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Illustrator Profile: Isabelle Holloway

Humans are first introduced to the concept of illustrations in children’s books. Toddlers learning to read slowly turn the pages, revealing new designs of their favourite characters captioned by phrases they sound out word by word. As we become more advanced readers, illustrations gradually begin to vanish from the pages of our books. Newspapers and magazines serve as an exception from this disappointing transition away from illustration-orientated stories. Illustrations capture the attention of readers, and I often find myself reading a story exclusively because I like the illustration. Fulfilling a practical purpose, illustrations scattered throughout articles keep readers engaged, helping them analyse the content of articles visually. 

Isabelle Holloway is a second year studying English literature, and she has been illustrating for  The Saint for almost three semesters. Holloway enjoys being surrounded by and inspired by other artists as a member of the illustration section, and she uses illustrating as a way to display something that would otherwise feel like an unnecessary use of her time. Like many of us, she turns to Pinterest for additional inspiration when starting her process, fuelled by “heart-dysregulating amounts of coffee” that allow her to fall into her artistic mindset. Holloway typically completes her illustrations in the afternoon or the evening, but she prefers the evening, expressing that “a sleep-deprived delirium allows [her] to more freely unhinge [her] inner chaos onto the paper.” She often decides between Skyrim ambience music, Swedish doom metal, and Kim Sage or Daniel Mackler’s psychology lectures as her auditory backdrop, replaced by the squawking of the St Andrews seagull population as the hours go by. This first sign of morning marks the end of her illustrating process unless, as Holloway expresses, she “want[s] to start feeling like a seagull.”

If you have ever come across one of Holloway’s illustrations printed between the black and white typeface of The Saint, you would probably agree that she wonderfully channels what she describes as her “inner chaos” into her illustrations. Her swirling and colourful designs stand apart from the works of the other talented illustrators, emanating a kaleidoscopic effect which Holloway describes as “dreamy, ethereal, and unreal.” Watercolour has been Holloway’s preferred medium recently, and the aspect of water certainly adds to the fluidity of her illustrations, in which colours and lines seem to ripple. Apart from watercolour, Holloway uses pencil, pen, and marker, and has started using technology and AI to enhance and alter her art, eagerly anticipating the impact technology will have on the art world in the future.

Looking back to Holloway’s childhood, she expresses how she found comfort and companionship in a weeping willow in her backyard whose branches served as an “artistic refuge” sheltering her from the nature she documented. Apart from being every artist’s ideal and desired studio, Holloway’s weeping willow seems to seep into her illustrations for The Saint, its tendrils creeping onto her page and inspiring the typical swirling, and occasionally haunting lines of her drawings. As many a creative student, Holloway practised art in school by doodling in classes as a way to “stay focused” while simultaneously “escap[ing] some of the claustrophobia [she felt] in classroom environments.” Apart from classroom doodling, Holloway, a self-proclaimed horse girl, spent years of her childhood with horses as her muse, transferring her adoration for the animal into sketches infused with grace and strength. Holloway’s mom is Slovak, so she often spent summers and Christmases in the Žilina Region of Slovakia, gathering inspiration from its geographical and cultural influences. Holloway still recognizes the impact her time spent in Slovakia has on her art, aspects of “fairytale art, nature” and a “post-communist sense of liminality” pervading even some of the illustrations she does for The Saint

Holloway primarily tugs at moments from her childhood to inspire her work as a university student, emphasising the links between early introduction to illustrations and the desire to see them in literature in one’s adult life. When asked when she realised she was artistic, Holloway responded, “I don’t think I ever necessarily realised I was artistic; I think everyone is artistic in their own way — everyone has something interesting and unique to express.” Holloway’s response further accentuates the impact of illustrations on humans and highlights an illustration’s ability to extract creativity from anyone.

Illustration by Isabelle Holloway

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