We live in a world dominated by technology and the future, always pushing to figure out what is next, and whilst that is an amazing exploration to witness, we often forget to take in what is around us now. For Lily Draper, an artist based in Yorkshire, this isn’t the case. Spending some of her early years in New Zealand certainly had its effects on Lily; the ever present influence of nature informing her work. The blue and green lines dancing around on the paper caught my attention instantly. Keen to know more about the work and the inspiration behind it, we reached out to Lily. She’s here to talk to tobi about her work and what inspires her to create.
“I was lucky to spend a few years of my childhood in New Zealand, and although formative, they had a profound impact on my view of ecology. I remember huge ferns, which would tower over me, and the way in which sunlight fell through their leaves, turning them this lucid shade of green.” She told me. “Nature has remained one of the focal points of my life and since, my art has become a means to celebrate this world. It is a way in which to spread the message for the importance of the environment and our place within it.”
Art was always one of her favourite classes at school, with a handful of teachers going above and beyond their pay grade to encourage her. After taking a little time away from creativity, she picked up the paintbrushes again and aren’t we thankful that she did. Draper primarily uses watercolour, teamed up with acrylic and ink to add texture to each piece. Her style using these materials has definitely been a long-term development, however after a series of botched attempts, she found her aesthetic, when one day it just clicked. “I began by testing out colours, textures, different amounts of water, paintbrush sizes etc. and it turned into a whole night session of painting. Blues and greens have always been my favourites, so naturally landscapes and seascapes seemed the best way to go. Once I grew more confident in using watercolour, I began to find the ideas and designs would just come to my head instead of having to paint from a scene – and that’s when I really started to love designing.”
Alongside her main inspiration, she is very fond of Hundertwasser, an Austrian-New Zealand artist. “For me, his focus on abstraction over realism is far more emotive than other artists. Aesthetically, I find his work beautiful – but I think the reason I am drawn to his designs goes far deeper. His entire philosophy centres on a love of nature, and a humanity connected with that environment. His architecture sees plants and trees interwoven with walls, wonky staircases that don’t conform to tradition… and it’s this alternative view of the world I love.”
Obstacles are met by all people in all industries. However the majority of creative individuals trying to pave their way will often come across the same issues. Funding being amongst the highest of those. Finding funding and the time to keep the designs coming can be difficult. Biting the bullet and paying for the expenses often means taking on more shifts at work and less time to design. Lily told me “I find it difficult when people ask me “so what have you sold?” as if that is the only way of judging what my work is worth. Obviously making a living off of a passion is the dream, the ultimate dream. Yet it’s important for me to keep designing and making money in two very separate categories, otherwise any creativity feels empty and hollow.” However seeing her designs in print for the first time has been one of her proudest moments so far, so it’s worth it. “It felt great carrying an entire box full under my arm and knowing that was all my work.”
It’s not all negative surrounding these industries though. Society is starting to appreciate art again, and with #shopsmall becoming almost fashionable, local artists are gaining more attention. With the wonders of the internet, these smaller businesses are accessible, however it isn’t the only way. Lily’s advice for getting your work out there aligns with this. “Think locally. Social media is great to a level, but it is easy to feel lost in a mass of already thriving businesses. Get chatting to local artists and companies, more often than not they’re happy to help.”
“Social media, used in the right balance, definitely has its perks. I find Instagram great for organising my ideas and monitoring my progress. The app is entirely what you make it – I follow mostly designers (and a lot of environment nerds) so my feed is constantly giving me new methods of working. It helps to see my work in a professional setting, and has definitely given me more confidence in marketing and sharing my designs.”
Finally she leaves us with a documentary to go and check out. “Patagonia and Farm League made a documentary called ‘Blue Heart’ set in the Balkans. Talking about the destruction of Europe’s last wild rivers, its environmentalism really struck a chord with me. Ever since, I’ve been keeping track of their work.”
So, what is next for Lily? Well, she is constantly looking for new ways to keep her designs interesting, and I’m currently building up a new portfolio since the Fossgate Exhibition. You can find her on Instagram @keeley_design and email at email@example.com, where she is always available for inquiries.
All images © Lily Draper of Lily Keeley Design.