Interview with Rocketmakers' Illustrator Lydia Cockcroft

Interview with Rocketmakers' Illustrator Lydia Cockcroft

Thursday, 10th September 2020

Briony Phillips

Scaleup Lead

Rocketmakers has been working with illustrator Lydia Cockcroft since 2013. Lydia is the talent behind our amazing staff portraits and illustrations on our website. In 2017, Lydia created the fantastic Rocketmakers mural in our new offices. We caught up with her over video call to find out more about her background in illustration, her creative process and what she has enjoyed the most about working with Rocketmakers.

Where, when and how did your passion for illustration begin?

I've always been interested in art and creativity ever since I was a little kid so it's always been what I spent my free time doing and my family is very creative. In 2004, I came across a copy of Photoshop and it was around the time online art sharing communities were starting to get off the ground so I started to invest myself in digital illustration and my passion grew from there. It was in 2013 when Rocketmakers first contacted me when I first thought about the idea of doing illustration full time and considered it as a valid career choice.

Tell us about your creative process, how do you start a new project and how does the concept develop?

I start with composting, this is where you brainstorm ideas and make initial sketches around a brief. If the brief is a portrait I'd need some photos of the subject and then a description of what they do in the company (for Rocketmakers), some of their interests and if they have any specific requests for the piece. Then I thumbnail out a sheet of sketches to help us decide on the direction to take it and then produce a rough final draft, on to neat lines and colour blocking. Then I go over and shade the flat colours and add final highlights and details. It takes approximately 15 hours in total for each portrait.

What are your top three tips for budding creative artists/illustrators?

  1. Do loads of ugly drawings of things outside your comfort zone (so hands, full-body poses, landscapes) as a lot of what's holding you back is the fear of something looking "bad." You need to get comfortable with your subjects so get the ugly stage out of the way and enjoy it. I recommend life drawing classes to get you comfortable drawing certain anatomical details.

  2. Get to grips with the fundamentals even though they might seem a bit boring they will make anything you draw significantly closer to how you want to achieve it. The fundamentals are form, perspective, anatomy, composition, light and colour. Colour is my favourite one! There's some free online resources which are linked below.*

  3. Sometimes you need to find the point where a piece is "finished" and to not keep overworking it which can end up making a piece feel muddy and overwhelmed. Enjoy the process, then stop and move on.

What are your favourite things to keep you energised and focused at work?

I listen to a lot of art podcasts while I work, my favourites are Draftsmen, Lucidpixul, Chiustream and Design Cinema, and I also need a clean room while I work so that always helps too. When I'm looking for inspiration I like to go for a long walk or browse my many art books. Coffee helps too!

When did your relationship with Rocketmakers start? How has it evolved since then?

I was approached by Adam at Rocketmakers (an old uni friend) in 2013 to do a set of illustrations for their website to outline their workflow through the visual metaphor of building a rocket, at the time I'd never done something so large scale especially full scenes so it was a bit of a challenge, from there I've provided you guys with a large number of staff portraits which have been really enjoyable as every staff member is so unique so the process never gets dull or repetitive. I also produced a mural for your new offices in 2017 and updated those original workflow illustrations this year which certainly kept me busy! Rocketmakers have always been nothing but supportive and a pleasure to work with throughout. It was through Rocketmaker's support that has helped build my confidence in turning my passion into a business.

What kind of illustrations have you done for Rocketmakers? Is this reflective of the work you do with other clients?

Not really! Other works have been fantasy style graphics for a student website and promotional food artwork. I love realistic food painting, salads and avocado toast are my favourite to draw! I'll keep you posted as I hope to up my workflow going forward.

What’s the story behind the illustrations?

It was part of the original brief from day one on the job as it was part of the Rocketmakers branding and something I don't think I'd have ever attempted without prompting, but there's so much fun research material out there and some really beautiful sci-fi art to inspire me (Syd Meid, Moebius) so it's always fun to explore it further. As we've worked together through the years, I've loved experimenting with more contemporary sci-fi from different time periods.

I love how you always add a personal touch to the Rocketmakers portraits, for example incorporating a member of staff's pet, child or hobby.

Yes, I especially enjoy drawing pets. Although it does mean I have to learn how to draw cats because I've not often had to draw them! I love how all the Rocketmakers portraits are different, they're all so interesting so I never get bored of doing them.

What is the best piece of technology that you own and why do you love it?

Definitely my Wacom Cintiq drawing tablet, it's old and creaky and dusty and has a scary pause before switching on every time I use it and I once dropped it on the floor but it's really helped my work as it's closer to traditional art by drawing directly onto the screen. A lot of my favourite artists use them so it makes me feel closer to those artists.

What challenges could friends of Rocketmakers help you with right now?

I think this year in particular, there is a great calling to support small local businesses so if a company is in a position to seek out artwork I would suggest looking to local artists who could provide you with something fresh and bespoke while you would be giving them a welcome boost. I find social media a great resource for discovering local talent.

Here are some great online resources Lydia recommends if you're looking to develop your illustration skills.

Proko, a free resource for learning anatomy.

Schoolism, an online art school resource, the classes are led by industry professionals at an affordable price.

Youtube Channels:

Follow Lydia: