I am super excited to announce Mandy Sutcliffe, the illustrator behind Belle & Boo, as our next Meet Your Maker feature artist!
Belle & Boo is a gorgeous collection of childrens homewares, books and fashion that I have a VERY soft spot for. There is something so beautiful about Mandys illustrations, they evoke a sense of playful innocence and wonder that mirrors the nature of her market, children. Each illustration is deceivingly simplistic in style, so it is so interesting to hear how in-depth the process of creation is on these timeless pieces.
It is perhaps very fitting that the Royal baby should arrive on the same week as Mandy is our featured artist. A proud Brit herself, Belle and Boo currently have a limited edition cross stitch pattern available for purchase on their website which features Boo heralding the birth of the Royal heir! It is so very cute and available for download here.
The Belle & Boo range has expanded from framed illustrations and greeting cards to encompass everything from pillows and wall stickers, through to bags and clothing. I adore every piece in her range and I’m sure you will too!
Thank you for taking part Mandy! P.S how great is the portrait of Mandy as a young child?! Very fitting indeed 🙂
Artist Name: Mandy Sutcliffe – Belle & Boo
Artist Location: Bristol, England
Type of Work – Medium: Illustration
Belle & Boo is now quite an iconic British Label, what events lead to its creation and how did you first start out?
During a stay in Singapore I was designing Christmas cards for my agent back in the UK, I drew a picture of a girl cuddling a bunny in the snow and for some reason, just knew they were called Belle & Boo. I continued to draw them along with other pictures of children and during my time abroad a friend introduced me to the online craft shop Etsy. I opened a store and sold my first print of a little girl within 20 minutes, I have never looked back since! I called my shop Belle & Boo as they are my favourite two characters to draw.
With such an extensive range under your belt, how would you best describe your style of work and do you have a favourite in the collection?
I would describe my style as illustrative. My background is in painting, mainly acrylic and oil. Techniques I learnt whilst painting are invaluable when using Photoshop. I sketch the initial idea roughly first, then I refine that sketch before drawing a final line work on tracing paper. It is almost never one whole drawing, it is usually a collection of different bits of the finished drawing.
I scan the drawings in and put the image together using Photoshop. I print out a lot along the way and re-sketch parts many times, to get the line and flow just right. I then add colour and texture in Photoshop.
My favourite is usually the piece I have just finished working on, so at the moment it is a new illustration called “Hello Snail”. Some long-term favourites are “Belle & Boo fly a kite” and “Winter Woolly”.
Your illustrations have a wonderful whimsical nature about them, where do your ideas come from when creating a new piece? Is something or someone who inspires your work?
I am inspired by life! I see children doing sweet stuff all the time, from stories my friends tell me about their kids, from my favourite books, the internet and day dreaming.
I am often asked where my inspiration for the illustrations comes from and I believe it is a mixture of three things…
Firstly my childhood. My strongest, most vivid memories are of play. Our garden, in hindsight, was very small, but it never felt like that as a child. I would spend hours on our home-made swing, head back, gazing at the sky between apple tree branches. In the summer we had a big clunky metal trampoline right next to the paddling pool so we could jump straight in. We would construct our own mazes and climbing frames from crates and ladders and use ski poles to balance above the shark infested waters.
Occasionally my sister and I would be brave enough to sleep all night in our little 2 man tent, and I can still hear the sound of us roller booting up and down the driveway. We pulled each other on a skate board, we cycled, we scooted and skipped, we played badminton, blew bubbles, built incredible snowmen, waded in puddles when the lawn flooded and wore our Dads huge gloves to hold sparklers on bonfire night. There was a secret passage so we could visit the elderly couple next door, we made dens in the hedge, we walked our rabbit on a lead, we built miniature gardens and dug in our home-made sandpit while dressed as princesses.
Secondly, story books from my childhood. Milly, Molly and Mandy was the book I read most as a child, I was brought it because we both shared the name and I happened to look a lot like her! I loved the map at the beginning as I could see where she was during the stories, if she was camping with friends or in the woods on a big adventure, it was reassuring to know she was just next door to her home or the village shop. As a child I liked the black and white illustrations enough to colour them in, and even cut a few out! As an adult I still think they are stunning and constantly look at them for reference.
Winnie the Pooh, Little Grey Rabbit, The Flower Fairies and The Water Babies are also firm childhood favourites and although I went through a rebellious streak at art college, I have come full circle and can’t wait to share these books with my little boys.
Which brings me nicely to my third influence; the children I am surrounded by today. I know that life is different now than that sunny summer of 73, yes there is more technology, the pace of life seems faster and more stressful, but I still see children everywhere playing make-believe, running, spinning, climbing, finding pleasure in the minutia that we often overlook as adults.
I draw timeless children hugging trees, flying kites or simply staring out on the landscape from their favourite branch. I hope that the characters that I draw will create happy memories for the children of today. It is wonderful to receive stories from our customers telling us about how much their child loves a product, how their daughter has to say Goodnight to Belle & Boo in the framed print by her bed, or their son that likes to wave to the children flying above him in his hot air balloon wall sticker.
With the recent release of the Belle & Boo craft book, readers can now physically create a world reminiscent of your illustrations? Was it fun dreaming up designs for this project and can we expect to see more in the future?
The wonderful craft book was created and produced by our lovely licensing partner Quadrille Publishing Company. All of the projects were dreamed up by their crafting team. We certainly hope to see more books from them as we are totally in love with it!!
Where can readers see and buy your collection?
On our lovely website www.belleandboo.com where there is also a store locator to find your nearest shop that stocks our goodies
Do you have any words of advice for aspiring artists or creators?
Do what makes you happy and that which you are good at. Believe in yourself and your ideas. Listen to advice from others but dare to challenge it.
When I was working in the greetings card industry, I was told images of children don’t sell unless you can’t see their faces, so always draw them from the back. Belle & Boos range of childrens cards, produced by the very forward thinking (excuse the pun!) and contemporary company 1973, have since gone on to sell in their thousands worldwide.
Draw, draw and draw some more. If you want to include children, make sure you can keep continuity. Keep going, work hard, believe in yourself and things will start to happen for you.
My best advice would be to get yourself a Kate! Kate is my wonderful business partner that organises everything except the illustrations, this leaves me free to do what I do best and get on and draw. I have always found it hard to put a value to my artwork so it is wonderful to have a partner that can sell what I do and has a vision, and drive, to take the business to the next level.