Kent-based illustrator Maddy Vian creates vibrant and joyful illustrations across books and animations, although she had aspirations of being an author as a child. As she grew up, though, she realised she was better at telling stories through pictures.
A graduate of Kingston University with a degree in illustration animation, Maddy originally completed a Foundation Diploma at UCA Canterbury straight after sixth form. During this time, she had her biggest revelations about the art world and realised how many options were available for aspiring creatives.
"It made me realise that there were people out there doing art in all different ways as their full-time career and that I had the chance to do that too," Maddy tells Creative Boom. It is a far cry from her childhood, where artistic aspirations were not always present because she was unaware they were an option.
"I think my drive to continue drawing from a young age came from the positive reactions I would get from my work," she reveals. "I could communicate emotions and feelings that I found hard to verbalise as a very shy child, and make people laugh or understand something without having to open my mouth."
And like many artists growing up when Maddy did, the internet was a "huge catalyst" for presenting her work as it showed her how people responded to her incredible illustrations.
Brimming with charm and personality thanks to its brilliantly realised characters and expertly judged colour palettes, Maddy's work echoes the style of Tove Jansson, who is her biggest artistic influence. "I find so much heart and sensitivity in her work, and for me, she embodies the perfect balance of joyful art with soul," Maddy explains.
"The Moomins are 'cute', and the fantasy landscapes they live in are beautiful and vibrant, but they also have great emotional depth and a gravitas that inspires me and what I want my own art to reflect." This influence can be seen in atmospheric illustrations of a lighthouse keeper weathering the storm or a raucous children's party in full swing.
Tove Jansson's habit of using various mediums in her work is also a huge source of inspiration for Maddy. She claims that she could "bring life" into each different piece, whether she was using scratchy ink pens or block colours. "I don't remember her with one exact style, but a body of work that exudes the kind of multifaceted person I imagine she was - what's more inspiring than that!"
As for her personal style, Maddy describes her approach as "bright, nostalgic and thoughtful". She thinks that artists "have the power to radiate emotion from their work" and that they shouldn't limit their range. "All kinds of emotional art are valid, and there is a lot of darker stuff that I think is truly beautiful and important," she says.
"But, for me, my favourite thing is hearing how comforting my illustrations can be for people. It gives my work purpose and propels me to know that even for a second out of someone's day, they can look at my art and feel positively connected."
Dynamic colours are an important tool in Maddy's arsenal, and she even claims to love using "every colour under the sun". Sometimes, when working in Photoshop, she even goes so far as to pick entirely new colours from the colour wheel in order to discover combinations and create different moods.
Maddy's distinctive style has been honed through working across different mediums and on multiple projects. She even got known as someone who could navigate a client's demands while also being efficient and reliable to work with. Nowadays, she focuses on doing the work that she loves but still enjoys the rush of tackling a new brief in order to figure out the style.
Currently, she's working on another children's book and working on her first solo written and illustrated book. Animations and board games are also being pursued, but Maddy doesn't find these projects overwhelming. "If I'm stuck on one piece, I find it is really refreshing to have something else to work on alongside so that I can reset how I approach a drawing," she says. "What I learn from one job I then use to enrich my next work and so on, and I find that I do my best work when I'm working on multiple projects that give me the time and space to do so!"
This enthusiasm and love for illustration shines through all of Maddy's work and reflects her belief that illustration can be a powerful tool to help people through hard times. "As a kid, I picked up so much messaging about how unimportant the arts were, but I now think quite the opposite," she adds. "Through the pandemic, everyone turned to artists and creatives for their entertainment and comfort, and I think that will always be something that we need."