We popped round to Hattie Stewart's technicoloured studio for a brew, a chat about what launched her career, her favourite collabs and her dream project of a cock 'n' ball jungle gym for grown-ups. Scroll down for all the goss.
Hey Hattie, tell us about what kickstarted your illustration career.
I was quite fortunate in first year of uni. My sister was working at Luella at the time and they brought me in to do some illustrations for Valentine's day - a slime monster and a drippy heart. I continued doing bits and pieces for them whilst I was at university, which was such an amazing experience to have alongside my course. After that it was a case of balancing trying to make money with trying to do what I actually wanted to do. It was my obsession with illustrating magazine covers that really pushed things to the next level in terms of exposure and opportunities.
Where did the magazine cover “obsession” come from.
I was working in this bar in Brick Lane and there was a picture of Lily Allen on the wall. I just literally took it down and started mindlessly doodling over it and thought “that looks pretty sick”, so I took it home. I was already using Posca markers at the time and I had stacks and stacks and stacks of magazines from when I was younger which were the perfect thing to draw over. They were all magazines that I loved but I didn’t necessarily 'see myself' in them and they never featured any illustration so I guess you could say that in my own way forced myself to be part of the magazines by drawing over them. As soon as I started posting them online people really started to respond to them.
How did you crossover into doing fashion collaborations?
Following my first fashion collab with Luella, I did some bits with Katie Hillier and was introduced to Henry (Holland) off the back of that. I think the fashion industry became a little bit more interested when they began to notice my magazine covers. From there I started doing things like painting onto leather jackets for the KK Outlet show and applying it to bags - that then peaked interest into doing more stuff like that.
What would you say is your biggest influence work-wise?
That’s a really tough question to answer! There are elements in my style that are quite specific that have carried through for years but then everything around that changes and fluctuates - much like my likes and interests. I don’t have things that I’m 'obsessed by' but I’ll have something that I’m intrigued by or fascinated by for a hot minute. So I think that fast paced nature and constant need for something new and fresh is why I’m interested in fashion and celebrity and all of that iconography because it’s all so instantaneous and works well with my own impatience.
What’s your 'thing' at the moment then?
Oh my god I don’t even know. Work wise, I’d say it’s probably doing the magazine covers or my new website - we just stripped it back and made it all about the visuals and select projects. There’s not much information on there but we put in some really cute and fun games and I’m in love with it.
How do you differentiate between a “stripped back” website vs your Instagram page which has loads of different bits going on?
Instagram is where I’m allowed to be experimental - it’s a lot of my ideas or posts of my physically applied stuff. I’ve picked up loads of collaborations through Instagram actually and had great discussions on it too. I posted some old motifs on there from a little while ago and that’s when Henry Holland got back in touch with me about his new House Of Holland collection, so it’s very important to me to keep putting stuff online.
That said, it can lead to the pressures of needing to do work that’s Instagram focused instead of just doing the work that I want to make. I’m often thinking about something that can be “shown” rather than large scale pieces that I’d rather do but don’t really have a platform to show them. That’s why, at my show at Firstsite I just did exactly what I wanted to do and thought “screw the Instagram lense” and I fly posted the entire gallery with these A2 posters of my magazine covers overlaid with A0 lenticular hologram boards. Something that really needs to be experienced rather than posted on Instagram because it’s really difficult to even begin to photograph a hologram.
What’s been your favourite commission(s) to date?
Agh, that’s a tricky one to answer. I’m now at a stage where people come for me for exactly what I do instead of the years where I had to reformulate my illustrations and my style which is very hard for an illustrator to do in order to fit. But I guess my favourites would be some of my most recent projects:
Apple Music Festival
I was given the opportunity to set up a little gallery on site for the duration of Apple Music Festival where I got to illustrate over photos of artists who had performed there in the past. It was such an all round project. There was amazing content, great brand and artists involved. It was also live which meant you could experience it in context which isn’t something you’re always able to do. It was so much fun and I had the freedom to do whatever I wanted. I also got to hear the responses from the artists - Pharrell Williams loved the piece and Katy Perry requested to have one printed for her office. Shit like that. And then being able to go to the festival as well, it was such a once in a lifetime experience where everything just slots into place.
They were getting different artists in and matching them up with musician who were going to be performing to create a piece of art around their work to basically announce the artist’s performance. Ariana Grande apparently requested me because she’d seen my stuff before which was sick because I love her. We only had a few days to execute the whole thing. The concept that we came up with was to get a massive picture of her printed out and film me live painting over it, film it, and add a little bit of animation and a voice over. We had to do it all in France and had one day to shoot it, one day to paint it and it was just like Oh My God!. I’ve always been too antsy and particular to go abroad and work because I’m very particular about my space but doing that was actually a big awakening for me it was like, “Oh yeah, I can fucking do this anywhere”.
House Of Holland
I’ve done a few pieces with House Of Holland in the past and Henry brought me in for the new collection. We had a shit ton of fun and it was based around Americana and illustrations that he was wanting to place onto garments. We did a camo print with my eye icons and also designed some combat trousers. He commissioned an amazing lady in Texas to applique the eyes onto some cowboy boots - they looked fucking sick, so badass. Working with Henry is always so fun because he gives me the freedom to do whatever I want yet we’re always on the same level. Hopefully we will do more stuff together soon.
Your work often has darker undertones, where did the juxtaposition of gore and slime with super cutesy characters come from?
My work used to be a lot more filthy than it is now, particularly when I was at uni. There was a project where I created a whole graphic novel based on The Affair Of The Poisons which was this movement in France where everyone was having sex and then poisoning each other and it was fascinating. I’ve always been fascinated about the darker side of humanity, even my final major project was about death, but the happy side of death and how it’s perceived in different cultures. My work just began to get a little cuter over time, I think because it just seemed a bit more kitsch and sinister. The darker side of it was always there.
You shout a lot about how much you love the versatility of Posca markers and how they can be applied to anything. What have you not-yet illustrated onto that you would love to?
An aeroplane or a car would be so much fun. My papa and my mumma live in Malta and they run a little B&B with a fleet of safari jeeps so I wanted to get a bunch of artist friends together to go over and illustrate the fleet. It’s a dream project of mine even though my parents would probably be like, “What the fuck?”. I’d also love to illustrate on more bags and leather goods or something really massive like a mural on a building.
I really imagined you would say “furniture”?
Oh one hundred percent, it would be so cool to illustrate a sofa. To be honest, whenever I get the free time I love to experiment with doing stuff like that. I like to think that by doing it myself it then brings those sorts of opportunities to me. I just really like to experiment and play around.
Maybe you should do a pop-up exhibition where you’ve covered everything in the room; the floor, the walls and the furniture, have your pictures on the walls then you can turn up in your painted car and step out in one of your custom painted leather jackets? More is more, right?
Oh my god yes, give it to me, that would be so much fun! I’ve always wanted to do an adults jungle gym where the ball pit would be a cock and ball pit and the things that you bash through would be massive penis’s with my characters on them and a slide which is a massive tongue that comes out of a big mouth. Maybe I should stop saving for a mortgage and save to do a jungle gym instead?
Do you have any personal work goals this year?
This year is all about working on projects one at a time so I can really focus on them. But specifically working on projects that have a conscience and doing things for good, finding a balance between working with amazing brands but also getting involved in giving back. There’s a couple of campaigns in the pipeline that I’m hoping will come through but you’ll have to watch this space.
Hattie has a new and exclusive limited edition t-shirt with us - grab one here.