Tue 31 May 2016

Simon finds his flair

Simon Cudmore says he should have listened to his mum and dad when they told him to follow his passion for arts and design.

Being a typical rebellious 17-year-old, he opted for a motorcycle mechanic’s course, and over the next 10 or so years worked as a builder’s labourer, joined the Fire Service and had spells with Fonterra and then Warner Construction as a trades’ assistant.

But as a 30-something stay at home dad with no qualifications and watching his architect wife head off to work, Simon made a life-changing decision.

He finally took that parental advice and enrolled at WITT in a level three Creative Graphics certificate.  Three years on he is seven months away from graduating from WITT with a Level 6 qualification, and he is already using his skills for clients both in New Plymouth and overseas.

Simon thinks it is vitally important young people are made aware of the career opportunities which arise by staying in Taranaki and studying at WITT.

WITT’s Art department offerings are all being migrated to sit under new national qualification standards. The next programme to go is a 17-week Level 3 New Zealand Certificate in Digital Media and Design (replacing Creative Graphics) which begins in July and leads into a new Level 4 Art and Design programme in 2017. Tutor Vicki Catlow said the Level 3 course is aimed at teenagers and Youth Guarantee students, but also attracts interest from people in the 40-plus sector who want to upskill. The fact it carries a national qualification makes it a more attractive option.

Simon recalled finding it a bit nerve-wracking to be in a class filled with students in their late teens and early 20s when he first arrived at WITT.

“They grew up with digital media – I sketched and drew.”

But he had no cause for worry. Working on the course “just kicked in my artistic flair and made me realise I should have done it a lot earlier’.

“The Level 3 course opened my eyes. I had very much left my school attitude days behind – I really wanted to be there.”

Simon completed the Level 3 course and then progressed to Level 4 where he developed and honed a wide range of skills through different tutors, learning about social media, fine arts, collaboration and critical work. It was also there that he was able to make decisions on what specific areas he wanted, in order to improve his skills/

He found the tutors were able to teach beyond the course material.  The advice from tutor Peter Avison about not concentrating too much on the end result at the beginning of a project, and thus enable it to evolve in its own way, particularly resonated.

"The tutors spent a lot of time working one on one with us and encouraging us to take three steps back and look at what we were doing."

His new skills have given Simon a different outlook on art, right down to having a critical eye for any magazine or newspaper he looks at. He has mastered the digital side of the work and found he bonded with classmates despite the generation gap.

And he is in the job market with a completely different CV as a result of his time at WITT.

Simon came to New Zealand in 2000 from Devon, England, when his father was accepted for a teaching position at Stratford High.

Some of his overseas links have come into play in his work. Projects he has completed include canvas works of an American fire-fighter who lost his life on the job and a British soldier – a nod to the fact that Simon lost two close friends who served in Afghanistan.

His love for motorcycles shows through in works he has done of Valentino Rossi and the late Barry Sheen and he has also produced new logos for companies.

He also sold work he exhibited with WITT in last December's Tilt Diploma Exhibition and now has six commissions on the go.

July's Level 3 WITT course will cover using Photoshop, digital illustration, graphic design, moving images and web design.