Charlotte Edey: Illustrating the Surreal

Charlotte Edey35952.jpg

Time flies when you’re having fun! I catch up again with super talented artist and illustrator Charlotte Edey to see what she’s been up to and where she’s been. She gives us some insight into the current themes of her work, where she’ll be exhibiting next and some great advice for similar creatives, which you’ll find at the bottom of the page along with a link to find her on Instagram.

I’ve been familiar with your beautifully surreal work for at least 5 years, can you tell us more about the main themes surrounding what you create?

Bizarre that it’s been five years already! Female identity is a recurring theme, but I think my recent work has really been an exploration of balance. The idea of balance is both precarious and delicate and my recent works are very much on the edge.  I love playing with scale and visual contrasts to suggest equilibrium, and most of my figures are miniature for that reason.


Some of your clients include Penguin Randomhouse, BBC, Monica Vinader and Liberty London. Can you tell us a little about the experience you have with these brands and what you created? 

I’ve just finished a fully illustrated book, The Spirit Almanac, which will be published in Autumn of this year with Penguin Random House, New York. It’s written by Emma Loewe and Lindsay Kellner. It’s very healing in content and visually the illustrations toe the line between the mystical and the surreal. I got a studio for two months in Lisbon to work on it which was perfect, particularly as the book itself is very introspective. I feel like you can feel the warmth of winter sun in the work! 


One of my favourite commissions to date was The Midwife Who Saved Intersex Babies, a series of illustrations to accompany a documentary by BBC World Service. Set in rural Kenya, it tells the story of a midwife who saves intersex babies from abandonment at birth. It is such a moving story of a remarkable woman, it was honestly a joy to visualise.

Monica Vinader I have worked with for about four years now. Over the last two years we have hosted several live drawing events at Liberty, Selfridges and Harrods. It’s quite a nice challenge to have to draw on the spot - it definitely changes your method when you have a turnaround time of less than 10 minutes! I tend to opt for simple line drawings, or etching style monochrome sketches if I have more time. These illustrations are then able to be engraved into Monica Vinader’s jewellery which is really sweet - they make for great presents.


You recently featured in Katy Hessel’s Great Women Artists: Women on Instagram exhibition at Mother London, how was this?

Aside from my joint show with Tishk Barzanji last year, it was easily my favourite exhibition to date! Katy is a marvel and I have so much respect for what she does. The artists involved were all so uniquely talented and it was so much fun to be a part of. There is something special about contributing to an exhibition that you actually really want to see. Following the show, Juno Calypso selected my work for the upcoming Artist of the Day exhibition at Flowers Gallery in Mayfair this summer, which we’re working on now!


What one piece of advice would you give somebody looking to get into illustration? 

Don’t expect it to look like you thought it would and keep at it! Experiment. There’s a lot of talk of having a ‘style’ but don’t force it, keep working and it’ll come eventually. Don’t take rejection personally, you have more time than you think. Learning what you don’t enjoy doing is useful. Learn from your peers and don’t be afraid to ask for help. There’s no shame in your day job and there’s no expiry date on your artistic process.

Follow Charlotte Edey on Instagram @edey_