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Lucy Monkman

Tell me a bit about you and your background: where are you from/ where did you study?

As an illustrator my work involves finding a visual solution to a text or to a concept. I approached illustration from a less typical direction in that rather than going to art college I went to university to study English. I moved from the South of England to the North of England to the beautiful city of York where I have lived ever since I graduated. I really enjoyed my three years of studying but since leaving I have actually done little further reading apart from holiday reading and instead I have concentrated on my artwork.

What do you feel was the best lesson you learnt while studying? Is there anything that still sticks with you or do you feel you’ve thrown out a lot of advice of tutors as your practice has developed?

As I did not go to art college I have always wondered whether if I had my work and my working life would have been very different. I did do a local course in graphic design for a year which proved invaluable. It was at the time when Photoshop was first being widely used and goodness I struggled with the technical side of the course but it helped enormously in learning how to work to a brief. I have since by trial and error progressed with my technical abilities and I have developed  my own way of taking my artwork from paper to computer. 

Have you always wanted to be an illustrator? When you started working ‘professionally’ how did you develop your distinctive visual language which we see in your work today?

I have always wanted to work creatively having grown up painting, drawing and making with any materials available. I think my love of illustration came from the relationship it has with words and with problem solving which I find so exciting. My work is usually described as graphic in style and the stylistic simplicity is often commented upon. I also hope that it is cheerful. I have a leaning towards simplicity both in my working life and in my home life. Alan Fletcher with his illustrative approach to graphic design has always been an inspiration. He was able to convey so much with so little in his work.

What is a day in the life of Lucy like? Tell me about your daily routine…

At the moment one of my children is at university and one is doing A-Levels so I still have one to wake up in the morning and get to school. Anyone who works from home knows that domestic life is constantly in view but I try to be strict about not getting distracted. I start the day with paperwork and with email messages and social media messages before working on existing briefs. In the evening and usually just before going to bed is when I will play with new ideas or doodle.

Do you have any rituals or daily routines to help get you into the right mindset?

No but I am sure that I probably should do. The only essential is tea and I am not sure that without it I would be in any mindset at all.

How do you spend your downtime?  Do you have any unusual hobbies?

No but again I am sure that I probably should do but to date I have not taken up yoga, baking or any other pursuits that over the years have been recommended.

Have you experienced any major significant moments in your career to date?

My first publishing commission definitely stands out. It was for a family health title published by Penguin Books and the commission involved illustrations throughout the book and illustrations for the cover. It was a wonderful moment when I received my copy of the hardback and of the subsequent paperback edition. I had two very small children when I was working on it so it was a very special time in my life. Another significant moment and rather more recently would be buying an iPad which has enabled me to draw digitally and I love it.

Talk us through your studio / work set up – what are the most important items in your creative toolkit?

In addition to drawers of paper and pots of pens my iPad is now in my toolkit. I draw standing up in the kitchen and I then transfer my drawings to my iMac where I edit them.

Where do you live and how does the city / location / your surroundings inspire your practice?

I live in York which is a small city and a lovely place to walk or cycle around. It has changed a lot since I came as a student and we now have a vibrant cafe and restaurant culture. I have a great network of friends and fellow business owners and now with so much choice we always find it impossible to make a decision as to where to meet.

If you could trade professions for a day, what would you do instead?

I think it would be architecture as it is visual problem solving on a much larger scale. The artwork that I am attracted to very often turns out to be the work of an architect or of someone who has studied architecture. I love the way that architects draw and their feel for layout which is important in my work.

Do you have any secret passions ?

For someone who wears jeans and a slightly or more than slightly crumpled shirt every day my secret passion ironically would be to wear the kind of outfits seen on Strictly Come Dancing and of course to be able to do the dancing as well.

What social media platforms do you use, and do you feel social media is very important to your practice?

At the moment I use Facebook, Twitter and Instagram which are all very different in style and they are all important to my work. They have enabled me to connect with a wider audience and to receive commissioned work. I use Twitter less but on Twitter I have met so many like-minded people who I would not have found via any other platform. There are also regular creative challenges which are fun to do for example the #meettheartist challenge which enabled artists from all around the world to meet.