Illustration is no longer limited to the covers of children’s books, and has had a real resurgence, not only thanks to the rise of social media, but companies like Etsy, Society 6, and red-bubble, allowing illustrators and artists to distribute and sell their work more easily. We speak to illustrator Abigail, about how we can grow creatively, and the opportunities available to illustrators in the digital age.
How do you create a character?
I want to say that I don’t really think about it but I guess there is an intuitive process that I follow. It depends on what purpose the character serves. Some of my characters are a reflection of, or a reaction to, a part of myself. Some are created as mascots and are designed to represent a campaign. And occasionally my characters may start as being inspired by a cute person or object! But in every case, I follow the same general process. I start with asking myself: what am I trying to portray through this character? How can I reflect that through the shape of their silhouette? Their color palette? Their features, body language and mannerisms?
How would you describe your illustration style?
Is it okay to say that I don’t know? I’m in a stage of heavy experimentation right now and to label it… would feel weird.
A lot of people struggle to fill a sketchbook. What exercises or tips would you suggest doing to complete a sketchbook?
I believe that sketchbooks are unique to their artist and that the struggle we all feel comes from the expectation of what a sketchbook should be. So I think the most important thing you can do is to decide what purpose it serves for you! What works for me is to draw mindlessly. I draw what’s around me, to process how I feel or to understand the way that something works. I don’t really care about how it looks. I rarely erase and more often than not I just use a pen. Let yourself make mistakes and make them fast.
How do you organise your workspace to maximise creative productivity?
Right now I work in a lot of different places. At my job, at coffee shops, at my desk at home and soon I’ll be moving into a studio space. But no matter where I am it’s always the same. I start with a clean, clear space and then I just start making something. It feels good to say “okay, I’m done,” stand up and see the mess I’ve made.
Do you enjoy working digitally? How do you think it has helped the evolution of illustration?
I prefer to work digitally but it’s also a necessity for me to step away from my computer once in a while and get my hands dirty. There’s a lot to say on the topic but overall I feel like digital art has made illustration feel more accessible and friendly.
What’s your favorite project you’ve worked on?
I’m revisiting a project right that I originally worked on for a class. It’s a deck of tarot cards. I was going through a hard time when I started it and it allowed me to channel those emotions into a world within the cards. Each card tells its own story but they all play into a larger narrative. I won’t reveal too much, since this is something I’ll be showing you all soon!
And would kind of projects would you like to work on in the future?
In the spirit of this mood of experimentation I’m in, I’d really like to start branching out into different areas. But one big thing I’d like to do this year is to write and design a children’s book.
A lot of illustrators are freelance and work a “regular” job too. Do you think illustration is a viable career path?
Yes but what that means is up to the individual. The thing about “career paths” is that it’s so much more about the journey than the destination. For a lot illustrators, working on the side of their day job is a valid stepping stone. Even though my day job is a creative one and ties into my skills as a designer, I don’t do a lot of illustration. But I kind of like that, ya know?
And finally, what advice would you give others wanting to study or work in a creative subject or industry?
I often like to quote a tweet by @cyriakharris,
“As an artist, the secret to success is to make some stupid shit while you wait for people to like your real stuff. Then you realize your stupid shit is your real stuff.”
I spent my first two years studying graphic design and studio making what I thought people expected of me, going as far as to deliberately stop myself from doing what I knew made me happy. But one day I just had the though, “well, that’s kind of lame.” If you’re not making what you want to make, what’s the point?
You can find Abigail on instagram here