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Interview with illustrator Stephanie Unger

Friday 20 January 2017

Based in London, artist and illustrator Stephanie Unger uses both traditional and digital mediums to make her highly distinctive work. Her playful approach sees her using vibrant colours and simple shapes to create characters, animals, objects, and scenes. Stephanie has created work for musicians, including a record sleeve for Tame Impala and t-shirts for Basement, as well as various commissions for other clients including Scoop Magazine and the Gilles Peterson Worldwide Awards. We caught up with the artist herself to chat about what inspires her, the style of her work and her creative process.

What compels you to create?

I feel an urge to create when I am looking at and learning about things that make me passionate. Expressing this passion through drawing, to me, is like scratching an itch.

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Where do you look for inspiration and who or what inspires you?

I get particularly excited over old vintage and retro imagery I find in museums, charity shops or some of the deep corners of the Internet. Saying that, I am a big fan of Instragram and love to follow what new artists are up to. Travelling always gives me a massive boost of inspiration. It opens me up to a world of new visual content that I wouldn’t find anywhere else.

Your work is very distinctive – how did you develop your own style as an illustrator, and how would you describe it?

My style is a culmination of things that have influenced me over the years and what naturally comes out on paper.

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You’ve designed a pair of t-shirts for the band Basement – tell us about this experience of illustrating for clothing.

To be honest I just went for it, not really thinking about it too much. Originally the designs came from old sketchbook pages, and when laying out the t-shirt, I kept it simple. Naturally my work is blocky and colourful so it worked well when screen-printed on to a t-shirt. It was super fun and seeing the end result definitely made me want to do more illustration for clothing.

What was it like creating a record sleeve for Tame Impala’s song ‘The Less I Know the Better’ as part of Secret 7inch? How did you go about responding to the song?

It was great. I had a lot of freedom. I listened to the song about 30 times on repeat and just drew. I basically drew loads of weird elements and threw them all together in one room.

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Your ‘Best of a Bad Situation’ set of teacups and saucers is a super smart and funny idea – how did make these?

Thank you! I made them at university. We were lucky enough to have access to the facilities to make ceramics. I love using and seeing my work translate into different mediums.

What’s your creative process when both responding to briefs and making personal work?

Usually my work is built up of loads of elements put together. When working on my personal work or towards a topic I draw individual things out of context that excite me. I then arrange them into one image to make one final illustration. Pretty simple really.

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Which commissions have you most enjoyed?

I have really enjoyed doing my most recent project for the Gilles Peterson Worldwide Awards. I feel it goes beyond illustration and I have learned so much off the back of this project. I also really enjoyed doing the Basement t-shirt designs because they give me a lot of freedom.

What are you working on at the moment?

I am still working with Gilles Peterson leading up to the date of the event. I recently did a few illustrations for Scoop magazine. As for personal work, I am hoping to get some stickers and patches made soon and I’m really excited about that – I really want to get my shop going.

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What’s your dream brief or project? 

Something mental like working for a celebrity like Beyonce or Kanye or collaborating with Gucci.

View more of Stephanie Unger’s work at: www.stephanieunger.co.uk.