Strolling around the art boutique shops of Edinburgh I came across Kirsty’s bright, colourful illustrations and, as a massive fan of everything geometric, I loved them. Kirsty graduated from Edinburgh College of Art in 2011 with a degree in Illustration and has certainly put her skills to good use producing allsorts of goods from gift wrap and cards to Giclee prints and screenprinted bags. She has an individual style teaming animals with intricate geometrics, detailed patterning, colour blocking and a playful manner with shapes. Her strong individual aesthetic has a definite identity yet is commercially successful and has been key to her success as a freelance illustrator.
I contacted Kirsty and she kindly answered some questions about her design work, her experience so far and gives her invaluable advice to freelance designers.
Since graduating from Edinburgh College of Art in 2011 I have been working as a freelance illustrator. My business ‘Prism of Starlings’ is a range of design-led paper goods, prints, textile and stationery items. My current focus is on designing a small collection of hand-made artist’s books and limited edition zines.
How have you found working as a freelance illustrator?
While it’s hard to get started as a freelancer, it’s a nice feeling to move forward in this discipline. Looking back on the past year, I found it much more of a struggle to get work at first, but once you develop a portfolio and contacts, opportunities do arise. I think most illustrators would agree that their artistic style stays fluid, to a certain degree, long-term, so even though I have developed a more definitive style over the past year or so, there is still a degree of flexibility which enables me to still think of this job as a novelty.
How do you start an idea? What is your inspiration?
I find myself making lots of lists, to make sure every idea I think of is documented in case it develops into something. I always have an aesthetic in mind which I want to convey before I start drawing, and it generally comes from something abstract: either a combination of colours I’ve observed, a shape I want to experiment with, or a visual hybridisation I’ve been able to photograph. I’m constantly looking for random juxtaposition of styles to take inspiration from. I believe all design work needs a level of ambiguity, and I like to create this by giving each design a backstory, which is vaguely reminiscent in the design. Concepts don’t always need to be loud, but I think they inspire a more enthusiastic approach to each piece of work.
Are there any times that you have been stuck in a design rut… do you have any advice?
It’s easy to fall into a design rut, and it’s easy to take the wrong route when trying to escape from it. I think the secret is actually to avoid changing your style/routine sporadically or for the sake of necessity, and instead to be as objective as possible and make changes in a methodical manner. Different approaches suit different people, but from my experience – go back to the basics, do your research, familiarise yourself with the progress of your work over the past few months by literally laying it out and re-evaluate the main priorities of your design work. Ask yourself, has your work become too heavily commercial and you no longer identify with the aesthetic? Are the restraints of your print method or colour scheme restricting your creativity? Are you thinking too much about how your work fits into current trends and have lost an identifiable element that makes it your own? Good design is fuelled by enthusiasm, simplicity and direction, so it’s important that you’re not putting so many restraints on your work that it becomes laborious.
I am completely in love with Kirsty’s notebooks – why buy a normal boring run of the mill notebook when you can have one of these beauties?!! Her Etsy shop is definitely the place to visit if your looking for any quirky stationery, presents for friends and fab unique prints. I’m already imagining my future house glittered with her beautiful prints. Her portfolio is on her website along with her contact details. Have a look and nap yourself a unique notebook or one off print!