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  • Writer's pictureSoo Hammond

Inspiring Guests - Meet an Illustrator!

Updated: Feb 2, 2023

One of our favourite things about being a camp host at Top of the Woods, is meeting all the incredible people that come here for their camping & glamping holidays in Pembrokeshire.

Entrepreneurs, artists, scientists... from illustrators to policemen!

Melissa from Westernsketch were looking for a 'different' holiday and stayed in a Eco-Boutique Safari Lodge at Top of the Woods!

We love hearing everyone's stories, their dreams & experiences. They inspire us, and we hope Top of the Woods gives a bit of inspiration back!

One of those inspirational guests is Melissa Western, from Western Sketch, who is an illustrator living in London and stayed with us in September 2018.

One thing we remember best about Melissa was the absolutely brilliant illustration she created of Top of the Woods.

We wanted to learn more about Melissa & her journey... Here is what she had to say:

Melissa, her husband & two daughters relaxing and having family fun time outside of their Eco Boutique Safari Lodge

I live in Harrow in London with my husband and two daughters, Wren (4) and Ada (2). I grew up in Essex but moved up to London in my early twenties and have stayed here ever since.

We came glamping at Top of the Woods the first week of September just before my daughter started school. We were looking for a different holiday and did have camping in mind but with two young daughters thought that the glamping Safari Lodge looked like the best option for us (in case it was bad weather.)

Which way to Top of the Woods?! The woodland surrounding us is particularly inspiring.. Find the secret waterfall!

We really loved our stay. The Lodge was beautiful, some real care and attention had gone into all the beautiful details.

The snuggly blankets were very welcome and the site was absolutely stunning, in fact we fell in love with Pembrokeshire & Wales in general, it was so beautiful. Actually leaps and bounds ahead of London in so many aspects.

It was lovely to get away from it all and spend time all together as a family I wouldn't hesitate to come back.

I went down the art route after school and did a degree in Graphic Design I wasn't a fan of the computer side and ended up specialising in illustration, I much preferred this to design there were no so many rules.

I did end up a bit lost at the end of my degree though. It wasn't a particularly easy or obvious career path and I ended up having a career in retail as a Buyer up until the birth of my 2nd daughter.

What makes a good illustrator?

I think mainly being confident with what your style is and not trying to change this

Bubble and Squeak! We love puns and these cute nature inspired illustrations

What do you love about being an illustrator, full time mum, wife and amazing artistic small business entrepreneur? 😊 Ha! ha! well I've not been described as that!

But I am really enjoying getting back into drawing again I just started it back up when Ada was about 6 months and I wanted to get back into doing something for me. I had lots of business ideas before this point all required a bit of capital which I didn't have and then it dawned on me that maybe actually I should just try and make something of my illustrations since I did a degree and got myself in a lot of debt for it!

Fantastic (mr?!) Fox! Foxes are regular visitors to Top of the Woods

It's also something that I can do whilst being at home with my daughters and so far I'm having to work in the evenings mostly when the girls have gone to bed, although Ada has just stared nursery two mornings a week so I'm just getting a little bit of time now in the week. It is hard work and tiring but I am really enjoying it and starting to slowly see some mile stones achieved.

Crackers aren't just for Christmas.. they make great camping/glamping snacks! Melissa has a fantastic range of Christmas cards

What kind of things inspires you?

Random things inspire me. I will be walking along and see something and think of a play on words. Most of my illustrations are a play on words or puns.

I have found Instagram a source of inspiration so many interesting artists and makers are there and I find that really inspiring and supportive. I love transport especially London transport, travel, museums (although I rarely get time to go) and good food!

What are your favourite illustrations you have done & why?

I've been doing a few illustrations for a voluntary campaign called Just a Card.

It is about highlighting the importance of buying through independent artists, makers and shops and how much just buying a small thing can make to a small business, rather than spending your money with big corporations.

The campaign hit a chord with me probably due to my retail background and frustration with some of the companies I've worked for. I have produced a few illustrations that they have used that I am really proud of.

I have used a mouse throughout as this creature summed up something small to me.

My mouse playing on the drums struck a chord with lots of people and got a message across which is what illustration is brilliant for. A picture tells a thousand words.....

How long have you been doing western sketch and what are your plans for it?

I've been doing Western Sketch now for 18 months but have actually only just started selling my work as greeting cards, since August 2018.

I didn't start off with many ambitions but now I've realised this is what I want to do.

I'd love to do commissions alongside my own products and have written a children's book I just need to find the time to illustrate it!

This is one of our favourite cards! Six Geese Laying.. wonder if we can our chickens to help with site maintenance?

If someone wanted to be an illustrator what advice would you give? It is not an easy path to go down and I think you need to be prepared that things may take a while before you start to see any progress. I'm thinking of getting in touch with the AOI (association of illustrators) you can join as a member and have access to lots of help and advice on how to set yourself up, so that's probably a good start.

And just draw lots and lots and have fun on Instagram, strange and surprising things can happen through it!

We love TOTW guests! We love inspiring people! How gorgeous is this deer?

Find More of Melissa's Work Here

Check out her Etsy Shop

Follow her on Instagram: @WesternSketch

Feel Inspired? Why not Book Your Stay and see what inspiration you can find on a camping or glamping holiday in nature!

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