Hello everyone! As I've mentioned before, back in December I was interviewed about my work in advance of the Mill Road Winter Fair by the ladies of Rebel Arts Women's Radio in Cambridge.
The recording of the show I was featured on is now available to listen to online here, but I thought I would write up a little interview transcript here on my blog too, so if you are interested in learning a bit more about me and my work you can read it. :)
What inspired you to become an illustrator?
When I started my Foundation course, I actually thought I wanted to be a fine artist not an illustrator. It took that year of experimenting with my work on my foundation course for me to realise that wasn't really want I wanted to do.
I discovered the work of illustrators like Rob Ryan and Stanley Donwood and this whole new creative world opened up that I'd just not considered before. I wanted my work to be easy to read, accessible and fun, and I realised that in fine art I wasn't finding that; that it seemed more convoluted than necessary. I wanted to be able to connect with people and illustration is a great way to do that.
There are so many people out there creating this amazing work and seeing that out there; all the different things that people create in so many different ways, makes it seem to me that almost anything is possible in illustration. It also really inspires me to push my own work forward and to see what I'm really capable of.
Can you tell me more about the Bestiary Project?
The Bestiary project is kind of a labour of love of mine that I've been working on for over a year now. It started out as a proposal for a commission that I didn't get, but I loved the project idea so much that I decided to turn it into something that I would do for myself.
The core of it really was my starting to make illustrations inspired by illuminated manuscripts and medieval bestiaries. I've got a bit of an obsession with illuminated manuscripts and I'm also a big history lover, so this was a great way to incorporate my other interests into my artwork.
I created twelve illustrations inspired by creatures from medieval manuscripts, directly by their descriptions. I've recently turned those into cards and calendars for sale.
The second aspect of the project is that I've also created workshops based around mythical creatures, that encourage participants to create chimera-like creature using various different exercises. I want to run those with loads of different organisations and build up an online digital bestiary which shows off the creations of the people who take part in my workshops.
Have you already been running some workshops in schools?
I have yes. I ran a few workshops with St Matthew's Primary School locally, which was really good fun. I've also run workshops for the Museum of Cambridge and for Rock Road Library as well. When I was a student I volunteered with the Fitzwilliam Museum a lot and I got really interested in working with young people and on creative workshops and that's something that I really want to spend more time doing, as a secondary aspect to my freelancing.
So, when you were working with St Matthews, were you working with mostly younger children, or was it a mixture of young and old?
I was working with quite young children; I think they were years 3 and 4. We created some interesting beastly drawings together and you can see most of those on one of my blogs on Tumblr; www.bestiaryproject.tumblr.com.
What career path did you follow?
Well, as I said earlier, I didn't actually come into illustration until a little bit later in my education, so I actually started out at Sixth Form studying Medieval History, English Literature, Psychology and Art. After that I moved into an Art Foundation at Suffolk College and then I came and studied Illustration in Cambridge at Anglia Ruskin University.
After university, I'm quite willing to admit that I floundered a little bit because although at university I spent a lot of time building on my creative thinking skills and my artistic skills, I realised when I left university that I didn't actually know how to run a business and, as a freelancer, that's really what you're doing; you are a business, and you have to learn to promote yourself like a business person and to think about what you do as a valuable commodity and skill that people are willing to pay for. So I spent a little while trying to figure out that side of things. I moved back up to Cambridge and began networking, meeting new people, figuring out how to communicate with clients, and how to self-promote, which is a difficult skill to learn.
I'm getting to a point now where I'm really comfortable talking about my work and promoting myself to people. I'm expanding on my client network and I want to run lots more workshops. I sometimes feel like I've still got a long way to go, but I am confident in my work and in my skills.
How do you motivate yourself on a daily basis?
It can be difficult working alone at home, so I think it's really important to get out and see people on a regular basis and not become a complete hermit: tucked away in my little illustrator's lair! So my network meetings, with Cambridge Creative Network and Dr Doodley's Drink and Draw are really important, because they give me a chance to talk to other creative people about what I'm doing. We talk through each others ideas and they're all such amazingly supportive people. I've never met a creative freelancer that wasn't like that; that wasn't really open and friendly and supportive, and so that's really important to me. I can go out and, if I'm having a hard time, I'll talk to someone about what I'm doing and then I'll come home and I'll have rediscovered the creative spark I need to get going.
I also think music is really important to me. I have ADHD so I'm very distractible and music is a way of creating my own little bubble; if I'm having real trouble concentrating and getting distracted, I'll listen to something calming or classical, to make me sit down and focus, but if I'm having trouble with finding the get-up-and-go to get into my work I'll play something a bit more lively and exciting.
It's important to have a routine as well, if your working at home alone; that you get up regularly and do your work but that you also let yourself have free time. I'm not very good at that. I have to be reminded to take days of occasionally!
For any other freelancers listening to this, where can they find out about network meetings?
The ones I go to both have online info: you can find them both on Facebook. The Cambridge Creative Network has a website, which is www.cambridgecreativenetwork.co.uk. Dr Doodley's Drink and Draw is on Twitter and Facebook. Those are at Hot Numbers every two weeks; a bunch of people get together in the cafe and draw and chat and get to know one another. It's really good fun.
You've recently been doing some work with the Museum of Cambridge, I think they're selling some of your cards. Can you tell us a bit more about that?
They do. They sell some cards that I designed specifically for them.
I spend a lot of time drawing in museums for fun (a remnant of my love of history; I love drawing in museums) and the ladies who run the Cambridge Creative Network (that's Karen Jinks and Mandy Knapp) were doing some work with the Museum, sorting out the shop, and they showed some of the staff my drawings and they ended up commissioning me to do some artwork for them to sell in the shop as cards.
Since then I've also produced a family guide for them, that leads people around the museum, and I've also ended up getting involved in their workshop programme. Last year I did their Twilight at the Museums workshop for them, I ran another one in the summer, and I actually had a meeting just the other week to talk about planning a workshop for Twilight at the Museums next year (2015), which is in February.