Interview: Suzi Kemp
Since graduating from Brighton University in 2010 with a degree in Illustration, London-based illustrator Suzi Kemp has worked with a dizzying array of high-profile clients, such as Vans Girls, O'Neill and Shoreditch and Soho House.
Creating hand-written typography, print and web editorials, live artwork and pattern and apparel design, her portfolio is impressive.
We caught up with her to talk about about her favourite clients, pretty punk aesthetic, love/hate relationship with dip dabs and much more
So Suzi, what encouraged you to become an illustrator?
I made the decision very early on to choose a creative subject as a career path, but it was only during my art foundation course that a tutor showed me the Heart agency website and said, ‘if you like this, do illustration’. That was the first glimpse I had of illustration as a career, and it made sense as I have always used drawing as a way to communicate designs and ideas.
How would you describe your style now?
It’s a mix between rough and ready inky illustrations, and bright block digital colours. I love the organic process of mark making and drawing in ink, and using different tools and brushes to capture expression. I also love working digitally, so I find it extremely satisfying to then take my hand-drawn work onto the screen and add bold, solid colours. The DIY aesthetic of my earlier work is still there, but now it meets my love of colour.
And who or what inspires you?
Colour. I am constantly clocking amazing colours and combinations in my environment. I am also inspired by words as I do a lot of typography and a sentence can become an illustration in itself. I love plants and nature, graphics on records, subculture, suburbia, folk and outsider art too.
I find it extremely satisfying to then take my hand-drawn work onto the screen and add bold, solid colours. The DIY aesthetic of my earlier work is still there, but now it meets my love of colour.
So you’re pulling from pretty much everything around you! What is a typical day like for you and how do you usually approach your work?
Well at the moment I work from home, and have done since graduating. Typically I’ll begin working on a job during the day, but get super productive at night – I’m a night owl extreme. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve had to make more of an effort to keep to healthier sleeping patterns. I have my best ideas at night and sometimes sleep-scribble them on a notepad next to my bed, say! I also like the challenge of a short time frame though. It can be productive as your inspiration and ideas are still fresh and full of energy – not to mention the adrenaline is going!
What’s your fuel of choice?
I wish I could say fruit and granola, but it’s dip dabs and coca cola… this really needs to change.
I’m a night owl extreme. I also like the challenge of a short time frame… It can be productive as your inspiration and ideas are still fresh and full of energy – not to mention the adrenaline is going!
You’ve worked with an array of great clients already, such as Vans. Can you talk a bit about any of your previous commissions?
I most recently had to create three huge scale paintings on wood for the Girl Effect event in Brick Lane, which had a very tight time frame and was physically very demanding. However, it was for an excellent cause and ended up being one of the most rewarding jobs to have completed. Certainly creating the type for the Vans look book was also rewarding – especially to receive the magazines in print. They actually gave me a lot of freedom to be creative, which always makes for the best results.
You mentioned your Girl Effect project, but do you have any other favourites amongst your work?
I loved creating a craft editorial for the last printed issue of Cooler magazine. I wrote the copy, hand drew the typography, took the photos and created the illustrations all from my home studio. I embraced my resources to create a colourful cut-and-paste, hand-written zine aesthetic, and was very happy to see the results in print.
Designing a sleeve for ‘The Distillers Greatest Hits’ would make my teenage brain explode!
And still, who or what would your dream client or brief be?
Designing a sleeve for ‘The Distillers Greatest Hits’ would make my teenage brain explode! On the flip side, I love illustrating patterns and would love to design a series of home ware. Also free reign to design a graphic collection for a street wear brand would be cool.
Do you have any exciting projects in the pipeline that you can tell us about?
I’ve been working with a street wear accessories brand and I’m excited for the release of some wearable goods in 2015.
Finally, where do you hope to be in 5-10 years time?
I hope to still be working on illustration projects, but with a dog by my side. I’d also love to have made some of the projects I currently have up my sleeve a reality, and to leading more creative workshops and lessons. And in ten years, I’d love to be painting huge canvases by the sea!