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Welcome to the brand new

Mathieu Ajan

We've been busy working away behind the scenes to give you the new and improved With a whole new look and feel we want to make it as easy as ever for you to access the latest news, resources and inspiration to fuel your creativity.

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A journey with illustrator Michael Driver from graduating to nationwide billboard campaigns

Mathieu Ajan

Michael Driver is an award winning illustrator who has had his work featured everywhere from Billboards to your favourite news publication. With his accomplished and playful style, Michael has built a remarkable portfolio full of inventive self-initiated work and commercial commissions. Since completing his degree, he has been signed to MP Arts and produced illustrations for the likes of Washington Post, The Telegraph, The Wall Street Journal and The Observer.

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Manjit Thapp touches on the importance of working on your craft as an artist

Mathieu Ajan

Hi Manjit! Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

Hi! I’m 22 years old live in the UK. I’m currently finishing up my final year at university studying Illustration.


How would you describe your journey into the creative arts?

I started drawing a lot more seriously when I was around 15 and would post it online, it wasn’t very good though! But it’s really nice to look back and see how my work has developed and changed over time. I then slowly started selling prints online and building up my online shop. I’m now finishing my final year at university.


Your work has gained so much traction! Did you expect your art to take off?

It seems like a steady thing because I’ve been posting it for so long, but I would say this year it’s seemed to get a bit more attention which is nice!


Was it always your desire to become an illustrator?

Not always, I’ve always enjoyed drawing and art but I thought I’d go into journalism or something to do with writing but I was never really set on that. At the last minute I decided to pursue Illustration because that’s what I really enjoyed doing.


We’re advocates for mental health and we noticed your comic on SAD. What inspired you to touch on such a topic?

I made that comic for my final personal project in my 2nd year at uni, I initially wanted to explore the relationship between humans and plants which eventually developed into the SAD comic. I noticed through my research that plants suffer similar symptoms to people with SAD as the seasons change and wanted to illustrate this. I sold copies at our show as well as online and it was so nice to get messages from people saying they bought it for themselves or for friends that suffer from SAD.


As a young person, what were the challenges you faced when trying to break into the industry?

I don’t really feel like I’ve ‘broken’ into it yet or really have done much industry work. A lot of the work I’ve been making is either personal work or university work. 


Do you regard yourself a fashion-oriented illustrator or has your art gone in a new direction?

I’ve never considered myself a fashion-oriented illustrator but I do really enjoy doing fashion illustrations. 


How does it feel to be recognised by the likes of Elle Magazine (India) and VSCO?

Crazy! I use VSCO a lot on my phone so it was really nice when they got in touch earlier this year. It was so cool to be featured by Elle Magazine India on instagram too!


What steps did you take to reach this level of artistry?

Posting my work online has helped it gain recognition. I also enjoy selling my work online too and love creating product to sell there like prints, stickers and comics.  


Lastly, what advice would you give to other young artist and creators?

For me posting my work online has been really important and helped me to gain recognition so I would definitely recommend creating a blog or even just posting on Instagram. Try and draw as much as you can! I find when I stop drawing for a while it takes time to get back into it again and produce something good. It’s also nice to set yourself personal briefs and projects to help begin build a portfolio that has a range of work. I get asked a lot about finding your own style, and I think it’s something you shouldn’t worry about or focus on. Just draw and you’ll start to notice it develop, but it’s also not a definitive thing it will always be evolving!

From Cats to Zines, welcome to the world of Jeannie Phan

Mathieu Ajan

Hailing from Canada and illustrating for major publications from the New York Times to Readers Digest, Jeannie Phan is creative to the core, spending her time creating zines, hanging out with her cat and following her own artistic (and botanical) endeavours. Jeannie is a dedicated creator and we were lucky enough to gain some insight into her world as an individual and an illustrator.

· Firstly, tell us a bit about yourself, how would you define Jeannie Phan? 

Simply just an illustrator that loves cats and plants and works with a lot of conceptual metaphors.

· A lot of your illustrations are created for specific ideas, how does this kind of work affect your inspiration and creative process as a whole? 

Since I work in editorial, I'm ultimately given the message of the author to visualize, which for me, I find creatively fulfilling because I like to work with some sort of parameter. This not only includes conveying someone else's idea, but also technical things like size and where the artwork will be shown. Constraints breeds creativity.

· You recently illustrated a piece for NPR about diversity in sci-fi and comics. Are there more creative platforms where you feel a lack of diversity is currently an issue? 

There's a current need for diversity in every field, and I can only speak about my experience as an illustrator because it's the community I'm involved in. Thankfully I feel like female voices are getting more heard and there's a push back for female perspectives to be validated in our community. However, there's still a huge lack of POC illustrators, specifically black and brown artists.

· Do you enjoy nerding out, what's the nerdiest you get? 

When it's friday night and I'm knee-deep in trying to figure out how to code some snazzy effect on Tumblr.

What do you feel is the best part of what you do? What gives you motivation to create, beyond making a living? 

The flexibility in my schedule for sure. I feel like I can jigsaw my work according to how the world moves around me - I don't feel stuck. My goal for myself is to make self improvements both artistically and personally every year, I have a fear of becoming stagnant so that really keeps me on my toes.

Do you feel that there is too much preventing young people from pursuing a creative career? What is the importance, in your opinion, in encouraging these ambitions?

The main thing I see preventing people from diving into a creative career is not wanting to close to the door on anything. There's a real fear of picking one thing to do because there's a perception that means never doing something else. Which isn't necessarily the case. You've just got to pick one thing, do it to figure out if you like it, then move on if you don't. No risk no reward.

Are there any topics that you'd love to conceptualise in illustration that you haven't had a chance to yet? And off the back of that is there any topic that you've illustrated that caught your fascination more than you'd expected? 

I'd love to do more topics that I have personal experience in, specifically being raised by immigrant parents and ethnic identity, specifically the East Asian experience in the Western world and cultural disconnect. As for things I've already done, I've gotten a few assignments on introversion and those stories always hit it home for me.

If we were to catch you at one of the rare times you aren't creating something, what would you likely be doing? 

Gardening and fussing over plants. I live a busy part of downtown Toronto and gardening in a concrete jungle provides some much needed quiet moments. I'm learning about growing food and how to make flowers bloom prolifically because you need a little glory sometimes.

Do you have any words of encouragement for other young illustrators out there?

I get this question a lot, and I can simply say do more, theorize less. Researching and asking questions is great, but there's a point where you have to put your plan into action and see how your artistic path pans out for you.

What happens when three stoners interrupt a robbery at a petrol station? Watch Luke Davies’ gripping short film Unleaded.

Mathieu Ajan

What happens when three peckish stoners unknowingly interrupt a robbery at a petrol station? Well, to find out you’ll have to watch Luke Davies’ gripping short film Unleaded.

Davies’ well-written and brilliantly acted short film is about “the unlikely triumph of stupidity and miscommunication”. Milo (played by Game of Thrones’ Josef Atlin) is visibly disgruntled when he is expected yet again to go and buy snacks - and papers -for his mates as they wait in the car.

A 2016 winner of the Young Director Award, Davies’ skillful writing and direction particularly shines during the middle segment of the film, as the characters’ simultaneous interactions with one another take place. Whilst on the phone to his friends in the car, Milo demands them to quit bossing him about but is completely oblivious to the gun being pointed at his head.

Milo’s wish to stop being taken advantage of is relatable to watch, and this core of the film adds enough humour to lighten its dark mood. Unleaded is entertaining and will keep you on the edge of your seat from start to finish.

Artist Spotlight with Helena Perez Garcia

Mathieu Ajan

Firstly, tell us a bit about yourself, what do you do when you're not creating, what was your journey like into the world of design and illustration?

I studied Fine Arts and a Master in Design and illustration in Spain. I’ve always loved drawing so, for me, studying Fine Arts was something natural. When I'm not working I spend my time reading, going to exhibitions, watching films, travelling, going swimming

When did you first figure out that you want to be a designer and illustrator?

I loved art and drawing since I was a child so, for me, studying Fine Arts was something natural. I decided to be a designer because I wanted to work in the creative industry and to me graphic design seemed the best choice. It was later on that I decided to be an illustrator too. For me illustrating means having more freedom and creating more personal work as it's much closer to art that graphic design. It's also a way for expressing myself.

What are your main inspirations, what influences your work?

As an illustrator I’m influenced by art, literature, cinema… Since my trip to Rome a few months ago I've been very influenced by Italian art, specially Pre-Renaissance and Renaissance art. I also admire artists like Magritte and Boticelli, filmmakers like Jean Cocteau and writers like Virginia Woolf and Albert Camus.

We really love this image below, please talk us through your creative process?

I usually get ideas for my personal work while reading. I didn’t get the idea for this illustration from any book in particular, but I remember the idea came after reading and thinking about the self and how personality is formed. I forgot about this for a while and then I was suddenly struck by the idea for the illustration when I was in the tube and I did a very quick sketch on my pocket notebook.

What does the future hold for you? Do you have any goals you’ve set yourself for the year?

I'll be participating in some shows and working on personal projects. I also planned to dedicate some time to self promotion. Internet is great for that but nowadays it's important to use other media too.

What advice would you give to the younger you? Is there anything you would have done differently on your journey?

I think I discovered illustration very late, at the end of my University degree. I always loved drawing but I didn’t really know I could make a living out of it. So I would say to a younger me that I could focus on that. That way I would have started working and finding a personal style earlier.

Breaking into the industry can be difficult, what advice would you give to emerging artists?

Create a strong portfolio, build a professional website to showcase your work and contact the right clients where your style and work would fit. Be patient because making a living out of illustration is a long run. And work hard of course!

Why do you think making a career out of your creative passion is so important? 

We spend very long hours of our lives working, so for me it's essential to work on something I love. I’m at the very beginning of my career but I hope I could dedicate the rest of my life to something I’m passionate about.

What obstacles and hurdles have you encountered on your creative journey? How did you overcome them?

At the beginning it's very hard to get comissions. The only thing one can do is being patient, working hard to evolve and creating better work and investing time and effort in self promotion. And never give up!

You once lived in Spain, published books in France and now living in England. How does living in various different countries affect your journey as an illustrator and designer?

Living abroad has been a very enriching experience for me and it makes me grow both personally and professionally. It's great to get to now people from around the world and travelling really broadens the mind.

If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would it be and why?

I would be in Cadiz (in the south of Spain) sunbathing at the beach, swimming in the sea, eating delicious food and admiring the breathtaking sunsets. The city is so beautiful at this time of the year! I’ll be there in a week for my holiday and I can’t wait!

Scarlett Cunningham sheds light on the highs and lows of the fashion industry.

Mathieu Ajan

We love getting up close and personal with creators, and for this month’s Artist Spotlight we introduce you to Scarlett Cunningham. A London-based fashion designer bringing a new perspective to the fashion industry through her work and garments. Our interview with Scarlett is jam-packed with nuggets of wisdom that’ll give you insight into the lifestyle of a fashion designer and the ups and downs that come along with it.

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