October 28, 2020
The talented artist behind some of the Calligraphy Box sleeve designs is Dundee based Illustrator Zoë Swann. Her bold and colourful style is at the forefront of all her designs. We are thrilled with her plant themed sleeve design for October’s box! We spoke with Zoë who shares her best tips for creating illustrations, reveals what helps her stay creative and more on her career as an illustrator.
I draw in a flat, stylised way – I’m more concerned about using interesting colour schemes and shapes than creating super realistic images. I like to include details in my lifework and use rough digital brushes to add texture.
I’ve been drawing for as long I can remember, and my family encouraged me to develop my creative skills. I have fond memories of my papa – who drew cartoons for the local newspapers and painted – teaching me how to draw stuff like horses and people.
In high school, I really enjoyed English and Modern Studies, but in the end I chose to pursue Art. It was the subject I never got tired of! I left high school after fifth year and spent a year at college doing a portfolio preparation course. This led me to getting a place at DJCAD which I graduated from with a BA Hons Degree in Illustration.
When I create an illustration, there are a few steps I usually go through. It always starts with an idea, then I sketch out a few thumbnails. These are just small drawings that I use to place shapes and plan out the overall drawing – I save the details for later. It’s here that I decide what measurements the final drawing will be. I tend to work to squares or standard A5 or A4 sizes.
I then usually take pictures of these sketches and draw over them in Procreate. This is the software I use to draw on my iPad. I then draw over these, and this is where I choose my colour scheme. I like to keep my palettes quite restricted, with usually only two or three main colours and then shades of those for the details. When I’m drawing, I usually start with the main shapes of the piece, and then I go over these with details to complete the illustration.
I would say I have 4F’s that keep me going – Faith, Friends, Family, and the Future.
First of all, my faith is a huge part of my life. I’m a Christian, and the hope that I have in God has really brought me through some difficult times. It’s through the church that I’ve met so many of my dearest friends, and for that I am truly thankful.
My friends keep me going because I know I can be myself around them. We are here for each other through good times and bad. It’s the same with my family, I love them and their encouragement inspires me to keep going.
My final point is the future – hear me out! In difficult times, it’s very easy to focus on what’s going wrong, but I always try to remind myself that everything has its time, and things won’t be like this forever. I’m excited to see what the future holds. But I know that I can’t just do nothing and expect great things to happen down the line. Thinking about the impact my actions (or lack thereof) will have on myself and others really motivates me to try my best and work as hard as I can.
I think that’s it’s normal to have times when you feel a bit discouraged or unmotivated, especially when it comes to creative subjects. It’s very easy to compare yourself to others and feel like you need to reach certain milestones. But don’t be afraid to take a break from your work and do something else.
I like to picture my creativity levels as a battery – if I only focus on putting out my own work, it’ll get depleted quickly. Taking in inspiration from other sources helps me charge that battery, and we’ll all have different things that do that for us. For me, some things that really inspire me are watching films, reading art books and taking in some of the beautiful scenery of Scotland. I am also very fortunate to live near to the V+A Museum in Dundee, and I find that I always leave their exhibitions with fresh inspiration and ideas.
Being part of a community is great for motivation too, whether it’s a group specifically for art, or just a friend group in general. I’d encourage you to find people who want the best for you and who will cheer you on. These people can help remind you of your value when you’re struggling to see it.
Thanks Zoë! We loved hearing about your creative process and your tips for staying creative. If you would like to see more of Zoë’s talented work, then head over to her Instagram @zswann or check out her website – www.zswann.com
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