Inside the Sketchbook with Pippa Toole
What makes an artist? Is it a childhood spent drawing on the kitchen floor? Is it a unique style that they can call their own? Or simply the way they hold a brush…In this series of blogs, we’ll be going inside the sketchbook of some of the most interesting up and coming artists, as we learn about their artistic backstory, their craft and honing their talents.
First we have Pippa Toole, whose vibrant illustrations and confident characters inspire viewers to take away some ‘badassery’ into their own lives. With bold colours and strong composition, Pippa shapes a world informed by playfulness and rebellion, where music, fun and gore come to life.
What’s your artistic backstory?
It sounds cliche but ever since I was a kid, all I wanted to be was an artist! My parents are pretty creative and really into music, so I was always surrounded by inspiring stuff. It could be a genetic thing too – my twin sister is a really great fine artist/illustrator. Either way, it just felt like the right path for me to follow.
I was always doodling at school, or hanging out in the art department, even when I didn’t have art lessons. I wasn’t really interested in studying anything else! After my A-Levels, I went on to do an Art Foundation course in Manchester to try and fine-tune exactly what I wanted to with the arts. I was still quite naive at that point and I didn’t realise that Illustration was something you could really pursue as a career. Once I’d decided that Illustration was the course for me, I applied to study at the University of Brighton and I’ve stayed here ever since.
What’s your proudest artistic achievement to date?
When I graduated (many years ago now), my friend applied for a few of us to exhibit as a collective at ‘Pick Me Up’ graphic arts festival at Somerset House. It was on a bit of a whim, but to our surprise, we got in! I remember visiting ‘Pick Me Up’ whilst I was at university and thinking it would be amazing to show my work somewhere like that, so for that to happen was really cool.
More recently I was invited to be a featured artist at the 2019 Brighton Illustration Fair. After spending the last few years finding my feet after graduation, it felt really great to be recognised as someone that was part of the illustration scene here. It was a proud moment for me!
What do you want people to feel when they see your work?
I often focus on feelings and emotions in my work, so I would like people to feel a bit of a connection or comfort from it. Even if they just get the pop culture reference, that’s enough for me! A lot of the characters I draw come across as kind of ‘badass’ and confident, so if someone can look at my work and take some of that energy away with them then that’s really cool, too.
Where does your love for all-things Halloween come from?
I can’t pin-point it exactly, it’s just kind of always been there. I was a teenage goth so that’s probably where it really began to manifest. I was really into that look and everything that went with it and I guess it’s stuck with me. I’ve always gravitated to drawing skulls, vampires, spiderwebs… even at 30 years old, I’m still doing it! I’ll admit I’m actually a bit of a wimp when it comes to horror but Halloween can be kitsch and fun and silly – and I love that.
Who are the characters in your work inspired by?
Mostly various icons and ‘weirdos’ from different subcultures and scenes! People like Joan Jett, Iggy Pop, Siouxsie, Vampira…I could go on. I have some great picture books on bikers, rock n roll and 70’s punk scenes and the people in those photos look amazing, they inspire me a lot. I take a lot from lyrics of songs I like too and will often use them as a starting point and base a character around that and essentially see those lyrics come to life with that drawing. The Cramps and Nick Cave are usually my go-to’s for that.
I have a lot of fun with the aesthetic and sometimes I’ll just draw them in an outfit I’d want to wear myself. It’s fun to be a stylist for the people I draw!
There’s a wonderful sense of rebellion in your work, where does that come from?
I don’t do it intentionally, it’s just kind of there. But I like that people see that. I’m actually quite quiet and reserved in person so I guess I let my rebellious side loose through my work!
What is the Brighton art scene like?
It’s inclusive and easy-going. It doesn’t feel cut-throat here or like you’re competing with other artists and illustrators on the scene. All the creatives I know here are lovely and it’s inspiring to live somewhere where everyone is so accepting of each other. It is quite crafty and there are a lot of art fairs and workshops that happen here too.
How do you stay true to your original style?
Naturally, your work can and will change over time, but it’s not something an artist should feel hung up about! As long as you’re always creating whatever it is you’re passionate about, people are always going to see that it’s authentic to you and your style. And if you stay true to what you love, that originality will naturally shine through.
Why is it so important to use quality materials?
For me using quality materials makes creating work more enjoyable. It’s definitely something I’ve learnt as I’ve gotten older – the value of investing in good products. I finish a lot of my work digitally, but it all starts in a sketchbook, and having quality pens, pencils and materials to start with makes that process a lot easier and more fun.
How do Derwent’s art supplies help you create the perfect piece?
They have all the staples that I need to begin an idea or commission. I love to use bright and bold colours and I think Derwent creates such a great selection of tools to achieve this.
Do you have any specific go-to Derwent supplies?
I almost always draft my work in pencil and Derwent’s Precision Mechanical Pencil is super lightweight and comfortable to hold, which makes doing this really easy. I started using one a few years ago and I’d never go back to using an ordinary pencil.
I also recently started using the Derwent Academy Metallic Markers, the colour pay-off is so good, it actually took me by surprise! I have a Derwent black paper pad and they look amazing in that; it’s a really fun and alternative way for me to draft ideas and play with colour.
What does Derwent mean to you?
I actually grew up near to where Derwent is based; I’ve even been to the Derwent Pencil Museum as a kid and seen the world’s largest colouring pencil! Derwent feels very nostalgic and familiar to me – it’s simply just a classic and trustworthy brand.
Thank you for Pippa for taking some time out of her day to speak with us. Stay tuned to our Inside the Sketchbook series, as our talented line up of up-and-coming artists tell us their stories and unpack their work.