1.6 Illustrators who have designed wallpapers

The purpose of his exercise was to find interesting examples of illustrators who have designed wallpapers, fabrics, wrapping paper or for other flat surfaces.

Key words from the brief:

  • How do their illustrations play with the idea of flatness?

Research

It was very easy to find many examples of illustrators that design for flat surfaces – just use the search term ‘pattern illustrators’ in Pinterest.

I decided to research a printmaker Angie Lewin who I first came across during Printmaking 1 in an article about her work that I read in Pressing Matters (Issue 03).

This article led me to two other illustrators that produce limited edition prints and wallpaper and fabric designs for St Jude’s, the company Angie Lewin founded with her husband John Lewin.

  • Emily Sutton
  • Mark Hearld

Angie Lewin

Angie Lewin is a printmaker working predominantly with linocuts, woodcuts or screen printing. As well as creating limited edition prints she also designs fabrics and wallpapers for St Jude’s,

Her work is all inspired by nature and is drawn from places or plants she’s familiar with.

Bold simple shapes created using different line weights combined with striking colour combinations are the components of her distinctive visual language.

Emily Sutton

Like Angie Lewin, Emily Sutton’s work is inspired by nature, particularly the Yorkshire landscape and countryside.

As well as being a printmaker and pattern illustrator she has also illustrated children’s books and has a solo exhibition at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

Mark Hearld

Mark Hearld’s work is also inspired by nature. After graduating from Glasgow School of Art he did an MA in Natural History Illustration at the Royal College of Art.

How do their illustrations play with the idea of flatness?

I understood this question to mean how do these illustrators work within the constraints imposed by working flat or exploit the opportunities of this genre?

Working flat, particularly with repeat patterns changes the focus of the imagery by moving from a single often rectangular format with edges that provide a boundary and container within which an image can be constructed and read by a viewer, to a surface that often had no clearly defined edges or easily defined shape – a printed fabric worn as a dress or wrapping paper under the Christmas tree.

This means unlike most other genres of illustration, the flat design has to work equally when viewed from any point.

Because of this feature, components with an illustration need to be ‘delivered’ at the same ‘volume’, with the same focus. In other words, all parts of the image need to be equally interesting.

This fundamentally changes the visual hierarchy rules. For example, the wallpaper designs of Mark Hearld have a kind of visual flow as well as numerous points of focus such such as hares and birds that appear at a regular frequency across the surface of the wall.

Mark Hearld Harvest Hare wallpaper design
Harvest Hare, wallpaper design by Mark Hearld

The artist has to place more importance on pattern, shape and colour.

The work of Angie Lewin provides a great demonstration of this. The linocut below is made of 3-colours and consists of bold patterns, textures and shapes distributed evenly across the surface. The effect is striking.

Angie Lewin Spey Seedheads
Spey Seedheads, limited edition linocut, Angie Lewin

Use of colour is also constrained.

Wallpaper designs are frequently limited to two or three colours. This means the function of colour moves from providing visual hierarchy to strengthening and/or creating pattern and shape.

It is perhaps unsurprising that all three illustrators are also printmakers, where the working within the limitations of the medium through creative design and invention are what gives the flat design its strength.