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. From illuminations to woodcuts, and from occult symbolism to 1950s flat colour printing, she’ll find the right look and feel for any project.
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.