“Growing up, I was in love with art. I was always painting and drawing and as far back as I can remember, I knew I wanted a creative job. So I went to Sheffield Hallam University to study Fine Art and I loved it. But in my third year, my big brother (who worked in web development at a London agency) asked me what I planned to do with the degree. I was stumped. He spent a lot of time working with graphic designers so he suggested I learn how to do that.
That day, I downloaded Photoshop and started teaching myself how to do it. My final year projects were a combination of hand-drawn and digital illustrations.
I had been going to Center Parcs on breaks for years and I loved the place. I remember one time looking at a menu in Huck’s American Bar and Grill and thinking, ‘Who makes these? Whose job is this? How do I get that job?’
In 2013, I found out. I applied for and got a job as a Creative Artworker at Center Parcs. On my very first day, my new boss Lee put that same Huck’s menu on my desk as an example of the sort of work I would be doing.
I’d been at Center Parcs almost a year in August 2014 when we began the big rebranding of Winter Wonderland. The old designs were feeling a bit tired and needed a modern look. With my colleague Sam, we began brainstorming, looking at children’s books and Christmas cards and seasonal adverts.
We decided to base our concept on story books. Inspired by the likes of Peter Rabbit and The Snowman, I did some early sketches of scenery and animals which had a nostalgic, fairy-tale feel. We presented the plans to our managers and got the thumbs up. Now we had to develop a few sketches into a full concept.
I tried out all sorts of materials; crayons, felt tips, pencils, water colours. We even considered creating the images digitally and using filters in Illustrator to make them look hand drawn, but it needed to feel authentic so we knew we couldn’t fake it.
I eventually settled on watercolour pencils. They’re the best of both worlds, with the precision of drawing and the smoothness of watercolour. They create a really lovely soft focus feel.
Every time you see the Winter Wonderland branding – that blue background with snow-capped trees, Lodges and animals scurrying about – every element of it has been hand drawn at my desk.
I do each piece in isolation, so I have piles of papers with a single snowy tree or a snoozing fox. That way I can scan each one and arrange them to suit every piece of work.
The Winter Wonderland look takes over all our materials every year. It pops up on the website, in emails, on the booklets you receive before your break and the boards, posters and menus on the Village. It even takes over our Facebook page for a few weeks.
When I think about guests seeing my artwork, I hope it gives them that Christmas-is-really-coming feeling. I hope they can’t wait to arrive and start their break together. After all, this is the Winter Wonderland story that I’ve created, but the real story is the one guests write for themselves.”
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