“Teesside artists are making a national impact, and there seems to be a better chance of making it here than if you were to move further afield.”
Anjalee Burrows, known as ‘Anjalee Bee’, is a freelance illustrator who based in Middlesbrough, currently specialising in children’s books, stationery, and clothing designs. Chloe Tempestoso caught up with Anjalee to find out more.
What’s the story behind your artwork and you becoming an artist?
Illustration has always been a part of my identity, and I’ve been very lucky in that I’ve always had people encouraging me to explore creativity. Growing up, my mother would take me to draw dancers at the Billingham International Folklore Festival. As a teen I’d stay up most nights, illustrating portraits for my classmates and friends. I studied Graphic Design at the Northern School of Art, back in 2010, where I was taught to use software such as Adobe Photoshop, as well as how to approach real-life briefs. From there, I have worked hard to develop a distinct portfolio and illustrative style. In 2019 my first picture book, ‘The Hospital Hoppities’ was published.
Tell us a bit about your artwork
My drawings capture the world around me, through an optimistic lens, often focusing on the little things that make our world so wonderful. I’m mostly known for my vibrant colour palettes, character design, and visual storytelling. ‘The Hospital Hoppities’, in particular, has received a lot of fantastic feedback as it fosters positive representation of children with chronic illnesses, by placing them in a helping role rather than a dependent one. My illustrations depict various pieces of medical equipment, such as central lines, drip stands, heart monitors and so on, to normalise them and help children, for whom these things are part of daily life, feel ‘seen’ within children’s literature.
What is your advice to anyone in the Tees area who wants a career in art?
The best advice I have been given is – don’t wait for opportunities to come to you. If you know the kind of artist you want to be, and the type of clients/projects you want to be working with, produce some examples and add them to your portfolio. A fellow illustrator I know, created mock-covers for Roald Dahl’s books, which led to him being hired to illustrate a series of young fiction books. I’m not normally one for inspirational quotes but the phrase “you can’t build a reputation on what you’re going to do” definitely rings true. If you want clients to see what you have to offer – show them!
What does Teesside mean to you?
I lived in Portsmouth for six years, and it has honestly made me appreciate just how special Teesside is. People always assume that to make it as a creative you need to move to London or the South but that’s simply not true. Having experience of both places, I can say that Teesside artists are making a national impact, and there seems to be a better chance of making it here than if you were to move further afield. Teesside has such a rich creative scene. From Orange Pip Market to art fairs, craft classes, pop up shops, and Facebook groups such as NE:UK Creatives, there are so many opportunities to connect with other creatives and showcase your work. Then of course you have The Northern School of Art which has propelled a lot of artists into great careers. It makes me proud to see local artists doing so well for themselves and it spurs me on to work even harder.
Find Anjalee online at @anjaleebee on Instagram and Facebook.
Interview by Chloe Tempestoso
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