Since graduating from the course HANNAH CLARK has worked as both a freelance illustrator and as a gallery assistant at Margate’s LOVELYS GALLERY. Along with producing artwork for clients including Slimming World Magazine and Hallmark Cards she has also taken on a range of private commissions.
1. What have you’ve been up to since graduating from Middlesex?
Since graduating, I tried for the 1st year to be a full-time illustrator. Though with each passing year the income from my art increases, it’s not reliable and I needed a part time job to go into. I emailed Lovelys asking for a job and it just so happened they had a vacany. I’ve now worked there for 2.5 years. In terms of what’s happened to me as an artist, I’ve had a variety of jobs- from Jamie Magazine, Hallmark Cards, Slimming World Magazine and Landscape Magazine. I’ve had a number of private commissions, such as pet portraits. I also set up my Etsy shop 4 years ago and I get some sales from that, as well as private commissions, and set up a shop on artfinder.com, where I have had a few sales. My work is also in a couple of hotels in Cornwall and I also have an art licensing agent: Pure Illustration Ltd. More recently, I’ve been concentrating in getting my work into local galleries.
2. Describe your practice- how do you go about producing your images? Are there any parts of the process you particularly enjoy?
I have several sketchbooks and do use them- either through creating thumbnails to work up an image, sort out composition or to make sure I know how to draw something accurately- essential with buildings and animals! Or simply to draw for the sake of drawing: my ‘line’ is that it’s cheaper than therapy..! Other times the image I want to create is so strong in my head that I dive straight in and draw what I want straight onto the paper, and then paint. Often I stare at the pencil marks I’ve made for a long time to figure out how I’m going to paint it. Watercolours are a bit like chess- you can plan all you want but it still might not turn out how you want them to. Which is good in a way. The work is constantly fresh and unexpected and you learn new things. What I love most about creating, is colour and the blending qualities you get with watercolours. It’s so real, in front of you, using beautiful paint, solid paper.
3. What inspires you to keep going? Your work often features food. What draws you to this subject matter in particular?
What keeps me going is that I couldn’t do anything else. Perhaps some sort of organisational job, or caring, but to create is very much part of me as a human being. [Food] does, yes, because I’m so attracted to colour. Living in the countryside means I’m exposed to the changing seasons and part of that is food. Food is essential, it looks good. I’m also a keen cook/baker, but I’m now not someone who eats very much! Perhaps this is my outlet- I can’t eat it but I can paint it instead!
4. What does a typical day of working freelancing look like? While being an illustrator sounds like a dream gig the truth is that it’s still a job. Do you have any trick for keeping motivated when work starts to feel like a drag?
On my days off is when I do my freelancing bit. That entails answering any emails, doing marketing, creating artwork, doing my accounts, buying supplies, seeking out new ventures, getting inspiration, building up my portfolio. I really need to update my website, so I’ll say that aswell! But yes, it is still just a job. I would say to stay motivated is to not do it all the time. Yes really! Go out and get a part time job. It’ll give your week structure, it will make you be social and find potential new clients and outlets, instead of the temptation to sit on your arse all day. Either that, or make yourself go out: to galleries, museums, craft fairs; whatever gives you inspiration, and don’t forget the exercise. I have a dog and that makes me be active, as well as the gallery job. & I suppose I should also say that I’ve recently started a life modelling career… It’s not for everyone, but I find It relaxing!
5. Are there any projects that have felt like milestones in your career so far?
I guess it was the Slimming World magazine commissions. It was good pay, of a subject I enjoyed painting and it was starting to be a regular thing until the art direction changed, staff changed and that was that. But it gave me a taste of what being a full time illustrator could be like and I loved it. I also like doing the window display at work, and I now also do the window display for the patisserie next door on special occasions. It has forced me to be more 3D with my work; bolder and know what is eye catching and appeals. It’s important to me as it shows I can do bigger things and think more about the logistics of artwork, such as is this glue going to hold for a month, can people see this from their angle etc.
6. As well as taking commissions you also work at Margate’s Lovelys gallery. What is it like working with artists from that perspective? And what is your favourite part about the job?
It’s important to say that not only is it a gallery but we also do framing, restorations and sell art materials, so it’s a varied job! It’s a very nice thing to be part of an artistic community: you advise them on buying the art materials, how they could have things framed to sell well & advise them on what sells well at the gallery. It’s nurturing them, seeing their career grow but also gaining tips from them and making new friends and contacts myself! I like most parts of the job, but if I had to choose, it’d be the ‘creative’ side of it, such as designing the recent poster for the Illustrators and Printmakers exhibition or doing the window display. And working with such great people; we’re a mini family sometimes.
7. How did you find the transition from student to practicing illustrator? Do you have any words of advice for students who may be in that position right now?
I would say… don’t have high expectations, don’t feel like you’re not good at creating artwork if you don’t get many jobs coming in and be prepared to expand your skills. I have found it very difficult in getting freelance work but I couldn’t be a student anymore- had quite enough of tuition for a lifetime! I’m an independent person and I like working hard.
8. What are you currently working on? Are there any future projects coming up that you can talk about?
At the moment I’m doing a lot Lovelys Gallery, in terms of having my own solo exhibition starting the beginning of October, to curating the Printmakers and Illustrators exhibition starting at the end of October and inbetween that we’re hosting an event in aid of The Big Draw/The Campaign for Drawing charity on the 22nd October, where myself, my colleague and ALEX FOSTER from MDX who now lives in Margate will be doing some drawing workshops. When all that has blown over, I’ll be continuing my project of building portraits of Margate businesses and painting more alcohol bottles- a favourite!
Find more of Hannah’s work online;