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Q&A with Isobel Hill

Alice Weetman talks to artist Isobel Hill about her distinctive art style and collaborations with streetwear brand SCR

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Image Credit: Isobel Hill

“I never really realised I even had a ‘style.’ I drew the only way I knew how and the only way my hand would let me.”

Isobel Hill is a 22-year-old, up and coming artist, juggling her creative life as a Central Saint Martin student, with collaborations and commissions, between her life in London and Yorkshire. Her distinctive style has gained mass attention on her Instagram, @izziehilly. We spoke to her before the release of her latest collaboration with independent street wear brand SCRT.

How did you develop such a distinctive and recognisable style with your work?
I never realised I even had a ‘style’. It wasn’t something I ever intentionally set out to do, I drew the only way I knew how and
the only way my hand would let me. People comment on how I had this ‘style’, but I didn’t understand what exactly this ‘style’ was: I was the one making it so couldn’t see it myself (if that makes sense.) I remember during my foundation, my tutor said such a salient thing to me, “don’t worry about experimenting and it not looking like ‘your work’ because it will look like your work because everything you make is by your own hand.”

How did you get involved with collaborating with brands like SCRT?
I’ve always taken art really seriously, (not in a pretentious way I hope), but like in a kind of lame hilarious way. Since I was
little, I remember that making stuff was important to me. It was funny because I would get frustrated with it, even though I was only small. As I got older, this seriousness became more intense, I cared about making art so much but no one ever saw it. One day, I was probably about 13 or 14, I started posting my work on Instagram to my zero followers (because remember I was VERY dedicated to the -art-) and as years went on people started seeing my work online more. Maybe four or five years ago, people started buying my paintings on Instagram and asking for commissions, which I actually couldn’t believe. Then I just got a message from SCRT saying something like ‘Hey, would you want to collab with us’, I think I did a very loud scream and ran down the stairs to tell my mum. It’s been so cool and the opportunities it has led to is something I’ll always be grateful for.

You’ve said how important Instagram was for work getting seen; do you think social media is changing how art is viewed?
Art seems to be more accessible than ever and, through places like Instagram you are able to stumble across creative people, artists, makers, cinematographer’s or whoever so easily now. You can follow people’s work as it happens rather than just viewing it through a website or an exhibition (which sometimes can be quite cold and detached). I’m drawn to accounts that have a personable vibe as you get to see the inner workings of their process, which I find fascinating in regards to the artistic process, and you also get an idea of people’s inspirations. There are also draw backs in regards to how it’s viewed as well. Because social media is so instantaneous I can see how there could be a lot of pressure for someone to be constantly creating stuff to show and often audiences can come to expect a continuous stream of posts from creators which is never realistic as creative flow is always in flux.

Talk us through your creative process.
I’m not sure if I have a particular process as such but in the last year or so I always begin with writing poems. That sounds really wet, and honestly I wouldn’t have imagined five years ago that writing poetry would be so integral to my practice yet here I am. Poetry filled a hole in my work that couldn’t be stuffed with drawings or paintings. It allowed me to express the narrative of my work clearer than I ever could with drawing alone and yet still retaining the metaphorical shrouding of particular subjects that I still seek as a form of comfort. Once I’ve written the poem, I utilise the imagery within it for my visual work. I can sit for hours and will draw over and over whatever drawing I am trying to get correct. Sometimes there can be 60 drawings and, all of a sudden, I’ll stop, re-evaluate and realise the drawing I like most is drawing 36 and move on.

Being between London and Yorkshire, do you see a difference in the art between the locations?
Definitely. In Yorkshire it’s a lot more tightly knit, the art scene is smaller, everyone seems to know everyone, which is really nice, especially when I was studying in Hull. I think in Yorkshire, you are not presented with as many opportunities, as perhaps in London or down south, regarding the arts. This is especially something I realised after moving up north when I was 16. There doesn’t seem to be as many facilities for artists, but that’s what’s great about it. Everyone makes do with what they have, musically or artistically. I think that has resulted in some really strong creators in the north and some amazing small galleries that are willing to take a plunge with young, emerging artists. There is a community feel which I really like and I’m glad I can interchange between each location. In London the vibe is completely different. The pond seems larger, which can sometimes be daunting but it can also lead to meeting new people, it opens doors to larger collaborations, there’s always something to attend to or work on. You are constantly stimulated: there are so many amazing artists and creators to be inspired by.

What is the oddest commission you’ve had?
Someone contacted me asking if they could get a tattoo of one of my paintings and of course I was like “Yeah! That’s crazy, what the hell, of course,” thinking they wouldn’t end up getting it done. A week later he sent me a photo of his arm with a tattoo of one of my paintings. The tattoo artist did an amazing job. It looked like I’d drawn it straight
onto his arm. I was in disbelief that a person
I’d never met before liked my work so much
that they got a tattoo of my scraggy work permanently on their body. MAD that.

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