Local illustrator Laura Chapman weaves intricate patterns and meticulous details into her elaborate creations. Be it an illustration for an album cover, or a bespoke jewellery design, Laura’s work boasts a meticulous attention to details.
I spoke to the artist about commissions, craft fairs and the creative process.
What draws you to illustration over other mediums?
It has never been a choice; I always knew that was what I wanted to do and have never deviated. In college I studied graphics and fine art, but was always drawn to illustration, and my style suits it best. It’s also great to work to a brief: it keeps things interesting as every project is different.
I’d say that I’m an illustrator rather than an artist, and there’s this weird stigma attached to calling yourself an artist, where people think you just do a bit of painting and live in a squat!
I work from home, which can be great as it’s flexible and there’s no distractions, but the negative side is that I can go a bit stir crazy!
I always start by drawing. I’ll get a list of ideas and start doodling – at this stage it’s all very rough, and some of my doodles are shocking. Then I use a light box to trace my image – this maintains the spontaneous feeling of the original drawing. I always hand paint – using felt tips, pencils, crayons, pretty much anything, and finally I’ll scan it into my computer, but only to rework the layout. It is really important for me that everything is handmade as much as possible – I do my own printing too.
Which artists or cultures have inspired your style?
Colour is very important, and there are a lot of European influences, especially patterns in folk art. It’s hard to say, because when you work full time you never switch off, so it could be a pattern on a dress, or a film that inspires an idea. There are a lot of amazing contemporary illustrators that I love, as well as Klimt and Chinese folk art – the detail is just incredible.
A lot of artists won’t do craft fairs because they think it has a negative effect on the perception of their work, but I think, why shouldn’t you make money from your art? Craft fairs allow talented people to make a living as artists, rather than having a rubbish part time job. It’s not about the money; there are boundaries – I wouldn’t, for example, sell out and design for Primark, or create Beatles merchandise just because there’s a market for it. Without craft fairs there would be nowhere for talented people to exhibit their work. It’s a mutual thing – Capstan’s wouldn’t exist without the makers.
Have you ever had a bad part time job?
I worked on a burger van at a Richard Ashcroft gig once which wasn’t very glamorous but actually a lot of fun. We got to watch Richard Ashcroft sound checking too which was pretty cool. I also worked in Max Spielmann while I was at college. That was great because I got to see a lot of really funny photographs and some very weird ones too. Although I was always breaking the developing machine by putting the wrong chemicals in it.
Capstan’s came about because there was a real call for craft fairs to be more contemporary. I wanted to change people’s idea of it being this dowdy church hall setting. I’ve always done craft fairs – my business has just evolved that way, and it’s great to get an instant response to your work. My designs are still the same, the fairs just give me a chance to do what I want to do, rather than working to a brief.
Do you feel part of an art scene in Liverpool?
Definitely, yes. Doing crafts fairs has made me feel part of the local art scene, and everyone I’ve met has been really welcoming and lovely. Liverpool is small for a city so it’s easy to make connections – I’ve got a list of people I can email when I need advice.
Yes – I try to enter competitions when I can but it’s a huge investment of time. It’s good practice because you get a quick turnaround on projects, and its never a bad thing if you don’t win because it builds your portfolio. It’s good to get your name out there and advertise your work.
Would you consider writing a children’s book of your own to showcase your illustrations?
Yes, I used to write a lot at college – everything I did had a narrative to it. To write and illustrate my own book is The Dream; all your ideas together in one beautiful piece of artwork. I think the end product would be of a higher quality too, because the illustration and narrative would match perfectly.
I normally plan out my whole year in January but this month I’ve been really busy! I want to grow the product side of the business more, and I’m also going to look for more commissions: I’ve got the confidence now to apply for bigger jobs I didn’t feel equipped to do 2 years ago. And I want to contact more publishers to get some children’s book commissions. I’d love to do more workshops too (Laura has recently been painting panda sculptures with kids in Manchester). I never thought I’d end up working with children, but it’s great working with kids because they aren’t jaded in any way and come out with the most bizarre ideas.
This post was written for Pickwick Magazine, out now