Sophie Tilley

sophie_tilley_spotlight_01How would you describe your work to someone who has never seen it before?

I am a designer, illustrator, writer, maker, all these things are my passion! I like my work to have a life off the page, to become something tangible. When I start a job, I am already thinking of how I can turn it into product and in my head it is already boxed up with a designer label. I wish I could work as fast as my imagination thinks up all the ideas. Sometimes I feel I am going to combust with it all and I have to be reigned in.

Primarily my work is aimed towards children and hopefully has an innocent quality that will inspire little people to use their imaginations. Having been born into a creative hub myself in the 1960’s surrounded by my father Patrick Tilley’s fantastic design work, all that greatly influenced me. I hate being restrained with it comes to my art and I feel I am constantly evolving. I like to keep things fresh and like to keep my eye on trends and what’s happening.

With my illustration work I feel I have finally found my voice & style. I used to re-work my drawings too much and in the process they lost their freshness and spontaneity and fun! I love the new freedom my work has now.


How did you start off in the arts? How/when did you realise that you were an artist?

I don’t know whether these things are inherently in our DNA but I remember as a child I would always be drawing and was lucky enough to have the materials to do so with my dad running a design studio from our home. I was writing and illustrating my own stories from a very early age. After finishing school I did a years art foundation course but decided that I wanted to be a writer, hence my first job at IPC magazines as a young fiction writer. I moved up to become associate editor within the young teens group of magazines and then decided to move over into fashion where I was able to indulge in my other passion for clothes, organising and styling fashion shoots and visualising final layouts. I loved the whole creative process which ultimately led me to co- produce and design a range of sportswear clothing linked to the American Bowl for Wembely Stadium. Children came along and finding work that would fit around them led me back to publishing and I co- designed and wrote two craft books for Hamlyn Reed Publications. I guess it was at this point that I returned to my roots so to speak , designing, writing and illustrating and making.


sophie_tilley_spotlight_02Please describe a typical day of art making for you.

A typical day for me starts with walking the dogs! I start off with my head filled with day to day domestic stuff and then slowly get drawn into the magnificence of the stunning Welsh mountain scenery. It cleanses the mind.…..momentarily for me as it also provides me with a clean page for inspiring creative thoughts and ideas, so much so that I then have to rush home to write them down!

If I am working on a children’s book that involves initial roughs, and I have a special chair in my studio which I sit in to do those. I try and put off working on the computer for as long as possible. If I can, I try and mix up the day a bit with sewing and working on product for my on-line shop.


What contemporary artists or developments in illustration do you find interesting right now?

I am very much a retro kid and love people like Bernice Myers and Hilda Miloche ( Betsy Mccalls paper doll story book) Alice & Martin Provenson, to name but a few.….artists today I admire are Salvatore Rubbino, Polly Dunbare, Delphine Durand, Nathalie Lete . The company I am amongst at AP are all pretty incredible!

My taste in art like my music is pretty diverse!


sophie_tilley_spotlight_03How long does it typically take you to finish a piece?

Book work can take a while to finish purely because the nature of publishing, and the decision process involved. I may complete a colour spread in three days depending on how complex it is.


What do you do (or what do you enjoy doing) when you’re not creating?

I am thinking about creating. I find it very hard to switch off. If I am not drawing, writing or sewing, I bake!


Any advice for aspiring young illustrators?

Yes all you need to start is a pencil and paper ! Neither require electricity and all you have to switch on is your imagination. It is not a get rich quick profession and requires hard work and determination, but it can be extremely diverse and take you on some exciting journeys.


Thanks Sophie – and what a beautiful studio!

See more of Sophie’s work here