In a sea of illustrated characters, Hollie Fuller’s are instantly distinctive. That’s that’s no mean feat as graduate, with many more experienced illustrators taking years to define the unique idiosyncrasies of their creations, yet this Leeds Arts University grad has found them – and they’re in the ears. Huge, protruding oblong ears with tungsten coil-like swirls for details. It’s perhaps not surprising, then, that she cites Wallace and Gromit as one of her influences. These ears, along with their enlarged hands and feet, wide legs and brilliantly simple facial features, make her characters bizarrely lovable.
Having mostly worked from observation of every day life, Hollie has recently challenged herself to work in a more narrative way, developing a book titled OMW! about a cowboy called Colin. This has added even more nuance to her character design, as she navigates Colin’s story and considers how he might react to his experiences. Throughout, she brings humour and heartwarming detail to her creations.
It’s Nice That: Why did you decide to study illustration?
Hollie Fuller: All I knew was that I really loved drawing and I always have done, so I wanted to be able to nurture that, even if it didn’t go anywhere. Studying illustration felt like something that would allow me to be playful and silly and just have a nice time.
INT: What is the most important thing you learned at university, and what didn’t you like about your time there?
HF: Mostly just that I’m a competent human being. I was SO shy and nervous before I went to university. Pushing myself out of my comfort zone and into new situations gave me a lot more confidence generally, but I think this also came through in my illustrations too.
There’s a lot of stress and worry and comparison that comes with studying a creative course, in my experience at least, and that can have a really negative impact on you.
“I’m interested in taking the mundane and turning it into something playful”
INT: Your characters have a very distinct look about them! What process did you go through to refine this and how did you land on these features?
HF: It took me a long time to reach this point! I’ve always loved drawing people and I knew that my work was going to be primarily character based, so it felt important that I dedicated time to finding a way of drawing characters that was my own – hopefully something that could be recognisable as being mine. It was really just a case of trying different things and seeing what felt right. As a kid I watched a lot of animation, like Wallace and Gromit and The Simpsons, so I think it’s safe to say that had some kind of influence on the way I like to draw characters.
INT: Last time we spoke to you, you were working on your OMW! book about Colin the Cowboy – how did working on a narrative format affect your illustration, do you think?
HF: Working on a narrative was quite different to the projects I’d done before. This was the first time I’d properly thought about storytelling so it was nice to spend time on one specific character – to dig a bit deeper than usual, imagining their personality traits and how they might like to spend their time. I’m interested in taking the mundane and turning it into something playful, and this project really allowed me to do that.
I also started to think about how I could push my work further and ended up making wooden versions of the characters from the book to exhibit at our end of year show. In a way it felt like I was bringing them to life.
Who would your dream client be, and why?
HF: I think any project that would give me the opportunity to draw loads of silly characters doing things / interacting with things / having a good time would be a bit of a dream for me. I’m also really inspired by museums and galleries and collections of things, so anything of that nature would be perfect.
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