Tell us about your creative path so far and any milestones that you have?
My creative path hasn’t been the smoothest! When I was doing my A-Levels, I was really torn between pursuing a History degree, or a creative degree. I ended up taking a seemingly ‘sensible’ route and started my History degree at the University of Bristol back in 2016. A few months in, I realised that I had made a massive mistake! Art was what I was passionate about and I found myself in a History of Art lecture, studying painters when really I wanted to be the one painting. When I was at home over Christmas just prior to dropping out, I know it sounds silly but hearing the news of George Michael passing away really hit home for me. I thought to myself, George passed doing what he loved and his creativity inspired millions! So why am I not doing that? Life is way too short to be studying something ‘sensible’ when I am not super passionate about it. So a few weeks later, I left. I miss Bristol a lot and the people that I made friends with there, it’s a wonderful city and very creative actually! But it was the best decision I have ever made. Now, a few years later, I am just finishing off my Illustration degree. What a transition.
What are other creative art forms that you enjoy?
I have always enjoyed photography too. What really inspired me was being taught traditional film photography when I was studying it at GCSE and A-Level. I got to learn the history of photography and just how much science and precision goes into it. Spending hours in the darkroom perfecting my photographs, processing my film and taking inspiration from iconic photographers made me value the art form a lot. Unfortunately, photography has taken a back seat for me the past few years. But writing this reminds me of how exciting it is. I still have my film camera, I treasure it! So once this quarantine is all over I am definitely going to head out to buy some film and get back to taking photographs. My favourite photographic subject is portraiture and I also really enjoy oil-painting portraits. Since I have pursued Illustration, I also spend less time painting portraits (they are very time consuming). But that too is something that I really enjoy.
Tell us about one piece of work you are not proud of, and what did you learn from it?
There is actually quite a bit of my work that I am not proud of! Once I had gotten into illustration I found myself creating work that looks like ‘illustration’. I was forcing a style onto myself and I also took a lot of pressure from social media. I was creating work constantly just so I could post it on Instagram and gain some validation. But after a little, while I realised that not only was I rushing work, I was forcing a style onto myself just so that people would like it. Whilst I am not proud of the work itself because I deem it artificial and not true to me, I learnt a lot from that little phase a year or two ago. I now create work for myself (or client of course), putting as much time, love and energy into it as I can. My visual language has therefore come naturally and it is still evolving.
What is your best self- care technique?
Taking a break! Sometimes I get caught up in trying to be as busy as I can. If I am not doing work or anything productive, I feel lazy. But actually, giving yourself a break and some well-deserved time off is being productive in itself because you are looking after your mind and body. When I am taking a break, I like to be watching RuPaul’s drag race, taking a bath, drinking a glass of rose or even better, all three at the same time. Be kind to yourself, you don’t need to be busy to gain self-worth.
What are some platforms that creative’s and freelancers should be using right now and why?
Instagram is the biggest one for me. This is where I find other illustrators, reach the most amount of people and spread my messages in an easy and broadway. Especially at the moment, the average screen time is going up which means there is more chance of people seeing your work. There have been a few times where I have paid a little bit to promote certain posts. This lead to more people being reached and some really positive feedback. The ability to upload work temporarily through the use of stories, playing around with format, sound and video is also really exciting. The discovery section exposes me to different artists too and competitions as well. I have also started using twitter with a professional-ish profile and I didn’t realise how many illustrators use it! Agencies and art directors post quite a bit and I have loved seeing the Royal Academy’s twitter during the lockdown, it has been hilarious and genius. It is a good networking platform I’d say, but I need to use it a bit more first.
If you were on a desert island and could only take one piece of creative material to help you with your work what would you take and why?
Ink, for sure. I would make a big bunch of bamboo pens and if I had an endless supply of quink I would love to make some large scale work. Ink is fun to use when you want to let loose a little bit, you aren’t getting bogged down with the details that pencils and pens allow you to achieve. There is a sense of uncertainty and that paired with a bamboo pen would lead to happy accidents, which leads to learning! Also with Quink, once you mix it with water you get more colours out of it so oranges and blues. I would nip over to the sea now and again and splatter some water over my work too to create some more outcomes. I would observe the world around me and draw how I am feeling stuck on that desert island! I think it could be fun.
How do you seek out opportunities?
I am a firm believer that you are in charge of your own destiny and that by waiting for opportunities to come to you, you are almost certainly not going to achieve as much as you would like to, or grow as much as you can. I reach out to musicians or brands that I enjoy, showing them work I have done which features aspects of their brand, or I offer them collaborative ideas. I read a lot of blogs and articles in order to discover what is being spoken about at the moment and how I can remain current. I email people too, dream clients! The worst they can do is say no or ignore your email, so it is always worth a shot. Just build up a good website/online presence, be confident in your work and reach out
What does support mean to you?
Support means a good balance of praise and constructive criticism. My best friends are all illustrators, we all did our degree together and are all striving to be successful illustrators. We have a group chat and when we aren’t sending each other memes, we might be sending our work over asking for advice. If I send them over a piece of work, they would be completely honest with me and tell me what they think needs altering (in a way that isn’t soul-destroying of course). This is incredibly useful and I respect their honesty, as it helps me to grow! They wouldn’t be being fulling supportive if they lied through the advice given. However, when one of us achieves something, we all come together to praise that person and it feels like a little family! We understand the achievements within the world of illustration, whether it is small or big, so our praise is genuine and jealousy never creeps in, which is super healthy.
What are two useful pieces of advice that you have received from people about your career?
1) ‘It isn’t always going to be busy’. I have heard this from a few people in the industry, one of them being from my head of year just the other day. Once you experience a busy period, you do expect it to remain at that constant high, for your inbox to be full and for a constant flow of followers of Instagram. However, you have to accept the fact that there are going to be slumps! When you are looking for work the most, your inbox will be empty and vice verse. But like most things in life, it is a rollercoaster. There will be high points and low points, so I find it important to enjoy the highs and at the quiet ‘slumps’, work on some personal work or take one of these well-deserved breaks.
2) ‘Charge your worth and if people don’t want to pay you, then they don’t deserve your work.’ Pricing is the hardest part of being an illustrator for me. I always feel as though I am overcharging, when in reality I am probably always undercharging! Because it is a job that I am passionate about, most of the time I’m not really doing it for the money, so I feel almost guilty charging, especially a fair amount. However, you need to remember that this is a trade, a service! A mechanic wouldn’t do their work for free. A plumber would charge the full amount. You have to respect your specialism, you’re talented and people want your work! So charge deservingly.
What are the next steps with your work that you are looking to take?
Before quarantine, I was looking at finding a job as a junior designer in London, near where I live. However, the longer I am isolating, the more I am enjoying working freelance. I didn’t think that I could be a freelance illustrator a few months ago, I am only just gaining confidence in my work. But now, the opportunities are becoming more frequent and they are also growing in size so I am definitely going to continue on this route and see what happens.
Could you share with us some support materials that you have found useful during this period?
Meditating has really helped me out. It grounds me every morning and sets me up for the day in a positive headspace. The internet, in general, has just been such a positive space. Everyone is feeling similarly, so the support is endless. Musicians are doing live streams, YouTubers are creating funny in-house content and celebrities are using their platform to promote looking after your mental health. Podcasts have been getting me through too! My favourite is Dating Straight by Jack Dodge and Amy Ordman. They have a different influencer on each week and it’s so so SO hilarious, but also honest and insightful. As Jack and Amy can’t use their studio, they are creating it separately from their own homes and it is nice to hear them talk about their personal experiences in isolation too. Funny content would definitely recommend.