The importance of hand drawing in today's digital world

Hi, I’m Kat, the Creative Director of my own Fashion, Home & Giftware brand, The Kat & Monocle. I wanted to write a blog about the hand drawn element of my business and why I’m so passionate about what I do.

Before The Kat & Monocle began, I worked as a surface pattern designer for a number of high street retailers but became tired of ‘churning’ out designs at a very swift rate. If I’m really honest I found it hard, as my natural instincts are to take time over my work and perfect its detail and quality. To the High Street though, this was impractical, so I never truly felt it was somewhere I could fit in.

I decided to start up a business so that I could establish my own values, and design prints and products in a manner true to myself. Hand drawing has always been something that comes naturally to me and even when working commercially, I would at the very least sketch out the outlines of a design before re-mastering it digitally. Drawing is so important to my style and handwriting and it is around this technique that my brand has been created.

I also believe a business or brand is a reflection of the person behind it and if you play to your strengths, your personality and unique selling point will shine through. For me, drawing is my core skill so I had an urge to bring it back out of the word work and put it to the test!

‘Little Miss Cornforth’ Hand Drawing on A5 Cartridge Paper

‘Little Miss Cornforth’ Hand Drawing on A5 Cartridge Paper

‘Spy Cat’ Hand Drawing on A4 Cartridge Paper

‘Spy Cat’ Hand Drawing on A4 Cartridge Paper

It seems easy to get consumed in today’s digital age. Much of the design world today operates technologically and it appears that hand drawing has taken more of a back seat. I still believe however, that there’s a difference between a print, which has been drawn by hand first and another, which has not. Drawing remains an important skill, despite our growing use of digital applications, and consumers still respond very favourably towards it.

Katrina Wight, The Kat & Monocle’s Creative Director finishing her hand Drawing of ‘Winston The Great’ at her studio in Dalston, Hackney

Katrina Wight, The Kat & Monocle’s Creative Director finishing her hand Drawing of ‘Winston The Great’ at her studio in Dalston, Hackney

As the world veers further and further from ‘organic’ practice, it seems that many people seek refuge in nostalgia and tradition. Perhaps their desire is to return towards nature but either way, I often feel like this too and find it hard to keep up with the pace of today! Even when studying my Foundation Course in Art and Design, where I barely used computers at all, I was encouraged by my tutors to try a more free-flowing method of drawing. My true style however, is realist and detailed – albeit time consuming 😉 – and it is funny that I have ventured back to it after all this time!

‘Elizabeth My Dear’ A4 Hand Drawing in Working Progress

‘Elizabeth My Dear’ A4 Hand Drawing in Working Progress

‘Miss-ter Marple’ A4 Hand Drawing in Working Progress

‘Miss-ter Marple’ A4 Hand Drawing in Working Progress

In some respects this technique is by no means practical, especially in the speed of our present time. It will often take me up to 20 hours to complete an A4 drawing and I will always map out the whole drawing first, in order to ensure that it will appear ‘correct’. There is nothing to say that this method is ‘wrong’ though because after all, it gives my work a more illustrative feel. There has always been an appreciation of intricate illustration, despite the age we live in, and I have managed to discover that it attracts much admiration indeed….

‘Spot’ Wallpaper for  Studio Printworks  in Green as a Full Repeat

‘Spot’ Wallpaper for Studio Printworks in Green as a Full Repeat

It all began when I went travelling in early 2012 – or more to the point – after I had returned 5 months later! Dogs and cats had always been a huge part of my life, (having grown up as a vet’s daughter), and I’d been inspired to created an illustration of a friend’s family Dalmatian, quite a while prior to my trip. Whilst in New York I arranged to meet one of my favourite wallpaper companies, Studio Printworks, in the hope that they might commission me to do some freelance work. It was my Dalmatian design that stood out to them, placed on a blue background with bold, white spots, so they asked me to create a wallpaper design, based on this concept, with about 7-8 dogs of various breeds. The design on completion was aptly named ‘Spot’, which can be purchased from Tissus D’ Hélène at London’s Chelsea Harbour and it is from here that I decided to continue along the pet route.

‘Dotty Dalmation’ Drawing on Spotted Ground, created in September 2010 and presented to  Studio Printworks

‘Dotty Dalmation’ Drawing on Spotted Ground, created in September 2010 and presented to Studio Printworks

‘ Spot ‘ Wallpaper in Blue in Detail

Spot‘ Wallpaper in Blue in Detail

‘ Spot ‘ Wallpaper in Pink in Detail

Spot‘ Wallpaper in Pink in Detail

The response from customers towards this concept has been really positive! The majority of feedback suggests it’s the expression of the animal that makes the image so captivating and that I’ve managed to really bring out his/her character. It is the hand drawn technique, I feel, that reflects these expressions and furthermore I think it adds a unique or personal touch to each a print or illustration.

Going down the character route and to emphasise this even more, I decided to add hats and accessories to the animals, almost turning them into humans or at the very least, characters we can relate to. This creates a real connection with the consumer and has enticed people to request commissioned pet portraits either based on a character or the owner of the pet. Some clients prefer their pets without all the ‘bells and whistles’ but either way, the drawings are generating business and without this skill, the illustrations would not have the same effect.

Another lovely thing about being commissioned to draw people’s pets is that I’ve managed to build them into a range of illustrated products, which are continually growing over time. My illustrations feature on greetings cardsfine bone china mugs and platesorganic cotton t-shirtsorganic cotton baby grows and cushions. Furthermore they are often combined with pattern, which is also designed from scratch and can be found on the reverse of the cards and cushions and also on a new range of gentleman’s silk ties.

‘Winston The Great’ 45x45cm Printed Cotton Cushion

‘Winston The Great’ 45x45cm Printed Cotton Cushion

Each illustration has its own name, in relation to the pet or the character it has been based on. My latest effort, ‘Miss-ter Marple’ (inspired by the idea of a male ‘Miss Marple’ whippet), was created to raise funds in an auction for the charity I Heart Whippets, and it was an honour to be a part of such a good cause. I also owe thanks to Caroline of The Whippet Hotel for offering her beautiful whippet Basil as a muse 🙂

‘Miss-ter-Marple’ Completed A4 Drawing for the  I Heart Whippets  Christmas Charity Auction

‘Miss-ter-Marple’ Completed A4 Drawing for the I Heart Whippets Christmas Charity Auction

All in all, I do not wish to do technology down as it has massively aided our lives. Photoshop for instance is hugely useful in adapting my drawings so that they’re ‘print-ready’ and it greatly helps to put a pattern into repeat. It is the little details however that people notice and it is those that set us apart. The unique quality and soul of a handmade product is what people relate to, and it is this, I believe, that cannot truly be created by a digital process.

Thank you for reading my blog! As a reward, you are entitled to 10% off any purchase at The Kat & Monocle shop until the 15th December 2015, by entering the product code ‘BLOGLOVE10’ at the checkout 🙂

If you are interested in commissioning The Kat & Monocle to create any bespoke portraits – which by the way, do not have to be of a dog or cat nature! – please click here or visit their website.

Thank you once again and if you would like to post a comment or get in touch, please don’t hesitate to do so!

BusinessLondon Local Team