The Marilyn Robertson Blog

Archive for July, 2009

Marilyn’s disc world getting in a spin

July 23rd, 2009


Stop the world I want to get off!  Well OK maybe not.  In truth this brave new world of technology provides exciting and horizon-broadening new perspectives on the creative process and its commercial application.  As an artist illustrator who started working before email and the internet I often ponder, how do I fit into this ever-changing scene?  Information Technology has certainly changed the way I approach my working day.  A few years back it was either grind my heels firmly into the ground saying “artists need to stay pure and true to a purely hands-on design approach and not get involved in this baffling technology thing”, or embrace it completely and wholeheartedly in the hope it would take me to places I could only dream about.  For better or worse I chose the latter.


Perhaps the major combined impact of emails, the internet and digital communications technology is to shrink the world and speed up contacts between designers and clients.  Within one working day it is not uncommon for me to be sending sketches to a print publisher in San Francisco, receiving email of licensed visuals from a needlework company in Long Island, New York, discussing a licensing contract with a ceramic manufacturer in Stoke-on-Trent, and sending image contact sheets to a greeting card publisher in Moscow.  And yet all the time I have remained in my studio, following an 8 metre journey to work across the garden!


 Artwork published by Blossoms & Bows as part of a greetings card range

The Marilyn Robertson Portfolio


While I acknowledge the contemporary business world is an exciting place to work in, I do sometimes wistfully hark back to the good old days when time seemed to be on my side and deadlines did not loom up so fast.  I used to spend hours creating colour separations with acetate for print publishers. I would finish original artwork and leave it to the creative studios to produce transparencies. Nowadays I marvel that artwork very rarely leaves my studio whereas once FedEx often had me anxiously parting with my work sending it to an overseas publisher with fingers crossed, not only that it would arrive in time, but also that it would travel safely back in one piece and undamaged after their use.  Today I can get my client’s approval to a jpeg image and then, in just a few moments, send them a high resolution artwork file reproduced in house using the latest technology, over the internet by FTP (File Transfer Protocol).  In the twinkling of an eye (satellite?) the work is with them and ready to go. 


Similarly, I often have design meetings with ideas and roughs being uploaded and downloaded backwards and forwards and colours discussed with my ever faithful Pantone colour swatch to hand.  But with the ever-changing technological pace comes a certain amount of unease.  I always used to feel that having your work reproduced onto transparency gave you a degree of protection from copying and plagiarism.  In my experience the majority of professional photographers had an understanding of copyright issues and could be trusted to record your artwork without fear of misuse.  The publishing house had less direct access to your creative ideas and all important portfolio.  Today a disc full of images can be easily burned and passed on without a second thought about the person who has spent hours and often days creating the ideas in the first place.  It is this ease of access and scope for copying (either deliberate or inadvertent) which invariably leads me to feel nervous whenever I hand over a CD of new work. 


Freelance artists will identify with that sinking feeling when a great idea that you recall having created stares back at you off the store shelf under someone else’s name.  Maybe it was always thus, there is always a danger we look back with rosy eyed nostalgia to a mythical world when design plagiarism was unknown.  But now, with such easy tools available it seems to happen with frightening ease and the exercise of a questionable degree of integrity somewhere along the line. 


Nevertheless, deep down, despite occasionally wishing to stop this fast spinning disc world, I am drawn back to the challenge and constant stimulus of creating new design to meet my client’s need to make beautiful products that people will want to buy.  In the end, while you may sometimes have to swallow hard, you just have to get on with it, try to stay one step (or even just half a step) ahead of the game and enjoy the privilege of being creative.