Connecting with Abi Overland: Art Always Comes First

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Connecting Abi Overland

Abi Overland is an illustrator living and working in Jersey. She creates graphic illustrations of surreal and fantastical landscapes, botanical scenes and animals. Whether her works appear on a mug, candle, print or pillow, her style is distinct, striking and identifiable. 

Jersey – what comes to your mind?

I was born here; and apart from uni, I’ve lived here my entire life. It’s just a really lovely, pleasant place to live. The accessibility to nature is the highlight. Everyone who lives in Jersey really supports local businesses. Because finance is seen as the main employment option, any business that strays from that, people are quite excited about. It brings colour to the island. 

What is your most memorable experience or accomplishment?

A couple of years ago I designed a book cover for Penguin Randomhouse for a history of the London Zoo. I had done some coffee packaging illustrations with a creative agency, and the agency referred Penguin to me. I spoke to people. I researched the book. I knew it wasn’t some weird scam, but it was just so hard to believe it was real until I was holding a copy in my hand.  It was probably one of the coolest things I will ever do. 

London Zoo Book
The Zoo, Penguin Randomhouse

If you could own any artwork, what would it be?

I have quite a passion for interiors and consider interior pieces to be artworks in themselves. One of my dreams is to own an Eames Lounge Chair.

If there were a movie about your life, what would be the name of the movie and which actress would play you? 

I’ve been told I look like Florence Pugh, which is a mega-compliment because she’s a babe. So let’s go with her. The movie would be about someone who’s distinctly alright at art and just manages to get through life without running out of money! 

What do you think is the best way to connect with/experience art?

I think it’s up to interpretation based on who you are.  There are so many ways that art manifests itself. It’s not necessarily going to an exhibition. If art is something you’re passionate about, immerse yourself in it every day.  I want art to be really accessible. I want it to form the part of people’s lives that bring them joy. Like the ritual of morning coffee in a beautiful mug, or walking past a print in your hallway and thinking ‘oh that’s nice.’ It’s the little luxuries you didn’t know you needed until you realise they make your day happier. 

Jungle Tankard
Jungle Tankard

To what extent do you feel it’s important to have a strong support network in order to have a career as an artist? 

You are your own worst enemy in an industry like this, and you need your cheerleaders.   Without the support of friends, family and the community, it would be really hard for me to dig my heels in and carry on because an art career is not an overnight success. 

Did you always see art as a viable career, or did you come across it by accident?

I learned how to draw before I learned how to write. My parents will say my first dream job was to be an artist. Whether or not I believed I could do it is another question. I actually worked in finance for a while. Knowing how much I hated working in that environment, there wasn’t really any other option than to be an artist.  

How did you decide to set up your own business? 

It was a way to take control of the situation. I had a fear of having to rely on other people. I also didn’t want people telling me what I could or couldn’t draw. I love doing freelance work, but it’s not the main passion. Ideally, I would be able to draw what I want, when I want, that people actually buy my art and have it in their homes – it’s the dream! 

Why do you work predominantly in black and white?

In my clothing and in my life, I’ve been a monochrome kind of girl. It’s probably a fear of colour too. I have coloured in a few of my illustrations recently, and people seem to like them. With a few more compliments, I might go all in! A lot of my influences come from the Art Deco era. So it’s a combination of inspiration and probably a lack of confidence.

Where The Cats Dream Colour
Where the Cats Dream Colour

Tell me about how you work.  Are you working digitally or with pen and paper? 

When it comes to translating art to products, art always comes first. And it’s not compromised in any way to be more mass-appealing. I’ve never designed for products. I want to be an artist that does products and not a product designer. 

For the most part it is a really traditional process: I sit down with a pen and paper and start drawing. It’s a meditative process. I get anxiety; and I find if I sit there just dotting away, it calms the noise quite a lot.

I do some digital illustrations, mainly for commercial freelance projects, because it’s quicker and easier to make changes. 

Do you feel you have a signature style you stick to? 

Yes, it’s a safe space. It’s just what I’ve chosen to hone. With each illustration I do, my style develops further. Whereas if I chose a different style every time – in addition to the fact people wouldn’t recognise it as mine – there’s no time spent building on it. It’s a nice journey to go on with your own style. 

If you had to pick three art materials, and only use them going forward, what would they be?

Easy: pen, paper and a pencil. I only use one specific type of pen: Uni Pin Fineliner. They’re 0.03 mm – so basically like a needle prick – and they make the tiniest little dots. Also, I’m left-handed;  so when I draw in pencil, I get a big graphite arm. All the lovely detail I’ve just spent hours doing gets rubbed away. So these pens are really good because just a tiny bit of ink comes out, and it dries instantly. 

Where do you work?

I sit on my sofa. That’s my most productive way of working. It’s about familiarity and comfort. Desks have their place when I’m doing admin or business things. But with art, knowing I’m going to be there for 10 hours straight, I need to be in my zone. I generally watch telly, but stuff that is a bit crap. It gives enough of a distraction that I don’t start procrastinating, but it’s not so good that I get sucked into it. I’m just in a really safe space doing a nice thing.