Updated: Jan 15
"Don’t feel as though you need to limit yourself to a ‘style’. Don’t try and be like anyone else - just create work that excites you."
Words: Rachel Cameron-Potter and Lizzie Knott
Images: Lizzie Knott @lizzieillustrates
Lizzie Knott is an illustrator and recent graduate from the Cambridge School of Art based in Hertfordshire. Since graduating, she has won the Highly Commended New Talent Award at the World Illustration Awards 2020, illustrated an article for BBC News and currently creates content for Spotify podcast series 'All Things Mental Health.'
Hi Lizzie! First of all, how are you doing? How have you been finding lockdown?
Hi Rachel! I’m good thank you. Very busy as we approach the countdown to Christmas, but the projects are exciting - it makes time go fast and I love Christmas so much! Lockdown 2.0 is also going well. For some reason it has felt a lot longer than the first lockdown we had here in England, but maybe it’s because we have an end date with this one. The last lockdown felt like all of the days had merged into one, so it was very strange.
Can you tell us a bit about your background? How did you get into illustrating?
I have always been really into art and it was always my favourite subject at school. I carried it through to A-Level, but when it came to going to university I was torn between pursuing a creative degree close to my heart, or following the humanities route which I deemed ‘more sensible’. I ended up starting a degree in History at the University of Bristol, but a few months in I knew deep down that it just wasn’t what I was meant to be doing. Now, three and a half years later, I have graduated with an Illustration degree from Cambridge School of Art! I always knew that I enjoyed telling stories through my artwork, and the different approaches to children’s picture books in particular always intrigued me, so I guess I subconsciously went that way with my artwork. Pursuing a creative degree was the best decision I’ve ever made!
Your art has taken you from the BBC to World Illustration Awards. Firstly, congratulations! Can you tell us about the pieces that got you there, and where you plan to go next?
Thank you for the congratulations! It has felt very surreal achieving these during lockdown. For example, with the World Illustration Awards, there would have been an awards ceremony in person if it weren’t for the pandemic, so celebrating at home has been quite odd! But the online community has been overwhelmingly positive, and it was fun celebrating via live streams and Zoom calls with other illustrators.
In terms of the BBC article, I actually noticed on Twitter at the start of the first lockdown that a journalist was looking to speak to those suffering with their mental health for an article and how lockdown had affected it. I reached out and ended up illustrating the article. Artwork was the more authentic and personable option for the article as opposed to a stock image! Seeing it shared so widely has been so brilliant, [so I’m] very grateful. I'm glad to have touched so many people’s hearts with the article, providing safer spaces to discuss mental health and to break down taboos.
Pictured: 'Coronavirus: Depression feels like a cat is sitting on my chest' (BBC)
In terms of the WIA, while I was at university Chris Draper, the Head of Illustration, urged me to enter, and initially I thought ‘nahhh, I’d never ever win anything!’ But eventually I succumbed and I’m so glad I did, now that I have won a highly commended award and met so many wonderful illustrators through the process.
What are some of the most exciting projects that you’re working on at the moment?
At the moment I’m working on a variety of smaller projects which I find exciting, especially as it mixes up my work week and I can delve into different subject matters and approaches all in the space of a few days. I have sold out on all of my Christmas cards this year too which has been wonderful! I’m illustrating a couple of book covers and doing portrait commissions for people in the run up to Christmas. It’s been so overwhelmingly positive across the creative community this year, as more people are buying independently and are approaching creatives to make gifts, which is great to see. I’m also building up my portfolio so that I can pitch myself to clients in the new year, so watch this space!
What do you find the most rewarding about your work?
The most rewarding part of the job would definitely be the reactions that you get from people when you have delivered artwork that’s spot on, or the artwork’s audience react in a certain way. I love reading emails or messages from people after they have received work from me, exclaiming how much they love it and how much difference it is going to make to them or their company! I also love making new friends who are illustrators, as we can all support each other in so many different ways.
What advice would you give to other aspiring illustrators?
If you are an aspiring illustrator, I encourage you to draw, draw, draw!!!! Draw as much as you can, observe the world around you and draw subjects that make you excited. Use messy inks, big pencils, don’t be afraid to let loose and make mistakes. When you fall in love with drawing, you will find hidden gems in your artwork and you will be able to apply your way of drawing to a variety of briefs and come up with such exciting and strong work! Also, don’t feel as though you need to limit yourself to a ‘style’. Don’t try and be like anyone else - just create work that excites you, and don’t fret about fitting in to the illustration world. Otherwise, it will just be like everyone else’s!
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