Freelance illustrator, Bronte has recently finished her final weeks of the BA(Hons) Visual Communication course at Leeds Arts University. She runs my own online gift shop ‘The Art Cave Creations’ and currently has a mural she designed on platform 16 of Leeds train station.
Tell us a little bit about you! Where you are from, maybe something quirky
I’m 21 years old from Leeds, West Yorkshire. I graduate from Leeds Arts University in July and currently operate my online shop The Art Cave Creations from my bedroom. I love travel – so far, I’ve been to Rome, Brussels, Paris and Las Vegas; Next on my bucket list: Spain, Iceland and Amsterdam. Recently, I became the proud owner of two Axolotls called Mudkip and Pancake, and if you don’t know what they are I would 100% recommend checking them out on Google Images.
In January 2018, my illustration of Emley Moor Mast was erected as a 5ft mural in Leeds Train Station, by Network Rail. This was an amazing opportunity for me, as my work is on permanent display in one of the busiest stations in the country and I got paid for my service. It was a healthy taste of working on commission for big clients and I’m really proud of the work I put in; I feel enthusiastic and eager to work on more commission based projects in the future.
Where would you like to see your online shop go/where can you see it going?
I’ve love to make my online shop into a full-time career, maybe even have a brick and mortar shop one day! I love the satisfaction of holding something I’ve designed and made by myself, and posting it off to a buyer. It’s very rewarding to receive lovely reviews and comments online. For the meantime, I’m happy taking sales as and when they come, focusing on improving every aspect of my shop to reach its fullest potential and have a consistent flow of sales.
Looking back how have you developed?
I’ve developed a huge amount since I first started out 2 years ago. I opened the shop back when I was first getting into illustration, so my illustration style and method of drawing was completely different than it is now. I used to scan in a lot of illustrations to be used for card designs, whereas now my work is almost all digitally drawn for a higher quality finish. My product range has expanded from just greetings cards to include stickers, notebooks, a colouring book, and just recently – badges and a mug! My branding has become a lot more professional and consistent, which has encouraged sales. When I look back at some of my original card ideas I can’t help but cringe a little, however if it wasn’t for those initial sales, I wouldn’t have grown to where I am today.
How do you feel now, currently as your practice stands?
In my practice right now, I’m a little bit nervous. I’ve officially handed in my final uni project, which means from now on there’ll be no tutors holding my hand, giving advice on my designs and ideas. However, it also means I’ll be free to explore my own ideas more, as I don’t have to worry about time keeping as much, or how many marks I’ll get for my work. To keep me on track, I’ve created a three-year business plan, including when I should be making new products, which craft fairs I should be applying to etc. This makes me feel more optimistic about my practice, as I still have goals to reach and a plan for what work I should be doing to succeed as a freelance illustrator and owner of my own online shop.
Who and what inspires your practice?
I follow quite a lot of freelance designers and online shop owners who are really successful, as they represent where I ultimately want to be in my own practice. A few examples include: Katie Abey, who has thousands of Etsy sales and recently opened her own physical shop in Alfreton. Her illustration style is very bold and quirky and features a lot of pop-culture references. Secondly, there is Kristyna Baczynski, who creates a lot of illustrated story zines, which are always beautifully illustrated with thought going into every inch of the page. Her work inspires me to create more zines of my own. Another illustrator who I find inspiring is SavannahStormIllustration. Storm creates stunningly illustrated patterns which are then made into greetings cards and tea towels, of which I find the tactile quality and every day functionality to be an interesting way of showcasing a design.
I think it’s important to follow a range of artists with different styles and products, as it keeps the market fresh and brings me new ideas for my shop all the time. It’s inspiring to look at shops that have already ‘made it’ as it gives me vision of what my shop could look like one day, and gives me new ideas for how I can express myself through my art,
Long term what are your ambitions? Is there anyone you’d love to collaborate with?
Long term, besides having my shop as a full-time career, I would love to take on commissions. It would be a great way of working with other people creatively whilst still being able to direct my own vision as an artist. I’ve just created a 16-page full colour zine, called ‘Sloths: An Educational Zine’ which features information on sloths as a species and what we can do to help protect them in the wild. My aim is to send the zine to various different zoos across the UK that keep sloths in their parks, either to sell or to advertise my skills for other, bespoke projects. Ultimately, I’m going to send the zine to WWF, as they’re world leaders of conservation so it would be amazing to work with a client of such a high profile.
How would you describe your creative process?
My creative process starts off with me writing a list of anything I want to draw in the near future, be it fun sketches for Instagram or a new pattern idea etc. Sometimes I will sketch my ideas with a pencil on paper, however I prefer drawing with pens and will usually jump straight into Photoshop, drawing out a rough sketch on one layer and then gradually refining the illustration on separate layers. Anything that is fairly cheap and easy to produce myself, such as greetings cards, I make in my home studio. More exciting products such as mugs and phone cases are difficult to produce myself, so I enlist companies like Awesome Merchandise to produce these to a high quality. I produce all my own photography, which means my photos may not be the most professional looking, but they further represent my style and personality.
Any words of advice for someone just starting out and/or struggling?
My advice for someone who is just starting out is not to worry about your end goal for the time being. It takes years to grow into a successful freelancer, and part of the fun is finding your feet along the way. Embrace every idea that comes to you and work on building a community of friends and artists who you can turn to for advice, feedback and ideas to keep your creative process flowing.
How would you describe your work/illustrations?
I would describe my work as contemporary, cartoon-like illustration. My designs feature comic characters in vibrant, bold colours to create an upbeat and cheerful aesthetic. There’s no significant cause to my work, I just want to brighten up someone’s day with a jolly illustration.
Is colour something thats important to you?
Colour is very important to me as every colour represents a different emotion. A lack of colour would result in a lack of optimism and joy in my illustrations – colour is the element that makes them pop. I’m a very colourful person in day to day life, from the colours I dye my hair, to the jewellery I buy and the plants I collect. Using colour in my work represents the colour I see in my everyday life.
Where do you usually gather inspiration from?
I usually gather inspiration from the objects I see around me. I see my illustrations as an extension of my personality, so like to create characters that resemble animals that are of interest to me, my favourite plants and foods etc. I find it really difficult to draw people, and love making repeat patterns, so finding inanimate objects – such as ice cream cones, for example, are a great way for me to feel engaged and enthused with my work.