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Holly Pilot.

Work / Illustration

Illustrator Holly Pilot draws inspiration from vintage children’s books

Holly Pilot is a Canada-based illustrator whose drawings are packed with playful shapes and unusual compositions in a well-matched colour palette. In Holly’s surreal universe, banana peels hover over pink stairs while pillow-like objects levitate high among tree branches. There is little logic inside these playful worlds, but the artist’s execution of precise and detailed illustration is masterful. “I got into illustration about five years ago when I bought a couple of vintage magazines and started experimenting with collage,” Holly tells It’s Nice That.

In her practice, Holly draws inspiration from vintage publications and recycled materials in order to create these intriguing drawings. “Recently I’ve been collecting children’s books – primarily Disney – and comic books from the 1970s, 80s and 90s. I then select images with interesting forms of textures. I’ll begin to intuitively compile them together digitally until I’ve created an atmosphere or narrative I’m satisfied with. I like to focus on the background imagery or details from the source material, abstracting the familiar,” she says. The result is a beautiful concoction of seemingly free visual associations that come together to produce a vaguely recognisable setting; kitchens and hallways are faintly distinguishable in the artist’s surreal creations. By dissecting and reassembling images, Holly invites us to engage with her imaginary worlds in fanciful and unpredictable ways. 

Human features are also a recurring motif throughout Holly’s illustrations. “I feel as though eyes instantly animate an image. They can be used as a tool to alter the atmosphere in an ominous or goofy manner,” she says. The illustrator lends life to inanimate objects, transforming them through curious glances or seductive gazes. In certain cases, the addition of human characteristics creates funny dynamics between a framed image of a table and what seems to be a large piece of pink cloth. In another instance, the inclusion of detached human hands above a pool of unsettling red liquid is menacingly suggestive. The artist invites the viewer into an enchanting fictional world reminiscent of both nostalgic Disney stories and the disturbing tales by the Grimm brothers.

Looking at Holly’s drawings is like walking into a delicately curated dream. “By re-purposing and distorting reoccurring storybook imagery, I create new narratives that convey a perky sense of tension. Isolating the simplistic and exaggerated storybook motifs allows me to play with the cultural signifiers in a more complex and abject reality,” says Holly. In so doing, the artist not only reinvents the contexts of the stories that inspire her, but also reproduces a fictional world through refreshingly original eyes.

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Holly Pilot.

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Holly Pilot.