Q & A with Sarah Ray
Sarah Ray's fun and humorous illustrations regularly make us chuckle here at LMNOP. Inspired by the world around her, and because 'humans and animals are funny creatures' (her words, not ours), she draws quirky observations of life and cheeky characters. So we thought it was about time we found out just what goes on inside Sarah's head and how she goes about her work. Inspirational 'fist pumps from chest' alert...
Your illustration style is fun and quirky, and unique to you. How important do you think a clear style is for an illustrator, and was it something you developed while at university?
Yes, it was something I developed at Uni but not until my final year. I always thought that I wasn't allowed to draw silly or funny things because that wasn't serious and 'you can't have fun in the work place!' But I soon realised that if I was going to draw (and you can't stop these things) then I wanted to draw things that amused me. So it was there I developed my 'style' although it was never something I consciously thought about. I gained a lot of inspiration from Tom Gauld and Simone Lia at the time. I think it is important to have your own uniqueness as an illustrator because there's so many other talented folk and you have to somehow stick out from the crowd. Although at the same time your style should never be forced and I try to always be myself and follow my own path rather than follow any illustration trends. (so stay true to yourself! *fist pump from chest*)
What is your design process? Could you tell us a bit about where your ideas come from and how you turn them into finished pieces.
A lot of people look at me for a little bit and then ask me "How did you think of that?", and normally with a slightly disturbed undertone. I reassure them that I am sane and say I get ideas from life and such. Humans and animals are funny creatures, there's a lot to document! When there's no brief set and I'm doing my own work I like to work to a theme of some kind just to get my mind twiddling and my thumbs thinking. And because my brain is all jumbled I find it quite easy to think of silly things. Anyway, so I just jot them down (sometimes it's the words that lead the way, other times it's the characters) and I scan the drawings into the computer and colour them there. Sometimes I do it all on the computer but I try not to because my eyes get easily boggled.
Happy Hairy Birthday card
Your work is often humorous, are you naturally funny or does it take a while to come up with the ideas?!
I'm not sure how to answer this because people that say they are funny, really aren't. So, yep, I'm as boring as a bin, and man, they are booooring. No but anyway, it really depends on my mood, some days I can think up loads on the spot, others it takes a while.
We noticed from your website that you run screen printing workshops. What's it like teaching your skill to others?
I love it! Everyone that comes is inspirational to me, they all have their own ideas and things they want to do, all I'm there for is to give guidance. And it's nice to meet different people and have a chat. Plus the food at Yum Yums at the Custard Factory is rather tasty!
Sarah in the printing studio
What sort of workspace do you have?
I work from home. Which means I have a desk in the living room. I especially love it in the winter when I have to wear a sleeping bag and peel my fingers away from a pencil at the end of the day. Summer is great though because there's a big garden and I can draw the squirrels and crows terrorizing my cat.
Sarah's home studio space, complete with friendly illustrated creatures.
What does an average day look like for you? Do you like to stick to a routine or do you go with the mood you wake up in?
I LOVE LISTS. Yep, lists are my thing, I have so many of the damn things. I normally write a list before I go to bed with what I want to achieve for the next day otherwise I'd get up and potter about for ages without much of a purpose. I definitely don't write lists on a Saturday night. My lists used to start with little tasks like 'go post office' but I would keep going and keep going until my last tasks would read 'have children' 'buy a house' and then 'sort your life out!' I came to realise that I'd never achieve all the things on my list in one day so over time learnt to refine them.
We also stock the Magic Zine and postcard book from Girls Who Draw at LMNOP, a collective you are part of. What's it like being part of such a group, and how did you get involved?
It think it's always good to be a part of some sort of collective as a creative because most of the time you're doing your own thing and it's refreshing to then meet and work with others to do exciting things together. I got involved when I was asked if I would like to, by Karoline Rerrie (GWD founder) who I didn't know at the time. I think she had seen my work about. I especially enjoy the exhibition side of being in a collective as it's social and it's great to see what others are doing.
As well prints and gift cards, you also sell illustrated jewellery and furnishings. Do you have these sorts of products in mind when designing them, or do you think about adapting illustrations for them afterwards?
I usually illustrate for the product. I find that this way, you can produce something that really sits well with the product, for example I thought it would look good to print a cat lying on a cushion and that wouldn't really work on anything else as well. You seem to have a great balance of creating work for yourself and producing work on commission. How do these two processes differ? I suppose creating work for myself feels free-er but the processes don't differ massively - think, draw, think again, draw, draw ,draw again, scan, colour, have a cup of tea and then do a few lunges. That's about it really!
Hand drawn and hand made pendants.
Some artists see drawing as a private activity, but you have taken part in quite a few live drawing events. How do you find these, fun or stressful?!
When I first started doing them, I did find it a bit scary! But you get over that because the enjoyment of having the excuse to do something totally different from how you would normally work is really fun and refreshing. The scale of it, the challenge of it and most importantly the beautiful reunion with posca pens is awesome. Also it's a bit of a social, innit!
Do you have any big dreams for the future? Are there any projects you'd like to work on or people you'd like to collaborate with?
I love dreaming, it's great (apart from the one I have about that witch who pulls out my insides and eats them) Yes, it's important to dream, I'd like to work on some more large scale projects where you get to do something totally different. I love what artists like Lucy McLauchlan are getting up to and I like the way Ian Stevenson draws on everything and anything.
What other things do you like to do when you're not drawing and making?
I always try to see my family as much as possible especially as I now have a nephew and a niece who are growing up fast! And it gives me an excuse to watch Postman Pat again. I like talking with and meeting other human beings, tinkling on the piano, checking out any local private views/creative events, talking to the nuns next door and dancing! (not at the same time, although I reckon Sister might be up for that).
TV Shit screenprint
Do you have any parting words of wisdom for all those aspiring illustrators out there?
Don't hide away, get out there, do lots of different things, get involved, pick up opportunities, give yourself some credit and if you love what you're doing and you're getting good feedback on it don't give up and as I said before 'stay true to yourself!' *another fist pump from chest* Now go my beauties, fly!
Thanks for answering our questions Sarah! Although we do now have visions of you lunging in a sleeping bag in front of Postman Pat while drawing with posca pens.
You can see our selection of Sarah's work for sale here.
For more inspiring words of wisdom from the lovely Sarah, you can visit her website: www.sarahray.co.uk
All images Courtesy/Copyright of Sarah Ray
Interview By Claire Munday