A window installation by Katie Tomlinson

A window installation by Katie Tomlinson


"There is this connection and immediacy of having to capture what you're seeing as it is moving while you're drawing it."

To celebrate the encounter between her upcoming solo exhibition, sunshine only sometimes, and the launch of our newest colour, we sat together with illustrator Katie Tomlinson. Her expo, which will be held at gallery Patina, showcases the fizz of anticipation felt at the onset of summer.

Can you tell us more about the exhibition, sunshine only sometimes? 

I started producing the works around the spring equinox. The spring equinox happens when the season begins to change, and you come out of this long winter period. For me, it's always a poignant time of the year. It's a time when I'm happy, a bit nostalgic and reflective.

Transience is a big part of the exhibition. How would we feel if it was warm all year round and there wasn't this pivotal moment where it would change? That's why the exhibition is called sunshine only sometimes. It is a comment on the fact that this feeling of anticipation is not forever, and that's what makes it so beautiful.

How did you get into illustrating? 

I come from a very creative family. My mother is a sculptor and naturally very creative. My Papa, the father of my dad, was a technical artist, so he could sketch extremely accurately. Growing up, I'd always be drawing, sketching and colouring. My parents saw and encouraged this. Every year, often with my grandparents, we'd go on long road trips throughout England and Europe. I'd spend the long journeys drawing to pass the time. I think my parents were very happy they found a way to stop me from misbehaving.

Me and my Papa used to sit together when I was tiny and draw alongside each other. At the time, I found it really annoying because I was young and he corrected me on every little thing that I was doing. He was always finding ways to teach me and pass on his knowledge, which I am forever grateful for.

Did you have a favourite subject to draw as a kid? 

I definitely went through a phase of drawing princesses. Then I got obsessed with people and portraiture. So when my Papa and I met up, we would go to cafes and sketch on serviettes together. He started me onto the documentary style and doing more reportage, even though I was young, and I didn't know that was actually a field in itself. 

You are originally from England, and now you live in Antwerp. What is the story behind your journey

Me and my partner Jelle met 11 years ago in Birmingham. We both worked part-time at Levis, and we hit it off straight away. We went on one date, and then he didn't leave my house for two weeks. Jelle is Belgian and grew up in Antwerp. 

After graduating, I wanted to travel again. However, Jelle finished the year before I did, and he had already started climbing onto the career ladder. Eventually, we both decided to go. We started off in Sri Lanka and travelled around Asia and Australia. I had my sketchbook with me, and I was drawing nonstop, which was amazing.

I can imagine. And after this trip, you decided to move to Belgium?

At that period, Jelle's sister just moved back to Antwerp. She invited us to come over. We arrived, and we had the best three weeks. We came in the summer, and I remember the World Cup was happening, and so many festivals were being held. There was a real buzz and energy in the air. It was just a really sweet time here.

Nienke, Jelle's sister, introduced us to many interesting creative friends she'd met. We felt really at home in Antwerp. Before the three weeks were over, we decided to stay and make roots again.

When did you feel that you could create a profession from your passion?  

After school, I began my Bachelors Degree studying Fine Art at Birmingham City University. It was a difficult time. My whole life, I'd been excelling in art and feeling quite comfortable in what I was doing. At University, for what felt like the first time ever, I began feeling disconnected from my practice and artwork. I spoke to my tutor, and they suggested 'visual communication', which is an umbrella degree where you study illustration, animation, photography and graphic design.

I decided to transfer. I struggled in my first year with adapting to a new course. Entering my second year, I was assigned a new tutor (Ian Dodds). He was young with a very dry sense of humour which I loved. Half way through the year we were assigned a module focusing on Reportage Illustration.  Here, I started sketching again, and I went back to my obsession. It felt natural and integral. Every module moving on from life, I would always incorporate an element of reportage. 

When we did our graduate show, I got some really good commissions. They asked me straight away for a project, which was a huge thing for me. Suddenly it was like, OK, maybe I can make a living from this. 

What kind of bag person are you? And what is your favourite bag in the collection?

Given my love for food and wine, the wine bag is my favourite. I love the design. I think it's really playful, but it's also not too obvious. It's fun and functional. For me, the design is first, but functionality is always a massive second. 

Where do you get your inspiration when you start on a project

Different cultures have always been a huge inspiration for me. Especially people from different backgrounds and how they interact with each other. Food really inspires me as well. It's definitely one of my big passions in life. I have always been highly influenced by travelling. It gives me so many experiences, not just for my practice but for life as well. 

How did you and Lies get in contact with each other?

I was looking for a space to host an exhibition. A friend advised the gallery Patina, which is also the office of Lies Mertens. I messaged Lies to see if I could come and look at the space. She showed me around, and I loved it. We had a mutual interest and respect for each other's work. It's been a very natural and easy relationship so far. 

The exhibition, sunshine only sometimes, is open to the public from the 24th until the 25th of June from 11 am to 6 pm at our atelier and gallery space Patina. 

— Solo by @ktillustration

— @patina.antwerp

— Albert Grisarstraat 52, 2018 Antwerp