Jim Kay studied at West Nottinghamshire College between 1992-94 at the Chesterfield Road campus. He studied general art and design, achieving the top grade for his studies. Jim went on to study illustration at the University of Westminster.
Jim is now an award-winning freelance illustrator and recalls his time at West Notts with pride.
I have very fond recollections of West Notts College. It was the first time I'd been given access to a print room, a workshop and a kiln. It was that 'kid in a sweetshop' sort of experience. The classes deliberately put you out of your comfort zone, but had it not been for those experiences I would never have known what I was capable of.
Tutors at West Notts encouraged me to keep trying new approaches, new ideas and they gave me the tools and the confidence to keep trying to better myself. You never forget useful advice like this.
What I learnt at college most definitely put my on the road to my career today. When I worked at the Tate Gallery and at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, it was the training in printmaking and painting techniques that really helped me. As an illustrator, I still go through the same processes taught to me by the staff at West Notts College all those years ago.
Jim remembers not just the skills on his programme but the whole college atmosphere – something which will remain with him for a long time.
I was very lucky in that everyone in my year was great fun and very friendly and for many of us it was the first time we'd spent time in the company of a lot of people interested in the same thing. It was easy to make friends because of that, and there was a degree of friendly competition too which kept us all going.
I lost touch with most of my fellow students (these are the days before email and social networking!), but I'm still in touch with some of the staff. They were wonderful and we respected them because in addition to being lecturers they were practitioners and artists too. I carry their advice with me on every commission, on every sketch or painting.
More recently Jim was asked by Walker Books to illustrate a book by Patrick Ness called ‘A Monster Calls’. The award-winning book is for older children and adults but is illustrated throughout with Jim’s work which he says is inspired greatly by his early college work.
This is the first book I've illustrated in full, and so I was very shocked to receive the 2012 Kate Greenaway award for children's book illustration. All of the images in this book were created in exactly the spirit of West Notts’ teaching. It was about trying to get the best out of my work in order to do the story justice.
The illustrations owe their existence to the 'accidents' and unexpected results of experimenting with print and collage, exactly the same methods I learned all those years ago at West Notts. I owe a lot of this book to the lecturers Julian Bray, Robert Hart and Paul Gladstone, they taught me to not be too precious about the artwork, and gave me the confidence to take that extra step to find something different, something new.
Jim recognises and applauds the college’s great reputation locally and nationally.
I think the college’s success is down to the charisma of the staff. Schools and colleges have been facing tough times recently, and it takes people with incredible drive to deal with these restrictions and still bring that passion to the classroom.
More about the book – A Monster Calls
A Monster Calls is about a boy called Conor, who is visited just after midnight by an ancient and wild creature, which appears in his back garden.
This monster seems to know everything about Conor; the things that trouble him, his problems at school, his mother's illness. This isn't, however, the monster that Conor fears, there is another which visits his nightmares.
The giant in his garden wants something from Conor - it wants him to speak the truth. It's a story about understanding love and loss, and Conor's search for hope.