Reflecting on Lowe and Eva Weinmayr
Reflections in Italics
This is a diary of events that took place during a 2-week full time work based learning programme placement at Lowe worldwide advertising and then with Belgian artist Eva Weinmayr over a further 4 days.
I found my work recently increasing more influenced by the ideas of myth and symbolism and in researching this I found myself spending more time looking at advertising and signifiers. I wanted to Experience the differences between working with what I felt to be polar opposites of what I was finding interesting in fine art at this time. My Personal romantic ideal of a working artist (Eva) and the applied art of creative thinking in advertising at Lowe.
Eva is an artist who uses abandoned materials, images and video to delve into the world of language. She is an upbeat, informed and slightly quirky individual who has strong ideas about her direction and views. I found her to be a very strong character who questioned everything. I couldn’t get away with the slightest comment without knowledge of what I was speaking about. Her motives were true and she showed me a very strong independent work ethic that I enjoyed being along side her in her project.
Working at Lowe was a very structured experience but in a completely different way. Lowe was a company that I felt were very creative in their work. They had lots of industry accolades for their creative thinking. Some of their more recent award winning work had been for Guinness. These were adverts that I had recognised to be great pieces of advertising that had taken the industry to what I thought was a different creative level. I had made contact with Chief strategy director of the London Office, Rebecca Morgan, who was willing to take us on a full time basis working on some live briefs that they had in the office at the time. These turned out to be Becks beer, Rexona deodorant and Vauxhall. All three projects were big clients and would allow Emily and I to work on something relevant and tangible, hopefully to get a more complete and honest experience.
My observations at Lowe centred mainly around the chain of command; how would we get any of our work into the final reviews in front of the client if it needed to go through so many other people first. Each person having they’re very different style and personal taste meant you had your work constantly knocked back depending on the individual taste of the person assessing it.
- Collect, record and analyse data in relation to your own career, professional practice opportunities and personal and professional development.
I transferred our ideas from the campaigns at Lowe into a short film and journal. The illustration technique learned at Lowe is going to be a way of illustrating work in the future. I also produced this document to show the collected and analysed thoughts over the past WBL experience.
- To relate own learning to career objectives and present the results of critical reflection in an appropriate format.
Working in a very confined space every day with Emily allowed me to work effectively in such a tight group environment. Before now I had been working with collaborators that were very clear about the path needed to take but in this instance we were constantly battling to find a way to make each others ideas work or not as the case may be, so as to come up with a more stable idea between us. This skill is something I can exploit more in my personal practice. My work at Lowe gave me a first hand knowledge of an industry that I often look at in my personal practice
- To apply practical skills and knowledge in order to operate effectively within a professional context.
I was able to use my communication skills effectively in both processes to get the best out of my work and the work of the people around me. Eva identifies this in the feedback she wrote. My Previous video making skills were adapted with the work I did for Eva. My Knowledge of semiotics was extremely useful at Lowe. The need to a high level of commitment and work practice meant a high level of professionalism in both environments.
- Identify opportunities for establishing professional contacts; promote your career management and employability skills.
I”ve built a good working relationship with Eva Weinmayr and Rebecca Morgan at Lowe, Continuing the relationship by keeping in contact via e-mail. I’ve expressed interest with Eva in working together again in the future. Rebecca Morgan at Lowe has expressed her joy with the results of the 2-week WBL.
Too many cooks
At our first meeting on the first day of the first week, a guy by the name of Lorenzo who was the strategic planner called us into his office to explain what we were to create. We were told to expect a brief in the next couple of weeks, it wasn’t ready as yet due to the fact that he was still working on it. The brief was in development. It needed to consider everything the client wanted and also outline the all the aspects that our team thought important. The brief needed to consider the views of lots of parties.
My first big observation is how many people see the idea before it ever ends up in front of the client. There are also very rigid strategic guidelines. This is what the idea should satisfy. The concept of brief is an interesting one. To hear it described is to think it is restricting to creativity. Actually, it helps you to focus and apart from achieving the business task, gives creative direction to your efforts. It seems a lot easier when you’ve got the brief written down. Eva worked like this actually. I remember her giving me information on her thoughts and on questions she had posed herself and questions she thought needed answering and explaining.
This is definitely something that I‘m going to start doing. It seems to make so much sense. You have a record of your thinking. You have something to go back to if your lost at any point and also if somebody joins the project then they have the same information that you do. It’s also quite a simple and yet effective way of starting any project. I think in the future I will prepare my own brief for my work. It will help me decide before I begin what my point is, what the idea I am seeing is trying to accomplish and will help me focus and stay true to my plan.
In retrospect it would have been easier on Emily and I if the brief had been completed properly and given to us at this stage. It would have saved us so much of out time and energy.
Recording a chain of thoughts
We’ve been issued with lots of magic marker pens and drawing pads to record some of our ideas. But when we put our thoughts forward to our respective creative directors we need to make sure they’re in a simple line drawing format. Our Product is “Becks” and we need to make a beer that seems to have no real brand identity into market competitor. Ideas seem to come thick and fast and now I see the benefit of using the pads. It’s very easy to start down the same path you could have dismissed only minutes earlier. The product itself does not have anything really distinctive that would significantly distinguish it from any of the other big name beers.
When your coming up with ideas in rapid succession it’s very east to forget exactly where or why an idea was so successful or not as the point maybe. Looking back now on the pads that we used it’s easy to understand where our original ideas stemmed from and this has been a great help in reflecting on our work. This is definitely something I’m going to consider adapting into my own work. I feel that I don’t make enough record of the process of developing an idea.
“It Is What It Is” 2009 Karl Grady and Emily Norris
Commissioned to Work
It’s the fourth day in and still no brief. Emily and I are working on our own version of things, trying to understand what the client’s needs are. Tomorrow we’ll be attending a focus group arranged by the company for the client. This is to listen to the views of the demographic for the product. Apparently this is between 21-28 years of age.
I like the environment; you’re coming up with ideas all day long in rapid succession. But it’s tough. They give you a brief and a timeline. I also like being amongst others who are sparking ideas off of each other. In this setting, its not free-form art creation. You are creating art for someone else to a specific brief. When you create for other people, it can be pure guesswork. Half the problem is defining the brief and at times the people preparing it are not sure. If you suffer fools this is no place for you. I think it would be very difficult to know the answer yet conditions won’t allow it to go forward. Someone is basically commissioning us to develop a creative solution to a business problem. While this is a business transaction, the fact is the solution is creative and from my perspective, art.
My main concern about taking commissions is that sometimes you just end up doing a piece that you don’t really have that much control over. Recently I’ve had to start saying ”no” to work for these very same reasons. I want to have complete control of my process. Maybe if it doesn’t work out then I can go down that avenue again in the future.
“It Is What It Is” 2009 Karl Grady and Emily Norris
We’re in an office that is normally occupied by a senior writer/art director “team.” The entire department is built around this collaboration. We are also very aware of the concept of deadline. Lorenzo has made it clear we are to present our thinking in four days time.
I have written about my interest in collaboration before and there is plenty of it here. I am impressed with the idea of collaborating with a specific type of person not being the same as you. I also see now that my collaboration for the pop video was not with Emily, but me, Emily and Victoria the singer. The importance of the relationship with your collaborator is paramount. I still believe in the power of collaboration, but it is now clear to me collaboration without control or direction by the artist is aimless confusion. I saw people without clear direction reverting to second-guessing or making up their own rules. When we saw there was no conviction by the people supposedly in charge, we took control. I can see how this could be a very frustrating place. When you create your own art, you are in complete control.
Sometime when you go through an experience, it changes your perception of things. In this case, it only served to strengthen my belief in collaboration. It’s clear though, that I will need to be selective about my collaborative partner. Not all combinations are winning ones.
Searching for the “big idea
Today we reviewed our work in front of the creative director for the department. Which was great, it’s almost like a crit session. We were told where we were to direct our efforts and we were shown what ideas were to be extinguished. It seems we have a few good leads to follow. These seem to be based on what ideas may or may not be liked by a research group that is put together by the client.
They say things like ‘we are looking for a big idea’ but in actual fact they were looking for an idea that was slightly different than what didn’t work last time or work that will sail through the research. To create in a market like this, is to recognize that at this time, people are not going to take a risk. So they seem to be doing the same thing again and to use research to convince themselves its right. It seemed to us they were never going to get big ideas this way. It seemed pointless to me, then again I am not dealing with the risks involved. I asked Lorenzo what would happen if the test went bad. He told us that on another brand from the client the test went bad and they gave it to another agency. People here lost their jobs. Maybe I should begin by looking at the issues I had with what I saw as an unenlightened client. It seems there is a huge amount of stress everywhere; serious consequences for a client’s business if the idea is wrong, big risks for the agency if the test goes bad and for the creative people and personal unrest in having to work on something that you don’t necessarily share the same views on.
“For Your Growing Needs” 2009 Emily Norris and Karl Grady
Too many projects on the “go”
Today we started another new brief, which now makes it three strategies and brands we are working with at the same time. Because our work needs to go through a specific creative director for each piece, one set of ideas is being emailed to a creative director in New York, one set of ideas is gathering dust on our desk through lack of availability of another creative director and our third brief is being managed by the same director who didn’t have time to see the second set of work. Emily and I spend our days throwing ideas at each other and discussing what we feel about each one.
It concerned us at first that there are so many briefs we are working on that we might lose focus. Yet, we are getting better at recognizing a core idea and the difference between a core idea and an execution. The core idea is that which endures. You can do dozens of executions off of a core idea. Many great campaigns, as they are called, like priceless for MasterCard, have run for years off a single idea for the brand. Our new brand today is for a van. There are lots of reasons why the spec of this van is different to other vans. Those points could be selling points, but the client isn’t interested in these points on their own to differentiate the van from others on the market. They have decided that since business is a key target they wish to make a bigger point since features on their own can be replicated. We see their point. I have a feeling the creative director is not interested. He seems quick to explain away what we think are good ideas. A creative director needs to be generous and not afraid of other people and their ideas.
I must be sure to be selective about who I take a commission from. They can’t be like this creative director, but someone who will allow me to be bold in my thinking and to take risks. I think communication is a key part of any commission especially at the start. We’ve lost so much time on ideas we’ve developed simply because of something they wanted but neglected to tell us.
“Ladder” 2009 Karl Grady and Emily Norris
Inside the belly of the beast
I went back to college today to discuss a few things with Margo. When I arrived I saw Jamie down stairs, he said “hi” and enquired what I might be up to and so I quickly mentioned that I was in the middle of a 2-week full time WBL at an advertising company. We’ll you’d have thought that I’d just told him that I’d let a bomb of on a packed high street killing thousands. He recoiled in horror and warned me to be very careful. It seemed that Jamie thought that I’d “entered the belly of the beast.”
How heroic. All of a sudden I felt like I was part of a cause, which one though I wasn’t quite sure. Or was I about to become one of the enemy? Was I about to become a “sell out?” This was defiantly something I had to look at. I really do need to think way more carefully about why I was at an advertising company. I mean what exactly did I think I was going to get from this? I felt lost slightly. If I have no real want or need to join an ad company then quite frankly, maybe this all been a complete waste of time. Next week is going to be different; I’m defiantly going to have to start looking at getting something way more substantial from this experience.
I need to pose some questions like, who uses advertising in their artwork?
Where are the lines drawn between the advertising and the fine art worlds?
How can you use adverts maybe in a fine art context?
Is consumerism something that I want to comment on?
How would I do this?
What metaphors are there for our consumer society?
Who else looked at similar issues?
Or maybe it’s the style of working I need to look at. How am I going to personally reflect on this experience?
What medium am I going to use to do this?
Where do I take my working style from here?
What did I think about the collaborative experience?
I’ve already been heavily inspired by Richard Prince This week. His use of appropriating former editorial adverts was a turning point in the way we view the borders around plagiarism, he managed to toy with the romantic notion of originality.
Going forward I think I need to be more clear about the direction I want to take my work. Last term I became interested in the way whiteness as a concept was used in art. In retrospect I don’t think I gave it enough attention. I moved quite swiftly into the use of advertising in fine art. I defiantly need to go backwards and look further into myths and symbols because I believe now that it will eventually take me to adverting anyway.
It is coming to the end of our time. We can see things more as a regular employee than when we began. Reality has set in.
It’s becoming a more comfortable environment to work in. I’m never going to get used to working in an office all day though, I think it’s far too restricting. I know it seems strange but it’s almost like being in a cage at the zoo. Each time somebody comes to see you they are expecting you to do something for them, anything. I feel sorry for the full time creatives. We are joined everyday by the office manager who is constantly reminding us that the next big idea is out there. It’s definitely a creative environment but a very strange one. I don’t think it’s the sort of place I want to work, I know the pay is good, but this job is no more secure than any other, you could be clearing your desk at any moment and that’s exactly how it must feel for the others. Recently a big account had been lost at the office and so the next day hundreds of people were laid off. There was literally no more need for them. Each time you travelled to the kitchen to get a drink you had to pass through a room filled with the office remnants of the previous disaster. This room had chairs, tables, desks and sofas pilled up together. It felt like a graveyard, if you let your imagination run wild then you could envision the souls of the departed still wandering around, each chair a tombstone reminder of the person lost due to the changing market. You don’t spend long in the kitchen area I can tell you that much. I wonder how much that type of working environment has on the results of your work. To work in an environment where your ideas are driven solely by your need to collect your next paycheck. Emily mentioned to me that she’d lost some of her principles when she had the thought that one of her executions might be shown on television. I think this is a small thing, I guess you’d loose a lot more of your morals if you thought you were going to be out of a job at any minute. I did start to enjoy walking through the room of office furniture in the end because each time I saw another representational object of the world before it a few weeks previous. There was a filing cabinet on it’s side that at one point had been seen as so important it had warranted having several stickers warning others o keep out” important files, these belong to “Steve.” I couldn’t resist, I opened the filing cabinet and yes, there were Steve’s files falling sideways out from the drawer. They had gone from something to nothing in a matter of minutes. Steve hadn’t even thought it necessary to return to collect them.
My work has often been commissioned and I’m fully aware of how it is watered down when it stands up against deadlines and budgets. Maybe fine art is a practice that needs too be free from these kinds of restraints. I feel much better working on fine art project that doesn’t necessarily have to be finished at a certain time. But then you also have to be able to look at a piece and know when it’s finished. Some artist’s never seem to finish some pieces of work. In my studio I have pieces that I’ve started and that now lay there expecting my net move, but I don’t hurry back to them because I don’t necessarily see an end to them.
Reflecting Eva 1
I arrived at Eva’s studio this morning and spent a few hours chatting about the project. I found this very helpful. It’s good to find out if were both on the same page before we begin. I had already been looking at Eva’s work via Internet pages and her personal website. I found her work very interesting.
We discussed the project in detail, it turns out she would like me to assist her with some filming around London. She had liked the style of interviewing I had used in my whiteness video and wanted us to incorporate this into the project that she was working on. I took a look at the footage that she had and we chatted about her ideas. I found her to be a very open minded and accommodating person, she was willing to listen to new ideas and any suggestion I had.
I took a list from Eva of the Journal’s she wanted me to find and we spoke generally about the project and the subject. She has asked me not to let anybody know about the project because she wanted to keep the subject hush-hush. I’m not sure why she asked me this but I can only assume it’s a project that was easily compromised.
I think that our first meeting had gone extremely well and that I had left with a strong understanding of what Eva was looking to accomplish. I had gone into the meeting with the idea that I would ask lots of questions. This way I wouldn’t be under any misconception’s about what kind of project I was getting involved in and so I knew exactly what I was doing, and why?
I like the way that Eva had structured the project, she was very clear about the direction she wanted to go in but she was also open to ideas and input. I should also think about getting assistance from other students that are looking for experience also. It’s probably a good idea for me to also start thinking about structuring my projects more.
Being in Eva’s studio has reminded me what a lonely time I had in the past in my own studio. That experience of working alone in a studio had really made me think twice about working on my own again. Maybe I should think about more collaborative work, the idea of getting an assistant or maybe getting involved in some group projects.
I’ve realised that I really do become excited about the prospect of working with video, I need to continue looking at other video artists that also may need some assisting, such as Ellie Rees. Although I should wait until this experience is over, to see if I enjoy assisting.
Reflecting Eva 2
I’ve spent the day doing some research on the artist’s that we’ll be looking at in Eva’s project. (I can’t mention who they were because Eva wants me to keep it to myself). I started my search at the British Library, which turned out to be an almighty waste of time. I’m not going to divulge the entire story but it seems they have hardly anything there and nearly everything I was looking for was elsewhere, which meant that they would take at the least 2 days to arrive.
Now the Victoria and Albert museum was great, the library there was amazingly helpful and the staff couldn’t do enough for me. I only manage to get around 4 articles but considering the amount of work I put in, I think that was enough.
Research is not something I enjoyed, in fact I hated it but I suppose that kind of research was very important for this type of project. I noticed that my projects are more based on a spontaneous aspect of working, I like this a lot more. In the future I need to remember the time involved in researching such specific subjects. I’m going to have to get used to doing a lot more research for my own projects. I think I’ve put this off a lot because for me it really does take all the fun out of the experience. But you definitely need it. I mean when I look at Eva’s work it always stands up on it’s own. This is defiantly something I want for my work. The Victoria and Albert museum is where I will always go first, they seem to be more helpful and the chances of them having what your looking seems to be greater.
Reflecting Eva 3
Today was the first day out filming. It was great. Earlier in this process I remember reflecting that I need to spend more time planning, well today it really paid off. Ordinarily I would have just gone out and done some gorilla style filming and tried to get as much in as possible, but this time I made a timetable of people who were definitely interested in being interviewed and then scheduled some gorilla filming into the gaps. This turned out to be a lot more productive. Eva and I spent the day driving around London between people who were interested in being interviewed for her project.
My spontaneous approach isn’t the only way to work. I think that working with someone on a project is a very good way of getting more work done. The time seemed to fly past. I liked the style of filming we used. Something that I learnt was the angles of the camera was very important to keep a dynamic appearance to the end product. I need to ask myself why I want to do certain work on Video. I need to ask myself why I want to use video; I mean surely most of this can be recorded on paper. I do know that film doesn’t really come into the equation. I recently looked at some films work by Jeff Keen. These were made on 8mm, I couldn’t connect with them in away what so ever. What does video add? I think that for me a photograph isn’t enough. Video gives you that little extra. I’m not sure even if I’m making sense but I suppose this is all about reflecting, not making sense. I wish I could explain myself a little more but I can’t.
Maybe the medium used is brought purely from necessity.
Work Based Learning – Karl Grady
“I can say this now, I found him quite intimidating when I worked with him. He was not particular easy. But looking back on it now… …… I liked his passion”
I thought it would be good to collaborate with Karl on my Art In Ruins project, as he seems to explore artistic concepts similar to the ones underlying my current work.
The job was about making people in the street, from different contexts and backgrounds, repeat statements and testimonies my original interviewees had made. I needed a broad variety of people to talk into the camera as if they would create the statement themselves.
Karl arranged the shooting schedule while involving lots of his friends as actors. That was fun. We visited, for example, the BBC dentist at White City and filmed him in his practice reading out his lines. Karl had printed out the statements on a sheet of paper functioning as a makeshift autocue.
His input was substantial, conceptually as well as practically. He approaches things with a highly focused and sophisticated professionalism but with creative light-heartedness at the same time. This allows things to flow and unfold without being forced.
He has a good eye for what is possible and what is too ambitious to achieve in the moment. He is resourceful and constructive, a great person to collaborate with.
“ He was quite gossipy as well…”
Eva Weinmayr, March 2009