Evie Kemp's favourite things

By Zoe Walker

Illustrator Evie Kemp tells Viva about her attraction to extremes of light, colour and character.

Evie Kemp. Photo / Babiche Martens
Evie Kemp. Photo / Babiche Martens

Sulky and fierce are two words that spring to mind when looking at the work of illustrator Evie Kemp, who draws dogs and cats with character - her animals are cute but definitely not cuddly.

Kemp, based in Auckland, draws on her obsession with fabric and pattern to create ethically manufactured clothing, prints, cards and, soon, cushions with her quirky illustrations.

"If I was to describe my work, I'd say I draw the expected in unexpected ways. Emotion and personality are what I'm always striving for and my favourite work is always my more gruesome. Designing for fabric is a huge thing for me," Kemp explains.

She describes herself as a bit of a "Jekyll and Hyde with a pencil", working on darker pieces for her own line as well as lighter pieces for a younger audience - she illustrated the children's book A Dog Like That!, by Janene Cooper, which was recently a best picture book finalist in the NZ Post Children's Book Awards.

Kemp's work was part of a class illustration project for her Graphic Arts degree at AUT, which Cooper loved so much she commissioned her to illustrate the complete book.

Kemp is also a finalist for the LIANZA Russell Clarke Award for illustration, with other book projects in the pipeline. Like her illustrations, Kemp's favourite things combine the cute with the sinister.

You can buy Kemp's work on her website.


1. Karen Walker coat

I bought this electric blue Karen Walker coat last year as my last big purchase before leaving my full-time job to go it alone. I wanted it so badly I borrowed money to buy it and I'm so glad I did. I only wish Auckland would get a bit colder so I could wear it more.

2. Red satchel

Satchels from the Cambridge Satchel Company are popping up everywhere now but I really do adore them. Mine is bright red and embossed with my initials. It makes me feel like Madeline, still living the boarding school dream at 24. I grew up in Cambridgeshire, so it's nice to have a little bit of it on my arm too. I'm desperate for a neon one.

3. Dog fight chair

My mum re-covered this chair for me in my fabric for my final exhibition at AUT. I don't really sit in it but it holds a lot of importance to me as something I did entirely to please myself. I really want to return to large-format fabric printing and branch out to furniture design in the future. Fabric design is my first love.

4. Treaty Aotearoa pencil pendant

My boyfriend Sam bought me this bronze pencil necklace from a Ministry of Art & Design exhibition to celebrate my contract to illustrate A Dog Like That! It's just a beautiful object and holds a really special personal sentiment. The way that the pencil is so battered is so me, an awful scribbler and constant lead-breaker.

5. Shand Kydd "Ravenglass" wallpaper

I'm a true eclectic and this wallpaper is testament to that. It is so lavish, bright and over-the-top. I have it on the wall behind my bed and every time I see it I love it more. Floral doesn't really feature elsewhere at home, I just have this crazy wall.

6. Pet portraits by Devon Smith

These darling portraits of my dogs, Bonnie & Jasper, were drawn by my friend, Wellington-based artist Devon Smith, as a special gift. Devon's art is so delicate and ethereal while retaining a real edge, I'm a huge fan. I will treasure them always.

7. Vintage letter stamping

No real illustrator or designer is complete without a borderline obsessive love for stationery. Old art supplies in original packaging just make me melt, and I love using them. A sweet friend just sent me some old pencil leads in corked glass vials last week. I'm currently searching for a suitably lovely case for everything.

8. Viggo Vagnby poster

The grace and simplicity of this poster by Viggo Vagnby, celebrating Hans Christian Andersen, is a constant source of inspiration for my work as a book illustrator. The timeless beauty of mid-century illustration is in it's minimalism and how it is so adored by children and adults alike. My artistic preferences almost always lie with poster and print design over fine art.

9. The big "V"

This is the letter V from the old Driving Sound car stereo store in Newmarket and I got it from a guy who had rescued it from a skip. It doesn't light up, which is a bit sad but I still think it's awesome. Having a lit-up neon sign in my studio is a personal goal.

10. Falcon chair by Sigurd Ressell

I don't actually own this but one day I will. The Falcon chair is my holy grail of furniture, if such a thing exists - I have coveted one for years. This will be what I sit in when I'm old, surrounded by art, animals and fabulous shoes.

- NZ Herald

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