British Mother’s Day has been and gone for another year, but 2016 has been a little different. Thanks to the talents of local artist Louise Clifford – otherwise recognised through her business title ‘Veriette Illustration’ – my mum has something to remind her of how special she is that will last for years to come.
Years upon years of homemade cards, candles and last-minute flowers lead my sisters and I to the moment when we decided to chip in for an adult-sized Mother’s Day gift. Louise had been advertising her custom portrait service on her business Facebook page for some time. And, as someone barely capable of drawing beyond the basic stickman, I was beyond impressed with the quality and detail within her sketches. We requested a three person portrait for our mum – a unique twist on the general photo in a frame approach – with the word ‘Family’ written somewhere on the paper.
We were overjoyed with the result:
I decided to interview Louise about how her illustration business came to be, hopefully shining some light on her talents and the rewards of continued hard work.
Where does the name Veriette come from?
I came up with the name Veriette when I was about 13/14. I used to create layouts and code websites when I was 11-14 and I was always inventing names and stuff for my projects. I wrote a big list of made up words, and I came up with Veriette. It has stuck ever since. I absolutely love the suffix ‘ette’. it’s very feminine and it originates from the French language. I just thought ‘Veriette’ was very visually pleasing as a word and nice to say. If you google it, it’s only my work that comes up. I say it like ‘Very-ette’.
Where and what did you study?
I left school when I was 16 and went to Anniesland College where I studied Art and Design for a year, then I continued to study there to do an HND in Visual Communications. From there, I moved to Sunderland in the North East of England where I studied a BA (Hons) ‘Illustration and Design’ at the University of Sunderland, where I gained a 2:1 grade.
What was your first job as an illustrator? Did you have any difficulty securing work in the beginning?
Ever since I graduated from university, I felt I had no definite ‘style’ or genre of Illustration I was particularly interested in, so I never done anything with my degree or anything for a long time. In 2012, I saw a competition on Talenthouse the night before the deadline finished. It was for a project called ‘Secret 7’, in which artists submitted artwork relating to different songs by different artists in aid of charity. The chosen winner, would get their artwork printed on a 7” sleeve, receive a copy and have it displayed in a London gallery. The charity who would receive the money this year was Teenage Cancer Trust. This resonated with me as I had lost a very dear friend to me because of cancer, the beautiful Natalie Roberts. I had done a portrait of Natalie for her family a while back, and something just spurned me on to enter this competition in her memory.
Of the several artists to choose from, I chose Florence and the Machine as I knew Natalie was a fan (and had met her previously). The song which the 7” would be was, ‘Only If For A Night’. It was about a celestial being Florence encountered. The stars all aligned and it all just made sense to enter it. So I stayed up all night creating an illustration with the portrait in Photoshop to submit to the competition, and entered it just in time before the deadline closed.
In order to win this competition, you had to receive the most votes in your songs category. So, with the help of family, friends, celebrities and strangers, we spent a week tirelessly campaigning for votes, in order to secure the top vote for Natalie and her family. It was hard work, but it was incredibly heart warming to see our community get together and do it for an awesome girl, who was dearly missed. Fortunately, we won the most votes (worldwide)! It was covered nationally, and there was a real buzz from everyone who helped make it possible. It was an incredible feeling, and I don’t think anything else I do will top that as my first AND most important illustrative work. You can read about it here.
After that, I didn’t really do anything else illustration wise as I never felt confident with my work, and I have anxiety so I was just terrified to put myself out there. I eventually pushed myself to do it though, and just took the leap into emailing magazines asking if I could do any work for them. Fortunately, a few got back to me and gave me opportunities, which I used in my portfolio. My first ‘proper’ illustrative job was illustrating a poster for ‘Scot Re:Designed’ Annual Runway show, where I done 12 images of all the designers displaying work at the event.
I am still starting out really, I still feel like a fish out of water if I am being honest! However, I have recently been signed by an illustration agency called ‘Inky Illustration’ and am hoping to get bigger clients being with them.
You’ve said that you have a definite preference for pencil. What are your favourite things to draw with pencils?
I’d say I specialise in pencil and watercolour. They are my strongest mediums to work with. My favourite things to draw, and what I feel I am best at is drawing people. I have always loved drawing people, especially portraits. However, through work for magazines I have found I have a knack for illustrating products or accessories, which I usually do in watercolour. I always edit all my work after manually creating it, in Photoshop, so I’d say overall I take a mixed media approach to it.
Did you do any freelancing while you were studying to gain experience in the design/illustration sector?
I done absolutely no freelancing when I was a student. As I’ve previously said, I felt unconfident and anxiety prevented me from putting myself out there for years. Also, I wasn’t really made aware of any opportunities ie. freelancing or interning anywhere when I was at university. I often think I would have been better off NOT going to university and just grafting hard at getting a good folio. My advice is, if you are excellent at what you do and work hard to create a good, strong folio, there is no real need for a degree. If the end result is an amazing piece of work, then I feel a degree can be kind of pointless (in illustration anyway). The only thing I really took away from it was being exposed to different genres within Illustration.
What tools could you absolutely not live without as an illustrator?
I couldn’t live without paper and pencils obviously! Watercolours paints, ink, teeny brushes, Adobe Programmes (Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign) to fix and edit it all, natural light or natural light mimicking bulbs, my scanner and printer, my massive desk, and music to get my through it all!
Request a custom portrait from Louise: firstname.lastname@example.org