Graduate Spotlight: Illustrator Holly Astle
07 June 2023
Illustration BA(Hons) graduate Holly Astle has made her mark in Falmouth, both literally and figuratively. The town is decorated with her beautiful murals and, since graduating, she has embedded herself in the local creative community that she came to love throughout her studies. So, what has she been up to recently, and what’s on the horizon for the in-demand illustrator?
First things first – why did you choose to study Illustration at Falmouth University?
I wasn't even really sure if I was going to study at degree level, but I went to some interviews as to not limit my options. Falmouth was the only place that captured my interest and that I could see myself studying at.
I remember thinking to myself "if I get in here, I'm going to university, but if I don't get in, I won't go anywhere". So, as soon as I got accepted that was my decision made. I remember sitting in the Fox Cafe with my mum, and walking to Gylly Beach with her after the interview, and being completely in awe of the surroundings.
What was the environment and atmosphere like on campus?
Falmouth Campus is beautiful. It's surrounded by tropical gardens and the main building is so light and open. The studios are a creative buzz. Our group of friends would often have self-directed meetings in the breakout sections where we would just bounce ideas off each other and chat whilst working, rather than limiting ourselves to the desk spaces.
Our Illustration lecturers were all so experienced in the industry too, so it always felt like you could get good advice from them. They were friendly and caring, and it felt like they really wanted you to thrive in your area and build up your personal style.
It looks like you’ve stayed in the area since graduating – what do you love about living here as a creative?
I have indeed! I love Falmouth so much. I love that it's a central, creative hub, and sits nicely along the South West Coast Path for close-by walks and beach trips. I've really fallen into a great community of people here who have similar interests in the outdoors, creativity and music.
I go for sea swims most days, whatever the weather, and enjoy feasts and camping trips with friends. I'm forever inspired by the natural surroundings and people who bring me joy here.
How did you come to produce the murals around Falmouth, and what do you like about working on a larger scale?
I started my first mural after feeling the desperation of the ecological crisis. I wanted to create a message through my art that could be seen by a large number of people and that talked specifically about ocean pollution.
I'd never created large scale art before, and had barely worked traditionally, so it was pretty rogue! I worked with Plastic Free Falmouth to create a mural on Dracaena Avenue that says, ‘SOS Save Our Seas’. That self-directed project then led to a commission from Falmouth Town Council.
I love working outside and amongst people. So much of my time is dedicated to a screen and working alone from home, so I love the joy it brings to shake up my work in this way. It's tiring and all-consuming but totally fulfilling.
Can you tell us about the process of creating the cover for Moderate Becoming Good Later?
I was approached by Katie Carr, one of the authors of the book, about the potential of doing a cover for it. She was visiting the Falmouth area and came across my work at Maenporth Beach Café, where I sell cards and used to work. I loved Toby's story, who the book is narrated by – he used to live in Flushing and lecture at Falmouth – and was really excited to bring this project to life.
To this day I reckon it's one of my favourite projects I've worked on, because of the inspiring, emotional story, and how local it is. Many people I've spoken to since knew Toby and have told me how great he was.
What projects have you got in the wings that we should keep an eye out for?
I have a lot of bits and bobs in the works! Hopefully more murals, more book illustrations, probably a lot more editorials in the mix too. I've just been working with an app called WYLDER that is coming out any week now, which aims to gently encourage people to engage with nature more. That's been really fun to do as I love drawing the natural world.
What are your aspirations for the future in your career?
I would love to do more murals and curate my work to be less digital-focused. I think there will always be an element of my practice that is digital, but I would like to shift that over slightly so that it becomes more evenly spread between digital and traditional.
My other main focus is to combine activism into my practice. I am a climate and environmental activist and it feels important to me that I raise awareness on these topics through the work I do.
What would you say to someone who’s thinking about studying Illustration at Falmouth?
Go in with an open mind and use the years to build up your personal style. Take what you can from it and use the resources you have to their greatest ability – it's the only time you will get them all in one place.
Most importantly, find a reason for your work. Find things you can talk about for hours and draw them. You'll never get bored of your practice if you're taking inspiration from the things that bring you importance in life. For me, it's the natural environment and the need to protect it.
Want to follow in Holly’s footsteps?
Falmouth’s Illustration degree is unmatched. Our inspiring studio environment, leading lecturers, industry connections and dedication to individuality has created to some of the most sought-after creatives in the industry.