Featured Artist: Amy Borrell

FK chats to the lovely & talented artist Amy Borrell of Cake with Giants, who recently created our wonderful Brisbane Flyer!

How would you describe your style of artwork and how has this evolved?
I try to fill my work with narrative, lots of little details and a sense of whimsy. The colour palette is usually soft but still cheery, and the content is often inspired by childhood and nostalgia. I used to work with pencil and draw real to life, but drifted towards watercolour several years ago, which loosened up my style and allowed me to play and experiment more with my illustrations.

What is your background and when did you start illustrating?
I’ve always been a maker, scribbling and gluing and building, ever since I was really little. Any spare time between homework and climbing trees was spent making all kinds of things. I imagined I would be an artist one day, and in year 10 my eyes were opened to the world of Graphic Design. I studied Communication Design at RMIT in Melbourne, where I spent four years, graduating in 2008. Industry jobs were a little thin at the time, and I’d never really been keen on working in a design studio, so I decided to leap into the world of freelancing.

Who are you favourite artists? and what inspires your work?

Sophie Calle, Maira Kalman and Kiki Smith are my favourites. They have all had long careers but they continue to have such interesting ideas! Their work makes me ponder which I think is the best thing an artist’s work can do.
I’m inspired by storytellers, well loved objects, childhood and nature. I spend most days drawing outside; ideas are so much easier to come by when I’m surrounded by birds and blue sky. My travels to far away lands have inspired many an illustration too.

What materials and mediums do you enjoy working with and exploring? And what other areas would you like to explore or expand into?
I illustrate with watercolours and grey lead. I love the texture and spontaneity of the medium, the paints sometimes mix and drift in unexpected ways and create errors that actually turn out to be the best part of an illustration. One day I would like to experiment with larger scale works, but for now I’m pretty content with my miniatures.

Describe your workspace and your creative process.
It’s a simple space, quiet and calm, there is little clutter or distraction. When I’m working on a new project, I often pop out for a walk to my local cafe for a quick brainstorming session or to meet with a client. Sketches are sent back and forth until a concept and direction is decided upon, and then I begin work on the final illustration. Some projects take a few days, others can take up to a few months.

What do you love most about being an artist, and what are some challenges?
I love surprising myself! Most projects I work on evolve through the process and often turn out differently from how I first envisage them. I like the flexibility of working for myself too, and being able to decide which projects I want to take on.
When people find out that I freelance they often tell me how lucky I am, and while there are definitely some perks, there are tonnes of challenges as well. The worst thing is not being able to call in sick!

What kind of clients have you got to work with, and what have been some of your favourite projects?
I work predominantly with clients across publishing, apparel and retail. I love making things for Frankie, we’ve collaborated on bits and pieces for a few years now, and I’ve illustrated their Diary for the past two. It’s one of my favourite projects because there are so many details to work on and Lara Burke, the Art Director, allows me quite a lot of creative freedom. I worked with The (Melbourne) Magazine on their movie special this month, which was a bit of a dream come true! And my collaborations with stationery company Galison New York are always really enjoyable.

What aspirations do you have for the future and what would be your dream project?
I would love to illustrate book covers one day, and maybe an entire non-fiction book, that would be my dream project I think. I’d like to know the names of flowers, learn to play the harmonica and travel to Iceland too.

You recently created the beautiful flyer for the Brisbane Finders Keepers Market, Can you tell us about the inspiration behind it?
The lovely Finders Keepers ladies wanted a wintery poster that made reference to the owl and the pussycat poem. I had been looking at an art deco book at the time, which influenced the ocean waves a little. There were quite a lot of elements to fit in so it was just a matter of juggling the composition around so that everything worked harmoniously.



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