“Working solo toughens you up” – Rose Pilkington on going it alone as a motion designer and visual artist
Rose Pilkington may have only graduated little over three years ago, but her client list already includes Apple, MTV, Hunter Boots H&M and Stella McCartney. Having spent her early twenties enveloped in a feeling of uncertainty when it came to a career path, she admits that she was “more focused on breaking free from my sheltered countryside life and moving to London.” After finding her feet and kindred spirits in the capital, she landed on a route that felt right, and started a degree in graphic design at Central Saint Martins in 2011. A few years older than many of her fellow students, her energy and determination propelled her forward at impressive speed. Before the end of her third year, Rose had completed a music video for Jamie xx, and went on to landed her first job at Just So, before joining the team at Studio Moross. Now operating on her own terms as a motion designer and visual artist, she tells us about the freedom of freelancing, how she splits her time between commercial and passion projects, and the inspiration behind her “textural and colourful” visual world.
Visual Artist and Motion Designer
Graphic Designer, Just So, 2014–2015
Motion Designer, Studio Moross, 2015–2016
BA Graphic Design, Central Saint Martins (2011–2014)
Apple, XL Recordings, MTV, Hunter Boots, Stella McCartney, H&M
How would you describe what you do?
The work I do on a day-to-day basis is split in two – between artist and hired hand, which gives me a chance to experience the best of both worlds. For the commercial client-led work, I usually keep all of this in a separate portfolio. For these projects I work in all areas of video, both pre and post-production, which will usually be a mixture of 2D animation, graphic design, editing and colour grading. The second half is the work where the creative freedom comes in – the work I give my identity.
What does a typical working day look like?
Unfortunately 90% of my day is spent at the computer. When I’m not at my desk I’m walking my partner in crime and freelance buddy, Seal (my whippet). For a lot of my commercial work, I will go into studios or companies to work in-house. But the majority of the time I work from my desk space at home, which I prefer. The luxury of freelancing is that I have the chance to learn new techniques and make imagery on the days where I’m not booked. This is such an important creative outlet, one that is extremely important to my working process.
How does your freelance work usually come about?
Despite my love-hate relationship with social media, I have it to thank for a lot of work that has come my way. Along with a mixture of word-of-mouth recommendations, and I still like to reach out to people I’d love to work with.
How collaborative is your role?
I spend a lot of time working alone, which was a real change from working so collaboratively in my previous role at Studio Moross, in a team of motion designers and designers. But I like to think there is always a collaborative element to the work, between me and the client. Day-to-day it’s very solitary though!
“The best thing [about being freelance] is having time for life and to explore personal creative ventures, both of which I struggled with whilst having a full-time job.”
What are the most and least enjoyable aspects of your job?
The best thing for me is having time. Time for life, and time to explore personal creative ventures, both of which I struggled with whilst having a full-time job. And chasing invoices are without a doubt the least favourite part of my job!
What has been the most exciting project of the last twelve months?
I’ve worked for a few magazines this year, which I’ve absolutely loved. When I get the opportunity to see my work in printed form it gives me great satisfaction because it becomes tangible, away from the screen. For Ladybeard Magazine in particular – I was given six very abstract words relating to emotion and the issue’s theme: The Mind. I took reference from brain synapses and tried to keep the imagery feeling very organic.
What skills are essential to your work?
Working in video requires a lot of patience. It can be frustrating how long things take, especially because clients need things very quickly a lot of the time. I find that being able to adapt to different studios and other ways of working is a really important skill too. When it comes to the work itself, everyone has their own vision and the way they see the world, so with every project I like to bring my own approach, experience and enthusiasm to the table.
Are you currently working on any self-initiated projects?
I’ve been working on a self-initiated series inspired by deep-sea creatures. I first started this project when I became slightly obsessed by nudibranchs which are a type of sea slug. I was completely astonished by their unimaginable colour combinations and differing forms, and started to attempt to recreate my own 3D versions, which led me to making my current series. I have created a source of imagery that I constantly collect for, and draw colour and texture inspiration from. Nearly all of it comes from nature.
What tools do you use most for your work?
After Effects, Cinema 4D, my Logitech mouse and my notebook.
How I Got Here
What did you want to be growing up?
I can honestly say this feeling of knowing came very late to me. I was more focused on breaking free from my sheltered countryside life and moving to London. I came out to my parents when I was 17 and all I wanted to do was meet people who felt the same as me. Moving to London quite young, I met a lot of young creative people who I still know now, and it was very inspiring. It wasn’t until my early to mid 20s I knew which direction to take. These days young creatives seem to be starting careers much younger, and knowing what they want a lot sooner than I did, which is kind of amazing. But understandably it must bring a new kind of pressure, one that I definitely felt, being a bit older than my peers at university.
How (if at all) is the subject you studied useful to your current role?
The work and research I carried out for my dissertation at CSM has completely informed my work to date. I wrote it on colour, and this subject has continued to inspire and inform my work. The time that university gives you to explore yourself and hone in on subjects and disciplines you love is such an important time, and was for me. It was a very focused and inspired time, especially having felt very lost before. If I hadn’t experienced it, I’m not sure I’d be in this position now.
What were your first jobs?
There was a three-month gap in between leaving uni and starting my first job, and I definitely remember feeling the panic creeping in, especially being a total newbie to the industry. I became a graphic design intern at Just So, who then hired me full-time. I learnt a lot there, mainly about the dynamics of a commercial work environment. Learning to think on your feet, working amongst a team and also (very importantly) quickly realising what I liked and didn’t like doing.
“Having experienced that slightly lost feeling, I couldn’t be more grateful for the fact that everything clicked into place.”
Was there a particular project you worked on that helped your development?
When I was just about to graduate, I contacted a friend of mine, producer Jamie xx, who at the time had just started releasing his solo music. The timing was right and he had been looking for an artist to create a moving visual for his latest single. This was my first commission and first venture into the music industry. This project became a springboard for many more opportunities.
What skills have you learnt along the way?
Most importantly, I'm so grateful for that the skills I’ve learnt from working with some amazing people along the way. Things that have seriously benefitted my learning process, which I carry with me day-to-day; from small technical tips to learning to be more headstrong.
What’s been your biggest challenge?
I think overcoming general work-related anxiety. Working solo toughens you up, because you’re the only person looking out for yourself, and protecting you from making mistakes. Its something I’ve only learnt with time, and a lot of trial and error.
Is your job what you thought it would be?
For years, leading up to going back into education, I was in a very unsure place with very little direction. There’s nothing more satisfying than when you realise you’re on the right path, and that you’re capable of doing it. Having experienced that slightly lost feeling, I couldn’t be more grateful for the fact that everything clicked into place.
What would you like to do next?
I’m feeling very excited about what lies ahead. I recently realised that everything I set out to create has been limited to digital space. The textural and colourful world I try to create digitally is something I’d like to be physically experienced. Working digitally gives you an infinite realm of possibilities – especially when it comes to colour – but at the same time the work is limited to itself.
Words of Wisdom
What advice would you give to a young creative wanting to get into the same line of work?
For a young creative, I’d advise spending a period of time working within a studio. It was important for me to learn from others, both technically and collaboratively. Doing this is great preparation for eventually going it alone, and equips and prepares you for the dynamics and workflow of other design studios.
Interview by Indi Davies
Mention Rose Pilkington
Mention Studio Moross
Mention Just So
Mention Aries Moross
Mention Jamie xx