Hand-drawn illustration is a craft that stretches back through time, from pre-historic cave paintings to satirical drawings in Ancient Rome. Contemporary illustration sees artists take up the pen (and pencil) to sketch everything from fashion runway looks to advertisements and comic books, all captured with the simple immediacy of a hand-drawn image.
For illustrator Maisy Summer, this age-old discipline goes beyond just pen and paper. A lecturer on Illustration with Animation at Manchester School of Art, she explores the potential for traditional illustration to take on a new digital life in motion. “I love showing students how to animate, even in the format of a simple GIF,” she says. “As soon as you start adding movement to your illustrations, it’s addictive!”
She will be bringing this energy and enthusiasm for the art of animation to her brand new Hand Drawn Illustration & Digital Editing Hybrid Course for Elephant Academy, which launches on 2 May and runs for four weeks.
Co-run with illustrator Sarah Wilson, the course will first encourage students to create illustrations from a single prompt text. Students will then learn how to use Adobe Photoshop in order to edit the results and create short animated GIFs. “There will also be some light-hearted humorous collaborative warm-up tasks that get everyone to know each other a little better and feel a part of a community,” Summer laughs. Finally, the group will use Adobe InDesign to curate and present the final results.
“There will also be light-hearted humorous collaborative warm-up tasks that get everyone to know each other a little better”
Both Summer and Wilson are members of the Manchester-based Small Fry Collective, a creative network which organises events, workshops, talks and projects, spanning local and international partners and collaborators. Summer also works as a freelance illustrator, working across projects that include large-scale installations, animation, publishing, murals, wallpaper design, giftware, campaigns, social media content and editorial.
“This professional practice as an illustrator and director works hand in hand with the sessions I teach,” she explains. “During my time freelancing, I’m always picking up new processes and methods which I can relay and demonstrate to the students.”
A recent project included illustrating cultural locations for Google Arts & Culture. “Since then I’ve shown the students the process behind this project, in terms of how you approach a client of this scale, technical aspects around creating the artwork, as well as the research process,” she recalls. “In the session, we then used the Google Arts and Culture site as a reference for travel illustration drawings, demonstrating what a contemporary illustration practice can really look like.”
“I love showing students how to animate. As soon as you start adding movement to your illustrations, it’s addictive!”
Her advice for budding illustrators and animators? “Explore and find your own authorship.” This is reached, Summer explains, through personal projects that you can have true ownership over, born out of in-depth research and genuine curiosity. She also stresses the importance of being business-savvy as an artist. “You need to know your worth and feel confident with it.”
Her Elephant Academy course will help students to enhance and develop their hand-drawn work, with Summer on hand to offer her own insights and advice on the day-to-day experience of working as a professional illustrator. “We will help students learn step-by-step in a welcoming and interactive environment,” she says.