Who is Sue and what is Suelandia?

Friday, June 8, 2012

How I got the biggest job of my career (so far).

Hey people.  There's been a lot going on art-wise lately.  Some of you have heard about some big commission I was competing for, but no one really knew the details because I didn't want any of that info out there until I had presented my proposal to the selection committee.  But here's how it all went down and what is going to happen:

 First of all-- I got it.  The committee picked me unanimously over two other highly qualified, much bigger outfits than me, with tons more resources at their disposal than I have.  They said they just liked my artwork and design concepts better, and I was the best prepared of the 3 candidates.  Not to take anything away from them, but I think at the end of the day, I just wanted it more.

The job was to design an "entry feature" for a special outdoor classroom at a school in my hometown.  This outdoor classroom is part of a larger national program to educate preschoolers about nature and the environment.  The school itself is on the national register of historic places.  They'd like to begin incorporating artwork into their site, and make it an artistic destination eventually.

Other things the committee was looking for in terms of this project was to welcome the public to the site, draw attention to the site and the program, emphasize nature, reflect the historic significance of the site, and be attractive/appealing to children.

The entrance of the outdoor classroom is set back off the road, in a shady area among tall pines.  Not very conducive to "attention getting/ welcoming".  I decided my entry feature would begin well before the actual entrance; at the door of the school itself practically.  One way to attract attention is to create a directional flow to the area in question.  My idea: a herd of deer running along the side of the school towards the nature classroom, jumping the fence, and one deer inside the classroom itself.
I am still just learning to illustrate on the computer, so it took me a while to draw the deer and get the images onto a photo of the school, but I figured it out.  It's not perfect, but gives a pretty good visual idea.  I've learned people are usually not as good at visualizing things as me.  They could look at this picture, and still not really understand how 3D sculptures would look in real life, compared to a picture.  Also, I wanted to demonstrate that if they hired me, since I am a one woman show with no staff to pay, that more of their $ would go directly into the art.  So I went ahead and framed in one of the deer.

I brought the sculpture with me into the room where the final selection interview took place.  They were all impressed as it is quite large and very accurate and detailed.  A funny moment was when I said, "Wouldn't it be cool to see how this would look right in front of your school right now?"  A bunch of nodding heads agreed, that would be pretty cool.  I pushed a button on my computer and the above image appeared on a giant screen behind me.  "BAM!" I said.  Everyone laughed.  You can see the actual sculpture looks almost exactly like the first deer in my drawing/photo image, so I was able to establish in their minds how the whole concept would play out.  (They also thought it was funny when I opened with telling them we had plenty of time for my interview because I had contacted my competitors and told them the day's activities had been cancelled.  Hey-- just putting it out there-- I want this job!) 

Remember me talking about how difficult it was to get my animal drawings into the illustrator program, and then figure out how to convert it to a cad format Solidworks could read?  After hours and hours of trying a million ways of doing this, I finally figured it out and was able to get my samples laser cut, and then powder coated.  This is what the skin of each deer will be made of, so their bodies will look more solid than the framework deer I showed them.  Having this patch of sample "skin" to pass around and allow them to feel was helpful  I could demonstrate my designs had no sharp corners or edges.

Then I could offer them an option.  To me the white deer pop against the dark brick and the shade of the site, but bright colors could work too.  It was important to me, that even though this is being designed for an area that is for children, that the artwork not be dumbed-down, or look too commercial or institutional.  I wanted the forms to be sophisticated.  Color won't change that.

Next up: designing the entrance itself.  I based the doorway design on a stylized one room schoolhouse, with 3 branches to represent that this school is about nature.  Also, we are a river town, so a family of blue herons (a locally found bird) would be roosting on it.  I again had to use my developing illustration skills to get this across.  Not whiz-bang, but not bad.

I had past work to fall back on here.  I could show them past herons I have made to demonstrate the level of detail that would be involved in the final product.

The final part of the interview concerned an idea for an "entry plaza" they'd like to make at some point in the future outside of the entry.  We were told this was not going to be included in our bid, and we would not be expected to install, provide materials, or even design this, but they wanted to know what our ideas would be.  They wanted a conceptual design for it.  I did not put very much emphasis on this, because I knew they'd have to fund this project separately anyway.  I simply showed them this picture of some mosaic work I found online, and said I thought a ribbon of blue mosaic running through the concrete patio up  to the entrance that looked like a river would be cool, and left it at that.

When they asked for more details about this, I simply said I hadn't researched this part very intensively, because my job at hand was to concentrate on the artwork they wanted to install right now.  I am not a concrete expert.  That is surely something I could learn more about, and even design more comprehensively, but at this point I was not prepared to offer more.

Both other candidates designed very elaborate patio areas that looked impressive, but when you drilled down, they weren't included in their bids, and apparently the committee concluded what they were offering in terms of artwork fell short of what I was offering and had even gone ahead and created.  Also I used far more of the funding budgeted to all of us for our design work for materials, and even produced usable work.  There wasn't one question that was asked that I was unprepared to answer.  I'd been eating breathing and sleeping this project for weeks, and it showed.

I am so thrilled to get this job.  It will be amazing to get to walk down the street from my house and see and major public installation of my own artwork!


Maery Rose said...

Wow! You did an amazing job preparing for your presentation. You continue to inspire me with your awesomeness.

Lynn Fisher said...

Bam...you're just awesome. What more can I say...except, congrats!!! : )

Jobs in Qatar | Qatar Jobs said...

I believe that hard-work and struggling can give you success in life you have done great job, I appreciate your presentation.

Anyes said...

Hello Sue

I came over from Maery's and wanted to congratulate you on this commission you got. It is quite eye opening to read how much work went into your presentation. All worth it...

Congratulation :-)