by | Feb 07, 2022 |

Following on from the success of Huluku 2021 we wanted to get an insider view on what it was like helping students enter the 2021 competition. So we’ve interviewed Michael Perkins, teacher and mentor and all round guru, at TAFE New South Wales Design Centre Enmore – a leading Australian Design School, to get the lowdown.

Check out TAFE here and our thanks to Michael for creating such a honest and inspiring interview.

CIEDA: Tell us a little about yourself, what are you up to at the moment?

Michael: My active career as a designer was primarily in the news media industry as an editorial artist creating a wide range of materials from cartoons, editorial illustrations, information graphics and animations .

Currently, I am fortunate enough to be a teacher at TAFE New South Wales, a role that fulfills my love of teaching and mentoring the next generation of young creatives.

CIEDA: Does the place you live or are from inspire you in your work or life and if so how?

Michael: I think most creative people are inspired by their particular surroundings whether you live in the city or are from more remote areas of the country.

Things that we see and experience cannot help but to influence one’s artwork, much can be gained from observing the people, places and situations in which we live. As an artist one should be constantly looking at the world around us with an artist eye. There is material and subject matter everywhere we look, whether in the supermarket, in a traffic jam or just out walking the dog.

CIEDA: Ambition, Luck or Talent? What matters most in the creative world but also within learning environments?

Michael: Speaking from personal experience having gone through art and design school, there were many other students that possessed far greater natural talent than I , and for whatever reason, are no longer working in the industry. While talent is surely a wonderful thing to possess, I don’t think it is the magic ingredient, sheer hard work, dedication and determination is what will drive your success.

CIEDA: What would you like to achieve that you haven’t been able to yet?

Michael: None of us are the finished article we all have unfinished business and creative dreams and endeavors inside of us, even as a more mature artist I feel that I have much to learn and much yet that I would like to achieve in my field, I’m constantly aware of the evolving digital landscape and the many new creative opportunities that are presented by new and emerging technologies and trends.

CIEDA: Who is your creative inspiration or mentor?

Michael: I think that’s a really great question, from personal experience when I was a young designer I had the very great privilege of working with some astounding creative artists, it was an absolute education for me to work with these artists and to see the amazing artwork they would conjure up with a jar of ink, a blank piece of paper and a powerful imagination

I was fortunate enough to work for some extremely supportive of art directors who we are not afraid to give me an honest and forthright assessment of my work or he occasional shoulder to cry on when I needed it, and to this day , I seek out their valued opinions and appraisal of my work.

CIEDA: Do you have a favourite design or artistic movement? Why?

Michael: Personally, all good artwork inspires me, from a well-painted landscape to a fantastic piece of packaging design. I must admit I have a soft spot for artists with a postmodern aesthetic, Guerrilla Girls, Damien Hirst, and of course, the high priest of pop Andy Warhol. Artists who challenged the concepts of what we think of as illustration–and art.

CIEDA: What style or technique in art and design makes you feel the happiest/or feel good?

Michael: While being primarily a digital artist for nearly 30 years, I still enjoy working with traditional media and techniques. Having studied fine art as a younger man I return again and again to my first love, paint and paper. I feel that it is a refreshing counterpoint to digital artwork.

Working with traditional paint and methods is as you know very much a high-wire act where mistakes and decisions are often irreversible, and I really enjoy the constant challenge of resolving and evolving those issues, to complete a painting sometimes successfully (and sometimes not!), either way the experience is valuable.

CIEDA: How would you describe your approach to teaching creative subjects?

Michael: I really do encourage my students to work instinctively and prolifically and try not to get bogged down on small details to see the big picture draw fast and draw often.

Builders – build

Writers – write

Artists – art

Draw and create every day and you’ll find your voice and style. Don’t try to emulate others – be yourself!

I don’t specifically teach my students how to draw on a technical level, so much is how to think and how to see the potential in the situation of subject

The greatest artistic resource is an artist’s imagination, not the internet. Be authentic, be real, show your sense of humor in your artwork.

CIEDA: Tell us a little about TAFE and the classes you teach?

Michael: Primarily here at TAFE I teach digital techniques focusing on digital applications such as photo shop and illustrator , and having worked with these technologies for many years I still find new and different approaches to solving some of the problems that they present and am often inspired by the way my students approach particular problems.

CIEDA: Do you always look for external events or comps to inspire the class or is this a new thing?  

Michael: Absolutely, I think it is very valuable for an emerging creative to engage with and react to events around us and I think the wonderful opportunity presented by entering competitions like the recent Huluku competition, allow students to engage with real-world scenarios and activities.

CIEDA: The class was very successful with their entries. How did you find embedding the concept and the competition itself (timeline, entry requirements, platform access, etc.) into your class?

Michael: I’d really like to say that upon briefing the students regarding the competition, they were extremely excited to participate, many of the students had never entered a competition of this nature before and so motivating the students to do their best work was no problem whatsoever

Also, working to a deadline was a valuable lesson to students who have aspirations to enter the industry understanding the importance of delivering high-quality artwork, on time and to specification.

CIEDA: Why do you think the class was so successful?

Michael: Understanding that the best illustrations have something to say or even cause the reaction is important whether that makes our viewer laugh or gives pause to think these are the most important things with an illustration if your illustration has no purpose or does not create a reaction it really doesn’t matter how well you have rendered the subject, it’s just a pretty picture.

For the competition we spent quite a bit of time just brainstorming, trying to sort through and cut to the heart of the issue, coming up with a concept and seeing if we could push it further and further into directions that we had not even anticipated, I think a lot of great ideas can come about this way before a pencil is even touched.

CIEDA: Were the themes of inclusion, diversity and authentic representation something you were familiar working with prior to the competition?  

Michael: Read anything and everything.

The more input we have the better quality of our artistic output. I would encourage all design and art students to be aware of the world around us. The issues affecting our lives and culture. I think the concept of authentic representation is one that we see evidence of more and more in today’s media. It’s refreshing to see people of different races, genders and abilities, represented in the media today going about their business and everyday lives like anyone else.

CIEDA: Have you any plans to continue building these concepts into your teaching and projects? (Maybe next year’s comp!)

Michael: Absolutely yes. I would love to see our students engaging more often in various competition platforms, such as yours. I think it really does keep things fresh and relevant in the classrooms. Additionally, it offers students a wonderful opportunity to showcase their work and receive exposure for their creative talents.