Illustrator overcame the fear of colour to create a magical world of pixies and dragons
Saoirse Lou was a shy little girl.
The surrounding world seemed too big, too clamorous, and too intimidating. Instead, she focused on the world of minuscule creatures and plants. She could get absorbed by intricate patterns of lush moss, growing on a tree, or a tiny bug climbing on a blade of grass.
Her childhood love for the natural world and fairy tales lead her to a successful artist and children's book illustrator's career.
A colourful world of minuscule creatures
“I tried to imagine what the world would look like if I were tiny,” said Saoirse Lou, 35, who introduce herself as Poole-based artist, dragon tickler, and unicorn enthusiast.
The artist and children's book illustrator collaborated with publishers such as Hardie Grant, Simon and Shuster, and Luma Works. Saoirse runs the Etsy shop SaoirseLouScribbles, where she sells her illustrations, greeting cards, enamel pins, and quirky pet and family portraits. Her Instagram page has over 51 thousand followers.
She is captivated not only by tiny details, intricate patterns, and colours of the natural world. She seeks inspiration from global legends, folktales, and myths.
“When I was a teenager, I was still into fairies and magic. I did not fit in among my peers, so I preserved this imaginary world for myself,” Saoirse said.
She has always remained in the magical world of fairies, dragons, and mythical creatures. It transformed from a child’s magical world into a creative space that fuels her work and provides an escape from the daily routine throughout the years.
The artist creates whimsical, quirky, and colourful characters going about their daily lives.
Saoirse might paint a green-haired pixie indulging on a muffin or a fairy relaxing on the edge of a cup of tea. Her notebook has drawings of witches zooming on their brooms or pink-haired mermaids swinging on a wave. She draws unicorns roaming in a lush forest or fierce dragons afraid of being tickled.
On naughty pixies, motherhood and books
Saoirse’s recent and highly successful Instagram project was on motherhood. “I was contemplating mother-child relations. My eight-year-old son Joshua is growing up, and our relationship is transforming. I am losing those intimate and tender baby, toddler, and small boy moments with him. I wanted to reflect on this transformation in my painting series on motherhood,” she said.
Among many projects she works on, Saoirse enjoys illustrating books. Her recent collaboration was with the bestselling author of children’s books Onaolapo Dagunduro. The author and artist recently published a book based on true events My Big Welcome.
It is a story about little Emilia who has lost her home to a wildfire and had to move to a big city. The story uncovers the fear children feel during uncertain times, gives hope that can come with new experiences and shows the power of kindness.
With an award-winning Australian author, Alisa Wild, she published four of The Naughtiest Pixie series books. A very naughty and lovable pixie Jenifry Star makes human friends and goes to a human school. The writer noted, "Everyone knows grown-up humans are terrifying: they hunt pixies, stomp on their houses, and even pickle pixies in jars!"
“This was an amazing project. The books have a lot of environmental undertones, pixies, and magic. It was a perfect match!” Saoirse said.
These days Saoirse admits that she is “incredibly privileged to do what I love full time.”
However, there were a few years when she stepped away from her artistic career, and she even had to overcome her fear of using colour in her work.
Judgemental environment and fear of colour
Saoirse grew up in a family of artists. Her parents told her that she had started drawing since the day she could hold a pencil.
Her father, also an illustrator, has a picture of a three-year-old Saoirse drawing in his office. “Apparently, I could draw the entire day,” Saoirse said.
She followed her father in his footsteps and studied Illustration and Animation at Kingston University in London. However, after graduation, she did not launch her creative career. "I needed a break, and I chose to be a primary school teacher. I taught for four years," she said.
Her school work and her son Joshua's birth started shaping her future vocation. “I started reading beautifully illustrated children’s books to my son and schoolchildren,” she said.
Saoirse is an avid book collector: her shelves are full of illustrated books of classic fairy tales, mythology, and modern children’s literature.
No matter what she does, Saoirse finds a moment for doodling or sketching. If she gets a free minute while standing in a bank line, she might draw a mermaid or fill a page with doodles while chatting on the phone. At school, she always got into trouble for this “habit,” but her friends kept encouraging her to become a children’s book illustrator.
Although she loves colour, her paintings not always were full of sparkly pinks, purples, or greens.
“I feared using colour while studying art at college, for I did not feel that I am good at it. I created a lot of black and white drawings and drew inspiration from artists who created monochromatic works,” said Saoirse.
Silencing the inner critic gave freedom of expression
When Saoirse started going to college, she felt a lot of pressure to be a conceptual artist, and there was a minimal emphasis on traditional art and its techniques. When she entered university, she had limited skills in using watercolour.
She conquered her fear of using colour a few years ago. The secret? She changed her attitude. “I adopted an ‘I don’t care attitude.’ If I make a mistake, I tell myself, ‘it does not matter,’ and continue working,” she said.
Since she has conquered her fear of not being perfect, she solely focuses on creating a colourful and magical world for children and adults to enjoy.