Interview with Natalie Adkins

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I found it a bit of a revelation discovering that illustration didn’t have to be twee paintings and neither did they solely live in school text books.

Natalie Adkins is a London-based illustrator who creates bold lifestyle illustrations painted with a gestural, tactile quality. Her multi-disciplinary portfolio features paintings, animations, and sculptural works. Natalie regularly posts to Instagram, and her fashionable illustrations of people, often placed against a stark white background, are eye-catching. The combination of her traditional media approach with the digitally assembled animated GIF is very exciting. I'm pleased to share this interview with her take on motion-based illustration.


How did you get started in illustration? What are some of your influences?

Adkins: When I studied my Foundation Course in London (which is like a 1-year college course you can take between leaving school and before starting university) I had access suddenly to a library dedicated to art and design. The books which most caught my eye were the illustrated graphic novels and comics, illustration catalogues and animated show reel DVDs. Up to this point my only interaction with illustration had probably been from school textbooks of water coloured romans or diagrams of volcanos. I found it a bit of a revelation discovering that illustration didn’t have to be twee paintings and neither did they solely live in school text books.

There's a lot of illustrators whose work I enjoy – Jayde Perkin, David J McMillan, Jimin Yoon to name but a few.

After this, you studied in the Illustration/Animation course at Kingston University. This program sounds unique in that it combines two subjects that are often taught separately. How did this shape you as an illustrator? Do you think it’s beneficial to combine these two subjects?

Adkins: I definitely think it’s worthwhile if Illustration courses taught a segment of animation on their course. I took the Illustration side of my degree after First year but those early animation projects coupled with being friends with animators has helped me a lot in my work – even just from a technical point of view. I feel as well being able to animate is an extra string to your bow what with the rise of social media presence companies are using illustration, animation and motion graphics more and more on their social media channels.

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Would you share a little bit about what you are working on right now?

I have two ‘bread and butter’ day jobs. One half of the week I work at a school and the other half I’m at a studio in London. Whilst I’m in the studio I create content for social media and make motion graphic animations. In terms of my personal work I sell prints on Etsy and try to sell work in fairs.

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Many of your GIFs appear to be hand drawn, which is such an interesting contrast with the digital tools required to make them move. What do you like about the different media that you use? What do you feel like motion adds to your work?

Adkins: As cheesy and cliché as this sounds, but animation can bring life to your illustrated work. It’s still exciting to have a still illustration in a sketchbook and then be able to give it a life of its own.

What tools do you use to create your animated work? Is there any technology that you are experimenting with or eager to try out?

Adkins: I either draw my animations in Photoshop using very textual brushes or I hand draw on pieces of paper and scan those in and bring those into Photoshop to assemble them together. I’ve also been known to dabble a bit with some motion graphics where I use Illustrator and After Effects which is obviously a much cleaner and chicer outcome. I would love to do more stop motion animation.

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I see that you have also been using a laser cutter to create jewelry featuring your illustrations. Similar to your GIFs, there is something really exciting about how you combine a handmade aesthetic with new media tools. Can you talk more about your relationship to technology?

To be honest I feel I am slightly technologically inept – it doesn’t always come easy to me and learning animation was a graft, but once I do learn something it stays forever.

The wearable art I’ve made is more an extension of me wanting to bring my illustrations to life…in another way. Sometimes I learn a new skill – so two years ago I attended a pottery course. I originally wanted it as something separate from my art. I was just there for fun, but soon my illustrations found their way into my class and the next thing I realised I was illustrating with glaze onto wonky pots and chunky tiles. I feel my relationship with the laser cutter is going to go that way too. At the moment I’m very new at it, just trying to see what I can do with the off cuts of acrylic Perspex I have, but no doubt soon my illustrations will creep into it.

Do you have any advice for young illustrators? What do you think is important to the future of the field?

Adkins: To young illustrators leaving University - make work for yourself. If like me, you get more then the odd few, “I’m sorry your work isn’t what we need,” please just keep at it and keep working on you and your portfolio.

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Thanks to Natalie Adkins for taking the time to talk about illustration. Please check out her portfolio here: cargocollective.com/natalieadkins  and follow her on Instagram @natalieadkins92. She also has an Etsy store here: www.etsy.com/uk/shop/NatalieIllustratesGB