On the child-like play and freedom of illustration; meet IA's Sheryl Cole

Sunday, 5 November 2017

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Sheryl Cole is an illustrator, artist, designer and art director whose heart has always been inspired and captivated by the beauty of nature. When Sheryl is not out curiously exploring the outdoors, she's inside recreating that experience within her illustrations and commercial design projects. Her illustration style is whimsical and elegantly delicate. Reflecting a playful, childlike imagination mixed with elements of the natural world. Sheryl's illustration work is mixed media; comprising of pencil, ink, watercolours and gouache. “I just love the way watercolours organically almost paint themselves with their juicy, luscious flow. I like to use them with a sense of child-like play and freedom!”

An all-round creative with a background in the advertising and design industry, Sheryl's originally from Kiwi-land (New Zealand). Having lived in both London and Sydney, Sheryl now resides in Melbourne, Australia. Sheryl's illustrations and designs feature on a growing collection of brands/products and warm up many homes and businesses worldwide.

Do you have an art practice outside of illustration?

I work as a freelance creative/design director and illustrator.

Who and what inspires your art and creativity?

Nature is my biggest inspiration. As a young kid growing up in rural New Zealand, being surrounded by nature at every angle had a huge influence on me. I’m in love with the kindness, cuteness and happiness of baby animals in spring when they get their happy bounce on and the bird plays which took part in the trees every day. On the other side, I was always bringing home seed pods, sticks, flowers, shells, feathers and the like. When I wasn't out 'n' about exploring the outdoors - I was inside using the outdoor inspiration to create! This process has stuck and is now naturally a part of me.

Even now when I’m not out curiously exploring the outdoors, I’m inside recreating that experience in my illustrations and designs.

It’s the real rawness of nature – the shapes, textures, reflections, shadows, colours, beauty, calmness, tranquillity, energy, scent, and the taste that wow me every day. I love creating ephemeral art from what nature disregards. Being amongst the trees in a forest – watching the branches gently swaying in the wind like a scribble. Watching the falling leaves - dancing in a drift of sunlight and shadow to blanket the forest floor Sitting next to a waterfall – visually listening and breathing in the natural flowing meditative melody as the ebb flows into the water below. Feeling the mist gently kiss my cheek. Sitting quietly within nature watching the birds go about their day. Listening to their happy bird song, upbeat chatter, and seeing their radiant plumage.

I could go on, but as you can see I'm inspired no matter the setting, with all my senses and my curiosities with nature.

What do you love illustrating?

I like to immerse myself in the natural world, bringing the outside-in by illustrating the whimsical beauty of mother nature's greenery and wildlife.

Wrapping my nature inspired illustrations and designs around eco-friendly packaged products, homewares, surface patterns, branding businesses, creating scenes within a children's book or fine art.

In my recent personal illustration project, I've been exploring Australian backyard birds and I’m drawn to their stunning plumage, play and bird song. After taking a ton of photographs while out 'n' about on my wanderings I started drawing and painting whichever cheeky feathered friend flew into my life and posted them on Instagram. My curiosity and play lead me to creating a fine art print series and I’ve given them each a name and created meanings of why they fly into your life. Just like Hoo, the nocturnal Australian Masked Owl a creature of the night with highly developed senses of hearing and sight. The presence of the Barn Owl announces change is on the horizon, wisdom and intuition. Helps us to see what’s kept hidden. Open your eyes. Be observant. See things in a new way and look into the shadows! Listen deeply and attentively. Use your strength & intuition to see and hear what others can not. A life transition is about to take place which promises happiness!

What’s a typical day for you as an illustrator?

Chai first! Always chai then my Spotify “painting playlist” goes on or a creative podcast like one of Andy.J.Pizza's Creative Pep talks. Then I organise my paints and off I go! Whether it's a personal or client project, drawing, painting, designing or art directing - I get in a zone! A creative zone, curiously playing and crafting, next thing you know I’ve created a piece of art!

Do you regularly exhibit your work? Why or why not?

I've been a part of a few group exhibitions over the last few years with the most recent IA's Paper+Pixel exhibition. I'm currently scouting for a location to hold my first solo show. Think bringing the outside in – perhaps urban industrial, filled with greenery “nature inspired”! If you know of anywhere like this Melbourne based, please let me know.

What are your thoughts on social networking and marketing yourself online as an artist? How has this helped you gain a following or given you opportunities?

Totally recommend it! In this fast-paced online world, using a social platform which you feel most comfortable with I believe is key. I personally love Instagram and Pinterest and I get the most response from my audience when I put up my work-in-progress shots or time-lapsing videos of me painting. I use the platforms like a visual diary of what inspires, sharing snippets of my story, in my studio painting behind the scenes, new work, me out in nature curiously exploring, all which my audience seems to love.

I know when I first made a video of myself painting I was a little nervous and shy! I felt like I was being watched which is an awkward feeling when your painting as many artist's might agree. It's about stepping out of your comfort zone and putting yourself and your work out there to be seen. New things are sometimes scary, but remember in time, all those new things become second nature.

Given what you know now, do you have any advice for yourself in those early stages?

Just be you. You are like no other. Be authentic. Curiously play and keep playing and create something every day! Not every piece will be a masterpiece, and that’s OK just allow yourself to create and experiment. Take yourself on a creative play date once a week for inspiration and do things that allow you to step outside your comfort zone. Balance your time - work IN and ON your business 50/50.

Always be curious and not afraid of outcomes. Find your curiosity and have fun playing in it. You'll be amazed what you find out there and within yourself.

Could you give some experience of roles with clients (how you came about them and your overall experience)?

Just to name a few, I'm currently working on a lovely client’s children's book and have recently finished a few illustrations for a couple of property development's. Both clients found me through the Illustrators Australia website! Thanks IA for the exposure :)

Do you have any advice for illustrators interested in joining Illustrators Australia?

Just Do it! Join up! I've received some truly wonderful clients through being a member of IA and the closed members Facebook page lets us all share tips and ask advice and everyone is very friendly and willing to help when needed. I have meet some wonderful creative friends through going to IA's events and this year actually became a committee member. I've enjoyed giving back and sharing my tips and tricks from my background knowledge and expertise.

What’s your favourite weird colour (or weird paint shade) name?

OMGoodness it's gotta be GREEN! LOVE IT .

Curious to see more of Sheryl Cole's work? Check out their Illustrators Australia profile here.