CGI manager for JCB
Andrew studied the two-year National Diploma in Photography between 1995 and 1997 at the college’s Chesterfield Road campus. Andrew is now CGI manager for JCB design works in Rocester. He often visits the college to offer industry advice and workshops to multi-media students.
What was the course like and what skills did you learn?
The course was very thorough and covered all aspects of photography, such as theory, practice and history. It also gave us a taster in other fields such as graphic design, film, editing and Photoshop which are all fundamental skills I still use today.
How would you say the college developed you, not just in terms gaining a qualification but self-development?
It gave me the confidence to go and tackle the next step in my journey which was going to university.
To me this was a big deal as I was the first in my family to do so and I wasn't exactly sure what to expect or if I cut it with the best of them when I got there. It turned out that West Notts taught me well as I pretty much walked it. Of course, with hard work and putting the skills I had developed at the college into practice, university felt like a natural progression from my time at college.
Do you have any memories from your time as a student that you might like to share?
I always feel very fortunate to have met a great bunch of students and having been taught by some excellent college lecturers. We all just seemed to click and we had a fantastic environment to grow creatively and develop some fantastic interpersonal skills.
Where did you go on to study after West Notts and what was the qualification called?
I went on to study a BA (Hons) Photographic Communication at Falmouth College of Arts. This was as far as I could go without falling into the sea as it's close to Land’s End! Besides, I fancied trying my hand at surfing. Falmouth was and still is an HE establishment everyone aspired to be accepted into. The hard work, knowledge and portfolio I gained at West Notts College gave me everything I needed to be accepted and it was my first choice.
What was your first job after studying?
I did a brief stint as a designer working at a newspaper via an agency, setting adverts and working on layout which wasn't very glamorous and the hours were very detrimental to my social life.
So I moved onto a more challenging position as a designer for a print shop in order to gain as much knowledge and first-hand experience in print and hone my design skills. It was a tough job working 12-hour days and the occasional Saturday, a real sweat shop.
Although it paid peanuts I knew that the first job on my CV was important to open the door to the next and I’ve never looked back.
How did you get into the industry you’re now working in?
I’ve had to move with the times as well as seek new challenges. Although photography is where my grass roots are, I always wanted more. Throughout my career I have been a photographer, graphic designer, illustrator, interactive media programmer, camera operator, editor and now CGI artist and compositor.
I guess I get bored easily but I still enjoy the challenge of learning new things.
Once I’d gained enough experience on paper and felt competent enough with the industry standard software I went head first into the freelance market producing design and artwork through agencies and in-house design teams.
Here I had to be flexible and adapt very quickly. I did this for a few years which was very rewarding but I wanted to develop my portfolio with greater creative challenges so I formed my own creative company pitching to companies directly and gaining my own work.
At first it was tough but the contacts I had gained freelancing enabled me to build up my client base pretty quickly. Now I was not only the creative, I became a book keeper, an account handler, executive client liaise officer, company director and tea boy; a real one man band. Although this hard work came with plenty of rewards I began to lose sight of my original passion and became less hands-on creative.
So when I was offered an exciting role at JCB's award winning internal design house I jumped at the chance. Now I am the CGI manager in responsible for digital media production used for both internal and customer facing material such as events and exhibitions, literature, web, iPad app's etc.
I am thinking that when you were a student the ‘digital’ age hadn’t emerged fully?
In my day having your hands immersed in chemicals and getting lost in the darkroom were all part of the fun - not to mention concerns for the health and safety officer. Fuzzy heads and black eyes aside, I developed some handy skills with image manipulation the ‘old skool’ way and developed an eye for composition, colour, exposure, all the things that you need to know to get the best out of an image, digital or not. So although the media has changed, the technique remains the same except it is a lot easier these days.
How much do you value a college education (both FE and HE)?
To be honest I believe you can succeed in the industry without going through the education route. However, it is made a lot easier in helping aspiring artists gain a foot hold in the industry as well as allowing the space to develop and hone those vital skills that will get you noticed.
What’s your opinion of West Notts College today in terms of how it’s grown in size, provision and reputation?
The impression I have of West Notts College compared to yesteryear is that it’s now an establishment more akin to the professional world. Back when I was studying the facilities were dated and the building was in need of a little gloss. That said, the learning environment and excellent tuition was second-to-none. Thankfully this still exists today with the added new facilities.