Q&A: Hayley Wall

Screen shot 2013-02-27 at 17.30.41


The Scold’s Bridle
Illustration for a collaborative wallpaper with Hazel Critchley,
Sophie Myers and Ashley Fauguel.
Photographs courtesy of Hayley Wall Interview by Elizabeth Pollard

Hayley Wall is a London based illustrator who recently graduated from the MA illustration course at Camberwell School of Arts. Despite not always imagining a career in illustration, since leaving university she has had success after success drawing and designing as a freelancer. She often takes on realism as a subject matter but after translating her ideas through illustration, her work can often be perceived as quite abstract, sinister or even humorous.
You can see her work exhibited in the Love Walk Cafe in Camberwell and has shows coming up in Brixton, this September as part of the London Design Festival and a solo show in November at the Peckham Pelican.

Did you always want to be an illustrator? How did you get into the industry?
If I am honest, I have always drawn but it took me a long time to gain the confidence to really give illustration a go. After gaining a BTEC national diploma in graphic design, I then continued to higher education studying graphic arts and design at Leeds Metropolitan University. Throughout the course I barely drew and was concentrating more on design, elements of which still appear in my current work. It wasn’t until my final year I began drawing once more and found the love for it again. I began practicing traditional printmaking methods such as relief print, etching and screen print and left my degree with a confidence that I wanted to continue and so applied for the MA Illustration course at Camberwell. I graduated last year and have since been freelancing. It’s only now after finishing education, that I see how important each stage has been. Although I studied illustration, still the term is very broad with many disciplines crossing over into one another. I don’t like to pigeonhole myself and allow boundaries.

shadow big website
Then The Shadows Came In
Large Scale wood-cut reduction 12 panel print with hand drawn figures. 2.10m x 2.35m. Final MA show piece.

Who are your big influencers, within and outside of the industry?
I am influenced by a wide range of artists and things I come across on a day to basis; people who never fail to inspire are Matisse, his use of colour and in particular the simplicity of his paper cuts. Also Henry Moore for the fluidity of his sculptures and the graphic elements in the work of Picasso and his prints have had a big impact on my work and me. The dark yet alluring work of Paula Rego is a massive influence. Her work is deeply personal, and the autobiographical stories she tells still allow others to read into it what they will, an idea that I hope reflects in my own work.

Europe, it’s architecture and the art native to it has also had a massive effect on me. An abundance of traditional art, which is simply part of the culture, can be found all over from Polish film posters to the Bauhaus movement has inspired me on my travels around Europe. I am very much interested in outsider art and the compulsive need to do it. I love the idea of retaining the instinctual nature of making art. Although education has played a big part in my progression as an artist, at times I have found it almost a hindrance, it can be easy easy to lose one’s naïve state of mind. For me, contemporary illustration can be clouded by the need to follow trends and in turn loses its honesty.

From lino cut to neon lights, you work across many different mediums. Which is your favourite and how does a project determine the material used?
It’s hard to choose a favourite as I really enjoy allowing my work to translate into different mediums, allowing no limitations and a constant sense of excitement and spontaneity. Ink is a great medium for my preliminary sketches. I turned to this initial way of working, as I like the looseness and crudeness of the line or mark being made, this can then be translated into any medium I choose. I will always have a love for relief print as again it’s about the crudeness and I enjoy its forced aesthetic. It’s an unpredictable process. Pulling away the paper to reveal the very first print is always exciting as I’m never quite sure how it will turn out.

Recently I’ve enjoyed working with fabric. For a recent commission I made a contemporary, hand stitched Asafo flag, and found that my work translates well in this medium. I intend to explore the medium further, possibly combining print and fabric.

FLAG website

close website

Mask2 websiteAsafo Flag
3m x 2m Flag and logo Comission for Mei Mei’s street cart, a Chinese food stall
that is introducing the traditional Chinese crepe like street food to the UK.

Your work is quite abstract but often includes humour and human form. Where do you find your inspiration?
I am very much interested in the human form. Pictures are still, but my aim is to bring my figures to life and give them a sense of movement and continuation. Shape and gestures are important to me, and feature prominently in my latest works especially (dance and shadows).

Initially, without context, some of my work can be viewed in a humorous light, and I like that. However, if viewed on a deeper level, other messages may become apparent, leading it to a darker humour, or even eradicating the humour totally.

My mind is very erratic and at times quite a dark place to be, this in turn translates into the content of my work; this may allow it to be considered abstract. I keep a journal, a collection of all my thoughts. I sit and think a lot and get lost in my mind. I am constantly asking and answering questions and my work is about piecing it all together, making sense of everything that at the time feels overcrowded. A sort of therapy session that in the end turns the ugly into something crafted and beautiful. My work is personal, but I like people to pick up on whatever they want from it, this way, and importantly to me, it also becomes about the viewer. I like to think they can take something personal from it or relate in some way.


Dance website

Personal work

You’ve collaborated with a number of food and drink brands such as Brewdog and the Love Walk cafe in Camberwell, how did these collaborations come about?
It’s funny because I began working in catering and hospitality from a young age as a way of funding my practice but aimed to get away from it, but it’s actually helped me. Whilst working at the Love Walk Café my work was noticed by the owner; it started with exhibiting and selling my prints, then I was asked to do a mural, which very quickly escalated into actually rebranding and redesigning the café. Too big a job for me alone, it became my first project working as part of the collective I work collaboratively with, Three Piece Suite. From this, we were asked to create the Brewdog window display. I’ve since gone on to freelance independently regularly for Mei Mei’s Street Cart, an independent street food business, creating their logo, the flag as mentioned earlier, and concept, design and realisation of the stall.

neon pink


Logo design for the Love Walk Cafe that was later turned into a Neon sign

Is there a project or moment in your career you are most proud of?
Project managing the rebranding and refurbishment of the café is something I am very proud of. It was 3 long months of taking on many different roles from coming up with a concept, painting murals and designing the logo through to sourcing furniture, promotion and organising the opening night. I am also very proud that upon leaving education, I have kept momentum up and continued to produce work as it is easy, without guidance and left to your own devices, to lose sight of what you really want and in turn get stuck doing something you don’t truly care for. I still have a struggle ahead of me but as long as I’m still producing, hopefully there will be many more proud moments to come.

What advice would you give to aspiring illustrators?
If you can’t imagine doing anything else then don’t. Never compare yourself to others.

What’s in the future for your work?
I love to have numerous projects going on all at once, keeping up momentum. I have recently been asked to exhibit in this years’ London Design Festival that will be taking place in September. I also have a solo show coming up in November at The Peckham Pelican in Peckham which I’m working on some more personal work to exhibit. I am also currently working on a new mural for Love Walk Cafe and am excited about possible freelance opportunities that will arise in the future.



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