Grad Spotlight: Katie Ponder

Katie Ponder recently graduated from Falmouth University with a 1st class BA with honours in illustration.

Katie uses a multi-media approach when creating her work, drawing on her love of ballet and victorian style to create quirky collages.

Her outstanding creations have already won her this year’s AOI book category award. Katie’s winning work is currently on show at Somerset House until the 2nd of November and will also be featured in the October edition of VAROOM. Recently, Katie has been busy preparing for the launch of the exhibition but still found time to launch her own Etsy shop and talk to us about her time at university and plans for the future.

Tell us a little bit about your career so far – have you worked for any clients whilst you have been studying?

Before my final year of my illustration degree, I interned with the illustration agency: Dutch Uncle, who represent Noma Bar and other well-known illustrators. It gave me insight into the world of illustration beyond university and was a huge motivator in my final year to push the boundaries of the applications for my work.

It led me to consider how music, ballet and illustration can accompany and enhance each other, and this is an area of interest that I am still exploring.

Currently, At this point in my career I am meeting with people and talking about potential projects for the future, which has been really exciting. Meanwhile I have also been continuing to develop my visual language and creating my own projects.

You recently won the Association of Illustration book category award. Can you tell us more about that?

Winning the AOI award book category award has been out of this world! One evening last week, I walked past Somerset House, which is where the AOI awards show starts, and I felt overwhelmed that my work is showing in such a well-known and prestigious place.

The winning pieces of work were from a project that was a turning point in my approach to illustrating. The project was an illustrated response to Stravinsky’s music from the ballet: The Rite of Spring. I used the story from the ballet as the seed for my interpretation.

There is a narrative quality to Stravinsky’s music and I wanted to use this to develop and present his work in a new contemporary way –as a visual audio novel.

It is my intention that the audience listens to the music whilst looking at the book, and immerse themselves in his music whilst being visually prompted by my illustrations. I am really glad that a project, which I enjoyed working on so much, is now going to be enjoyed by other people who visit the touring exhibition (I hope!).

What aspect of your illustration course have you most enjoyed? Proudest moment so far?

What I enjoyed most on the Falmouth University illustration course was the visual studies lessons. It wasn’t about making beautiful finished pieces, but rather being completely uninhibited, experimenting with new things and seeing where it might go. On reflection, this was integral to the development of my illustrative style. The reason I wanted to go to Falmouth was the tutors, who are all extremely successful illustrators and I have tried to absorb as much of their advice as possible over the last three years. My absolute proudest moment above all, was when some of the tutors who I admired the most, ended up buying my work and now have it framed in their homes. I can’t think of a nicer compliment.

How would you describe your working process? What materials do you most enjoy working with?

It starts with cutting out shapes, textures and details, and then I spend a lot of time moving the cut out pieces around on a page like a puzzle, until I feel like I have found a balanced and aesthetically pleasing composition. I find this an extremely satisfying and free process. I then scan in the collage and change it around on photoshop, editing colours or adding new elements. I collect a lot of old books and copyright free images which I use.

I like to use bold graphic shapes alongside Victorian etched textures and images; I really like the contrast of putting these elements together. I like to try and always keep experimenting with combining different medias to keep things fresh and interesting.

Last book you read – is there a subject matter interests you most?

I have just read a beautiful comic book called Polina by Bastien Vives, which is about a young girl’s journey as a dancer. She starts out at a very strict classical ballet school where the training is very hard and rigorous, but she ends up following different inspirations and becoming a really great contemporary dancer.

I am very interested in ballet; I find that it is a profoundly moving and expressive medium and it has been a huge source of inspiration. I try to see a lot of ballet now that I am back in London.

What is your go-to snack of choice to fuel your creativity and productivity ahead of a big deadline?

Black chocolate, nuts, a lot of herbal tea, apples, and avocado on toast are my favourite work time treats. I love when I am really busy with work, and I have my little supply of snacks to enjoy whilst I go.

Name a creative project that you’ve seen recently that you wish you’d made?

I absolutely love Benjamin Pollock’s paper theatres. He was Victorian toy maker who created the most beautiful interactive paper theatres, which are available to buy in a shop in Covent Garden. Recently illustrator Kate Baylay created a paper theatre based on the Snow Queen for the Pollock paper theatre shop, and it is exquisite. I would love to design one myself one day.

Are there any artists that you admire or look up to?

I have a huge admiration for Audrey Niffenegger, who is best known as the writer of The Time Traveller’s Wife. She is also an artist and has created several beautiful visual novels –including The Three Incestuous Sisters, Raven Girl and The Adventuress. All her books are haunting and powerful in their own way. They are very surreal; yet reflect deep psychological truths, which I find intriguing. Raven Girl was interpreted into a ballet, which was performed at the Royal Opera House last year.

I find it really exciting that a visual novel could be the catalyst for a ballet.

Where do you currently do your creative work? Do you have a studio or a desk space at home?

I have a little and very messy studio space in my family home in London. I have a co-worker called Poppy, she is a black cat and works as a professional paperweight.

How was your Graduation? And what have you been working on over the summer?

Graduation was great, the hats and cloaks have never had me convinced, but actually I really enjoyed the whole ceremonial flamboyance of it all. It was also so nice to see my tutors and friends again. I felt a lot of love for Falmouth during graduation.

I was feeling creatively burnt up when my degree finished. So, over summer I spent a lot of time immersing myself in other people’s artwork and ideas: visiting galleries, listening to live music and seeing ballet. It was an invigorating summer, and I am now itching to flesh out all the ideas that have been developing. I am continuing to pursue my interest in making audiovisual books inspired by great classical music and ballet.

What would you most like to be doing with your illustration in 5-10 years time?

I am so busy enjoying the present that it is hard to think further than next week! In December I am doing a stop motion animation course, which I hope leads me to some new ideas and opportunities. It would be great to work on more music inspired projects and over the next few years create a series of audiovisual novels. I would love to design a tarot deck and to have my artwork in more exhibitions. I also hope I get the opportunity to do lots of traveling and see lots of inspiring things which fuel more interesting projects. 



Posted on Oct 6th, 14 by

Greg McIndoe - also known as Headless Greg - is an illustrator and design writer based in Glasgow, Scotland. He regularly writes for design magazines and online platforms, interviewing fellow illustrators and leading creatives.

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