Suzi Kemp is an illustrator and typographer who graduated from Brighton University in 2010 and now works, and lives in London. She specialises in hand written typography and illustration for print and web, live artwork, pattern and apparel design. We sat down with Suzi to discuss life after graduating, her current work, her inspirations, and to introduce to you all her brand new screen print “Thirteen Years” which has been designed exclusively for our artist based print series; Paradise.
Q: Hi Suzi, how are you doing today?
A: I’m dog sitting and have a Chihuahua chilling on my belly as we speak – which is great! (We second that, sounds so great!)
Q: Thank you so much for creating such a beautiful piece for the Paradise print series! It’s been a real pleasure seeing you take on the black & white challenge!
A: Thank you for having me, and for allowing me to work in monochrome! It’s cool to create pattern in that way. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen my work screen printed so really looking forward to that.
Q: Can you tell us a bit about how you started off in the industry? Did you study?
A: I studied illustration and didn’t have a plan b. I have learnt the most about the industry via experience, rather than what was taught in the classroom. That has meant lots of ups and downs – internships, bad jobs, good jobs. I’ve been lucky to meet some great people by chance who have supported me, and offered me opportunities and I’m very grateful for that.
Q: You have an incredibly recognizable style, mixing crude, raw imagery with a punk twist, in a modern, bright almost “girlie” style that creates a brilliant juxtaposition in your work. How did you come about drawing in this way?
A: Honestly, it just reflects the two different sides to my tastes. One half of me is inspired by punk and hardcore, and the other half loves flower arranging. That’s kind of how my style works; I might draw some flowers but use heavy black ink and crude mark-making to do it. Then maybe add beautiful vibrant colours over that.
Q: You create a lot of typography, which is used by a lot of big brands (like our “Hear Me Roar” exhibition type!), what do you like words and letters and how do you approach creating specific typefaces?
A: I started creating hand drawn typography inspired by hand poked, DIY and prison style tattoos. I was creating work based around that, and ended up developing a type-style from it. When creating specific typefaces I do like to take literal inspiration, for example, The Hear Me Roar type for was shaking like sound waves, to look as if it was blasting out of a lion’s mouth!
Q: You create your work with both paint and in digital format, which of the two do you prefer?
A: I love the look of paint, and am inspired and interested by naive and folk style painting, however, on the flip side, I find working on my computer really fun and satisfying – playing with colours and patterns on screen makes it easy to cut up, paste and experiment without being too precious. I almost always add colour digitally in my work as I love the vibrancy that can be achieved.
Q: Tell us a bit about some of your favourite projects you have worked on?
A: I suppose this year I have really enjoyed working towards exhibiting – a solo show at Toms Skate store in Stoke Newington, and being part of Hear Me Roar. In my solo show I had free reign and ended up taking the rare opportunity to paint on wood. It was and intense month to produce the work but I needed the deadline to motivate myself. I loved seeing my Screaming Wallflowers piece printed up in the Skull & Heart show, as I haven’t seen my digital work printed in colour to that scale before! Again pretty much free reign on the brief and lots of support (thanks!!), it was awesome to be part of a show with such a high standard of artists.
Q: What or whom do you find are your creative influences?
A: Visually I have been inspired by band artwork from the 80s and 90s, again that is mixed with colour and pattern I see in nature. I like listening to the word play in grime and reading books to try and exercise my brain – a lot of my work is based around words. I take my inspirations from suburban culture and the ideas around subcultures, as well a folk, ‘outsider’ and naive art.
Q: Tell us about the piece you did for Skull & Heart.
A: I wanted to start by creating a piece that I’d like to display on my wall! The Paradise Lost theme, to me, meant creating something beautiful, but a little off, perhaps even a little creepy – Hopefully I did that by creating an organic, pleasing pattern, but when you look closer its a slightly sinister cicada bug. I wanted to create something symmetrical in its design, like a crest, rather than anything abstract.
Q: Can you tell us about any future projects in the works?
A: I have just finished working on some type and illustrations for this years Vans ‘Custom Culture’ competition in the US. Hopefully my doodles will help inspire students to get creative.
Q: And of course, Skulls or Hearts?
A: I want to say both but I’m going to say hearts, as I am a sucker for sweet things.
All available artwork from Suzi Kemp is available to purchase in our online store. Please click the images below to be directed to the item you are interested in.