Steph Moulden has created a surreal space scene inspired by her own life activities for Amelia’s Colourful Colouring Companion. The Hereford College of Arts graduate shares her journey from graduation to professional illustrator.
What persuaded you to pursue illustration rather than fine art?
I thought I was a fine artist for a while. I always liked to paint surreal images but would end up frustrated when trying to be photorealistic (and failing). My college tutor, who was totally brilliant, introduced me to a graphic novel by David Mack called Kabuki Dreams. It’s miles away from my own style now but it opened up a lot of new creative processes, taught me a bit about narrative and helped me link together what illustration was and could be. The same tutor also said that to not have the structure of illustration would be dangerous for my mind! Best advice I’ve ever had!
What was your course at Hereford College of Arts like, and what were the best things about studying there?
Hereford College of Arts was a strange little university. Freshers nights were all about local real ale testing and picnics at the local art centre as opposed to the more traditional day glo events. But this setting made everyone who went really close from the beginning. I shared studios with animators, graphic designers and filmmakers alike. For a small place we had a great host of professional illustrators and makers come in. Mostly as requested by the students! Top lectures I can remember were by Laura Carlin, Karoline Rerrie and Dominic Owen.
Can you tell us about the Little Boxes Collective?
It was at HCA I met two other illustrators and we formed a collective before the first year was even up. That summer we even shared a sketchbook diary and posted it to each other week by week. We developed a way of producing 3D displays using cut out cardboard that we’d paint and draw on. Not a very typical route for illustrators to follow but it meant that Little Boxes Collective has been the gateway to some of my most loved projects that perhaps would not of been commissioned as a single artist. At the end of our degree the university asked us to create a signage system, leaflets and a huge window display advertising the 2012 Summer graduate show.
What did you do during your time spent living in Bristol?
My favourite Bristol project was an installation we did in the window for Start The Bus. It was a 3D ‘winter camp’ made entirely of painted cardboard and cut out characters. We all lived and worked together in Bristol selling wares for Made in Bristol Christmas Fair and creating cardboard installations for local shop windows and events. After nearly two years, I moved back to Hereford.
How does your day’s work reveal what is going on in your head?
I love to draw creatures or people. It’s my biggest procrastination at the desk but also a little insight into what’s going on in my mind. My fiancée will come home and look at the funny faces I’ve doodled and can work out my mood quicker than I can explain how my day has been. I also have two budgies so they appear quite frequently in sketches.
What is your favourite way to produce an illustration?
My over active imagination means I dream a lot and if I’ve had a good dreaming night I’ll have a good drawing day. Although I rarely use a pen or pencil. I’m most comfortable sketching with a paint brush and some cheap ink. I also love folk art acrylics, which were used in my colouring book entry. A quid a bottle and such beautiful thick colours you wouldn’t guess their value.
What inspired your surreal space scene for my colouring book?
My colourful space scene is inspired about a few of the things I loved doing over the summer. Exploring the great outdoors, the season of garden sitting, warm days wild swimming and sadly, as a tribute, walking my dog for the last few times. My surreal universe is brightly painted and then collaged on to Photoshop. I wanted it to feel like an invite a party you wanted to go to. Admittedly, I’ve also caught the space bug brought on by the new Star Wars films…
How have you set about finding work in your home town?
As much as I rely on Instagram, Twitter etc. to network, I have had more opportunities from selling myself face to face. I installed a blackboard wall at my place of work and covered it in hand lettering and illustrations. Another business then got me to do their blackboards and now I have a wall to design for a new shop opening for The Great British Florist.
You have only recently set up shop as a freelance illustrator with a stand alone website – why did it take you so long and how has it been going?
Moving away from the Little Boxes Collective has propelled me to take on a new identity. I feel like even though I graduated in 2012 I’m brand new to this all over again. Style never stops developing and you never stop learning. Although I have finally let myself have a website! I always put it off for fear of it looking fake but it just gave me reassurance that I can call myself a freelance illustrator. It is really good to have old contacts back again. The biggest challenge has been balancing a creative and work lifestyle. Since moving to a cheaper city I’ve made the brave decision to drastically lower my day job hours so I can properly focus on Illustration. I have a spare room studio all to myself. I want to build it up though to include a printing area. It’s a slow and steady journey it but has been rewarding already. In a month I had my first magazine commission for Fourth Trimester Magazine who are gearing up to print soon. And with the work in the running for some local businesses, it’s the first time in years I can say things are happening!
It’s been great to gain an insight into the world of Steph Moulden. Make sure you place a pledge on Kickstarter (coming soon) to grab your copy of Amelia’s Colourful Colouring Companion featuring her delightful work.
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