Lauren Radley is a Jersey based freelance illustrator. Working with an agent based in the UK means she produces work for a wide variety of clients, working on a diverse and exciting range of different projects. She also runs her own business with her husband Emile, producing greetings cards, prints, stationery, and homeware of her illustrations. She sells online, and around the island, as well as with Not On The High Street, and several outlets in the UK. Here she talks us through her background and the process involved in producing her beautiful illustrations.
Tell us about where and when getting creative all started for you? I have drawn, made, painted, and created, my entire life. It’s all I did as a child really! My mum is an artist, and I remember being really little and seeing paintings and drawings that she had done, and being mesmerised and totally unbelieving had actually been made by my mum! It was the biggest inspiration for me, and I always had such a drive, even from an early age, to be able to be as good as that!
So from being a kid, drawing everyday (mostly frogs and sharks?!), I then went on to study illustration and animation at Kingston University in London, and so now I still get to draw every day (or colour in as I like to say!), and I love it!
How would you describe your work? My work is often described as ‘cute’, and for a while I was fighting against this, but over the past year or so I’ve kind of given in to the label, and realised, that actually I suppose it is quite cute! I tend to put a smiley face and rosy cheeks on everything, so I suppose there’s no getting away from it. My new range of work is based around taking a happy and uplifting quote from authors like Roald Dahl and Rudyard Kipling, or lines of poems from Goethe and Shakespeare, and surrounding them with a border of my illustrations (usually animals, trees or dinosaurs!). They are all designed with kids nursery’s in mind, but I tend to sell them to a lot of adults too! I like to draw animals, food, flowers, and maps. I have a big thing for creating illustrated maps!
Can you talk us through the process you go through to produce your work? If the work is commissioned, then the process will be determined by a deadline which will often mean it’s needed quickly. I will get a brief, read through it, make some quick notes and drawings in my sketchbook, and then produce a more detailed sketch. Once I have had feedback from the client, I then produce the final image digitally, using Photoshop and my Wacom drawing tablet. The whole thing can take anything from a couple of days to a couple of months.
Creating my own work is slightly different. I have so many ideas all of the time for new pieces, and new prints and cards that I want to produce, so I carry my sketchbook with me pretty much everywhere (or if I’m out walking, I write down ideas on my phone), and make notes and quick sketches for new pieces. I usually come up with ideas when I’m away from my studio; walking my dog in the woods, or on a run, or cooking dinner!
So when I have time in-between commissioned work, I sit down, open my sketchbook, and I don’t really have to plan, I just go for it, because it’s all there, ready to go, and I’ve usually been sitting on an idea for a long time before I finally get time to create it, so it’s exciting and I could work for hours once I get started on them!
Your list of recent commissions is impressive, can you talk us through some of the highlights and the places we may have seen your work off island? I’ve recently done a few covers for supplements in The Saturday Telegraph, which was amazing! I felt quite a bit of pressure with that one, which I don’t usually feel when I’m illustrating (Telegraph cover = scary!). I’m working with Pet Plan at the moment, which is a great job as I just get to draw cats and dogs all day (the dream!).
Other regular clients include BBC Good Food Magazine, Waitrose, and Tesco (lots of food and maps!). I’m also in the middle of a big project with the National Trust, creating illustrated maps of all the different regions of the UK which are then being produced as tea towels and mugs to be sold in all National Trust shops.
Do you have a favourite piece of work that you’ve kept, one that you loved so much you just couldn’t sell? I have a piece in my hallway, which is a big black and white ink drawing I did when I lived In Asia, based on a quote from The Rakes Progress (‘Leave all love and hope behind, out of sight is out of mind’). People have bought prints of it, and have asked to buy it since, but I don’t sell it anymore. There’s something a bit too personal about it. And it’s such a sad quote! I think my work has changed to far more happy and positive vibes now!
Do you have any particular artists that have inspired you throughout your career? As I mentioned, my mum was probably the biggest inspiration to me growing up! I also love David Hockney (being a northern girl!), and, I had an obsession with Edward Hopper for a while, and then I love lots of random children’s book illustrators like Raymond Briggs, Sara Fanelli, and Eric Carle.
If you could own a single piece of work produced by an artist you admire, what would it be? An original Hockney sketch or ink drawing of his sausage dogs!
If you could have the keys to any museum or gallery in the world where would it be? The National Portrait Gallery in London. I lived in London for around six years, and even though I must have visited the gallery a million times, I still have to go every time I go over to London (which is often!). I am a little obsessed with the Tudor Gallery there, the intricacy of the costumes is crazy, and there’s something so weird about how their hand are painted!
What work adorns your walls at home? The artwork on my walls is mostly from people I know. I have lots of amazing artists and illustrator friends, and I love having their work on my walls! Myself and a close group of friends decided a few years ago that rather than buy each other presents for birthdays we would give each other pieces of our work, or paint or draw something original for each other. It feels very special!
What’s coming up next? Lots of exciting things! I have just moved into an amazing new studio with two awesome girls – Abi Overland and Claire Campbell. We are using the space as a shop and showroom as well as a studio, and it is so exciting to be around other creative people, who are running small businesses like me. We have only been in for a few weeks, but already it has been a game changer; I have produced more new work in these past few weeks than I ever did working in past studios, and it is the best, just to be able to get advice, encouragement and ideas from each other every day!
Come and see us at The Nook on New Street. We are just above Nude Food and love having visitors!