Mabel Forsyth is a Scottish artist and the founder of Pink Pig Cards. When we came across her beautifully-designed, quirky illustrations, we fell head over heels and decided to find out more. We asked Mabel to tell us all about her creative process. Read on to learn how there is no typical day, why she loves living in Edinburgh and some words of advice for aspiring artists.
What is a typical day like for you?
There really isn’t ever a typical day!
I try to start with a walk , even if it’s just round the block, so I don’t just sit down at the computer straight away (I work in my shed at the bottom of garden, actually a really nice office with lots of lovely light!).
Then I’ll have breakfast and check my emails over a cup of tea. There might be printers to liase with, invoices to send out, phone calls to suppliers, and to stockists.
Quite often there is only a fraction of time dedicated to actually designing! Which can be frustrating, but if you have your own business, there’s no other way at first.
How would your describe your illustrations in one sentence?
Smiley and colourful!
Which of your illustrations are you most proud of and why?
That’s a difficult one! I have worked for so many different clients over the years, for many different products, and projects - book covers/cards/packaging/tshirts - and each one brought its own rewards (or challenges).
I think the illustrations that I really loved seeing coming to fruition as a final product were the silk scarf designs that I illustrated for a New York company, Harvey Prince.
I was also quite chuffed with children’s book covers that I illustrated for Floris Books, in my hometown, Edinburgh. Several of these books were part of the school curriculum and it was nice when my kids were younger and had the books in their school library and were able to say "My Mum drew that!" I was quite chuffed about that! And I think my favourite card illustration is from my new ‘Animazing ‘ card range- My groovy Polar Bear!
My artwork style changes a lot depending on the commission I’m working on - I like to try to be versatile - makes things more interesting!
What does designing a card to sell involve from beginning to end and what are the aspects of the process you like and dislike the most?
Right at the beginning, I sketch a lot, Much of it isn’t ever used, but there will always be something which just stands out from the other doodles and I scan that in to the computer and play about with it.
I use Adobe Illustrator, which I love as it helps me achieve the clean flat colours, and lines that I prefer in my illustrations. I use a stylus pen to draw into Illustrator and it’s really just like painting normally, without the mess!
Once I have one design that I’m really happy with, it’s a pleasant process to then make up a range of designs in the same style. This really is the fun part, and I often find a range comes together fairly quickly.
I then have to source the right board, and envelopes, and the printers I use have beautiful crisp card which is made in the UK, and is FSC accredited (FSC provides global standards for forest management which cover a balance of environmental, social and economic aspects). I also use recycled envelopes in some of my ranges.
The designs are set up for print, and emailed to the printer. I then get a set of proofs back and, if everything is ok, it’s all go ahead for final print run!
Quantities can vary, and it is always difficult balancing stock control. Our front room is completely filled up to the ceiling with crates of cards!
I usually send out a mailshot to my existing customers to let them know we have a brand new range and, hopefully, orders will then start coming in!
The part of the process I like least is the administration, it takes up so much time. Invoicing, chasing payments, phoning customers, and dealing with the printers, and other suppliers really is a full time job in itself. I look forward to the day when I can hopefully employ someone to do this. Luckily my husband is now helping with the sales side of things, so much less travelling round shops to find new stockists, and to keep up with existing ones. I actually like this part of the job, but I realise I have to concentrate on what I do best - the design side - and happy to let my husband do the sales side.
Which other Scottish designers and creators do you admire and why?
I have met so many designers over the years while doing markets and trade fairs, and I have become good friends with many. One fab Scottish artist who comes under this banner is Morag Lloyds. She creates beautiful vibrant artwork - It’s quite illustrative - you can see her work at Tartan 2cv.
I also love Dwelling Bird. Belle is the artist, and her artwork is just beautiful. I really love the new range of wallpaper featuring exquisitely drawn hares on soft dusky coloured backgrounds.
Where are you based in Scotland and what do you like most about living there (and least if you like!)?
I’m originally from Invergordon, in the Highlands and I do miss having my family and friends from there being so far away.
I’m now based in Edinburgh. I love it. The beach is five minutes walk away, beautiful Holyrood park is ten minutes in the car, and I can hop on a 26 bus right outside my door and be in the city centre in twenty minutes. It really has the best of everything.
What inspires you to create?
I have to get out and walk, climb Arthur’s set in the park, and do anything other than sitting in front of the computer or a blank sketch pad. It really energises me and helps the creative flow! I do try to keep up with trends - in all sorts of blogs and magazines - fashion/interiors/art etc.
What advice would you give to somebody who wanted to make a living by selling their designs?
Be prepared for a long slog! If you have loads of stamina and are really passionate about your art, go for it. But be aware that there is a huge amount of non-designing involved if you really want to make a living from designing.
Also, think commercially (easier said than done)! But do look around and see what is popular in your area. Don’t copy, but try and understand why it sells, and apply that criteria to your own work.
Try showing your product around local shops first and really listen to what they have to say. Start off doing craft and designs fairs, you won’t make a fortune (I promise!) but it does give you invaluable feedback from real customers, and you can then fine tune your designs based on this.
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