Artist Spotlight

Artist Spotlight: Sia Spark

In the Artist Spotlight series of blog posts, The Layered Onion highlights an artist in the community. We’ll get a chance to learn more about them and their work. 

In this post, we are featuring Sia Spark (she/her).

Sia is a freelance illustrator and digital artist based in Perth, Western Australia.

Combining elements from nature with vibrant colours and whimsical characters and settings, Sia crafts illustrations with a unique, accessible, and light-hearted feel.

Sia loves working with bright, evocative colours and friendly shapes to create illustrations in between fantasy and reality, layering in natural textures to give her work depth. Her work aspires to help highlight the joy and wonder of our world around us.

Sia did a Q&A with The Layered Onion, talking about her art:

What first drew you to art?

I’ve loved drawing since I could first hold a pencil! One of my most fond childhood memories is sitting outside in nature at my parents’ rural property with my Dad and drawing the scenery – usually landscapes and animals. Landscapes and animals are still among my favourite subjects. I went on to study art and art history in high school… Funnily enough, this kind of killed my enjoyment of art for a while. My teenage stubbornness didn’t respond well to that, and I felt like that study had taken all the pleasure out of art and instead set a lot of rules and parameters that I didn’t agree with, so I lost interest in pursuing art for a good few years. In my 20s, a former career in marketing led me into graphic design, and I matured to understand how to follow a client’s brief, whilst still making my mark on a project. That led me back to finding joy in creating art again. Now in my 30s, a little older and (hopefully) a little wiser, I consider myself quite adept at following a brief whilst still pursuing a creative approach, and that’s one of my favourite elements of illustration.

How would you describe your artistic style?

Fluid, fun, and vibrant. I love incorporating real-world textures into digital illustration, and fusing a sense of the fantastical with reality. 

What are your favorite materials and mediums to work with?

I work primarily digitally, but occasionally I’ll also work in watercolours, gouache, and charcoal. I like mediums that can be fluid and expressive.

Your art is whimsical and inspiring – where do you draw inspiration from?

Mostly nature! The natural world is endlessly inspiring to me, and I think that flora and fauna are so beautiful and unique in all their variations – and far more interesting than most things man-made, in my opinion! I love illustrating the natural world for children to encourage them to find beauty in their surroundings and develop a deep respect for all creatures great and small. 

You illustrate children’s books – how did you get involved in the industry?

At the start of my working life, I worked in mental health and marketing. Whilst I don’t regret my time in those industries, it absolutely led me to burnout and after becoming chronically ill, I took an extended break from work and started illustrating much more frequently for pleasure. I was mostly illustrating nature, portraits of animals and whimsical, fairy tale-esque scenes, and it was during that time that I realised that I was garnering infinitely more joy from illustrating than I ever was over the past decade of my previous jobs. I felt hesitant about pursuing illustration as a profession (my fear of change is very real!) but with plenty of encouragement from my wonderful partner, I made the jump and here we are! 

Illustration is truly a great fit for me and my needs – it allows me to work on a range of different projects and be adaptable in my style, allows me to put my creative mark on a project and also allows me to manage my varying energy needs whilst working from home. Children’s books are my favourite because there are endless ways to express subtlety and nuance of a story… Adding hidden details here and there that are a joy for children to discover is one of the best bits! Children’s book characters can be so expressive and whimsical and unique, and that makes illustration super fun.

Mr. Paws, in the fluff

This year, I’ve had the pleasure of writing and illustrating my own children’s book, “Whose Cat Is That?” It’s a fun adventure through a whimsical town called Fishbottom, where the town is turned upside down by the curious case of a missing cat, Mr. Paws. As the characters knock door to door throughout the town, children mark off characteristics of the cats from their list and get to play detective, before finally discovering the true owner of Mr. Paws. The story also introduces children to various pronouns and encourages inclusivity, diversity, and respect. 

What is/are your favorite subject(s) to illustrate?

I’ll always enjoy anything related to nature, animals and scenery. I take a lot of pleasure in drawing rich, intricate, natural-world scenes that are filled with expressive and unique characters. 

Sia’s art gives a sense of child-like wonder, not just for children but also for us adults. The message of hope inspires and the colors enchant. You can see more of Sia’s work on her website!