Artist Interview Series: Illustrator Carly Watts

Welcome to the artist interview series where I interview talented designer makers, surface pattern designers, artists and illustrators. Today's artist, the second of the interview series is talented illustrator Carly Watts. She creates colourful and beautiful illustrations that are inspired by animals and nature. 

1.Explain a little about yourself and what you do?

I'm an Illustrator and designer currently based in Sheffield. At the moment I'm focusing on my little online stores but I also offer custom illustration commissions, such as blog headers and portraits. I love illustrating nature and animals, and I'm inspired by folk & decorative art. I adore colour! 

2. Do you have any favourite techniques?

I primarily work digitally these days which is perfect for me because I can be a little indecisive! This gives me a chance to play around with colours and textures and switch things up if they aren't working. Every single illustration starts off as a rough sketch on paper though. It took me quite a few years to get into digital illustration, I used to use watercolours regularly but I've totally fallen out of practice now! 

3. What are your favourite art materials to use?

If I couldn't work digitally anymore for whatever reason, I think I'd probably use gouache and ink! All of the equipment I use to make art right now is super basic. I literally draw with a mouse and don't have a fancy graphics tablet. I think this goes to show that any material is viable though, anyone can get started anytime with what they have! 

4. Do you have a favourite piece of artwork you have made?

I actually really love the 'Fly Through Space' pattern I made recently. It's such a simple piece but the colours really appeal to me and I loved making a retro space themed piece. It sort of reminds me of something you might see at Epcot! 

5. What's your preferred colour palette?

I love to experiment with colour and I'm always looking for colour palette inspiration on Pinterest. I like working with deep, rich colours - blues, purples and greens. I also love using gold in my work, especially when I can add a slightly foiled effect. 

6. What influences your work?

Nature and the animal kingdom influence my work more than anything else. Whenever I'm stuck and unsure of what I will illustrate next, I always turn to animals to inspire me. I also love looking at vintage folk art, particularly for the vivid, unusual colour palettes. 

7. Could you show us where you work/studio space?

Unfortunately I don't have a proper work space at all! My boyfriend and I live in a small apartment and he has claimed the only desk space! I just have to make do at the moment which is fine, sometimes you just have to make the most of what you have. 

8. What path did you take to get where you are now?

I've definitely taken a bit of a convoluted path to get to where I am now.  I studied art at college but then went on to do a drama degree! I then realised that I preferred the set design aspect of it which led to me getting interested in illustration. I've also worked in shops, and even in schools! There was no clear path for me (maybe there isn't really one for anyone!) but I just followed my instincts and hopefully I'll be able to grow my business even more next year. 

9. Are there any defining moments in your creative career?

Last year I was fortunate enough to be chosen to participate in Secret 7" which is a charity initiative. They take 7 tracks by 7 of the best know musicians in the world and then press each one 100 times to vinyl, artists from around the world then have the chance to design artwork for the sleeves which are then sold for £50 each - all of the money goes to a different worthy cause each year! It was a particularly special experience for me, because the exhibition of the sleeves was situated at Somerset House! 

10.When did you know you wanted to be an artist/illustrator/designer/printmaker?

It's a little bit of a cliche to say, but I've always been interested in art from a young age! When I was at college I was incredibly interested in becoming a fine artist, I just didn't think it was a particularly realistic goal at that time. It's really special to be able to create art each day now. 

11.What would be a normal day for you?

If I have any commissions on the go, I would usually start off by creating a rough sketch on paper and sending it off for approval before I start on the digital version. If I'm just working on new designs/patterns for my shops, I like to do a little research to start with. I have lots of Pinterest boards with colour palette ideas and little things that have inspired me. I will do some sketching in my pad and then scan my drawings so I can start working digitally with them. I also have to set aside some time to upload new work to my shops - a little boring but it has to be done! 

12.What is your dream project or goal?

I would really love to be able to have my illustrations published in a book in 2017! I'm currently working on an entry to a Folio Society competition - the winner will have the chance to illustrate Mansfield Park so I'll see how I get on!

13. Is there any advice you could give to an aspiring artist?

Experiment with all different types of media and never stop learning and practising! Don't worry if you sometimes lose your inspiration, you will always get it back - just keep scribbling and sketching. Set up social media accounts and share your work/connect with other artists - this really helps with motivation! 

14. Is there anything else you would like to add?

If you really dream of becoming an artist, please don't give up! Even if you don't have a lot of time to create, just keep going with it and utilise whatever resources you have. Start out small and keep building.

Thank you so much Carly! I hope you've enjoyed this interview!

If you would like to follow Carly or see her work here are some links you should be sure to check out! :


  1. Thank you so much for interviewing me, Becky! It's very much appreciated :) xxx

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