Maddy Vian comforts people through her bright and nostalgic illustrations
A graduate of Kingston University with a degree in illustrative animation, Maddy originally completed a foundation degree at UCA Canterbury just after sixth form. During this time, she had her biggest revelations about the art world and realized how many options were available to budding creatives.
“It made me realize that there were people out there doing art in different ways as part of their full-time careers and I had the chance to do that too,” Maddy told Creative Boom. We are far from her childhood, where artistic aspirations were not always present because she was unaware that they were an option.
“I think my drive to continue drawing from a young age came from the positive reactions I would receive from my work,” she reveals. “I could communicate emotions and feelings that I struggled to verbalize as a very shy child, and make people laugh or understand something without having to open my mouth.”
And like many artists growing up in Maddy’s time, the internet was a “huge catalyst” for showcasing her work as it showed her how people reacted to her incredible artwork.
Bursting with charm and personality through her brilliantly realized characters and expertly judged color palettes, Maddy’s work echoes the style of Tove Jansson, who is her greatest artistic influence. “I find so much heart and sensitivity in her work, and to me she embodies the perfect balance of joyful art and soul,” says Maddy.
“The Moomins are ‘cute’ and the fantastical landscapes they live in are beautiful and vibrant, but they also have great emotional depth and gravity that inspires me and what I want my own art to reflect.” This influence can be seen in the atmospheric illustrations of a lighthouse keeper weathering the storm or a noisy children’s party in full swing.
Tove Jansson’s habit of using various mediums in her work is also a huge source of inspiration for Maddy. She claims she could “bring life” to each different piece, whether she used scuffed ink pens or color blocks. “I don’t remember her with a specific style, but a body of work that exudes the kind of multi-faceted person I imagine she was – what could be more inspiring than that!”
As for her personal style, Maddy describes her approach as “bright, nostalgic and thoughtful”. She believes that artists “have the power to radiate emotion from their work” and that they shouldn’t limit their range. “All types of emotional art are valid, and there’s a lot of darker stuff that I find really beautiful and important,” she says.
“But, for me, my favorite thing is hearing how comforting my illustrations can be to people. It gives meaning to my work and propels me to know that even for a second of the day of someone, they can look at my art and feel positively connected.”
Dynamic colors are an important tool in Maddy’s arsenal, and she even claims to love using “every color under the sun.” Sometimes, when working in Photoshop, she even goes so far as to choose entirely new colors from the color wheel in order to discover combinations and create different moods.
Maddy’s distinctive style has been honed by working in different mediums and on multiple projects. She even became known as someone who could handle a client’s requests while being efficient and reliable to work with. These days, she’s focused on the work she loves, but always likes to rush to tackle a new file in order to understand the style.
Currently, she is working on another children’s book and working on her first solo written and illustrated book. Animations and board games are also pursued, but Maddy doesn’t find these projects overwhelming. “If I’m stuck on a piece, I find it really refreshing to have something else to work on alongside it so I can reset my approach to drawing,” she says. “What I learn from one job I then use to enrich my next job and so on, and I find that I do my best when I work on multiple projects that give me the time and space to do it !”
This enthusiasm and love for illustration shines through in all of Maddy’s work and reflects her belief that illustration can be a powerful tool to help people through difficult times. “As a kid, I picked up so many messages about how unimportant the arts are, but now I think quite the opposite,” she adds. “During the pandemic, everyone has looked to artists and creatives for entertainment and comfort, and I think that’s always going to be something we need.”