Hannah Gillingham is a UK based freelance digital illustrator and artist. Working with a conceptual approach to illustration, she creates painterly illustrations of her favourite characters from pop culture and design illustrated posters, exploring narrative in film and digital illustration.
Working digitally with a revitalised take on digital painting, she enjoys creating work that recreates traditional painting techniques digitally, merging both the improvisation of traditional and the versatility of digital media. She also paints traditionally with oils and retain an appreciation of pencil and paper.
Today, we’re sitting down with her to talk about how she managed to turn a COVID-induced redundancy into a thriving freelance career.
How did you get into the industry?
After studying Illustration at the University of Westminster, I went straight into full-time work. I worked as a ‘Creative Visualiser’ at an events company in London, where I had previously worked as an intern, and stayed there until I was unfortunately made redundant due to COVID-19. This then led me to take the plunge and begin working for myself as a freelance illustrator and I haven’t looked back since.
Where are you based now and who do you work for?
I am a UK based freelance illustrator, working from my home studio in the loft. Over recent years I have created artwork for a wide range of clients including independent filmmakers, creative agencies and small businesses. I’ve also contributed to several pop culture group exhibitions in the UK.
If you weren’t in your current industry, what would you be doing?
That is a very difficult question as I often think I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else! However, if I wasn’t an illustrator I think I would quite like to work in a film art department creating the props for films. It would have to be something creative!
Can you explain your creative process? What makes it unique?
Working with a conceptual approach to illustration, I create painterly illustrations of my favourite characters from pop culture and design illustrated posters, exploring narrative in film and digital illustration.
How would you describe your style?
Working digitally with a revitalised take on digital painting, I enjoy creating work that recreates traditional painting techniques digitally, merging both the improvisation of traditional and the versatility of digital media. I also paint traditionally with oils and retain an appreciation of pencil and paper.
I want someone to look at my work and question if it is digital or traditional art, if they can’t work it out or decide it is indeed traditional when it is not then I have done my job.
Which individuals do you gain inspiration from? Do you have any heroes in the industry?
My friends. I am lucky enough to have a great group of talented friends who are also artists and designers. I’ve always looked up to them and found them and their work greatly inspiring! I also often refer to traditional artists and ‘the old masters’ for inspiration as well, my personal favourites are John Singer Sargent, Lucian Freud and Norman Rockwell.
What tips would you give to aspiring creatives looking for work?
As daunting as it may seem to begin with when you are first starting out, the more eyes on your work the better so don’t be afraid to share your work online! Social media plays a big part in this, and it is really important to keep pushing out your work onto platforms like instagram and twitter as you never know who may see your work.
What tips would you give to other professionals to get more clients?
Be persistent and consistent. Find out what work you want to do and who requires that work then go and reach out to them. Social media and emailing work but also consider sending physical marketing material to potential clients. This is something I’m personally looking into doing and will be creating my own physical printed portfolio/ self-promo mailer.
What kind of tools/kit/software could you not do without?
As a primarily digital artist I’d be lost without my Wacom drawing tablet and Photoshop as they are my most used software/kit. I do also think that I couldn’t do without my sketchbook and pencils as they are my first go to when sketching out an idea.
What’s your secret to staying inspired and motivated?
To keep inspired I try to read, both art and design books/magazines as well as fiction, I also watch a lot of films. I really enjoy going out to art/design events or galleries and meeting up with fellow artists to share what we’re working on and share insights and often help each other out.
What’s the work achievement you’re most proud of?
My biggest achievement to date is a recent job in which I got the opportunity to work with Spotify after ‘Jelly’, a renowned illustration agency, reached out to me after they found my work on social media. I illustrated the podcast show art for Spotify’s Gay Pride and Prejudice which went on to be featured on billboards in New York and L.A!
What is the one thing that you would change about the industry?
There isn’t a huge amount I would change about the industry, however I have noticed that while working as a freelance illustrator that often the majority of clients have the expectation that all freelancers work through their weekends and I think that it is important that everyone should have a healthy work-life balance.
Any websites, books or resources you would recommend?
I would recommend the site ‘Creative Boom’ as it is full of amazing inspiration, resources and tips for all creatives and artists including illustrators and has a lot of great advice and guidance for freelance creatives also.