A Lost Illustration Student

As an illustration student, I have studied the ways a story or message can be portrayed through an image and the many forms that image can take. Whether it is still, moving, 2D, 3D, digital, hand drawn, microscopic, life-size, colour or black and white; the possibilities are endless. I enjoy exploration so trying all these methodologies and ideas was exciting. However, throughout this learning process, I find myself lost. With my ideas flowing, I feel I am often unable to fully realize them.


Through various projects I have found I work better in a group, bouncing ideas of others, collaborating and adding my creative input into a larger process. Therefore, last year I began researching art direction and the roles that surround this area of the creative industries. I wanted to better understand the range of roles that are involved in a creative process. In my search I discovered Prop Styling, an area that intrigues and excites me. This has become the starting point of my research blog.


I personally define prop styling as the art of bringing elements together to set up a scene, which may then be photographed, filmed or perhaps viewed. Working closely with art directors, photographers, models and other various stylists, you collectively create a moment, which is then captured. It’s this aspect of a team effort that draws me in to prop styling as well as the other roles I mentioned above. I like the ability of having your role to contribute but still being able to be part of the broader process, discussing initial ideas, working together to set things up, and collectively reviewing the work to adjust and improve as necessary. I believe that my strengths include idea generation, an eye for detail, organisation and communication. These are useful attributes within prop styling; therefore I feel this role would enable me to put my skills to use while also being able to create an art form alongside others that tells a story.


Anything and everything can be styled, from food to fashion, and every job will require different props. These props could be kitchen utensils, furniture, flowers, interior decorations, clothes, etc. I think my ability to be resourceful, hunting around for the things I need and thinking about what complement each other will be beneficial in this area. However, I think my layout skills need improving, being able to perfect place everything in order to achieve the more pleasing visual outcome that fulfills the brief. One area I was unsure about was where the props are sourced and who is responsible for buying these. From research I have found that clients should reimburse a stylist for the props bought however this can take a while, so a stylist will often to purchase props upfront and plan to ensure this is feasible. In terms of where to procure props, prop houses are a brilliant resource. Speaking to a fellow student, studying Design for Film and TV, regarding her various work experience, I have learn about the wonder of these huge building scattered around which hold inside and endless archive of every prop you could imagine. Companies and individuals use these locations, not only to find and rent what they are looking for but as inspiration for current and potentially future projects.


Last year I discovered the work of Vanessa McKeown, who uses a wide range of props and materials to make creations and photograph them. Her work has a comical value due to her quirky combinations. McKeown isn’t a prop stylist, however the way she manipulates objects to set up photographs reminds me of many of the attributes of a prop stylist. McKeown has an amazing ability to bring together two ideas or objects and use the connotations of both to create a new concept or message. I would describe her work as a brilliant visual interpretation of wordplay. She uses the props efficiently, often striping the image back, focusing on the objects yet still effectively getting an idea across to the audience. I think that the ability to select, position and edit a prop in order to do this so beautiful is an art in itself and something I would love to try more of in the next year. Speaking to McKeown, I learnt that she studied Graphic Design at university and went through a similar feeling of being lost around third year. I suppose this has helped me to realize that everyone feels lost at times and that one path can lead to many different directions. It just takes a little more perseverance.


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