24 August 2021

People Watching with Naomi Wilkinson

Naomi Wilkinson is an illustrator of people, documenting the lives and habits of her fellow Bristolians with fun, light hearted designs Her work has been featured in The Daily Telegraph, Facebook and The New York Times. I caught up with her to find out about life in Bristol and the artists that have influenced her work.

You were born and bred in Bristol. Why do you love your hometown so much, and how does it inspire you?

"I love it because it is small and friendly and you can walk everywhere. There are lovely places to eat and lots of things to do like the Cube Cinema and The Lido. I enjoy drawing people, and Bristol is a diverse place with lots of distinctive communities, areas with different styles and atmospheres.

Lockdown Type 7 - The DIY hairdresser

"Diversity is important. I like to reflect the world I live in and depict people in different ways. It would be very boring to draw one type of person doing the same type of thing. My work is influenced by the area I live in and the views I have."

Lockdown Type 4 - The frazzled home schooler

During lockdown, you continued to observe people's activities and created the Lockdown Types. Which type were you?

" Ha Ha. I have two small children, so it has to be the Frazzled Home Schooler with a bit of aerobics thrown in. During the first lockdown, work became very quiet as nobody was starting new projects. I started selling my own work and even worked with clay and painted again, so perhaps I wasn't that bad. "

Lockdown Type 2- The lockdown gardener

Have you always loved art?

"I'm not from an arty family, and I was not great at drawing myself, but I loved giving it a go. I liked making scrapbooks, collages and sketchbooks. When my art teacher heard I was becoming an illustrator, he said it was perfect as I would never make a fine artist."

Matchboxes designed by Alexander Girard

You've been very successful in the field of illustration. What are your favourite projects?

"Stationery and books. I love working with people working in these worlds as they are so good at what they do. They give you lots of creative freedom as well as direction. I enjoy editorial work too, but the deadlines are stricter, and there is less time to noodle about. Kids’ books are great fun, I've just done a book about dogs, and I love dogs."

Are your Kids arty, do they want to join in?

" My daughter is very good at drawing and the kids think I have a cool job. They see me working, and then they see the finished product come through the post, and they can hold it in their hands." 

Your work is graphic and contemporary but are you inspired by other eras?

"Yes, I love mid-century modern and graphics from the 50-80s. I'm also obsessed with the designs on old matchboxes."

Which artists do you look to for inspiration?

"I like Judith Kerr. I love the Mog books. She had a great sense of humour expressed through the subtle expressions of the animals. She also carried on working for a long time and had an inspirational life story. I also admire the woodcuts of Japanese artist Hide Kawanishi and the Swedish artist Olle Eksell."

Top - Artist Olle Eksell - Bottom, images by Hide Kawanishi

Do you have a Dream Project?

" I know it doesn't sound very exciting, but I'd love to design a label for an iconic food brand like Marmite. I really enjoy designing food labels, and it is cool to see my work on everyday objects."

I'd like to thank Naomi for taking the time to chat with me during her busy summer break. She is currently illustrating a chess book for children and has just created a new collection of greeting cards for Lagom Design. To see her colourful range of cards and wrap VISIT

Interview by M C Porter