Illustrazioni Seriali: Your artworks look to me pretty naive and the landscapes are an excellent representation of reality. How did you find out your style and what did you study?
Charlotte Ager: Thank you, I think I never tried actively to develop a ‘style’, they pushed against this as my University because it could mean you get stuck in a certain way of working. Instead, I just drew and drew and at some point certain ways of depicting things felt really true to me. It’s ongoing though and that’s exciting, drawing new places, people and ideas, finding ways to do so which feel to me accurate in some way.
I studied a foundation in arts at Kingston University in London which was really incredible to me, I didn’t really think anything existed for me outside of the idea of fine art and painting. On this year I fell really in love with illustration and stayed there for the next three years to do my degree in Illustration Animation. I also loved this time but some of the projects were quite conceptual and I felt like I didn’t have time to draw as much as I wanted. When I left I did the Drawing year at the Royal Drawing school also in London where I hit up against lots of ideas I didn’t like but it gave me time to draw and draw. It made me more certain that I wanted to be an illustrator and use drawing to communicate.
IS: I always thought that pictures are much more communicative than any word. Your artworks are perfectly confirming my thoughts, I found your illustrations clear and at the same time full of different layers and meanings. I would say your creations are poetry.
Where does your inspiration come from? How did you end up with your style?
C.A.: It’s really hard to say, I think I’ve always been a very emotional and sensitive person, I feel things very deeply and struggle a lot to communicate them. I think sometimes my brain ticks away and turns these feelings into drawings. Sometimes they come out fully formed from nowhere and sometimes I find myself absentmindedly drawing and these ideas come to me. I walk a fair bit and just love looking, I think my brain also likes to turn what I see into moments of stories. Reading is also a huge inspiration, absorbing so many writers’ perspectives is like developing these new pathways of viewing the world.
I think my way of drawing has become more and more simplified because it feels to me the simpler, the easier it communicates and the more it relates to everyone’s experiences as human. Colour is also a big part of this, I remember so vividly seeing Milton Avery’s work for the first time and being completely overwhelmed with emotion, His work is seemingly so simple in its form but the colours are so beautifully placed together it evokes a feeling of magic. An image that is far more complicated I don’t think could ever give me the same feeling.
IS: I think that your commissioned works are not so different from your personal ones: how did you find the balance between the two styles? Is there any influence between the two kinds of works?
C.A.: I really struggled with this at the beginning and am still learning a lot. Initially I got a whole range of commissions some of which felt quite baffling to me and I couldn’t really connect with the subject matter, so I found it difficult to apply the way I drew. However, as I’ve done more work I more frequently get jobs that I feel I can emotionally relate or empathise with so the drawing process feels more natural. Sometimes these are really playful things, which I also love.
I find constantly flipping between the two ways of working really helpful, one informs the other and it means I don’t get bored. When commissions take over I find it hard to get back into personal work so I try and keep a small balance. I love playing in my personal work, especially with colour, It’s like making small discoveries that can then be used in commissioned work.
IS: We are having such hard times due to this pandemia, thinking about the future really helps us to face this tough situation. What is your plan for 2021?
C.A.: It certainly has been horrid; I feel incredibly lucky to be able to keep going. I’m trying not to make any big plans but just be more grateful for what I have and how I get to draw for a living. For a long time, I’ve really struggled with my mental health and so simply being content and working at the moment feels really great. Like many, I’m taking it a day at a time.
That said I would also really love to work on some books this year, I’m finding that’s something I really enjoy and would love to do more of. I made a book ‘Small Pleasures for Big hearts’ which was a collection of drawings from the first lockdown and I really loved putting it together, being able to choose how things appeared. I hope I can work on something else like that this year.