Interview with Zara Picken

Within her artwork UK-based Zara Picken combines handmade and computer elements to create a loving mixture of retro looking illustrations.

When we found her portfolio we did not hesitate to contact her, asking whether she would want to answer some questions about her life and work. Read here what she told us.


Why and when did you start making art?
I’ve always been making art for as long as I can remember. I spent a lot of my childhood drawing and used to rush to finish my written schoolwork so that I could illustrate it. I think making art is just how I express myself best and process everything. Creating images allows me to put my problem-solving tendencies to good use, as well as giving voice to my opinions and saying the things I want to say without having to be an extrovert.

What kind of art do you make?
I make illustrations for a wide range of uses – editorial, publishing, advertising and more. I create my final artwork using Photoshop and would describe it as being quite graphic; there is a definite leaning towards design in my images. I love to use texture and blocks of colours, with a warmth which hopefully evokes a tactile and timeless quality. I enjoy being able to start with a strong idea and see where the concept takes me.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?
I enjoy music, books and movies but I’m interested in an array of areas. Everything is potential inspiration for me. I like to ponder over facts, stories, science, wordplay, philosophy and theories. I also find collections inspiring, so I enjoy visiting museums as well as accumulating my own array of objects.

What does your usual workday look like?
My workdays aren’t routine but I usually wake at around 7.30am and start working before 9.00am, beginning with a cup of coffee and checking emails. I will then start working on commissions and continue through until lunch, after which I resume working. I try to go for a brief walk halfway through the afternoon and will sometimes have a chance to read a newspaper in a cafe but no two days are the same. On some days I will finish working at 5pm, on others it might be closer to 10pm. I love my job so I will always spend as much time as possible on work to make it the best it possibly can be.

How do you spend a perfect Sunday?
I spend most Sundays relaxing, working on self-initiated projects or playing host to visiting relatives. Some of my favourite Sunday activities involve shopping around fairs and markets, making French macarons, going to the cinema, visiting new places or walking around the city with my husband Alex and stopping for a coffee on the way home.

What is your favourite taste of chocolate?
I’m pretty keen on caramel. My current favourite is salted caramel – an interesting twist on an old favourite.

Show me your favourite artwork (from your own collection or another artist)
There is so much art that I like – I have a blog called Hovering Cat where I share a lot of my favourites. My absolute favourite artwork would probably not be a single image but art from animations – I adore films like “Belleville Rendez-Vous”, where any still frame could be a work of art in it’s own right. Animation studios from the 1950s created beautiful concept designs, I love the book Cartoon Modern – the books featuring production art from Pixar films are also visually stunning.

Whom should we interview next?
Anyone you like – I’m sure you’ll make an excellent choice!

If you could have coffee with a famous artist – dead or alive – whom would you choose?
Edward Gorey seemed like a fascinating person as well as being an amazing artist, so I would have loved to have met him.

What is your philosophy of life?
I have a letterpress print on my studio wall that says “Live What You Love”. I think that pretty much sums it up.

Thank you, Zara!