Hattie Clark on how recent difficult times have helped her build confidence as a freelance illustrator

Energetic, bold and colourful with a dash of playful style is how Hattie Clark would describe her inspiring work. The Leeds-based illustrator has just launched a new website, marking a fresh chapter in freelancing and a renewed confidence in herself. We chatted with Hattie to find out more.

Hattie Clark

Hattie Clark

Hattie Clark prefers to opt for handmade methods when it comes to creating her art, mainly using ink and brushes and dreaming up "inky type, wobbly people and playful animals," as she puts it.

After studying at Leeds Arts University, she graduated from Bath School of Art and Design in 2016. Today she collaborates with clients such as Pieminister and Lucy and Yak on a whole heap of things, whether it's editorial, product design or branding. She also manages her range of illustrated goods in her online shop, which features greetings cards, stationery and clothing.

Her new website, designed and built by Hungry Sandwich Club, is full of her joyful character-driven illustrations, with some of the drawings brought to life in a series of animations. It's the first time, apparently, that she's seen her work "move" and it's something she's keen to see more of in future. We sat down with Hattie to find out more and how she's feeling after quite a bumpy few years.

You've got a brand new website. Does this mark a new chapter for you in your journey? Where do you find yourself?

I do indeed! It's been a really exciting and reflective project to focus on this year. I worked with Leeds-based studio, Hungry Sandwich Club on the animations, design and build. They were absolutely brilliant. We wanted to create a site that reflected my personality, who I am as an illustrator and the kind of work I love to make. This, of course, meant plenty of wobbly shapes, inky lettering and playful characters. Through animation, it's also been lovely to see so many of my illustrations come to life. A personal favourite is the search bar fella.

It definitely feels like a new chapter. I've grown a lot as an illustrator in the last couple of years, and now it's great to have a website that has evolved with me. It represents me as a creative, and I'm proud to share it with the world.

I also recently moved to the centre of Leeds and into a shared workspace called Duke Studios. It's been the best decision for my practice. I'm regularly making connections, meeting like-minded people, and getting out of the house to be creative. I struggle to work from home, so this has been huge for me, not to mention the perk of Friday pints! So at this point in my career, I feel the most confident in myself, my style and my ability. I'm ready.

That's great to hear. Although challenging, would you say the last few years have helped you gain that confidence?

I haven't really thought of it like this before, but actually, yes, I'd say so. At times, things felt pretty tough, and I had to find new ways to keep afloat and focus during the days. There were some periods when I didn't have much to do and so instead had to work on self-initiated ideas and draw whatever I felt like on a day-to-day basis. I spent a lot of time sketching in the garden, and productivity wasn't always high.

In the last two years (I've lost track of how long it's been now), I made some of the biggest changes in my life, which have affected my work. Moving bang into the centre of Leeds and to a studio, for example! This brought about new opportunities and connections and has led to different projects, which in turn led to others. Making those leaps and having them work out feels good.

On reflection, knowing I made it through a tricky period is a big confidence boost. I may have moved at a slower pace, but I got there in the end.

Animations from Hattie's new website © Hattie Clark

Search Bar Guy on the new website © Hattie Clark

Like many, you've built more resilience, and that's so positive. What else have you learnt about yourself?

I'm learning to be kinder to myself. I used to spend most waking hours drawing, following a day of work with a full evening spent sketching. I rarely gave myself space away from illustration. I'm finding it easier now to take time away from work to relax and do things I know are good for my mental wellbeing. Exercise, for example, is huge for me. I'm generally in a better headspace creatively when I'm active, and I make sure I keep this up. It helps clear the cobwebs!

During a normal working day, I've learnt it's good to pause, step back from work and focus on deep breathing and mindfulness. I am still occasionally guilty of rarely leaving my desk, but I'm getting better. I may take a little breather after writing this.

I used to (and admittedly sometimes still do) heap the pressure on myself. This is another area I'm trying to improve. I think, in many ways, it's part of my personality, but I'm learning to recognise it when I do it. I like to remind myself to have fun and not take things too seriously.

I've also become braver when pushing my work out into the world. It felt a bit too scary for a time, but I'm reaching out to new people and trying to create opportunities instead of waiting for them. I'm less afraid to share my illustrations with new people, and I remind myself they might just love what I show them!

Other things I've learnt? I can make a really great blood-orange margarita. However, I've also learnt that sewing is very hard. I am not a natural seamstress. The dream of making my own wardrobe is a distant one. But, if there's a creative outlet that's new to me, I'll give it a good go.

Pop Up Circus © Hattie Clark

Pop Up Circus © Hattie Clark

Festival of Dogs © Hattie Clark

Festival of Dogs © Hattie Clark

This is a huge deal. Has your style of work changed because of all these realisations?

Yes, I suppose in a few ways it has. I think it's more that my work has continued to evolve and move in different ways throughout my career, but I hope it's still noticeably my style. There are still a lot of characters, bold lines and big ears. I'm not sure that'll ever change!

In trying to take some pressure off, I've been allowing smaller flaws or elements I may deem a mistake to carry through. I would previously spend a lot of time redrawing things that, in my eyes, weren't perfect, but looking back, maybe that was a confidence thing. Sometimes the wobbles and imperfections are what add charm to an illustration.

I also feel like I'm happier to show my process and looser sketches now. My go-to has always been a brush and bottle of ink. I've recently enjoyed sharing videos of me drawing, brush in hand, and creating a bunch of inky things. I make sure I find time to illustrate just for me as well. Sometimes within a typical working day, I step away from whatever I'm focused on to enjoy the process and have some fun with ink. It might lead to something; it might not!

Maybe there's something to say. That growing confidence, better work/life balance and a better understanding of my mental well-being have improved my line work? Or I could be overthinking it.

I can confirm I don't mix the margaritas with work, so this realisation hasn't changed too much. On the sewing, however, I made myself a banner for events. If you stand far away, it's not too shabby.

Skinny Dip Fun © Hattie Clark

Skinny Dip Fun © Hattie Clark

Sunflowers © Hattie Clark

Sunflowers © Hattie Clark

Wild Thing © Hattie Clark

Wild Thing © Hattie Clark

So the future is looking bright for you. Are you full of hope for this next chapter? How do you feel?

I think so, fingers crossed ey! I'm definitely full of hope for the next chapter. I'm excited about what is to come next. I really feel like I've come a long way and in particular within the last year or so. More things seem to be falling into place.

I've really enjoyed the last few months of work and I'm looking forward to a few projects and things coming up on the horizon. Then I guess you never know where these could lead. I've scratched the surface and am ready for new opportunities. It's been so lovely and reflective to have this chat, thank you.


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