How did you get started doing what you do?
I started drawing when I was a little kid and I’ve never stopped. I honestly can’t remember drawing ever not being a big part of my life. It’s just always been my favourite thing. In terms of illustration as a career, that was an idea I had after I graduated from art school. (I went to the National Art School in Sydney, Australia – it’s an amazing art school, there aren’t many left like it, it’s very traditional and all students have to undergo rigorous drawing training for the duration of the degree program). I went to art school to study fine art painting, but after I graduated, about 9 years ago, I had an epiphany that I did not want to be an artist, I wanted to become an illustrator. So I’ve just been pecking away at that goal ever since.
What does your typical day look like?
Wake up, have coffee, go on social media and check emails for probably way too long, go for a run or go to the gym, do various chores and annoying tasks that I need to do (life admin type stuff) then usually get to my studio early afternoon and stay there all day until my eyes/hands get tired. Then go home and try and have a normal dinner (not too late, but sometimes I have meals at weird times like dinner at midnight), then I try and read before I go to sleep. I try and stick to that routine Monday to Friday more or less, although sometimes things will get in the way and my routine will become a bit lopsided. Unless I have a Monday deadline, I try and keep the weekends free for fun stuff, I like to go out for meals, day trips, parties, club nights etc. –there’s always so many people to see and fun to be had where I live in Bristol! And because I spend so much time on my own when I’m working in my studio, I find it’s really important for me to get out and about and see people and have fun. And most importantly to get away from my desk and computer and give my hands and eyes and brain a rest so I come back fresh on Monday morning.
How long does it typically take for you to finish a piece?
I dread to think. I never really count the hours. It varies a lot though. Honestly, if it’s a really short deadline, I can get an image finished super quick, like, within a day. But if the deadline is longer, then I’ll allow the process to become slower and maybe slightly over-complicate things in terms of the way I’m approaching it, so it takes a lot longer. That’s why I actually sometimes really love the challenge of a short deadline – there’s always a way of making the image you want quickly, if you tackle it in the right way.
How do you keep motivated?
I don’t know, motivation isn’t really an issue for me. I love what I do so it’s not really a problem trying to get motivated. I have to say though – I do really appreciate and love getting positive feedback from others. Whether it’s a happy email from a client, or Instagram/Facebook likes & comments on work I’ve posted – positive feedback brings me great joy and really pushes me to do well and keep making work. It means the world to me.
How would you say your surroundings have influenced your work?
I feel very lucky to have found a space for myself in the community here in Bristol. I think that if I’d ended up settling somewhere more fast paced and expensive, like London for example, it would have been harder for me to find the time and space (especially early on) to focus on my illustration career. I remember before I went completely freelance how difficult it was trying to juggle the responsibilities of having a deadline looming, and also holding down a day job. Sometimes it was actually too stressful to deal with and it definitely affected my work in both jobs. I’m so lucky to be in the studio I have here at Jamaica Street Artists. I think it’s so important to be in a thriving and energetic artistic community – even if most of the time I’m technically on my own in my studio within the building – you interact with other people on your breaks, and you can kind of just sense the energy of all the other people around you in the building, working away on whatever it is they’re doing. I do occasionally work from home – and I can feel myself going quietly insane after only a couple of days of being isolated. It’s definitely good for my mental health to get out of the house and go to this space that I share with like minded others.
What do you hope to accomplish with your work?
I would like to keep learning new techniques, using new materials, and becoming more ambitious in the way I work. I have certain heroes, like James Jean for example, or Daniel Clowes. I think it’s good to aspire to be as brilliant as your heroes, even if you never get to their level, it keeps you humble, and striving to do better.
What, if anything, would you tell your younger self?
Haha, I don’t know. Don’t start smoking. Keep running. Stop eating gluten. Drink more water.
What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
Do what is right.
Any words of wisdom to aspiring artists who want to pursue a similar career?
Use the internet to promote yourself. There’s no excuse these days not to have a great website showcasing what you can do, even if you’re just starting out. Start posting your stuff online, and share it on social media, and do it consistently, you’ll build an audience and start getting feedback, I think that’s what helped me establish myself very early on.
What are your thoughts on art school?
I think art school is wonderful (but not necessarily essential). I went when I was super super young – I was only 17 when I started, and to be honest I was pretty undisciplined during the time I was there, I was more interested in boys and drinking and just being a precocious little know it all. I wasn’t really ready for it, I wasn’t a particularly good student, I would wing it most of the time and see what I could get away with. I think if I could go back and do the course again now, I would learn and achieve so much more, and appreciate all the opportunities and amazing facilities and tutors etc. However – I feel super lucky to have spent those 4 years there, it really engrained in me the idea that I’m an artist, and that this is what I should be doing, that it’s a legitimate thing to pursue. And also, if I hadn’t spent those 4 years there, I might have got sucked into some job or other field that would have distracted me from pursuing this path.
Have any future aspirations that you’d like to share?
I’d really like to do very large works on paper. Long term projects involving a very large piece of paper that I work on slowly, lots of detail. It’s just a vague idea at the moment but it’s something I’ve been thinking I’d like to do for a while. And then maybe have an exhibition, somewhere. I would also love to do more murals – I love painting murals so much, it’s so liberating when you’re used to working at a desk, or at a computer. There’s nothing better than throwing paint around in my opinion, I love it, it’s so physical and immediate.
What’s your dream project?
I would love to do a New Yorker cover. I’d also love to make album artwork for Joanna Newsom. I love her.
What art supplies do you use?
I use really cheap paper: white printer paper. I think it’s good to use crappy paper especially early in the process because you don’t worry so much and get precious. (I do also sometimes like to use posh paper, like watercolour papers etc, but only rarely.) I use architecture pencils – the click-y pencils, with some kind of B lead usually. My favourite pen in the world is a Pentel Chinese ink brush pen. My ex-boyfriend is a an architect and he lent me his once and I’ve never looked back. It has changed my life, I’m not exaggerating. Everyone must have this pen.
What’s your process like?
Procrastinate for quite a while, then write down in a sketchbook all the info the client has provided, write it all out, I feel like that helps me think, then I’ll just doodle, and do super, super crappy rough little sketches and doodle words for a while. Make tea, procrastinate a bit more, then do some picture research online, and make a mood board (on Pinterest usually – it is so useful for making mood boards) and collect some potential reference images. Then I’ll probably check in with the client with the mood boards, sketches etc, and depending on their feedback, move on to proper sketches, which would either be a rough drawing or a collage, check in with the client again, and then if everything is on track, get started producing the final image. The last step is the easiest! Coming up with ideas and sketches is the really tricky bit, once you get past that, the rest is pretty easy really, you’ve just got to make the thing.
How could the art industry become better in your opinion?
Really boring answer, but honestly, it would be great if it didn’t take so long to get paid. Once I had to wait 8 months for an invoice to get paid. It’s super hard trying to survive as a freelancer – it would really help if people paid more promptly.