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Working with everything from internationally regarded publications such as the New York Times, over Norwegian medical journals and the Japanese avant-garde flower artist Azuma Makoto, to big fashion brands, the 29-year-old illustrator Katie Scott has made quite the name of herself. She has illustrated three books on animals, evolution and the fantastic world of botany, which are all highly acclaimed – and not only among the curious children they were intended.
In the flat Katie shares with a friend and her boyfriend and collaborator, James, in London, we were invited into her marvellous world of inspiration. With unique artwork by herself and her friends, a jungle of plants, and tiny objects, all of which have special stories, she surrounds herself with things that display her strong creativity and love of nature.
In such a short time, you already have an impressive reputation in the illustrations scene. Have you always wanted to be an illustrator?
A friend of mine told me she was applying for a degree in illustration. At that point, I had never heard of it before. I studied arts and graphic designs but found that neither was exactly the right fit. Meeting illustration, it felt like finding my spot, as it sits right in between art and design. The real hard part started when I graduated from university, where I’d just come out like “So, I’m an illustrator now, hello?”. Then I got a deal to do an album cover. It was before Instagram, but in the heydays of Tumblr, so I was lucky to have my work spread that way.
A Google search quickly reveals that you’ve been keeping busy since graduating six years ago. How do you choose your projects?
I’m trying not to do too much of the same thing every year. After a year with books, I’ll aim for a year of doing something entirely different. Recently, I’ve been working with my boyfriend James who is an animator. We were so excited about working with an artist that we both admire a lot, the Japanese flower artist Azuma Makoto. I did the illustrations and James animated them into a short movie. That was a dream project, and we could hardly believe it when we received the first e-mail from him. It’s nice to work together with James as we have the same opinions of how the final result should turn out.
The housing situation in London is notoriously hard; how did you find this place, to begin with?
We found this place six years ago, and I guess we just got fortunate. It did take a lot of time and patience though. Over the time, we’ve had many people living here. It was nice to have someone to share the bills with which gave us the freedom in the beginning of our freelance career to pursue our goals and dreams, not worrying about getting a “real job”. Eventually, James and I took over more and more space, so now we’re just three of us living here.
You have a small workspace in the corner of the living room, making your home partly your studio. How important are your surroundings when you work?
Very. When I go into my studio, I sometimes feel like an exotic bird, flickering around with the urge to move things around. I’ve been like this my entire life. When I was a kid, I used to change rooms with my brother and sister all the time. I like moving around, but now, I’ve lived in this place for six years. That’s the longest I’ve lived anywhere.
In your living room, there are a lot of little things to explore. You made almost a small museum for yourself. How do you go about with all that when arranging – and rearranging the room?
I like stuff! But I don’t feel cluttered at all, as I’m pretty ruthless in throwing things away. I have all these little bits that my friends and family found. Some of my favourite books were presents from people who found them in yard sales and thought of me. Now, my favourite things are all of the things because I so often go through the stuff and throw things away. I guess what I like about decorating a room is its similarity to drawing. My favourite part has always been the composition and moving things around until they’re in the exact right place. Sometimes I’ve even moved the furniture around only to find out they were already in the perfect spot, to begin with.
Your work is so connected to nature, yet you live in one of the biggest cities in the world. How do you experience this balance?
Growing up, I spent my weekends in London at my dad’s, but the weekdays at my mum’s in Kent. So, I’ve always had the best of both worlds. Right now, I prefer living somewhere rich in culture with frequents visits to the countryside. But maybe someday the table will turn. Being freelance and on top of that, working with nature, also give me the freedom of just saying ‘I need to go to the forest’, and just leave immediately. I often take a walk through the Abney Park Cemetery where I can experience the changing of seasons and it’s the closest thing you get to actual nature in the middle of London.
You have a very recognisable style and distinct colour palette in your illustrations. The many plants in your living room, of course, makes the space very green, but do you have a favourite colour?
I like any colour, but what I like more is the combination of colours. It all depends on what the colour is sat next to. Still, I dress in black all the time, but I’ve gotten a bit more confident in the home decoration. But not as much as when I’m working, where I have a strong sense of what I’m doing and don’t question my choices as much.
What does the word “home” mean to you?
I like being at home. I spent a lot of time here, and I like to create nice situations for my friends and me to be in. Having lived here for so long with many different people our home has turned into the place where people come over all the time. It’s a social house that way. Also, whenever I come back from my travels with work, I feel like me again the minute I walk in through the door. It’s not that I miss home when I travel, but when I come back, I realise that a little piece of me was missing.
Thank you for having us, Katie!
Have a listen to Katie's playlist