Illustrator Katie McPherson gives us a run down of the creative talent that has graced the halls of Whitespace.

Live from the red carpet at Whitespace HQ, we bring you the event of the season! The one you’ve all been waiting for! The 1st Annual Illustration Retrospective 2019!

Anyway, this occurred to me as something worth doing after reading Dribbble’s Global Survey 2019. Based on their member feedback: 

Illustrators were the most likely specialism to be part-time or unemployed. 

I was struck by that stat. And I began to think about what we’re doing to combat it.



An illustration career is a flighty beast. You’re told early on that you’re going to live a freelance lifestyle, chasing down jobs wherever they may come from. During my studies, placements weren’t really suggested to illustration students. I was jealous of all the graphic design students signing up for internships and getting that sweet, sweet experience. But I was determined that I would turn this art school endeavour into a real job, and I made it my mission every summer to bulk out my CV. From two of those summer placements, I got two full-time in-house jobs. Thanks to those placements, I can pay rent.  

As a result, my mantra when talking to students has always been ‘DO PLACEMENTS’. Go to places, meet people, let them get to know you, show off! Not just agencies, go to start-ups, charities, publishers, workshops – anywhere that has the remote need for a nice illustrator for a week or so. You may decide you don’t want to work IN a place like that, but you’ve made a connection and you’ve had the experience. And it could either pay out in the future, or help you get another job.

This year, I have been utterly thrilled to find myself working with many a wonderful illustration placement. The unusual amount of people interested in getting experience has been thanks to a number of things. The Whitespace Women’s events have drawn in so many fantastic creatives, while a talk myself and designer Adam Wilson did at ECA has given us a steady stream of students. Edinburgh College also did their yearly visit, where all the illustration students show off their work to different agencies. Their graphic design course also offers mentorship opportunities, and when I found out they had 2 students that were particularly interested in illustration, I had to get involved.

So I wanted to introduce you all to the amazing artists I’ve had the pleasure of working with this year. Some are still studying; some are fresh into their careers – and perhaps some will be your next illustration commission?



Lesley Imgart

Lesley’s work is astoundingly personal, and her slice-of-life comics can bring you to tears. She is also practical and can turn her hand to pretty much any task, capturing wonderfully atmospheric scenes with amazing efficiency. Lesley’s skills were invaluable when she helped us in the studio with pitches and content, my personal favourite being a series of movie inspired destination posters.

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Madison LaRose

If you want gorgeously painted whimsy (with a touch of nostalgia and melancholy), Mads is your go-to. Her children’s book illustrations are rich and beautifully considered pieces of art. We were thrilled when Madison turned her whimsical style to the Whitespace Instagram, in particular a selection of staff portraits.

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Flora Milner

Flora’s illustration work is fresh, natural and elegant, much like her favourite subject matter – the coast! But that eagerness to pick up new tricks has led to her honing her design skills – and she now prides herself in being a one stop shop for all your design needs. Flora got stuck in with pitches, social content and animation assets, working closely with the wider content team. A studio favourite was her Sleeping Animal series for Silent Night.

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Lizzie Quirke

Though Lizzie worked mainly with senior designer Adam Wilson during her placement, I did get to admire her handywork. Lizzie’s original style is like elements of a scene deconstructed, rendered in lines and filled with bright colour. It’s a fascinating way of processing information and leads to vibrant pieces of work. Lizzie helped us out with visuals for Business Stream, as well as stretching her design muscles with a D&AD brief. 

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Sarah Hannis

A scientist and an artist combined, Sarah takes experimentation and observation to a whole new level, and is constantly exploring different traditional art methods. When she visited us, she even revealed her paper-crafting skills, creating delicate illustrations from scratch for a D&AD brief.

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Monika Stachowiak

This year’s oven intern extraordinaire! Monika wowed us with her professional style and ability to work not only in illustration, but in graphic design and animation. Her vector illustration work is highly stylised and full of movement and fun, but she was really put to the test when she was tasked with creating shadow sculptures out of sweets, playing cards and snowflakes. She rose to the challenge and created stunningly original and captivating work for Edinburgh’s Magic Festival.

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Mary Chang

Mary specialises in richly detailed traditional pieces, working in oil-pastels, watercolour and ink. Her work captures other eras and worlds. Stepping out of her comfort zone and combining digital with traditional, Mary developed a series of proactive concepts for the National Trust for Scotland.

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Chiara Celini

With an instantly recognisable style all of her own, and an amazing work ethic, Chiara’s illustrations are full of rich, playful scenes with quirky characters. She’s quick to expand her talents into unique and enviable products, from badges and stickers to a line of earrings. Chiara quickly set to work in the studio, being snapped up by different teams to help produce artwork for pitches.

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Sammi Duong

As I write this, our final student placement of the year has joined us! Sammi’s geometric vector work makes gorgeous, intricate scenes out of the simplest of shapes, and her colour palates are to die for! The way she interprets real-world creatures and objects into these stylised 2d forms is fascinating and joyful. She’s currently helping us out with a pitch for VisitScotland, and I imagine her help will be much needed in the run up to the holidays.

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We were also joined by 2 high school work experience students who were interested in careers in illustration. 



Lucia Rice

Lucia is currently experimenting with as many kinds of media as she can, and her work mainly focuses on portraiture. Her method of mark-making and subject choice results in incredibly emotive, intimate pieces. During her placement, she produced a series of sketches and paintings for a D&AD brief, aiming to bring her emotional sensitivity to a John Lewis campaign. 



Enrico Davoli

Travelling all the way from Italy, Enrico was instantly ready to learn anything that was offered to him. He powered through a typography brief, building a font, trying out storyboarding, asset creation and animation. In his second week, he was joined by a group of other students interested in graphic design. Enrico took teamwork in his stride, and helped the group develop a D&AD brief for Microsoft.  

I’ve been totally blown away by the graphic Edinburgh College mentoring programme. Whitespacers take part every year, but I’ve always wondered if there’s much I could offer to the graphic design students as an illustrator. Amazingly, I’ve been paired up with two fantastic students who are so enthusiastic about bringing illustration into their design work.



Glad Padua

Glad’s cartoon and video-game inspired art thrilled me instantly. Her work is filled with quirky details, delicate touches and wonderful style, drawing you in to every narrative that she tells. When she applies this narrative flair to her design work, the results are excellent.

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Valentina Torella

Valentina hits every brief with bravery and an immense amount of thoughtfulness. Her aim is always to defy the norms and break down the expected, producing fascinating abstract illustrations filled with meaning, shape and texture. She’s also someone who must always be moving forward and improving every skill, applying her talents not only to 2D illustration, but to 3D modelling and animation. Her determination and consideration is always inspiring.