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Behind The Cover: Hattie Clark

Hattie Clark is the wonderful artist behind Issue 2s front cover. Meg Firth sat down with her to discuss life as a freelance artist, the inspiration behind her cheery characters, and all about a certain duck having an identity crisis.

It’s hard to be sad when you look at Hattie Clark’s playful illustrations. Her carefree characters radiate an infectious positivity and innocence, instantly melting away any pessimistic Monday morning thoughts. Refreshingly optimistic, Hattie’s illustrations inspire you to not take life so seriously.

Hattie herself radiates a similar warmth. Sitting down with her for an early evening coffee at Hyde Park Book Club, her positive energy made me instantly happier. From ducks sporting oversized accessories to people without their kit on, Hattie’s illustrations capture the silliness of life and it’s clear that she has fun with the work she makes.

This blossomed from her love of drawing when she was little; “I know everyone always says it, but I was always drawing as a kid,” laughs Hattie. “I blame a lot of it on Art Attack. I used to watch it all the time. My Granny had a massive box of pens so that would be what I’d play with. I was forever drawing.”

Hattie pursued this childhood love for drawing by going on to study at Leeds Arts University and Bath School of Art & Design. “I always said that I wanted to be an artist,” reflects Hattie. “I don’t think I knew what an illustrator was, but I knew I wanted to be some sort of artist. Even when I was doing my foundation year I didn’t know I wanted to do illustration, but when I started drawing with ink my style carried on from that.”

From their big ears to their wobbly bits, it’s hard not to smile when you see Hattie’s wonderfully carefree characters. A personal favourite is ‘Wild Thing’, a lady running starkers through a garden. The inspiration came to Hattie after reading about National Naked Gardening Day in a local newspaper: “It’s in the first week of May! It’s basically a day where people spend time in the garden naked. I did a couple of illustrations from that and I just kept going with them and exploring different people within them. They’ve been quite popular so I just developed a bit of a range of them.”

Another favourite recurring character is Hattie’s duck, who may or may not be having an identity crisis: “With the ducks, everyone thinks they’re seagulls,” explains Hattie. “I imagined him as a duck so I thought I might do a little a little book or a zine about a duck that everyone thinks is a seagull, and he doesn’t know what he is anymore.“

What’s nice about chatting to Hattie is how she just has fun with her work. When you truly love what you do, your work becomes your craft, and Hattie’s craft is truly wonderful. Anything she puts her heart into becomes something that anyone would want to proudly have on their wall or upon their shelf. It’s exciting to think about what forms of art she’s going to experiment with in the future; “I did a ceramics course at Leeds, and that’s something I’d like to dabble more in,” ponders Hattie.” I’ve made a duck before! It’s really naff but I like how rubbish it is: I used a Nesquik tub to cut around the clay so he’s basically just a Nesquik tub with a head. He’s a bit sketchy, but he looks more like a duck than a seagull at least.”

Drawing her lovely people only came into fruition in her third year of studying in Bath; “I used to hate drawing people; I used to put it off so much. Now it’s all I seem to draw,” jokes Hattie. “I got this book off Amazon from like the ‘70s. It’s a really funny book of people just in different positions. It’s terrible but I always look at that for inspiration and develop characters from that. It’s just full of random stuff - there’s a priest sat down drinking a cup of tea, and there’s like 5 different angles of him for you to draw from. It’s become a little bible for me” You can find Hattie’s lovely people dancing within her flawless riso prints. We talk about the process of it: “It’s a really nice process. It’s like a screenprinting but with less faff,” Hattie explains. “It’s nice to layer all the colours, and - because you’re limited to the number of colours you can use - it makes you think in a different way. You can’t whack loads of colours on; you have to think of palettes of three or four colours. Riso is really popular at the moment too. It seems to be everywhere.”

On the day we met, Hattie had just returned from the Brighton Illustrators Fair, where spent the weekend in a room full of fellow artists; “It feels as if there are more and more illustrators coming up. The fairs and other events like that are the best way to meet people. I like doing them because always make friends with whoever I’m sat next to and everyone’s always so friendly.”

Being friendly is something that Hattie advises to anyone working freelance: “I know it sounds stupid, but if you’re really friendly it gets you so much further. And if you make friends with all the people you meet then you’ve got so many connections then. Always be nice to people.”

So, find Hattie at an art fair near you and discover her wonderful art. It’s impossible to feel blue when you see her wobbly ladies and sassy ducks. We certainly felt happy when we saw the illustration she did for this issue’s cover for the first time.

Meg Firth

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