Kathryn Edwards is a freelance illustrator and EYFS music and art practitioner based in Manchester, Lancashire.
Inspired by Manchester's "wonderful and eclectic" architecture, illustrator Kathryn Edwards combines the processes of line drawing, watercolour painting and various printmaking techniques to "encapsulate feelings of nostalgia and personality contained within the bricks and mortar." Previously a singer songwriter, Edwards still satisfies her musical side by writing children's song for trails at The National Gallery in London, The Whitworth in Manchester and the Lady Lever in Liverpool. We sat down with her to find out more.
what is your design background?
I've always had an affiliation with design as my dad was an art teacher in a high school for thirty years. He introduced me to lots of working artists that he knew and took us to their studios while I was growing up which made it feel like the norm - just something that you do!
After studying Art & Design at Wigan & Leigh College, I moved to Manchester where I gained a BA (Hons) degree in Interactive Arts and was selected for the Northern Graduates Exhibition in London's Curwen and New Academy gallery.
how would you describe your work in three words?
Characterful, evocative and playful.
what part does colour play in your work?
Colour brings my illustrations to life, it helps to create a three-dimensional perspective and highlights areas which allows the eye to focus. It highlights the happy!
What are you inspired by?
I'm inspired by the architecture of Manchester. When there is a big enough break in the clouds, allowing you a window to look upwards without being poked in the eye by a raindrop, you are gifted an opportunity to soak in its brilliant forms.
I have lived in Manchester since my twenties so have had a lot of time to experience what the city has to offer. Having spent one year in London, getting married and having a child, I learned what it was like to miss a place. The distance allowed me to see what I really love about my city. People move in cycles but the architecture, the structures, remain a constant.
What is your creative process?
I pick a building, choose an angle I like and then photograph it, trying to make sure that the whole building is in short. I'd like to be able to draw sat in situ but when choosing the right angle I often find myself in the middle of a road or on a busy central street, which doesn't lend itself to being a very focused environment. I then grab my pad, set up the image on my computer at the Manchester Craft and Design Centre and start to draw.
It can take me roughly anywhere between three to eight hours to complete my line drawing. I then call in at my printers to have my A3 image scanned in and printed onto recycled paper, ready for me to paint.
Once my image is painted, I then order my mount to make sure the image is framed, leaving enough blank space to balance out the illustration. I then position and fix in place before cropping down the mount to frame.
how do you surroundings and local community affect your work?
People have always fascinated me so by causing a reaction, whether that be vocal or a visually obvious emotional response, it gives me the momentum to continue to create. This is why I find working in a workshop/retail space so inspirational. To experience a reaction to your work first hand allows you to see a very true response and enables you to see through the eyes of the viewer.
Being at Manchester Craft and Design Centre gives what can be a solitary career, a sense of community and with it comes the perks of working as part of a team, providing moral support and kinship.
WHat is a typical day for you?
This is difficult to answer! Being freelance means that my days are split between working in the studio, working from home, being a mum or commuting to a museum or gallery to run a workshop.
A day in the life of Kathryn the Artist is a stroll along the canal to jump onto a tram into the City which I really enjoy. Stepping from the calm suburbs to a bustling city allows me thinking time to prepare and organise my work for the day or simply to people watch. I generally grab a caffeine fix from my latest favourite coffee place, North Tea Power, pick up materials from Fred Aldous and then get into the Craft Centre just before ten. The lights are switched on, along with Spotify, and stock replenishment is done by myself and my three fellow makers at Studio 25; Jane Blease, Nell Smith and Rachel Saunders. After that I can start to draw/paint/mount /frame or send over files for commissioned work. Some mornings I get out early to take photographs of my latest commission or building of choice. It's a wonderful position to be in when you love your job and I'm pleased to say that I am one of those people that truly does.
WHAT five things in your studio could you not work without?
Good light - I always need good light as my illustrations have a lot of detail in them so working without it can be massively frustrating.
Heat - The Craft Centre used to be an old fish market. It is beautiful but as its roof is made of glass it acts as a greenhouse, making us boil in the summer and freeze in the winter, so I couldn't draw without a radiator.
Paint brushes - I'm pretty selective about the type of brush that I use so I always makes sure that I have a few as I am prone to losing things. Same goes for my pen. I have five fallback pens, just in case.
Computer - I look more to the photograph of the building than my pen on the paper so it would be like drawing blind without it.
When you're not working, what do you enjoying doing?
I used to be a singer songwriter which, is how I met my husband as he was a musician too. Playing guitar and writing songs still comes very naturally to me and I am hoping that over the summer I can do some more writing with him. I also write children's songs for the trails in The National Gallery in London, The Whitworth in Manchester and the Lady Lever in Liverpool so I do still get to write - just minus the angst and with smaller words!
I'm also an avid photographer so being without a camera of sorts does leave me feeling lost. Capturing a moment does have a sense of urgency with me.
And last, but by no means least, I love introducing my son Rufus, who is two in May, to the ever evolving art world, just like my dad did with me.
What does success look like to you?
Happiness, creative fulfillment and a good work/life balance.
Which women do you admire and why?
I admire women with great strength, women that strive for something they believe in. Maria Balshaw is the director of The Whitworth Art Gallery, and now also Manchester Art Gallery, and she has raised the galleries international profile dramatically with her positive drive and vision. I think a lot of success is driven by a positive mind.
I also admire Mary Kelly. She exhibited at The Whitworth and is famous for her postpartum document; a series of documentation of her son's first years including his nappies. I don't feel intimidated by very many people but she has a quiet yet strong presence. We talked about how her son was about to be married and how her English husband proposed in the Lakes and I realised just how 'normal' she is.
Having since had a baby I now see her work from a completely different perspective. She was bold and strong and exhibited something that meant a great deal to her regardless of how she would be perceived.
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The Night & Day A3 Print
Manchester Town Hall A3 Print