Meet the illustrator: Ruth Thorp
Illustrator Ruth Thorp creates beautiful art prints, cards and books, inspired by incredible landscapes and the spirit of adventure. For Ruth, the process of illustrating – of creating new ideas and seeing something visual and physical develop – is both unpredictable and joyful. In our Meet the Maker interview, Ruth tells fellow Folksy seller Abbey Wright from Seen and Known more about her work and how she moved from architecture to illustration…
Use the code ‘MarchMaker’ for a 10% discount on all Ruth’s work during March – Click here to shop Ruth Thorp on Folksy
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always spent time making, creating and producing art.
Hi Ruth! Please tell us about yourself.
Hello, I’m an illustrator and designer based in Bath. I work full time as a freelancer working on my own product collections and on a number of other creative collaborations and commissions. I love to laugh and am drawn to those who smile, enjoy life and love what they do.
How did you get started in illustration and design?
It came about quite gradually really. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always spent time making, creating and producing art. Coming from a very creative family, I was extremely lucky to be surrounded by great design, beautiful books and interesting people and I’m happy to say that I still work very closely with my family on a host of projects.
After studying art and design at school, I went on to study architecture at the University of Bath where I received my degree and then worked as an architectural designer in a landscape architects for 10 years. That helped me develop design and technical skills, and learn a range of computer software including Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, SketchUp and AutoCAD, but I always felt that it wasn’t really my true calling.
So I set about exploring new directions, taking courses in everything from printmaking to dressmaking and finally found myself taking an online course called ‘The Art and Business of Surface Pattern Design’. After completing the course in 2013, and while still working in landscape architecture, I began producing a product line of illustrations, selling them as cards and paper products online, in shops and at local markets. That gradually grew until I was able to leave my job in 2016 to pursue Ruth Thorp Studio full time.
There can be a lot of frustration and self doubt along the way, but the feeling of creating new ideas and work and seeing something both visual and physical develop is so exciting.
What is it about illustration and design that you enjoy so much?
I love how joyful it can be! Don’t get me wrong, there can be a lot of frustration and self doubt along the way, but the feeling of creating new ideas and work and seeing something both visual and physical develop is so exciting. I find that design and illustration can be so unpredictable and I think that’s what I love the most: you never quite know what’s going to happen when you start a project. Being able to surprise even yourself when working keeps life interesting!
My favourite colour palette? Oh that’s tricky! I guess you can’t beat a bit of black, grey and yellow.
Whats your favourite colour palette to use?
Ooh that’s tricky! I guess you can’t beat a bit of black, grey and yellow! You will see quite a lot of that in my work, although recently (as popular as it is with everyone) I have been trying to break away from this particular palette and the collection I’m working on at the moment is very different, with a combination of hot pinks, orange, deep blues and teal. I also seem to use a lot of blue in my work!
I’ve been trying to break away from my usual palette and the collection I’m working on at the moment is very different, with a combination of hot pinks, orange, deep blues and teal.
How would you describe your style?
I’m not sure I’ve ever been very good at describing my style. I guess it’s probably quite bold and graphical with free flowing line-work and pops of colour.
Which illustrators and designers inspire you?
There are so many! I’m a bit addicted to finding new designers and illustrators on Instagram and in lovely indie shops and galleries… and I can always find inspiration in a brilliant picture book! I’m particularly excited right now as we’re currently renovating our flat and building in lots of lovely gallery-type display areas, which means I’m finally able to buy gorgeous art and beautiful objects that will make me smile every day.
A recent addition to my collection is the most fantastic ‘Mix and Match Miss’ by Fiona Wilson, which is a stackable wooden figure made from hand screen-printed wooden blocks. I absolutely adore all of Fiona’s work. I am always drawn to amazing printmakers such as John Bloor, Clare Youngs, Laura Fox and Rose Agar (who I’ve interviewed for the next ‘Meet the Maker’ interview!) and one of my favourite ceramic artists is Karen Risby.
A recent addition to my art collection is the most fantastic ‘Mix and Match Miss’ by Fiona Wilson, which is a stackable wooden figure made from hand screen-printed wooden blocks. I absolutely adore all of Fiona’s work.
What do you like to do in your free time?
Other than renovating our flat (which is taking up quite a bit of time), I love dancing and going to yoga and pilates classes, reading, binge-watching TV boxsets, sleeping in and drinking coffee in bed, meeting and laughing with friends in lovely indie coffee shops (we’re spoilt for choice in Bath), eating nice food (preferably that someone has cooked for me), wandering around the streets and parks of Bath, and taking beach walks back home in Pembrokeshire when I’m there. Plus I spend a lot of time chatting with my mum on the phone!
My books started when I was trying to come up with a name for some whimsical greetings cards I’d drawn of a series of funny little bird characters… it wasn’t long until I’d drafted a whole story called The Squawks!
How did you get started writing books?
It came about by accident really. I don’t really ever see myself as a writer (my dad and sister are the real writers in my family), but it all started when I was trying to come up with a name for a range of bright, whimsical greetings cards I had drawn of a series of funny little bird characters. After a brainstorming session with my family, I called the birds ‘The Squawks”, which led to a hilarious evening as we came up with ever more words that rhymed. To my surprise, it wasn’t long until I had drafted a whole story and so spent the next eight months lovingly illustrating, writing and designing The Squawks.
Generally, all of my projects to date have happened quite organically by building on previous projects or opportunities.
What else would you like to grow in, creatively?
This is probably the hardest question to answer! I’ve never been great at planning or goal setting. I seem to work better just living in the moment. Generally, all of my projects to date have happened quite organically by building on previous projects or opportunities. I think that’s the way I like it: never quite knowing what new exciting project might come along and challenge me next. I guess all I know is that I want to keep learning and expanding my skills and challenging myself in new ways. That’s the beauty of creativity – there are no limits!
There are so many different ways to be an illustrator or designer, so the most important thing to remember is that you have to pursue what you feel passionate about and stay true to yourself.
If someone was just starting out in illustration & design what wisdom and advice would you have to share?
The main thing is to just keep doing it! By continuing to create you’ll keep developing your skills and style and find the projects that excite you the most. There are so many different ways to be an illustrator or designer, so the most important thing to remember is that you have to pursue what you feel passionate about and stay true to yourself. Be honest with yourself and choose which bits of advice to listen to and equally to ignore. The right path and end goal for one person may not always be the right path for you, and whichever path you choose it should be fun! Keeping this in mind, accept challenges and try new things, but also don’t be afraid to say no!
It’s amazing how inspired you can become from just having conversations with new people.
Another piece of advice that I was given early on and still try to practice today is to connect and talk to other people. It’s amazing how inspired you can become from just having conversations with new people. Surprising and unexpected opportunities seem to arise when you just have the courage to talk to people about yourself, your work and your interests and the bonus is you meet some really lovely people along the way.
To celebrate being our featured maker, Ruth is offering 10% off all her work throughout March. Use the code MarchMaker when you check out.
Meet the interviewer
The maker asking this questions this time is Abbey Wright from Seen and Known. Shop Seen and Known on Folksy here
Read our interview with Abbey here – https://blog.folksy.com/2019/02/18/seen-and-known-soft-sculptures