Since finishing her Illustration
degree at the University of Worcester, Holly Reynolds has seen her work used across the country and is currently bringing to life a classic novel.
Holly was one of the winners of a BBC contest to promote season 5 of popular drama Peaky Blinders. This saw her portrait of the character Tommy Shelby appear on billboards across the UK, as well as on social media platforms, and printed onto official Peaky Blinders merchandise.
She has also developed her own short book called Canine Tales of Britain, which is a collection of illustrated myths and folktales, and which she self-published in April 2022. Holly is now working on her first publishing contract, which is to provide the inside illustrations for Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty for an international publisher.
“My ambition on leaving university was to illustrate a book for a publisher, which is what I’m currently in the beginning stages of now,” she said. “The Black Beauty commission is definitely my idea of a dream commission - it's a huge project with nearly 100 illustrations across the whole book, so it'll be a real challenge but the subject matter is exactly what I love to work with. It was also a really useful experience to have to negotiate the amount of work and time scale of the project, the fine print of the contract and research how international tax treaties work for this job. Moving forward, I would love to have my own book published.”
Alongside this, she also runs a shop on internet site Etsy selling prints of her artwork, as well as taking commissions for pet portraits and other custom art pieces and has been commissioned to paint a few wedding venues.
“Part of the fun of the job is taking a vague idea that someone has and being able to make it a reality for them,” said Holly. “I love getting to work on so many different types of projects and getting to choose what projects suit me. It can be really hard work sometimes to manage the challenges of being self-employed and all the uncertainty that comes with that, but I love having a job where I get to create and be creative and I wouldn’t change that for anything.”
For Holly, her time on the course proved particularly valuable, allowing her to experiment with different styles and hone her own, but also giving her that professional edge for the industry. “My degree was really fundamental in giving me space to develop my work so that it was ready for professional commissions,” she said. “The guidance and support from the Illustration team was invaluable and gave me an insight into the industry before I graduated so that I had an idea of what working in the industry would involve.
“I think the course is great at introducing you to many different genres of illustration so that you can figure out what areas you’d like to focus on and develop your work around. Within the third year, I really enjoyed then being able to customise many of my projects to suit these focuses and to create work that could be used in a professional portfolio after graduation. Guest speakers also often came in to give talks and run workshops, which was a brilliant way to get an insight into the industry while studying.”
To those thinking of taking up Illustration at Worcester, Holly has only encouragement. “Do it!,” she said. “You have so many different options on the course to explore whatever area of illustration you’d like to, and the tutors are brilliant at supporting and pushing you to create your best work. The studio at the Art House is also such a great space and a really inspirational place to work."
Holly Reynolds' Artwork
All photographs credited to Holly Reynolds
Find out more about the Arts at Worcester