“Not everyone’s going to love you and that’s fine. Don’t take it to heart and don’t take it too personally when you have your differences with people.”
I bumped into Laura Girling at the train station a couple of weeks ago and before I knew it I found myself asking if I could interview her. (I do this a lot nowadays..).
Well I’m glad I did.
Laura and I went to secondary school together, though we only shared a couple of classes and barely really crossed paths, she was always such a happy, friendly person, so whenever I bumped into her in town or at the station, we’d always say hello.
I didn’t know Laura well at school, but I knew her hair. Her amazing, crazy, has-a-life-of-it’s-own hair. Curly, blonde and beautiful, if you needed to point Laura out in a crowd it wouldn’t really be hard, just mutter the words “The one with the hair”. (When it comes to hair, I tend to think the more the better, so she’s winning.)
As well as winning the hair lottery, she’s also a genuinely lovely person to sit and talk to. I could have chatted to her for hours as I had so much to ask her. It’s not everyday you meet someone who makes money drawing bumble bees and potted plants.
Laura studied Illustration at Bournemouth University and now works as an Illustrator and part-time sales assistant in Lush. She includes drawing, knitting, playing a bit of guitar and making clothes as her favourite relaxing hobbies.
We met up in Cafe Nero, she came in the quirkiest outfit; an embroidered skirt (teapots), animal jumper and colourful bobble scarf.
“You are The Colourful Kind!” I thought.
1. Describe yourself in three words:
Imaginative, messy and smiley.
2. How’s your day? What have you been up to?
My day’s been quite good, had quite a lazy day just drinking tea and working on my website, it needs a bit of an update..
3. What does your typical day look like?
I get up, if I’m feeling particularly active I’ll go for a little jog, good to get outdoors, drink some tea, go to work, I’ve got a little studio room in the garden, get my stuff set up for the day.
4. What are you currently working on?
A little picture book and new portfolio pieces.
5. How do you approach new clients? A lot of emailing?
I literally email people, it’s really scary, Chidren’s magazines, Food magazines I’d love to work with, it does vary, I’ve got contacts for publishers. If no one sees your work you won’t have any projects..
6. How do you unwind at the end of the day?
Cup of tea, watch something nice on TV, do some knitting, it’s so soothing, I love having creative hobbies as well, it’s nice having something simple that you don’t have to think about too much when you’re exhausted at the end of the day.
7. What are you knitting?
A jumper..it’s the second jumper I’ve knitted, my first took me about three years.
8. What do you say to yourself to keep positive?
I think I tend to think about times when things have gone well for me and think if you can do that, you can do this.
Also with the illustration, when I’m down on myself I think “Laura you really want this, you’re guna have to really work on it..”.
It does give you brain ache after a while, you can’t have the characters looking different on each page, starting off as a crocodile and finishing as a rabbit.
9. Who is your biggest inspiration in the world of Illustration?
I really love John Klassen, the way he tells stories is great I love it, really funny, I really admire the humour he gets into his work and I love Sara Fanelli for all her characters and textures.
10. What are you most grateful for?
It sounds really really cheesy, I’ve got very supportive parents and it’s hard trying to break into the creative industry, it’s really lovely having parents that understand that and are supportive of that.
11. What do they do?
Mum’s a Teaching Assistant, Dad’s a Graphic designer, he’s freelance for Waitrose, he does a lot of the packaging. Like the woodland friends!
12. So he’s inspired you quite a bit with the drawing?
He did used to draw with me all the time when I was really little. He’s really great at drawing, he’d draw these little cartoon monsters. It did get to a point where I stopped drawing because I didn’t feel I was as good as him, Mum had to talk to him and say maybe you should stop drawing for her..
13. When was this?
I don’t even remember it, I was like 3 or 4, but by the time I started school I was back on it again. I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember! There’s this picture of me, really little with this big yellow apron stood in front of an easel just painting..
I was definitely a perfectionist with my artwork when I was younger, I’d say I’ve grown out of it now, uni helped with that..
14. I guess being a perfectionist takes the enjoyment out of it?
Exactly. When you’re doing something for other people with a quick deadline, a quick turn around, you just hope they’re happy with it and then you’re happy with it too.
I just put stupidly high standards on myself especially with art. “No Laura you need to make it less crap! I don’t even know what’s crap about it!”
There are some days when I feel like every thing I do is crap, that kind of negative mindset, so I try and maybe move to a different project whether they’re personal or for other people. If it’s for a client I force myself to get it done..if it’s personal I just come back to it.
15. How does it feel having clients?
It does put the pressure on, I think I can’t let them down..
16. But you still enjoy it?
17. What makes you so angry you can’t think about it for too long?
I find complete selfishness makes me very angry, there are times when you do have to put yourself first and that’s fine but when people are selfish to the point where they’re negatively impacting others I find that very upsetting.
People who don’t value Arts degrees as worthwhile cos they are. – They’re no greater or lesser than other degrees.
18. What would you tell your 15 year old self?
I’d tell her to have a little bit more faith in herself and try not to set such ridiculously high standards for myself with art and life and everything.
19. Did you worry a lot?
20. What did you worry about?
Literally everything. Being good at things by academic standards as well. It got to the point where I was putting my work before my health. Grades aren’t everything.
21. How would you do those two years differently?
Be more confident in what I’m doing and try and enjoy it more.
22. What would be your dream career or careers? Writing and illustrating children’s books, there are couple I’m working on at the moment that aren’t quite ready yet.
And also it would be really cool do a bit of surface pattern design for fabrics and wrapping paper. I’ve done a bit of animation, not a big area of expertise, it would be cool to work on an animated series, and do more voice acting. I did have a little part in my boyfriend’s audio series.
23. What does your boyfriend do?
He studied film production, he does freelance editing. He’s trying to get season two of his audio drama finished, the series is called The Orphans, I’m in season one and I’ve made sure I’ll be in season two!
24. What are you currently doing to work towards your dream?
I am working on picture books in my spare time, and getting them ready to take to agents and publishers.
25. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I’ll hopefully be doing some form of creative work full time whether that’s freelance illustration or working as a design assistant. As long as I’m doing something creative.
26. How was this idea born?
I like using my art to tell stories. I didn’t necessarily know when I started illustration that I wanted to focus on children’s illustration, there’s something quite appealing about being able to make everyday things a bit more attractive and fun. It’s so broad there are so many things you can do.
27. What have other people that were on your course gone on to do?
A girl named Kate Rowland, she designs lazer-cut jewellery and broaches with her illustrations. She does drawings then creates them in a way that can be lazered out of wood. These lovely broaches and necklaces. – A lot are pop culture references to TV and film.
28. Any advice for people wanting to go into illustration?
Don’t stop drawing, keep having fun with it, if you’re having fun with it your work is going to be interesting to other people. It’s good to have interests outside of drawing and art as well, so you can create images that have a bit of meaning behind them and add a bit of personality to them..
29. Where do you get your inspiration from?
Most of the stories I come up with are vaguely based on kind of real life but exaggerated to quite a humorous level. I’ll take things that annoy me or worry me or make me happy and make them bigger. Bigger and sillier.
30. What’s the dream life?
I want a dog. I’d like to live maybe somewhere like Brighton. I really really love it there.
31. Favourite bit of life advice/quote/something you live by?
The only one I can think of is really cheesy. The one about learning to dance in the rain rather than waiting for the storm to pass, which is about enjoying the journey rather than waiting to get to the destination. There are always guna be more things you’re guna want so it’s about looking after yourself and keeping yourself happy in the mean time.
32. Any general life advice to younger people?
Just..look after yourself health-wise and happiness-wise. It’s about treating yourself like a plant, you need sunlight and fuel and water in order to thrive, like a plant would really.
33. When are you happiest?
When I’m making art and listening to good music singing along. I’m very happy when that happens. I’m so cheesy.. yeh well when I’m with people I love.. I’m such a little cheeseball.
34. One of the happiest days of your life?
Recently my graduation was a really really happy day. The sun was shining, we had graduation by the sea so it was beautiful. My parents came down, it was my housemate’s birthday as well, we went for dinner with her, it was just generally a really good day we drank a lot of Prosecco and ate a lot of strawberries. It was a really lovely day with a lot of lovely people.
35. Make up a lie about yourself right now, and a story too.
When I was 12 I stole a bike and took it for a little ride. It had a little basket in the front, I noticed there were some strange noises coming from the basket so when I opened it up there was a mummy cat and three kittens inside and they sang me a really lovely little song then asked me to take them back home so I took them home and returned the bike.
36. What did they sing?
They sang me “no you can’t always get what you waa-aaant…”
I can’t remember who sings that..
37. Name a couple of things you took from your University experience:
To enjoy the process of creating rather than being super focused on the finished product. Living with other people taught me a lot. I made some really fantastic friends but also I learnt y’know… don’t kill people because you have differences. Just be really easy going and chilled, not everyone’s going to love you and that’s fine. Don’t take it to heart and don’t take it too personally when you have your differences with people.
Like whenever something went wrong I’d think it’s all my fault I’m a terrible housemate and a terrible person.
38. Name one thing you love about yourself:
That’s difficult, that’s such a tricky one.. I quite like my ability to make a lot of other people smile, I feel like that’s something I’m quite good at.
39. Describe your hair:
Wild, untameable, curly beast!
40. Do you love it?
41. What is the best advice/guidance your parents gave you?
Really really cheesy but they have given me quite high standards for any kind of romantic relationship because they have a really great relationship. They laugh together a lot, all three of us laugh together a lot, they look after each other, they’re very respectful and loving.
42. So they’re like best friends?
Yeh yeh, they’ve been together since they were like sixteen.
43. Describe your perfect day:
I’d be on a beach, in Cornwall, it’d be really sunny, one of those really gorgeous English summer days that don’t happen that often when’s it’s warm enough to swim. I’d have my sketchbook with me, do some drawing, do some reading, if it’s hot I probably wouldn’t have my flask of tea with me, that’d be weird. I’d probably be with Zac my boyfriend and then towards the evening we’d meet up with some friends and eat some really nice food maybe have drinks and play some games.
44. Which games?
Maybe Articulate and Cards Against Humanity.
45. If you lived in an alternative reality, having made different choices throughout your life, where would you be and what would you be doing?
I would be a singer song writer living in Bristol. I don’t know why Bristol, it’s a place that always seems quite nice.
46. Any habits you’re currently trying to work on breaking or cultivating?
I’m trying to get better at having a more regular exercise routine. Cos I do the occasional bit of exercise but as soon as it rains or it’s a bit cold I’m like you know what I just don’t feel like it..
47. One experience you think has helped shaped you as a person?
I’d say being at uni has kind of helped shape me really, it does feel like a big step up from school really, all these new people.
48. Five things that bring you joy?
Dogs. Nice people. Sunshine. Being creative. Green tea. It does make me really happy! Any warm beverage really!
49. One thing you couldn’t live without?
Laughter. Have to have a laugh.
50. What would you change about the world?
I’d want everyone to be treated more fairly, ideally people should treat each other with kindness and fairness. I’d make it get less dark earlier in the winter I hate how dark it gets!
51. Did you like going to an all girls school?
I did. But by the time I left for sixth form I was ready to leave, I’m glad I didn’t stay for sixth form!
52. Favourite Films?
The Breakfast Club. Scott Pilgrim Vs The World. The Lost Boys.
53. Favourite TV Shows?
I’ve been really loving Gilmore Girls, I’ve been re-watching it in anticipation for the new season. There was this cartoon network series called Over The Garden Wall. I love me some Bobs Burger’s as well..
54. Favourite book?
I really love This Is Not My Hat by John Klassen.
55. What did you want to be when you were little?
A fashion designer or an artist or a singer.
56. Name a couple of things you’d like to say you did before you die:
Get a children’s book published.
Visit more countries, travel more.
57. What are your biggest pet peeves about other people?
Selfishness and unnecessary rudeness.
58. What is your proudest achievement?
Something I’m really really proud of, when I was eight or nine I had a picture I drew published in the Power Puff Girls magazine I got a mouse mat and a keyring.
59. What do you worry most about?
Weirdly I worry about spending my time worrying too much and not achieveing anything. Letting worries stop me from getting where I want to be.
60. What’s one thing you wish you knew how to do?
61. If you have children, what’s one bit of advice you’d want them to carry with them for the rest of their lives?
To have confidence in themselves.
62. Three things you think about more than the average person?
Dogs. Nice stationary. And well what with my job and all, probably bath bombs.
63. What did you learn yesterday?
Yesterday I was looking at some print and pattern type books and I guess it reminded me sometimes it’s nice to take some time out to look at pretty things and chill.
64. What is happiness?
Dogs, puppies and tea. Lovely friends and family, never hurts where happiness is considered.