An interview with illustrator Paige Thomas
For our most recent campaign with Brixton Cycles, ‘The Weird & Wonderful: Winter Bike’, we shared an introduction to building the perfect bike setup for the incoming colder seasons. We knew we wanted it to stand out with the perfect illustrations to go alongside. After brainstorming various artists, we decided on friend of Unearth, Paige Thomas. She creates beautifully intricate line drawings and paintings in her own unique style. Now the campaign is live, we got together with Paige to chat with her more about her life and inspirations.
Can you tell us a little about your background?
In primary school, I always struggled academically and it was only after being diagnosed with Dyslexia and later ADHD that it began to make sense. My friends at the time were nerdy and smart and we all loved to read, but my dyslexia meant I just couldn't keep up. Therefore, I really got into books on tape. I would spend hours in my room listening to radio plays and books whilst drawing and painting, this is where my love of art began.
I continued to study art at GCSE and college, but the constraints of school often made it less exciting.
I left education at 19 and moved to Brighton to a mouldy flat with my friend who was studying for an Art Foundation Degree. Although mouldy, we had the best time in that flat! I loved to surround myself with friends who could also draw, paint or were generally creative throughout the years, this inspired me to keep pushing myself to evolve as an artist. It is great to share your ideas, and feedback, and learn new skills. I’m a self-taught artist to a point but feel like I have learnt so much from the people around me, as well as my own research, playing and investigating.
How did you end up working as an illustrator?
At 22 I was commissioned by Karen Vagabond to create illustrations for her website to accompany her festival headdresses. I loved working on it and realised for the first time that this could be a viable career. I kept going, kept creating and started to get some recognition, along with other commissions from friends, family and other businesses. This passion began to turn into my career and I feel so lucky I get to create for a living.
Can you tell us a little about your creative process, do you use exclusively digital tools, or do you use a mixture of older and newer techniques?
One of my favourite things to do is to take a small A5 sketchbook to a coffee shop of a morning, have breakfast and just draw with a couple of fine line pens for an hour or so, but I try not to out-stay my welcome! Sometimes that quick drawing can evolve into a painting or digital drawing. But I really like to keep drawing with more traditional methods in conjunction with Procreate on the iPad. Even though I do feel like I have learnt so much from drawing digitally, I don’t want to rely too much on that ‘undo’ button.
What are your main inspirations when creating your personal work?
I love creating art that brings people together and a lot of my inspiration comes from books, films and games. My first inspiration came when I found the comics “Tank Girl” by Jamie Heweltt & Alan Martin. I loved the style of the art so much, I’d study the lines, the forms, the facial expression and the colour palettes. I like the idea of my illustrations still being attractive to look at, even if you don’t know the context.
I get a lot of inspiration from just walking around, say if I’m out and about and I really like the way a leaf looks on the path, or garden ornament I’ll take a photo. Anything I like the look of, I’ll take a snap and my phone is full of pictures of things I find on the ground.
What main differences do you see when working for a client over working for yourself?
When it comes to working for clients, I am extremely critical of my art. I want to give them the best I can possibly do, for obvious reasons. I also really enjoy having a brief to stick to, having that guide can be really nice at times to keep you from wandering off from the original idea too much.
Drawing for myself, I try to focus on elements that I really enjoy, textures, subjects and shapes. I also try not to be overly critical of my personal art and just learn from it.
Where did your inspiration come from when creating the artwork for Brixton Cycles?
I found a lot of inspiration from 50’s comic books using primary colours that really pop with dark accent colours, along with that grainy background. I also love line art and collages, which is something I do in my illustrations, creating a collection of items from pop culture. It was great to have a whole website of products to use as inspiration and was brilliant to reference as I drew.
Do you usually work from real-life objects, like the bikes at Brixton Cycles or is it more imagined? Which do you prefer?
I like to have a reference to look at it, even for a more imaginative project. For example, if it’s just for hands I'll spend a lot of time looking at my own hands and the way they move and interact with objects. It may not necessarily be a realistic illustration, but having a reference rooted in reality makes the shapes and the image flow better. For Brixton I wanted the bikes and parts to be as true to life as possible. I know the customers are bike enthusiasts and wanted to do the bikes justice.
What would your dream project be?
I’d absolutely love to illustrate a book. As a child, I would spend hours looking at artwork in books. I’d love to give that back to a new generation of children.
Can you tell us about any future plans?
Phil Bartley the Director of The Great British Charcuterie company has recently bought a tap room in Sussex. He has asked me to supply custom art for the interior. Of course, I’m excited to keep a close working relationship with Unearth Marketing after the success of our first project.
You can check out more of the artwork Paige created for Brixton over on this blog post
To see Paige’s other work, head over to her Instagram and Etsy shop.