Bailey Hill Bookshop, Somerset Coloured pencil on paper, 297×420mm

Work / Illustration

Illustrator Harriet Lyall draws the joy of “day-to-day environments”

For London based illustrator Harriet Lyall, it’s difficult “to remember life without a pencil in my hand and a book in the other, as clichéd as that sounds,” she tells It’s Nice That. Once you see Harriet’s work however, this memory makes total sense considering the travelling narrative that flows from one illustration to another. She picks up on details and etches them onto paper, whether it’s her friends in their pyjamas crowding the sink to brush their teeth, a walk through Scotland’s highlands, or even a building in Palm Springs.

Harriet grew up in Somerset from the age of ten — which explains her love for the outdoors but also “a desire to see what else the world had to offer beyond the serene green countryside” — and headed to London to study illustration at Westminster. Following graduation, she’s worked as a graphic designer while working at Crisis, the UK’s national charity for homeless people, over the past five years. However just last month, she’s travelled back to her first love of illustration, taking the leap to go fully freelance.


Yosemite Valley, California Oil pastel on paper, 1000×700mm

With a mammoth portfolio, despite completing illustration work on top of her full-time job in recent years, Harriet’s work displays the joy of “day to day environments”, as much as the far-flung destinations from around the world. Using her sketchbook “as an immediate reference to record notations, alongside photographs to capture moments on a bigger scale,” the illustrator combines these two methods to craft pieces full of detail, with texture playing a central role in her drawing style.

Working mostly with “coloured pencils, oil pastels, graphic and paper throughout my practice”, Harriet’s chosen tools reflect her want to illustrate with immediacy if inspiration strikes. It’s also a practice which is all-encompassing, with the illustrator noting: “It’s rare that I will go anywhere without my sketchbook and pencil case.”

Harriet’s approach to illustration truly shows her love for the medium. Not only through the detail that goes into each and every drawing, but also through an openness to illustrating anything she finds visually interesting. “For me personally, I love to be able to really demonstrate my own mark-making in my work, using these personal gestures to add to the storytelling aspect,” she adds. “I am less interested in communicating the exact accuracy and realism of a place, rather focusing on communicating a sense of the environment and my experiences associated with it.”

Looking towards the future now, Harriet is fully ready to get stuck into her illustration practice, mentioning that a real dream would be to create “an illustrated atlas of the world,” she says. “A mammoth task, but who knows, maybe one day! Aside from this, anything that allows me to travel and draw along the way will never cease to keep me happy. To be able to make a living from my craft is the dream.”


Harriet Lyall: Pier Burger, Santa Monica Coloured pencil on paper, 370×270mm


Harriet Lyall: Chinatown, Los Angeles Coloured pencil on paper, 297×420mm


Harriet Lyall: Flamingo, Palm Springs Oil pastel on paper, 470×400mm


Harriet Lyall: Palm Springs Coloured pencil on paper, 290×300mm


Harriet Lyall: Brooklyn, New York Coloured pencil on paper, 1200×600mm


Harriet Lyall: Las Penas, Ecuador Coloured pencil on paper, 297×420mm


Harriet Lyall: Glen Rosa, Scotland Oil pastel on paper,1000×700mm


Harriet Lyall: Stockholm, Sweden Coloured pencil on paper, 297×420mm


Harriet Lyall: Sketchbook


Harriet Lyall: Sketchbook


Harriet Lyall: Sketchbook


Harriet Lyall: Sketchbook