It’s hard to say whether Anna is a designer with great illustration skills or an illustrator with a lot of design experience. Either way, this versatility has led her down a varied creative career path where the two have become inextricably linked.
In her role as an illustrator, she spends her days in a world of make believe, creating emotive imagery that tells a story or sells a product. But while her head is in the clouds of creativity, her feet are firmly planted in the grounds of reality: the deadlines; the budget; the target market; the strategy. All these realities are as familiar to her as the imaginary world she works in. Her “can do” attitude and ability to adapt to any illustration style means she has been trusted to work on licensed characters such as Streets “Paddlepop Lion”, “Felicity Wishes” and Kelloggs “Toucan Sam”. Her portfolio is now as diverse as the range of requests she receives. Her styles include (among others) a simple vector style, a painterly style created in Photoshop and Painter, and even traditional watercolour.
In a design studio her imagination and ability to draw, leads to requests for “blue sky” thinking and pencil sketches, to quickly get those illusive ideas down on paper. These days a packaging brief is more often than not for a children’s product and it is quite common for Anna to be in from the start: the pencil concepts; the design development and finally the finished image. Commissions for hand drawn, bespoke typography are not uncommon and her illustrations are also to be found on websites, in advertising or as part of a company’s new brand.
Anna studied at Loughborough College of Art and Design where the Illustration tutor told her that it was almost impossible to earn a good living as an illustrator. So in 1989 she left college for the world of work armed with some work experience, qualifications, a portfolio (and some questionable 80’s fashion sense) determined to prove him wrong.
She started her professional career as she intended to go on: freelance. Initially the commissions were small as were the design companies that contracted her; designing marketing material, invitations and point of sale. After a few years clients included Boots; East Midlands Electricity and Marks and Spencer, where the work was mostly packaging and point of sale. It was about now that she received her first illustration commission – from the Guide Association. Until this point all Anna’s work was done traditionally using paper, pencil, paint and the Post Office. A move to the South West, where she took a full time role with a design company in Bristol, gave her the opportunity to finally get to grips with the Apple Mac and Adobe software. It wasn’t long before her ability to draw put Anna in sole charge of visualising the look and feel of all photography for Somerfields in-store POS and literature, including the art direction and styling, adding yet another string to her bow. After 18 months in Bristol a new adventure beckoned; this time on the other side of the world. A 6 month trip around Australia turned into an 8 year residency where her dual role as illustrator and packaging designer really took off. Returning to her freelance status enabled her to work in many of Sydney’s finest studios, on a wide variety of Australia’s leading FMCG accounts such as Sara Lee; Kelloggs; Aldi; Arnotts and Streets. And when she finally returned to the UK 3 years ago, she maintained a long distance relationship with many of these clients who continue to commission concepts and illustrations from her today.
Right now her work in progress folder has a corporate identity waiting for client feedback; 2 commissions from children’s educational book publishers and a request for 3 additional vector images for a website. Although the majority of her illustration work is digital now, and her free time rare, she still likes to go back to the drawing board where her new hobby of printmaking helps satisfy her creative freedom.
Twenty two years after leaving college you could argue that since Anna’s work roughly constitutes 50% illustration and 50% design, her tutor was perhaps right all along. But Anna cannot imagine how she could possibly do one job without the other.