Tell us a little about your background and your brand.. I started out working as a photographer in New Zealand after graduating with a Bachelor of Design. I primarily shot fashion and worked closely with modelling agencies and became really interested in the subjects I was shooting.

The moment they stopped modelling and just relaxed became a huge inspiration for me, so I started to draw them, which led to exhibitions and the inclusion in some pretty beautiful books, particularly those focused around erotica and fashion illustration. I was often asked to speak at events, from there opportunities opened up as a brand ambassador.  Now I primarily work as a creative consultant and agent for artists and brands rather than illustrating.

How would you describe your own aesthetic?  My illustration aesthetic is very delicate, refined, feminine and organic.

What is your creative process like? If I’m drawing, I always start by making notes, then I compile a stack of imagery which I collate to make draft sketches from. Then I refine, rearrange, redraw and, when I’m happy, move to colouring – always a bit of a play time. I like to try different colour combinations, that’s my favourite part of the process.

You have recently embarked on a new venture ‘Use New Art’. Tell us a little about it… Use New Art is my next chapter. I’ve always been a bit of a creative match maker, so now it’s officially my job to match clients with illustration artists. Sometimes it’s a commission from scratch, other times we can match an existing work with a client. I represent a beautiful roster of artists to the Australasian marketplace.

What’s your average day like? At the moment very long and hectic! It always starts with a dog walk though. Then it’s onto dealing with urgent emails, checking in with artists on active jobs, making sure all is running smoothly and catching up with any progress that has happened overnight (most of them are in a different time zone). Once all the urgent work is sorted I move on to growing the agency. I spend a lot of time checking artists goal lists and figuring out ways to help them achieve. I really want to be someone who goes out and finds business instead of just waiting for the call. There are always more emails in the afternoon, website updates, social media and presentations to plan and occasionally, but very rarely now, I might also be squeezing in an illustration job of my own. At some point I may remember to scramble for content for my own social media accounts, but sometimes I fail at that. I usually go to bed around midnight with big bug computer eyes.

What inspires you and who do you admire? With regard to my illustration work I’m really inspired by nature, which seems like a lame answer, but I’m a bit of a crazy plant lady and I find them fascinating and a bit creepy. I really admire people with ridiculous levels of patience in their work like Merijn Hos, particularly his pencil work and also Ozabu and Indigo O’Rourke who employs similar detail.  I get really inspired if I’m on holiday or if I’m hell stress busy. For some reason the extremes  push me to illuminating zones. I really admire people who just go and do their thing and push themselves to achieve and don’t kiss ass. As I get older I have full respect for people who cut the crap and are true to themselves and are brave.


Career highlights? Getting my first illustration agent was a highlight. So was being invited to speak for Oxfam. Winning a pitch against nine others to illustrate an Escada fragrance campaign and perfume packaging – ditto.

Having my work published in books like The Purple Book, featuring five classic literary texts and illustrations from 21 contemporary artists, is a highlight and most recently taking the leap to go it alone, is scary, but awesome.

You have created some amazing artworks, do you have a favourite? Lilly has always been a favourite because she marked a moment in my style for me, I also really love my portrait of Alice Burdeu and strangely enough, the prawn salad. (Available on her website, but not pictured)

What advice can you give to aspiring artists and designers? Ask yourself if you want your hobby to be your job, it changes everthing! Then practice, practice, practice and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.

Whats next for Kelly Thompson? Hopefully another staff member, a holiday, more trips to New Zealand, and I’d love to create some beautiful fashion products with the help of my artists!

Kelly Thompson | Portrait photography – Agnieszka Chabro | Interview – Greta Kenyon