of biscuits and Bidies: Anna Steinberg interview

An illustrator, teacher and member of the editorial board of award-winning contemporary illustration magazine Varoom, Anna Steinberg creates beautifully drawn, witty and thoughtful images, some of which were recently selected for Images – Best of British Illustration and the London Transport Museum/AOI Cycling in London competitions. In this email interview she reveals the significance to her work of ingenuity, mountains, biscuits & old Bidies

How do you work?
With professional commissions I usually problem-solve in words first and then develop through doodles into resolved pictures. With personal work I do visual experiments and it emerges more spontaneously.

How do you get your work?
Mainly word of mouth and direct mail.

What inspires you?
Words and peoples’ behaviour most directly in terms of artwork, but as far as general brain sparking almost anything: efficient, ingenious things in theatre, poetry and graphics (The Art of Looking Sideways), moment-capturing sketches, spectacular heart warming events (The Sultan’s Elephant), nature, storms, nice illustrated packaging, anything from cheese to Bidies cigarettes (below). Even better if it’s got some peculiar text on it.  Playful, brilliant drawing (Jonny Hannah, John Glashan, David Hughes). Paradoxes, food and language. Nothing else.

A friend brought me this  back from a cigarette stall in Kerala (I think), knowing I liked packaging. Another friend later bought me some more. When I asked where they were from she said ‘Harlesden’. I like its confidence and clarity.

What’s important in illustration right now?
Illustrators standing their ground against appalling fees and contracts.

What are your working methods/routines/materials/environment?
Radio 4 for company, interesting music dredged up from Last.fm (cabaret/folk/decadent apparently) for energizing, or silence for concentrating. The ideal working weather is heavy rain, an anglepoise lamp and a call from a friend at 3pm to escape the afternoon dip.

Have your working methods changed?
It has got more experimental through teaching. Partly through eventually taking my own advice to loosen up and experiment more and do appropriate research.

What art form do you not relate to?
Discordant music and very slow self-indulgent obscurely non-communicative films in art galleries.

How do you escape from work?
On a sliding scale of freelance virtuousness: A short-term escape if I’m not making progress would be a jog around the park. Or a sit in it with a book. Or rubbish telly and biscuits. A proper escape would be into nice gardens, the coast or mountains.

Anna is an Alembic collaborator and you can see more of her work here and here.

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