Hel Covell is a very excellent illustrator based up north in Yorkshire. She graduated from Edinburgh College of Art in 2015 and recently exhibited in our Dream Safari group exhibition in Brighton. Here’s a little Q + A we did with her via email, covering subjects such as her drawing process, taking part in Pictoplasma and fun new projects. Scroll all the way to the bottom for some awesome sketchbook work!
1. We discovered you from seeing your beautiful book Jumble Wood in a shop, can you tell us what it was like writing a book and how it came about? Is there going to be a sequel?! What are Pod, Peach and Worm up to now?
First off- thank you. It still blows my mind that it’s in shops, in people houses, at kids bedtimes etc. Jumble Wood started as a little risograph zine I made at uni as my final degree show piece. Which I made initially as a response to this new and difficult life experience (depression) that I was struggling to navigate. This zine I later sent to Nobrow/ Flying Eye, and we worked using it as inspiration for the book, and adapting it and the narrative for children.
Writing a book was so great as it allowed me to begin to explore creating a world, and designing it’s characters, full time. I’d begun creating these characters at uni (Edinburgh) and was lucky that Flying Eye gave me that opportunity to continue with it. As it was my first picture book, they were there to step in when I was struggling – for example, they knew what colour the cover should be to make it stand out, and had all the experience writing for children so could help with editing the story. This all left me free reign to explore the characters and universe I was creating. But because of the format, (only 24 pages), I could only dive in so far. This leaves a lot of room for the sequel, and I’m working on ideas for a that at the moment! I’m not sure if it will be a parallel story in that same world, with different characters, or if those three (Pod, Peach and Worm) will be back. Watch out.
Jumble Wood cover
Flying Eye pop up at Colours May Vary
Flying Eye pop up at Colours May Vary
2. What’s your work process like? Do you work purely digitally or have sketchbooks on the go too?
I have a few different sketchbooks that I juggle. I get everything out of my head into them, then usually work up sketches before scanning in and working onto them/colouring in Photoshop. I used to work much cleaner and almost exclusively digitally, but I found my final images had lost some of the charm and energy of the sketches (my favourite part). I’ve also started using an iPad and pencil, which I use for concepts/ quick images/ sketches.
3. What does your typical day look like?
I wish it was desk & 9-5, but I work best mornings and late at night (and often away from the desk). I work on something small or emails in the morning, then big pieces later. I’m naturally not a very organised person, but it all gets done (so we’re good).
4. What do you listen to while you’re working? Any recommendations?
At the moment I’m listening to IT (Stephen King) (it’s 44 hours long…)
5. Pictoplasma looks like so much fun! We saw you were there this year, what’s it like?
It was seriously incredible. The two guys who run it, Lars and Peter, are so down to earth, honest and charming it’s hard not to love them; their enthusiasm for what they do is really clear. I was so full up of inspiration after going there. It also gave me that friendly kick/ existential crisis about my work that is always necessary to keep growing. It was really good to meet peers/ artists I’ve been admiring and following online as well. All in all an incredible place that will make you aware of whats happening in parallel fields and outside of your bubble, and make you WANT to make work.
Pictoplasma X Adobe
6. What are you working on at the moment? Any exciting projects coming up?
I’ve just finished exhibiting a piece for this really cool exhibition… you might have heard of it. Dream Safari? IDK. I’ve also recently finished painting a custom arcade machine for the ‘Video Games: Design/Play/Disrupt’ exhibition in the V&A, that I’m excited to be able to share (the exhibition opens September the 8th). I’m also working on video game concepts with my mentors from Pictoplasma, and apart from that I’m excited to be panelling with other artists on a Nobrow panel, at the Hyde Park Cinema (Leeds) for Thought Bubble!
7. Whose work are you admiring at the moment? Anyone/thing you want to big up?
Oh god, well everyone I exhibited with at Dream Safari are huge inspirations of mine. But big up: Mari Kanstad Johnson, Holly St Clair, Molly Fairhurst, Egle Zvirblyte, Jose Mendez, and Nat Andrewson. Also Colours May Vary– they’re a wonderful shop and gallery space in Leeds I had the pleasure of exhibiting in and they are FANTASTIC.