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Interview with Phoebe Atkey

Phoebe Atkey is a talented young artist who has amassed a very impressive following on social media and set up her own company all before the age of 20. She predominantly works with pen on Strathmore paper and we were blown away by the level of detail in every piece of her work, particularly the ones focusing on architecture and cityscapes. We took the opportunity to speak to Phoebe and find out more about her work, inspirations and goals for the future.  

How did you first discover your passion for art?

Like many children I always loved drawing from an early age, but it was only when I chose Art at GCSE that it became serious. I started sharing my art on Instagram at the age of 16. I received some really encouraging feedback and inspiration from other users, in particular from artists around the world. That is when I knew I wanted to pursue art as career.

Pen and Ink Sketch by Phoebe AtkeyYou predominantly focus on sketches and drawings. Did you settle on this form of art straightaway, or did you experiment with a few different styles first?

At school I had to experiment with different styles, tools and techniques. I really disliked paint as it is too messy and so I settled on pen and pencil quite quickly. I started off with pencil drawings and moved onto pen as my confidence grew. Now I only draw in pen and add colour and texture with colour pencil.

What made you decide to work primarily with pen? Do you find that there’s an extra sense of pressure involved with working with this medium seen as mistakes are harder to rectify?

I suppose my dislike of paint led me to the use of pen as my tool of choice. If you use the right pen, one which produces consistent results, it will be neat, precise, clear and clean lined, and therefore reliable.

I had a wry smile when you asked if there is an extra sense of pressure as mistakes are harder to rectify. It is for this reason I like it. The pressure to get it right first time focusses the mind and means I must concentrate. I don't like having to rework and ironically I am not very patient.

You’ve stated that Strathmore’s Toned Sketch paper is one of your favourites to work with. Did you experiment on a number of different types of paper before you settled on this particular one?

When I was younger and just starting, I tried several different brands but none produced results as consistent as Strathmore. Whichever Strathmore paper product I use, I know I can rely on it to produce desired results.
Empire State of Mine by Phoebe Atkey

You mention that a large part of your architectural and city work is inspired by places you have visited? Are there any places you’d like to go to that you’d like to recreate in your work that you haven’t had the chance to visit yet?

I am 20 this year but have been very fortunate to have travelled a lot, which has been inspirational. I would love to visit Scandinavia. I adore modern Scandi-style, particularly mid-century modern; architecture, product design, fashion etc. There is a wonderfully classic, minimal style with Scandinavian architecture that I would like to explore first hand.

Could you describe the typical planning process you go through when you start a new piece of work?

I don’t have a conventional planning process. I usually think about what I want to draw; subject, perspective, size and style and then seek a reference that matches my ideas. The internet is a great reference library and I use it a lot for inspiration.

Other than the initial research I don’t really sketch out ideas or drafts. I just go for it. As I mentioned earlier, one of the reasons I choose pen is that I need to focus and ensure I get it right first time. When I was younger, I was often told I had a photographic mind. I know how I want my illustration to look and so I guess if I do have a plan, it’s a visual one.

Japanese Sketch by Phoebe Atkey

Your work has been published in several significant publications such as The Academy of Urbanism journal (Autumn 2015), James Hobbs’ ‘Pen and Ink’ and Lodestars Anthology Travel Magazine. Could you tell us a little bit about how these opportunities came your way?

I have been very fortunate to have built up a large social media following over the past couple of years. This has been key in my being able to follow my dream career as an illustrator. The three opportunities you mention have all come via Instagram.

I can see that you’re getting close to publishing your first colouring book, so first of all congratulations! Could you tell us a bit more about this and how you first came up with the idea?

Thank you! I had been contemplating the idea of producing a colouring book for a couple of years and a few of my social media followers also suggested it. When I was younger I used to colour a lot and so I had quite specific views on how I wanted the images to be for colouring.

My book has a working title of ‘Wish You were Here x’ and is a collection of international holiday destinations. There are some very successful, established British colouring book artists and I know the market is very competitive but I hope my book will be a little bit different. I will hopefully be in a position to reveal more in the summer.


Countryside Sketch by Phoebe AtkeyWhat advice would you give to someone who is just starting out as an artist?

Practice, practice, practice. Draw or paint what you love otherwise there is little point. I have turned down a lot of work, especially portrait commissions, because I don’t enjoy drawing people and I am not comfortable with the results.

If used properly, the internet and especially social media, is such a useful resource. I would recommend posting regularly on social media and interact with other artists. I found Instagram and Facebook a fantastic help as I embarked on my career as an illustrator. In the early days, I received a lot of support and encouragement from other artists, many of whom also guided and advised me. I have developed some great friendships with fellow artists around the world through Instagram, and in fact have managed to meet some artists in person.

Finally, have you got any exciting plans for the future that you are able to share with us?

Publishing my first book will keep me busy through until late summer. I already have a few ideas for other colouring books which I may start on later this year. I also have a steady supply of commissions to work on over the summer months.

One of my goals is to illustrate a children’s book and I am hopeful an opportunity will present itself one day.

Finally, I am really interested in the world of "tattooing" so I am currently considering taking a course.


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