Illustrator Sophia Maria on finding a style
Sophia Maria is an illustrator, letterer and serial doodler. After a stint studying graphics at Goldsmiths University and Camberwell College.
After a stint studying graphics at Goldsmiths University and Camberwell College, she gradually moved into editorial illustration – and more recently fashion. We talk to her about getting clients, finding your style and creative inspirations.
Tell us a little bit about your career so far – what is your background and where did you study?
I studied for a while at Goldsmiths University and Camberwell college, but it was a while after that I decided to move from graphic design into illustration.
I began creating work digitally but I felt frustrated that my work didn’t have enough character. Once I had the confidence to go back to basics, paper and pens I began to be happy with my style.
I do bits for charities, Save the Rhino and Fight For Rhinos and some mental health charities for example. I volunteer myself to do this and help raise awareness of their cause. I’ve got some work for the BBC coming up and other exciting bits to look forward to.
Can you share a few of your creative inspirations – where do you get your ideas from?
I have a lot of books from Flying Eye publishers, mostly children’s books but they’re amazing, my mum thinks I’m strange that I buy them. But, if I’m feeling a little lazy and I’m instantly inspired to create even when I’m super tired. I take a lot of inspiration from places, usually exotic places I wish I was in, or people, funny situations. Sometimes if something funny has happened to me in real life, I will think of ways to illustrate it. And puns, I love puns.
How would you describe your working process? What tools and materials do you most enjoy working with?
Well, now I’m well and truly captivated by creating by hand, I use many different mediums. I love working with watercolour but also mixing it with these Japanese Brush Pens (they were a present and now I’m hooked) so it’s a mixture of those. And also the odd white pen or black fine liner. I love stationary, it brings me so much pleasure using my tools. I have a class online where I go into a bit of detail about those Japanese Brush pens here.
I’m well and truly captivated by creating by hand, and I use many different mediums.
Do you have any unusual hobbies or past times?
I’ve become a bit of a hippie and a yoga bum, I bend all over the place, which isn’t unusual except I’ve started chanting to my food before I eat it. That’s pretty unusual, you should try it. I love to watch cartoons and I also make my own jewellery. It’s needlessly time consuming but I really enjoy it. I try to sell them on the shop. Its going slowly but getting there.
How do you typically promote your work and get commissions? Are there any methods that have been proven to work more than others?
Instagram and Twitter are fantastics tool for promoting work. Also using sites where you can upload and sell your work are great too as they often will feature stuff for you (for free).
Do you have any advice for those just starting out and looking to get their first paid clients?
Just keep working and have no aim except to do the best work you can and you will get noticed eventually. Offer to illustrate for editorial blogs and magazines that cover the same sort of themes as you have in your work. Also the same for charities, if you have a charity you’re passionate about maybe drop them a line and offer to do something for their social media? I designed a set of Xmas cards for Save The Rhino for them to sell on their ship and they all sold out which was lovely and rewarding.
Write to people you’d like to work with. Keep going, open dialogues with people. And be patient!
Do you like to travel or visit new cities for inspiration?
I’m a bit of a workaholic so I’ve been avoiding holidays but I certainly dream of them and use that as inspiration, a lot of my work has a bit of an exotic jungle vibe, I think that’s my subconscious telling me something. I am going to Goa at the end of the year and I know it’s going to be very inspiring, I want to snap every pattern I see.
Can you tell us anything about what you’re currently working on? What are you going to be doing over the Summer?
Well, I did some work for a company called Lyst, I painting 30 illustrations of the Olsen twins for their 30th birthday. It did really well, had like a 50.1 million readership amount so it was good to get the work out there. It was different to be a bit more ‘fashion’ I tried to keep my own style as much as possible. I was really happy with how they looked. Also I’m doing some work for children’s education books which is right up my street, I get to paint animals. I’ve also just started making greetings cards and other bits to sell on Etsy.
Where do you see your work taking you in the next decade? What kind of projects, collaborations, experiences do you hope to cultivate for yourself?
Hopefully more editorial work with exciting publications and newspapers would be amazing. Also if i can get my printed products out there it’d be great to have that as a business. It’s very satisfying seeing your work on something three dimensional.
Dream commission? Who would you most like to make work for or collaborate with?
I have always dreamt about creating my own children’s book, that’s definitely on my to do list, with a publisher like Nobrow. Or a Penguin books cover. That has to be the ultimate. Or, a spread in the Guardian would also be lovely. And creating artwork for music festivals is something I may be doing this year.