I was brought up in a creative family; my mother is a textile artist and printmaker and my father is an architect and astounding draughtsman. I would not ever have said I was pushed in a creative direction but the encouragement, materials, and visual stimulation around me at home while I was growing up made it an easy path to take. It was always what I felt most comfortable and proficient at, both at school and at home. I think I am incredibly driven and find it hard to relax (a downfall at times). Basically I have worked hard to get where I am. I have not just been waiting for things to happen.
I loved studying at Brighton University and I think it influenced my work in the fact that I chose illustration, and the course placed emphasis research and concept driven projects. I always assumed I would do a textiles degree but when it finally came to it I thought it would not be challenging enough and I am so glad I chose to do illustration. Now I have learned to visually communicate ideas and concepts and can also draw: it is the best of both worlds! I was also given an amazing opportunity to study in the U.S. which was such a fulfilling and insightful experience. I went to a technically led college there and that experience, teamed with the more-concept based education I received at Brighton University, meant that I received a well-rounded training in illustration, and I also met very inspirational people.
When I graduated I knew I didn’t really want to pause with my work otherwise I might just fall out of the loop and ‘I might forget’ how to do it, so I just carried on with projects that I wanted to pursue, which I still do now. I think I probably have enough ideas and research material to last a lifetime but I keep finding more things to inspire me! I have always enjoyed the print side of my work, so I started doing a series of prints inspired by superstitions which a few galleries took, along with some of my degree show prints and word kind of spread from there.
I have been really lucky in that most of the commissions I have had have come through people seeing and purchasing my personal work. I have been given a lot of freedom in the commissions I have done and have been given really familiar and personally interesting projects to work on. I have still had to show my portfolio and discuss ideas but the art directors I work with are really open to listening to what I have to say or what I think might work! I think I have always stayed true to myself too which I is really important.
I do a great deal of research and love reading about strange superstitions or tales of things that make me laugh. I find the world of folklore an endless source of inspiration.
I think I have always been nostalgic for a time I wasn’t living in. I love 1930’s American musicals with their over the top costumes and overt stage sets and love the fashion design from the 1940s and 50s. I basically only wear old dresses and lambswool cardigans. I am a cliche of my own self!
Similarly, I love the graphic style and sensibility of mid-century designers such as Edward Bawden, Barbara Jones, Eric Ravillious and Enid Marx to name a few and have always strived to reflect the colours and design synonymous with this time in my own work as I love the aesthetic so much. I am also inspired by over decorative Victorian packaging and adverts, 1950s screen printed Gilbert and Sulllivan record sleeves and the idea of “more is more”. I think you can see this demonstrated in my work. I would love to do a really simple, “quiet” image sometimes but this just does not really reflect my personality!
I work at home as I only moved to London at the beginning of the year. It has it’s pros and cons really: it is good being able to just get on with things right away and have a constant flow of coffee, but I really miss the social interaction of University studios and being able to bounce ideas off other people and have a conversation. I think being an illustrator is a pretty lonely trade – nearly all commissions are completed through email so even then you don’t talk to the art director. I love what I do and am pretty self-motivated but hopefully I will be able to find a studio sometime soon to stop me losing my own sanity!
At the beginning of a new project I tend to start by researching whatever it is I am working on, then from there I start drawing loads of elements in my sketchbook – I don’t like to plan too much. I think a more intuitive approach works for me. I pretty much solely draw with indian ink and a brush, with acrylic for texture and white ink for detail. From there I scan in my sketchbook pages and start playing around with compositions and colours on Photoshop till I reach a finished image I am happy with. Sometimes this can be really fast and other times I can spend days deliberating over where to put a head for example. I usually screen print my own work so I figure out the layers for this and then print it. With editorial commissions the final piece is the digital composition. I like this combination of techniques as it means I still have a hand-drawn feel (because everything is hand-drawn) but composing it on the computer gives me the freedom to play around and not immediately commit myself to a composition or idea.
For the future I would like to keep doing the sort of things I do now and I definitely want to be able to keep selling my personal work – this, I think, is what is most important to me. It would be great fun to do a book cover and I think my dream commission would be to illustrate a cookery book in a 1960’s Fanny Craddock or Marguerite Pattern sort of way – brilliant! I would love to get into surface design and design fabric patterns and I would also love to do illustrations for packaging as I enjoy the tactility of having illustrations on a 3d form. That should keep me going for a while I think…
If I had to advise a young person who wanted to become a professional illustrator I would say work hard and be true to yourself. It is impossible to sell yourself as something you are not.
Alice Pattullo: www.alicepattullo.com
Follow Alice on Twitter: @alicepattullo