Interview with Illustrator Lucy H. Smith

In this blog post, we interview talented illustrator Lucy H. Smith to talk about her work on Cornish non-fiction title, The Bras and The Bees by F. A. Notley.

Cornwall is seemingly endless when it comes to inspiring writers, artists and countless others - and Lucy H. Smith is no exception when it comes to appreciating the beauty of the Cornish landscape. Like writers and artists before her, she draws inspiration from nature, animals, and Cornwall, before intricately channelling it into her artwork.

Last year, Lucy entered her work into a competition to design a book cover. Her talent and her love of drawing nature clearly shone through, because not too long afterwards, it was announced she'd won. Following the competition, her work was launched into the professional industry like never before. The end result was released as the front cover of The Bras and The Bees by author F. A. Notley.

The Bras and The Bees by F. A. Notley

The Bras and The Bees tells the true life events of Brian Sherriff who was the director of a factory which manufactured women’s bras in Camborne. When the factory closed during the recession of the 1970s, Brian went on to create a successful line of beekeeping suits with his wife, fashioned from the net, fabric and boning of bras. As a leading beekeeping-suit brand that’s still recognised worldwide today, The Bras and The Bees tells a fascinating and inspiring story of how life can take you from one extraordinary venture to the next.

At 22, Lucy’s work has been showcased by Falmouth University where she studied her undergraduate degree, and has also been shown at the Design & Art Direction Awards in London, an event which takes place every year celebrating excellence in art and design across the nation.

‘I was over the moon when I found out I won,’ Lucy says. ‘I saw I had an email and was scared to open it. It was a great feeling to know that people liked my illustration and that my hard work paid off.’

Her design was noticed by the author of the book, Felicity Notley, and the publisher, Scryfa, which ultimately led to Lucy’s design being chosen as the winning entry. A few months later, Lucy’s stunning artwork became the book cover for The Bras and The Bees.

After winning the competition, Lucy went to several meetings with Felicity Notley, Scryfa, and Brian to discuss the process of publication and further necessary alterations to the design.

‘This was actually the most valuable part of the whole experience,’ Lucy says, ‘because it was a real live brief. I was in constant communication over email and phone with Felicity, Scryfa, and Brian and his daughter, Angela. It was a long process over the few months of perfecting and adjusting the design. I was paid for my work, but the best prize was getting to see my work published and being a part of this professional experience.’

When it comes to the inspiration for her artwork, the natural world is key. ‘Nature is my main inspiration and it has always been an interest of mine. I love that there are no rules to drawing nature, there is no right way to draw trees or foliage so it gives me a lot of freedom to create whatever I want. It’s full of colour and textures and shapes and there’s just so much to play with. I love being around animals and the outdoors, so to draw my own scenes with animal characters and their environments brings me joy both to create and to look at.’

While specific locations in Cornwall aren’t always depicted in her illustrations, it’s clear how much the region has inspired her work. Like any artist who has lived in Cornwall, or even simply visited, the landscape definitely has a dramatic hold.

‘A lot of my art is inspired by Cornish countryside and coasts,’ she says. ‘I am particularly inspired by Luxulyan valley and I think that is why these surroundings bring me so much comfort. I really enjoy illustrating these landscapes, because it reminds me of where I like to be and where I feel peaceful.’

A bee illustration by Lucy inside a page of The Bras and The Bees

‘I’ve been drawing as long as I can remember,’ Lucy continues. ‘I always enjoyed art and crafts of any kind at school and I spent a lot of my time when I was younger at home drawing cartoons and characters and making up stories. I used to read a lot and I remember always spending ages looking at the illustrations on the covers of books before reading. My parents encouraged me a lot and bought me art materials and books on drawing and crafts. As a kid, I loved reading and daydreaming and I love the idea that I could bring ideas to life that other children will enjoy and be inspired by.’

While studying at Falmouth University, Lucy discovered that she wanted to pursue a career in the publishing industry, working as an illustrator on book covers and children’s stories. When she started, she enrolled simply for a love of drawing, but wasn’t sure how to use it. However, after three years of hard work studying by the sea, it seems her degree in illustration has paved the way for her career.

‘I think there’s an assumption that creative courses won’t get you anywhere, or don’t lead to a stable job, but illustration is one of those that really disproves that idea,’ Lucy considered.

‘In my final year, we had lectures on taxes, databases, branding, and all the information on building a business and putting our work into practice. We had industry trips where we created portfolios, websites and promotional material and then went on our own to London and New York (London for me) to meet professional art directors to present our work. I visited Bloomsbury, Walker Books and Nobrow Press, and though it was terrifying it was a real highlight of the course for me. I gained a really valuable insight into the industry.’

With colours and beautiful artwork that lends itself so easily to children’s stories and nature-inspired designs, Lucy is in good stead for a professional career, with wonderful illustrations rich in ideas and imagination. In an age where protecting our planet is becoming paramount, Lucy’s unique designs and love of nature excellently propels her into the professional industry for the future.

‘I plan to continue selling a few bits on my Etsy shop, do a few commissions and keep producing projects to develop my portfolio which is featured on my website. I would really like to do a series of illustrated postcards of different places in Cornwall, as I think it would be of interest to a lot of people. When I feel I have got my portfolio to a certain standard I will be presenting my work to publishing companies and putting myself out there. I would love to work on children’s books and book covers full time one day.’

You can purchase The Bras and The Bees from all good independent bookshops – including right here at Lost in Books. Although we’re not open right now, we welcome book orders through our online order form.

If you want to see Lucy’s portfolio on her website – which we highly recommend – you can view it here: www.illustrationbylu.co.uk. You can also find her on Etsy and admire her stunning collections on Instagram.

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