more on whether he’ll be able to pay his rent over the coming months than on next year, he says. “I have a few ideas for self-initiated projects that I’d like to try and get done, including a short animation which uses print as a process.” He has found time to join an agency, however: “A few weeks back I had a lot of agency interest and have now joined the roster at MP arts which is really exciting! I’m looking forward to working with MP and seeing my work in newspapers, magazines and books.”
We are very pleased that The It’s Nice That Graduates 2015 will once again be supported by Represent Recruitment. The graphic and digital design recruitment specialists have developed a peerless reputation working with designers of all levels and matching them up with the right positions in some of the top agencies around. Represent’s support has helped us grow the Graduate scheme over recent years and we are thrilled they have partnered with us again in 2015.