Lizzy Stewart

Illustration – ‘September Swimming Pool’

You Studied an MA in Communication Design at Central St Martins why did you choose to explore education further, and how has it helped your practice as an illustrator?

I sort of fell into doing an MA. I’d decided to move away from Edinburgh and felt like I needed something to focus on in London. I wanted time to explore and develop and pick apart how and why I made work. In truth I found the whole CSM experience troubling, it was absolutely the wrong course and the wrong environment for me and I struggled to marry my approach to illustration with the CSM approach to ‘communication design’ and, perhaps, art education in general.

It wasn’t entirely unrewarding though, I find I am still deciphering the things that I learnt during that time and that, although I didn’t enjoy it, there is something to be said for working outside of your own, desired, environment. 

Illustration – ‘Dream It All’

How do you keep yourself inspired? Do you ever find yourself stuck for ideas for projects?

I have a list of projects in a notebook that I refer to if I’m stuck. Most of them, I suppose, will never come to fruition but I still feel like its important to note down passing ideas in case, at some point, I come up with the right approach to make them happen! 

Inspiration is a funny one. Its the one thing that people always ask about and its the one thing that you can rarely pin down, verbally at least. It comes and goes in response to things that you can’t really predict. You can watch a film and feel so desperate to make work once its finished and then watch it again a month later and feel nothing at all. Generally speaking though I respond better to music, theatre and books than other illustration. Its good to get away from images on a page as often as possible. 

Your sketchbooks are like visual diaries, in particular your travel diaries; do you keep a sketchbook with you all the time?

I used to but I carry so much stuff around with me I’ve had to scale back to just a notebook. If I’m travelling I take a sketchbook and various things to work with, I wish it was a habit i kept up all the time.

Illustration – ‘Rockpool’

All of your work has a sense of narrative; do you think it’s important to tell a story through your work?

Always. I’ve always loved telling stories, my backup dream was always to be a writer (thank goodness the world was spared that!). Everyone remembers the picture books they grew up with, they remember how to read stories with pictures. I think that that is what makes illustration such an inviting, relatable discipline. Our first experience of understanding the world was through pictures. I like that. 

For me, an image is only an illustration when it is being used to relay some piece of information or to explain an idea or story. I try to instill some kind of narrative element into all my work for that reason. I think that burying stories in pictures invites the viewer to spend more time with the work, it asks that they build up a relationship with the image and that’s a lovely thing. 

Illustration For Wrap Magazine 

You have created work such as book covers to editorials why do you think your work has been successful on different platforms?

I don’t know about ‘successful’ but I suppose that people seem to respond well to the narrative elements in my work. I don’t feel like I have a consistent visual style as I like to mix up my mediums often but I think there’s a certain…I don’t know…a sensibility (sorry thats a bit cringey) I suppose, that runs through my work that, people seem to relate to somehow. I hope that the more of yourself you put into work the more coherent the collection of images as a whole becomes. So even if some is painting and some is pencil drawing and some is digital there is the feeling that they all came from the same place. 

 As for working across different platforms, I suppose thats our job isn’t it? Its rare that an illustrator sticks to one outlet for their work. Or, at least, it takes a while to be able to say ‘I only do bookcovers’, establishing yourself in that way takes time. So when you’re new (and I still feel new at this, really) your work takes you all over the place, print/web/textiles/coffee packaging/wherever. Its sort of the joy of the job I think!

19th March 2015

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