Introducing Maisy Summer

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Introducing Maisy Summer

Maisy is the newest addition to Breed’s roster of artists. She’s an award-winning illustrator and animator. She works in combinations of gouache, pencils and crayons, sometimes also using paper cuts and scissors to help layer her pieces. Maisy likes her work to tell a story, with a focus on distinct communities and heritage. She also works as a creative educator putting on events, talks and workshops.

We put together a few questions, so Maisy could tell us about herself in her own words. Over to Maisy:

How do you describe what you do? 

I help clients big and small to communicate their stories personally and thoughtfully, often around themes of heritage, community, food and culture with a playful, tactile and handcrafted approach.

How did you find your own distinct style? 

During my third year at university, I started this process of drawing with scissors, letting shapes and objects evolve from this handcrafted process. I’d then draw and add textures on top of the paper and compose into scenes. Once, I accidentally blew on the page and the paper fell into a new composition making me switch up the viewpoint from my initial sketch. This experimentation of materials has carried on and varies somewhat piece to piece. Within my toolkit is a mix of papercuts, paints, pastels, pencils, which aid me in creating bold textures and varied linework. With some handcrafted pieces I carefully intertwine digitally drawn elements with programs such as Adobe Fresco. Sometimes the illustration is completed in its entirety with Adobe Fresco using a considered mix of digital hand-rendered feel brush strokes and live brushes. I love testing out new ways of working and see it as an evolving process – which leads me nicely to your next question.

Tell us more about your Drawing Diaries? (Do check out Maisy’s Instagram @maisysummer) 

I’ve been wanting a space to experiment with new materials outside of commissioned work and curate my daily observations. Since moving to London, I’ve been interacting with lots of new spaces and places, learning little pieces of local history, and on a mission to discover new walking routes in the city. So, I began an illustrated video series titled ‘Drawing Diaries’. 

Episode one focused on exploring London, featuring views from the Royal Opera House, walks around Crystal Palace Park and its dinosaurs, and the beautiful Palm House at Kew Gardens. I’ve always enjoyed documenting my daily travels through a mix of notes, sketches, photos, and videos – I’m a digital hoarder with a bursting at the seams iCloud. Curating these moments helps me reflect on my experiences, filter and digest new inspiration, as well as experiment with new processes which end up trickling into my client work. 

Episode Two was centred around my travels to Vietnam in 2023. One of the illustrations is representing the bustling streets of Hanoi, my favourite observation within that scene is the man transporting a bunch of eggs on the back of his motorbike – still unsure how he kept those intact! I try for each episode to have a different theme and focus. I’m currently working on Episode 3 which is based around drawing live jazz music from a trip to Peggy’s Skylight in Nottingham (where I grew up!). Future episodes I’ve filmed will focus on themes/places such as The Barbican, The British Museum, and the city at night.

Was drawing something you’ve always done since childhood? 

Yes, I think like many children I loved drawing and colouring in – I just kept going! I adored the illustrations in books such as Elmer and Winnie the Witch, to the interactive pull-out letters from The Jolly Postman. I think books are our first ‘gateway’ into illustration. To understanding the varied aspects of storytelling you can achieve through illustration for brands and advertising, articles and research, to visualising the untold history from museum archives and beyond. 

Did you study art at all? 

I studied an Art and Design foundation course at Loughborough University, then Illustration with Animation degree at Manchester School of Art. The foundation was so useful in testing out various creative disciplines. I had my mind set on a Graphic Design course initially, though I found myself navigating towards illustration as I loved communicating visually through drawing. Ultimately, I found you end up wearing multiple hats and crossing over between disciplines at times, or collaborate to bring in those extra skills where needed. 

How long have you been illustrating as a full-time career?

I graduated in 2018 and have been freelancing ever since, alongside a part-time role lecturing at Manchester School of Art. In early 2023 I moved to London, left my part-time role, and transitioned into full time freelance – which has been an exciting challenge. Alongside freelancing, I also run Small Fry Collective – a creative network hosting workshops, projects and talks.

Who have been among the biggest influences on your work?

I’d have to give a nod to my lecturers at Manchester School of Art here, who really guided me during my third year of university. Pushing me to go out to draw on location, which ultimately led me to my final project on electric and eclectic renowned music venue Night and Day. One day I mustered up enough courage to take in a drawing I’d done of the outside of the venue. I got chatting to the bar lady and she told me the venue began as a fish and chip shop, but the owner, Jan Oldenburg, had a vision for much more. He started with having jazz bands perform. Sometimes the bubbling of the chip fryers would drown out the sounds of the bands. To now being a prestigious venue, that has had The Black Keys, Arctic Monkeys and Elbow through its doors. I was hooked! Bringing to life a snippet of the venue’s history through illustrated interviews helped me develop my visual language, and also was the initial starting point for future work I created and got commissioned for.

In terms of illustrators I admire, I love Eric Ravilious shop fronts, Czech Illustrator Miroslav Šašek’s travel series – the mix of collage and illustration is lovely. Additionally, Alice Pattullo’s textured illustrations with select colour palettes are a real joy. Lastly, Jonathan Hodgson’s freeflowing animation inspired by his sketches created in bars and nightclubs in Liverpool is fascinating to watch.

What do you do in your teaching role?

Although I’ve now left my part-time lecturing role, I love to do guest lecturer Illustration and Animation talks at universities across the UK. Previous topics of these have been working with archives, communication not decoration, and freelancing. Where possible I like to set up live briefs working with local industry such as ‘Conservation Starts at Home’ brief with Edit Brand and Chester Zoo. Giving the students direct exposure to clients and professional networks. I’ve recently starting on a job with Kew Gardens youth forum creating carefully crafted workshop sessions and illustrated resources to help them create their own publication based on Kew Science. I’m looking forward to sharing more on that soon.

Since I’ve been lecturing less in the traditional sense, I’ve been able to put more of my head space and time into Small Fry. A collective I founded in 2018 hosting a range of creative events, projects, workshops and talks, bringing together creatives from across the globe to share and exchange insights, knowledge and encouragement. We put on talks and workshops discussing topics such as playful type, mixed media illustration, food illustration, brand story, navigating change, animation for beginners and fashion illustration etc. Sometimes Small Fry hosted, and sometimes with other wonderful collaborators and industry pros such as Raissa Pardini, Dan Woodger, Fran Meneses, and Stephen Fowler. 

We love the recent mural you did for Bookshop Day. Can you tell us more about that? 

Sure! The mural was created for Bookshop Day and commissioned via Build Hollywood. The mural alongside time lapses, interviews and social content was used to promote the big day and ultimately celebrate high street bookshops. I wanted to create a piece that explored the community behind bookshops. The illustration is complete with a three-tiered storytelling bus bustling with activity and workshops, stacks of art and design books, cookbook shop window display, and a dress-up story time. You can see the BTS here – I enjoy these multi-facilitated projects and curating these process videos for clients. It’s a great way for the project to live on beyond when the mural is sadly covered over, and help engage different types of audiences.

Its lovely to see such a passion in your work for climate and environmental issues. Is this something you’d like to do more of? 

Yes, illustration can be utilised as such a powerful tool to break down and communicate information on these important issues. It’s great to be able to visualise and highlight research findings on important themes such as climate change and conservation. For example, Young People at a Crossroads project by Catherine Walker from The University of Manchester was centred around how immigrant background young people and their families are responding to climate change in Manchester and Melbourne. The illustrations bring to life the young researcher’s and their families’ reflections on climate change as well as their cultural experiences across the journeys they’ve taken to and from Manchester and Melbourne and everywhere in between.

For Man is Coming Here involved creating exhibition signage made from recycled materials for Bury Art Museum for their new exhibition, art direction by Mr. M Ideas Studio. The title of this exhibition is taken from the words of a Portuguese children’s song called Passaredo by Chico Buarque. The song warns the birds of the Brazilian rainforest to ‘be careful, be very careful because man is coming here’. The exhibition explores man’s negative impact on the planet. There was a curated tree walk map around Bury created to go alongside the exhibition and a variety of prints for the gallery shop.

Where can we see more about your Google Arts and Culture project and can you tell us more about this? 

I created 18 Illustrations of top cultural locations around the world for the Google Arts and Culture homepage here. The illustrations enticed visitors to click and explore the sites such as Easter Island, Christ the Redeemer, and The Forbidden City in China from the comfort of their own home via Street View, historical archival images and video/animation. For this I created a process video showing the project from digital sketch, creation and application. As well as locations, you can explore museums and galleries digitally. I find it’s such a useful reference tool for illustrations or quick drawing prompts and warm-up exercises.

And can you tell us some of your favourite commissions to date, and who you’d love to work with in the future? 

I thoroughly enjoyed creating Elsie Plant Hatting Hero, an animation created for the Hatworks Museum – the UK’s only hat museum, based in Stockport. The animation explores the history of socialist, suffragette and birth control activist Elsie Plant from Stockport. The animation will be showcased on the factory floor of the museum next to the display of Elsie’s office, filled with her notes, books, hat boxes & more. The animation and narrative wallpaper to house the animation was created from a combination of illustrations inspired by the Hat Museum archives, alongside collaged elements, too. Collaging and drawing on top of the archival images helped bring Elsie’s story to life and the intertwined rich history of hatting, birth control and women’s rights.

Working with Studio Cultura, a creative studio and marketing agency crafting stories rich in culture and climate complexities to forge deeper connections with people and brands, has been real interesting. So far, we have created two sets of illustrative branding, one for Cin Cin, a natural wine bar, and another for Green Earth Farm. I set up the illustrations in parts so they could also be animated by their team. It was really nice to see someone else animate my work.

Lastly, I enjoy commissions working with material brands such as Derwent. The projects can integrate nicely into work I’m currently producing, such as this demo with Derwent products for the London Graphic Centre’s Student Day creating mixed media London based scenes here, and for the LGC Christmas fair, creating metallic hand-crafted paper decks here

I’d love to work with more food and drinks brands, something with GAIL’s would be fab! The artist collabs with Toast I admire too. Working with School of Life, Uniqlo, National Trust, Spotify (I’m a big podcast listener, so it would be ace to do cover artwork!) would be a real dream, too. 

Her work can be seen here.