Q+A with Laura Bowles

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Laura Bowles is the artist behind Island of Social, a digital illustration brand making illustrations used for cards, prints and merchandise. Laura's work heavily features references to the island and all of it's cultural quirks and has been featured in multiple campaigns by Gef the Mongoose particularly during lockdown. Laura currently lives in Leigh on Sea with her fiancé and work as a Graphic Designer in London. 

Q. Please tell us what inspires your art style.

When I was at university I learnt about ‘the cult of less’ which is a way that people live with as few possessions as possible. I found it fascinating that there are people out there who live with as few as ten possessions. When it came to graduation though, and it was time for me to pack up my halls and move back to the rock I realised the items which were filling my dorm room that I was having to pay to ship back to the Isle of Man I’d barely touched. It’s something that has always stayed with me and is definitely something which has inspired my artwork, I always think at the end of a drawing or piece of work ‘is every line necessary?’.

Q. How did Island of Social come about?

I come from a big Manx family and every Saturday since as long as I can remember all my aunties and uncles and cousins and my Gran meet for coffee and a ’skeet’ - and then one Saturday it dawned on me that if a non Manxie joined coffee no one would know what we were all saying, from ‘there’s a boat in the morning’ to ‘Thanks Yessir’ they would be totally lost. Then I thought how funny it could be if these were on greetings cards, and from there, Island of social was born.

Q. Manx customs, places and idiosyncrasies feature heavily in your work in a very tongue-in-cheek way. How did you decide to use the island’s contemporary culture as a subject?

The Isle of Man has its own little language (as well as its own actual language) and I really wanted to celebrate the weird and wonderful. When you tell someone who’s not Manx about some of our customs like saying ‘hello’ to the fairies, or not being able to say… I can’t even type it (long tails!) they think we are all mad - but its what makes the Island so magical and gives us all a sense of community.

Q. Many will recognise your artwork being used by Gef the Mongoose over the last few months to help illustrate Government updates about the Corona Virus. How did this collaboration come about?

I’ve known Kate (Heggarty - Founder of Gef) for a few years now, in typical Manx fashion she is friends with my Aunty's best friend and I had put some feelers out for some freelance work and was put in touch with Kate. I totally got Gef and loved what it stood for and there just seemed like such an obvious need for what she was creating I was really excited to be able to get involved.

Q. Using art to illustrate complex and serious topics in a friendly and engaging way will have made official information about lockdown a lot more accessible to many than traditional media. How important do you think it is to do use humour and artwork during a global crisis like Covid-19?

The Global Covid-19 crisis has been incredibly scary, and no one had ever experienced anything of this scale before. Everyone was looking round to others for answers, but no one had them.

Gef broke down the updates from the government and spoke to the Island in a way that wasn’t scary and was like your funny friend explaining something in layman’s terms to you when you’re totally confused.

Like most things in life, communication is key, and the more you know, the less scared you feel. I think Gef leading the charge with ‘Howard O Clock’ etc was a breath of fresh air and a beacon of light and I’m so proud to have been a part of it.

Q. What kind of feedback have you received about your work, particularly during lockdown?

I haven’t really had that much feedback - I get the odd message on Instagram which is lovely and my Mum has bought more cases of Howard O Clock wine than Tesco sold of toilet roll this month so I guess that’s a pretty good review.

Q. What’s next for you?

I want to continue to grow Isle of Social and to develop more illustrations of the Island and to  eventually have a bit of a catalogue of work. I think my dream scenario would be to eventually one day have an exhibition of work on the Island.

You can follow Laura on social media:

Website http://isleofsocial.co.uk/about.html

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/islandofsocial

Instagram https://www.instagram.com/islandofsocial/

A sponsored body of
The Department of Education, Sport and Culture
Rheynn Ynsee, Spoyrt as Cultoor
Isle of Man Government
Reiltys Ellan Vannin
Isle of man Government