Last month, we had the pleasure of visiting Annabel Warne in her Cremorne studio to talk about her work, it’s challenges, and her favourite SUK fits.
For those who might not know you, could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m an illustrator & designer living in Brunswick. I’m 28 and I have a British bulldog called Gravy. I’m an allergy kid (not allergic to dogs thankfully). I grew up in rural NSW on the Murray River and went to high school in Ballarat. I moved to Melbourne and got a degree in Communication Design, specialising in illustration. After graduating, I spent a couple of years living in Berlin, freelancing as a designer. My interests outside of art include: dogs, Sicilian olives, snorkelling and dim sims.
Have you always been a creative person or did you stumble into it?
I have always enjoyed painting & drawing (as most kids do) but I remember being 14 and digging out my children’s books and feeling a kind of awe at the drawings in them. EH Shepherd (illustrator of Winnie the Pooh and Wind in The Willows) had a strong influence on me; the gentle quality of the pencil/linework, and how lively the animals and figures are in his work. Drawing is something I’ve done continuously since I was a kid, but I’m a firm believer that 90% of being creative is practice, not something you’re just born with!
You seem to gravitate towards animals for your illustrations, why is that?
I definitely do love to draw animals! As a kid I was obsessed with 101 Dalmatians. I still remember when I met a Dalmatian in real life for the first time. It was a big moment for 4-year-old me. In terms of subject matter, I love how expressive and versatile they are - their tongues, whiskers, eyes, tails. When I was starting out, I found them so much more interesting to draw than say a bowl of fruit. That’s changing as I develop and get commissioned to draw a broader range of subjects.
What 3 words best describe your art practice?
Tender, familiar, organic.
Your illustrations bring on a nostalgia for childhood classics - we’re thinking Beatrix Potter and Peter Rabbit - have you ever illustrated for children’s books, or is it something you’d like to explore?
I love Beatrix Potter! It’s definitely a dream to one day illustrate children’s books. It’s something I’ve been asked to do, but the right project hasn’t come up. I’ve just finished an illustration project that will be for young kids. I can’t wait to share it when it is out in the world.
When working with clients, what kind of projects are you most excited by, and what do you outright avoid?
I love the briefs that involve animals, gardens, food, anything I associate with positive and happy feelings. I love nature, and this comes through in my work. My favourite clients are the ones who trust my vision, and are able to give me a lot of creative control. I avoid ones who don’t value creative work, or are just unpleasant to deal with. I haven’t had too many of those, but a few bad experiences with really disrespectful and overly controlling clients - no thanks!
What challenges have you had to overcome in your career?
The ebbs & flows of being self-employed are pretty challenging, as a lot of freelancers could attest, being able to plan into the future when you aren’t sure of how much money you make in a month is a bit like crystal ball gazing. It can also be a pretty solitary experience working alone, I sometimes miss having other people around to bounce ideas off or learn new things from, but thankfully Gravy is by my side every day and is always up for a chat.
What do you like to wear when you’re working in the studio? (Are there any particular styles in our range that you are vibing with right now?)
I am wearing the Plain Pant right now, as I type this. I’ve barely taken them off since I got them. I want them in every colour, particularly the newest colour way - stone! I have the Parton suit as well and it’s such a good item for winter. I wear it with a turtleneck. The studio is freezing in the mornings, so it’s perfect! The Roper Suit is on my SUK wish list!
What advice do you have for any young creatives looking to start a professional career in art and illustration?
You need to love what you do, and be willing to sacrifice a few things for it. Don’t be too hard on yourself when you’re “finding your voice” or figuring out your personal style etc. It’s good to let yourself experiment, and don’t feel like you need to share everything you make with the world and use social media as an indicator of your worth. Experimenting “offline” can take a lot of the pressure and judgement off the process and lead you to some pretty interesting places.
Annabel works in Cremorne on Warundjeri land.
Photography by Tatanja Ross from On Jackson Street.