Georgia-Maia Oliphant’s colourful, digital designs brighten up even the gloomiest of winter days. The Penwortham-based illustrator combines creating joyful custom illustrations in the evenings with her full-time job as a nurse. A keen advocate of public health, the artist creates beautiful, bright designs for all sorts of folk; couples, singles, families and friends, as well as local businesses and charities. I wanted to find out more.
How did you get started in illustration?
Ever since I can remember I have loved drawing. As a child I could always be found making ‘masterpieces’ colouring, cutting, sticking, up to my eyeballs in felt tips and generally covered in paint. I studied textiles at GCSE and A-Level, which I loved, but found my real passion for illustration in 2017. I can remember going to buy a birthday card and thinking, ‘I could do this’. So I stopped buying birthday cards and started making my own.
Gradually my passion for drawing has become something I can’t go a day without. I started Georgia-Maia Illustrations through my Instagram page. It was a way to track my work so I could see how my style developed and also as an outlet for my mental health. I wake up with ideas whizzing around my head desperate to get down on to paper; creating and making is my passion.
How has your style evolved?
I think I have a very personal style that can be recognised as a ‘Georgia-Maia Illustration’ which I am incredibly proud of, especially having never formally studied Illustration in further education. I take inspiration from the people and places around me, clothes, nature, colour, and pattern. Growing up I was incredibly inspired by Quentin Blake and Nick Sharratt who illustrated some of my most treasured children’s books.
I initially began using fine liners and watercolours, gradually introducing collage and texture as I began to experiment. I hope the illustrations I create capture the details of a moment and bring joy to those who see them.
What do you enjoy about digital illustration?
In 2021, I transitioned into digital illustration. I initially started with a free app on my mum’s iPad before purchasing Procreate. I try to be mindful of the environment, and reducing waste, and felt I could support this by reducing the number of materials I use. I still do use a sketch pad and pens to jot down ideas / scribble up a design but since transitioning to digital illustration my style has really evolved.
The images I create have a vibrancy to them I couldn’t capture on paper and I feel I have created a style that is recognised by others. I want my work to be recognised as bright, colourful, and inviting little worlds. Digital illustration has massively reduced my waste in materials and has provided me with the colour palette of my dreams! I put a lot of detail into my images, especially illustrated portraits, and being able to zoom in has helped me capture additional details that sometimes get lost in pencil.
You created a fabulous design featuring some of our favourite Preston landmarks for the cover of Lancashire Edit, tell me about that.
That really is what dreams are made of. A front cover of a magazine, what?! I am very passionate about Lancashire, the community, the people, the history, and I wanted to capture how I see Preston so others could too.
For me, the heart of the city is The Harris. As a little girl most Saturdays my Nan and I would walk from Penwortham up into town, have a Ribena andK in the museum’s café before going to explore the wonders the Harris holds. I continue to this day to find inspiration in the Harris and can’t wait for it to reopen its doors after the refurb!
Within the front cover not only can the Harris be seen but the iconic potato van, telephone boxes, and skyline including Sharoe Green Hospital and St Walburge’s. If you look closely you can spy Prestonians doing their Christmas shopping.
I want people to recognise themselves in my work as I believe representation is incredibly important. People of Black and Minority Ethnic groups can be spotted on the front cover, as well as same-sex couples representing the LGBTQ+ community. I hope Preston continues to be an open and welcoming city that forever remains a City of Sanctuary and I truly hope the essence of the city is captured in my piece.
Local businesses have also commissioned you too, haven’t they?
I decided to open up my commissions to local businesses at the end of last year, which has been a brilliant opportunity to support local businesses and promote my work.
I have worked with the likes of Cinema at the Continental, Pizzarana, Preston Beer Girls, and Origin Juice and Brew Bar, as well as Preston’s finest foodie Lancashire Eats in creating an illustration that represents her passion for food. I feel incredibly lucky to have lots of exciting upcoming projects with other local businesses this year, so keep your eyes peeled.
You also create digital portraits for people and pets, tell me a bit about those.
Initially, Georgia-Maia Illustrations started with me doing illustrations of family and friends. When my friends all went off to uni and I went to be a teaching assistant in Barton, I drew each of them an individual card to send them on their way. Friends of friends would see them on their boards in halls, and from then I began to realise people were interested in my work.
I now offer custom-illustrated portraits, which I love to do. As I offer a digital illustration, people can have control in printing the image. In a digital age, some people only want an image for their screen background or social media channels so in creating a digital image customers can print it as they wish on whatever desired product they’d like. There’s something incredibly special in being chosen to capture a special moment or memory for someone. It still baffles me that people have my illustrations up in their homes.
You ran a live digital portrait session at Plug and Taps. It sounds like it was really exciting, how did it go?
It was pretty bonkers having people come in for an illustration. It felt so wonderful being in a room full of Lancashire creatives. We’re so lucky to have such incredibly talented people in our community and it feels very special to be an independent business in Preston right now. I feel like local businesses are transforming the way people shop, supporting more mindful and sustainable shopping habits, and that’s really exciting to be part of.
You’re passionate about mental health and public health, how does it tie in with your illustration work?
I qualified as a Registered Nurse in 2016 and as a Health Visitor in 2021. I take pride in being a nurse and am so proud of the profession I am in. I studied for both qualifications at the University of Central Lancashire and feel incredibly privileged to have designed UCLan’s Pre Reg Nursing pin badge. The design incorporates the Lancashire red rose and Florence Nightingale’s lamp to represent the passing on of knowledge to a new generation of nurses. I am incredibly proud when I see newly qualified nurses wearing the pin badge.
I try and incorporate my passion for public health into my illustrations wherever possible to help create healthy, health-conscious communities. I am passionate about women’s health and would love to work with local charities where possible to incorporate my two passions.
I recently did an Instagram post promoting breastfeeding and breast care which were both well received as well as the underlying theme of positivity and mindfulness. I hope when people are scrolling these posts jump out at them as a reminder to check in with themselves and do some self-care.
How can people find out more about your services?
If anyone is interested in a custom illustration, they can browse my work and message me through Instagram or via email at email@example.com. My price list can be found on my Instagram highlights. If it isn’t quite what people are after I am always more than happy to signpost to other independent artists who may suit the desired style better – I’m all about supporting small business, always!
Do you have any exciting plans for this year?
I am lucky to have an incredible boyfriend who supports my every wild idea. We’re hoping to get out into the world and explore new cities and communities as much as possible this coming year, as well as lapping up all the North has to offer. We’re passionate about wild swimming and I hope we will get to do more of that with doodling at the water’s edge.
I am so excited to see how Georgia-Maia Illustrations grows over the next 12 months and can’t wait to get started on the upcoming projects I have in the works. The dream is to illustrate a children’s book (well any book to be quite honest) and create a small inclusive batch of products. Imagine seeing someone with a Georgia-Maia Illustrations tote bag in town, flippin’ ‘eck.