Illustration of Ambit 200

I cut my teeth as an illustrator at Ambit.

It’s been integral within my career since I graduated from the RCA in 2009 and fundamental to the development of my practice. Having first been published by Ambit shortly after my degree show (Ambit 194) I swiftly went on to become an intern editorial assistant. Soon I was a regular illustrator and over some years could expect a poem or short story in my inbox every few months. This is how I learnt my craft. I was never art directed. I was given free rein to move between the approaches as I felt best suited my interpretation of the writing. My only restriction was working monochromatically as back then Ambit only printed black and white. Over the years I moved between different ways of image making without feeling beholden to any one way of visualising my ideas.

The opportunity to experiment with full trust not only allowed my own methods to emerge, it has informed my current role as the illustration editor, a position I relish with delight. I tend work with students and early career illustrators; their work is always the most exciting. I support them but I never tell them what to do. I’m interested in what they understand of the writing, the interpretation is theirs alone. I am most excited by illustration that is inspired by the writing rather than being a direct visual translation. My own love of literature has taught me illustration should never compete with the imagination of the reader; it accompanies, enriches and sometimes moves into entirely new directions.
 
The illustrators I invited to work with us for Ambit’s ‘lock-down look back’ are extraordinary. The illustrators were asked to respond to each vintage issue as a whole. I knew Juliana, Gareth and Nina would be able to understand the journals from within their original historical contexts but also bring them crashing to the current moment.
 
The incredible times we find ourselves in and the direct impact on Ambit made me want to return to my old game. Working in response to Ambit 200 was incredibly poignant. Being a compendium, it offers a cross section of Ambit heritage. Flicking through I found works by my beloved tutors and creative heroes, people I have known and people I would have loved to have known. I was reminded of my early days in the old Ambit HQ at Priory Gardens cataloguing and reading submissions and then of the years illustrating during which I was allowed to play with freedom.
 
In honour of my own relationship with Ambit, my illustrations are old school black and white. They do not refer to any one work but draws influences more broadly from across the prose, poetry and visuals. I began by spending some time with the issue opening and reading at will, not following any sense of order. If a phrase or artwork resonated, I underlined, kept a tab and moved on. I did every few days for two weeks or so. What emerged was an intermingling of language and imagery but without memory of the source. I recall reference to ancient civilisations, the heat of erotic tension, snippets of conversation, bodies, people, salt and the elements. I put the issue away and made the series in a day.    

Mireille Fauchon is an illustrator and educator. Her practice is concerned with visual storytelling and the documenting of social and cultural narratives. Heavily informed by literature she often publishes illustrative interpretations of poetry and short stories and has collaborated with Four Corners Books to produce an illustrated edition of the Prisoner of Zenda (2011).

Mireille is a senior lecturer in Illustration for Communication at Ravensbourne University, London and is a practice-lead PhD candidate at Kingston University exploring the use of illustration as a social research methodology. Her book Illustration Research Methods, co-authored with Rachel Gannon, will be published by Bloomsbury in 2021.

She is commissioning illustration editor of Ambit Magazine.