illustrator

Belinda Xia

Belinda Xia For issue 3, our Australia issue, we're playing just a tad with the Lodestars Anthology design. A big part of this plan is Sydney-based illustrator Belinda Xia. While we can't divulge any more (you've only got to wait until August for the magazine), we can share this interview with the effervescent Australian creative. Let's hope it inspires you to crack out the pencils and see the world in colour.

Belinda Xia

Where did you train and how did you come to be an illustrator?

I did a Visual Communications degree at uni but other than that I’m a self-taught illustrator. I always loved drawing from a young age but was encouraged to steer towards a more 'conventional' career. It took some experimentation to find a medium which I enjoyed (and was good at!) and it evolved from there. Illustrating was initially just an on-the-side creative outlet, but is fast becoming so much more!

Can you describe your style?

Clean, elegant and pretty. With pops of humour and silliness - I’m a sucker for a good pun.

Belinda Xia

What inspires your work?

Clean lines and beautiful details. Fashion is definitely an inspiration - I find the textures, shapes and forms so alluring and with a graphic design background, I like to look at composition (I particularly love white space) when putting my own works together.

I find illustrating in general allows a greater appreciation for details because you’re made to recreate someone else’s work and must represent it beautifully!

4) What is the best thing about your job?

Being creative on a daily basis and being able to find inspiration anywhere! I went to a herb garden workshop one weekend and left wanting to paint them all. Constantly evolving stylistically is another perk, I’m always learning - never sit still. However don’t be fooled, I also work extremely hard through long hours and sacrifices - but it’s worth it. I couldn’t do it without the support of my partner, family and friends.

Fashion and the natural world seems to infiltrate your work quite a bit - is this intentional and why does it play such an important role?

I’ve always loved fashion (like most little girls) and started off drawing things I couldn’t afford to buy - I had to have them one way or another! I suppose you tend to look for ways to combine the things you love so you can have them selfishly in one place. To be honest, flowers first featured in my works because I was rubbish at drawing them and wanted to practise - I can never do them justice!

Belinda Xia

Does Australia influence your work in any way?

I love drawing Australian fashion - does that count? We have a unique quirk and effortlessness in our shapes and style that I’m so proud of. I think the silliness in some of my works also comes from the great Aussie sense of humour.

Illustrating the Australian wildflowers in [the upcoming Australia issue] was actually a lot of fun - capturing the beauty of our own backyard!

Is there a creative community in Sydney?

Definitely! Perhaps it’s not as boisterous as say New York or Berlin, but Sydney is teeming with creative talent in our galleries, restaurants and shops. Brewery Yard Markets is a lovely boutique-feel market in the city which showcases beautiful work by some very talented artists. I find Sydney’s creatives are very supportive of each other and there’s a real community vibe.

Has there been a project (past, present or future) that you’ve particularly enjoyed?

My entire illustration career has been an absolute joy because it still surprises me that I can get paid to do something I love so much.

Pet commissions are particularly special because they come with a personal connection and story that I feel lucky to be a part of. I was recently commissioned to draw a one-eyed dog back when it had both eyes. So many interesting stories indeed!

What advice do you have for aspiring illustrators?

Start. Regardless of what your passion is! I umm-ed and aah-ed for so long, and now seeing how far I’ve come in the relatively short time - I wish I’d started sooner! If you’re motivated to do it in the evenings after eight hours at a desk job, you’ve definitely found your calling!

To learn more about Belinda, and order a print, click here.

Belinda Xia

Belinda Xia

Belinda Xia

Belinda Xia

Belinda Xia

Belinda Xia

Succulent2

Emily MacKenzie

penguin-e1460061765755.jpg

We had a chat with Edinburgh-based artist Emily MacKenzie about Scotland, illustrations and growing up just a little bit wild. Check out issue 2, out in March, to learn more about this lovely creative and the joys of Scotland. Emily MacKenzie

Can you tell me a little about your training and artistic background?

I come from quite creative family of graphic designers, illustrators, photographers, animators and artists so for as long as I can remember my need to create and my interest in children's books has always been there and encouraged. I have very fond memories of taking over my parents studio and making use of their paper samples and materials to make all manner of weird paper creations! Drawing and making has always been in my blood, I don't ever remember thinking I would be interested in anything other than a creative career.

I grew up in rural Northumberland so when I left school I completed an Art Foundation year in Newcastle where I tried lots of different disciplines on rotation, which was brilliant though illustration wasn't something we could specialise in at that time. I joined the course thinking I wanted to be a fashion or shoe designer or perhaps a fine artist, but it was graphic design that captured my interest in the end and I moved up to Scotland in 2001 to study Graphic Design at Edinburgh College of Art.

After graduating I designed book covers in house at one of Scotland's largest publishing houses, Mainstream Publishing, but I continued developing my illustration and started printmaking in my own time. I designed non-fiction book covers for seven years before realising that I was happiest when I was drawing and so I decided to take the plunge to go full-time freelance in order to pursue my dream of becoming a children's illustrator, working on my own personal projects and selling prints of my work through local shops and galleries and online. My first children's picture book Wanted! Ralfy Rabbit, Book Burglar has just been published by Bloomsbury and I've just had great fun completing artwork for my second book, to be published in 2016.

Emily MacKenzie

How would you define your style?

I'd say my work is mostly character based, quite spontaneous, colourful, inky and humorous. I enjoy getting jokes into my work or expressions that make people smile. I also love screen-printing and get a kick out of bringing my characters to life in the form of screen-printed, embroidered 3D plushes and soft sculptures which I sell online.

What inspires your work?

The house I grew up in in Northumberland borders a pine forest so I've always been drawn to foresty creatures! I have quite an active imagination which I think in part is down to all that drawing, reading and forest exploring when I was young so I am influenced by my childhood but also odd things I observe every day here walking around Edinburgh too.

Emily MacKenzie

What do you love about your job?

I love the diversity! Each day a new illustration project brings new challenges and surprises and the flexibility means if I'm having difficulty getting stuck into a project I can go for a thinking-swim, walk around the Botanics, draw in The Museum of Scotland or do some printing to get my cogs working again.

I also love seeing how people react to my work, it's a great feeling watching kids respond positively to my characters and I'll never get tired of watching people laugh or smile at something I've drawn.

There is a certain innocence to your work - is this intentional and where does this come from?

It's not intentional but I suppose I'm aware that the majority of my work is created with children in mind so I tend to be drawn to creating work that I know I would have enjoyed looking at when I was little. That being said, I find it an exciting challenge to get humour into my illustrations that will appeal to children and adults on different levels, so I try and make my picture book work enjoyable and interesting with funny jokes and scenarios for 'grown-ups' too.

Does Scotland influence your work in any way?

Absolutely! I've lived here for 13 years now and am really inspired by the landscape and wildlife here as well as scottish words and phrases I come across. Last year I designed a colour chart poster titled '50 Shades of Scotland' celebrating the hues of some of my favourite scottish things (Nessie, Haggis, Thistle, Smoked Salmon, Loch etc...) and a series of postcard prints based around Edinburgh's beloved Greyfriar's Bobby statue, so I definitely feel that my work is connected to Scotland and my life here.

Emily MacKenzie

Do you feel that there is a creative community in Edinburgh?

Definitely, there are lots of creative studio buildings around the city. I share a studio space at Edinburgh Contemporary Crafts and also print work at Edinburgh Printmakers where I've got to know other illustrators, craftspeople and printmakers. There's also a great craft market scene here which is fun to be part of when I have time.

Has there been a project (past, present or future) that you’ve particularly enjoyed?

Although they haven't been without their challenges, I've loved the experience of writing stories and bringing my characters to life in both my books, particularly the second which will be published next year. The character who features in my second book has been alive in my head for years now so it's been a dream come true to bring him into the world and I can't wait to see him in print, but I know I'll always have a soft spot for Ralfy too!

What advice do you have for aspiring illustrators?

It's a very competitive industry so persistence and believing in yourself and your work is really important. It's quite easy to get a confidence knock if you're turned down for a job or a commission you really want to do and I've lost hours comparing myself to other illustrators online afterwards which can be really self destructive! Think about what it is you like about your own work and what you think makes your work unique and write it down, that way you can refer back to it if you lose your way a little. I find this technique can help me to refocus and start working on a job again with a fresh perspective. I also find working in a shared studio really inspiring as I enjoy having other creatives around me I can bounce new ideas ideas off.

Emily MacKenzie

Emily MacKenzie

Emily MacKenzie