Our Featured Artist: Aysha Tengiz, World Illustration Awards winner

Winsor & Newton recently had the pleasure of partnering with The Association of Illustrators to sponsor The World Illustration Awards. Hundreds of entrants at all levels took part from all over the world. We were inspired by the sheer talent showcased, so we decided to get to know some of the artists better.

We’ll be bringing you a selection of our favourite illustrators, sharing stories from their background, to what inspires them and how they have stayed creative in trying times.

Introducing Aysha Tengiz, a London based illustrator and winner of the professional award for the alternative publishing category.

Instagram: @ayshatengiz

Tell us a little bit about yourself, your background, what inspired you to become an illustrator?

I grew up partly on a rural island in Turkey and moved to a small town in the West Midlands when I was 12. I came to South London to study illustration seven years ago and never left!

I’d wanted to do illustration for as long as I can remember but I was hesitant. I was worried it would be too difficult, the competition would be too fierce, and it wouldn’t work out. I went to a talk by Quentin Blake at the Hay festival when I was on my foundation course. He talked about the importance of illustration and picture books and how they’re an introduction to reading and to art. I loved that and it gave me the courage to think “it’ll definitely be worth it”.

Tell us a little bit about your experience throughout this competition. What inspired you to enter? How did you create your winning piece?

The AOI’s World Illustration Awards has always been a great aspiration of mine. I would visit the exhibitions each year when studying illustration at university. To be part of it and to actually win feels quite surreal.

I made the book that I entered last year when working full time in retail and simultaneously trying to progress my illustrative career. The book is inspired from living in London and struggling with feelings of loneliness in the busy city. Many of the spreads and drawings are taken from places that I would pass by regularly, usually when commuting to and from work. I got most of my ideas when sitting on the bus or in half-asleep mode standing on the shop floor. I sketched out the pages, then went over them digitally and set myself deadlines to make sure that I got it done!

A Spot of Loneliness
‘A Spot of Loneliness’ © Aysha Tengiz

What is your favourite colour and why?

Blue! It doesn’t have to be a specific shade, as long as it’s bold. The kind so delicious that if you open a tub of paint you have a weird urge to drink it…

‘Halloween’ © Aysha Tengiz

What is your favourite medium to work with and why?

I mainly work digitally. It’s a fantastic way to create work as it’s so easy to manipulate and alter, it’s also a lot quicker than physically working with pens, pencils or paint. I worked part-time in a shop until just before lockdown and having the computer as a utensil to create artwork was an incredible asset. It meant I could continue a piece of work on my lunch break or pick it up easily when I got home after a shift.

I’m used to working digitally now, even though I do prefer physically sitting down and drawing away from a screen, especially with pens. I love gouache, felt tips, Promarkers and Fineliners.

However, my favourite medium is fabric. I love translating my illustrations into woven, knitted or embroidered pieces. Whether they’re items of clothing, blankets or toys. I just enjoy being able to touch a drawing that’s soft!

What would be your advice to artists and illustrators who are just starting out / learning?

I’d recommend getting involved with art markets, they’re a great way to meet the artistic community and promote your work. They also give you a way to meet other illustrators, especially those local to your area. This is so important as freelancing can be very lonely, it’s great meeting people who work within your world.

Secondly, don’t lose momentum! I worked in shops almost full time for years after graduating, determined to still work in illustration. That can be tiresome and hopeless at times. If you keep at it and strive to succeed, then you will.

Finally, and most importantly, don’t compare yourself to others! This is something I continue to tell myself daily. It’s easy to feel down and intimidated when comparing yourself to other artists. Social media makes it harder than ever not to fall into that trap, but you have to believe in yourself and remember everyone’s story is different.

Still Life
‘Still Life’ © Aysha Tengiz

Do you have a typical routine you follow when you start a new piece? If so, what is it?

The thing that I love about illustration and working as a freelancer is the variety of jobs. From editorial design, to picture books to large mural paintings. Each job is new and exciting which means the process that you work in is usually different too. I generally will sketch out my ideas roughly as soon as I get an idea or a commission, on whatever paper that I can grab. Just to get out as much as I can as soon as it comes to mind. I’ll then do a bit of research and work out my times. I’m quite an organised person and love a timetable, so I’ll generally make a little plan to work towards the deadline.

What inspires your work?

Inspiration for me isn’t usually something I consciously notice – it can come from anything. The pattern of a carpet in pub, brickwork and geometrics on the underground or even the shape of a traffic light! Everyday life and ordinary objects can ignite a new idea. I also have a BIG Pinterest board full of different fun clothing and pattern inspiration.

On the other hand, sometimes I feel like nothing inspires me. Trying desperately to think of a fun new idea and not being able to spark any sort of energy. When this is the case, I find it’s good to get out of the mindset that I need to constantly be creating. I’ll take a walk, go to a gallery or the cinema and try not to have that on my mind. This usually works as there’s less pressure to be “inspired”.

The Rye
‘The Rye’ © Aysha Tengiz

How have you managed to stay active and creative through 2020?

I set myself projects, whether big or small. I find trying something new, whether it’s an animated GIF, creating a zine or even knitting a blanket helps!

I really struggle if I don’t have something to work towards, the pandemic meant a lot of jobs fell through and work dried up. I had to set myself personal assignments that gave me a reason to keep working.

What is your favourite W&N product to work with and why?

My favourite product would have to be Promarkers. They come in a fantastic variety of colours and are really easy to manipulate. I created my illustration “Fashion” (below) using the Winsor & Newton Fineliners and added colour with Promarkers.

‘Fashion’ © Aysha Tengiz

If you want to see more of Aysha’s work, check out her Instagram page here.