interview

Interview: Chloe Hall on Freelance Illustration, Social Media Promotion, and Botanical Art

12:00 pm


Fun fact: Chloe and I went to the same university and graduated the same year, but we didn't find this out until the interview was well underway! She's now a freelance illustrator and pattern designer, creating gorgeous, fresh, botanical prints that ooze nature. We talk about many number of things, focusing a lot on books advising creatives on how to run their business, and on using social media to market yourself and your work.

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Magic & Musings:
Thank you for taking the time to answer some of my questions, Chloe! Would you like to introduce yourself and what you do?

Chloe Hall:
That’s okay, thank you for asking me! My name is Chloe, I’m a freelance illustrator/pattern designer. I focus on nature and plants as my inspiration and create illustrations and prints which I apply to stationary items. I love the idea of bringing the outdoors inside through my illustrations and also touching on the benefits nature and being outdoors has on our wellbeing and health.

Magic & Musings:
When did you first get into illustration? Is this something you’ve been formally trained in?

Chloe Hall:
I always remember being creative, and the only lessons I remember from primary school are the ones where you had to make things! I never knew I wanted to do this until a few months after I finished uni. I chose creative subjects throughout school, because I enjoyed them not because I thought this is what I would end up doing. I did Graphics and Illustration at De Montfort University and haven’t stopped drawing since.



Magic & Musings:
If you could describe your illustrations in three words, what would they be?

Chloe Hall:
Botanical, delicate, and fresh.

Magic & Musings:
When did you first start sharing your illustrations online, and did you find yourself overcoming any hurdles regarding your confidence?

Chloe Hall:
Yes! When you first start out you worry about what you share because you wonder if anyone will like it and whether it will suit your brand and online look. But once you’ve found your ‘thing’ people appreciate it and you worry less and just go for it. The longer you do it, the more you get a feel for what your followers and customers like.


Magic & Musings:
On Magic & Musings I love talking about female-identifying and non-binary artists and their work. Which female artists, if any, would you say have been influences on your work? Do you have any favourites to look to when you need some inspiration or motivation?

Chloe Hall:
There’s so many! I love the work of Leah Goren, Porcelain Hope, Jackie Diedam, Camilla Perkins, Sew and Saunders, the list is endless. More locally to me, Rox of Studio NL has done an amazing job of bringing local creatives together at her Hustle meet ups, I have met so many talented ladies who are all running their own businesses.

Magic & Musings:
Of all of your designs, which are you the happiest with and why?

Chloe Hall:
Ooh this is tough, because I look back at my work and there’s always elements that I’m not 100 happy with! I really enjoyed creating the A5 minimal print series, as the illustrations are delicate and are all illustrations that are in patterns I’ve created.


Magic & Musings:
I’m interested in knowing how people work and get things done. Do you have a particular place you work or find yourself the most productive? Are there a particular set of things that need to be in place for things to get done? A specific hot drink? A relaxing album?

Chloe Hall:
I work mostly at my little desk in my bedroom at the moment, I do have a shed that I used for a studio for a while, but I now tend to use this for storage and work in there occasionally. Normally I get my laptop up and running and put Spotify on. I have playlist’s on there that really help me get stuck into working, make myself a cuppa or a coffee, and start the day. I start my day by answering emails, then pack up orders, and then depending what work I have on, either work on commissions or create new work for my own products. I work part-time so I work in the evenings after work and then work all day on my two days off during the week. I also try my best to have most of the weekend off, I always end up doing bits and bobs in the evenings though, even if it’s just planning the week ahead.

Magic & Musings:
What do you do if you find yourself stuck in a rut creatively?

Chloe Hall:
If I get stuck, and feel like nothing’s going right I make sure I get outside and go for a walk. Nothing else works! Even if I stop and watch a film and just have a break I’m still thinking about why I can’t get any work done. I think when I’m outside and walking there’s so much to see I can’t think about anything else apart from walking and looking around.

Magic & Musings:
What are your favourite tools you use to create your illustrations? Are there any books on creativity and/or working for yourself you would recommend to others?

Chloe Hall:
I love using fine liners, and mixing using water colours and gouache paints to create illustrations. The best books I’ve read so far for running your own business are:




Coming up Roses by Cath Kidston with Sue Chidler.


Magic & Musings:
What would you say your relationship is like between your business and the internet/social media? Would you say this has helped you greatly in your success, or not?

Chloe Hall:
Yes, definitely. Social media is such a great tool to promote your business as it’s free and you can connect with people all over the world in an instant. I started off using Twitter more, but then moved to Instagram as my main promotion tool and believe this has had a massive impact on my business. Instagram's algorithms didn’t phase me when they first introduced them, however I am starting to see a difference. You don’t see the things you used to see, for example many creatives used to post a good morning post which I would love reading every morning, but now I don’t always see them, unless I actively search for them, which does seem a shame. I won’t stop using Instagram in the same way, but it has made me think maybe it’s time to get back out there and meet people face to face and use different strategies to promote my brand. Also recently, I discovered that some of my patterns had been taken without my permission and were being sold on products on various websites by other artists, this definitely made me question how much I use the internet to promote my work and has made me wary of posting certain things in the future. 

Magic & Musings:
What one thing do you wish someone told you when you were first starting out working in this field?

Chloe Hall:
It’s not going to happen overnight, so don’t worry when it doesn’t and don’t get disheartened when things don’t work out the way you had planned.

Magic & Musings:
Fun question! Can you recommend everyone reading a book you’ve enjoyed recently, as well as a film and an album or song?

Chloe Hall:
Ooh...book would be Girl on the Train, I read it in less than a week. I haven’t watched a good film in ages, so I’ll have to go with a good documentary - anything that David Attenborough does! And song, I have been playing ‘Wicked Games - Tom Misch Remix - by Parra fo Cuva and Anna Naklab on repeat for ages now. 

Magic & Musings:
Is there anything else you would like to say before we finish? How can people find out more about you and your work?

Chloe Hall:
You can find out more about my work via my website and social media links below:


Twitter: @chloehalluk

interview

Interview: Araki Koman on Freelance Illustration and Design, Overcoming Perfectionism, and Some Creative Reads

12:00 pm


This is an interview I'm really, REALLY excited about. The wonderful Araki Koman is a French illustrator, living in London, creating gorgeous designs using character and simplicity. In this short interview we chat about perfectionism, her training to become a freelance illustrator and designer, and what books she would recommend someone trying to feel that creative spark. I think Araki is wonderful, and I know you will too.

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Magic & Musings:
Thank you for taking the time to answer some of my questions, Araki! Would you like to introduce yourself and what you do?

Araki Koman:
Thanks for having me! My name is Araki Koman, I am a freelance illustrator and designer from Paris, currently working from London.

Magic & Musings:
When did you first get into art? Was it something that was important to you in your childhood?

Araki Koman:
Yes, I was constantly drawing during my childhood and knew all about Paris art and design schools as a teenager. As an introvert, it was a way to express myself and daydream. I would always invent characters, usually women, who were wearing my dream outfits or look how I wanted to be.


Magic & Musings:
Have you received any formal art or illustration training?

Araki Koman:
Not right away. After high school I did a bachelor’s degree in business and a master’s degree in marketing, and worked a year and a half in digital marketing in Paris. It’s only after that that I decided to follow my childhood dreams and embrace my creative side. At 24, I moved to London to study graphic design for one year at Shillington College. Thanks to that certificate degree, I got my first job as a graphic designer right after and from there I explored textile and fashion design, and ended up focusing on illustration few years later through personal projects. 

Magic & Musings:
On Magic & Musings I love talking about female and non-binary artists and their work. Which artists, if any, would you say have been influences on your work? Do you have any favourites to look to when you need some inspiration or motivation?

Araki Koman:
There’s so many interesting female artists whose work I admire. Thanks to social media, especially Instagram, I get daily doses of inspiration from the women I follow. Those who inspire me the most and push me to express myself in different disciplines are Björk and Solange Knowles, but I am also a great fan of photography and absolutely love Sarah Moon, Carlota Guerrero, Viviane Sassen, and Nadine Ijewere’s work.


Magic & Musings:
What are your favourite tools to use to create your art?

Araki Koman:
I use the Muji pen 0.38 and the Faber Castell big brush felt tip pen. It has india ink inside, I love it!

Magic & Musings:
Are there any books on creativity and/or working for yourself you would recommend to others?

Araki Koman:

- Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon

- The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

- Art Inc. by Lisa Congdon

Magic & Musings:
I watched an interview with you from Visual Interlude where you said you did not worry about being a perfectionist. What would you say to artists who struggle with perfectionism?

Araki Koman:
I am still struggling with it from time to time, but one thing I learned is that embracing the little imperfections in your work can give personality and depth to it. There’s something more human and organic about it that can create deeper connections with the public. I feel like letting go of trying to make something perfect can open doors to new avenues, which will be unique about you.


Magic & Musings:
What have been some of your favourite projects to work on? Of all of your illustrations, which are you happiest with and why?

Araki Koman:
I really enjoyed drawing the Global Couture series. In January 2017, I did one illustration a day, resulting in a collection of 31 drawings of women from 31 different countries and cultures. I really enjoyed researching and finally using my Pinterest board ‘Global Couture’ in which I have been collecting hundred of images of people wearing traditional outfits from around the world for years. I used those pictures as inspiration for the drawings. I loved it!

Magic & Musings:
I'm interested in knowing how people work and get things done. Do you have a particular place you work or find yourself the most productive? Are there a particular set of things that need to be in place for things to get done?

Araki Koman:
It depends which task I am doing and in which season of my life I am in. When I am producing a lot of illustrations I like being in my home studio as it’s more intimate and I can easily be in the zone. However, when writing emails or dealing with invoices, working from coffee shops or libraries is totally fine. I love having a warm cup of chai latte and a Nujabes or Björk playlist in my earphones. 

Magic & Musings:
What do you do if you find yourself stuck in a rut creatively?

Araki Koman:
Going for a walk or doing anything that has nothing to do with art usually helps (washing the dishes or cooking for example) or even going to sleep. The key is not forcing inspiration to come. Starting projects close to deadlines is also a great catalyst to boost creativity but I wouldn’t recommend it all the time (laugh)… 


Magic & Musings:
What one thing do you wish someone told you when you were first starting out working in this field?

Araki Koman:
There’s no one single way to be an artist. Create your own business model and career using the strengths and knowledge that you already have. 

Magic & Musings:
Fun question! Can you recommend everyone reading a book you've enjoyed recently, as well as a film and an album or song?

Araki Koman:

Albums: Satori by Lex (de Khalex) 

Magic & Musings:
Is there anything else you would like to say before we finish? How can people find out more about you and your work?

Araki Koman:
Thanks for reading! If you want to keep in touch and discover my work you can find me on:


Instagram: @araki.koman

interview

Interview: Aleksandra Stanglewicz on Beauty and Fashion Illustration, Creative Podcasts, and Being an Overnight Success

12:00 pm



You want another interview, you've got one.

Today I'm chatting to Polish illustrator Aleksandra Stanglewicz, who specialises in fashion, beauty, and botanical designs. Using watercolours and coloured pencils she creates soft and dreamy illustrations that wouldn't look out of place in a classic high-end designer's workbook. We spoke a bit about her introductions to this career, her favourite inspirations, and the likelihood of being an overnight success (not likely at all!). I hope you enjoy reading about the wonderful Aleksandra!
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Magic & Musings:
Thank you for taking the time to answer some of my questions, Aleksandra! Would you like to introduce yourself and what you do? When did you first get into illustration? Is this something you’ve been formally trained in?

Aleksandra Stanglewicz:
Hi! My name is Aleksandra Stanglewicz and I am an illustrator from Poland, living in London for almost 3 years. I mostly focus on fashion and botanical illustrations, and I use a mix of watercolours and coloured pencils to create them. I first got into illustration when I was around 16 years old and I started attending drawing classes. I have always been interested in fashion so I thought it would be an interesting way to combine those two subjects. Also I discovered fashion illustrations of David Downton who has been my inspiration ever since.


Magic & Musings:
When did you first start sharing your designs online and did you find yourself overcoming any hurdles regarding your confidence?

Aleksandra Stanglewicz:
When I was in high school I created a blog where I shared my work. However when I was studying I really struggled with finding my style and I stopped sharing anything on there. I was convinced that I should be sure of what I am doing and be 100% happy with the outcome of my illustration to share it on the internet. But then I realised that finding your style is a process, that there won’t be a magical moment when I will be ready! It is actually great to be able to see how my style and technique has improved since then.

Magic & Musings:
On Magic & Musings I love talking about female and non-binary artists and their work. Which artists, if any, would you say have been influences on your work? Do you have any favourites to look to when you need some inspiration or motivation?

Aleksandra Stanglewicz:
Definitely my first inspiration was Anna Halarewicz and her beautiful watercolour fashion illustrations. At the moment I follow so many amazing female illustrators, but my favourites are Frannerd (her YouTube channel is full of amazing advice), Bodil Jane, Laura Callaghan, and Cecilia Carlstedt

Magic & Musings:
Oh, I love Fran's illustrations, and everything on her channel!
Of all of your illustrations, which are you the happiest with and why?




Aleksandra Stanglewicz:
I really like a series of 3 portraits created at the beginning of the year, inspired by Dior Haute Couture Spring 2017 fashion show. I believe I managed to keep a nice balance between showing details and not overdoing the illustrations at the same time. 

Magic & Musings:
I’m interested in knowing how people work and get things done. Do you have a particular place you work or find yourself the most productive? Are there a particular set of things that need to be in place for things to get done? A specific hot drink? A relaxing album?

Aleksandra Stanglewicz:
I don’t have any specific routine, however when I work on my illustrations, I always work at home. The first thing I do is tidying up the desk and planning the tasks. I like to listen to inspiring podcasts while I’m drawing, it helps me to stay motivated and not be too distracted.

Magic & Musings:
What do you do if you find yourself stuck in a rut creatively?

Aleksandra Stanglewicz:
I try to loosen up by sketching anything without worrying about the outcome. Also I love listening to creative podcasts. My favourites are Creative Pep Talk and Arrest All Mimics.

Magic & Musings:
What are your favourite tools you use to create your illustrations? Are there any books on creativity and/or working for yourself you would recommend to others?

Aleksandra Stanglewicz:
I usually work with watercolours and coloured pencils, but recently I have started experimenting with brush pens and it is great! I would definitely recommend reading How to be an Illustrator by Darrel Rees and Becoming a Successful Illustrator by Jo Davis for all the illustrators who are just starting out. Those books cover all the basic information you need to understand the illustration business.


Magic & Musings:
What one thing do you wish someone told you when you were first starting out working in this field?

Aleksandra Stanglewicz:
“There is no such a thing as an overnight success, it is a process.”

Magic & Musings:
Fun question! Can you recommend everyone reading a book you’ve enjoyed recently, as well as a film and an album or song?

Aleksandra Stanglewicz:
I am a proper book warm, I love to read and long commutes in London are a perfect opportunity to do that. I recently read two books by Jojo Moyes: The Girl You Left Behind and Me Before You. Both gripping page-turners!

Game of Thrones has come back with a new season, so like probably everyone else I am impatiently waiting for Mondays. 

Magic & Musings:
Is there anything else you would like to say before we finish? How can people find out more about you and your work?

Aleksandra Stanglewicz:
Thank you for interviewing me! You can find my work on my website www.aleksandrastanglewicz.com and on Instagram. I share all the behind the scenes and progress photos. Also I have an Etsy shop with my prints! Feel free to check it out!

interview

Interview: Alice Marwick on Book Design, Peaceful Work Spaces, and the Isolation of Freelancing

12:00 pm


The image above is of the cover of Girl Trouble, and this is the cover that sold the book to me, before I even knew what it was about. It turns out the book itself is absolutely grand, but that's not what we're here to talk about today. Alice Marwick, the creative talent behind this cover, is a freelance designer and illustrator of gorgeous books, and we chatted about her designs, her artistic history, and having your own peaceful space to work.

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Magic & Musings:
Thank you for taking the time to answer some of my questions, Alice! First of all, for any readers who don’t know your background, can tell me a little bit about yourself and what you do?

Alice Marwick:
Pleasure! I am a designer and illustrator of book covers. I have been happily working freelance since 2009 for a growing number of publishers, starting with a few smaller independent ones such as the excellent Zed Books and more recently also working with larger houses such as Simon & Schuster and Hodder & Stoughton. Almost all my work is for non-fiction, covering a big variety of subjects from gender studies to medieval Islamic history. Clients primarily tend to approach me when they have an illustrative approach in mind, which is nice for me because I love drawing, printmaking, paper cutting, making etc and a love of all of that hand-crafted stuff is what got me into design in the first place.

Magic & Musings:
If you could describe your design style in three words, what would they be?

Alice Marwick:
I try not to have a style, but rather to do whatever’s appropriate to the brief. Although I probably do have one without realising it!

Magic & Musings:
When did you first get into design? Did you study it formally or come across it as a hobby? If you did study it formally, would you say this was a good or bad experience regarding allowing your creativity to flourish?

Alice Marwick:
I studied at the University of the Arts London, Camberwell College and did a degree in graphic design (I started an illustration BA then switched after a term when I found myself envious of my graphic design student flatmate’s briefs). My time at Camberwell was great because it broadened my thinking, helped me to interrogate my design habits and assumptions, and to think more conceptually. It was certainly challenging though and made me feel quite unsure of myself. It was only a little while after college that I actually felt I had found my feet and felt confident creatively.


Magic & Musings:
On Magic & Musings I love talking about female-identifying and non-binary artists and their work. Which female artists, if any, would you say have been influences on your work? Do you have any favourites to look at when you need a spark of inspiration?

Alice Marwick:
There’s quite an impressively large sisterhood of cover-designing women on Twitter! I love seeing what they’re all up to. Coralie Bickford-Smith, Kimberly Glyder, Anne Jordan, Yehrin Tong, and Anna Morrison are just a few I could mention off the top of my head.

I’m a big fan of graphic novels and comics and stare in wide-eyed fan-girl wonder at the work of Emil Ferris, Jillian Tamaki, Fiona Staples, and Marianne Satrapi.

And on a personal level, my friend, the brilliant illustrator Rachel Stubbs, has inspired me with her amazing sketching habit to get out and do more drawing. 

Magic & Musings:
Of all of your designs, which are you the happiest with and why?

Alice Marwick:
Of my recent projects, I’ve been really pleased with how my cover for Lady Fanshawe’s Receipt Book turned out. It was an unusually straightforward process: I had a happy day or two making an intricate papercut illustrating scenes from her life, put it together as a design and it was chosen from among the other options I sent with no alterations needed! I’m really happy with the end result. Also, I am continually excited by how the Object Lessons series I’ve done for Bloomsbury is shaping up.


Magic & Musings:
This is a question I like to ask purely because of the variety of answers I get! I’m really interested in how people work and get things done. Do you have a particular place you work or find yourself the most productive? Are there a particular set of things that need to be in place for things to get done, like a milky cup of tea or a particular album of music you listen to? 

Alice Marwick:
To have a peaceful space of your own, preferably jungle-ified by houseplants. And beyond that, Woman’s Hour followed by Lauren Laverne on 6Music, some good podcasts in the afternoon, and not too many emails coming in. 

Magic & Musings:
Oh my goodness, that sounds idyllic!
What do you do if you find yourself stuck in a rut creatively?

Alice Marwick:
I’m sure I’d get stuck if I was mostly doing self-initiated projects but having a variety of different briefs coming in, each generally demanding a different approach and a tailor-made solution, forces you to keep things fresh. Going to an art gallery or a bookshop and finding inspiration to try something new there can help too.

Magic & Musings:
What are your favourite tools you use to create your designs? Are there any books on creativity and/or working for yourself you would recommend to others? 

Alice Marwick:
I seem to get through a lot of black gouache! Excellent for creating things that can be scanned in, coloured, and layered up in Photoshop. I’d recommend Come Alive: the Spirited Work of Sister Corita. She ran a screenprinting workshop in her community in San Francisco in the 1960s. Her passion and creativity are an inspiring example. 

Magic & Musings:
Have you ever explored working in another medium?

Alice Marwick:
Not really… I did think for a little while after college that I might get into mural painting, having had a lovely time painting an alpine scene on the wall of a Bavarian Beerhouse one summer (I did all sorts of odd odd-jobs to keep myself going when I first started out). Quite glad I didn’t pursue that one though!


Magic & Musings:
What would you say your relationship is like between your business and the internet/social media? Would you say this has helped you greatly in your success, or not?

Alice Marwick:
As a freelancer you can feel quite isolated and so joining Twitter has been a revelation! To see what other designers are doing, to be able to share your work, and to be part of an online community is brilliant and can be really motivating. I don’t think it’s got me any new work though, although it can’t hurt to have your name out there. As for Instagram… I’ve only just joined and I’m not sure I like it as much as Twitter - too many lunch photos!

Magic & Musings:
What one thing do you wish someone told you when you were first starting out working in this field?

Alice Marwick:
That when you are asked for a selection of roughs, don’t actually send them roughs! ‘Roughs’ means mostly fully worked-up good designs. My art director was bewildered by the clumsy mess I sent her for my first job. Thankfully, she gave me another chance…

Magic & Musings:
Onto a fun question! Can you recommend everyone reading a book you've enjoyed recently, as well as a film and an album or song? 

Alice Marwick:
Oh yes. My Favourite Thing is Monsters by Emil Ferris is being hailed as a new graphic novel masterpiece and I’d say believe the hype! It is incredible. An emotionally rich and exciting storyline and just mind-blowing biro cross-hatched illustrations. Emil Ferris is a true artist and a hero (she wrote the book whilst half-paralysed by West Nile virus). There’s an ace short comic about her writing the book here.

A recent film I’d recommend is The Eagle Huntress. A hugely uplifting and intriguing documentary about a Kazakh nomad girl and her efforts to become an Eagle Hunter in Mongolia (it has traditionally been a skill past down from father to son). She is a hugely capable and courageous 13 year old, determined to break into a man’s world. Thankfully she has a lovely dad who’s happy to train her up.

When I need to concentrate but still fancy having music on I enjoy listening to a bit of Steve Reich. It’s such good music for focussing. All those repeating, shifting, layered phrases make you feel clever and efficient!

Magic & Musings:
Is there anything else you would like to say before we finish? How can people find out more about you and your work? 

Alice Marwick:
I have lots of work up on my website: www.alice-marwick.co.uk and post mostly about book covers on Twitter @AliceMarwick. My instagram is @alicemarwick too.