Hey Sarah, could you start by telling us a bit about yourself?
Hi! I’m a Manchester based illustrator. I studied Illustration with Animation at Manchester School of Art and graduated in 2018. I started working in a textile studio after graduation and spent two years working there, gaining some great industry experience. After feeling like I was in a bit of a rut, I realised I wanted to put my focus back into my own work - so I quit and now I’m trying to figure out my life as a freelancer!
How would you describe your style of work? Quite feminine and playful, I like mixing references from real life, research and memory to create a whimsical feel in my work.
What inspires your work? Real life is a big inspiration in my work, I don’t always carry a sketchbook around with me, but I always make notes on my phone and take pictures when I see something I like, and apply this to my practise. I also enjoy reading, I feel like that inspires the more imaginative side of my work, along with going to the library and looking through historical/folky books with lots of interesting imagery.
What is your favourite thing to draw? Right now I’m really into nature and outdoorsy scenes, I’ve been painting a lot of landscapes. I’ve been more observant of the outdoors due to the current climate we find ourselves in, and have found so many hidden gems around Manchester and my hometown Nottingham that I’d never truly appreciated before.
I love the GIFs you make! When did you start making these? I spent most of my time at university working on long animation projects, but when I graduated and started working full time I didn’t have the time to do that anymore. I had to adapt and started making GIFs because I could finish them a lot quicker. GIF’s have played a huge part of evolving my practise as an illustrator, I enjoy adding really subtle movements to a still image to add an extra layer of depth to it. What are your favourite materials to work with? Gouache is definitely my favourite material because its so versatile, I never learned how to paint traditionally in school and I’ve found gouache to be the most forgiving. I like to start everything with gouache and then add some detail and texture with crayon. I also edit everything digitally using gouache brushes on my tablet for an extra bit of texture. How do you approach choosing a colour palette for your work? I used to get really hung up on colour palettes and so I made a library of custom swatches on photoshop of colours that I like which I’ll use as a rough guide when I'm planning an illustration (this is really helpful, even if you paint everything by hand). I’m really drawn to pinks and greens so they usually feature in my pieces, I don’t work to a strict colour palette most of the time though.
What’s your favourite piece of work that you’ve made? My first commission! It was a portrait of Emily Williamson who founded the RSPB, and was for a book about influential Manchester Women called ‘First in the Fight'. I really enjoyed the brief and researching Emily’s story. When I received my copy of the book I was so happy to see my first piece of work in print. Favourite artists? Marc Martin, Laura Carlin & Tove Jansson Best piece of advice you’ve been given? Keep on grafting and to trust the process, it sounds cheesy but so many of the successful freelancers and self employed people I’ve spoken to have all said something along those lines!
Who should we be following on instagram? My good friends @danielle_rhoda and @charlottebowie who are both amazing illustrators! I also absolutely love @jodiehoward - her work is so captivating! What are you working on at the moment? I’ve got some client work on the horizon, but for the most part I’ve been expanding my personal portfolio surrounding themes of self love and self care - which I'm really enjoying! Follow Sarah on Instagram: @swillistrations