UnknownThis week we were privileged to have a successful illustrator, graphic designer and photographer come into the Store to give a talk about his career and its progression and advice to us as designers. Sam Piyasena has illustrated for many companies all over the world such as creating for Cornetto, Nike and BLUEPRINT magazine. I found this talk particularly useful because of my illustrative ambitions and before joining this degree i  completed a level 4 higher education module in Illustration, it was an excellent opportunity to learn about making money from the career your most interested in pursuing.

Sam was inspired from a young age to just sit and draw for fun, he liked going to visit any place that he could sit down and draw at, particularly the natural history museum in London. He also visited libraries and borrowed encyclopedias to draw from and i think this is what gave him the ability to draw anything in his imagination because of his self education on anatomy of people and animals. For years he admired drawings and illustrations without knowing that’s what they were and it was actually someones real job to create the illustrations for books and animations. He has been inspired by a great number of people and things such as the Milly Molly Mandy books which i read myself as a child, he was also inspired by the Muppets and the work of Jim Henson. He grew up in West London and found himself comforted by illustrations of normal everyday life, especially those referencing the countryside like the map in the Milly Molly Mandy books.

As he grew older he was inspired by imagery from albums and records, such as the Jimmy Cliff album cover

he liked the colours and the use of humor in the illustrations and he also admired film posters, and is unamused by how generically they are created using computers today, which i think i actually agree with because the original star wars film posters were outstanding and created in traditional mediums. He studied at St Martins School of Art and had trouble choosing between typography, graphic design and illustration and to this day is disappointed by how these courses are pigeon holed into only being able to do one thing, his advice to us was to try everything and be diverse because it will help you in future employment. I agree with this and it is why i chose to do art as a whole rather than pigeon hole myself into a 3 year BA in Illustration which i would have  undoubtedly enjoyed but  not come out with such a wide range of skills. He was taught about Colour and the colour wheel by famous designer Celia Birtwell! i always admired her bold topshop range with its large floral prints and contrasting colours, so i am very jealous he got to learn from her of course!

The main point of this talk inspired me to think more about experimenting and not to stick myself to one skill, when like Sam i could try many, he photographed iconic music photos and became a highly regarded professional photographer, but he is also the famed illustrator Billie Jean, who has recently designed shoes for nike and a campaign for the Samaritans.  I truly admire how hard Sam has worked for his flourishing career and hope one day i can be half as successful as he is, and it is a relief to see that someone else who dabbles in many different genres can be very successful, because i often cannot make up my mind on what i want to achieve!

my favorite work of his is from the Parker Jotter show, where he submitted a piece of work on a school desk! it was nostalgic and beautifully created, and totally unplanned which i admire. I have now requested to connect to Sam on Linked-in! so i hopefully can politely badger him for advice occasionally and keep up with his recent work.


i asked him for some advice at the end of the talk on how to get your work noticed by the right people, he explained he was very fortunate at St Martins to just meet these people at shows but i could send my work to art directors at various companies and also have a good website for my work. He also suggested a website called itsnicethat.com which i will have a look at 🙂



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