Crack got chatting to the queen of the doodle bomb.
There is an energy and excitement in Hattie Stewart’s work which is infectious, palpable in any of the mediums she uses. Even her responses to our questions burst out eager, honest and unchecked.
Her cheeky, fun illustrations make her a perfect match for the designers she has worked with, from Luella and Marc Jacobs – on his younger line Marc by Marc Jacobs – to Henry Holland, with whom she has collaborated on various collections. As well as her work within the fashion industry, Stewart has joined forces with musicians, animators, has decorated a line of crockery and this October gets involved with Koppaberg’s ün-establishment campaign, a series of events across Manchester and London which focuses on nurturing creativity.
Growing up, Stewart began honing her craft by copying images from The Dandy and The Beano comics before setting her heart on fashion illustration at the tender age of 13. Her relationship with her family is something that has been integral to her artistic development, both creatively and professionally. Watching the people around her carve out careers in creative industries inspired her enterprising and go-getting attitude, and has led to her admiration of, and collaboration with, other similarly-minded young artists.
Rather than being mere absent-minded scribbles, Stewart’s drawings are deliberate and self-conscious, meaning the work always stops short of becoming something cutesy or kitsch. Her Doodle Bombed covers of some of the world’s most important fashion magazines inject a dark humour into an industry that can sometimes suffer from taking itself too seriously. Her images can both alleviate tension or add intensity. They scrawl over the perfect bodies and faces on these covers and transform them into a different kind of absurd.
You were very young when you started working with Luella, how did that opportunity come about?
My sister was working with them at the time and they needed monster-style illustrations for some of their t-shirts. They asked if I’d be up for it, which of course I was! I must have done something right because they kept me on for a year after my sister left. It’s such a shame Luella is no longer around, but I’m forever thankful for the platform it gave me for other ventures.
Having studied Illustration at Kingston, what made you decide that you wanted to use that background to collaborate with fashion houses and magazines?
It’s really difficult to explain a gut instinct, but I just knew I wanted my work to be the editorial, not accompany it. That’s just me though, there are so many amazing artists and illustrators out there so I guess I am always looking into different ways to set myself apart from everyone else. Also, I get distracted easily so I like to make sure there is always something to keep my attention. Sometimes people don’t know what they want so you have to show it to them, that’s why the magazine Doodle Bombs have been absolutely amazing for me. Instead of complaining or moaning about someone not appreciating you, get out there and show them why they should.
Who is your favourite fashion designer?
Henry Holland of course! Working with him for House of Holland is always a pleasure as he knows what he wants and knows I can do it. I feel my style of work fits in happily with the style and direction of House of Holland and I enjoy every brief he gives me. As a designer he’s extremely ambitious and is always looking to take the brand in different directions, giving it as many platforms as possible, which I admire and am always looking to do with my own work. His fresh, fun, cheeky and sexy designs are always winners and I always want to own every single piece in every collection! I’ve also started noticing the designer Claire Barrow, who recently had her debut collection with Fashion East. I love her designs, as she is an artist but a designer also. I believe she refers to herself as a ‘Fashion Artist’, which I like. She’s a double-barrelled shotgun in my eyes!
How did you develop your style?
It wasn’t a conscious development, I just knew what I liked to draw. I started using one sketchbook a year and I have five now. Looking through them I can easily see how my work has adapted, changed and been influenced by what’s around me. My uncles on either side of my family also drew cartoons, so I would always draw with them when I was younger. I remember once when I was in Year Five we had a project where we had to draw an alien and I was staying at my Uncle Terry’s in Sheffield.
I was desperately trying to draw your stereotypical alien and he said to me “Have you ever seen an alien? Well then, you have absolutely no idea what an alien looks like. You can bloody draw anything you want!” As a ten year-old, that blew my mind. It was one of those small moments that stuck with me and definitely informed how I draw today. For example, I hated life drawing throughout my education because of it; why bother spending time drawing things I can already see? I’ve got my own world to create! Thanks Uncle Terry. My Uncle Paul has amazing skill and can draw anything on demand. When I was younger he used to go to Primary Schools around Sheffield and paint murals of famous cartoon characters and I used to help. Paul taught me skill, Terry taught me how to think.
We’ve seen a lot of your work on the Rookie website, how did you get involved with that? It’s probably the greatest magazine ever.
It’s truly awesome isn’t it? I can spend hours reading the articles. I only wish it was around when I was a teenager, even though I am at heart! I remember contacting them and asking to send Tavi some zines, after a while Anaheed (Editorial Director) asked me if I’d like to illustrate for them and of course, I said yes. The magazine gets some flack sometimes by people saying it’s exclusive of older generations and guys, but I don’t understand any of that nonsense as it says in the tagline ‘a magazine for teenage girls’. If you want something that includes you, make it yourself, there is nothing stopping you. That’s exactly what Tavi did with Rookie. What she and the other supremely talented young women are doing is amazing, as it’s all so brutal, funny and honest: be nothing but yourself. I truly cannot wait to see how it grows.
Are there any musicians who you’d like to work with?
I would love to something for Rihanna or Katy Perry, that would be fun. I love that these artist are really going for it when it comes to their looks. They are turning into characters themselves, which I think is great. I feel my style could fit nicely with Perry, we’d have a lot of fun.
Who is your favourite out of all the characters you’ve created?
I don’t have favourites as they are one big happy family. Some grow and some get forgotten. I guess the ones that always pop-up throughout my work are my favourites. I’ll have to create more permanent ones and name them.
Which is your preferred medium to work in and why?
I love to paint as it’s definitely the most satisfying. I don’t really get to sit down and do it as much at the moment but I am planning on working on some more large scale paintings.
Your work has taken you to places as far as Miami, New York and Bangkok – what has the reception been like for your work abroad? Could you ever see yourself living and working away from East London?
The reception has been great! I don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t have the support from so many amazing people and there is nothing that makes me happier than making people smile with my work. I would definitely love to work and live abroad, my sister moved to Madrid almost five years ago to work at Loewe (she’s my idol) and my parents are moving Gozo (Maltese Island) soon, so I am going to go one better and move to America. I definitely want to see the world and I’m fortunate enough that my work enables me to do just that.
Could you give us a few details about your involvement with the Kopparberg ün-establishment campaign?
I was super happy to be asked to get involved! I worked on the campaign animation with the animator Tom Bunker, which has had a great response and showcases the event and its participants, and there are so many awesome people involved. I’ll be live drawing on the windows at the London event and be having a fun ‘Doodle Bomb’ workshop where people get to create their own. Hopefully I’ll see you there!
You’ve said that if you didn’t draw you would probably go crazy, but what else do you do for fun? What do you enjoy and what inspires you?
My friends and my family. I enjoy them and they inspire me! I don’t mind if it’s lame, but for fun I draw.
What we love about your work is it doesn’t take itself too seriously, is this something that’s important to you?
Absolutely. I’ll leave political statements and the like to others and I’ll add in the humour and fun: a fair trade, and it maintains a healthy balance I think.
Which is the best face that you’ve doodle bombed?
Kreayshawn for i:D was probably my favourite one and it’s probably my most referenced image. I’m about to doodle bomb my best friend’s face for real as part of a new project, and she definitely has the best face.
Who would win in a fight, Minnie the Minx or Toots?
Beryl the Peril would jump in and body slam them both. She was my favourite growing up.
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Words: Celia Archer
Hattie Stewart participates in Kopparberg ün-establishment in Shoreditch between October 20th-25th