Summer Sundays are all about unwinding from the working week, slowing down and giving yourself a boost of vitamin D to help recharge and refocus. For South London-based illustrator Kate Cronk – better known to Papier fans by her studio name Peggy & Kate – this means taking a stroll through her local Dulwich Park to watch (and draw) the parade of affable dogs trot and scamper by, then returning home to relax with paint brush and canvas.
We joined her one Sunday afternoon to do just that, and under the shady leaves of her favourite Caucasian Wingnut tree asked about her distinctive illustration style, taking time out from the noise of city life and why everyone should give painting a go.
Firstly, let’s get to the bottom of your studio name – Peggy & Kate. You’re Kate but who’s Peggy?
My middle name is actually Peggy so people call me both Peggy and Kate – this is what led me to choose this name for my studio. It can sometimes be a bit confusing, but it’s sometimes fun to take on two personalities.
What first drew you to becoming an illustrator?
I’ve always been into drawing and painting, some of my first memories are of drawing with my Grandad, who was a great watercolourist.
I actually studied weaving at university, at 18 I didn’t even know that illustration was a job! My woven work was very illustrative and focused heavily on pattern, I was always trying to tell a story through my fabrics. I graduated during the recession and it was incredibly hard to find a creative job in weaving! After a few years I started to really suffer with low self-esteem and anxiety as I wasn’t doing anything very creative. I decided to take up painting as a hobby again so I had a creative outlet and it all started form there.
You draw a lot of outdoor scenes, flowers and animals, particularly dogs – why do you like to draw the natural world?
My parents have a plant nursery which has been a huge influence on me – I’ve always loved documenting flowers and wildlife in my sketchbook. I currently live in South East London on a very busy road, and painting the natural world is a way for me to escape the busyness of London.
Is it important for you to take time out to slow down?
I’m am an anxious person so this time out is really important for me, if I rush about for weeks on end I can feel the anxiety building and spilling out into all areas of my life. So taking time each day to slow down helps me from getting too caught up in the details. I like to walk, go swimming or read as it makes me feel calm, I like to reflect in these moments of pause so I can appreciate all the wonderful things in life!
Walk us through your perfect summer Sunday?
My perfect summer Sunday starts with a walk to Dulwich Park to buy coffee and breakfast, followed by a swim at Brockwell Lido. Both are great places for people watching and sketching. I then walk back home via Dulwich Picture Gallery to check out an exhibition and back to the park for dog spotting and drinks with friends. I love to end my Sunday night with some drawing and painting that’s just for fun. I usually draw something that’s happened during the week or I’ll find a florist on Instagram and have some fun painting huge scale bouquets!
How does painting and illustration help you to relax and take it slow?
I find it almost impossible to paint well if my mind is racing or if I’m stressed, so the act of drawing or painting means I have to slow down. I like to create a relaxed environment, think about my breathing and really be mindful of what I’m creating. I tend to break an image down into a series of shapes and textures, that really helps me to focus and stops the process from being too daunting so I can relax.
I see painting as being a bit like yoga or swimming, you can start feeling awful but the practice of moving your brush in time with your breath means that you have to be present and focus on the object in front of you, there’s no space to be worrying about what could happen with x, y or z.
A lot of your painting and illustrations are in a very simple blue and white colour palette. What led you to that style?
When I got back into illustration in my mid 20s I used to spend hours in the V&A ceramics room, drawing the figurines or just picking out funny looking animals (there’s a particularly hilarious sheep in there somewhere). My blue and white style was probably influenced by the delftware there. Navy is also my favourite colour, I much prefer it to working in black.
Would you recommend to us non-creative folk to take up painting?
I would really recommend painting as a hobby, it’s so fun and a really relaxing way to document your days!
If you're in love with Peggy & Kate's work as much we are, there's a whole collection of sketchbooks, greeting cards, wedding invitations, notebooks and more for you to personalise here.