My chosen individual is Shannon Wardrop, a female singer/songwriter, guitarist and old school friend. We both grew up together in a suburb of London. Growing up in a performing arts surrounding we were both heavily influenced by music, the inspiration for her music can be drawn from the likes of the Rolling Stones, Small Faces, Jefferson Airplane and the Kinks.
As an up and coming musician, Shannon predominantly aims her music at 18-24 year olds. Her genre is unique, a subtle undertone of the Kinks complimented with her wonderful vocals to provide a whirlwind tour into the world of Wardrop. I was privileged enough to interview her in order to get a grasp on her aspirations and attitudes regarding her development as a musician.
“It’s all about building a bigger fanbase” she says. Shannon has released her first EP and is nearly there with the 2nd. But how could she expand this?
“I hope to provide inspiration for young females with a passion for music, no matter what their background is, to pick up a guitar! I want to encourage them to consider their heritage as well as their future, not just the here and the now”
Below are a few excerpts from the Press regarding Shannon’s music.
“I Wanna Be Your Lady has an ambling, vaguely psychedelic feel that seems suddenly like the very thing we need to be listening to, collectively, right now.” - FINGERTIPS MUSIC
“…a stunning, mid-tempo rocker that has the passionate edginess one would fine in a Liz Phair track.” - THE REVUE
“I Wanna Be Your Lady is a foot stomping, eastern infused delight” - THE DEVIL HAS THE BEST TUNA
“…Wardrop has clearly grown up in a house with an outstanding record collection and we are all now reaping the rewards” - LISTEN WITH MONGER
“The riff is simple yet effective because it keeps you hanging, and partnered with Shannon’s vocals its hard to find a fault within the song.” -WORDS FOR MUSIC
She is a female rock guitarist, and at the same time, singer/songwriter. As an emerging artist, there should be significant amounts of focus on branding and visual identity. Interestingly, having a brand also has a spiritual component. Once you see yourself as unique in this world, you no longer have the pressure of weighing yourself against the competition because there simply is no one else who has exactly the same offering you do. This is particularly important in the creative world. Instead of seeing yourself as one of many talented artists, you become aware of the abundance of the universe and perceive the world as a generous place with enough success for all individuals with their own special gifts. This helps reinforce your belief in yourself, which in turn helps you attract the right public and flourish in your chosen career.
In a typically male-dominated field, female guitarists are constantly having to fight for freedom and power in such a competitive industry. Judging from the virtual invisibility of female guitarists in mainstream popular culture nowadays, it still remains difficult for women to make a name for themselves, past their looks and focusing on varied talents.
In a recent exhibition on the history of the electric guitar, sponsered by Smithsonian, claimed that “thanks to pioneers like Bonnie Raitt, women have earned an equal place in what had traditionally been male-dominated industry“. Although if we take a close look at the Rolling Stone’s list of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time” only two women appeared on the list – Joni Mitchell, an acoustic guitarist achieved 72nd place, and Joan Jett, an electric guitarist, achieved 87th place.
“Although Rolling Stone publicised the list in 2003, by its March 2006 issue, Guitar Player still pictured virtually no women within its pages. Not including the classified ads at the back of the magazine, the advertisements in the issue featured 3 drawings and 115 photographs of men and 1 drawing and 5 photographs of women. Only one of the advertisements showed a women holding an instrument, but the ad was selling guitar straps and the women was holding an acoustic guitar. Additionally, only two articles focused on female musicians while approximately ten articles concerned male musicians…. the fact that the publication has historically contained only one article per issue on a female musician points to a continued and disheartening lack of female role models within the pages of guitar magazines.”
I would describe Shannon Wardrop, first and foremost, as FOXY. Taking into consideration her influences as well, I believe she is fierce, friendly, cute and cunning. For centuries, cultures around the world have hinged their myths on quick-witted, cunning foxes, and much early American culture sprang from people who then hunted foxes just for kicks. But once we started using the word foxy, we didn’t look back. It became widespread in the 1940s—curiously enough, at a time when women were wearing foxes around their shoulders—but is most associated with the 1970s. Yet it lingered beyond that: A study of top slang terms at the University of North Carolina from 1972 to 1993 reveals foxy as one of the top 40 slang words used. Its enduring appeal may be a testament to Pam Grier’s blaxploitation template Foxy Brown (1974)—or, more likely, to that perennial college-dorm favourite, Jimi Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady.”
I believe, by creating a child-friendly brand for Shannon Wardrop, we could encourage young female guitarists to start practising and broaden their spectrum of talents. By doing this, not only does Shannon’s fan base increase to a younger audience, aged approximately 15+, she has the ability to become idolised by these girls. Acting as an unique female role-model providing one giant push away from the mainstream idols such as Nikki Minaj and Iggy Azaelia.
Music merchandise can be endless in this day and age. With anything from One Direction life size cut-outs to tacky watch faces and cheap child friendly products. The idea is to focus our efforts on instruments and musical talent. One quick walk round a music shop and ideas come flooding in. Anything from guitar straps, plectrums, music sheets, stickers, posters, vinyls, local band fanzines, exclusive interviews and photoshoots – their are more than enough options. But the question is, do they speak to young female audiences?
Below are three key images that I’ve been particularly inspired by. Shannon has a very unique style, she has worked at a leading high-street fashion store Topshop for a few years now, which contributes to a few pennies in her pocket when she is not focusing on music. With a few staple items; the neat white collar, the split fringe, the fluffy cardigans, frilly blouses and wicked glasses, not much else seems necessary for the mascot? Oh wait, a guitar of course.
The words sassy, foxy, fierce, talented, personable, down to earth come to mind. In order to build on this image, I researched into likeable cartoon characters from the 60s and 70s. I want to build a character that represents Shannon’s style, music and background and apply this to a brand. This image will be used, in conjunction to Shannon’s music, to inspire and challenge young females to pick up an instrument and be one of the best.
One of Shannon’s favourites, Scooby Doo, as well as Pink Panther and Top Cat, were the highest in popularity during this time. I needed something similar. Growing up on the outskirts of London, there was a variety of wildlife around us, urban foxes were typically the most common. Seeing as Shannon comes across as “foxy”, typical 70s phrase, and living in suburban London. A fox seemed most appropriate. I needed to take the simple characters designs of the 60s and 70s and apply it to a modern, likeable brand for young females.
I started sketching.
I realised that my sketching style was completely different to that of the 60s/70s cartoons. Using the best features on the characters I had sketched, I re-drew them in different positions. Below are a selection of the best ones! I realised through my research that there aren’t a great deal of female cartoon characters from these particular era’s, so to improve the female features, drew more inspiration from a few comics instead. In particular, Millie the Model.
And then, I had another go…
After scanning in the images, adjusting them on Photoshop CC, and editing them on Illustrator CC I experimented with colours. I used a 60s based colour palette, I wanted to incorporate the deep purple that Shannon uses for her logo, subtly, for the items of clothing the fox has. I wanted the purple to become statement for Shannon and her brand. However, it still needed to be recognisable as a fox, of course.
I decided with the bottom left as the most appropriate. Capturing both her blonde hair, split fringe, and using the purple subtly for the flower or any other garment the character has on. Clearly, in the design world, the only way to distinguish a fox from a cat/wolf is the deep orange typical to these creatures.
Using this mascot I can broaden Shannon’s target audience, and apply it to different outcomes as a way of reaching out to the public and communicating her message.