Anna Simmons is an outstanding illustrator who specialises in mapmaking with a nostalgic and pastel-tone twist. I was lost and I found her work… via Pinterest. Her elegant and unique compositions of places, landmarks and adorable characters blended with bespoke typography had me entranced. As a visual person I even struggle with Google Maps (true and shameful story) so I wanted to know more about how this creative lady fits both orienteering and original ideas into one mind…
Anna, what’s your story? How did you get to where you are today? I grew up in North Wales, which is where I live now. As a child I was always drawing and was quite in my own world. So Art College beckoned and I naturally gravitated towards design and illustration. After graduating I had no real plan and by chance had the opportunity to assist illustrator David Atkinson at Hand Made Maps Ltd, a London artwork studio dedicated to illustrated maps. Here I realised that maps were right up my street! I loved combining imagery and lettering and through Hand Made Maps a few map illustration commissions of my own under my belt. I built from that to set up on my own.
Which is your favourite map-illustration to date? At the moment I think it’s the New York Highline map I did for Cara Magazine. It was a neat solution to make it semi 3D and to show how the park hovers above street level. I do try not to be too precious about any of my work; as an illustrator you just have to move on to the next job.
What did you want to be when you were 10 years old? At about that age I became obsessed with saxophones and wanted to be a saxophonist. I remember scrawling on a tub of Saxa Salt with a marker pen so it read ‘Saxaphone Salt’. I was utterly dedicated to the instrument without ever learning to play it.
So you decided not to study music? Which UNI did you go to? I went to UWE Bristol and studied Illustration and then the RCA to study Communication Art and Design.
What’s the proudest moment of your career to date? Seeing my work in print for the first time! I’m also really proud of my association with the charity 'Elephant Family'. I’ve just donated a print to their up and coming ‘Elephant in the Room’ Auction and I’m hoping it will help raise some funds for the endangered Asian Elephants.
No way?! I actually own one of those little hand painted elephants! I called her ‘Pearl’. That was an amazing project for a really super cause! Kudos… So what would you say, has been your career highlight so far? I regularly make a map for National Geographic Traveller Magazine’s Like a Local section. The destinations are amazing and the maps often very detailed. I think the challenge of these briefs has resulted in some of my better work so far.
How do you promote yourself? Just through my website, social media and good old-fashioned postcard mail-outs… when I have time!
Do you love or loathe social media? I think social media is such an amazing and democratic opportunity to share work and ideas. I’m just quite ‘quiet’ online.
Which tools do you use to create stuff? I work digitally so laptop, graphics tablet, scanner and Photoshop however I do work with hand-made elements… Lots of paper, texture, printed surfaces and some drawing.
Where do you find inspiration? (I’m assuming places and travelling around are a big part of your inspiration…) In fact, I really don’t get to travel as much as I would like. Quite often my work communicates the imagining of a place I have never been to. I love the research stage and engross myself in gathering imagery, lettering styles, textures and colours that convey the history and essence of a place. My inspiration always comes from collecting and rooting through old books, magazines and ephemera.
What’s your favourite music to work to? I sometimes try to find music from the part of the world I am mapping, just to set the scene! However, I don’t find that music aids my concentration, so more often than not I listen to Radio 4. Otherwise silence.
Do you prefer a Pub or a club? I love drinking pints in my local. I’ve made friends with a retired bin man who’s a regular there. He brings me fresh trout when he goes fishing and we compare car boot purchases. That could not happen in a club.
Favourite pair of shoes? They are blue suede lace-ups with a low heel.
Which magazine do you read religiously? I don’t read any magazines religiously.
What do you spread on your toast in the morning? Marmite.