We take the chance to talk about music, cartoons, techniques, influences and inspirations with Michaela Pointon of Marti Illustration, whose work is featured in Lodestars Anthology Canada (which you can pre-order here). For more of Michaela's illustrations, visit her website at www.martiillustration.com and follow her on Instagram @marti.illustration. Could you tell us a little bit about your background – where you trained, how you learned, and what inspired you to become an artist and an illustrator when you were younger?
I’ve always been passionate about storytelling – creating something magical out of something not so magical seemed to be the thing I found most exciting when growing up. I grew up in Southport, which is a small seaside town in the North West of England and there was just something about it that fascinated me and made me question what was out there beyond the water.
I originally studied Fine Art in Southport as a diploma, and went on to specialise in Illustration as an A-level equivalent. From there I went on to The Glasgow School of Art to do my degree in Visual Communication, which was the perfect course because it wasn’t tied to any specific skill and allowed me to explore different ways of working.
I was so lucky to be placed in a class full of really great and talented people, we were all very close and I’d say they were a huge influence on me throughout the four years I was there. It helped so much to belong to a group who also lived and breathed the things they were most passionate about.
You’re based in London – do you take the city as an inspiration? Does it feature in your work?
I adore London, living here certainly has its ups and downs, but the energy of the city never stays still and I really enjoy that. There is so much see, and everyone you meet will have a story to tell about how they came to be here or their experience of the city and I find that so inspiring. There’s a real sense of determination and strength of character, which I love.
I wouldn’t say the City of London is featured in my work, but most certainly the journey I’ve had since living here and the people I’ve worked with along the way have influenced how I work.
You’ve mentioned that you’re inspired by mid-century design and travel – what is it about these themes that drew you to use them as an inspiration for your work?
For me, mid-century design is the perfect example of something being able to function in a beautiful and simplistic way. I love how bold and charming it can be just through its use of form and colour, I find that method of working very inspiring!
I wrote my dissertation on The Festival of Britain and just adored the psychology behind how things were designed for the purpose of healthy living and happiness. I think there’s so much to take away from that in our own lifestyles.
You’ve travelled to some interesting locations, and produced work relating to travel – have your travels influenced you significantly? Do you have a favourite country that you’ve visited?
Travel has always brought a change of scenery and a new experience. Everywhere you go people and places have a different story to tell.
I love the East Coast of Spain and have had great adventures in Greece, but I also feel a real connection to Blackpool and Glasgow, which are very contrasting!
I also enjoy illustrating places that I haven’t seen. The idea of creating a journey you haven’t yet experienced is a nice way of travelling on a budget!
You’ve worked across a number of different mediums and techniques, such as pen and ink – can you explain a little about the mediums/ techniques you use? Do you have a particular favourite? Do you find that working with one medium/ technique helps, or feeds into working with another?
I think the medium you use can really alter how you express the things you’re working on. I wrote a lot of poetry and short stories for my final year of my degree and found the words alone weren’t enough by themselves, so I began building installations to allow the reader to experience the sequences I played out in my mind when creating these stories. Since then I’ve become much more confident in illustrating and realising that you can tell a story with just as much meaning and expression with the stroke of a brush and some ink.
Illustrating with a tablet has become second nature, but I’d hate to lose touch with my ever-faithful brush set and pastels, so I try as much as I can to keep that up.
Some of your work has a lovely, Picasso-esque feel to it – has Picasso ever served as an inspiration to you? Do you have a favourite artist or illustrator?
That’s a really lovely complement! His used of big bold colours and exaggerated shapes have always been huge win for me.
Satoshi Hashimoto’s work is incredibly beautiful, and I just love the subjects he illustrates. They’re very clever and a real treat. I could also look at the works of Paul Rand, and Miroslav Sasek all day, every day and never get bored.
Mary Blair has also been a huge inspiration for story telling and vision. I could go on!
Your website mentions a fondness for Tom and Jerry, and your work can be quite playful – have cartoons been a significant factor in your work? Do you have a favourite cartoon? Is working in animation something you’re interested in?
Cartoons have played a huge part in my work. The further back you go the better they get! I’m fascinated by the work which was being produced in the 50s and the 60s because it adapted so much of its style to reflect design trends at that time. I’m still a big kid at heart and love that so much of what you find in the animation industry is created by people who are also living out that part of their imagination to entertain the masses, it’s a really lovely thing.
Disney’s 1953 Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom and UPA’s 1951 Rooty Toot Toot get a regular screening at home, not to Mention Ren & Stimpy!
Animation is something I’ll always be interested in, I’d love to be clever enough to make my work come to life, but I think I’d need some help from the pros!
You’ve mentioned Kryzsztof Komeda – do you find that music helps you produce your work? Do you have a particular piece that you enjoy?
I love listening to music when working, it’s a healthy way to free your mind a little more when it’s rammed full of day-to-day admin. More recently I’ve been listening to lots of podcasts, they’re so great for learning on the go, especially if you just want something easy to tune into in the background. The Bancroft Brothers Animation Podcast is top of my list.
You’ve worked for a number of publications as well as producing personal work – do you have a favourite piece out of all the illustrations you’ve made?
I feel really excited about the things I’ve been lucky enough to work on so far, Lodestars in particular! The world of illustration is so exciting, and seeing your work in print is always a really special moment.
The great thing about working on editorial pieces is that it allows you to work on subjects you wouldn’t necessarily think to explore, so I’m learning all of the time, and that’s super rewarding.