Catapult Artist “Self-belief gets you quite far as an illustrator”: Hannah Lock, Catapult Artist for October 2019
“Refrain yourself from throwing things away. Even if you think you’re going nowhere with what you’re creating.”
As part of our Catapult Artist program, Nicole Caputo, Catapult ’ s creative director, sits with October’s #CatapultArtist for a conversation on art, creativity, and the artist’s life.
Hannah Lock’s illustration work landed in my inbox in mid-July with an inquiry about collaborating on book projects. I was so excited by the unique, emotive, and textural work she sent me, as well as her bold and vivid color palette selections, that I wrote back within just a few hours to ask her if she would be interested in doing illustration work for the magazine, sooner, instead. The pieces she created for us exhibit movement and feeling and real emotional connection to the viewer. Her enthusiasm made her the perfect artist to close out our first year of the Catapult Artist program as our Artist for October.
Illustration by Hannah Lock for Catapult; as featured in Margot Livesey’s “Meeting My Third Family”
Nicole Caputo: Can you tell me a bit about your start as an illustrator? When did you know you wanted to be one and what inspired that and how did you begin? Were you creative as a child? Take us all the way back .
Hannah Lock: When I was at my grandparents, with my cousin when we were younger, we were handed the backs of receipts and envelopes to draw on, whenever we wanted to draw. So I was always drawing. I had a lot of imaginary friends as a child. I thought we had fairies living at the well at the bottom of our garden. So I was quite imaginative as a child.
I didn’t really think about illustration or becoming an illustrator until high school. I’ve had a lot of encouraging art teachers and tutors; I had an art teacher who was very encouraging, who said I should pursue illustration. My English teacher at that time encouraged me down the same route and I don’t think I’ve deviated that much from that path since. I did want to study English for a while. I think the good thing about illustration though, is that I can on occasion combine my love of reading and drawing into one practice.
Illustration by Hannah Lock for Catapult; as featured in Brandon Holmes’ ”An Island of Trash at the Top of the World”
Your style is so unique. Can you tell us a bit about how you moved towards the textural approach you take to your illustration and also if there is anything that inspired your style?
Thank you! I used to use a lot of ink and watercolor, then I felt like I’d reached a dead end with how far I could take the media. I did some experimenting with different media within different projects at university. When I was working on Angela Carter’s short story “The Erl King,” I came across this way of working by accident—as I tried to get some of the feeling from the story into the mark-making with the colored pencils. I think my style has developed since then, but I still try to carry that emotive mark-making with me on different projects.
I would say that David Hockney’s bright, vivid colors have inspired a lot of my work—his digital and his traditional landscape paintings of East Yorkshire, in particular. They’re colored, which you wouldn’t really associate with the Yorkshire landscape, but you would with California. I sadly didn’t get to see his latest exhibition at the Tate in London a few years ago, but I did see his ongoing exhibition in Saltaire some months back. I could have happily been left there for a few hours.
Illustration by Hannah Lock for Catapult; as featured in Shayne Terry’s ”Talking to Your Kids About Astronomical Phenomenal”
I am really excited to hear a bit about the mediums you use and what your execution looks like from the start of your process to final pieces.
I use Faber-Castell polychromos pencils and Fabriano paper, as the pencils layer and mix very well. I don’t know what it is about Fabriano paper, but other paper doesn’t seem to layer or take in the pencil as well as Fabriano. Occasionally, I use Derwent pencils, if I want an exact color that the Faber-Castell pencils don’t have.
Usually, my process starts with research, visual research, and sketches in my sketchbook. Once the final sketch has been chosen, I move onto the final piece. Sometimes I start with a loose, faint sketch, and then go on to draw the final on top. Sometimes I just start with a blank piece of paper and work from there.
Illustration by Hannah Lock for Catapult; as featured in Kate Knoll’s ”Whisper”
Take us through a typical work day.
It depends what sort of project or client I’m working for. Usually I try to send emails and sort out admin in the morning, but sometimes that can take up most of the day. If I’m working on a project, I’ll spend the afternoon either doing research and visual research in my sketchbook, and sketching potential outcomes, or I might spend a morning and afternoon on a final piece. I will take a break, usually in the afternoon by walking my dog.
If you were to give advice for people who are not working as illustrators yet, but would like to be, what would it be?
Keep at it. Refrain yourself from throwing things away. Even if you think you’re going nowhere with what you’re creating, leave it a day or two and come back to it. You might have a new perspective, or you might not. I think self-belief gets you quite far as an illustrator, and I think that helps one step towards that self-belief.
Illustration by Hannah Lock for Catapult; as featured in Kate Tuttle’s “Songs and Stories to Keep the Ghosts at Bay“
Any books, films, art, or anything else that has really moved you lately?
I haven’t had that much time to watch or read that much lately. I think the latest film that moved me was Ingmar Bergman’s Fanny and Alexander ; I watched it as research for a project I was working on. I love the opening scene; the music and the visuals stayed with me a long time after watching the film.
I haven’t read that many books this year. I did enjoy Normal People by Sally Rooney. I wouldn’t say it’s the most visual book, as I do lean towards visually-driven novels, though it is emotive. There’s a few scenes in the book I keep coming back to.
I watched the Netflix documentary on Olafur Eliasson recently. Both the landscape, the colors and the breadth of his work are quite inspiring.
And the question I always ask our artists: What do you do to refuel your creative tank?
When I feel like I’ve reached a creative block, I try to step away for a bit. Sometimes it’s good to not look at illustration for a while, and try to look at new things—look at some fine art, watch some documentaries or classic films. I was feeling drained a year ago, and I tried to go through most of the films of Ismail Merchant, Powell and Pressburger—I watched a documentary about their main cinematographer Jack Cardiff. The Red Shoes and Black Narcissus influenced my use of color.
Sometimes doing nothing can be just as beneficial. Roman Muradov’s book On Doing Nothing is a good read, if you’re going through a creative block.
Illustration by Hannah Lock for Catapult; as featured in Leigh Bardugo’s “Year of the Pony“