What was your key motivation in becoming an illustrator?
I wanted to draw and for people too see my work and one way for that to happen was to practise illustration. I like that my drawings sit in books on people’s shelves, illustration is very accessible and the variety and potential for its use is ever growing.
What was your first break as an illustrator?
After I graduated from my MA at the RCA I was really fortunate to have a couple of commissions from my graduation show, one was for the restaurant NOMA and their book published by Phaidon. I created a collaged and illustrated map and some hand drawn type. At the time (2009) NOMA was a restaurant that not so many people had heard about, maybe just the real foodies! But it went on to win best restaurant in the world three years running plus receiving two Michelin stars. The book designed by Studio Frith is still something people talk to me about and are interested in, so that’s good!
How do you maintain an ongoing stream of work?
I don’t! I wish I had more, though I’m grateful for the work I do get. This year has been very good to me though. Staying in touch with clients and not being afraid to contact potential new ones is really important. Sending mails outs and the usual self-promotion stuff. I have a website plus a site over on Behance – clients have genuinely contacted me through finding my work browsing Behance, I believe it’s used more internationally than in the U.K.
It’s still good to self edit though and not not put everything you’ve ever made on line, I think clients want to see a consistent quality of work in terms of style too.
What importance do you put on your own personal body of work and how does this influence your commissioned work?
I think it is very important and gives me a chance to experiment a bit more. Some bits make it into my printed portfolio and I find people like to see that and hear you talk about it too; it gives them more of a flavour of your personality and ideas process.
What led you as a graduate to work within the editorial and publishing sector?
They are both very different and I think I am quiet unusual in that I started more so in publishing than editorial. It’s just how things worked out and the opportunities happened that way. I like publishing because it has a life beyond you. The projects are longer and there are often a lot more people to work with and try to please along the way, but the end result is an object that (hopefully) won’t be in the recycling the next day. Editorial is usually a faster turnaround. The briefs I’ve had have been very open and as they’re more about the immediate communication of an idea, they generally encourage a lateral approach to image making.
How did you find the transition between education and work? Were there any obstacles you had to face that you didn’t expect?
My biggest obstacle was myself. If I could go back in time and kick 24 year old me in the butt I would. Being frightened of showing people my work, networking etc. not feeling ready yet – all just delayed getting more work! Once you realise that there are nice, non-annoying ways to contact art directors, commissioning editors etc. and nobody dies you can get over the fear of rejection. There is no point spending time and money on a portfolio and then nobody seeing it.
Who and what keeps you inspired?
Pretty much all the illustrators / artists / designers that have been on Sam Webber’s “Your Dreams My Nightmares” podcast. I like to be nosey about their lives and see how they got where they are now.
I love but generally cannot afford Mid Century design – that keeps me inspired to make more money and the dream of owning a flat in The Barbican (just a small one, I’m not greedy) Illustrators of old Charley Harper, John and Clare Romano Ross, Miroslav Sasek Other things – swimming with strangers, cycling and walking by the river. To balance that out – drink drawing.