A few months back, we gave local illustrator and book designer Olivia Waller a list of our upcoming themes, and asked if she’d be interested in designing a cover for any of them. One jumped out at her: “I saw ‘print’, and that’s such a big part of my process,” she says. “When I was at university in Kingston I worked in the print rooms a lot, and after I finished studying I worked there as a print technician. I was originally going to go up there to print the cover, but it’s deadline time for students at the moment so it’s really busy.” Instead she decided to create the design as a stencil print. “The process of making the cover was drawing out the whole image, and then working out the layers that I wanted. Then I cut out a stencil and used a paintbrush and a sponge to create each layer individually. I made a few different versions to get the textures that I wanted, and then I scanned each layer and put them together on Photoshop, so it’s kind of like a cross between a real-life print and a not-real-life print...” Using a mixture of digital and manual processes meant she could tweak the colours of the layers to get them just right. “There are only actually about four different layers, so the dark greeny colour is the yellow and the blue colour on top of each other, and the orange is a mixture of the pink and the yellow.”
Olivia spent last year working for Penguin, in central London, but this year she’s back in Brighton and focusing on freelance work. “I’ve been working for local book publishers, and I’ve done some freelance work for Penguin, mainly book cover designs, and some illustration as well. Working freelance is really good fun but it’s a case of spinning plates, having a lot of different things happening all at the same time and trying to give each one a bit of attention.” She’s managed to fit in a few of her own exhibitions alongside, including one called Sassy Ladies, a series of 40 portraits of women. “Some of them were women from real life, and some were women in fiction that I wanted to give a bit of a boost. So there was one of Persephone from Greek mythology – the story is that she accidentally eats this pomegranate and then accidentally becomes queen of the underworld… I wanted her to be more like, ‘I wanted to be queen of the underworld and now I’ve got it!’ All of the ladies had power to them, which was the important thing.
“Another side of what I do is comic-based stuff. I started a graphic novel called Hotel Limbus as part of my degree show, and I’ve done more work on it since. It’s a non-linear story about these characters in a hotel over one night, and it’s told through the answerphone messages they leave to one another while something happens… and you’ve got to work out what’s going on. Another project I did was a runner-up for the Jonathan Cape/Observer/Comica Graphic Short Story Prize 2015 - it was a story inspired by the small towns that I grew up in, and the way rumours in small communities can be spread so quickly about people. It’s about a butcher who runs into a bit of trouble around Christmas time because he’s being pushed out by a trendy new butcher’s over the street, and he’s a gay man but he feels like he can’t really come out in this community, so he’s really troubled in that sense, and it all kind of builds up on him… it’s not a happy ending. It’s part of a collection of stories I’m working on based on rumours, and they’re so much fun to write because the more you ask around, the more stories you hear. Some, you wouldn’t believe…”Olivia is currently working on a solo exhibition that will be opening in Kensington Gardens this summer. Find out more at oliviawaller.co.uk