Huynh’s itinerary included a series of internships and meetings with his heroes in the field; exhibitions, forums, presentations and launches; and a creative writing retreat with The Arvon Foundation. Huynh now intends to share his new found knowledge, skills and contacts among Sydney’s burgeoning comic scene.
‘Receiving the scholarship meant I could undertake opportunities otherwise quite closed off for me as an Australian comic creator. With such a small scene in Australia, it was invaluable to have access to other creators and see how they work,’ said Matthew. ‘And having creators I greatly admire and am inspired by give their perspective on my work is invaluable. Their feedback and suggestions about my portfolio have allowed me to recognise what I need to develop and consider in relation to my goals in the future. The trip also allowed me the opportunity to submit work to an international publisher. The support of Arts NSW, the Powerhouse Museum and the British Council gave me access and a strong introduction point to practitioners, academics and publishers.’
Huynh started his journey by visiting the home of manga in Tokyo. Over three months he travelled on to London and New York, visiting universities, artist studios, galleries and writing workshops. He used the $18,000 grant to meet his heroes in the graphic design world and develop a deeper understanding of the art of comic books from a global perspective.
Tokyo 14/11/08 – 16/11/08
Tokyo was the obvious place to start as a Sydney-based designer of graphic novels wanting to immerse himself in the city of manga. The graphic or pictorial nature of the Japanese written language amplified the heavy use of illustration in Tokyo’s advertising.
‘There was a noticeable adoption of cartoon illustration and manga devices across media, such as manga instructions for using phone cards, shampoo posters with manga illustrations and photographic advertising campaigns featuring inflatable thought balloons on models. The prevalence of comics devices across media gave the impression of a culture and audience that is both comic-literate and embrases the medium.’
‘If one characterising attraction of the manga digest format for commuting audiences is it’s convenient portability and disposability, the noticeable reliance upon digital devices like mobile phones and PDAs made me consider whether this was how manga will be distributed and consumed in the future.’
London 17.11.08 – 30.11.08
Huynh focused on the various ways a comic creator can convey ideas and run their business while in London. He felt liberated after meeting the Royal College of Art’s senior illustration tutor Professor Andrzej Klimowski. The professor opened up limitless possibilities in using different mediums to create comics – from lithography, ink and wax pencils to photo montages, pastels and woodblock prints .’Klimowski’s background in other creative fields has fostered a unique approach to comics, including a courageous diversion between genres and processes with every graphic novel.’
Huynh enjoyed the idea of not being confined to graphic novels to tell a comic story ‘ creative outlets can also be found in film, children’s books and design. Later that week rAndom international piqued his interest in comics in public art, installation and new media. Huynh also discussed the heavy reliance on digital devices in Tokyo with Paul Gravett and the possibilities that offered for comics. Different applications for comics are all very well but they need a strong storyline. Huynh spent five days at the Arvon Residential Writer’s Course with tutors Bryan Talbot, Simone Lia and Peter Blegvad.
New York 01.12.08 – 31.01.09
While London and Tokyo had informed Huynh conceptually on cross-disciplinary approaches to comics, New York was the place where he could put all he had learned into practice. Visiting studios gave him not only skills in graphic design but also the business side of publishing, marketing and distribution. Huynh worked as an intern for award-winning illustrator Jillian Tamaki, who wrote the graphic novel Skim. Huynh says, ‘The value of uninhibited sketchbook research and experimentation was something I’ve taken away and adopted since the conclusion of the trip and was something reinforced since meeting Andrzej Klimowski as something he practiced and encouraged in his students, through to that encouraged by Tamaki and that adopted by the practicing professionals I visited.’
The highlight of the trip could have been meeting Akino Kondoh in her studio. He tried to visit her gallery Mizuma in Tokyo but it was closed. The opportunity to meet her in person more than made up for any lost time in Japan. He realised Kondoh’s combination of design training and fine arts background has allowed her to approach her work in manga with fresh eyes. Huynh admires Kondoh’s use of drawing and painting, manga, animation and sculpture.
Huynh used the Design NSW: Travelling Scholarship to expose himself to the many different approaches to the comic genre. His travel journal is a contemporary resource which will inspire not only graphic novel specialists but also those generally interested in art and culture.
Design NSW: Travelling Scholarship 2009
The $18,000 scholarship is open to designers working in the broad areas of product and communication design (including for the home, industry and the body). The Scholarship is not intended for established designers or designers working in the built environment (including architecture and landscape architecture). It is intended to assist a designer at the beginning of their career to undertake a program of professional development overseas. The recipient of the award is announced during Sydney Design festival at the Powerhouse Museum and featured in the festival program and on D’Hub.org.
Applicants should be within the first five years of their professional practice as a designer. (Professional practice, for the purpose of this Scholarship is generally understood to be the completion of a design-related undergraduate degree.)
Arts NSW assists the recipient to develop a program of professional development in the UK and other countries if desired. This program may include but is not limited to:
‘ study or training, including short-term courses or workshops;
‘ professional research;
‘ residencies; and / or
‘ mentorships or internships with approved designers, manufacturers, companies and/or organisations.
The British Council will assist the recipient with their program of professional development in the UK by facilitating introductions to up to eight leading practitioners relevant to the winner’s field and providing support and advice from British Council staff.
The Design NSW: Travelling Scholarship, presented by the Powerhouse Museum and Arts NSW in partnership with the British Council, assists an emerging designer at the beginning of their career undertake a program of professional development overseas to the value of $18,000. The scholarship is an initiative of Arts NSW and is funded through the Visual Arts and Crafts Strategy, a partnership between the Australian and New South Wales Governments aimed at building and supporting a strong, sustainable and dynamic contemporary visual art, craft and design sector.