18 Jan Fresh Meat: Sarah Mitchell
Making use of vibrant colour palettes and story-like communication in her design and illustration, Sarah Mitchell has an eye for detail, a passion for environmentalism, and a seemingly inexhaustible work ethic.
Already, Sarah has received a number of awards and features, including a 2015 D&AD New Bloods Award nomination, an exhibition at the Loerie Awards for the Adams&Adams Student Showcase, and had her work featured in publications such as One Small Seed and New York Art Biennale.
Now, fresh out of the Visual Communication School of Durban’s Vega School of Brand Leadership, the prolific designer reflects on studies, passions, and hopes for the future. Find out a bit more about Sarah’s work, graduate portfolio, and creative process as we chat to her about her journey so far.
How and why did you become interested in the various artistic mediums your work with?
Usually a certain kind of medium just traps me. I fall in love with something and try to work it into all my projects. My zine craze is an example. I’d been listening to a lot of Bikini Kill and scouring the internet for all things Kathleen Hanna / Riot Grrrl. That’s what snowballed my love for zines. Often, I’ll base entire projects on a colour palette. Colour is one of my favourite things to work with. There’s so much life in colour.
What has your experience as a student been like? What valuable lessons did you learn along the way?
The same as many students, I think. Lots of ups and downs. Most of all it’s been incredible to feel myself grow so much. As a student, I think it’s very important to trust your gut. University drums a certain way of thinking into you that can be difficult to break later on. From day one, I think it’s important to stay true to you. Especially when you are absorbing so much new information. Always heed your lecturers’ advice, but follow your intuition. When you stop trying to impress your lecturers, fellow students and others around you, your work starts to take a more genuine form. Collaboration can be a glorious thing when you find a group of likeminded individuals. Ideas roll out and become these grand things.
Please tell us about some of the themes and ideas that you’ve been exploring in your student work.
I’ve touched on a lot of environmental topics, sustainability and using design as a means to help people and the planet. I feel much more attached to plants than people. In my comics, I touch on a post-apocalyptic kind of world and what it means to be human in the surrounding chaos. I have a particular interest in space, inspired very much by Carl Sagan. I love looking up and picturing us, all floating on a pale blue dot in a huge sea of black space.
How did this feed into your final project? What was the concept and how did you execute it?
I left any in depth ideology behind for my final project and just went wild visually. I wanted to have fun with the graphics. The final work was a showcase for our portfolios as students. It’s difficult for me to pinpoint exactly what I stand for. I didn’t want to seem arrogant or get too specific. I chose to showcase ‘All I’ve Learnt at Design School’, in an attempt to show a bit of who I am but also show I’m still learning.
Please tell us about your creative process.
My creative process is quite disjointed. I usually start with palettes, then move into a theme or story. Lately I’ve tried to focus on stories so I can craft them well. I’ll think about a style or medium that suits the work, then create it. I’m generally unhappy with anything I create. So I redo things until my eyes bleed. I have endless unfinished projects and endless written drafts for comics.
You favour pink and blue colour palettes in a lot of your work. What’s the reason for this?
They’re a good couple. I think they’re unusual together. They blend boyish and girly quite well.
Much of your work carries environmental messages. Are you hoping to one day get into environmental sustainability through design and illustration?
I’d love to. In the future, I’d love to design for good, in a way that benefits people and the planet, even if it’s in my own small capacity. Demanding respect for our planet is a difficult task. I think design plays a vital role in becoming a solution for the problems we’ve created for ourselves. Design is about creative and intelligent thinking to solve solutions. I think we need to make better use of it.
You’ve played around with zines, books, posters, flyers, stickers and more. How important is it for young creatives to be able to work across a variety of mediums?
I think it’s essential. It’s very rewarding to be able to translate your work into a wide scope of mediums. It’s challenging and forces you to solve new problems from layout to colour to paper choices. It’s also really fun.
How do you draw the line between your 9 to 5 work and your home alone work? Do the two ever talk to one another?
My personal work and day job are very different at the moment so it hasn’t been an issue yet. I only wish I had less 9-5 and more home alone time to finish my mountain of projects.
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