Lizzy Stewart, above all, is a sparkle of talent with a pencil in hand. She is a London based illustrator, who recently achieved Master’s Degree in Communication Design at Central St. Martins.
Lizzy is inspired by the world around her, stories, people, folk culture and music. Her works are simply beautiful. No wonder that her clients include: Faber & Faber, The List, The New York Times, Zizzis, The Scotsman, Aubin & Wills, Red Cap Cards, Little Otsu, Analogue Books, Random House, The Folio Society, Woodpigeon, End of the Road Records, The Guardian, Howies, Eagleowl and more. 1Granary is excited to present Lizzy Stewart and her work. Definitely check her wonderful website at http://www.abouttoday.co.uk
I was cautious and shy, traits I’m still trying to shake off at twenty-five. I drew a lot and I liked making up stories, I suppose I was the same kind of child that most illustrators were- if you’re introspective and awkward from a young age that probably drives you to spend more and more time in your head making things up and scribbling them frantically down in crayon. I don’t think I ever shook the urge to tell stories and that is something my work still relies on. Gratefully I don’t think I’ve carried much from my childhood to CSM. I imagine it’d make everyone uncomfortable if I was showing up to Uni wearing clown dungarees and only eating cheese and pickle sandwiches.
When did you make your first drawing?
I don’t remember the first drawing that could have been considered ‘a drawing’ and not a doodle or a scribble. I remember drawings I made along the way- a portrait of my Grandmother made when I was six or seven, A painting of my best friend aged 8, an observational drawing of a beach in Cornwall when I was ten. There are more. I remember these images because they were early instances of something working. I won’t pretend I felt any noble artistic accomplishment but I suppose, even in those early drawings, I knew when it was finished, when the composition was at its most satisfactory. I suppose having those kind of instincts are what sets you out as an artistic person early on.
Who or what are your biggest influencers?
In terms of other illustrators I think Carson Ellis was my biggest influence when I started out. I came across her work through a,bum covers she did for the band the Decemberists and, at the time, I didn’t really know that Illustration was a job that people could do. Her work continues to move and inspire me. I try not to look at much illustration now. Its good to go elsewhere for ideas. Writers like Tove Janson and Doris Lessing seem to be influencing what I want to do with my work at the moment. I enjoy how neatly they can describe how a life feels. I want to draw like that. Equally Darren Hanlon’s ‘ album ‘I will love you at all’, that makes me want to make pictures.
What is the usual process of creating your illustrations?
I work in a studio in De Beauvoir in North East London. I get the train there from South London and during the journey I try and get straight in my head what I’m doing that day. In the studio I draw and paint. At the moment I’m painting a lot more than I have in a long while. I keep my computer at home so that there are no distractions whilst I make work. When I get home I scan the days labours into photoshop and try and fix them or colour them or whatever needs doing to get them to a printable state.
How do you get inspired?
I go through periods of obsession, things that I get fixated on drawing over and over. For a long while it was big, bleak landscapes but at the moment its people. I’ve spent the last few years looking to other places and cultures for inspiration but recently I’ve tried to focus in on something much smaller. People, ordinary people, are a mine of quirks and intricacies and immeasurable wonder. I think. I visit the British Museum to draw a lot. Whilst it rarely leads to finished pieces its an inspiring place to hang out for a while. I find that a day drawing in there helps me to stop thinking and warm-up for new work a bit. When I come back to my desk I feel refreshed.
What can be the starting point for your work? Was your style of drawing a carefully chosen path or something natural to you?
I’m not sure you can ‘choose’ a path in terms of drawing. I think that, even if you’re copying someone else, the hand sort of dictates what it will do. You can’t fake it. The way I draw is what happens when I put pencil to paper, I don’t think its any more calculated than that.
If not drawing, then what?
Illustration was an accident, I had planned on being a painter, thats what I initially went to study when I went to Edinburgh University. So that I guess. If I wasn’t in visual art then I would have liked to be a writer, I’m no good at it but everyone wants to be a writer don’t they? Perhaps I would have realised my failings in that field pretty early on and ended up in journalism or something. But ideally, I’d be writing fiction I think.
Do you compare your work to others? Is it hard to work when there are so many illustrators and other amazing work around?
Everyone compares themselves to everyone else. I imagine teachers compare themselves to other teachers, doctors to other doctors and so on. I guess its easier to get bogged down in it when you’re an artist as you can place works directly next to each other and really see the differences. I see other people’s work and I wish that I had made it but that feeling passes and then you can just appreciate their work. I’m fairly secure in the fact that the work I make is the work I make. I don’t think I can do much to alter that. There IS a tonne of great illustration and design at there at the moment. It was probably always out there but the internet makes it more accessible I suppose. Once the jealousy subsides I think its really exciting. I feel fortunate to be working at a time when my field is so exciting and seems to be attracting a lot of attention.
What do you hope to achieve from your studies in CSM?
I started the masters course because I wanted to be able to better explain what I do, I wanted to explore what Illustration is in a more academic sense and to really understand why I care about it so much. It is easy, when you’re making work to order for clients which is what I do to pay the bills, to switch into autopilot and forget that there is craft and artistry involved. I’d like to be able to tell people that what I do is more than cartoons or decoration and to be able to tell them in a coherent, educated manner rather than just mumbling at them. From a creative perspective I want to be better at what I do, in no specific sense- just ‘better’. Halfway through 80% of my sketchbooks I find myself writing ‘better’ in capitals when I’m flagging a little. I write so many notes to myself and the crux of most of them is that I want to be better at this.
Tell us about your course. How it is structured? What do you think is the best about it? What did it change about your drawings?
Honestly? In the first year it broke my drawing entirely. I failed to make any work I liked, none at all. Outside of the course my work improved but all the briefs I answered at Uni I did a terrible job on! I’m hoping I’m over that now! We have a new course leader now so I think the whole thing might be changing quite a bit. I’m excited to see what happens.