A few weeks ago i met the lovely Iris Hill aka Lisa Jean. I was throughly inspired by her work, and she kindly agreed to let me interview her for my uni project "connecting your practice with professional context'. I love her textured, watercolour images, with the strong contrast of ink lines. Speaking to her was a great insight into the industry and has really motivated me and i now cannot wait to get started! Read my interview below.
When/How did you decide to to become and Illustrator?
Its the way i’m wired, being creative has always been part of my life. I find it therapeutic to just throw paint around. I would really like to master art therapy, to use it as a tool, helping children who have suffered trauma to express there feelings. I’ve always loved drawing, and I'm am aways doing it. My granddad was very creative. I have memories associated of fresh paper that came from my granddads box. I find peace through stories, and illustrating stories, putting images next to the text.
How long have you been an illustrator for?
I originally started in photography. Working for agencies, conducting fashion shoots, hiring models and stylists. I then decided to focus on drawing. I have been illustrating for 8 years. My first break through was 4 years ago with illustrating greeting cards.
What mediums do you work with?
I love watercolours, i also work with sharpies, watercolour pencils, ink, oil pastels, texture makers, resin, protective spray. We had a splurge of digital work in the last few years and people are pleased to see more ‘traditional’ work coming back.
What is your method of working?
I don't really have a method, it depends on how i feel. I sometimes sketch it out with watercolour pencils, then watercolour and ink. Other times i like to flick paint onto a page, make prints, textures and get messy. I am more reactive to media, putting blobs down and turning them into something. I also cut up some of the textures i make and turn them into things. I take inspiration from media. I never throw anything away and I like the simplicity of paper. I do use a little bit of digital but mainly for page layouts and tweaking mainly. I don’t use it massively but hope to develop my use more in the future.
What inspires you? Is the context of you work?
Things that people say inspires me, sometimes i’ll over hear something, or speak to someone. People behaviour, how people interact, morales and manners, lessons learnt - also inspire me. I am a people watcher. I also like to travel, so i use dots a lot as i am inspired by Aboriginal work from my travels in Australia. I also love Japanese Art. I love to go anywhere and everywhere! The context i suppose is mainly animals, characters and their personalities.
Would you say there is still a demand for Illustration?
There is definitely a demand still for illustration. People appreciate it, and use it as escapism. Some don't necessarily understand it but still marvel it. People love patterns, and don't realise how much illustration is around them, how they decorate there homes with furniture covered with illustrated patterns. I once heard a quote “Earth without art is just ‘eh’.” It effects everyone. Think of pictures books as a child, Roald Dahl for instance and the illustrations. People love the characters, especially the connections you have with the illustrations. Also greeting cards are massive at the moment, they are received for good reasons generally so the art is appreciated and a focus. Its a personal thing, and there is generally a story behind it.
How competitive do you find the current market?
It is very competitive. You are pushed a lot more now to pitch for a role, you may spend time on preparing for a role that you may not get. Working in art never used to be as acceptable as it is today, so more people are entering the industry. You can succeed though, it just depends on how determined you are, and your people skills. I had to keep digging my heels in with publishers.
What would you say were the strengths of you work?
My strong colour palette its vibrant and buzzy. I like to express a personality through my characters and work also.
I like to flit between ideas, and normally have about 10 at one time, it all depends on what i am excited about at the time.
What are you current challenges of being an illustrator?
I suppose everyone could say this but work life balance. Trying to have a career, pressures of life, holidays, all whilst supporting what you love doing. Its all about making time! Also sometimes you will be asked to do something that you may not want to do. You have to decide what is best for you! Developing a thick skin is useful in this industry also. As fast as you can receive work, you can also be dropped as quickly.
What is your goal?
I would love to have a book published. I then can be taken seriously, base workshops on my book, books tours, talks and to stay humble with it. I’d like to promote art and be an advocate of it. To bring art into education, show children the importance of being creative, often art is having budget cuts. Having a book published would give me a bigger stage. I’d like to inspire people. people tell you your art work is good, or bad but its not about that, it about expressing yourself. Life is roller coaster ride, there are highs and lows and people need a break. Art can do that.
Do you utilise social media?
I like to use social media to show my work. Its great as you get an instant reaction. A thumbs up is always gratifying. Its great as also things can fly off and instantly be popular and get you noticed. I use twitter more for questions, and chats with other designers. You have to keep in touch regularly. They’re great platforms for feedback.
How have you developed your work over time?
The main thing is to enjoy it. Try new things all the time. Take inspiration from other people, and things around you- keep with the current trends. Its always great to be out and about ‘you never know when you are going to get inspired”.I have sketchbooks everywhere, in my car, next to my bed, in my bag. I always have one near by. Life experiences are great for developing your art work.
What kind of work do you undertake? Commissions? Self sourced?
I participate in a lot of community art projects. A lot of my work is workshops, which i have been doing for 8 years. Originally i would contact people to set these up, but now i’m asked regularly to set up workshops by contacts. I have connections with the venues and various organisations. Workshops are quite hard though, as there is a lot of prep work involved. There is a lot of community funding available so its a great avenue to work in. Its great to experiment and try new things but for commissions just remember you need to have a signature style, so they know what they are buying into.I also love producing pictures books, i love to write and illustrate them.
When your not working how do you keep inspired? Personal projects?
I often just paint and create characters but also projects can be very useful. For instance i have Watercolour Wednesdays, and sketch Sundays which i do every week.
How did you get yourself into the public, and get noticed?
Working as an illustrator is 50% admin and 50% painting, so its important to keep on top using social media, and getting yourself out into the public. Print sales are popular abroad, i sold lots when i was in Australia. Its trickier to sell here as there is limited space in peoples homes. I used to go into bookshops, and card shops and see what was not about, and then go back and draw that. The market is saturated with the same themes, so finding something different is great. I also attended a lot trade fairs, markets etc.
What do you think the future holds?
Some publishers tend to use trend prediction agencies to predict what will happen in the next year or so. This adds a slight influence on the work that is produced by designers that are commissioned. For instance when i am designing my greeting cards they may say Moroccan themes are going to be big next year so i will choose a more warm, moroccan colour theme. Greeting cards are very popular at the moment.
“Protect what you love, some people don’t have that. If you lose you enjoyment step back, and come back to it.”
Trend agencies Magpie - http://www.wearemagpie.com/ -
Association of Illustrator - http://www.theaoi.com/
Not on the high-street - http://www.notonthehighstreet.com/
Crowdfunding - Kickstarter - https://www.kickstarter.com/
Ilona Drew - http://www.idrewthis.co.uk
Spring Trade Show Birmingham - http://www.springfair.com
Top Drawer London - http://www.topdrawer.co.uk/
PG live London - http://www.progressivegreetingslive.com
Wrendale designs - http://www.wrendaledesigns.co.uk/
Hampshire Cultural Trust - http://hampshireculturaltrust.org.uk/
Ashcroft Arts - http://hampshireculturaltrust.org.uk/ashcroft-arts-centre
Southampton scrap store - http://www.southamptonscrapstore.org.uk/
Arts Council Funding -http://www.artscouncil.org.uk/funding/
Bluebell Grey - http://www.bluebellgray.com/
Paperchase - http://www.paperchase.co.uk/
Marks and spencers -https://personalised.marksandspencer.com/
Becki Clark - http://www.beckiclark.com
Tiger Print - http://www.tigerprint.uk.com/