Tispr Stories: Stella Lightheart is Doodling Her Way to Success

Every Friday we check in with a freelancer or small business person who is following their dreams and doing what they love. This week, we’re talking with Stella Lightheart, an editor by day and illustrator by night who got into illustration almost by accident (more on that below).

Read on to see what Stella had to say about doodling, expressing yourself, and making people smile.

Let’s start right at the heart of the matter—what makes Stella…Stella?

I feel like I’m still figuring this out! I believe that being yourself is a constant creative process. For me, that process involves a lot of tea, quite a bit of pink, and a whimsical heart that wants to cheer you up.

“My work focuses on solving your problems with unexpected twists - getting out of the box that others try to put you in and learning to be your own warrior.” 

How did you get into illustration?

There was a clipboard at the production offices where I worked at a few years ago - it was black, boring, and it had a label at the top saying, ‘Kitchen Wants’. (The crew could then write in the snacks that they’d like the cupboards to be stocked with.) It was a big blockbuster production, so in a bout of bleary-eyed overtime I thought, “Well, this is great, but - what does the kitchen want?”

Cue a post-it note bombardment - various comics that I’d stick on daily - things like the fridge saying he wanted world peas, the microwave saying he wanted a hug, the knife saying he wanted to know your secrets… It was a little anarchic. They were just stick-figures, but quite a hubbub grew over who the mysterious note leaver was. I loved seeing people happy and excited, wondering what the next note was going to be. 

That was about four years ago - it was only recently that I realised, ‘hey, I could try this illustration thing!’ and started to embrace it.

“Life can all be a bit much sometimes – let’s make things less hard for each other!”

What inspires you to do what you do?

Doodling is a great way of expressing yourself. I love playing with art, and playing with words, too - I try and cross-train illustration with studying language. (The sounds, flows, angles, dialects... I’m tinkering with some Latin, Welsh, and French to see how it all fits together. It’s fascinating to see how a culture affects a language - Welsh and French both have a lilt, but they’re very different.)

Currently, I’m hoarding most of my work – nurturing, protecting, growing it - but when I’m ready, I know that my work will be children’s books. I think it’s so important to encourage expression - and to start out young. My work focuses on solving your problems with unexpected twists - getting out of the box that others try to put you in and learning to be your own warrior. 

Where do you get the inspiration for your illustrations?

It’s a real hodgepodge - sometimes a pun needs a face, sometimes a symbol pops up in a dream, sometimes someone says, “Hey, you should draw that!”

What’s your favorite medium?

I prefer to work with a pen - then add colour digitally.

What have you learned from being an illustrator?

Simplicity - how few lines you need to convey a message. This is something all areas of my life can benefit from. Things can be easy! 

How do you feel when you’re working, doing what you love?

Pretty chuffed! Once I battle past self-doubt, of course.

How has illustrating changed your life?

It’s all in transition, really. Hopefully this isn’t too grandiose to say, but it’s really putting me onto another life. I’m currently seeing that you’re in charge of where your life goes. I’m learning that you can alchemize events from your past, add a bit of silliness to them, and draw them out for others to learn from. Life can all be a bit much sometimes – let’s make things less hard for each other!

To learn more about Stella and her blossoming art career, follow @stellalightheart on Instagram or visit her website.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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