Getting to know: New Zealand Artist Penny Royal

Located in Nelson, Stoke is home to Penny Royal, an artist with a range of creative skills, from graphic design to illustration to surface pattern design.

Penny’s art focuses on nature where she is particularly drawn to New Zealand native flowers and birds.

Recently we caught up with Penny and she was kind enough to answer a few questions about her life and art.

nelson artist penny royal design

Did you always want to be an artist?

I have always been creative, but I didn’t pursue it as a career until my mid 30’s when I did a Bachelor of Arts and Media degree at NMIT in Nelson with a focus on Graphic Design. I graduated at the end of 2018 and I my career has evolved into Penny Royal Design where I am self-employed and do a mix of graphic design and my own art.

Do you have a role model that you’ve drawn inspiration from when creating your art?

While I was studying I discovered Kathryn Del Barton, I love her techniques and drawing linework.. her attention to detail is inspiring.

I also follow Grotti Lotti (Casey Manson) on Instagram, her art is so bright and fun and joyful, and her business model is super inspiring #goals !



What do you do when you’re not inspired to create art? What brings your mojo back?

Often just taking the pressure off myself to create art that can be “turned into” something that I can sell… and just sitting down with a black fine liner and my sketchbook and doodling some patterns helps. Or go and sit outside in nature and pick some flowers and just start drawing and watercolouring them.

I also try and enter the weekly Spoonflower repeating pattern design challenges, they give you a theme to work to, so I pick the ones most inspiring to me and the initial design often morphs into a full collection of surface pattern designs for fabric and wallpaper, and then I often turn them into clothing designs and art prints.

Penny Royal design drawing a New Zealand Bird in ink pen

How has everyday life impacted your art?

I am a single parent of 2 kids, so the decision to become a graphic designer/self-employed creative was definitely in part because of them. I needed a career that could work around them, give me the flexibility to be there for them on sick days, school trips, school holidays and school hours. I wanted to be able to be there for them, but if I was working and sacrificing time with them, it needed to be something that I was passionate about and loved doing, otherwise it wasn’t worth it.

What media do you use with your artwork?

While I do create art digitally with my Wacom tablet, I am at heart pretty old school and like nothing better than sitting down with my sketchbook and pencil/black fine liner pen. I do need to work from a reference object or picture and I have a pretty realistic style, but I do enjoy doing stylised texture patterns. While I primarily consider myself a drawer, I do enjoy painting and watercolour is my medium of choice at the moment, so I do often colour my drawings. I then scan them into my computer to digitise/adjust and layout for whatever its going to become… create a seamless pattern for fabric or wallpaper or an individual element for clothing or a print.

artist penny royal design with bird drawing

What is your most important artist tool? Is there something you can’t live without?

I love Staedtler pigment liners because they are waterproof so I can watercolour over top of them. And I have discovered that I only really like using the 0.2 size… seems to suit the scale I draw at.

Tell us something interesting about you.

I love riding horses although I don’t have my own anymore. I also love riding motorbikes, I have my road license and I also have a vintage motocross bike that I love to race (well ride around the track!).

If you were a colour, what colour would you be and why?

Ummm maybe yellow?? I am a pretty happy bubbly person, and I can be a lot lol!

I like to think I bring the sunshine to the situation… well that’s my aim anyway 😊 I am sure I can be a bit lemony sometimes lol!


Sea Shell illustrations by Penny Royal Design

What do you enjoy outside of creating art?

Since I started creating art for my career, drawing has started to feel like work rather than just fun. So I have started knitting, in the evening’s I get twitchy fingers and need to create something while I am watching TV, I used to draw, but now I knit fugly patchwork blankets… I like that there aren’t any rules I can do whatever I want, it doesn’t matter if its ugly or not perfect and if I get bored I just cast off and start another one. Then at the end I crochet them all together to make a snuggly blanket… I am nearly finished my 3rd blanket! 

Any advice to young or new artists?

We were given a great bit of advice when I was studying that has stuck with me… “Don’t be an asshole!” I think it was especially relevant to us, because Nelson is such a small place and you can’t burn bridges because people talk and then no-one wants to work with you. I don’t think this means you have to be a pushover, but being polite and kind in the first instance and not letting your ego dictate your behaviour gets you a lot further in life. 


Do you have any questions for Penny Royal Design? Ask us in the comments below.


Penny Royal Design best sellers

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