Illustrated insights with Laura Hallett

The BFG cr Laura Hallett

The BFG © Laura Hallett

I first spotted Laura Hallett’s beautiful illustrations in Bristol coffee shop The Crazy Fox. Her delicate doodles capture a sense of life and, often, wistfulness, that I find really appealing. Roald Dahl’s The BFG was one of my favourite books when growing up, and seeing Laura’s original take on the gentle dream-catching giant is utterly entrancing.

“I love the surrealism and inventiveness of the Roald Dahl stories that offer potential for a wealth of endless inventive visual images,” Laura says. “I enjoy developing my own vision for well known tales, defining the characters in the stories through my own eyes and trying to capture distinct atmospheres through the use of colour, light and composition.”

A passion for stories and narratives influenced Laura’s decision to become an illustrator.

“I’ve always loved creating things and the freedom that comes with being an artist,” Laura explains. “Initially when I was young I simply enjoyed the process of drawing and painting and playing around with colours and characters. I love reading and writing short stories so I think part of that came from enjoying the storytelling and narrative process – art was just another avenue for this.”

The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe cr Laura Hallett

The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe © Laura Hallett

As she grew older the chance to experiment with drawing and painting became a driving force. “Making art in the pursuit of expressing myself and communicating ideas really began to be exciting.”

But she still wasn’t sure art was a viable career path. “When I left school I initially studied History and Politics at University as I wasn’t sure whether art was a good career plan, but I found that I just kept on painting and decided that I had to pursue it or I’d regret it.”

Laura worked on developing her own style and creative ideas, and studied Illustration at Falmouth. “Since I graduated it’s just been about working really hard and developing my work to a point where I feel confident in my own personal visual language,” she says. “This year has been a highlight; moving to a creative city like Bristol where I’m surrounded by people pursuing their own creative path has been really inspiring, and I’ve also seen my first published narrative illustration in American poetry anthology Rebels, held my first solo exhibition in the Crazy Fox Cafe and produced two large painted public art sculptures in Birmingham and Sheffield.”

Little Women cr Laura Hallett

Little Women © Laura Hallett

Illustration, she explains, “is a very broad area that permits considerable creative freedom. The goal is to communicate an idea or feeling or story but the route you take to get there can incorporate almost any medium or approach. I also enjoy the importance of a strong sense of design and aesthetics.”

Laura adds that the “escapist quality of children’s literature” is a particular attraction. “The stories take you into another world and allow room for your imagination to run free. Everyone sees something quite different when they read a story and it can be fascinating to see how different illustrators approach the same narrative from completely different places.”

The characters are also crucial, she comments. “As a child, being inspired by a character from your favourite book can shape the kind of person you want to be; even if it’s often just until you read your next book and meet a new character to go on a journey with!”

She adds: “From an illustrative perspective I also love the strange juxtaposition you often get from children’s literature, whereby stories, which often have a comforting familiarity and generate feelings of nostalgia, are often also quite strange and surreal. Children have fewer pre-conceptions so are very open to this.”

The tiny details Laura includes in her artwork all contribute to making her work sing on the page.

“I’m a bit obsessed by the small details of everyday life that help me to capture a sense of it. I try to produce work that you can keep coming back to and noticing new things in for the first time.”

Telling a story through one picture is an exciting challenge, she says. “I’m inspired by stories about people’s lives and by simply taking in what is going on around me. Having studied history and politics I am also inspired by historical events and social changes and would love to explore this area more through my work in the future.”

Bristol Map cr Laura Hallett

Bristol Map © Laura Hallett

Laura’s fascination with informative details has led to a series of illustrated maps, which were recently exhibited in Bristol.

“The Map of Bristol was a focal point of my exhibition at The Crazy Fox. As a new resident of Bristol, the map was my way of getting to know my new home. I love the very distinct different characters the different areas of the city have, and the varied architecture that reflects this and reflects the very individual artistic and creative spirit of the city.”

Laura also loves mapping trends and fashions through her work. “The London trends piece (below) was completed for a design competition run by London Transport Museum. It’s one of my favourite illustrations and one of the pieces I most enjoyed doing as it enabled me to indulge my passions for music, the fashions and tribes connected with it, and historical and social changes. It was also a great opportunity to focus on characterisation and design. I love being able to develop my illustrations through my own evolving interests and passions.”

London Fashions and Trends cr Laura Hallett

London Fashions and Trends © Laura Hallett

Keep an eye on to find out what Laura’s up to and see more of her work. Many of her pieces are available to buy as limited edition giclee prints at

Are you an artist or do you know an artist who would like to be showcased on Get in touch at judydarley (at) I’m also happy to receive reviews of books, exhibitions, theatre and film. To submit or suggest a review, please send an email to judydarley (at)

Lina Lofstrand’s marine magic

Flying whale cr Lina LofstrandEver seen a whale soar through the air, just skimming the tops of the waves with its tail trailing behind? No, me neither, but this picture by Lina Lofstrand makes me feel like that’s just because I haven’t happened to be in the right place at the right time to glimpse one.

“The Flying Whale is a whale with really small wings so he can only jump out of the water and stay in the air for short periods,” Lina says. “He uses this technique to see if any of his family or friends are close by.”

All of Lina’s work offers up this sense of a world sitting beside ours, or perhaps entangled with it but only visible as reflections in raindrops and oil-slicked puddles. In other words, the overlooked magic in everyday life.

Mermanmaid cr Lina Lofstrand

Mermanmaid © Lina Lofstrand


I’ve loved drawing and making things for as long as I can remember,” Lina comments when I ask her how she got started. “When I was little I used to scribble on receipts and bits of paper from my mum’s bag whenever I had to sit and wait. I don’t think I ever decided to become an artist, more that I was lucky enough to find a way to continue drawing and also make a bit of money from it.”

The marine theme, Lina explains, comes from “growing up in Sweden close to the sea. I use to take the dog for walks and watch the ships come in or leave Stockholm’s harbour. Both my mum and my brother are professional sailors so a lot of my inspiration is from my family and the stories they tell me. My mum and stepdad have been living on a boat for the last four years and are travelling the world together.”

The majority of Lina’s male characters boast impressive facial hair, which she said is “ partly from looking at old photographs of sailors and sea farers with big beards and moustaches, but also because it’s fun to draw and gives a lot of character and personality to the figure I might be drawing!”

Windy Couple cr Lina Lofstrand

Windy Couple © Lina Lofstrand

Lina built on her early love of creating by studying a Drawing and Applied Arts degree at University of the West of England. She’s now a member f Blaze, the artist run co-operative in Bristol you may have seen mentioned on before. “I make most of my art in my basement studio at Blaze, and sell the things I make in the shop upstairs,” she says. “I also do a lot of markets where I sell my work and get a chance to meet with people and other local artists.”

I really enjoy how much personality Lina imbues her drawings with – many of her characters look like they’ve escaped from a children’s book or fime – Alice in Wonderland and Labyrinth both spring to mind. Lina’s heroes include American author and illustrator Edward Gorey, an influence evident in many of her line drawings. She also find inspirations in the work of “Scandinavian artist Carl Larsson’s beautiful paintings and Sven Nordqvist  and Elsa Beskow’s children’s books illustrations.”

Shrimp riders by Lina Lofstrand

Shrimp riders © Lina Lofstrand

She adds. “I love working with my hands and creating something that didn’t exist before, either from clay, fabric or just a blank piece of paper. I really enjoy being able to give life to characters and places from my imagination. Shrimp Riders is a bit of a joke of what I think the mounted troops would look like underwater, where they ride shrimps instead of horses and look rather goofy!”

Lina finds inspiration and ideas “very easily and feel like time is never enough to make all the things I want to! Mischievous Marauders is a watercolour painting under the theme Allotments that I did as a part of a group show for a shop in Bishopston. I made it last summer after a particular unlucky season at my allotment where there were a lot of hungry animals that nibbled my crop!”

Mischievous Marauders cr Lina Lofstrand

Mischievous Marauders © Lina Lofstrand

Other inspiration sources include “meeting people, being outside in the nature and animals. I get a lot of ideas from the pine woods in Sweden and the animals that live there, but also from people I meet or see around in town.”

In fact, seeking out these ideas and finding ways to capture them on the page fuels Lina’s creativity more than anything else does.

“I love the freedom drawing gives you to create your own characters and imaginary worlds. I love finding inspiration in everyday life and using that to create my own imaginary characters.”

Find Lina’s creations at Blaze in Bristol, on or at her Etsy shop  Lina Makes.

Are you an artist or do you know an artist who would like to be showcased on Get in touch at judydarley (at) I’m also happy to receive reviews of books, exhibitions, theatre and film. To submit or suggest a review, please send an email to judydarley (at)