Taaryn Brench is an independent designer and illustrator based in Leeds. She works independently across art direction, illustration and design and her work is characterised by a love of colour, pattern and playfulness which has a diverse range of applications which include advertising, editorial, publishing and surface pattern design.
There is definitely a lot of colour and floral prints running through your illustrative work, can you talk to us a little about how you developed this style?
I think I’ve always had this innate sense of colour. From the clothes I wear, how I decorate my house, even the plants I decide to grow in my garden, it’s definitely an important and instinctive thread in my life! In the early days of my career when my work wasn’t particularly great, colour was the one thing that made it a little less rubbish!
In terms of my illustration style, it was something I worked through in a logical way. I experimented with different mediums to figure out how I liked to work. Then I made a mood board of illustrators I admired. I made tons of notes on what I liked and what I wanted to take into my own work. I also made a list of adjectives to describe how I wanted my illustrations to feel.
Visual style is never set in stone though. It’s always evolving, that’s how it should be. My work from 5 years ago, and even 1 year ago, is different to how it looks now. And in another 5 years, it’ll be even more different.
Visual style is never set in stone though. It’s always evolving, that’s how it should be.
I noticed that you also work across multi-disciplines in your business, do you prefer this to specialising in one area?
Oh definitely! I crave variety. If I’m working for too long on similar projects, it wears me down a bit and I get itchy feet.
At the moment, I don’t really know what my discipline is and I often refer to myself as a “creative juggler” as I always have different plates spinning within the creative industries. Sometimes I feel like this may have a negative impact on my portfolio as I am unsure if this makes it look less cohesive and messy. Do you have any advice for those (me🙋🏼♀️) who are also multi-disciplinary but struggle to present their work in a cohesive way in a portfolio?
First, I’d have a think about who you’re trying to attract to your portfolio and what outcome you want. If its purpose is to land you a job with a studio, I’d label each project with the skills that were used to show off to a prospective employer that you can bring a lot to the table. Being multi disciplinary is definitely an advantage to employers!
If you’re wanting to attract clients to hire you for freelance services, have a think about their needs. Would they be hiring you for one specific service or a variety? It might be worth separating out your work on your website to make it easier for a client to find exactly what they’re after.
Also I wanted to mention that it’s so easy to think that your own work looks less cohesive together because you’re so close to it. It probably doesn’t look like that to everyone else!
Being multi disciplinary is definitely an advantage to employers!
So, Happy belated New Year! 2021 was quite the year, to say the least 🥱 Can you talk us through how the year was for you; your business, your successes and struggles.
It was very up and down! The work was flying in which was a relief after how bad 2020 was, and I had a busy first half of the year. But then over summer, I had some negative experiences with a couple of clients and I realised how burnt out I was. I completely fell out of love with illustration, in fact I haven’t drawn anything since last August.
Thankfully, because I work across different disciplines, I was able to switch focus for a bit. I spent time working on my shop and did a few craft fairs for the first time in the run up to Christmas which was fun. I also landed an art directing contract with a studio which came at the right time. It was steady money and I wasn’t doing the actual creative work, but managing other artists to deliver it instead. That gave me the head space I needed to be honest.
Huge congratulations on everything you have achieved! What is your proudest moment of 2021?
I took some time out at the end of summer to write an ebook! I’d been wanting to do it for ages. After doing a few rounds of mentoring sessions and having people reach out to me for advice, I realised a lot of the same stuff kept coming up. It’s really difficult to get started with freelancing, it takes time to build up and figure things out. And it can often feel like you’re completely alone. So I sat down and spent about a month writing down everything I knew about freelance illustration with real life examples and action plans for people to work through. I’m blown away by the response to it and the lovely kind words people have said about it!
You can check out Taaryns book here
I sat down and spent about a month writing down everything I knew about freelance illustration with real life examples and action plans for people to work through
Do you have any tips for those struggling with burnout?
I feel like I’m still trying to recover to be honest! Recognising the signs is half the battle. I get really irritable and feel like I could cry at the drop of a hat. Small everyday tasks feel like climbing a mountain and I struggle to focus and come up with ideas.
Usually when I’m busy and overworked, exercise and eating right are the first things that go out of the window. I’ve been trying to prioritise exercise over the last month and it’s made a huge difference to my mood and wellbeing. It’s just hard work finding the motivation!
Wherever possible, I try to put some money aside from projects I work on so I can afford to have an extended break from client work when I need to.
Recognising the signs is half the battle.
So, you also like to garden, right? Is this a hobby that you turn to, to relax and escape the busy life of being a freelancer? Do you believe that it is important for creatives to have a hobby outside of their work/discipline?
Sometimes it feels more like a chore than a hobby, I hate being outside tidying up in the colder months! I do love growing flowers and vegetables from seed though. It’s pretty satisfying nurturing little seedlings into full grown plants! But yes, I think it’s really important to have a hobby that’s not related to your work and one that you don’t try to monetise. That way, it’s just for you. There’s no pressure for it to be perfect and you can go at your own pace.
Do you have any exciting projects in the pipelines for 2022, that you can tell us about 👀
I’m still working on art directing with a studio for a global tech brand. The illustrations will be going live soon which is exciting! I’m also working on some website illustrations for a lovely client I worked with last year. And there’s potentially a big book project that’s waiting on sign off!
I think it’s really important to have a hobby that’s not related to your work and one that you don’t try to monetise. That way, it’s just for you. There’s no pressure for it to be perfect and you can go at your own pace.
Do you have any mentors or role models who helped shape who you are today?
I definitely look up to Lisa Maltby and I’d say she was instrumental in helping me identify what sort of career I wanted and giving me a leg up. When I first started out, I was changing careers. I’d not gone to university to study a creative subject so I had no network and no clue where to start. So I made it a mission to get to know creative folks in my area.
I admired Lisa because she had a graphic design background but was leaning towards more illustrative work which was exactly what I wanted to do. She’s always been generous and given me tons of advice over the years when I’ve reached out to her. And even referred work to me as well. Plus I love how Lisa is always open and honest about the realities of the creative industry, she’s a good egg!
And lastly, what is the best piece of advice that you have received since going freelance and/ or starting your own business?
It sounds so obvious, but think of your business as an actual business! I was guilty of treating it as a side hobby which was holding me back from scaling it to a full time venture. Once I had a better understanding of how much money I needed to make and how many jobs that translated to a month, it helped me start a more sustainable business.
Once I had a better understanding of how much money I needed to make and how many jobs that translated to a month, it helped me start a more sustainable business.