Education never has to end
How do you choose between work and the hobbies you love? Fiona Swapp manages to squeeze everything into her busy life as a graphic designer, but she took a detour to get to this point.
“I would say I wanted to be a gymnast when I was young, then a photographer or artist,” said Fiona.
At school her career advisor found her the position of a photography assistant, as on-the-job training was seen as the best career route at that time. She worked with photographic enhancing and darkrooms before advancing onto a photographic quality controller then manager of a camera shop with companies based in Aberdeen. Fiona was in the photography industry for six years before being made redundant at the age of 23.
She said: “It gave me the opportunity to study graphic art and design at Aberdeen college for three years.
“At home I taught myself how to work from computers and then my tutors had a contact so I came straight out of college into a job.”
Fiona is a woman of many skills, including underwater hockey. It was there she met one of the former directors of AGR and was given the opportunity to join the company in Aberdeen.
Fiona said: “Generally I work alongside a graphic designer day to day, on everything from logo images to internal and external material and exhibition displays.”
This January will mark 21 years at AGR for Fiona. The company deliver solutions for the entire field life cycle. They work in well construction, engineering project management, HSEQ, reservoir and field management. As part of her job, Fiona has been working on creating imagery and materials relating to 30 years of AGT, from 1987 to 2017. The graphic designer also updates and creates new brochures and material for the training side of the business and a series of cheat sheets, including technical images to follow on from the vlog. And there is the internal calendar and Christmas card to get done for the festive season.
Not only is Fiona a fan of underwater sport, but she has also studied as a botanical artist for the last 10 years. She is part of Aberdeen’s Northern Arts Club and was one of the artists involved with the Cat Parade last September. The project saw groups across the north-east involved in painting the colourful cats which were then auctioned off in aid of several charities. Fiona, her colleagues and friends worked on eight of the 100 feline figurines.
Since then, she has been commissioned to create more cats for the Denis Law Legacy Trust for their future fundraising. She has asked Emma Grant, a fellow artist, and her colleague, Alison Fyfe, to help design the seven cats.
Through her art, Fiona has done some botanical teaching. She now devotes one whole day of her working week to focus on being creative. She has been teaching at Aberdeen University this year, instructing 240 first year biology students how to draw invertebrates in a three hour session.
“I did want to become a teacher as well, so I suppose I have been able to fulfil all of my aspirations,” she said.
Fiona is running three art classes beginning in the new year, including watercolour tuition and botanical drawing and painting. She might need to draw herself an extra pair of hands to help as she also has her solo exhibition at Rosemount Osteopath clinic from January. Going back to study at various points in her life has helped Fiona achieve her ambitions.
She said: “My advice would be to try and get some experience with a company while at school. Head to college and do a qualification, it is a good route to go with, with lots of opportunities. I was fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time.”
Fiona Swapp was one of the artists involved with the Cat Parade charity project
Fiona has studied as a botanical artist for the last 10 years