"Art serves many purposes – and each one is valid and wonderful. It always brings something extra to the world, no matter what the subject. My own work tends to be quite light-hearted as I see humour in most things, so I just draw what I see myself! I think the world needs a bit of extra silliness and happiness, and if I can help with that in some way, then that’s great."
Sophie Corrigan, a U.K. native, earned a first-class Illustration degree from the University of Central Lancashire. She’s at the beginning of an already successful freelance career, specializing in work that reveals the sweetness in both natural and supernatural worlds.
An appreciation of nature is peppered throughout Corrigan’s work. Dancing bears, musical foxes, elephants, dinosaurs, and canines are illustrated with slight, sketchy lines and light, solid colors. Eyes are tiny dots, backgrounds are sparsely detailed, and there’s often a sly smirk to be found on each of her subjects.
As our latest featured artist, Corrigan recently spoke to us about her elegant illustrations, her light and airy palette, her love of animals, and her carefully considered work ethic.
You can view and purchase more of her whimsical and intricate drawings at her shop.
How did you get to to where you are freelancing today?
After finishing Uni and hearing how hard it was to become a freelance illustrator, I tried to not think about it too much! There’s a lot of pressure once you graduate, and I’m a nervous person anyway so it was easier to just ignore it and get on with what I like to do. I absolutely love to draw so it’s never felt like work, I just drew what I liked as much as possible, and from doing that my work gradually improved and I found my own ways of working. I took little steps towards what I thought was the right direction, Redbubble and other sites were a large part of that because they helped me to get my work seen, and get some feedback after I no longer had tutors to look through my stuff. It was really encouraging to actually have people buying my work! I applied for a placement at Hallmark cards and had the pleasure of freelancing for them for a year, which gave me a taster of how things worked – and more importantly, made me realise being a freelance illustrator might actually be possible.
Could you describe your relationship to or love of animals to us?
I think all children have an innate love of animals and nature, and it’s just never left me! I see nature as the most ‘real’ and honest thing in the world. It’s easy to get distracted by daily life and trivialities, but really we’re all just creatures sharing our world, which is so strange and amazing – infinitely interesting and fascinating. There’s always something new to discover in nature. And the animals are just as intelligent as us, but in different ways! Plus there’s the simple fact that nature is beautiful, and animals are all really, really cute. What’s not to love?
When do you remember drawing becoming an integral part of your life?
My big brother and sister have always loved to draw, and I remember drawing with them at my grandparents’ house for hours on end when I was little. I’d look at the art projects my sister did in high school, and couldn’t wait to be doing them myself! I thought it looked so fun, and ended up doing my own ones at home (usually about animals). When I got a bit older, people in school used to ask me to draw things for them, and I became known as someone who ‘could draw’, even by the teachers. I sort of just fell into it as drawing has always been my biggest hobby!
There seems to be a lot of love and joy in the subjects of your artwork — do you think artwork ultimately works or serves to bring joy to our lives? How has it enriched yours?
Art serves many purposes – and each one is valid and wonderful. It always brings something extra to the world, no matter what the subject. My own work tends to be quite light-hearted as I see humour in most things, so I just draw what I see myself! I think the world needs a bit of extra silliness and happiness, and if I can help with that in some way, then that’s great. I like to keep my work a little bit wonky or strange, to remind myself that life is just like that. I also usually just draw what I enjoy, as other people might enjoy it too, or relate to it in some way. I want my work to be accessible, as I’d like to share what I see with as many people as possible. Drawing out ideas in a sketchbook has become such a fun activity for me – I often find myself chuckling at something I’ve drawn, which indicates to me that I’ve probably done a nice drawing.
What are your favorite materials to use when you’re making art?
My go-to bit of kit is a humble pencil! Usually mechanical, but sometimes a regular one (I have a sweet collection of sharpeners, and try to use them all equally) – they’re just so easy to use, and great for editing digitally too. I also love to use watercolours because the texture is just so lovely, and works so well with pencil. Sometimes I’ll have a day of experimenting with different media but always default back to pencil and watercolour. Also when I’m editing, as I’m useless with Photoshop, I just use the free digital program GIMP, which has a very silly name but everything I need to create what I want.
I noticed you said you made artwork for cards, when you’re making art for cards, what tips could you give other artists who also want to make their cards look the very best they can?
If you’re working traditional to digital, I’d make sure you scan the work at a huge dpi (I use 600) to get the best clarity of the image that you can. That way, you can zoom in extra-close and clean up the image a bit, as when I receive a lovely card I like to study it and appreciate the artwork. I also try and think about the text size (if you’re using text) and making the typography fit with the message. And the smaller the image on the card, the cuter and sweeter it tends to look! All just depends on what you’re going for, and what fits with your idea.
Do you use a routine to create art? What’s your daily process?
I do – I like to get up quite early and start working at about 8:30 in the morning. I know how easy it is to put work off and get lazy, especially when you work from home, so I try to structure my day to get the most out of my time as possible. I prioritize what I’m working on down to deadlines, but sometimes get a bit sneaky and work on something new for myself. I try to be structured, but not too rigid, and always make sure I take an hour out at lunchtime. My evening’s vary, as I can only really relax if I’m up to date with my work, and tend to work late quite a bit, which thankfully I quite enjoy. Every now and then when I have a bit of free time, I’ll give myself a day of media experimenting and ideas generating to come up with some new work. I see myself as very lucky to be able to work as an illustrator, so try and put as much effort and time into it as possible!
How did studying help your artistic practice?
University helped a lot, as it opened my eyes to the wonderful and diverse world of illustration! Being in a studio environment surrounded by other art students made it easier to just create all day, and I learnt a lot from the people on my course. I realised we had to study the ‘rules’ of art, so that we could comfortably ignore them if we wanted to – which I really did. Practicing illustrators used to come in to talk and hold workshops, and we were encouraged to experiment with media and print techniques, all of which helped me to develop my own style and personal way of working.
What artwork are you excited to work on next?
I keep a list of ideas on me at all times that I can go back to later and work through. Some of the ideas come to me in the middle of the night so they’re a bit weird. There’s some things on there that I’m looking forward to working on though, but it’s top secret! Also I’m planning on starting a book project later in the year, and have a few on-going series that I’d like to add to over the next few months. I’ve been really busy with commissioned work lately which is great, but leaves me less time to work on personal projects – so I’m jut excited to have some free time to get back to my list!