Written by Megan Evans
Photography by Megan Evans & Rowenna Hoskin
Rowenna Hoskin, a twenty year old English Literature student from Cornwall, currently studying in Cardiff, found herself exploring the world of digital illustration during lockdown – and consequently creating her own business. Her instagram handle (@wenna.works) has nearly 500 followers since starting earlier in the year. I had the pleasure of interviewing her for Quench Magazine, discussing why she was so inspired to start this up whilst studying for her degree, and the importance of keeping up creativity during the pandemic.
What inspired you to create your artwork?
Living in Cornwall is definitely a major source of inspiration, whether it’s walking on the misty moors or on a run through a nature reserve – I am almost always surrounded by natural beauty. My dad is an illustrator, so I have been surrounded by the art world since I was tiny, painting and sketching as a hobby as opposed to a school GCSE or A-level.
During the pandemic, like most people, I was bored at home. I was attempting to battle my way through the essays but did not have access to my usual social outlets so I started messing around on my dad’s Ipad. Over lockdown I also took up running and so I found that while I was travelling through these beautiful spaces, my mind would wonder and I would end up with some rather groovy pictures in my head and so i just started jotting them down and channelling these ideas into my art. It’s not something I can force, I have to let the creativity flow out of me and if it’s not there one day then it’s not there and I don’t even attempt it. I really love plants and my rooms, be it Uni or at home in Cornwall, are always full of plants so i guess that love of botanical spaces really influences my art too. I love the bohemian vibe they give when mixed with different textures, and to be honest I just really enjoy drawing them so to be able to share my love with other people and be met with this response of people actually wanting to buy them is a dream come true.
How long does it take to do some of your pieces?
- My illustration can take me anything from three to five hours of intense focus, to weeks of picking it up here and there. I am a perfectionist and if something isn’t quite right I won’t let anyone see it, I just come back to it a few weeks or months later. Most nights you would catch me sitting in the living room with my cats just drawing and I have to say, this really helped my mental health during these stressful times – a release you know?
- I merged my illustration business with hand painted denim designs too, ranging from jeans to denim jackets. These took me days to do, sometimes weeks in all honesty. It really does depend on how intricate the design is.
What’s your favourite artwork that you’ve produced to date? And why?
I would probably say one of my most recent illustrations, The Jungle Conservatory and then a close second is my Textured Bohemia. The latter was when I first started getting the right balance between texture, space and detail I think. I actually love most of my illustrations and shamelessly have a few of my own prints up in my room – after all it did start as just being for me. Then my friends started buying them because they liked them too and it just kind of grew from there.
I am in the process of setting up my Instagram feed with a ranging colour scheme, as I have had a surge in following while people are sharing photos of my work, which results in people I don’t even know placing orders for my pieces. I also sponsor a friend who offers a free print at the end of her sessions, which helps the demand for commissions.
Has the pandemic impacted on your artwork?
I would say that it massively impacted me, I was outside in nature way more than I perhaps would have been otherwise which was very inspiring. I had a lot of time on my hands as you can probably imagine and so I found myself quickly getting drawn in and at one point I created an artwork a day for about five days. I found this really improved my skills and conception of space within the artwork itself so that was really nice to see.
I started uploading my art to instagram just to see what the response was really, and it was crazy. It started off as just my group of friends who all bought them, and were so supportive. Then as they started sharing and talking about them I gained more followers and got more orders. I also posted on the facebook group Cardiff Overheard for both my Denim art and my illustration and in total the two posts got an insane response of about 700 likes. I would definitely say that lockdown meant that more people were looking for things to buy so this really helped my business grow – overall I have sold around 200 prints and 12 pieces of custom denim.
How is it keeping up a creative business alongside university commitments?
With over 24 illustrations I now have enough material and enough interest to look into growing my business further. Currently I am setting up an etsy account and a local coffee shop is going to display my art (keep an eye peeled on my instagram for more details!)
I haven’t had as much time recently to create any new prints as I am in third year now, however I am getting a lot of orders which is amazing.
Alongside the illustrations and designs on garments, I am potentially looking at investing in other clothing such as hoodies after Christmas.
How do you build a business as a student?
I found that social media was so helpful, it’s the way of the world now! Customers sharing their prints on their instagrams and people seeing my art on Overheard worked massively in my following growth. I am also sponsoring a yoga challenge at the moment which has helped grow my business.
I feel like, as a student, a business is always going to be tough. I keep myself organised by writing all my orders in my planner to keep on top of things but yeah, other than that just know what you want to do and do it!
How do you produce your art (on garments / generally)?
The garments require acrylic paint and fabric medium. The acrylic means that the design doesn’t crack. The prints are done electronically, on the iPad.
Does creativity run in your family?
My Dad is an illustrator, and went to art school in Falmouth. He then moved to London for a while, where he framed pictures. In this way, there’s always been art supplies in the house and creative support. My grandmother and great-uncle are also artists.
Do you use a lot of your home environment to help you craft your work?
There is such an abundance of plants and nature in Cornwall that it has undeniably influenced me. I find nature extremely meditative and I love letting my mind travel as I’m hiking or running which is usually when inspiration hits.
What advice would you give to anyone who wants to pursue their creative ambitions?
My advice would be just to start. Be it painting or drawing, or crafting, just keep at it until you start noticing the way your style evolves. Look at nature and other artists, take note of colour schemes you enjoy or even just shapes. Everything helps. If you keep going with it, even if you don’t feel like it is going in the direction you want it to go, you’ll get there in the end. We all inevitably start in the same place.
Art is something everyone can do if they put in the effort and if you actually enjoy it then no one can tell you you’re doing it wrong – after all, art is subjective. With social media, there is a market for everything so just jump right in and give it a go!
My dad always told me not to pursue a career in art unless i was 100% sure that I could sell my work to people – you need to be able to go into a gallery and persuade them to take it. But in this day and age of social media, this is no longer the case. You don’t need an agent or a gallery to start off with – just you, a tablet and some creativity!