15 April 2021
Tombow Talks to: Becca Hall Illustration
Becca Hall is a freelance illustrator based in Cornwall. Renowned for her nature themed illustrations, she has worked on a diverse range of projects for commercial and individual clients. From book Illustration to pet portraits, Becca strives to bring joy through her work. During Lockdown, we have collaborated with Becca on a series of online workshops which have been a huge success! We were lucky enough to catch up with Becca to discuss all things illustration…
You studied illustration at Manchester School of Art, how did you move from studying illustration to making it your career?
While I was at uni, I set up an instagram and facebook page to start promoting my work, and had a few people contact me for commissions. This then grew the more I shared! I was also lucky enough to be involved in a project for the Stockport Story Museum when I graduated, which was a great commission to be involved in and really helped get my name out there.
When I finished uni, I decided to take on a part time job working in a coffee shop and then at my Families interiors shop and would spend the other few days working on my illustration business. This meant I had some money to invest in stock and could also enjoy illustrating without the heavy pressure of having to pay bills. I did this for a few years while my business grew, until it got to a point where I no longer had time for my part time job.
Proudest moment of your career to date?
Ohhh, am I allowed to say two?! Seeing my illustrations in published print makes me feel so proud. I spend months illustrating a children's book, and it feels like a real achievement when I send the final illustrations off, but it's nothing compared to the feeling I get when a box of books arrives on my doorstep! I'll never forget when I first saw my first book, Magic Maguire and the Happy Hat, on a podium in Waterstones!
Another really proud moment for me was when I designed the Christmas Hamper tote bags for Lakeland Limited. These were part of their Best Sellers range which was displayed front and centre in all their stores across the UK as well as being on their homepage on their website for the full Autumn/Winter season!
What is the biggest challenge you have faced during your career?
Negotiating prices and terms with big companies for licencing my work. I have had to do it recently and it caused so much stress! I found they can really try and hammer your prices down, which is really hard when I know what the industry standard is but also want to get the job. It makes you feel like a very small fish in a very big pond, which can be quite overwhelming at times. I would love to find an agent who can take over that roll for me.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to pursue a career in illustration?
If you love it, go for it! I absolutely LOVE being a full-time illustrator, and wouldn't change it for anything, but it's good to know about everything that comes with it before you dive in. Working for yourself means you're not just drawing. You're doing accounts, replying to emails, general admin, packing orders, post office and bank runs, designing and keeping your website up to date, creating an online shop, being active on social media, applying for tenders, advertising commission slots... the list goes on! It's FULL ON, but so rewarding! Basically, my advice is that you have got to be good at managing your own time and be motivated to keep going if you are going to have a successful business.
The current climate is challenging businesses of all shapes and sizes. How has the pandemic affected your work and how have you had to adapt during these times?
A large part of my business is selling homewares and giftware, both online and in shops across the UK. The pandemic has affected both sides, but very differently. My wholesale orders all but stopped but my own Etsy shop saw a huge increase, especially during lockdown when people aren't able to shop on the high street. Last Christmas was the busiest I have ever witnessed, and I felt so grateful to have an online shop that kept my business going.
I am used to working from home, so that part didn't feel any different! I have been getting fewer commissions due to people's financial circumstances being so uncertain, but it has allowed me to step back and re-evaluate my business and the direction I want it to go in. I am currently not taking on any commissions (through choice this time!) apart from Children's book work and the odd piece that really excites me, and instead, focusing on my new Patreon page where people can subscribe and watch illustration tutorials by me, as well as growing my giftware range, and taking the time every day to draw for fun!! It's been a really great time to pause, and slow down for a while, before the world opens up again and everything goes back to being 100mph!
How do you use Tombow products in your work and which products are your favourites?
I was just talking to my friend Harriet Lowther (who is also an illustrator) this morning about Tombow pens. A year ago I had barely used a Tombow pen, and now I can't do an illustration without one! I have an ever-growing collection of the ABT brush pens which I use for all my base layers and shapes for animals. They're perfect for getting down a shape before I then add detail on top, but equally as useful for drawing foliage or shadows, or layering to create different tones in my work. I can't go anywhere without them! I have also recently fallen in love with the Monotwin pen which is great for getting my outlines down without worrying about it blurring on top of the brush pens. It's also my go to pen for animal's whiskers!!
Quick fire questions:
Best advice you have ever been given?
Don't use black for shadows! And to experiment and have fun... it's the best way of learning. Mistakes are important lessons.
Favourite thing to draw?
Ohhh a hard one! Any animal! Historically dogs, but I'm now also loving drawing wild animals.
How do you fill your spare time?
I join a few illustrator friends each morning for a 'breakfast club zoom' where we draw together and chat. It's so lovely making time to draw that's not for a commission or project! If I'm not doing that, you will find me in the sea surfing!
If you could have dinner with three artists (past or present) who would they be?
Quentin Blake, E.H Shepard (the Winnie the Pooh illustrator) & Beatrix Potter!
Pen or Pencil?
Discover more about Becca and her amazing projects...
Becca Hall illustration LTD
Instagram & Facebook @beccahallillustration