INDUSTRY TALK with Pickle Illustration

INDUSTRY TALK with Pickle Illustration

Pickle are a Birmingham-based illustration studio that makes really fun and colourful (and sometimes larger than life) work. Working solo, I’m always fascinated by how you can create work that looks consistent every single time when there’s more than just one pair of hands involved, so when I asked Liv and Lauren if they would share their experience of working as a duo with me and they said ‘yes’, I was over the moon! I hope you enjoy their interview as much as I did!

Q - What made you decide to start working together as a duo, as opposed to being individual practitioners sometimes joining forces on specific collaborations for example?

Liv - We both did work separately at first. We both studied in the graphic communication and illustration course at Loughborough University and they have quite a strong focus on enterprise. They have an enterprise hub, which is funded by Santander, and they do lots of workshops about business in general. So you’ve got a variety of people there. They also offer the option of doing an ‘enterprise year’ between your second and your third year, which is what Lauren decided to do.

Lauren - From that Liv saw what I was doing since we were living together at the time. And I think at the time I thought you should go freelance as well but you were a bit unsure. And I was a bit unsure as well, I didn't know what would happen after uni. And we also wanted to take on bigger projects and be more ambitious. We thought we could work well as a team, plus our styles fit quite well together. Then we tried a mural together, which was a job that definitely needed two hands, and from then we just carried on working together.

Q - What is it like to keep a consistent style as a duo? In fact, how did you come up with your style or how did you decide whose style to go for?

Lauren - I think having Procreate helped us to merge our styles a lot. But it was quite a gradual process. From the start, we tried to do things the digital way more because it is a lot quicker.

Liv - Yes, my process before used to be a bit more lengthy and also, potentially less commercial. It probably had a more ‘editorial’ or ‘children's book’ vibe. So we went down the digital route more but we kept some of the character and personality that I had and some of the brushes too.

INDUSTRY TALK with Pickle Illustration

Q - Do you find that the types of projects you work on tend to be different because there are two of you?

Liv - Since there are two of us whenever we’re making goals about things that we want to work on, we're always trying to push and reach out for those projects that can really utilise the two of us.

Lauren - Also, so often illustration is seen within books or in magazines, and I think it's really nice to put illustration on different canvases as well. I remember a really interesting lecture where our illustration tutor tried to get people to think about creative or surprising ways to use illustration. An example was kids’ shoe boxes. I think that really stuck with me and now we still try to find different canvases I guess.

Liv - Since illustration’s primary goal is to communicate things, which is different to fine art, you do tend to find it in closed parameters. But we’re finding that we're really enjoying designing things like art trails, which I think have really taken off in the past couple of years with COVID. People really enjoy them and they find them fulfilling. It’s a thing that you can do outside with your family and still social distance. It’s active too. We get a lot of messages from people at Fosse Park saying things like ‘Thank you for keeping my child quiet,’ which to us is like ‘Sure. You're welcome!’

Q - Do you have defined roles within Pickle?

Lauren - I think we alternate the kind of boring admin stuff. So for example, one of us will look after our marketing and social media for a week while the other person looks after the finances for a week. That way we both have eyes on everything, which I feel really helps the two of us to take responsibility. When you keep things separate it's really hard, I think, to get a gauge of what the other person is working on. Unless you've been a part of it. So I think it really helps to have both of us kind of touching most things within the business. And then if we grow and other people join Pickle, both of us know how everything works.

Liv - There are things that each of us is naturally better at. For example, Lauren does take more control over the writing because she really enjoys it, while it takes me three times as long.

Lauren - But then Liv is better at jumping into creative work whereas I kind of struggled with it at first.

Liv - Then in terms of breaking down what we do in the actual illustration, Lauren is definitely better at proportions. Like, I'll always draw something and the arms will instantly be smaller than they should.

Lauren - Haha, sometimes we'll keep it because it adds character but sometimes it just looks like they've got really short arms. But then I give Liv the face to do in general. As I said before, I think you’re better at showing character.

INDUSTRY TALK with Pickle Illustration

Q - Have you had any disagreements as part of working together and how did you resolve them?

Lauren - I think we maybe have slightly different visions sometimes. Or sometimes we think that we think different things, but we're actually thinking the same.

Liv - That is true. Sometimes when you're just brainstorming, but you're not drawing, writing or showing anything to each other, and you're just foolishly speaking, it can be quite hard to articulate what you're trying to say. So we do go on Pinterest a lot and create a board. That is how we communicate our vision. But we don’t really have ‘real’ disagreements. I think it is all down to personality type and I don't think either of us is argumentative. And both of us also trust each other's opinion, I think.

Q - What’s something that you love about working as a duo?

Both - Working with your friend!

Liv - It's really good for social situations too. We always knew we wanted to do more than be just illustrators. We didn't want an agent, we wanted to do it ourselves. And we wanted to be like a business. So we've always kind of been wanting to be more out and about, meeting new people. And I know for a fact that I would never do that if I didn't have Lauren by my side! I think it gives you that confidence, like tackling things that you wouldn't usually do.

Lauren - Yeah, we do it together. If something goes wrong, we just laugh about it. Whereas if it goes wrong and you're on your own, you might cry about it. We can afford to use our friendship as part of the business and it helps us get through situations that may be a bit more serious or difficult if you're on your own.

Q - Is working as a duo the same or different to what you originally imagined, and if so, how?

Lauren - I guess it's more fun than I thought it would be. But then I didn’t really think that it wouldn’t be fun.

Liv - I don't think I ever had any real expectations as to what I thought it might be like. Because we were at uni when we started working together and we formed Pickle, we were quite used to working in groups and on group projects so in a way I feel like it never really felt that much different. You know, it kind of feels like we're working on a unique project all the time.

INDUSTRY TALK with Pickle Illustration

Q - Any piece of advice to your younger selves or to creatives on the fence about joining forces as a duo?

Lauren - I suppose, make sure the person is the right person, make sure you get on. I think you need to have a good work-life balance and you need to be compatible in terms of work.

Liv - Although, because you’re friends doesn’t mean that stuff gets done. You’ve got to both be driven too.

Lauren - Make sure you trust them. But also, make sure you care about them. You're not only responsible for your livelihood, but someone else's as well. For us, we really care about what Pickle is going to be and therefore we put in the hours, we show up and we give our best.

Liv - And creatively, I think you really have to be open and not precious about your work or your technique, especially if you're going to work and critique each other.

Q - Sending vibes into the universe moment: What’s a project that you would just LOVE to work on?

Lauren - I think we'd like to have a mural in Birmingham somewhere.

Liv - I think the projects that I really am looking forward to doing are the ones that are very multifaceted. They've got lots of different bits and bobs going on. And then when a client comes to us, they'll tell us their problem, or what they are trying to achieve, and then we can suggest other bits of things to go with it and advise on how to go around that. It might be a trail, it might be a mural, it might be a giant colour by numbers, it could be lots of different outcomes of things. Or it could be all those things all mushed together into a little festival! I think I would just love to get something big scale-wise, that would be fun.

Lauren - We feel like we can come up with ideas, but if no one wants them, it doesn't matter. Whereas I want someone to want something and then be like ‘Okay, who can do this?’ Having some parameters, having an idea of the audience and of where it's gonna go… THAT gets us excited!

INDUSTRY TALK with Pickle Illustration

Where to find Pickle Illustration online:


Instagram: @pickleillustration

Twitter: @pickleillo

Image credits: ©Pickle Illustration

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