Questioning Creatives


This article was written on 21 Feb 2013, and is filled under illustrators.

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Lucy Letherland

Hello! My name is Lucy, I’m 23 and from London. I graduated from Manchester School of Art in 2011 with a degree in Illustration with Animation. Now I’m back in the big smoke starting to pave my way as a freelance illustrator.LL_Mungo

When did you decide you wanted to be illustrator?
The seed was sown on my Art Foundation course. During this time my work became increasingly narrative based, and I began to concentrate more fully on drawing. Computers and Photoshop used to scare me a lot, so when it came to specialising I quickly chose illustration over graphics. I also had a great tutor who introduced me to the work of different illustrators and encouraged me to pursue the subject.

It was only in the last year of my degree course that I began to think seriously about a career as an illustrator. Once I’d got a stronger grip on my style and how I liked to work my confidence grew, and I decided I wanted to work towards being freelance.

Would you recommend studying at art school?
Yes. You’re basically free to experiment for three years! This helped move my work in all sorts of directions until my current style fell into place. My tutors and peers constantly pushed me to work harder and try new techniques, and I’m not sure I would have got to the point I’m at now without them. I worked almost entirely in black and white for the first half of my degree; it’s crazy to look back at how much your work can change in such a short space of time!

Higher education really pushes you out of your comfort zone and introduces you to new experiences and ways of working. It’s also where you make some of your best friends for life. Art school is great at exposing you to a range of facilities like printing, letterpress and bookbinding – things you might not otherwise encounter. Having access to these is something I really miss now.

I’d recommend looking at art schools outside London too. Different courses suit different people and it’s interesting to discover an art scene somewhere else in the UK. Don’t be put off by the higher fees… what you gain is definitely worth it!


How long was it before illustration became your primary form of income?
Alas! This is yet to become a reality… Alongside my illustration I’m currently working part-time to keep me afloat. It’s a slow process, but one that’s getting easier with time and perseverance.

Could you describe your typical day?
This varies… although I usually try and stick to some sort of routine to keep me on the straight and narrow! I like to be up and about by 8.30am. Tea is my first port of call. Then I’ll sit down at my desk, write lists and potter about on the internet until I force myself to stop procrastinating and crack on with the day’s tasks ahead. Some days this will involve working purely on the computer: emailing, editing images, getting annoyed with my website. Other days I’ll spend most of my time writing, drawing and coming up with ideas.

If I’m working on a project then it’s pretty much all I’ll think about until it’s done. I’ll work solidly from around 10am -10pm, or until my eyes can’t take anymore. If I’m on a roll I don’t like to stop! I usually try and get my drawings done at the start of the day, where I begin by doodling on loose sheets of paper. I’ll then work these up on my light box until I’m happy, and colour them in by hand with ink. Later on in the afternoon I’ll clean up my images on the computer and play around with layout. I also find I work well in the evenings when late night inspiration hits. It’s nice to work when the pressure of the day has ebbed away and everyone around you is sleeping.

What do you wish you’d know when you first started out?
Don’t drop your hard-drive!
Worry less.
Use the internet to your advantage. It’s a great tool to get seen and self-promote, and one I wish I’d got to grips with earlier.


What’s the best thing about being an illustrator?
Drawing stuff for a living and getting away with it. An idea falling into place. Silence. Unlimited tea breaks. Wearing slippers to work. Nice feedback from strangers. Getting a laugh. Doing what I love.

What’s the worst thing about being an illustrator?
Sneaking self-doubt. A pallid complexion. Too much time spent talking to the cat. Rapidly decreasing social skills. Days where I can’t draw a flippin’ thing. People asking what an illustrator is. People shrugging when I tell them. Ink stains. Bad posture.

If you weren’t an illustrator, what would you be?

Any other tips you could share?
Don’t compare yourself to others too much. Try and have confidence in what you do – it’s what makes you unique.

Move your workspace out of your bedroom if you can. It’s not healthy to stare at a pile of unfinished stuff on your desk when you’re tucked up in bed (and vice versa!)

Always make time for your personal work, even if it’s just some quick doodles at the end of the day. I often find this feeds into a commission later down the line…

Keep a journal handy and write stuff down. Go outside: study people and record their conversations. You never know when inspiration will strike!

Listen to stories on BBC 4Extra.

Read poems by Ivor Cutler.

Have fun!

LL_Me & My Cat


  1. John Haslam
    February 21, 2013

    Lucy, seeing as you’re just starting out, your QC is very good and shows an insight into the profession far greater than your years ( god I’m beginning to sound like a dad)
    Really nice piece and your work is nicely done too! Good luck!

    • Lucy Letherland
      February 21, 2013

      Thanks John! Appreciate it 🙂
      Your own interview was very interesting and helpful to read for a budding illustrator like myself!

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