Hattie Stewart on 'doodle-bombing', imbalances in the creative industries and hard work

Hattie Stewart is a London-based illustrator and professional doodler whose 'doodle-bombing' technique has appeared on the covers of Sunday Times Style, GQ Style and Stylist magazines.

She has worked with designers including House Of Holland, Marc By Marc Jacobs, Nike and Adidas, and creatives and musicians including Roman Coppola, Liberty Ross and Kylie Minogue. Hattie has also exhibited in Miami, L.A, Bangkok, New York, Berlin and London.

Now she's launching Hattie Stewart's Doodlebomb Sticker Book, a jam-packed sticker book, so you can doodle-bomb your own books, posters and anything you like. With over 500 stickers the possibilities are endless. We spoke to Hattie about her new book and much more.

How do you make doodling a successful career? How did you get here?

I’m constantly changing up my ideas but the visual core is more or less always the same which I think has helped to diversify the projects that come my way. I’m intrigued to see what my work will look like in 20, 30 years – I hope it's completely different and that’s what makes it exciting for me.

My work has naturally progressed over the years but I started out making zines and doing little jobs here and there for friends and people I’d met through sharing my work. I was very lucky also because whilst I was studying my sister was working at Luella as a designer (she’d interned there and then was given a full-time position when she graduated) and she brought me on board to do a few illustrations for some t-shirts – that opportunity enabled me to, over the course of a few years, build a number of working relationships with other designers through word of mouth, including Henry Holland.

When did you get your first break, and what was it?

I graduated from Kingston University in 2010 and have been drawing non-stop since. I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve always had quite a supportive following and various opportunities over the years have helped me grow, change and develop as an artist.

Everything really kicked off when I began my doodle-bomb project where I drew over influential magazines like Vogue and iD – from there it all kicked off. I was coming from a generation of rather traditional illustration and anything outside of that field was generally dominated with photography – I wanted to show that there were other ways to visually engage an audience.

So you're famous for 'doodle-bombing' – how did this come about?

I was working in a bar on Brick Lane (almost seven years ago now) and during a particularly boring shift, I started drawing over a picture of Lily Allen. I was excited about how the manipulated image transformed the original photograph so decide to explore it further and here we are!

Any favourite projects you care to discuss?

Well, my doodle-bomb project is definitely up there! Since its conception the opportunities I’ve had have been so much more complex and varied – adding photography into my work changed everything for me and I’m grateful that designers and agents come to me for the work I create in personal work, as opposed to me changing my vision for them. It’s all very fluid and I’m intrigued to see where it all leads.

Where do you get your ideas from? Are you influenced by current events?

I would say yes, only for the reason that the covers I draw over are very much of the moment and the illustration I create can be inspired by what's going on at that time. Generally though, when thinking stylistically, I’m mostly inspired by other artists and designers. I love the design and photography in vintage magazines (particularly pornos) as well as artists like Pauline Boty and Martin Sharp – they were big early influences.

What's currently bugging you about the creative industries? Would you like to see anything change?

Money and more representation of diverse artists. So many illustrators are still under appreciated and under paid for their work. I’ve helped a number of friends negotiate higher fees they never thought of asking for – there needs to be an open and nuanced conversation about the issue, to make sure everyone is getting paid properly for their work because some people (and agencies) can really take the piss!

You wouldn’t ask a decorator to paint your home for free, you wouldn’t ask an architect to design your house for nothing. I’d also like to see a better representation of artists – guys always get far more attention in the media, and larger and more diverse projects and campaigns. It’s slowly changing but there is most definitely a big imbalance.

Social media definitely had a big part to play in providing a platform for more diverse artists from different backgrounds and people are hungry for it – now the industry needs to catch up...

You have a new book, tell us more

This is a book entirely dedicated to stickers! I’ve wanted to do a sticker book for years – especially with interactive aspects so people could ‘doodle-bomb’ their own photographs using the different stickers using the book.

When I was developing the concept of the book, I started by looking at how my work has changed over the years and if anything is still relevant now. Each piece stands out individually as it focuses solely on the motifs and characters found in my work over the years, so in some ways, it is an anthology of my work and style – although stripped back.

Stickers are so popular because they show the multiple sides of a person's personality. Their likes, dislikes and political alignments. A sticker can portray so much more than just what it is. It sends an instant message.

I tried to create a variety of designs: type-based illustrations, blanket statements, words with ambiguous meanings, and playful dark characters. I’m trying to encapsulate all the different sides of my personality and my likes and dislikes. It would be interesting to see how other people use them and interpret them and engage with them.

What advice would you give to aspiring illustrators out there?

Hard work! There is no easy answer than to keep drawing, learning and experimenting to make yourself and your work better. Make a mess, be a mess – take advantage of opportunities and connections around you. If you feel there aren’t any available to you, just do your thing, find your little corner of the world and make the most of it. If people don’t understand you or your work today then that’s ok – you still have tomorrow.

Tell us something about yourself that might surprise us

I failed my first year of university and had to re-do a module during summer. I almost failed my second year too but fought with tutors all the time. I also dealt with some extremely difficult personal issues which almost ruined my final year. But I managed to pass with a 2:1 and here I am today!

Hattie Stewart's Doodlebomb Sticker Book is available via Laurence King. To find out more about Hattie, visit hattiestewart.com. Photography by Jenny Lewis.


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