TOAST Magazine

Workspace | Olivia Whitworth

ARTS & CULTURE

For this month’s workspace we visited illustrator Olivia Whitworth at her London studio. From here she has been creating illustrations for the likes of Soho House, The Telegraph, Waitrose and, most recently, her Dream Weaver colouring book... 

Tell us about your work?

My work tends to start as a little idea that I try and scribble down before it disappears from my head. I have three or four sketchbooks / notebooks on the go that I scrawl in. From there I tend to produce inked illustrations which I either colour digitally or by hand, although recently a lot of my colour work has been done on the computer. One of my greatest fears is for my work to look ‘flat’ so I like to vary line weights when inking and add textures and brushes to the colour work. I try to keep my illustrations curious and whimsical, I like to hide little details that you could only spot if you looked closely.

What materials do you use?

I usually work with a simple ball-point 0.38 black ink pen. Occasionally I’ll use other mediums though, especially if I’m experimenting or playing around – pencils, coloured crayons, water colours, ink brushes… I’ll use digital techniques, too, overlaying textures and colour to enhance work that I’ve scanned in.

Where and how did you learn your craft?

I originally studied architecture at the University of Sheffield, but went on to study for a Masters in illustration at Camberwell College of Art. I’m sure my architectural education has influenced my illustration work; the course at Sheffield put emphasis on hand drawing, so several elements, like the quick sketching of ideas and drawing perspective have naturally transitioned into my illustration world. At Camberwell we were encouraged to be quite independent with our thinking and development of ideas, which was a push in the right direction for me — I had unintentionally got out of the habit of thinking in a more creative way.

Describe your workspace…

I have a desk in a shared studio in Lower Clapton in London. I like to work in a homely environment, so I surround myself with trinkets, found objects and reminders of friends and family. I collect postcards and rip pages out of magazines of images I like. I pin them up over my desk in the hope that the elements that I like about them will infuse themselves into my work!

It’s a light and airy space, and being surrounded by other freelancing creatives in varying disciplines can be invaluable, whether for exchanging ideas or just having a break with a cup of tea.

What inspires you, both in your work and life in general?

I feel like it can be anything and everything, at the moment. I admire the work of other artists and illustrators from varying styles and times — William Morris, Grayson Perry, Alfred Wallis, to name a few. I love any of the Miyazaki films and have become fascinated by nineteenth century Japanese woodblock prints, which had a heavy influence over my most recent book. I like to draw inspiration from the everyday, and I have a sketchbook that I try and carry on me to just draw exactly what I see in front of me. Something I want to try and do more of is to take time to do nothing. To get lost in a train of thought that develops into ideas for projects or pieces – so many concepts and stories develop organically when you least expect it — on the bus or lying in bed, not being distracted by this modern life and all its gadgets.

Olivia wears TOAST denim emmet dress with breton stripe tee, available online and in store.

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