Heather Gatley, 2015
Interview and portrait by Judith Carnaby
Heather Gatley works from a beautiful shared studio space in an old factory building in the heart of Kreuzberg, Berlin. Situated beside enormous windows overlooking the neighbouring chimneys and rooftops, her desk is cluttered with stacks of paper and cups filled with paint brushes and ink pens. An Apple iMac looms over her lightbox and desktop easel.
Heather works in quite a classic style of illustration: pencil, ink, watercolour. She has a fantastic skill for drawing, which she uses to create both intricate and abstract images of people, places and things. Heather creates her drawings through multiple lines, gestures and delicate dabs and strokes of paint. Everything eventually gets layered together in Photoshop, yet maintains a freshly drawn and analogue aesthetic.
Originally from the UK, Heather is represented by UK illustration agency The Artworks, which she joined early on in her career. Heather’s work seems to be consistently in demand, and her clients include Waitrose, The Times, Penguin Books, The Guardian, Financial Times and Conde Nast Traveller. Here she talks briefly about being represented by an illustration agency.
Illustration by Heather Gatley
Illustrators Illustrated: How long was it before you joined an agency?
Heather Gatley: My agency spotted me at my university degree show in 2006 and I joined soon after so I’ve actually been represented my whole career.
How has your experience been working as an illustrator represented by an agency? Do you feel like there are any downsides to being represented?
I’ve been with them for nine years now and we’ve got a really good relationship both personally and professionally. They’re really supportive and helpful in guiding me and my work and we always meet up for a coffee and a catch up whenever I’m in London.
Some of the benefits of having an agent include them working on contracts, pricing etc. Do you find this frees you up in your creative work, or do you enjoy being involved in the business side of illustration?
I’m pretty bad at the negotiation and contract stuff so I’m really happy to have my agents dealing with that on my behalf! Other illustrators I know are much happier organising all those things themselves so I think it’s completely up to the individual what fits you best.
What do you think illustrators who aren’t represented by an agency should develop or focus on?
Self-promotion will be key to get your work out there and seen by as many potential commissioners as possible.
Your agency seems to represent a variety of illustrators, with their own styles and approaches. What advice do you have for people looking for an agent?
I guess the first thing is to get together a good portfolio with a consistent style. Be selective about the agents you approach, check out the illustrators already on the roster first to see if your work fits in with the group and also that your style is not too similar to anyone they already represent.
Thanks so much Heather!
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