Come this October I will have been in my career for 30 years! A career which started at a Winchester based advertising agency under the watchful and supportive eye of the owner Mary Williams and the training and mentorship of studio manager Rod Page. This was back in the days before computers, desk top publishing and Photoshop. I had avoided polytechnic, art school or university and turned up for my interview at MW Publicity with just art and graphical communication A levels to my name.
I can’t remember much about the interview itself, however I do remember Mary sending me down to the studio to meet Rod, be shown around and have a ‘quick test’! It was at this point I learnt that the new fangled graphical communication A level did not prepare you for a career in commercial art and design.
Having shown me around the studio, the art store, the dark room and the projects he was working on Rod showed me my test. He had set out some art board, a normal clutch pencil, a clutch pencil with blue leads, a set of Rotring drawing pens, some masking tape, a ruler, a scalpel, and some set squares. The task was to draw a 10cm square with a. 35mm line.
This didn’t match what I had used at college. We used paper on our drawing boards, not art board, and the blue pencil was new to me. The rest of it was familiar, so I thought for a bit…
The artwork Rod had shown me had all used blue pencil and it had not been rubbed out. So that was my starting point. One horizontal blue line, followed by one vertical one. I measured 10cm along each axis and added another horizontal and another vertical. Box roughed out I carefully placed the. 35 Rotring pen on the top left corner and slowly drew to the top right. I lifted and lowered the t-square and drew the second horizontal the same way. I blew on the ink to dry it and then, starting from the top left used the set squares to carefully draw the corners top corner to bottom corner.
I was almost right. Not quite, but almost. The blue pencil was right, although I had no idea why, as was the measuring and use of the set and t-squares. I even knew how to use a Rotring (keep it slow and vertical people) but…
It turned out that if you place the pen nib on the art board, directly in the corner like I did the ink flows quickly to the round nib. This causes a blob effect meaning that the corner is not square but slightly rounded. Plus the lines will be slightly thicker due to the added run of ink.
What I should have I done? As I learnt, and went on to do daily for many years, was to draw the ink lines beyond each of the four corners, creating a kind of deformed noughts and crosses board, and when the ink was dry carefully scrape the excess ink away with the scalpel. If done well this makes for a clean and accurate square corner, with the ink scraped away to make a beautiful and accurate shape.
It would take me a long time to get the hang of it, and then longer to be able to do it quickly. However it was the first of many skills I learnt as the very foundations of my career.
I spent the rest of the day nervously drawing squares as Rod pressed on with real work behind me. I than had two more trial days before starting work the following Monday. So began my glorious career.