As Creative Black Country comes to the end of its initial three-year program the team wanted to celebrate the achievements of their Open Access initiative. Open Access exists to get as many people from Wolverhampton, Walsall and Sandwell to organise and get involved in cultural activity.
There have been some amazing groups who have put on anything from drive-in kids cinemas to a travelling venue made from a horse box to outdoor dance and light parades. So, of course, they needed an equally amazing artist to capture the work and so illustrator Katie Tomlinson was commissioned to produce a map of Open Access groups.
Can you tell us how you approached the CBC commission?
The CBC commission is one of the longest projects I’ve worked on. I was lucky enough to be able to attend some of the Open Access events that hadn’t taken place yet and meet the creatives behind them which helped me to engage on a more personal level with the projects and meet some of the incredible people involved.
When it came to creating the illustrations, I used a combination of my own photographic references and images or descriptions provided by the individuals to create visuals that represent each project.
You have a great style how did you develop it?
My family are very creative, my Papa was an incredibly talented technical artist who taught me about perspective when I was very young. We used to sit and sketch together and he would drive me crazy by critiquing my drawings or asking me to point out what I’d done wrong, which I found very frustrating at the time. My entire family have always supported my passion for art, they would take me to galleries, pay for life drawing classes when I was growing up and encourage me to enter competitions so I think this played a big role in developing my style.
Reportage and drawing from life has always been a major part of my practice. I kind of lost touch with this when I enrolled onto a Fine Art degree, it was the first and only time I’d ever felt really disconnected and basically uninterested in art for a long period of time and I almost fell out of love with it.
However, I transferred courses onto Visual Communication and began to learn about illustration and I found myself more motivated and began to sketch again.
I studied a module in the second year that focused entirely on reportage illustration and I think that was a real turning point for me. After that module, I knew that I wanted to pursue reportage illustration and I centred the rest of my time at university on it, exploring a variety of materials and subject matters to see what I felt most comfortable with and what complimented my way of working.
After university, I continued to draw from life but soon realised that getting commissioned work that requires the use of reportage illustration is pretty much not heard of. I began thinking of ways to combine the principles of reportage with working from secondary resources.
You visited some of the Open Access groups. What process do you use to capture their activities?
For the Open Access groups, I talked to the organisers to understand what motivated them to undertake the project, and then taking my own reference photographs to work from.
Then I sketched out pencil versions and choose the strongest image ready to work up using pen and Indian ink. The final stage is to scan the pieces in and add areas of flat colour using photoshop.
Was there anything about the groups you visited that stood out?
What stood out for me was the diverse range of activities and different ways people chose to use their awards, it was incredible what some projects did with a small budget!
It was great to meet the people behind the projects, they were all incredibly friendly, creative and often very caring, choosing to help disadvantaged groups and individuals.