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Three images (left to right): portrait of a dog / Laura McKendry in studio / illustration of pumpkins.

Meet our Tutors: Illustration with Laura McKendry

Written by Hamish Chohan
Published date 14 October 2019

This week we are incredibly excited to see Central Saint Martins tutor, Laura McKendry, will be delivering two workshops at the Affordable Art Fair in Battersea! Laura teachers the 1, 2, 3s Of Drawing, Illustration for 16 to 18 Year Olds and a brand new course, Illustrating the Natural World Weekend. Here she tells us more about her courses and how she got into illustration.

“There's a real buzz when you teach a class and this is infectious. Teaching always enriches my own work and I hope this is a two-way thing for students, too. It's a good reminder to remain playful and continue to push boundaries creatively, even when you think you're an established artist.”

Laura McKendry

Q. Hi, what is your name and what do you teach?

A. My name is Laura McKendry and I teach 1, 2, 3s of Drawing - an evening class offering an introduction to different approaches to drawing, Illustration for 16-18 Year Olds and previously assisted with Illustrating Animals. I'm also excited to be starting a new weekend course called Illustrating the Natural World Weekend which will be looking at different ways of drawing animals, birds, plants, flowers, the coast, seasonal produce and nature’s other treasures.

Q. How did you come to work in your field?

A. I've always drawn but about 10 years ago I started to post drawings from my sketchbook onto my Tumblr blog every week. I was using it as a personal exercise to draw pockets of nature around London. After a few months a licensing agent discovered my blog and I was delighted to end up being represented by them. The licensing work grew (including homeware, book covers, fabric, packaging, gift wrap and greeting cards) alongside my own private work and commissions. Working as an artist-illustrator is now my main practice.

Q. Could you tell us a little bit about something you've been working on recently as well as your wider practice?

A. My time has been consumed with charcoal drawings of dogs recently! Dog portraiture isn't always taken seriously by the art world, which strikes me as odd since dogs have featured in art going back more than 5,000 years. But I always have a constant demand for dog drawings and it provides a steady income stream alongside other more varied drawing. More widely, I draw the natural world including birds, leaves and flowers, fish, animals and also seasonal produce. I recently created a series of illustrations for the Felix Project - an amazing charity that reduces food waste and helps provide food to organisations and schools. So from one day to the next I can be working on a dog portrait, drawing decaying apples, or creating a floral pattern for packaging! My subjects are varied, but overall I focus on the beauty in nature and that is what drives my work.

Q. Tell us about one piece of creative work by another artist that has been on your mind lately.

A. I love the colour and mark-making in the work of Chloe Cheese and I have a few prints of her work in my studio at the moment. She manages to depict domestic objects in a way that is vibrant, energetic and not at all twee. I often cite her work when I'm talking to students about using colour and composition. Her images are hard to forget.

Q. What advice would you give to aspiring creatives?

A. I always felt frustrated by the advice given to me as an aspiring creative, which was - just keep drawing, all the time. Practice! But I have to say now, that is absolutely true. You can't skip that step. Drawing constantly, and recognising what inspires and influences your creative approach, is the best thing you can do. Persistence is key.

Q. How has teaching students at CSM informed your approach to art?

A. I love teaching students at CSM alongside my own creative practice. I typically work from my studio at home so it can sometimes feel a little isolated, creatively. There's a real buzz when you teach a class and this is infectious. Teaching always enriches my own work and I hope this is a two-way thing for students too. It's a good reminder to remain playful and continue to push boundaries creatively, even when you think you're an established artist.

Q. What is the most important thing that students take away from your course?

A. That drawing should be fun, energising, playful and not overly concerned with accuracy. I hope my courses inspire students to want to draw more and experiment with their drawing. That's when you start to see exciting results.

Laura McKendry's work

You can see more of Laura’s incredible work at Bird and Beast and on her website, as well as upon Instagram, @lauramckendry_art. Feeling inspired? All three of Laura’s courses also have dates available to book a place on right now, and don’t miss Laura at the Affordable Arts Fair in Battersea this Thursday 17 October, where she will be delivering the Textual Exploration and 90s Neon Portraits workshops.