Gradwatch: Alan Vest

Alan Vest’s illustration work has graced an album cover, appeared on a beer label and been published in The Guardian – all while he was still studying at the Cleveland College of Art and Design

CR: How did you develop an interest in illustration, and what lead you to pursue a degree in it?

AV: Studying a foundation diploma helped me discover that I could draw for a career, and the new illustration degree course at CCAD really sold that idea to me.

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A book Vest made for his final project, with illustrations for his late father’s poems on the subject of his mental health problems; Lead image, an illustration of Charles Dickens

CR: Tell us a little bit about the nature of your work, your preferred mediums and techniques

AV: The foundations of my work is based on line drawing, and mark making. Using a range of tools I make lines, and incorporate a range of other materials to keep a raw quality to my images.

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“She’s called Elsa, and she’s in a forest now” – collage from an old photograph Vest got from a Stockton flea market

CR: Even before graduating from art school, you’ve begun working on commissioned projects and exhibiting your work. Do you have any advice for other students on starting out and seeking work?

AV:  Experiment and explore different techniques, and find a process which you enjoy. Don’t compare yourself to other famous illustrators and artists, just try to learn from them. Keep drawing. Collaborate with friends, for me a creative environment really helps, others may be different. Take as many opportunities as you can, and seek others, rejection is ok. And just be nice to people and stay humble.

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Edgar Allan Poe

CR: What’s the biggest lesson you learnt while at University?

AV: For me the biggest lesson I learned was about myself and my process. I had a terrible problem of overthinking my work, I still do a little, but it’s working out a method of controlling it. Don’t think too hard and then do nothing, make something, and then reflect.

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Mary Shelley

CR: Lastly, where do you see yourself ten years from now?

AV: In 10 years time I want to be drawing for a living. The past 3 years have been filled with learning and self discovery, I hope to keep that up.

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Vest is one of the 11 graduates whose work has been selected by us to appear on JCDecaux digital screens all over the UK, including at major railway stations, shopping centres and roadways as a part of CR’s Talentspotting scheme.; @alanvest

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