Grad Spotlight: Melissa Castrillon

This week we discovered the impressive portfolio of illustrator Melissa Castrillon, a recent graduate of Cambridge School of Art.

Her gorgeous drawings of natural forms in contrasting hues of deep sea green, mustard yellow and coral pink are stunning, and we’re equally excited by her handmade concertina book; an illustrated interpretation of Rapunzel.

Interested to find out more about her practice we dropped her an e-mail and invited her to answer a few questions for our latest Grad Spotlight.

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

In 2006 i did a BA in illustration at the Cambridge School of Art, i spent those three years finding out about what I loved about illustration, who i admired, which in turn influenced me and helped my work to evolve. I was lucky enough, looking back, to have developed a visual language and a way of working that I felt  liberated and excited by, but I didn’t think about translating that into work and and a way of living until i started my MA in 2011.

I wasn’t confident enough to approach potential clients or thought that people would pay for my services, the notion was alien and scary to me!

But I did a lot of growing up and my perspective changed a lot during my MA especially when clients approached me. In turn its given me the confidence to go out there and push my work out there. Whilst doing my MA I worked for Ohh Deer, Simon & Schuster and Hackett publishing, all of which have given me a huge step up in reaching my aim of being a full time illustrator and having a picture book published before i’m 30!

What aspect of your illustration course have you most enjoyed?

Definitely my print room adventures. During my MA I discovered screen printing which made me think about how I apply my work in a completely new light! I started think about working in layers and patterns started to creep into my work, which is now a focus within the illustrations i produce now. I hope to move into new ventures such as screen printed textiles some time soon.

How would you describe your work? Where do you get your ideas from?

My work is full of stories, patterns, shapes & details which viewers many need to revisit multiple times to get the whole picture. I get lots of my ideas from natures, plants, textiles, ceramics, places i go , art i see and my imagination. Living in a village in Cambridge i’m surrounded by fields and trees and critters so its all helps me clear my mind and influence it also.

Who are your creative heroes?

Hmm, i’ll keep it brief… illustrators & print makers- Jonny Hannah, Lorent Moreau, Beatrice Alemanga, Blexbolex all have such life and exquisite uses of colour, print & type and i hugely admire them all.

Do you like to travel or visit new cities for inspiration?

I adore travelling! it feeds my soul for sure, and its hard if i know that i cant go somewhere new for a while because money or time. I went to Bologna in march for the Bologna children’s book fair. Not only was the fair great and full of amazing work and publishers, but the city is just amazing! especially the food, food is important to me & i like to feed my soul in many ways

Do you have a studio at home or do you share a work space?

I have a studio at home at the moment. Me and my boyfriend just moved into a one bed flat so my studio and our bedroom is one. Its was hard at first to get to grips with our bedroom being the place of my rest and my work but it’s a lot easier now. I definitely would prefer some time down the line to have a my work life separate from my home life, to get me out more and out of my pyjamas!

Are you excited about graduating? What are you going to be working on over the Summer?

Yeah, i’m all handed in now and will officially adorn my gown and mortar board in October – exciting! Well this Summer is a busy time for me doing lots of commissions and make new ground in my illustrative careers. I cant announce anything yet but there are exciting times ahead!

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

I’d love to keep my career varied, between producing and selling my personal work through screen prints, textiles and possibly even ceramics to also being busy with commissioned work such as illustrating childrens’s picture books. That’s the dream! and to be constantly evolving and being challenged by new things.


Posted on Jul 4th, 14 by | Twitter: @lisahassell

Founder & director of Inkygoodness, Lisa is a published writer and arts journalist, focusing on creative business, graphic art and illustration and design education. Her words regularly appear in Computer Arts, Creative Bloq, Digital Arts and IdN.

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