In Conversation with Courtney Illustrate

A few months ago we came across an interesting idea on instagram, sparked by Molly Manning Walker. Molly is a London based DOP that we have interviewed in the past, and she was recently crowd funding for a short film. However Molly came up with a slightly different form of crowd-funding. instead of offering the typical gifts of “Pledge £10 and get a signed copy of the script”, Molly auctioned off the work of 30 female artists, over 30 days. The auction was a great success, and during the period we came across a number of incredible artists. However, one that stood out was Courtney Richards, better known by her instagram handle ‘Courtney Illustrate’. Courtney’s distinct cartoonish style was both eye opening and unique, and it was only a matter of time before we reached out to the young Londoner and asked to work together.

What followed was a collaboration on a new t-shirt design, and an in-depth interview with the artist. We can’t wait to share the new t-shirt’s with you, but in the mean time, have a read of the interview below.


So how did you get into graphic design? Was it a natural progression from your youth or did something specific inspire you to pursue this career?

I studied Illustration at Camberwell College of Arts. It was definitely a natural progression from my youth - i never really found an interest in anything else other than drawing. I specifically remember being given a brochure in year 11 of all the possible creative jobs out there - i had no idea where i would end up. I found my way onto the illustration path during my time spent on foundation at Camberwell.

What would you say inspires/informs your work? Are there specific themes that you seek to embody across your works? Or does it differ from piece to piece depending on your mood?

The beauty of being an illustrator is that in my personal work it's my way of having a voice to show you guys my view point on whatever, whatever my mood.  I like to think of myself as a multi disciplinary illustrator, i can be inspired from a conversation to a slogan i saw on a cereal box. My minds always actively looking for a new topic. Give me a theme and i'll smash it - i never let my bad personal moods effect my commissioned work though- drawings are an escape for me so the vibe will always be some what upbeat unless that's not desired from the client!

Your cartoonish/graffiti style and colour palette are both quite unique, was it a natural progression to hone in on these or did you have to keep experimenting until you found a style that you liked?

Outside of my professional life of illustration i am a graffiti writer so its influence on my illustration style is definitely just a natural progression influenced by the sub culture of graffiti i find myself within. The 2000 era of cartoon network as a kid growing up was something i believe to sub consciously influence my graphic style with shows like powerpuff girls, cat dog and ed ed and eddy. They all had this comedic, creative and slightly bizarre carefree story line complimented by visuals that i think kids cartoons now lack of.

Finding my own style isn't something that's been a smooth ride. Drawing digitally is a medium i was drawn to naturally from a young age and started to make progress with it in my foundation. But for 2 years i relied too heavily on drawing everything digitally in which i lacked progression if any at all - i lost sight of the importance of sketching, and having a subject matter to focus on which left my work lacking substance and direction. My work began to grow again in my last year of uni where i fell back in love with sketching and from there on wards my work content became stronger. It's been a long road but understanding how to go about creating work, and knowing the importance of content over aesthetic has pushed my work from strength to strength. 


Tell us a little about your degree show 'Void'. Why did you pick this title and what was the body of work about/representing? 

To put it bluntly - it was an insight into how some us refuse to be like those who follow rules like a heard of sheep. It was a positive stance on breaking the law without the bullshit 'criminal' stigma attached. A homage to that live on the other side of the law. It was something i have taken and learnt from graffiti - that breaking the law some times ain't all that bad, live a little.

Are you working on any upcoming projects that you can tell us about?

I'm working on a clothing collection - but that's all in the pipe lines as we speak! Still a way financially to go but i'll get there!

Home and the idea of home is something very close to our hearts here at The Balti Club. How much of an impact would you say your upbringing and the city/town you grew up in has had on your work, if at all?

I've moved around a lot growing up. I've been to 4 different schools, both here in London and then an abrupt move abroad to Portugal and back. It's been difficultt and it's effected my confidence, to my ability to make friends. It's at times made me feel isolated and lonely not having somewhere that i can strictly call home as my home is some what scattered here there and everywhere. I think for me right now my home is London, my original home. But the London i knew as a kid doesn't influence my work, i'd say the London i moved back to when i was 16 has had an influence on my work in which the squat rave seen has heavily had a sub conscious impact on my work vibe, and not forgetting graffiti's influence on my work. 


Who are the artists/graphic designers that inspire you?
Summer of Love rave flyers, Hattie Stewart, Camilo Medina, Stefanie Leinhos, Peiper and Ermsy to name a few!

What is your long term goal for your career? Where do you want to be in 10 years time?

Collaborating with the likes of Carhartt, Nike, TFL you name - it i want it if they're paying the big boy dolla! In all seriousness i just want to be making a living off of my own work from collaborations to a hopefully established clothing print line, to gallery shows - well that's the dream!

Massive thanks to Courtney for taking the time to answer our questions. Keep up with Courtney’s work on her instagram, and also keep an eye out for our new collaboration with her, coming very soon.