The Prints & Collages of Olivia Waller

I discovered Olivia’s work when I visit the Brighton Illustrator Fair in 2018. I was immediately drawn to her style and subject matter, and I’ve been so excited to interview her and find out more about what she does. Read on to discover how she is influenced by stories, the challenges of working freelance, and Olivia’s advice for aspiring illustrators.

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Tell us about you!

Hello! Iʼm a freelance illustrator and printmaker based in Brighton. I graduated from Kingston University in 2015 and have been freelance since 2016.

What inspires your work?

I mostly take inspiration from things that Iʼm reading, like short stories and novels. Ones that have really stuck with me recently are Fresh Complaint by Jeffrey Euginedes and Tenth of December by George Saunders. I have two really inspiring aunts as well, ones a storyteller and the other is a trained opera singer, I think a lot of my work can have this kind of melodramatic quality that comes from being surrounded by great stories at great volume.

Do you use recurrent themes in your work?

Mostly my work is based on characters, and their relationships. I find that Iʼm often trying to portray women in different states of unflinching strength.

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How do you combine collage, drawing and printmaking?

I like to draw with scissors, itʼs a good way of just getting whole blocks of colour down. Iʼll paint up big blocks of colour and put those down as the basis of my work and then I can continue to move things around until something works. It’s a method thatʼs a mixture of immediacy and playfulness. I can just take away entire bodies and back grounds and try out different ones right up until the final moments. I use printmaking to make textures that I add to illustrations , like stamping or stencil textures, and Iʼve always loved experimenting with chine collé (pressing down colour tissue paper onto another piece of paper and then printing on top); recently Iʼve been experimenting with using chine collé and then running it through a risograph printer, which gives every print a different element.

What is your creative process?

Research, draw, refine, draw, refine and then make. It mostly comes in the drawing sections, figuring out which methods/ ideas are going to be the best to use.

What challenges have you faced as a freelance illustrator and how have you overcome them?

The main thing I struggle with is the business end of illustration. I find pricing work and understanding the terms involved in contracts extremely difficult and itʼs very hard to distinguish sometimes between what is industry standard and when someone is just taking advantage of you. Being dyslexic doesnʼt help and these are still things I struggle with, but I try and take it at my own pace and also get incredible help from my peers. Also being ok with making mistakes. It can feel like making one mistake can be the thing to derail my entire career but you just have to learn from it, figure it out and move on.

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What has been your favourite project or piece?

It might sound a little lame but I always get the most enjoyment from the thing Iʼm working on at the time. Iʼve recently just finished some portraits of women for an article on Culture Trip which Iʼm excited to see out in the world soon. Another highlight for me was my exhibition of paintings “Wading” because that was something that I got to work on from concept to finish, and was definitely a huge step up for me in terms of scale and execution.

How does the creative scene in Brighton influence your work?

Itʼs just great being somewhere where you see people making lives for themselves doing the things they want to do. And there are really supportive spaces and people who encourage and respect creativity, like Unlimited, Wickle and Family Store. Thereʼs also the illustration fair every year which is just amazing and great to work towards.

What is your personal ultimate goal?

Iʼd like to be able to broaden my skill set, taking some courses in things like ceramics and lithography. I just really like making stuff and want to enable myself and engage with people who dedicate themselves to their practice.

What advice would you give to someone starting out in illustration?

Always try to keep in mind why you started in the first place. Keep some work just for you, that no one else has to see, and keep making more of it to remind yourself that you do love what you are doing.

You can find Olivia at www.oliviawaller.co.uk and IG @owaller.

All images are © Olivia Waller. Images courtesy of the artist.