Y&C: Beth Harris

For Part 5 of the Young and Creative series, SOON met with illustrator Beth Harris, to discuss her future in children’s books and the process behind the way she works…

Introduce yourself and your work.
My name Is Beth Harris and I’m a 19 year old illustration student currently based in Bristol. I come from a town just outside of Oxford, so at the moment I’m thriving off being immersed in such a creative atmosphere! Although in terms of visual themes my work may vary, the mentality in what I want to say is always the same. I’m enjoying subjects that say something about the world as I have a lot of personal strong views. I find communicating my viewpoints to others, whether they choose to agree or disagree, really exciting, but doing this in a way that is playful and fun is really important to me- the more colour the better! I can feel myself evolving now in the way I work, as I’m still exploring and discovering new ways to visualise my ideas. It’s the best feeling ever finding a new way of working. It’s like you’ve opened your mind to so many more possibilities. It’s a really exciting time in my life!

How long have you been making art?
I’ve always been interested in all things visual and creative, but it wasn’t until my foundation year I really discovered what illustration was and how it’s all that I can imagine myself doing.

Describe your work in 3 words:
Colourful, intricate and evolving.

Describe the way you work in 3 words:
Exploratory, playful and positive.

What’s your favourite colour?
I could never pick just one, so perhaps a combination of pink, teal blue and pastel yellow!

How long do you spend on each piece of work?
It entirely depends on the piece. Roughs, exploring and idea generation can often take a long time, but I find I have to churn out my ideas to visualise the colours and feel before it develops into something finished.

What’s your favourite environment to work in?
I’m someone who loves to get comfortable and cosy in a space, I’ll have all my materials around me so I can see what mood I’m in… basically I make a lot of mess.  Therefore, working at home at my desk or in the studios at uni often works best for me. At the moment there’s a corner desk at uni with big open windows with lots of greenery and natural light that I work well in. I think you’ve got to feel happy in a space to get your best ideas onto paper.

Who inspires what you do?
Francesca Sanna, Laura Carlin, Nina Cosford and Robert Frank Hunter’s books heavily influence my work and Eva Stalinksi really inspired me to get into screen printing! I’ve also recently discovered Mark Conlan, Yukai Du and Molly Egans who use pattern, colour and composition beautifully.

What’s your favourite piece you’ve ever made?
I think it has to be my children’s book ‘From my Roots’ I made last year reinforcing positive Afro imagery and challenging its under-representation. It was a very personal project, having experienced the stigma towards Afro-Caribbean hair myself. To create the project, I went to my Grandma’s hair salon in Birmingham and interviewed several customers, and so I felt the book was accurate and representational to the issue beyond my own opinion. It was interesting to see how many of my peers had no idea that this was an issue, which was my aim to raise awareness. Perhaps that or my first degree project on slavery. I threw myself in the deep end trying to represent something so horrific in a way that respected the truth but was not too visually dark/ traumatic, but I loved how that turned out.

Where would you like to be with your work in 10 years time?
I would love to have illustrated children’s books on social issues. It’s what I’ve been most passionate about creating in the past so I can see myself pursuing that. I think a lot of what you read and are surrounded by when you are young changes the way you view things as your grow up. A lot of my projects focus around race and feminism as these are things that I can personally relate to, however I would love to hopefully expand these themes to issues not experienced first hand in the hope to educate and inspire kids. However being in the first year of my degree I imagine these aspirations will develop and alternate, which is very exciting!

And finally what’s your favourite ‘Something Out of Nothing’? One of life’s simple pleasures that you absolutely love…
Any funk or soul music.

To see more from Beth, you can follow her over on instagram.