Meet the artist bringing Torquay to life with art

Torbay Weekly

Devon-based illustrator Olivia Palmer posts her sketches of buildings on Instagram, including some of Torquay landmarks. The Torbay Weekly's Luisa Rombach spoke to Olivia about her art, how she stays inspired and the role of Torquay and its surroundings for her work.

“I have always drawn, ever since I was very little,” Olivia explains when asked about her love of drawing. Having gone to art college in Nottingham to do an art foundation degree, she never pursued an art degree, but instead continued to draw simply for fun for a long time.

About eleven years ago, she decided to pursue illustrating professionally and enrolled in a course in London, where she was living at the time. She got taken on by the agency Plum Pudding and now focuses on educational books for schools.

However, Olivia also stresses the importance of keeping it fun and her way of doing so is by sketching both real-life and invented buildings in her free time, which she posts on Instagram. She found an amazing community on the platform, which she hadn’t expected: “I think it’s excellent and never thought I’d enjoy it as much as I do”.

While she can’t explain where her love for architecture comes from, she stresses that it helps her connect to her surroundings: "For me, going out and sketching buildings in a local area is a way of getting to know the area and make it my own in a way."

To her, Devon is the perfect place for doing so, with its different styles of architecture and building materials.

Olivia particularly likes the link between the land and the buildings, as a lot of them feature red sand stones taken from rocks in the Torquay area. Of course, paying such attention to her surroundings means she is much more perceptive than others when out and about, constantly looking for inspiration. She admitted this sometimes makes her a frustrating person to go on a walk with.

When deciding what real-life buildings to draw, a combination of factors comes into play: “It’s a mixture of convenience of places to draw and a mixture of buildings I particularly like”. A well-situated bench could be just as important as an interesting architectural feature.

Speaking about the messages she receives from people on Instagram recognising some of the buildings or becoming aware of the area through them, Olivia says: “If my illustrations help to promote Torquay and Devon, that makes me happy."

The buildings were a way of ensuring sketching remained joyful to her, and if she could bring joy to others through sharing them, that was a great bonus, she added.

Luisa said: "For me, speaking to Olivia reminded me to be even more mindful of my surroundings and to take in all the beauty Torbay has to offer. It was also another example of a passionate local using their talents to advocate for their home region, which has been a recurrent theme in my conversations with people here."