“As an artist, my own style is constantly changing, so it's a good process for me to be forced to stay consistent over a number of weeks and months.”
Behind every organisation’s artwork, there’s a story.
Or that’s our happy experience at SWIFT.
We proudly believe that our distinctive artwork across communications, documents, and socials reflects our vision and values to support schools in achieving the best educational outcomes for all children.
The creative process of bringing to life vision and values into pictorial format is an exciting task and this is where our SWIFT artist, Olivia has worked her magic so effectively.
We spoke to Olivia to find out more about her creative evolution as our SWIFT artist.
1. How did you come to be the artist for our SWIFT artwork?
I like to think that it has been a series of chance opportunities which have led me to being asked to illustrate for SWIFT. So, it's great to feel that I’ve taken up the opportunities that have been presented to me along the way, which have led to this project.
Art has always played a part in my life. At school, I studied Art GCSE and A Level and for fun, I have kept a sketch book alongside my coursework as a space for therapeutic doodling and jotting down ideas.
A turning point in my artistic explorations was when I was gifted a tablet for a joint birthday and Christmas present, where I soon discovered a new Apple software digital platform, Procreate, an app which has allowed me to experiment with and progress my style very quickly.
I also like to trace my involvement with SWIFT to Year 11 at school, when I entered a Science Department competition to design a post card - which I won! On the back of that competition, other Departments started asking me to undertake designs to represent their subject: English and Geography, Science and Psychology and a few others until I gained the status as a kind of resident digital artist for the school.
I don't really agree with the idea of natural talent. Though, as a child, my interest in art was largely encouraged by being told I was 'so talented' etc. It definitely comes with consistency and not being too hard on your own style in comparison to other creators. Having somewhat tunnel vision with regards to my work has foster my skills and, though I have always appreciated other people’s praise and positive comments, I try not to let them define whether a piece of my work is worth sharing or not.
It was after I left school that I was contacted by Chris Harris (SWIFT Deputy Director) who had seen some of my designs and asked if I might be interested in designing some artwork for SWIFT. It was a natural leap and I said yes (of course)!
2. Your artwork is lovely and looks and feels right for our SWIFT ethos and identity.
But how did you develop this style?
It was an iterative process working in a series of calls with Martin Smith (Director of SWIFT) and Chris Harris to discuss what they were looking for.
Truthfully, to start with, the SWIFT artwork was not really my core style. I'd describe mine as more detailed and textural, I often use a digital brush which mimics pencil led and include more detail in faces or illustrate patterned clothing or background elements.
After a few discussions about what style SWIFT were keen to express, I was able to adapt my work to the current SWIFT style and I think the more abstractified forms and use of block uniform clothing and pupils and staff better conveys the work of SWIFT, and better suits the messaging based on the Teaching School Hub, of say, progress, teamwork etc. It also allows me to express more of a fun element with lively and colourful playfulness.
I develop the designs by starting with a few thumbnails, (small compositional sketches the size of a thumbnail) before moving to the development with mood boards and images and a colour palette with more detailed drawings. At this stage, the designs are very loose as I map out the composition by hand using paper and pen, before I use the tablet to sketch out digitally.
3. What have you found to be most challenging in creating the artwork?
The most challenging part has definitely been creating a consistent style; not only as this is new territory for me as an artist, instinctively wanting to add more detail and embellish to unnecessary lengths. I kept the importance of keeping a recognisable uniform SWIFT style in the front of my mind and managed to get into a good workflow in order to produce consistently-styled illustrations.
4. What has been most rewarding?
Definitely seeing it all come into fruition on the SWIFT website and it was wonderful to see a picture of a SWIFT promotional billboard that featured my style in print; seeing the physical manifestation as it is being used as a product is very rewarding.
Also, more recently, I enjoyed designing the SWIFT Christmas cards and refreshing the designs into a new theme and I am currently working on some initial teacher training designs.
5. Do you have any plans to use your artist skills in your career?
At school for my Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) I wrote and designed a poetry anthology with my own illustrations. So, I'd quite like to pursue my own writing and illustration work; perhaps with children's or young adult fiction.
I am also interested in working in film concept art as a character designer that plots out the look of a film, which would involve being on the creative team working behind the scenes on the film aesthetics and designing what the characters might look like conceptually as a series of studies and ideas before settling on the final look which appears on screen.
Whatever and however Olivia uses her art, we are sure that it will be enjoyed as we enjoy her SWIFT artwork designs. Watch out for more to come in the future.
Interview by Jude Owens, PA to the SWIFT Executive Team