15 January 2022

Linzie Hunter - Cute, Not Cute

The first thing I notice about your work is how cute it is. You even have a newsletter called the Cute List. What is it about the cuteness that inspires you?

I'm not cute in real life, I'm quite cerebral, but people expect me to turn up in a tutu and bunny ears. I didn't set out to produce cute work, I resisted it at first, but now I have embraced it. I create images that make people happy. You can't be someone else. If it's not you, it doesn't work.

How did your creative journey start?

As a child, I drew all the time and played lego. No dolls. I couldn't see the point in pushing a lump of plastic around in a pram. We were from a working-class family, but my parents encouraged creativity and reading. My mum was always knitting and crocheting. Being creative had value."

Linzie didn't start as an illustrator, her career began backstage in the theatre, and it took a leap of faith to change her career and bring her creativity centre stage.

I studied theatre at Drama school and went on to work backstage in the West End as a stage manager. The thing about working backstage is that you are helping other people to fulfil their creative dreams. In my late 20s, even though I was afraid it was too late to change direction, I enrolled on a part-time illustration course in Chelsea. I've now been an illustrator for 15 years.

Like most great designers, Linzie has developed her unique style, not by aspiring to be like everyone else but by taking inspiration from the world around her.

I liked mid-century design and the vintagey lifestyle as a teenager, but I wouldn't say any particular artist influenced me. I try not to look at other people's work in case I pick up other people's trends by osmosis. Looking at other people's work is the way to madness! I prefer to take inspiration from films, music, etc.

During her career, Linze has produced hand-lettering for book covers, created characters for product labels and even illustrated a range of scratch and sniff stickers! But this year, she is once again bringing her creativity centre stage and her first book What if Pig has recently hit the bookshelves.

Your book is still very cute, but it tackles some serious issues?

Yes, it's a book that tackles a serious issue that adults find funny too. Children don't just like slapstick. They get irony and sarcasm too. It's really relevant as the last two years of homeschooling have really affected children's mental health. Parents often forget they are raising adults, so dealing with anxiety at a young age is important."

Illustration is a competitive industry, but you see the importance of giving back, of giving young people a chance?

Although they weren't official mentors, I look back and remember that people took the time to mentor me. I didn't say thank you enough, so I decided I help others and help the industry at the same time. It's not just about developing their creativity but helping people negotiate contracts and knowing their worth. We used to meet one to one, but since the pandemic, I now meet with a group of six on zoom. It's a total pleasure spending time with them. They don't see each other as the enemy. They have each other's backs.

You have your second book coming out. How different is writing from straight illustration?

I'm used to quick turnaround, so this was another way of working. It's definitely a change of pace to when I was hand lettering. It's really hard to write a picture book as every word has to earn a place on the page. In a way, it was like going back to square one, but it stops me from getting bored.

Originally from the suburbs of Glasgow, Linze now lives in Peckham in South East London. Once famous for high crime statistics, Peckham is now a vibrant, diverse place with a lively arts scene. I wondered what she has missed during lockdown and the places she loves to frequent. Here are some of her favourites. They're a real treat for the senses.

It's always hard to find good photos of Portobello Turkish baths, mostly as you're not allowed to take photos in the "spa" area... It also has a gorgeous Victorian pool. If you are ever up the way, it is worth the trip. It's such a bargain for £7

In south London, my favourite places are

The Horniman. It's still a little bonkers with some serious Wes Anderson vibes. It makes a nice walk from my flat.

The Best Coffee bar in town is Spike Roastery. It has great coffee and it's a social enterprise.

Mr Bao is the hip place for steamed buns.

I'd like to thank Linze for taking time out of her busy schedule to talk about her life and work.

For the record, she's not cute, but hilariously funny, fierce and inspiring. Linze is working on her second book and has just finished a range of cards for Lagom design.

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