Sue expertly develops each illustration using a process of experimentation and improvement to find the most original response to the brief, rendering it in just the right style. She’ll work up an initial composition traditionally with a brush or pen and ink, before taking it digital to add colour and refine the final artwork. With a style that hints at both Art Nouveau and folklore, Sue is a classic explorer who flies in directions as varied and exciting as her influences.
Question: What led you to become an illustrator? Sue: It was in a roundabout way – I produced music videos for a while and then taught myself InDesign and Photoshop before working as a magazine designer. But I got so envious commissioning other illustrators, it was only a matter of time before I had to go for it. Question: Did you study illustration at college)? Sue: No – I studied Art and Visual Culture at UWE, Bristol. I got a lot from it, but I remember going to the illustration degree show and thinking ‘So that’s what I was supposed to do’.Question: Where did you grow up? Sue: A village on the edge of the Cotswolds. I think a lot of my work stems back to that, as I was always outside. My dad was a forester, so at weekends and during school holidays I would entertain myself in the woods while he worked, making up stories and climbing trees.Question: Where do you live now and what drew you there? Sue: I recently moved from Bristol to Exeter. I love Bristol and its amazing arts/music scene, but I’m a bit obsessed with Dartmoor and the coast. I’m loving it – Exeter has a thriving arts scene too, and because it’s smaller there are more opportunities, and a lot of support and encouragement. It’s helped that I’ve been running Illustration meet-ups for the AOI – that’s helped me meet a lot of people. Question: Who or what is your biggest inspiration? Sue: Folklore, mythology, horror films. Japanese and Mexican art. Indian matchbox designs, occult paraphernalia and all the ‘unexplained mystery’ books I was addicted to as a kid. Hieronymus Bosch, David Lynch, religious, gothic and renaissance symbolism. I love Sophie Hollington and Tin Can Alley, too, and Yuko Shimizu, who I was lucky enough to have a workshop with a while ago. Question: Do you collect anything? Sue: Weird stuff – I can’t resist it. Favourite charity shop finds include an antler letter opener covered in occult symbols and a pair of really creepy 1950s nun dolls. Marionettes, too, and animal bones and skulls found on Dartmoor, plus a ridiculous number of pebbles from local beaches.Question: What are your interests outside of illustration? Sue: Hiking, music, reading, cooking, films. Since moving to Devon I’ve started wild swimming in the sea, which is incredible, I can’t describe the feeling but I definitely recommend it. Question: Tell us about a favourite project you’ve recently completed Sue: A couple of favourites; one for History Revealed Magazine about Lakshmibai (Queen of Jhansi, India), because I got to use really rich Indian colours and decoration. Also a commission for BBC History magazine about the destruction of the Eddystone lighthouse in the Great Storm of 1703 – a great opportunity to try and make something really atmospheric.Question: What would be your dream job/commission? Sue: I guess it’s no surprise that I’d love to work on a book of dark fairy tales or mythology. Or monsters – that would be amazing. And I’d love to learn to animate… my first job was with Bolexbrothers in Bristol – a wonderful dark animation company, so I’d love to return to animation at some point. I also have a dream of creating huge illustrated theatre sets. That would really fulfil my dream of creating a different world you can lose yourself in. Question: What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given? Sue: Keep making art.