Zoe Sadler Interview

Each month here at Kureen we shed the spotlight on a talented artist. In March our featured gallery comes from illustrator, author and beanie hat aficionado Zoe Sadler, who kindly agreed to take time out of her busy schedule to answer some of our questions.

Zoe with an image from her children's book, 'The Lighthouse Keeper'
Zoe with an image from her children’s book, ‘The Lighthouse Keeper’

Kureen: Hi Zoe, your gallery looks mighty fine – how would you describe your art work to someone who hasn’t seen it?

Zoe: A whimsical take on the everyday and ordinary. I like to take things from reality and make them a little bit extraordinary. It often means things in my world are a little bit quirky and very often a bit wonky too!

Smeaton TowerK:  You add a sprinkle of wanderlust by the sounds of it! You’re also a published children’s author, what’s the story behind the… story?

Z: A children’s book is something I wanted to do for a while.

I took inspiration for the story from where I live, Freshwater Bay, and a Lighthouse which features often in my work (inspired by Smeaton’s Tower in Plymouth, pictured right, where Zoe went to University.)

I also wanted to do something really amazing for my portfolio so utilised a Kickstarter project to fund the publication of the book. Also, the lighthouse keeper character in the book accidentally kind of resembles my Dad – Just don’t tell him that!


K: The book’s title is The Lighthouse Keeper: A cautionary Tale for anyone interested in taking a peek. With regards to the success of the book, it was released less than a year ago and of 250 published copies only three remain unsold – has that exceeded your expectations?

Z: Definitely – the response to the book has been amazing! I had so much support, particularly on the island. I really appreciated the chance to get my teeth into a great project. Particularly one which gave me the opportunity to publish my first children’s book, which is a dream come true for me! I hope to start a new story in the next few months as well.


K: It’s inspiring for any aspiring authors based on the Island to see your success. You haven’t always been on these shores, you were born in Scotland, how did you end up as an adopted ‘Caulkhead’?

Z: Thank you, it’s nice to contribute creatively to the island!

I struggled to find my feet in Scotland after finishing my illustration degree in Dundee. I found a post-grad course in Publishing at Plymouth as I wanted to learn more about the industry which led me to my first job working as a children’s illustrator for a small publisher in London.

I also met my partner while in Plymouth, so one day we just thought where would we like to live? We are lucky enough with our jobs we can live anywhere. We visited the island a few times and decided it was the place for us, particularly Freshwater. It reminds me more of my Scottish home but it’s slightly warmer!

Pile Em High[1]

K: What’s the arts scene like over here compared to north of the border?

Z: It’s changed a lot over the last ten years. It was quite hard to make a mark being so far from London when I was there. If I was there now maybe I would have found my feet much quicker. I like to keep up to date with things that are going on, particularly around Dundee and Aberdeen. Dundee seems to have a really good contemporary art scene these days.


K: And I guess you pop up to the Edinburgh Fringe from time to time?

Z: Actually I have never been despite the fact that I have a few friends there. I’ve just never seem to have timed it right, but would love to make it there one day. I have however done some artwork for performances at the fringe- that is my only link so far.


K: Are there any particular Isle of Wight artists, sculptors or animators you hold in high esteem?

Z: I absolutely adore Gillian Connor’s driftwood creations! I have several in my house. I joke with her I have to put my blinkers on when I see her selling her work anywhere.

I also really like Chris Jenkins‘ sculptural work, his humanoid sculptures made from found objects and rubbish are brilliant!

Lighthouse KeeperK: You’re right, there’s a creative hub forming on the Isle, You spend a lot of time globe-trotting, does a lot of your illustration inspiration come from there?

Z: I have to admit I didn’t travel so much last year, but recently visited South Africa. and came back with some inspiration for new illustrations – perhaps some giraffes and lion characters from safari might appear in future books!

I take inspiration from everywhere I go. I am always looking at buildings and quirky shapes or trees and thinking there might be potential in that. If I don’t have a sketchbook I’ll take a quick photo to remember for later.


K: Changing tact slightly – beanie hats… You’re slightly obsessed eh?!

Z: Erm… Well you got me, I confess, of the knitted variety! I have an overflowing basket of knitted hats. If it’s cold you’ll probably see me in a home-made hat. My homely obsession has gone from knitting mittens to knitting hats, sad I know but I like to be warm and toastie! I even have one hat that has ears and antlers; I’m under strict instructions to wear it for Christmas only!


K: I think that deserves an airing for at least 11 months of the year! If not the aptly named Sarah Beeny (groan), who have been your influences in life and art?

Z: That is of course my opinion too, sadly others may not agree!

I am a huge fan of Tim Burton and you can more than likely see his influence within my work. I also love Edward Gorey‘s black and white gothic illustrations and rather macabre stories. I also love illustrators Quentin Blake, Maurice Sendak and David Roberts amongst many others. I also draw a lot of inspiration from classic fairytales.

I have also been lucky enough to have huge encouragement from my very much un-arty parents and a couple of very inspiring art teachers along the way!


K: What’s one thing most people won’t know about you?

Z: Unless you know me well it’s probably that I have overcome crippling shyness. I can be quite chatty or very quiet! It’s only in the last few years I have come out of my shell and had the confidence to try things I never would have before. For instance I did a small book reading for the literary festival last year and chatted to a school group. Both took a lot of courage for me. I still can’t do talks or presentations in front of lots of people – it utterly terrifies me!


K: It’s like Jerry Seinfeld said – In a poll of people’s greatest fears ‘public speaking’ came first, ‘dying’ was 2nd… That means that if you’re at a funeral you’d rather be in the casket than reading the eulogy! With that said, you definitely come across as an assured person. How can people check out your upcoming projects or get in touch?

Z: Thanks that means a lot… Great analogy! You can find me on Facebook and Twitter for all my most current news and works in progress. I also have a website, blog and online shop.



Written by Dom Kureen

As a young rapscallion stranded on an Island, my time is split between writing, performing spoken word, wrestling alligators and delivering uplifting pep talks to hairdressers before they prune me. I meditate and wash daily when possible.

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