“It’s very easy when you’re at art school to question everything you do, which can be useful in so many ways but can also just stop you doing things,” reflects illustrator Charlotte Ager. Since graduating from Kingston this summer, Charlotte has tried to “focus less and enjoy more”, meaning she’s responding immediately to ideas when she has them, without worrying too much about the end result.
This spontaneous approach is reflected in her portfolio of personal work that sits alongside her editorial commissions for places including The New York Times. “Personal work keeps you playful and excited,” says Charlotte. “I don’t really feel like it’s work, all I ever want to do it make. It also allows you the chance to get jobs doing what you actually love, if people can’t see it they won’t ever know you can do it.”
Her most recent illustrations portray a range of subjects and ideas, being inspired by things she sees like Parisian signage or things she reads and responding to articles. “I’ve also continued to observe from life with location drawings. In general, I think my recent work has been about responding more instantly to ideas and feelings – trying to get down on paper things that can be fleeting,” Charlotte explains. Throughout we see portraits of colourful characters and skewed landscapes and with this variety, comes more energy. This is emphasised by Charlotte’s markings and swathes of colour being applied more liberally, with the impressions of objects being favoured over detailed studies.
When we first featured Charlotte’s work in January her colour palette was cool and subdued, and this has shifted to include more fiery shades of pink and red. “I had quite an influential trip to Barcelona at the start of summer where I found I was using dense colour a lot, to get the feeling of the deep heat and I guess that’s continued a bit with my personal work,” she says. “But to be honest a lot of the time I’m not really thinking about it, I’m drawn to certain colours to capture different things.”
To achieve these bright hues Charlotte has been using a mixture of materials. “I love the tactile nature of collage and gouache paints in particular but recently I’ve also loved digitally compiling images and getting to play a lot more,” explains the illustrator. “I’ve always worried so much and when I do something I don’t like, which I think is sadly the case with a large percentage of us, I think I’m rubbish and get scared of doing anything. But compiling images and editing things has given me more freedom and made me worry less.”
With this new confidence, it’s allowed Charlotte to enjoy the process of creating again and allow her to explore new themes in her work. “I think my work generally conveys lots of different conflicting emotions that sit next to each other just like everyday life,” she says. “This work has been about responding to places, to people, to articles, to stories with images that try and capture a feeling rather than any accuracy.”
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