A Mixture of Color, Linework, and Mid-Century Design: The Art Practice of Illustrator Gracie Dahl

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Gracie was chosen as one of the members of the Association of Illustrators’ Top 10 graduates in 2021 and since graduating last summer, she has been running her own business to focus on editorial illustration, wall design and most recently won the University of Arts and Tate Christmas Card competition with his drawing sold via the museum shop. She even held workshops at Greater Brighton Metropolitan College to introduce A-level and foundation students to the subject of illustration.

“I want to simplify images to their basic components, using unusual color combinations, informed by my love of mid-century illustration,” Gracie tells Creative Boom about her work. “Sometimes I care more about how something is drawn, sometimes what it is. It’s always more satisfying when it’s both.”

Gracie grew up in South London and was “always making things”, as she puts it. “I used to spend my Saturdays at a local pottery studio as a kid and was a prolific crafter of miniature dollhouses, but I didn’t really think I could make it as an illustrator until my course. when I realized I loved it so much I just had to do my best to make it my job!”



Winner of the 2021 UAL x Tate Christmas Card



Winner of the 2021 UAL x Tate Christmas Card

Looking back on her final year project at Camberwell, we can see the influence of her creative childhood emerging in her illustrative style. We especially love the theme surrounding her experience as a great woman. Titled Illustrated IRL, it’s something that happened very organically. “It started when I realized my drawings looked more and more like me: too short pants, long limbs, overzealous blush. It then morphed into just looking at the way I draw myself, imagining what this illustrated version would look like, how it would interact with my ‘In Real Life’ world.”

The result was 20 laser-cut wooden figurines that sat around Gracie like a puzzle, fitting together once for Camberwell’s online graduation show, then coming apart, sold as wall art. “They are now in people’s homes,” she explains. “It was about the part of my work that comes from me, even if it leaves to do its own thing, so it all ended up being pretty deep. But if you can’t be pretentious about your degree, when the can you?” As to whether she has since found pants that fit? “Honestly, I’ve never done it, I’m just rocking the ankle swinger look!”

Illustrated IRL



Illustrated IRL

For all the optimism we see from Gracie about her senior year project, it’s a pleasant surprise, given that it all happened during a global pandemic and the restrictions that followed. But she thinks there was a silver lining: “It was really tough,” admits Gracie. “Covid-19 affected half of my degree. But not having access to university facilities led me to invent alternative techniques, such as digital simulation of screen-printed misalignments, which was accidentally excellent preparation for losing access after graduation. It also made us quite proactive, building our own ‘graduation’ ceremony out of cardboard mortars in a park while ours was cancelled.”

Looking closely at Gracie’s ceramics is something that also came out of her time in Camberwell. “I like to play with the mixing of illustrations in the 3D world. I like that there can be a room with normal objects and people, and that a small character is frozen in time just sitting on a shelf or in a corner, a 3D illustration participating in the real world,” she says.

Of the two practices, Gracie struggles to choose a favorite. “I think of my ceramics as 3D artwork, rather than something separate. For me, it’s just about using a different medium, like pencil vs. pen; some things I think would look better in brilliant 3D than on paper. I also like the commissioned illustration process, since you have someone else to bounce around and get feedback.”

gang of guys



gang of guys

Guinea pig dishes



Guinea pig dishes

gang of guys is one of our favorites, a ceramic series of 3D male figures in cute outfits and seated in various poses. “I wanted to do more 3D illustrations that could fit into the real world once purchased,” she says. “They’re meant to look like they’re focused on something unseen, whether it’s reading, drawing, scrolling; people are caught off guard when they’re otherwise busy, with informal postures. But sitting together, they look formally fun. It’s kind of like a family photo or school assembly.”

What about cat food? “It’s mainly me trying to branch out more into the world of guinea pigs, which I started selling when I was still in college. I’m aiming to corner the market for ceramic pet dishes! The initial guinea pig dish was an experiment to try to create the simplest shape I could transform with a colored glaze, and the cat dishes are similar – garnish a solid shape with a few lines to create the impression of a little sleeping cat.” Well, we’ll take them all – in all colors.







Launching next month is a mural that Gracie was commissioned to create for a new restaurant in London. Not much more can be shared at this point, but it’s something that excites him. It’s just one of many projects the London-based illustrator is enjoying in her first year running a business.

“I think the variety keeps things fresh,” she adds. “It was a real learning curve to become independent after graduating, and I had to figure out a lot on the job. But it means I’m improving quickly. And, more importantly, I’ve the chance to have so much fun, to see everything as a satisfying challenge rather than a burden.”

You can discover more of Gracie Dahl’s work at www.graciedahl.com or follow her on Instagram @graciedahl. For his ceramics, visit him Etsy shop.

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