1. What’s your story? Where are you from?
My name is Aysha Tengiz. I’m an illustrator based in London. I was born in Brighton and, when I was 8, moved to Turkey to spend more time with my dad’s family. We lived on a small island full of bright colours and stories. My sister and I had a lot of freedom, exploring the olive groves every day by horse and always surrounded by lots of animals. I moved back to the UK when I was 13 but the experience always stayed with me and definitely has influenced the way I work today.
I spent my teen years in a small town in the West Midlands. Living here as a teenager I always felt like I was missing out on the big city, but looking back it was actually a lot of fun. There are rivers to swim in and forests to explore. If you’ve never spent at least one Friday night sitting outside the leisure centre in the freezing cold drinking vodka with skittles mixed into it, then your youth was wasted.
I moved to London seven years ago to study illustration. After graduating I stayed, which was hard but I loved the city! My self published book “A Spot of Loneliness”, which recently won the alternative publishing award at the AOI World Illustration Awards, was heavily inspired from the feelings of exhaustion and loneliness that living and working in London brought on. After over three years of working almost full time in retail and furiously trying to get my career off the ground, I’m finally working as a freelance illustrator.
2. Tell us about your aesthetic.
I love colour, fabric, characters and pattern!
3. What is your favourite medium and why?
Fabric, especially knit. I love seeing artwork come to life in new forms and I think it’s really important to remember that illustration can work in so many different ways -not just pen and paper. I also get a lot of satisfaction being able to cuddle my work!
4. What is your artistic process like?
I’ve been working fully freelance since March and before then I worked part time in retail. This meant I had limited time to work on my art and so had to utilise that time really carefully. It meant scribbling ideas on the back of receipts and thinking up ideas on the shop floor to then put into full swing when I got the opportunity.
I think due to that; my process tends to be very fast pace. If I get an idea, then I usually want it realised immediately. I have multiple notepads that I scribble ideas and doodles in and lots of random pieces of paper scattered about that I draft up my initial sketches onto. I’ll photograph these and work into them on the computer.
5. Who and/or what inspires your work?
Inspiration can come from anywhere and everywhere. The pattern on the carpet of a pub, brickwork, colours and designs on different fabrics or the shape of a traffic light! Mundane features of everyday life can ignite a new idea.
This isn’t always the case. Sometimes I feel like nothing inspires me, ideas just won’t formulate in my head and I’ll feel like I don’t care about anything. When this happens I find it good to get out of the mind-set that I need to keep creating. I’ll go to a gallery, take a walk or find something completely unrelated to art and try to not have that on my mind. This usually works as there’s less pressure to be “inspired”.
6. What role does art play in your life? How does it change the way you view the world?
My first introduction to art was through picture books. They were a big part of my life and I could see the world from the eyes of each artist as I read the book. Just like with reading, I felt like my mind climbed into the book. I could see and feel the ambiance and environment that the artist had created.
I still feel this way, not just with picture books but with all varieties of art. Films, paintings, prints, toys and clothes can help you see the world around you from the aspect of the creator.
7. Where did you study?
I did my foundation at Hereford College of Art and then continued onto my BA in illustration at Camberwell College of Arts UAL.
8. Where do you see yourself in five years?
Hopefully out of lockdown on a sunny beach somewhere not wearing a face mask! On a serious note, I have always liked the idea of doing a residency abroad. The combination of creating work and exploring a new country would be fantastic. Five years seems a bit long to wait though!
9. What about in ten?
I try not to visualise the future too clearly. If ten years ago I could see myself now I think I’d be really proud, but it might’ve scared me a bit. My 16-year-old self was still drinking Lambrini in the park and not revising for my GCSE’s. I think worrying about where you might be later in life sometimes fogs you from seeing where you are right now, and I’ve enjoyed where I have been at every point so far! I try to remind myself that happiness doesn’t solely derive from your career, which can be a hard thing to remember when work is slow. So I hope I’m happy in ten years!
10. What do you hope to achieve with your art?
For me the main achievement is that it brings joy and excitement. Art has helped me in so many ways and brought me so much happiness throughout my life. For me, the most important thing is to give that to someone else through my work. In ways big or small.
11. Now, tell us a little more about you as a person: what is your favourite food?
PASTA. In any form! I can eat pasta with ketchup and cheese melted in the microwave or a five-star deluxe dinner of it, I love it all.
12. Favourite book?
I’m a big His Dark Materials fan. I enjoy anything that can take me into another world of imagination and I love these books ability to find magic in the world we fit into ourselves.
In terms of illustrated books, there are FAR too many to be able to pick out a favourite. However, one I truly love is “Jane, the Fox and Me” written by Fanny Britt and illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault. The book explores bullying, feelings of exclusion and loneliness in combination with the magic of reading. It’s illustrated in black and white with coloured spreads. It was the very first book I bought when I moved to London, spending twenty precious pounds from my student loan. It’s beautiful and I highly recommend it!
13. Favourite genre of music?
So difficult! I’ll go from mainstream chart bangers to a classical orchestra to random pop punk songs I loved as a teenager.
Mostly though, I probably listen to my “Reading Playlist”. It has lots of beautiful scores from films and instrumental music that work really well when reading. I would have it playing when I read in public or on the bus to keep out the distracting noise around me. I love it because my brain started associating different songs with parts of a book, which became a really lovely new way of hearing music.
14. What are your hobbies?
I guess so much of my work falls in to the hobby category, everything I do and make is usually because I enjoy it! I also knit at home a lot and I love sewing. I really enjoy doing these outside of my work too. Making myself blankets, quilts, bags and clothes, things that I just use for myself and won’t be judged as part of my portfolio.
15. If you weren’t an artist, what would you be?
I would probably work with animals, as a child I always had a dream to work with orangutans! I’ve always wanted to do something I truly enjoy and I couldn’t imagine doing anything that wasn’t at least fun.