We speak to Charlotte Ager, a London-based illustrator known for her multi-layered, atmospheric drawings of people and places that burst with energy, movement and bold colours. Her work has been covered by It’s Nice That, Pocket Magazine and Urban Outfitters’ blog and she counts the New York Times, Penguin Random House, Vogue.com, British Council and Harper Collins among her clients.
Rewind to June 2017 and Charlotte was showcasing her work at Bargehouse as part of ‘More’, Kingston University’s illustration and animation graduate show. She shares a few handy tips about putting on a degree show and we find out more about her evocative drawings, inspirations and the most exciting commission she’s worked on.
You took on a key organisational role for ‘More’. What were you looking for in a venue for the show?
A few of us were really keen on having the chance to organise the show. As we were all students with such a big variety of work we needed a space that was accommodating to different disciplines. We wanted a space that would lend itself to showcasing work in different spaces and one that had great natural light.
Did Bargehouse’s unique features lend themselves to presenting your illustration work?
Bargehouse’s variety of spaces fit very well with the presentation of our work. There were dark rooms for our animation screenings, smaller rooms for one off pieces and light, airy rooms in which to curate work together. It allowed people to have a chance to present their work in a unique way, not having to stuff a room full of everyone’s projects. It allowed us to show a lot more of our year’s unique work, not just final outcomes, which I think you miss in a lot of graduate shows!
How did you and other students find putting on your show at Oxo, from start to finish?
Wonderful! As the organisation of the exhibition was a first for all of us there were many areas we were unsure of. It felt like from the moment we viewed the building, the employees at Bargehouse made things clear and were very accommodating with what we were trying to achieve.
Are there any lessons learnt from your graduate show that influence the way you work now?
Yes definitely, I think taking on organising a show with so many other students and having to adapt to people’s ideas and voices was really a valuable lesson! It’s made me much more confident in understanding how to relate to people and to communicate in ways which create positive outcomes.
Is there any advice you’d give to next year’s graduates putting on their degree show?
Enjoy it! It’s very easy to get swept up in all the worries of putting on a show, especially with a space like Bargehouse which offers so much space. But I think it’s nice to think about how there’s been so many shows there already, so many people utilising the space for their own needs and that this is just your opportunity to do the same and create something you’re proud of. Also, start early! You don’t realise how much planning goes in until you get started!
What do you think are the biggest challenges to overcome as an emerging artist and graduate?
The biggest I’d say is your relationship with your own work, how confident you feel in it. Because you may be getting commissioned for things but hate the results and that just leads to endless worrying. It’s really hard to develop a relationship with your work that’s healthy and happy. But it’s important to focus on what it is that actually excites you rather than moulding yourself into something you think people will like or commission you for.
How has your work developed since graduating, has much changed?
I’ve been studying this past year at The Royal Drawing school and having a year to dedicate to drawing has helped me process my work more and have time to develop the ways in which I create things. I loved the conceptual nature of my Illustration animation course at Kingston but being able to pair that with new knowledge on how I make images and what I want to achieve has really helped. I think my work’s become a bit freer, and bit by bit more how I want it to be.
Much of your work feels like a visual diary of your travels, are you always on the lookout for inspiration for your next piece?
I think illustrators are always looking, always people who observe the world around them. I find constant inspiration wherever I am, the world is just so fascinating and endless in its possibilities. I think it’s hard to be bored as a creative person, because even in the seemingly dullest places you find things to intrigue you, even if it’s just one colour next to another.
Is there anywhere in London that you love to draw on location?
Hampstead Heath has been a great joy to be this last year, it’s one of the only parks in London where you feel like you can get lost and every time I go there I see something new, even in a landscape so familiar.
What has been your favourite job/project/client/piece of work in your career so far?
I really enjoyed the process of creating an animation for the New York Times for the winter Olympics, they wanted to visualise the mental process of athletes preparing to compete. I really loved the process of trying to visualise these experiences into something that had the contrasting nature of excitement and nervousness.
What are you up to these days, what’s on the horizon for you?
A few things! I’ve been freelancing as an illustrator working on a variety of projects, which I’ve enjoyed immensely and continue to learn from. But there are also so many things I want to do. I’ve recently moved in to a studio with two friends and I am excited to have the physical room to try things out and the mental space to think!
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