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The value of creative collaboration

Third year Illustration student Pippa Kane reflects on a recent collaboration with students studying Creative Writing at UEA.

I went into this opportunity open minded but apprehensive, as group work can sometimes be difficult unless all involved are excited about and invested in the project. However, this experience brought a shared open mindedness creating the opportunity to work with some great people and create work I’m proud of.

For this project, I was tasked to create a printed outcome responding to texts from Creative Writing students at UEA.


How I got started

The first step was to make contact with my partners. Communication is key when creating a successful collaborative piece, so I updated them often with my progress. I wanted to let them know I was working hard on it and to help them feel involved in the production process. I also checked in on the finer details, such as changing the titles to entirely capitals, as it is important to consider how the person who created the texts want it to be read; and the layout and design impact this.

We also made a point to share our work prior to starting on our collaborative piece to gain a better understanding of what we enjoyed making, and how that could inform the decisions we made with our own work for the project. Showing interest in other creatives is important, supportive creativity is the best kind and shouldn’t be underestimated. Make an effort to check in with what your collaborators enjoy making and don’t just focus on yourself. It’s important to understand what each person involved wants out of the project and to be considerate of each of these priorities.

“Showing interest in other creatives is important; supportive creativity is the best kind and shouldn’t be underestimated”


Pushing the project forward

We discussed the best way to join the writing of two people paired with myself, the illustrator. This was combined through the common theme of their younger brothers playing with fire. This helped create a consistent flow throughout both the texts and the visual outcomes.

One of the most important parts of the initial planning was creating personal deadlines for the writing to allow myself enough time to work on the illustration. The illustrative element of storytelling is fundamental and it takes time to get it right. Like writing, the illustration and design takes research, concept development and outcome exploration – I think it’s key to express this to everyone involved so they can consider the realistic time management needed for the project to be successful. Thumbnails are helpful to show ideas without wasting time on drawings you won’t use – especially if you are using time intensive processes that are non-editable, such as lino cuts, something that was part of my outcome.


Reflecting on the project

Working with people who were excited about what I was making was really encouraging, and it made me want to work hard. I got stuck into the texts straight away. It felt like an opportunity to be playful and that is the exploration I enjoy most – organic and genuine exploration within a project. The texts suited my artwork well and that helped the process too. It felt like a natural fit. 

A piece of advice for students (or soon-to-be students) regarding collaboration: be open, communicate properly and express your perspective. Don’t bottle up your doubts or opinions, they are valuable too. However, ensure they are expressed in a professional manner. Enjoy the process of working with other people and using the brain power of more than yourself, even if it might feel overwhelming or not ‘your thing’ initially. If you look hard enough, you’ll find a way to find your thing within it. Regardless of how the final outcome turns out, you will learn. Enjoy the possibility of making something bigger than you could alone.

You can follow Pippa’s work on her Instagram @pippakane