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Creative freedom: Illustrator Kate Forrester on working freelance to interpret people’s ideas in a beautiful, visual way

Classic book covers by Kate Forrester

Kate Forrester is a freelance illustrator, designer and hand-lettering artist based in Brighton, UK. With over ten years’ experience in the industry, she has worked for a wide range of international print and design clients on book covers, packaging, advertising campaigns and more. Kate’s recognisable, hand-drawn style and creative approach have led to many commissions from big commercial brands to small private clients.

Kate Forrester
Kate Forrester

“…I rarely have to go to meetings and I am my own boss which affords me incredible freedom as a mother. Of course I have struggled to think creatively on four hours sleep with baby sick on my jumper, but I am optimistic this will get easier!!..”

Kate, we feel like we already know you from your work! Your style has a lovely sense of comfort and familiarity. Please can you tell us what started your love for all things illustration, design and lettering?

One Acre Tea packaging by Kate ForresterThanks so much! I can’t pinpoint exactly where it started but I know it has always been something that has been important to me throughout my life. I have vivid memories of choosing materials for craft projects in primary school and feeling like my colour choices were strangely important to me.

My classes in school where I got to create or paint or make stuff were always the highlight of my days. I’m not sure where the lettering came in but I do remember having a history exercise book at school and painstakingly changing my hand writing for every new page!

What materials do you work with?

All my drawings are done by hand with pilot pens, pencil and other markers. Then I scan the drawings and colour and rearrange them digitally using Photoshop.

Please would you talk us through the types of work you’ve done at home and overseas?

Waitrose mince pies packaging by Kate ForresterI have been lucky enough to work for a really diverse mix of clients. I have done lots of commercial work for brands like John Lewis, YouTube, Marks and Spencer etc. and many of book covers for publishing houses, mostly in London and New York.

Occasionally I take private commissions from clients wanting something a little different. Last year I created a large piece of lettering for a client in the Middle East which was cut entirely from different types of wood.

What has been your most challenging commission to date?

Thanks a bunch illustration by Kate ForresterI think in illustration the biggest challenge is working with art directors who try to control you too much. I love that my job is to interpret people’s ideas in a beautiful, visual way and most art directors have a wonderful skill in choosing the right person for the job and getting the best out of them.

I recently worked on a very challenging job where the art director was just too heavily involved in the minutia of the piece and kept asking me to ‘make that bit more blue’ and ‘move that to the right a bit’ etc., which was a very frustrating and impossible way to work.

Which countries are your clients from?

Mostly UK and the US but I also have a few clients out in the UAE (where I used to live) and Europe.

What made you decide to work on a freelance basis?

Kate Forrester calligraphyI’d like to say that I made this big decision, but it happened very slowly and organically. After university I was sure I did NOT want to do freelance but always liked the idea of illustration as a side line. Then I got my first publishing clients and gradually I realised that my other job was just getting in the way!

What are the best and worst bits of working freelance?

Best: Freedom to work when and where you like.

Worst: At the moment I find working on my own pretty tedious. I think it is easier to get stuck in a rut creatively when you have no one to bounce ideas off.

What’s it like balancing work and family commitments?

TwinsI have come to realise how lucky I am in my career as a relatively new mother (I have one year old twins.) I think the difficulty in balancing work and children is more than just being able to afford childcare. Of course the cost is a huge issue for everyone in this country and a problem we need to address. But I realise now that I am also very lucky to have the availability and flexibility to be there for my boys at the drop of a hat and without affecting my career or others’ productivity.

It means I have to work a few weekends or late nights to make up for unforeseen interruptions sometimes, but I am not tied to a contract or regular hours. I rarely have to go to meetings and I am my own boss which affords me incredible freedom as a mother. Of course I have struggled to think creatively on four hours sleep with baby sick on my jumper, but I am optimistic this will get easier!!

What would your dream commission be?

Plate by Kate ForresterI would love to do something with textiles. I think it would suit my style of work to design fabric and I’d get such a kick out of seeing the end product. Or a mural? I’d love to work outdoors on a large scale.

What are your ambitions for the future?

I would really just like to be able to continue doing what I do and progress, push my work and get better and better at my job. I’d like to try my hand at other creative outputs – maybe ceramics or jewellery and develop a separate product line and make more personal work.






Posted in Q&A