Abbie - Following Dreams

Abbie Severn

Freelance Illustrator, Founder of Abbie Severn Illustration

BA (Hons) Illustration

Abbie thrived on her illustration course, taking inspiration from the city’s creative quarter of Digbeth to produce stunning artwork. Shortly after graduating, she hosted an exhibition of her work, and her signature colourful style has since become a staple of Birmingham’s creative community.

“I’m from a very small town in Wales, I didn’t know anyone working in the arts, and I was one of the first in my family to go to university. When you tell people you study art, they automatically think your career is unpredictable and unsuccessful. I was determined to break out of that small-town mindset and live somewhere that inspired me, so I chose Birmingham. Birmingham felt up and coming, exciting and full of opportunity.

University was a big expense for myself and my family, so I took moving to a new city and studying a creative subject seriously. I knew this was my chance to prove people wrong by becoming a professional artist. I worked throughout my degree to fund my student lifestyle and I would work late into the evenings and over the weekends to perfect my art form. The facilities I had access to at BCU allowed me to develop my artistic style, as I had such a wealth of materials to work with.

My final major project at BCU focused on enterprise which taught me the skills and confidence to start selling my drawings for income. My coastal prints of Wales sold well on Etsy and I saw that this could be a real career for me. I was lucky enough to complete a year-long Artist in Residency at the Parkside print room, which meant that as a graduate I could still access all of BCU’s outstanding print facilities.

My illustration is inspired by landscapes and locations, so Birmingham was the perfect muse for me, the city is so creative and unique. I started drawing Birmingham, which then narrowed to Digbeth, also known as Birmingham’s Creative Quarter. I built up a body of work titled ‘The Digbeth Project’ which I was invited to exhibit in my first solo show in The Factory Works, a big warehouse in the heart of the Custard Factory in 2021. I put the whole event on myself and self-funded the 2-day show which saw the sale of a lot of my works. That’s when it hit me, I’m a real artist and people want to buy my work!

I made a lot of local connections with businesses and creatives in Birmingham, so I started putting together more community-based events. I ran drawing workshops, and ‘Gallery Pop Up’ events featuring other Birmingham Artists, and sold my work at local markets. Plus, I began building a commission portfolio with private clients for bespoke urban and landscape prints and set up my e-commerce website. I continue to do all of these things now and have just moved to Bristol to explore how a new city can inspire my work.

I really enjoy working in the community, to facilitate events and spaces for creatives to come together. Birmingham has a fantastic creative community that really supports and uplifts one another. I’m currently still working full time, but BCU has given me a solid lasting foundation to build towards becoming a full-time illustrator. I gained the confidence to keep pursuing my dream.

Birmingham was my home and inspiration for eight years. Art comes from the soul, and you always worry it won’t land or it may be misunderstood but being a part of Birmingham’s creative community gave me confidence and a place to build my career.”