Last year after my road trip around Iceland, it took me a long time to get over everything I had just seen and experienced (let’s be honest, I’m still nowhere near over it).
I had just completed a really hard semester at school and I was feeling very discouraged about my practice. I wasn’t doing any design work apart from school and I felt no emotion for what I was creating. I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to go back to school in the fall. *Side note: School can do this to you!! Especially when you go to school to study your passion - the excitement and emotion can often get sucked out of you and your work due to the demands of school. We find ourselves so over worked and being given assignments that don’t mean anything to us. Do your best to take a break from school and go off and do something for yourself. Go have fun, relax, take care of yourself, be present & inspiration will more often than not find you.
I went to Iceland in May 2018, after completing my soul sucking semester, and I felt SO much better when I came back. I spent a lot of the summer writing about my trip and creating drawings and paintings to reflect my memories of Iceland. Doing this work for myself felt therapeutic and helped me decide on my thesis for my final year at OCAD. I felt like this one trip had provided me with years’ worth of content to create.
At OCAD, our fourth year basically revolves around our thesis. It is our top priority & we are pretty much working on it non-stop. I knew that if I was spending 8 months of my life working on something, it had to be something I loved & cared about. I juggled around a bunch of ideas with my instructor – all relating to travel – until I landed on something I was really excited to tackle. This is where I landed: In the format of travel keepsakes, life altering events are translated into common travel experiences to show that without physically travelling, our emotional, psychological and physical responses to these events are often similar to those we experience when we do travel.
I was extra excited (but super overwhelmed), because I had a trip to Europe (France, Spain & Italy) planned for my fall reading week, which lands on the week of Canadian Thanksgiving. I knew this trip would bring me so much more inspiration, memories, and happiness, but I was worried about the amount of work I had coming up for my thesis. With a lot of planning and late nights leading up to my trip, I managed to get all of my work done before I left so that when I came back from my trip I had everything ready to hand in the next day.
For the first month/month and a half of the school year, our main focus is writing, research, exploration and finalizing our pitch in order to make a 10-piece body of work. After that, every 3-4 weeks (not including holidays), we must have 2 illustrations completed that are based off of our thesis. Each time we hand in these pairs of illustrations, we are critiqued on them by our instructors and peers & are given advice on what works and what doesn’t work about each piece. *For artists and designers, it is important for us to learn to detach from our work when it is being critiqued! Even if you are working on something very personal, the criticism being given to you is NOT personal. It is not about your capabilities as an artist or your overall talent. Don’t take everything to heart! It is important to listen to what is being said about your work, but remember that you don’t always have to follow through with the changes that others are suggesting. No one knows your work better than you! That being said, you also want it to be understood by others. Finding the balance between creating work that you love and that means something to you, vs creating work that is readable and relatable to others is something that you will develop over time (if you want to).
By the end of March/beginning of April, we have all 10 pieces complete. We then start to prepare for our final grad show, OCADU’s GradEx. For GradEx, each student sets up a display with all of their thesis work and whatever else they choose to add to their display – title, name, legend, business cards, etc. Preparing for the show takes a lot of work and is usually quite chaotic (at least it was for me). There’s so much to consider. You need everything ready for your final display & you have to set your display up yourself. There is also the option to put merch in the OCAD shop & if you decide to do that, you have to prepare all the merch and the packaging, labels, etc.
GradEx 104 happened last week, May 1st-5th 2019 at OCAD University. All the hard work paid off as it was a big success and almost 50,000 people came to the show. I received a lot of compliments on my thesis and people admired that I chose to focus on something I am so passionate about. Looking back, I don’t think there’s anything I would really do differently. I think this was the first time I created work that I really felt connected to and felt truly excited to make. I look forward to more adventures and feeling the spark as inspiration hits once again.
To see my entire thesis, go to the “illustration” section of my website!