Inside the Sketchbook Series: Ollie Silvester

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.

Here we have, Ollie Silvester  a ‘Bristol-based drawing person’ as he deems himself. Ollie’s energetic and wonderfully playful illustrations make the mundanity of everyday life magical and teach us to reframe and appreciate the little things. Please meet, Ollie…

Ollie Silvester

What’s your artistic backstory?

Well, I’ve always been creative in a broad sense. I come from a farming background in the countryside, and grew up in a very ‘practical’ family, but they were creative in the sense that they’ve always been making things. They’re very hands-on people, so there was always creativity there. I guess I just moved to a more visual wavelength rather than a physical one.

Luckily for me, all I’d ever wanted to be was an artist. I’ve never had to experience the toll of figuring that out, it’s always just been inside of me.

Which mediums do you like to work with?

Everything is pretty much digital these days. That’s sort of how it has to end up. But I still work in a way where I draw traditionally, where everything starts off in pencil as sketches.

Ollie’s desk

I used to work solely with pencil for years, and then I moved onto using a paintbrush for my line work. More recently, after doing a residency with some friends, I started using an ink dip pen, because I found drawing with it incredible. It slowed me down – I have a tendency to scribble a bit – and it made me more considerate of the marks I was making.

I use watercolour to block out all the colour, so that it’s more expressive and loose. Anything that feels too clean doesn’t sit right with me. Then, I scan it all in and that’s when I love working into it – layering it up and seeing it all come to life. I love noticing the little imperfections in the work and keeping them in– that’s what gives it life, makes it feel real.

How do you battle artistic blocks?

Ollie’s work

Honestly, I think you have to lie in it for a bit. When it comes to creativity, you can’t force it out. So, if I’m stuck on a brief, I’ll try and step away from it. I’ll go on a walk, read, or see friends. There’s a lot of pressure to be constantly creating all the time, but not creating is also part of the process. You have to give yourself a break and enrich yourself in other ways in order to let inspiration appear.

Who are your biggest artistic inspirations?

Visually, there are a number of artists that I really admire – every time I see their work, I just get this wave of adoration. These people are: Kenstead Johnson, she has such an expressive way of drawing; Lavose, I discovered him back at uni, he was a big inspiration for me, his process of drawing is really incredible; and Luke Best, he’s also incredibly expressive, I’ve been a big fan of his for a long time too.

Where do you get the ideas or narratives for your work?

Everything and anything. Sometimes it’s just a thought, written on a bit of scrap paper.

There’s a lot of daydreaming that comes into my work, especially around the wonderful mundanity of life – those quiet moments in between moments. I’m always exploring that pocket of stuff.

Why is it so important to use quality materials?

I think when you’re working with traditional media, you have to have something that complements the way that you work. Your material is the bridge between your physical body and the paper – a trusty steed you can rely on to elaborate the thoughts you’ve had.

Ollie’s work

Us artists all have our preferences that come into it, too. For example, because I’m very heavy handed, I like heavy pencils that can hold up and run smoothly, and don’t crumble so much. Ultimately, finding something that works with you and for you, helps you create something better.

How do Derwent’s art supplies help you create the perfect piece?

All my work ends up digitally, but before it can get to that process it needs a strong base. It has to start off good to end good. 90% of everything you see in my work has been done by hand, therefore I need something that visualises my work properly.

Derwent is known for their pencils. That’s the purest part of creating for me – getting those initial ideas onto the paper in pencil. Being able to transfer your thoughts smoothly helps me get those ideas down. Derwent pencils have a wonderful grainy texture on the page, almost like you could take a bite out of it, and that’s what I rely on them for.

Ollie’s work

Do you have any specific go-to Derwent supplies?

Graphic 6B pencil, that’s what I draw with. Some people would never sketch with something that heavy, but for me it’s all about getting ideas down solidly and I need something heavy and dark to do that – it’s like putting a stamp on something. I feel it’s better when the lines are stronger. And also later, when I’m shading or doing additional mark making, I’ll use this again to go back in and add those details.

I also use the pencil extender all of the time. I got it initially to make my pencil last longer; every time you sharpen your pencil down, you get to the stage where you can’t hold it anymore, but with this you can use it right until the very end. Now, I can’t use a pencil without it!

What does Derwent, as a brand, mean to you?

Ollie’s sketchbook

I feel like I’ve had a relationship with Derwent for most of my life – like they are a silent partner that’s always been there. I’ve got a family that used to live in the Lake District, where Derwent is based, and we’d visit every year. Because Derwent has always been there, it’s always been a brand I’ve trusted. Plus, they’ve been around for a long time, which makes them reliable.

There’s also a no-fuss feel to the brand. They don’t do gimmicks, so when they create something, you know it’s going to be reliable and fuelled with the same kind of creativity that you might put into your own work.

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.

Find out more about Ollie on his website.