In 2017, Beatriz Lostalé Seijo won the Student Illustrator of the Year Award for her remarkable illustrations of Homer’s epic tale The Odyssey. Her concertina book is a visually arresting set-piece that echos the narrative’s ideas of voyage, movement and the changing fortunes of Homer’s characters. The judges admired her confident and distinctive use of colour and bold design sense.
Since graduating from Anglia Ruskin University (Cambridge School of Art), the V&A commissioned Beatriz to design a series of book covers for six fashion designer autobiographies. Find out more about her covers here on the V&A blog.
The V&A commissioned Beatriz again in 2019 to mark the bicentenary of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert on a range of homeware for the Shop. I got in contact with Beatriz to hear more…
Firstly, congratulations on the commission! Tell us more about your illustration for the 200th Anniversary and how it took shape…
I was delighted when I got a commission to work on illustrations to commemorate such an important event. The main figures of Victoria and Albert were to be central, of course, but I needed to include a number of elements related to the celebration of their birth, such as candles and cake, which ended up ‘floating’ around them. It was fascinating to research Victorian era food, flowers and other elements to make the design more festive.
To tie it all together, I was inspired by some of the royal artwork and commemorative plates, and decided to allude to the United Kingdom not only with the colour choice, but also by including in the corners the rose, thistle, shamrock and leek.
Your illustration features on a tea towel, mug and fridge magnet. These vary greatly in size; did this influence your final design?
The nature of the design allowed a certain freedom when modifying the original tea towel illustration for use on the other items. The separate design elements were adaptable, and made it easier to play with different compositions and include those elements which were to be common to them all, such as the royal couple, or Queen Victoria’s sapphire and diamond coronet, which appears in tea towel, mug and magnet.
The whole V&A team was brilliant throughout the process, and their insights helped get the best out of the designs.
What materials and techniques did you use?
I worked on each layer of colour separately to imitate the effect of printing techniques. Similarly to the covers I produced for the Fashion Biographies, yellow, blue and red are worked on separate layers with black gouache that I then scan and digitally colour and assemble.
You’ve since created a Christmas version for the V&A Shop, can you tell us more about your festive illustration?
The idea is very similar to the one displayed in the tea towel, magnet and mug: Victoria and Albert dancing, surrounded by floating elements. The card is a more festive piece of illustration, so the colour palette reflects that, and the elements around them make reference to some of the Christmas traditions Albert introduced to the Kingdom, most notably the Christmas tree. In this case, the circular vignette on the card design used as a background lent itself to use on the circular ornament that was also produced with the same design.
Do you get creative block when developing concepts and if so, how have you overcome it?
Certainly, it is part of the process in most cases, and not necessarily something negative. Looking at other people’s artwork or other sources of inspiration can be useful, as well as removing all distractions and working in different spaces, or with different materials.
I find it’s best to keep drawing, even if it’s something unrelated to the project itself. Eventually, ideas will develop and flow again.
What projects have you been working on recently?
I have worked on textbooks and other commissioned illustrations for magazines, but more recently I have been focused on illustrating as part of my PhD thesis in the Cambridge School of Art, where I’m researching non-fiction for children. In this way, the commission seemed a very apt way of exploring historical non-fiction!
Beatriz’s illustrations and sketches will feature in the upcoming V&A Illustration Awards 2020 display, open Tuesday 2 June – Sunday 13 December 2020.
View Beatriz’s portfolio on her website at www.blostale.com