An interview with Lucy Brown

Lucy is a London based illustration artist and designer. Her beautifully detailed drawings on paper and vellum combined make these otherworldly scenes appear all the more ephemeral. Although traditional in style and technique, these imaginative creations succeed in poetically evoking and enchanting our sensitivity to this fine art.

'“Together her exploration of animals and humans is an attempt at understanding the complexities between the natural world and human nature.”

Point101: How did you become interested in illustrating?

Lucy Brown:  I have always been interested in drawing people since I was a little girl, which developed into my career in costume design. There’s a curiosity I have towards understanding what’s beyond the surface of a person - pain, joy, intrigue, love, playfulness? Then exploring these ideas through drawing animals came later as I started to feel more connected with nature and the environment we share. I’m beginning to carve out a space to express my creativity through illustration, and trying to replace my sense of imposter-syndrome with an authentic delight for what I do.

P101: Why the material preferences? 

LB: I used to exclusively paint in watercolour (which I still enjoy), but then Dura-lar was a great discovery for me. The way the matte film takes the coloured pencil enables a more delicate approach to drawing which I think adds to the whimsy of the storytelling. I would like to make use of the milky transparency of the material and begin experimenting with layering the film sheets.

Media print is definitely something of interest to me.

P101: Tell us about your technique  

LB: I like walking along the river by my apartment, spending time with my sister’s dogs, Dolly and Violet. There’s a therapeutic element to being around nature and animals which opens my mind to make space for ideas to come forward. Then I take this inspiration, along with a cup of coffee, and develop the ideas through simple sketches and colour stories. Once I have the basic layout and composition in place I focus in on the details. Having come from a design background I have developed quite a solid process of working through ideas and trying to be consistent. However, I do like to let my work evolve in a way that feels organic and natural. I’m working on trying to leave some of the detail out, to make room for the work to breath a little.

P101: How long does each illustration typically take?

LB:  On average, a piece would take anywhere between 20-40 hours, but it depends on what time I have available. Sometimes a tight deadline can produce the most uninhibited work. It leaves you less time for self doubt.

P101: Where do the narratives to your drawings come from?

LB:  I like to reminisce and day dream…..I’m a classic Pisces. Nostalgia is often gently weaved throughout my work, with a devotion to compassion. I like each piece to be it’s own little world, a place where I can explore dreams and stories. I’m inspired by Vermeer’s magnetic use of colour and light. I enjoy listening to one of my favourite bands, Fleet Foxes, whilst I draw. Their music is so beautiful and their storytelling through word and melody is haunting and romantic. My quest is to capture that on paper somehow…haha! I’m always drawn to films and plays where it’s about what’s not said as much as what is said. I like leaving a little space for the audience to breath their own voice into the artwork. However, the other side of me sometimes just wants to draw something silly and a little humorous, with colour and vitality. 

P101: Are you strictly a solo artist?

LB: I usually work alone, however I’ve worked in theatre for many years so I know the triumphs which come from collaborating with fellow artists. I’m always open to the possibilities of such creative adventures as well as pushing myself further with my work.

P101: Where do you envision your artwork belonging?

LB: I would love to exhibit in a gallery, that’s a dream of mine to create a series for exhibition. Currently, I’ve been creating for personal prints. However, collaborating with an author for illustrative book work would also be a delight. I really just love drawing and working and seeing how it evolves.

P101: What type of paper do you think works best with your printed artwork?

LB: I love the Hahnemuhle Photorag because of its texture and beautiful print quality. Lovely Pauline at Print 101 recommended it to me.

P101: How does this artistic pursuit fit in with your day to day life?

LB: My day to day life is drawing, walking my sister’s dogs, then designing (I still work as a Costume Designer, which I love). I try to commit to drawing a little each day, to be curious and inspired by my surroundings. If I wait for a lightening bolt to strike then I would never work.

P101: Do you have any other interests/hobbies that influence/inspire you? 

LB: Does singing along to musicals (badly) and watching Miss Marple count as an interesting hobby? I really just love the simplicity of reading a book and drinking tea, with cake of course! Oh and I love Arthur Miller, reading his plays are always a source of inspiration for character study.

See more of Lucy’s work here.

'Diana’ printed on Hahnemühle Photorag

'Diana’ printed on Hahnemühle Photorag

Interview with Becky Donnelly

Originally from Dublin, Becky Donnelly is a London based artist with a background in animation. However, deciding in favour of keeping traditional media at the core of her work has led her toward illustration, giving way to her wonderfully curious creations.

Becky is exhibiting at The Cluster Illustration Exhibition which celebrates emerging illustrators from different backgrounds with a diverse range of styles.

The exhibition runs from 27 Sept - 2nd Oct at The Old Truman Brewery.

Tell us about your upcoming exhibition as part of the Cluster Illustration Art Fair?

I was approached by Cluster a few weeks back about taking part in the exhibition, which is focused on providing a platform for emerging illustrators to showcase and sell their work. The exhibition is starting on Thursday 27th September at The Old Truman Brewery, and is open until Tuesday 2nd October. And yes, this is my first time exhibiting, so it’s safe to say I’m pretty nervous!

How are your illustrations created?

My work always begins with sketching on paper. Once I’m happy with a design I transfer it to watercolor paper and start painting, and subsequently I add line work with pen. I do the odd digital painting now and again, but I’m happier working with traditional media. Most of the time I only use Photoshop to clean up scans of my work.

How does your modelling tie in with your artwork?

I think a large part of any illustrator’s work is a response to the world around them, so being in the fashion industry has had an automatic influence on my mine. My illustrations are character based, and in some ways I find working as a model quite similar, as you are providing a visual extension of yourself.

Is there any underlying commentary to your drawings?

I think the central theme of my work is identity, more specifically, the contradictory nature of it. As a kid I was always drawn to monsters in stories; the fact that they are inherently flawed makes them more interesting and relatable as characters to me. So I guess with goofy creatures or sassy skeletons I’m trying to expand upon this. When a character is scary but funny, hideous but beautiful, or menacing but fragile, are they really a “monster” at all? Aren’t they just as human as us?

That being said, I’ve never felt a need for my work to be taken too seriously – sometimes I just feel like painting a one-eyed gremlin wearing harem pants and a party hat, and it’s really no more meaningful than that! 

Your work has been featured by major fashion designers, how did 

this come about?

The majority has happened through social media, which I still find pretty nuts. I’m immensely grateful for the response I’ve had from designers, it’s definitely not something I had expected. I’ve never really pictured myself as a fashion illustrator, despite my background, but I do enjoy putting a dark or humorous twist on the conventional ideas of fashion illustration. The fashion industry is controversial, and I guess my illustrations explore, even gently poke fun at, some of the stereotypes surrounding the topic.

Would you describe yourself as more of an independent artist?

So far I’ve worked independently, but the idea of collaboration has always appealed to me. I’m starting an MA in Illustration at Camberwell College of the Arts in October, so I’m hoping to have opportunities to work with other students on collaborative projects during my time there. 

What type of paper do you think works best with your printed artwork?

I’ve had a lot of difficulty in the past finding suitable papers for producing prints of watercolor work, but the Hahnemuhle Photorag paper I’ve used for my exhibition prints has been a dream. The slight grain and matt finish really replicate the watercolor paper I use for my paintings, so the prints have retained the integrity of the originals. Honestly, side by side it’s hard to tell them apart!

It seems that your lifestyle is very much your career too. How do you take time out?

Pretty normal stuff really – hanging out with friends, binge-watching TV shows, expanding my useless ornament collection. The usual.

Tell us about your other upcoming projects.

With my MA just around the corner I’ll be focusing on that for now, and I’m looking forward to the opportunities that will bring! 

More of Becky’s work on her website or Instagram

AuthorNazy Raouf