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Illustrator Ollie Brown: reigniting our passion for travel

Ollie Brown is a freelance illustrator who loves to depict two of his greatest passions—aviation and travel—in his work. In this interview, he talks to us about his creative background, making people happy through illustration and creating pieces on the go using Affinity Designer for iPad.
Tell us a bit about yourself and how you became an illustrator.

Hi, I’m Ollie. I’m a freelance illustrator based in Hertfordshire. I’ve always had a love for drawing, even from an early age, whether it be on paper or even napkins, I used to draw on anything I could find. Illustration played a big part in my school years where Art and Design & Technology were my most enjoyable subjects. They formed my love for illustration, and fast forward a number of years and I’ve developed a defined and recognisable style that is great to work in.

How would you describe your style?

I’d say my style is bold, abundant in colour and adventurous. I say this because I like to experiment with colour combinations that make an illustration pop. I like to make illustrations that give the audience something beautiful and enjoyable to view.

It’s clear that you love travelling. When did your passion for travel first begin?

I really do love to travel, especially if it includes a flight! I think my love and passion for travel came from being lucky enough to go abroad with my family from a young age. I was always taught to appreciate everything that I have and take every opportunity possible. My parents showed me a number of experiences and trips while in new countries, which I’m sure is why I’m now inquisitive and hungry to travel whenever possible.

Out of the places you’ve visited so far which is your favourite? And which have you found the most inspiring?

Tricky question as there have been so many great places! If I had to pinpoint one overall I would say, Sri Lanka. I was there for a couple of weeks and got to see and experience so much, it was incredible. I loved the culture and the insane scenic views were just amazing. I was able to visit an Elephant Sanctuary, climbed up Sigiriya Rock, visited the Dambulla Royal Cave Temple and even travelled to Candy which by sheer luck happened to coincide with the Candy festival which again, was out of this world, I’ve never seen anything like it. Sri Lanka was also the best place I’ve sampled Tea abroad too, naturally because it’s one of the places where it originates, it was so refreshing to have a decent cuppa whilst being in an exotic location. I could talk about travel forever so I better leave it there, but I hope it gets you interested!

What do you aim to capture in your travel illustrations?

I’m in the business of making people happy, sparking their interest to read/ view something, be it a brochure or on a web page. My aim is to create something striking that people will want to and enjoy looking at. I also hope my work inspires and reminds people there’s a world out there and trigger their inner travel bug to book that trip abroad. I’d like to think that my illustrations make people happy because given the current times we’re living in everyone needs some cheering up.

Your work often features interesting angles. Is composition important to you?

Yes, I believe so. I’ll often plan a piece in my mind as to how I want to portray it. Sometimes things work better from different angles and I may have to reconsider how I’m looking at a project. It creates a different sense of drama and perspective if a piece is closeup or being viewed as if it’s from afar. A recent piece of an empty airport check-in area is a good example of this, it’s purposely created with a lot of dramatic colours and makes the one person in the illustration seem very small in a big space, it was a great piece to work on and was reflecting recent coronavirus events and how it’s impacted travel. The use of colour is very important too and not always easy to get right. It can give a completely different feel to a piece if the wrong colour palette is used.

You take Affinity Designer with you on your travels. Has it changed the way you work?

Affinity Designer for iPad was a game-changer for me. It really did change the way I worked, allowing me to create pieces easily and on the go. It is a fully-fledged professional app that is my go-to tool when illustrating. There are still some improvements on the syncing of work created from iPad to Mac and vice versa, but I’m sure this will come with future updates. It has so many features and it’s a great example of how apps can utilise the iPad’s processing power.

Is office/studio working becoming a thing of the past for illustrators?

I think in general there will always be a place for at least a shared studio space with other creatives, as it’s still good to bounce ideas off one another. Having said that, it’s also useful to work in solitude and allow yourself to focus, especially if there’s a great view from your remote working space!

Talk us through your workflow; how do us usually develop your illustrations?

I usually either sketch out a rough idea on paper or sometimes use an opaque brush on Affinity designer to draw out the illustration. Then inking will be added either on the paper or as digital ink depending on what I’ve sketched on. Work will be shared with the client through stages of the project, and once they’re happy I’ll take the sketch into Affinity Designer and make the magic happen. Detail inking, adding colours and any amends from clients are all part of the process, then once finalised it will be provided in the required format or printed.

What has been your favourite project to work on and why?

That’s a really difficult question as there’s so many! If I had to pick one it would be the mobile boarding pass illustration. It was the first eureka moment in defining my style to the direction I now take. I made it into a short animation too and it was a very well-received piece. It all just worked, the choice of colours the subject matter and delicacy of the shapes to form the hand, it was a great piece that was the foundation for all the other pieces that followed and continue to be made.

You’re currently working on a personal project which involves revitalising vintage airline posters. Tell us more about this.

Ah yes, as part of my passion for travel I absolutely love flying. I still find it fascinating just how they manage to take off with all that weight and appear to glide effortlessly into the sky. It’s a sense of magic that is so unique.

The travel posters came about from a love of the golden years of air travel, from designed boarding cards, stunning adverts and posters as well as the old travel tags it was a time I wish I’d been able to see myself. So I decided to create a modern twist on the vintage posters, illustrating them in my style, while adding elements and layouts you’d find on old posters. Each airline and destination poster from the old days was different, so I made the look and feel reflect the qualities of each vintage design. It felt like a natural move to create this type of project and it’s really great to work on.

I currently have 4 posters in the series and plan on adding more too. So far there’s San Francisco, Austin, Gibraltar and Sri Lanka. Flying there with Pan Am, BOAC, BEA and TWA. Take a look on my website to see them up close.

How important is it to make time for personal projects like this?

Very important, I know it can seem a bit cliché to say ‘always make time for your own work’, but it really is important. I find it helps keep my brain active, and I often find it triggers more ideas for other projects, while I’m busy with personal work. It’s also good for drawing new subjects or difficult angles and experimenting with something that you’ve not drawn before.

How are you coping with the current crisis?

Luckily things have still been moving for me, I’ve had logos, wedding collateral and packaging design projects to work on, it’s also given time for me to make some personal projects and make introductions to new potential clients. I know it’s not the same for every illustrator, so I hope others are able to get back to some form of normal schedule quickly.

What’s next for you? What places are high on your travel bucket list?

Next things for me include looking at being represented with a UK illustration agency. I think it would be great to extend my reach with new clients closer to home, in addition to my US agent.

There’s a long list of personal projects that I aim to work on in downtime, as well as reaching out to new travel-based clients.

I have a couple of places I’m really excited about visiting. I’d love to travel to Japan, to see the hustle and bustle of Tokyo to the tranquil landscapes like Mt. Fuji. As well as Tbilisi in Georgia, it’s somewhere different and looks stunning so I’d love to see it sometime soon.

Ollie Brown

If you would like to see more of Ollie’s work, visit his website and check him out on Instagram.