In the beginning
I do not really know where my love of art comes from. I come from a long line of mechanics, accountants and farmers, so I believe I must have been found in a gooseberry bush. Even though at the age of ten there was a brief moment where I wanted to be an archaeologist, I have always had a creative side.
It was only when I started my GCSE's that I started to think about a career in the arts. When I was fifteen I was diagnosed with juvenile dermatomyositis, an illness which causes muscle weakness and for years this meant I couldn’t do the easiest of tasks without help. While I was recovering, drawing was one of the things that helped me get through my illness. From then on I was determined to get to university and study illustration, I never let my illness hold me back. Going through something like that made me realise what's important in life and that you have to enjoy the time given to you. This is why I focus my work around enjoying the little things in life we over look or take for granted.
Studying at University
Studying at the Arts University College at Bournemouth was an opportunity to join a creative hub, where I could collaborate with a spectrum of courses and work with a diversity of mediums. The illustration course itself taught me through a range of techniques, visiting tutors and workshops, the full potential of illustration.
I graduated at the end of June 2012 and even though I worked on commissions, exhibitions and competitions during my time studying at the AUCB, I would say what felt like my first commission was after I graduated which was with 'Crumbs', a magazine which showcases the entire range of eating and dining opportunities that Bristol and Bath has to offer. They commissioned me to produce three illustrations for their website.
Alongside my studies at University I entered many competitions. The “James and The Giant Peach” illustration was for a competition with Puffin books to celebrate their 70th anniversary. Another passion of mine is books (collecting and reading) therefore I enjoy working with narrative illustration. I prefer to illustrate just enough of the story to entice the reader to continue without revealing the plot.
“Ingredients for a carrot and orange cake” is an assortment of illustrations created for an animation which was designed with Waitrose in mind as the client. The animation was produced to encourage children to learn how to cook and eat healthily. I chose to use a style that was fresh and organic to coincide with Waitrose’squalities and ethos.
The biscuit illustrations were created for a competition with Anorak Magazine, a magazine aimed at children. The competition was called fun lunches and you were asked to illustrate your ideal packed lunch. I decided, as a child what would make me happy would be to open my lunch box to find it full of biscuits.
My biscuit illustrations were then seen on an online magazine by a lady curating an exhibition for the Queen's jubilee. She enquired whether I could enter a piece similar to the biscuits, suitable for the theme of “Best of British”. The result was an English tea set with a custard cream. After this piece I started to consider what other classic British foods there were. Therefore I began The Best of British series including The Full English, Fish and Chips andthe Sunday Roast Dinner. I have always enjoyed the British food classics and so I decided to acknowledge this with illustrations.
Food I love
Growing up on a farm we were never short of fresh home grown food. The women in my family have always been cooking enthusiasts and I inherited their culinary skills. I see cooking as a form of art. It generally has to look good for someone to want to eat the dish, just as a piece of art has to be appealing for the viewer who wants to buy it.
I cook because I find pleasure in watching people enjoy good food. A wholesome meal can create a happy atmosphere. I want my work to evoke happiness. As a result I have a tendency to combine my two loves for drawing and food. Eating and drinking is an activity that everyone shares. As a result my work reaches a wider audience as people can appreciate the content and make a connection.
When I am not drawing I am in the kitchen coming up with new recipes or recreating others. When I try something new I take photos to store and illustrate in the future. Food can have beautiful, organic patterns that makes it an enjoyable subject to draw. I find that my style complements these details as I love to show the patterns and shapes created in food.
An illustrator I have adored since my childhood is Chris Riddell. His illustrations are full of beautiful detail, making you wish you could explore those magical worlds. Each drawing compels you to hold your breath in suspense as you can feel the emotion in a character’s face.
While at college I discovered Drew Struzan and James Jean's work. They were artists whose use of colour and technique inspired me to become an illustrator.
My most recent discovery is quickly becoming one of my favourite artists and that is Joel Penkman. The hyper reality of his work makes me smile every time I look at his illustrations.
At the moment I am enjoying working on culinary illustrations, however I am fond of drawing portraits and being able to reveal the subjects personality. I enjoy a challenge, something that will keep me excited the entire time I am working on it.
I am currently living on a farm in Somerset where I have my own studio set up. It's fantastic to have my own space to work in. However I am a bit of a magpie and the studio is quickly filling up with collections of interesting objects both for practical and inspirational uses. Nevertheless I do enjoy getting out of the studio from time to time, to explore and research on location.
With a new commission the client will normally give me an idea of what they would like and I start researching the theme via books, the internet, visiting museums and by being on location. I try to take my own pictures for reference which I then work from a starting point of thumbnails to jot down my ideas for the overall composition. I don't tend to do too many rough drafts because I like my illustrations to be fresh, straight from my mind and if I repeat an illustration I feel it loses that originality. Working off these rough drafts I then compose the final outcome. As my style of illustration is very detailed, I normally just keep drawing until I feel there is enough life in the object I have drawn.
What I would like to do in the future
I strongly believe that children should learn how to cook from a young age. Even a three-year-old can start to learn through basic steps such as, using the cookie cutter or letting them add the toppings onto a cupcake. Through these little tasks a child's fine motor skills and organized thinking can improve. Therefore I would like to write and illustrate my own cook book designed for children. One of my aims is to encourage children to start thinking about healthy food and lifestyle from a young age.
Advice for an aspiring illustrator
My advice to someone who wanted to be an illustrator would be, firstly, to experiment with different styles, medias and contexts as you never know what you might discover. I experimented with mixed media until I found a medium that complemented my drawing style.
Secondly, I would advise them to work in collaboration with another artist. Now this may not be for everyone but I have found that it is very rewarding to collaborate with not only other illustrators but also people from different art disciplines.
And finally, I would say that clients will view your illustrations with more interest if you show confidence in yourself and your work.
"Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life", they say, and that is certainly how I feel about my work.
Follow Louise on Twitter: @louwyart