Bow-Wow Pie print, Alice Pattullo
I’m so excited to bring you the latest ‘A Chat With’ instalment. This interview is with the outstandingly talented Alice Pattullo, an illustrator based in South East London. I’ve been collecting Alice’s prints for years, and I love her use of bright colours and references to British folklore and traditions that are prevalent in her work. Alice recently illustrated a new edition of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, which is absolutely stunning and a must buy for any Janeite!
Alice Pattullo’s illustrated Pride and Prejudice
One of the projects Alice has been pursuing over the past 2 years is her A-Z animal prints, which are currently exhibiting at Mascalls Gallery in Kent. You may remember from my visits last year to Mascalls to see the Ed Kluz exhibitions and School Prints series that I love this small, but charming gallery located in picturesque country fields, and I’m so looking forward to going again at the beginning of February to see Alice’s exhibition. If you’re in the Kent area (or fancy a day out from London), I definitely recommend going too (make a day of if by seeing the beautiful All Saints’ Church with its Marc Chagall windows and stopping by The Poet at Matfield for a fantastic pub lunch or supper).
Turtle print, Alice Pattullo
Alice very kindly agreed to answer some questions I posed her about her background and inspiration behind her A-Z prints. I found her answers fascinating, and I’m sure you will too! Go grab a nice cup of tea, make sure you’re settled somewhere cosy and have a read through her thoughtful answers.
MN: Could you tell me a little about yourself and your background? Did you always want to be an artist?
AP: I was brought up in the North East within a creative and encouraging family; my dad is an architect and my mum is a textile artist, so I guess it was fairly inevitable that I would follow suit ( although having said that my brother took a different path completely…). I don’t think I had particularly identified that I wanted to be an illustrator specifically, that early on, but I did know that I enjoyed drawing and designing from an early age.
Enchanted Forest print, Mandy Pattullo
MN: I know your Mum, Mandy Pattullo, is an artist too (I love her Etsy shop, and my own Mum owns several of Mandy’s works!) – does her work influence you at all? Do you discuss your work much together?
AP: My mum has definitely had a big influence on me. To the point that I chose not to go down a textiles route because I worried we would be competitive! Although I might not have shown it while growing up, I always appreciated her time, help, wealth of knowledge, and open access to both my parents’ books and materials. We used to discuss our work much more when I was younger; I think in some sense I pandered to my mum for praise, which she wouldn’t give undeservingly so our critiques often ended in arguments, although I usually took heed of her advice without verbally accepting it!
Now that I have established my own creative path I feel much more confident and capable in my own work so I don’t necessarily feel the need to discuss everything so much now. However, I do enjoy being able to discuss our work together more as peers now, without a feeling of parental hierarchy being in the way.
AP: I originally started the ABC thinking it would be a nice and fairly quick project to work on in the quiet period that tends to occur at the beginning of the year, but as work started coming in the ABC took a bit of a back burner; I would work on it as and when I could in between commissioned projects, so in the end it took me around a year and a half to complete all 26 animals!
When I began it I was using it as a personal project to just enjoy drawing, without being tied to a brief or introducing a narrative as I normally do in my work. I enjoyed being able to indulge in painting nice textures and patterns and not overthinking it too much. I went for less obvious animals for certain letters, I wanted to avoid owls and squirrels for example and instead went for an okapi and a sloth. I keep changing my favourites now I’ve got the perspective of seeing them altogether in the Mascalls gallery exhibition, but from the beginning my overall favourite has been the turtle.
Good Luck Guide, Alice Pattullo
MN: Your work often references folklore and superstitions. What first sparked your interest in these topics?
AP: I’m not 100% sure! I’ve always enjoyed reading and particularly like little nuggets of information, which I guess could be why I’m drawn to folk rhymes and tales or dictionaries of superstitions – it’s an easy size of information to mentally digest and think about. Not being particularly superstitious, I find the lengths people go to/ went to particularly humorous which I think also helps engage my interest – some things seem to just be so obscure/ irrational!
I really started using folklore and superstitions as a recurring theme in my work when I was at university- in my final year I was working simultaneously in a project looking at the folklore of the sea and another looking at the history and superstitions surrounding the topic of hair!
MN: Which artists do you most admire?
AP: A few of my favourites: Edward Bowden, Eric Ravilious, Barnett Freedman, John Piper, Michael Rothenstein, Enid Marx, Barbara Jones…. I could go on! I think I’m particularly drawn to the work of these mid- century artists as they all managed to successfully bridge the gap between ‘art’ and commercial ‘illustration.’ For example, they would be working simultaneously on paintings and murals as well as producing posters for Shell for example. I think you could see both sides of their work feed into each other, which I find inspiring.
I think because of the printing processes of the time they all had a very good sense of colour and composition- having to work with a limited colour palette. I often adopt this method of working with a small colour palette and constantly pay homage to these artists by using colours, etc synonymous with design from that time.
The Worshipful Company of Glovers, Alice Pattullo
MN: Can you tell me something about your work routine? Is there a particular process or routine to producing your artwork that you find helpful? Do you have a strict 9-5 schedule, or are you more flexible?
AP: I have always been pretty motivated to work a ‘working day’ but I do enjoy the flexibility of being freelance in terms of being able to take a holiday spontaneously (not that I actually do that much in reality), or have the afternoon off to go and see an exhibition or something. I do tend to go in to the studio from 9-6 Monday to Friday. Working at a studio away from home is refreshing in terms of establishing a line between life and work, which can sometimes be hard when you have made a career out of what is effectively your hobby. Being able to get distance and perspective from a project or input from studio mates when you’re stuck is really useful, rather than wallowing in a problem which is what I think I used to do a bit when I worked from home.
Most days are the same really; I cycle to the studio, make a coffee, check and send emails and then get down to drawing. I always draw in black and white into a sketchbook, using a combination of painted collages, textures, and painted lines. I then scan these drawings in to digitally colour and compose the finished illustration for a commission, or to put together the layers if making a screen print.
MN: What advice would you have for young creatives starting out today?
AP: Just to work hard and stay true to yourself! I think if you are really determined to make something happen, that will reflect in your work and will help you make it happen… It’s not just going to fall in your plate. Life’s not that easy…!
MN: Through my blog, I like to celebrate successful, creative women. Which women are your particular role models?
AP: As I mentioned before, artists like Barbara Jones and Enid Marx who were strong minded and successful within the illustration world at a time when it was much harder to be successful as a working woman. Louise Bourgeois was pretty fantastic. I’m always proud of my female friends and peers who are doing well in this industry… Of which I consider them all to be. My mum is a good role model as she is one of the most prolific people I know so puts everyone else to shame!
London Snow Globes, Alice Pattullo
MN: Finally, what are your favourite London haunts?
AP: I love Spitalfields Antique Market on a Thursday morning. I like being able to cycle through Hackney Marshes every day- it’s refreshing being in an open natural space when living in a big city. I love that the V &A and the British Museum are effectively on my doorstep. The second hand book shops on Charing Cross Road are still satisfyingly cheap/ good! I like the canals around East London in summer and looking into people’s houses. London pubs are great- in winter the old City pubs are terrific- places like the Princess Louise or Cittie of York in Holborn, or the Prospect of Whitby in Wapping in the summer. I love that London still has some great parks too whether little or large- there’s nothing better than a beer in the sun in the park after work in summer!
Thank you so much Alice for taking the time to provide such in-depth and interesting answers. I can’t wait to see your exhibition!
Alice’s exhibition at Mascalls Gallery runs until 20th February. Alice is giving a talk about her work at the Gallery on 30th January from 4pm.