So we’ll start with the basics. I asked Lucy “Do you consider yourself specifically an ‘illustrator’ or just an ‘artist’ and is that definition important to you?”
I consider myself an illustrator I suppose as that is what I always aspired and mainly because I don’t do exhibitions really. My work is created to either be sold as prints, but generally I like to work to a brief set by a client. I guess I consider my work as illustrations as often they’re produced to accompany a piece of text or depict a concept visually. I think the boundaries are very blurred with the whole art, illustration and graphic design thing. Most work that I do can fit into more than one category, so maybe its best not to put a label on it.
I think Lucy’s definition of herself as an illustrator ‘because its what she had always aspired to be’ is really insightful. I think so much creative practice is about intent. I tend to agree it isn’t important in terms of what that means you actually do but its a great signpost for people who perhaps do not have in-depth knowledge and want to employ someone with a certain kind of skill set.
Whilst I have a Fine Art and Art Education background through my work designing and selling cards and prints at various venues across the North East I’ve encountered a number of regionally based illustrators I really admire. Their work is stylistically diverse… but that they share is a keen sense of detail, line and colour. The best have concrete ideas underpinning their practice and they usually develop their own unique pictorial style. I’d definitely count Lucy Farfort in that number.
I am going to look at and discuss three examples of Lucy’s illustrations her romantic robots, illustration for a client Messy Carla and her birds on retro floral backdrops.
‘Robot Love’ was a self-initiated project devised by Lucy to use as a motif on a t-shirt. These romantic robots present a stereotypical romantic gesture of handing over a bunch of flowers in a humorous and original perspective. Instead of roses or carnations the male presents the female with a bouquet of spanners and wrenches. Making the inhuman robot very tender creates a memorable, or sticky, image. Sometimes when I’m talking to my customers at Tynemouth Market they mention this card as something that made them smile.
Thematically this illustration reminds me of Fu from Taschen’s Illustration Now who makes beautiful crazy robots which you can see at http://www.fu-design.com/ and stylistically Takashi Murakami ‘s superflat artworks like ‘Kaikaikiki news’ here.
It’s interesting that before I received responses to my questions I highlighted an illustrator from Taiwan and a contemporary artists from Japan as when I asked Lucy “Which other artists and illustrators inspire your creative practice?” she said
There aren’t one or two illustrators or artists that inspire me, there are tons. There are so many amazing artists and illustrators out there its too difficult to pin down. However the thing that made me want to get into illustrating in the 1st place was Japanese manga and anime and the Japanese anime artists. So Hayao Miyazaki*, Rumiko Takahashi (particularly because she’s female & there were so few female manga artists) and Osamu Tezuka were my original influence. I got into manga when i was about 14.
I guess those notions ultra-modern/futuristic that is evident in a lot of Japanese culture (from their early adoption of new technologies to their mega-cities) and the mixing of ‘cuteness’ with something slightly alternative is apparent in Farfort’s ‘Robot Love’.
The second illustration I wanted to focus on was the ‘Messy Carla’ blog banner. You can visit Carla’s blog here. When I asked, “What has been your most positive creative project as an illustrator and why?”
I think so far the most creative project I’ve been involved with is the banner for Messy Carla and the promo folder for the Monster Ceilidh band. I could just put so much of my own style into this and both projects were really fun.
Lucy’s answer made me smile… I think its easy to take serious stuff seriously but to make great fun stuff requires focus and confidence. It’s very easy to write ‘nice’ things off as just cute. The Messy Carla banner is probably my second favourite illustration that I’ve seen by Lucy… and Carla’s blogs not bad either!
The art perfectly summaries the content of Carla’s blog. It also helps the reader relate to Carla as it feels you are looking into a mirror and Carla’s reflection becomes your own. Mirrors have been used in illustration and fine art in a variety of ways but I am particularly reminded of ‘A Bar at the Folies-Bergère’ Édouard Manet (1882) which you can see here because of the way the main subject is central with all her ephemera surrounding her, Titian’s “Venus with A Mirror” c. 1558 as it depicts an idealized notion of beauty in Titian’s day and Carla is writing about fashion and makeup… in other words contemporary beauty.
I’m sure Lucy got some great feedback on her Messy Carla blog art which must have been very rewarding.
In terms of working on my own self motivated stuff or client briefs, I actually prefer working on client briefs. As I love coming up with creative solutions and visual interpretations for concepts. That one of the things I like most about illustration. I also love their really positive reactions to the final thing as everyone likes to feel appreciated.
Using Retro Floral Fabrics
One trend in Lucy’s work that I haven’t touched upon when looking at “Robot Love” and “Messy Carla” is her use of vintage fabric patterns (I believe predominantly from the 60s and 70s) such as “Love Birds” which was a commissioned print for a clients home.
Creating collages/illustrations using fabric is something I’ve seen as quite prevalent in crafting circles (go on Etsy or Folksy and you’ll see what I mean) but also in fashion illustration however I think Lucy does it in a very graphic selective way… it looks almost as if it could appear in a children’s book. This illustration does however also make me think of woodblocks by Hiroshige namely “The Sumida Embankment in the Eastern Capital” and Hokusai’s “Birds and Cherry Blossoms ”
Challenges and Whats Next
My biggest challenge is feeling like my work is no good. There is so much competition in this industry and when I see other work which I love I often feel quite down about my own work. I suppose I just deal with it by remaining positive and reminding myself that i am capable and just strive to get better. There was a point where it was pretty bad I’d almost get depressed after seeing lots of good work and I would feel like giving up. It’s totally ridiculous and defeatist. I do wonder whether it’s just me who has this. I’ve now learnt to just appreciate other people’s beautiful illustrations without automatically analysing my own work.
As someone who has just been spending the majority of their time on art for the past year and a half, the first time since leaving uni in 2003, I totally relate to Lucy’s biggest challenge. Yes when you see something amazing you are inspired but also do question why you’re bothering… how can what I do compare to that? I think the best lesson I got at uni was the value comes from yourself but it’s sometimes a challenge to remember that!
You can see her website here or become a fan on Facebook here or follow here on twitter to find out more about commissioning work, buying online or at the various spaces she stocks across the North East and any mixed or creative markets she is taking part in.
Keep making great things that tell surprising stories!