slow - simple - soulful - sustainable
Annie Brougham Paper | Annie Brougham
Annie is an illustrator, designer and stationery producer based in Pembrokeshire in South West Wales. She specialises in botanical style logos and illustration, drawing inspiration from the wildlife she spots on her walks. Her beautiful cards and prints are reminders to slow down and really notice the changing seasons around us.
We asked her about how she got into illustration, and what attracted her to botanical-style drawings in particular. We were also curious about her A Natural Year project, and how the Pembrokeshire countryside influences and inspires her work.
words by Fiona Barrows and Annie Brougham / images by Annie Brougham
How did you first get started with botanical illustration and design?
‘It was quite a slow process and it came about very organically. I didn’t just sit down one day and decide to start a business as such. I was working in London, and painting and drawing in my free time as a hobby. Drawing things from the natural world has always my first choice, as being out and about seeing the seasons is what inspires me most, and where I find calm and contentment.’
How did you develop this into a business?
‘I started my Instagram account about five years ago, with an idea that I might like to start selling some handmade cards on Etsy. I have always designed cards for friends and family birthdays but had never really thought about selling them before. From Instagram, and word-of-mouth through friends, I began to be asked to do all sorts of bespoke commissions, then a branding project, and I began to realise I could make a little business from doing what I loved. It wasn’t for another couple of years that I decided to pursue it full time. This I think was the necessary step for me to start treating it as a proper business, hone in on the sorts of things I wanted to do, and to be able to devote enough time to make it work financially. It was a bit of leap of faith, but moving back to Pembrokeshire where the cost of living is lower certainly helped!’
You do both bespoke design work and have your own range of paper goods. How do you balance these two parts of your business?
‘It’s not always easy time-wise as I have so many ideas for both sides of the business, but there is only me and one pair of hands. I have to remind myself to be patient and appreciate I can’t do it all! I love both aspects equally, and both have grown and developed quite a bit in the last year especially. I wonder if at some point one will have to take precedence, but for now it works well as the client work allows me to structure my income, as obviously the product sales are less predictable.’
You live in a beautiful part of the UK, Pembrokeshire in Wales. How does the landscape around you influence your work?
‘It influences my work as well as just making me happier in general. Even if I’m not being directly influenced by what I see, the grounding and calming influence of the sea and being outdoors is so important for me to stay creative.’
I adore your project A Natural Year in which you captured wildlife from the Pembrokeshire countryside throughout the changing seasons. What inspired you to start this? How have you found it? Has the process been different to what you thought it would be?
‘Thank you! It was inspired by a personal project I had been meaning to do for a long time which was to start a nature sketchbook / diary, as I love spotting the different things popping up in hedgerows and along clifftops through the seasons. I actually can’t walk anywhere without stopping to look at new buds, flowers and leaves! I’m sure my boyfriend finds it quite frustrating!
After doing the first few sketches I had the idea of combining the concept with greetings cards, as I really liked the thought that people could share a seasonal thing to spot with others. After starting the project I also found that so many people have their memories of special occasions – birthdays, anniversaries etc – deeply associated with the sight and scents of certain flowers in bloom at that time of year. I love that concept; marking an occasion with what is happening alongside it in nature. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole project, but by the end of the year I was finding the timescale of producing the cards, as well as postcards and prints, a bit challenging on top of my other work. I’m excited to look back on the collection now, without the time pressure, and see how I can present it in new ways, offering some new sets for example.’
You say your work is for slow, seasonal living. How do you think your illustrations encourage people to slow down?
‘For me the act of sending handwritten mail is a wonderfully slow and mindful process in a world of fast throwaway messages. Sitting down and putting pen to paper with a friend or family member in mind, addressing the envelope, making your way to a post box and then waiting for it to wing its way to the recipient. Receiving post is equally enjoyable – everyone loves opening a letter knowing the extra effort that has been put in just for them. Beautiful stationery has always been a great love of mine, it just adds to the whole experience. A beautiful card should feel like a little gift. With my Natural Year project I also hoped to spread the joy of slowing down on walks (even if just to the corner shop!) to notice anything new growing. The sight of a tiny bud or flower unfurling is one of the most optimistic sights. It is also so fleeting that you have to be fully present to notice it.’
What are your future plans for you business?
‘Because 2019 was focussed on the Natural Year collection and very branding-heavy (I booked myself back-to-back back from June which didn’t leave a lot of time for anything else!) I’m excited to launch a couple of new card collections that have actually been in the works since 2018. I currently print everything in-house, mostly because I like to have full control over quality, but to expand the business I am now looking to outsource some of that printing load. I would love to move into some new products, such as gift wrap, too.’
Is there any part of your business that you really struggle with?
‘I can be such a perfectionist, and there are so many things I want to do in my business but because it’s still very much a developing, I find not being able to do everything right now can be frustrating. But I remind myself that there isn’t a finish line or an end goal as such, and my main priority is to maintain a business in which I can enjoy the process and my everyday (which I do!).’
What does slow living mean to you?
‘To me slow living is about maintaining a healthy balance between future and present. Allowing yourself time to notice and take joy from the little pleasures available here and now, in the every day, as a balance to chasing the bigger goals and plans we all have. Slow living is taking it all in.’
THE TOOL BOX
What materials do you use: ‘Permanent pigment ink fine-liners and watercolour mostly. My cards are printed on 100% cotton carbon neutral card stock, and I use biodegradable sleeves and paper packaging/tape.’
Which maker inspires you the most: ‘There are so many, and I love seeing so many women doing their own thing and running amazing businesses. There seems to be such a supportive female creative community on Instagram. I am always inspired my @milliproust and her beautiful garden. She is a flower grower and arranger, as well as a writer and everything she creates is just stunning. Watching the seasons progress via her home grown floral arrangements on Instagram is so inspiring!’
How do you get in the mood to work: ‘One of the things I like most about working for myself is being able to create my own routine. I’m not really a morning person, so I don’t force it (unless I’m really up against a deadline). I tend to work from 10 – 6.30, which gives me my mornings to sit with a cup of tea, potter about in the garden (in warmer months), do some yoga, or do some house chores. By 10am my brain is awake and I’m really ready to sit down to it, so that’s when I go into my studio, open my laptop and look over my to-do list. When I walk into my studio space it switches my mind into work mode.’
What’s in your mug beside you: ‘Definitely tea. I normally just want a good old-fashioned regular brew, but if I fancy a treat I have a stash of loose leaf teas from my favourite tea company Bird and Blend that are incredible, from herbal infusions to ones that tastes like carrot cake (seriously – try it!) There is something so reassuring about a big pot of tea on your desk in Winter!’
How do you relax after work: ‘Working from my home studio means my commute is just a few steps. It can be difficult to switch off, but I find a hot bath is the best thing before I do anything else, it really helps me come back to ‘home’ mode. Unless it’s Summer, in which case I usually try to get out for a walk straight after finishing; on the beach if possible – nothing beats that.’
ANNIE’S TRADE SECRET
How to capture the seasons on paper
‘Start with something simple that you can easily bring in from the garden, a daisy, a small budded twig, or a little cutting from your favourite plant. Place it on a white sheet of paper, or if it needs to be in water place some white card behind it so you aren’t distracted. I start off with a very light and loose pencil sketch. Don’t be afraid to make marks here, it will all be rubbed out anyway.
Really study the object and any shapes that you can pull out. For instance, a flower head might begin with marking in a rough circle, so you get the proportions right in line with the stem and leaves. Detail can then be added second: roughly where the petals are, where the leaves fold or curl.
I often change up the composition at this stage if I feel an extra leaf would fill the page better, but this isn’t necessary if you don’t feel confident! Especially if you are keeping a nature journal and mean only to record what you see.
Next go in with black ink. I use a uni-pin fine liner in 005 when I want very fine detail, or a 0.2 for bigger work. Make sure your pen is waterproof if you plan on adding colour. Add as much detail as you like. I like to keep it fairly simple, especially if it’s a small sketch in a journal. Sticking mainly to outlines.
Finally, rub out your pencil lines and get out your watercolours. Start with a very pale wash and build up the colour in layers. I start with a green usually as that tends to be the biggest colour area. Finish with your darkest shadows, and then add any last details with your pen.
Why not keep a nature sketchbook? That way you can look back over the year and not only see what came and went in the garden, but also how much your skills have progressed!