I’m Sam, an illustrator and designer from just outside Oxford in the UK. I run my own creative business illustrating for publishers, magazines, retailers, brands and advertisers as well as running an online shop where I sell my own stationery, homeware and wall art. I am also Creative Director of a marketing and design agency that I run with my boyfriend from our home (yes we do spend all our time together, no we haven’t fallen out yet!)
When I’m not designing I like to cook, get outdoors – either running or walking, ride my bright yellow bicycle, visit an art gallery or go and see a gig – the louder and more guitary the better. I try to get to a couple of rugby matches and some motorsport during the year and love a pub quiz. In many ways I was born in the wrong era, I love, and am influenced by, second hand books, mid-century ceramics, colourful 1960s melamine and I often watch old sci-fi movies while I work.
Tell us about your illustration style.
People are always telling me that they can spot my work as being my style but that’s much harder for me to see for myself. I feel like it’s in flux and constantly changing, especially as I work both in pure digital vectors and in a more relaxed hand drawn style (or often a combination of the two). There are a few consistencies that come through though; I’ve always loved colour and that is at the core of all of my work. Big bright hues and unusual colour combos, usually with a navy blue in there somewhere. Just picking the colour palette for a job can get my excited! Stylistically I’m influenced by mid-century and Scandinavian design. I love simplicity and lack of fuss, just let the forms and the colour do the talking. It’s taken me quite a while to work out all this out though. After I graduated I worked for design agencies and my world was much more focused on brands and corporate brochures so I pretty much stopped drawing. Everything happened inside a computer and years could go past without me picking up a pencil. That is partly what contributed to my dissatisfaction with work and led to my going freelance but re-discovering my style was a tricky road that took time and lots of experimentation.
What are some of the best things you’ve learned in being a creative business owner?
I’ve learned loads about myself: that I’m able to show up everyday and put the work in, that I can take a few knocks and still get up and get on with it, that I don’t like talking on the phone and that variety and flexibility are more important to me than a safe, steady job. But I’ve also learned a load of practical stuff that is useful for any creative business owner:
What does a typical creative day look like for you?
No day is ever the same and that’s what I’ve always loved about my job! As I wear quite a lot of hats – Illustrator, Creative Director, Shop Owner – my day is filled with a variety of creative, and not so creative work. A typical day might look something like this:
What is a career goal that you have for yourself that you hope to achieve in the next 3-5 years?
I confess I’m not a great planner, I try to start each year with a bunch of goals and resolutions but usually get distracted by exciting things that come my way and veer off in new, unexpected directions. Having said that there are a few things that I would love to work on:
You mention that you enjoy watching sci-fi movies while you work. What are some of your favorites?
I love all the typical ones, Star Wars, Independence Day, Gravity etc but my biggest love are the movies from the 50s and 60s. Destination Moon is one of my favourites. It was made in 1950, nearly 20 years before humans actually went to the moon and is so full of optimism and imagination. I think that is what I love most about sci-fi, for me it is the peek of human imagination, the ability to imagine a world beyond our own is awe inspiring. I recently visited the Into The Unknown exhibition at The Barbican in London which was all about sci-fi film, books and art. They had loads of film props including the space suits and rocket models from Destination Moon, I nearly lost my mind with excitement!
What brings you joy?
Being outdoors in the summer, I’m a really warm weather person and find winter pretty hard to deal with, being shut up inside when it’s cold and dark outside is a form of cruelty I think. The most joyful situation I can think of is camping with friends on a gorgeous summer weekend, preferably by the beach, lazing in a camping chair, drawing and sketching, drinking gin and tonic, with a game of rounders planned for later! That really is my happy place!
Who are some of your favorite female illustrators and with which one would you collaborate if you could?
I love Helen Dardik, Ohn Mar Win and Salli Swindle – I find them all super inspiring in both their work and as people and business owners. There are lots of female artists, illustrators and designers through history that I would have loved to collaborate with, Sonia Delaunay, Ray Eames, Jacqueline Groag and Mary Quant to name just a few!
What do you love most about being a creative woman?
Creativity is my natural state of being, I’m constantly interrogating, questioning and experimenting with the world, it’s just what I do, what I am. For me creativity is way more than ways to decorate things, it’s a fundamental part of my experience of life and has been since I was a child. I grew up in a creative family so to me it seems completely natural. Being able to make something from nothing, to fix a problem in a new way or to show people something in a new light is an absolute joy that I get a real kick and sense of satisfaction out of. The fact that most days I get up and am able to use my brain, my talent and my hands to do the things I love (and get paid for it) is remarkable really and I try to remember how lucky I am to be able to do that.