We chat to the creative mind and brilliant woman behind our most recent 'Merry & Bright' Christmas illustrations, Bonnie Brown from Studio Bon. Freelance artist for just over a year; Bon has collaborated with some major local and international brands; drawn to her gorgeous illustrations, eye for detail and confidence with colour. On the blog, she shares a bit about finding her niche, creative inspiration, and the learnings from 2020.
Tell us a little bit about yourself, your background and what led you to become an artist illustrator…
Kia ora, I’m Bonnie. I grew up in a very creative household so I was always spending my spare time drawing, painting, or designing something. I also grew up in a household where money was very tight so I never thought of art as being a stable career. It wasn’t until I was working at a local architecture firm and finding myself creatively unfulfilled that I started drawing for fun again and sharing what I was drawing on Instagram. I feel like I sort of fell into being a commercial artist when my work started to get more exposure online and when I got my first ‘big’ client it was like a lightbulb moment where I thought I could start to turn this into a career.
We strongly believe in trusting your intuition and creating the life you dream of. Can you tell us about taking that leap from studying architecture to becoming an illustrator/artist? And looking back, and what you know now, what advice would you give yourself?
To jump into it sooner! I’ve only been working full time as an artist for just over a year now and looking back I think I could have easily taken that leap of faith sooner.
We love your playful and confident use of colour. Has colour always been an important aspect to your work, or has you style (and love for colour) evolved over time?
Colour has always been really important to the work I create but my style has definitely changed over time! It took a while for me to find my own niche within illustration and that meant a lot of playing around with different mediums and styles first. Some of my earliest illustrations were done by hand just using ink pens and intricate details whereas now most of my work is created digitally and focuses on using different shapes to create dimension.
We are SO pumped to have collaborated with you for gifting season. It has been such a challenging year for many people and you nailed the brief: ‘Merry and Bright’! Thank you. What was your favourite part of illustrating this series?
Thank you! It was such a dream to work with Saben on this and hopefully spread a little happiness during such a rough year for many. I loved creating fantastical still lifes and moments that aren’t always so easy to create in real life (the skill needed to balance a cherry on a lime slice, on a lemon slice, is not one I possess).
You have worked with some AMAZING companies; what do you look for in these partnerships and have you got a favourite to date? (OR: who would your dream company to work with be?)
I try to work with like minded brands/businesses who I can bounce ideas off and fulfil the brief in a way that still feels unique to my style too. I’m lucky to have worked with companies who trust what I’m trying to achieve and its so difficult to pick a favourite but I really loved the recent pieces I was able to create for The Women of Influence Awards earlier this year
Where do you find your creative inspiration and how do you maintain it?
A lot of my inspiration comes from fashion, beauty and architecture, and I also love looking at different artists work and how they interpret the world. Currently I’m loving looking through old books of Irving Penn’s photography, particularly his still life series.
Maintaining creativity is a different thing entirely though! I’ve found there are usually two types of creative ruts I experience! When I find myself procrastinating and not wanting to start a certain piece I set small goals and timers to just get started. Often it is the fear of the blank page that stops me starting! The other rut is when I’m not finding any inspiration and the best thing I can do when this happens is get away from my work. I try to get outside, visit friends and family, read, watch something, basically take some time off until I’m feeling motivated again.
2020 has been a whirlwind of a year, what lessons are you taking away from it and what conversations do you wish we were having more of?
I think my biggest lesson is to not take anything for granted, health and family in particular! After the first lockdown I moved back to Nelson to be closer to family (after ideas of moving overseas were quickly stopped) and its been really nice to spend this season in life really appreciating friends and family. 2020 has been such a tough year for so many people and I think we’re getting better about asking for help, and supporting people in more vulnerable positions than ourselves. I hope moving forward we still carry this attitude and continue to have conversations about how we can support everyone in our communities.
What’s next for you, and/or for your business?
I’ve been feeling the need to step away from my computer and iPad recently and I’ve been really excited to start exploring hand made pieces again. I’ve just started playing around with screen printing and I’m hoping to keep exploring this and eventually create a print/product range in this realm. All in all, I’m aiming to head into 2021 with a lot of optimism and growth for Studio Bon.
How would you describe your personal style?
Colourful and eclectic! I feel the most like myself when I’m wearing bright colours or patterns and I’m not very trend driven so I like to wait and save up for a piece I know I’ll really love, or hunt op shops to find a more unique piece.
And your Saben style – What do you look for in a handbag; Do you swap out your bag or need ONE that does work-weekend, day-to-night?
With handbags though I’m the opposite! I always looks for something classic that will go with every outfit and that I can wear to a work meeting, a coffee date, or a night out.
What drew you to Saben, and how does wearing/carrying it make you feel?
I’ve always loved the versatility of Saben bags and the quality over quantity mindset I try to carry when choosing new pieces. The Goldie bag is my favourite because its the perfect size for me, it fits my sketchbook snugly, and the classic designs means I can take it everywhere with me. Not the most glamorous description but I feel very prepared when I’m wearing it, I feel like my mind is always thinking about the next thing I need to do so knowing I have everything in one place when I need to rush out the door is fabulous.
Matrix above, Saben x Studio Bon
Matrix below, Studio Bon work with clients