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06 June 2017

Interview with Charlotte Orr, Mount Haven Illustrator

Charlotte Orr is a freelance illustrator based in Berlin, who graduated from Falmouth University four years ago. We thought that Charlotte’s work resonated with our concept for the Mount Haven, and we are thrilled to be using her illustrations throughout this website.

Tell us a bit about yourself – what is your background?

I'm originally from Oxford and studied my art foundation at Oxford Brookes University before going on to study BA (hons) Illustration at Falmouth University, graduating in 2013. I have been working as a freelance illustrator ever since and now live in Berlin where I have my own studio. I also teach English in Primary schools in Berlin to support my illustration career. 

How did you get started as an illustrator?

The illustration course at Falmouth set me up very well for a professional career in illustration. My first job out of university actually came from a project I did at Falmouth. A book jacket design for 'The Dynasties of China' published by the Folio Society. I moved back home to Oxford and gradually began to get my work out there, mostly by word of mouth, friends of friends and also took part in exhibitions, competitions as well as having an online presence.

Two years after graduating from Falmouth, I won a World Illustration Award for a large-scale mural I painted at the Oxford Castle. It was 40 metres long, painted entirely by hand and was inspired by the history of Oxford Castle. Winning this award lead me to be asked to give a lecture about my work at Swansea college of Art and Design to illustration students. I really enjoyed the experience and now have the idea that I would love to become a lecturer in illustration myself one day!

Recently I have had the honour of illustrating a recipe book for a healthy bakery called Modern Baker in Oxford. The book is called "A New Way to Bake" and was published by Ebury Press in April 2017. I am currently working on a body of work for a future exhibition in Berlin featuring local scenes.

How would you describe your work?

My Dad describes it as "energetic, optimistic, vibrant and cheerful" and I would say that sums it up well. 

How did you find your style, and has it changed since you started?

My style has definitely developed since finishing university and is still developing now. I have quite a varied style depending on what it is for. For example some of the book jackets I have done are much more graphic with block colour and a bold design, whereas other work is much more delicate, floral and detailed. 

I also love trying out new materials, which I think contributes to the development of my style. Recently a friend introduced me to these brush pens made by a company called Tombow. They blend really nicely and you can get a lot of varying weights of line from very fine to quite thick. I haven't been able to stop drawing with them since! I've posted a lot of these drawings on my Instagram.

How is your personality reflected in your work?

I love using bright and vibrant colours in my work. I think this shows more of the bold and brave side of my personality. My style is quite detailed and also imperfect in perspective and scale, which I feel reflects a free and confident side to me but also shows my impatient side too! I like to just go straight into a drawing without too much sketching beforehand, I find the result more unique and playful.

Are there any particular artists, illustrators or designers that have influenced you and your work?

I love an artist at the moment called Robert Bowers. He paints large-scale murals of flora and fauna and includes lots of tropical plants that are so beautiful. He paints very realistically but often with a very clean, contrasting background which makes the plants stand forward. He also uses limited colour palette. 

Marc Martin, Kirsten Sims and Victoria Krylov are illustrators whose work I also take inspirtation from.

Also other Falmouth graduates whose work I love are William Grill, Harriet Lee Merrion, David Doran, Fran Murphy, Liz Tregaskis, Lara Hawthorne.

Can you explain your creative process, mediums, techniques, etc?

The work for Mount Haven was produced in two stages, on one page I would draw the line, with pen and ink often using continuous line drawing to create an imperfect and more stylised use of line of varying weights. Then the second stage would be to paint with watercolour and acrylic on a separate page. I did them separately so that the line and the colour didn't line up perfectly and so the colours flow well together regardless of the lines. I would then scan both pieces and put them together on Photoshop. 

In general, I love all sorts of mediums, including acrylic, brush pens, printmaking (linoprints, screenprinting, dry-point etching), ink. 

How do you come up with new ideas?

I am very inspired by plants and trees, architecture, holiday snaps of towns and landscapes. Recently I have been asking friends to send me their holiday photos to draw! But the development of work comes quite naturally, once I've done one piece, an idea comes to mind for the next. I love to have a balance of straight lines, such as buildings and curved, more rough scribbly lines such as leaves on trees.

What did you enjoy most about working on the illustrations for the Mount Haven?

Painting and drawing the beautiful scenery, the sea, the tropical plants and capturing the atmosphere of Cornwall. It made me miss Cornwall a lot doing this project and am planning a trip with my parents for the summer!

5 things that inspire you/your work right now?

1. Berlin 2. Cacti 3. Cities 4. Colour 5. Silhouettes against a sunset