In conversation with talented British-Canadian Illustrator and Motion Artist, Katie Coward

Since she was three years old, Katie Coward has enjoyed creating surreal, collage-like images that are packed with colours and diverse inspirations. By drawing creativity from stories and real-life experiences, she turns her discoveries into captivating artwork.

Why did you decide to take up illustration?

Creativity and self-expression have always been really important in my life. I was originally a dancer but bad joints stopped that from becoming my career. I spent some time trying to find something that fulfilled me like dance. It was a teacher who sent me in the direction of Illustration. At first, it was my competitiveness that drove me to apply to one of Canada’s best Illustration programs but now, I can’t see myself not drawing. Telling stories makes me happy, I can’t do it physically anymore but I can with writing and my art.

How do you get past creative blocks?

I usually try to get past creative block by consuming more media. Be it books, comics, photography, movies, classical art, or video games. It’s like getting a tiny window into other people’s perspectives. Experiencing other people’s work also can send you on a completely unique emotional journey. I often find myself thinking “Ah this is what I want someone to feel when looking at my work”. I’ve had entire projects driven by a desire to make someone feel the way I felt at that moment.

What is your creative process?

I feel like my creative process does not begin as visual as you might think. I was writing before I was drawing so I like to plan things out with words first before jumping in. If I’m really stuck, I’ll do some mind mapping – it’s much easier to plan something out when you have it all on a page. Once I have a solid idea or two in my head, I start putting them to work. A lot of it is trial and error which is why I like to sketch digitally in the initial stages. Being able to cut things up and move compositions around is a lot easier for me this way. Once I’m happy with a composition, I’ll start working on the parts I want to have a more organic, traditional feel by hand. Usually, it is gouache, watercolour, acrylic, or graphite. Then that gets scanned into a digital format and placed with more digital elements.

Where do you look for inspiration?

As I said before, I tend to look at other people’s work for inspiration but I’m also trying to broaden my own experiences and take from that. I am going to Japan for the first time soon and plan on doing a lot of sketching. I already have an idea for a project surrounding the trip that I’m excited to get started on. I like using my own experiences in my work, so I find myself looking for new things to try lately.

What are you reading or listening to right now?

Right now I’m slowly making my way through Kafka on The Shore by Haruki Murakami. I used to consume books faster than anyone else I know but I’ve been finding it hard to find time to read these days. I’ve started blocking out time specifically to relax and read. My sister also wants to give it a read so I can’t keep putting it off.

How do you switch off?

That’s something I’m still trying to figure out how to do. It’s a lot harder with technology to completely turn off. Exercise is something I try to do, it’s nice moving my body after being sedentary all the time. I started Brazilian Ju Jitsu last year so that’s something that helps blow off steam. I’m also a bit of a gamer so I do that a lot in my down time.


A big thank you to Katie Coward for contributing to our series of creative conversations with industry experts.

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