Get “a visual hug” from the work of illustrator Scotty Gillespie where “the odd meets the cute”

Scotty tells about working with bright and optimistic imagery to pack wholesomeness, tenderness and nostalgic feelings into his multimedia artworks.

28 October 2020
Reading Time
4 minute read

For Manchester-born, Exeter-based illustrator Scotty Gillespie, illustration has always been a way for him to communicate “when I couldn’t string a series of words together (and still is),” especially as someone with dyslexia. The medium has been in his life for as long he can remember and he recalls, when we catch up with him, that he was “always being told off by my high school teachers for doodling my assignments rather than writing them.” Well, those teachers will be pleased to know that it all worked out, as Scotty’s practice is now a thriving one encompassing digital illustration, ceramics and animation – whatever medium he sees as “the most appropriate and fun method to convey a feeling of a visual hug”.

A visual hug is exactly how we would describe Scotty’s work, which often features a positive message and cute characters. These are communicated through his use of bright, block colours and simple shapes – “I love working with bright and optimistic imagery with a dash playfulness,” he tells us – creating cohesiveness across his portfolio, despite his tendency to flit from one medium to another, all in the space of a single day. These elements then allow Scotty to “create impact and deliver my concepts of wholesomeness, tenderness and nostalgic feelings in my work,” he says.

When creating a piece, he takes inspiration from “moments, memories and observations” all in which “the odd meets the cute.” Starting with a single idea or story, he’ll sketch and then project that idea onto the best medium. “These inspirations can vary from taking a walk in the woods, the current social and political environment or catching my dog eating his own poo (true story),” he explains.

What he relishes though, is the process of determining which medium he’ll be working in for a project, especially as this often means spreading his message beyond just the creative community. “Illustration is like no other creative media in that way, it's so versatile, accessible, and that's why I was attracted to it,” Scotty adds. “As soon as I realised that it doesn’t necessarily have to be confined to a screen or piece of paper, it opened up a whole new world of possibility for me.”

A project which expresses these notions is titled trans people are magic, in which Scotty was asked by the organisers of voice4 lnd to contribute an artwork to a queer protest at home campaign. “They wanted to foster a community and connect people during the pandemic when meeting and gathering in person wasn’t an option,” he explains. With the goal of ensuring the issues those within the LGBTQIA+ community face were kept front and centre, Scotty chose specifically to “uplift and highlight the trans people within the community.” In turn, he approached the project as if he was creating a protest picket sign as well as incorporating motifs from his wider body of work like the flower, sun and heart. “I wanted it to be bold, bright, impactful, colourful and most of all, uplifting,” he continues. These visual elements, therefore, represent an “ instantly recognisable level growth, hope, love,” allowing viewers to “rally behind a positive message.”

On the topic of visual motifs, another to which Scotty continually returns is totems. “I am drawn to the fragility of objects balancing on top of each other (sounds weird I know),” he says. “I started to draw totems as a method of creating interesting shapes and when I am struggling with ideas I often return to this drawing technique. I like how haphazardly they seem to rest on one another as well as the fact they could easily fall over at any point.” Using this as a springboard, Scotty has produced a series of ceramic forms including miniature totem sculptures. “Each totem is an individual exploration of form, fragility and shape, with a hint of my own personality and perception,” Scotty continues. “I love that by simply putting a little face on something, you can breathe so much life and emotion into an object.”

Whatever the medium he’s working in, Scotty has an unfound ability to put a smile on the face of his viewers. And with everything that’s going on right now, that’s all we can ask for. The state of the world is something Scotty bears in mind when discussing what his future plans are: “Sometimes it’s really difficult to think about the next thing through all the noise. That being said, I try to keep busy and be optimistic and I have a few projects that I'm currently working on that I am excited about. More practice time on my pottery wheel, larger-scale projects and I have recently taken up rollerblading so I want to master a jump without falling.”


A-OK Ceramic Trophie (Copyright © Scotty Gillespie, 2020)


Turn it up cover for Illustrated tapes mixtape (Copyright © Scotty Gillespie, 2020)


Ceramic Totem Vase (Copyright © Scotty Gillespie, 2020)


Ceramic Totems (Copyright © Scotty Gillespie, 2020)


Slow Days (Copyright © Scotty Gillespie, 2020)


Hi, Nice to meet you ceramic dish (Copyright © Scotty Gillespie, 2020)


Ceramic Flower (Copyright © Scotty Gillespie, 2020)


Dog Caught print (Copyright © Scotty Gillespie, 2020)


Ceramic dog (Copyright © Scotty Gillespie, 2020)


Absorbed (Copyright © Scotty Gillespie, 2020)

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Trans people are magic poster for Voice4 ldn (Copyright © Scotty Gillespie, 2020)

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About the Author

Ruby Boddington

Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor. Get in contact with Ruby about ideas you may have for long-form stories on the site.

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