Following an art foundation, Charlotte chose not to continue her education to BA. Her surrealist work has been exhibited in galleries across the globe, as well as London’s Somerset House, and she proves that a degree isn’t the only road to success.

What do you associate Manchester with?

Family. I was born at St Mary’s Hospital, Manchester and we lived in Chorlton when I was young, so the city feels a lot like comfort to me. I associate it with summer holidays, Christmas and growing up. My nana’s house is the last remaining building of my childhood and it’s very nostalgic to me – the more time I spend there as an adult, my connection with Manchester grows.

Did you always know you wanted a career in art?

I always found drawing to be instinctive, and it’s hugely important to me as a means of communicating. Being in and out of the studios was my favourite thing about college and I knew I wanted to draw, but I had no idea what a career in art entailed, so it was sort of an afterthought. I chose to do a foundation art course at Chelsea School of Art & Design, but I was considering doing a History degree after.

Why did you choose not to progress from foundation to university?

I think there is quite a singular view on university being the only route to a career in the arts and I was never given information on alternatives. I grew up with my entire school life being geared towards eventually going to university, so it was weird to find myself deviating from that. With the rise in tuition fees and the number of unpaid internships in the creative industries, I think it is important to consider your options. Similarly, I know successful artists with degrees completely unrelated to the arts. I’m not denying the importance of university in developing your craft and creative understanding, but the internet is helping democratise access to creative industries. It allows you to share your work and develop a platform from your bedroom around your day job.

How did you launch your career straight out of foundation?

I was so conscious of not having a degree and really felt that I had something to prove, so said ‘yes’ to everything. I was looking for any and all experience, which was very up and down. I worked a lot of odd jobs to earn enough to pay rent, interning in-between and travelling where I could, but really prioritised making time to draw. As I started to develop my style, I began uploading my illustrations online and it sort of grew from there.

At London’s major art institutions, women only hold 25% of exhibitions. Yet, online art marketplace ArtFinder found that without traditional gatekeepers, women artists on their site (who make up half of those represented) sold 40% more work than the men, 16% faster. The internet is a powerful tool for the exposure female artists, tell me about how essential Instagram has been to launch your career

For a long time, sharing my work felt a bit like throwing something into a void and waiting to hear an echo, but Instagram really allowed me to find my audience. I was part of a recent exhibition showcasing women artists whose careers launched on the platform, ‘The Great Women Artists: Women on Instagram’, and the launch was eye-opening. There were queues around the block for a show comprising of relatively unknown women artists and it suggests a huge emerging demand for female artists and female curated shows.

What is your day-to-day routine?

My week is split between illustration and in-house graphic design. I’m freelance, but have regular clients now which gives me a bit of stability.

Do you have any mentors in the industry?

I used to assist an illustrator called Patrick Vale and he’s fairly older than me, so he’s a lot more experienced with big clients. I still go to him for advice on price points, but mainly get support from the Association of Illustrators. The AOI is a union for illustrators that gives you guidance when you pay a small monthly fee. They give you a portfolio online but more importantly will advise on contracts and briefs you’ve been given. They help you with pricing, legal rights, copyright issues; basically, all the things an agent would do for you.

What female artists inspire you?

Kay Sage, Remedios Varo, Leonora Carrington, Loie Hollowell, Lubaina Himid, Lu Hardcastle, Toyin Oijh Odutola, Juno Calypso – female surrealists have always held a special place in my heart. Toyin Oijh Odutola and Lubaina Himid both have such a sensitivity to their work and it’s so refreshing to see them gain the recognition they deserve in an industry oversaturated with white male artists.

Do you have any other strong female role models?

My mum and nana are huge role models for me, they’re wildly different, but both hugely influential. My nana has such a core strength, charming stubbornness and clear work ethic – she’s still working in her 80s – and my mum has a different, softer kind of strength. Her tolerance, open-minded nature and warmth are really inspiring, they have taught me a lot about perseverance and acceptance.

Tell me about your aesthetic

I’d describe my work as softly surreal with a nod to Afro-futurism. Primarily, I work in fine liner, pencil and then either watercolour or digital colour for print, but also produce tapestries and ceramics, having explored concrete and copper engraving in the past. The tapestries are ethically made by a weaving company in the US, which I found online after extensive research, they send over samples so I can get the colour match just right.

What do you hope people take away from your art?

If anyone feels at all moved by my work, then that’s pretty magic. I read a quote about art having the power to “change consciousness by an act of will” and think it’s kind of perfect. Female identity is a recurring theme, but I think my recent work has really been an exploration of balance. The idea of balance is both precarious and delicate, and my recent works are very much on the edge.

What advice would you give young girls thinking of a career as an artist?

I would say don’t expect it to look like you thought it would and above all, keep at it! Don’t take rejection personally, you have more time than you think. Learn from your peers and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Enjoy the time you have to mature as an artist. There’s no shame in your day job and there’s no expiry date on your artistic process.