I don’t know about you but enduring life in lockdown has led to more gazing into Instagram than ever before. For me, its like visual soma and one of the more captivating Instagrammers whose work I follow is illustrator Saba Lashay.

I actually met Saba when she briefly lived in Sheffield in 2012 and I instantly loved her work. Saba creates the most intricate and charming images rich with playful and endearing characters. Her mostly black & white work explores themes around life, love, loss, random observations and childhood memories set in fantastically detailed world that purposely plays with depth and perspective.

Rich in motifs, Saba’s work draws you in and keeps you exploring, and just when you think you’ve fully absorbed the work, a delightful little visual surprise will pop out of nowhere and deliver a smile in the mind.

I caught up with Saba in her flat in London on a Zoom call to talk about her latest work and her passion for illustration. Here’s what she said!

What is your earliest memory of drawing?

I remember the first time I watched ‘The Little Mermaid’ when I was six years old (it was the first Disney animation I’d ever watched!); I was so in love with that cartoon that I drew every scene of it. My dad has kept all those drawings and every time I go back home I go through them and it always brings back memories! Those drawings were also quite well known amongst my friends in primary school because I always drew The Little Mermaid for my friends too!

What inspires and influences your work today?

Observation from life, random conversations, books, love, loss, and music will always be my main inspirations and sometimes visiting art galleries can spark new ideas as well!

How do you come up with ideas for your illustrations?

Most of my ideas come from listening to music; usually some parts of the lyrics can lead to an illustration! Also, sometimes my ideas come from a lovely passage that I read in a book which I can relate to and that could end up as an illustration. Long walks and travelling are always a help too!

Your characters are fascinating, what’s the story behind them?

I’ve developed a few characters since 2010 and the most loved ones are the aliens and the bear. I used to draw the aliens quite a lot, but they just pop here and there in my illustrations now; I’d definitely illustrate a short story based on them.

The bear character represents unconditional love for me; someone who’s always there for you no matter what!

What is your creative process from idea to finished work?

It always starts with a few rough pencil sketches. I usually try to sketch three or four ideas, then I pick the one which speaks to me most. Then I start the inking and then adding the details which sometimes can take a long time, but adding all those little details is my favorite part of the process. I use 0.03 and 0.05 Micropens, then I scan my work and do some modifications in Photoshop if needed.

How has your work developed over the years?

I guess it just organically developed over a long period of time by trying different techniques and finally going with the one that felt most natural and enjoyable to me.

What influences the style or direction in your work?

I’d say Quentin Blake definitely influences my loose style and I get a lot of inspiration from Aubrey Beardsley’s beautifully detailed illustrations.

When do you feel you’re at your most creative?

When I’m listening to music usually late at night; I’m a night owl and that’s when I’m most creative.

Do you like to experiment with different styles and techniques?

Sometimes yes! Recently I’ve been experimenting with coloured pencils and it’s totally different to my detailed illustrations. I’d love to try pastels and watercolour too, but somehow, I always go back to my Micropens; they’re my favourite medium.

What is your next piece of work going to be about?

I’d love to add more animals in my drawings, so I think definitely the bear is going to hang out with new friends in the next illustration!

What is your goal for 2021?

I’d love to sell some of my original work on my online shop and I’d also want to write a short illustrated story for children.

If you’d like to see more of Saba’s work have a look at her website sabalashay.com and give her a follow on Instagram (‘Saba Lashay illustrates’).

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