The Art of Storytelling: Discussing Illustration and Animation with Maisy Summer

Maisy Summer delights in the details and enjoys bringing diverse stories to life for a wide range of clients - spanning from Google Arts and Culture to the Whitworth Art Gallery. Drawing inspiration from concealed narratives, community, history and cultural details, she uses a playful, bold and textural creative style to create joyful, vibrant projects across multiple mediums. 

Why did you decide to take up your creative trade?

I’ve always enjoyed storytelling, and Illustration and Animation are great tools for communication. I was initially inspired by the books I read as a child, such as Winnie the Witch and Postman’s Letters, and wanting to work within publishing. I also want to understand the varied aspects of storytelling you can achieve through illustration for brands and advertising, illustrated research projects with universities, and telling untold narratives from museum archives. I love how stories are to be found everywhere, and the challenge of bringing this all together for the intended audience is a real thrill!

How do you get past creative blocks?

I feel sometimes you can’t push past it, and you have to switch it up for a short while and move to a different task. If it’s mid-way through the day, for example, I’ll switch from creative brain to admin brain (outreach, website update, workshop prep, socials, etc) to give myself a little headspace from the ‘creative’ work. Or if it’s the end of the day – I’ll head out to my favourite pilates class or meet a friend to chat and draw. It’s getting that balance right!

What is your creative process?

Within my toolkit, there is a mix of techniques and materials which I adapt to each project. This can be handcrafted techniques such as paper cutting and drawing with scissors, bold mark-making with pastels, paints and pencils, and digital drawing programs such as Adobe Fresco. All of which I enjoy documenting the process of to help enrich client projects, document workshops, and playful branded personal projects such as ‘Drawing Diaries’.

Where do you look for inspiration?

It’s a real mix! Drawing Diaries, for example, is routed in travel, local history, food and observation of people and places on walking routes. For a project I did for the UK’s only Hat Museum (Hat Works!), it was the archives of hidden narratives, heritage and women’s history. Outside of a project, I’m always trying to note down, photograph, record, or sketch to capture little things of interest that I might later use.

What are you reading or listening to right now?

I’m reading Good Pop, Bad Pop by Jarvis Cocker at the moment – the book is a collection of stories from his life provoked by nostalgic items he’s found whilst clearing out his loft, from tickets, photos, and clothes to souvenirs. I love this idea of a personal archive and using this as a tool for storytelling. This process is also rather reminiscent of my own experience when sorting out my late Nana and Great Auntie’s house; the sheer number of stories we uncovered was amazing!

Equally, I listen to A LOT of podcasts – I’m enjoying the podcast Chatabix with comedians David Earl and Joe Wilkinson. It’s a mix of rambling, chatty walks, intense fascinations with TV shows such as Deal or no Deal, and fun, joyful jingles!

What has been your favourite project to date and why?

I think my favourite project to date has been the mural I designed for Bookshop Day this year, which was in celebration of highstreet independent bookshops commissioned via Build Hollywood.

It was great to workout on location and combat the challenges of this, but also the positives of being able to interact with people whilst working. It was a nice break from laptop/desk days!


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

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