Annie Rickard Straus

In today's Talent, we explore the vibrant, buoyant and versatile work of illustrator, lettering artist and scribe Annie Rickard Straus...

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Describe your work in three words...
Merry, free and colourful.
What first made you realise you wanted to pursue a creative career?
It felt simple: why not have a job where you can draw all day! The reality of it took a bit longer, and involved working in shoe shops, call centres and estate agents. I think I had a feeling from quite a young age that I only wanted to work for myself and do jobs that interested me and were not outside of my hobbies.

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What are your tools of the trade?
Overpriced Japanese brush pens, ink and calligraphy nibs, white board pens, Posca pens, printing inks, endless Tombow pens, a Wacom, ProCreate, pencils an watercolour paints.
What are your favourite kinds of project to work on?
I do a lot of live illustration at events (scribing), and enjoy drawing at meetings or events that are on very obscure topics, and having to grapple with the content quickly and create speedy and clear visuals. I also enjoy working on commissions within the retail industry – because of its temporary nature there are often smaller budgets, but also people thinking about clever ways to create an impact, which can be rewarding.

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Tell us about your scribing work – how did you get started, and what are the most challenging and most enjoyable aspects of it?
I started whilst trying to find more ways to make money whilst still illustrating, and came across the RSA Animate videos. After going to a talk by their creator, Andrew Park, I decided I wanted to try it out and began working through a couple of agencies. It helped that I already had a bit of a background in lettering, since it’s all about conveying messages and ideas. What I enjoy most about it is the access to so much interesting content in areas I might have initially avoided, thinking they’d be dull – like financial regulation, automation of healthcare industries or even reinsurance. There’s (nearly) always something interesting to find out. I also like that through a large network of scribes it has given me a sense of community, which I sometimes felt I was missing when I was just doing freelance illustration and working from home a lot more. The most challenging aspect is my bad spelling, working live in front of people who don’t expect you to be dyslexic.

What’s the most useful piece of work-related advice you’ve ever been given?
If you carry on working and trying long enough, eventually someone will feel awkward and start paying you. Only joking. I’m not sure! I can never remember any advice I’m given. Maybe from my dad, telling me to never leave brushes standing up in the water.

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Are there any particular visual or conceptual references that you draw upon, or ideas that you try to explore in your work?
When I am working on my personal illustrations and prints I tend to draw lots of people bending and swirling into each-other. I also draw quite a lot of plant life, hands, feet, and animals. Because of the corporate nature of a lot of my work where the references and concepts are already allocated, when I’m doing other illustration work I don’t tend to overthink it, and just work with whatever comes out.

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How do you think your style and approach has developed over the years since you started out?
Even though I’ve been freelancing for around seven years, part of me still feels as though I’m still starting out. I still can’t stick to a medium and am always wanting to try new styles of working. In the last year or so, since I’ve started printmaking, I suppose I feel my lines are becoming more confident than they used to be, like when you see a forged signature on Bargain Hunt and an expert will tell you it isn’t real because of the hesitation in the line making; I don’t think I have so much hesitation like that any more. Also, my lettering has developed a lot since I started out. I used to never know when to stop doing flourishes, but since studying traditional calligraphy I think I’m becoming more refined.

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What are you working on now, and what's next for you?
I’ve just finished illustrating eggs for the Caffe Nero easter campaign, and I am also working on some book covers, a set of new prints and putting an online shop together. I’m never too sure what’s next. Always open to suggestions.

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