in conversation... molley scoble

Illustrator Molley Scoble on managing mental health, the importance of Instagram and horrible crying

14th October, 2019

“I’m definitely a big fan of a cry, but I don’t know whether you should be crying as soon as you wake up, and then as you're going to bed, and nearly every night. I think that probably isn’t just you being a cryer”

You could say things are going pretty well for London-based illustrator Molley Scoble right now. With an Instagram following of 80.6k, and a commission for Ladybird books under her belt, she’s come a long way from sitting in her parents’ house sending off those first email applications into what she calls ‘the void of the internet’.

But despite her recent successes, Molley still faces bouts of anxiety and depression, which she says can wreak havoc with her stability during the creative process.

UOH gave Molley a visit, to find out how she has learned to manage her mental health, Instagram – and horrible crying.

You okay hun?

I’m doing wonderful.

Your art style is quite carefree and whimsical. How do you approach each piece of work, do you draft or dive straight in?

I’m definitely not a drafter. That was a big downfall for me at university because they really wanted you to do those 40’000 thumbnails - but it just doesn’t work for me as a technique. Sometimes I’ll plan out ideas, but the way that I process those ideas is just by thinking, and quite often it will come together in my head. I’m sure I could definitely benefit from reworking certain things but I’m not a planner.

Do you work best when structuring your time to accommodate your practice?

It comes in waves. I have quite a lot of time off outside of my day job to illustrate. I’d very often have four or five days of  the week where I could be doing practice, but quite a lot of it can be spent feeling insanely guilty because I’ve not done anything, as if all I’m doing is flaking around my mid-20’s. But I work better once I’ve got that wave of, “I have to do something right now!”, and then you just do it rather than putting aside an afternoon. To me that is so painful as a way of making art because it is so unnatural. 

Applications and interviews are an integral part of the creative process. How do you deal with rejection, and do you agree that the outcome can be quite positive?

I think I get rejected more than I get accepted, as does everybody. When I first graduated I was putting aside time every month to email all these people saying, “hello, it’s me again!”. Most of the time it’s not even rejection – it’s just silence from the void in the internet.

I was already feeling vulnerable after graduating  – moving home from having a really good time at art school, back to my mum and dad making me tea again, and with my friends scattered all over the place. So when nobody likes your work on top of that, it starts to make you feel like “I’m sat here at my mum and dad’s being ignored by all these people, and my work must be completely shit.” 

Instagram is an excellent marketing tool, specifically for creatives. How important is  social media for getting your work out there?

It’s definitely valuable. I have a really funny relationship with Instagram because it contributes to about 90%, if not all, of my work. Other than that it’s people at art fairs. I think about it quite a lot because I’m putting all of this stuff out there for free, except I have to market myself.

The amount of people that follow you doesn’t reflect the quality of your work, either. I know people that are so talented with hardly any following, and they’re striving for a bigger following, except it doesn’t really mean anything. It doesn’t make me a better illustrator. I suppose I’m being coy, but it’s definitely a good thing. It’s just a bit surreal. It’s always the stuff that you dislike that does well, such as the earrings – people love those! 

Part time work can be a necessity for most creatives. How do you juggle your creative projects with your day job?

It’s essential for me to have a part time job because not only does it give me financial stability, but it makes sure I leave the house. If I’m working from my bedroom it can be so isolating, especially if you're doing work about your emotions – it’s just you and your head drawing for days on end. Being able to go out and work in the shop for a bit gives me a breather, and I think  I’m always going to want to have part time work. I need headspace to just think about something else for a while. It’s definitely essential and I would really recommend having two or three days a week to switch off, especially for those who want to freelance. 

You’ve mentioned that you suffer from anxiety and depression. What are your experiences with it?

Anxiety is something that underlines a lot of my life, especially growing up. I was at my lowest after graduation. That was a really intense year, and I had my first round of counselling then. It was extremely difficult to talk to my parents about being unwell. It’s not that they don't believe it exists, but more that they don’t want to believe that someone they're responsible for can be feeling this way. It was very much me being like, “Mum, the doctor says I’m going to do this”, and then my Mum being fairly quiet about it, but it was one of the best things I've ever done. It was truly essential to how I deal with my own thought patterns now.

I had a really bad breakup that brought me back down again, and that's when the Ladybird commission came. The end of this five year relationship and then the biggest commission of my life came within two weeks of each other. I was definitely affected by that for a very long time. I had to work out who I was and how to deal with mental health problems on my own. I’m thinking about making a comic about that, about how it feels to work out who you are as an adult when the last time you were alone was when you were a teenager, which I think is a very interesting topic. But maybe everybody is writing about relationships, and it’s that whole thing of am I mentally ill enough?

Does it affect your creative process in any way, and if so how do you deal with it?

Mental health issues and the creative process are definitely not friends, they’re very uncomplimentary of each other. I think they feed into each other, because if you’re having a really bad month where everything you make isn’t ticking any of your boxes, that will feed into this low energy state where you feel like you’re not good enough.

“Mental health issues and the creative process are definitely not friends, they’re very uncomplimentary of each other”

A bad habit of mine is that I cannot cope at all with uncertainty.  When I do commissions, it’s very tense the whole time and completely exhausting. I’m sending roughs out and having to wait for it to come back for them to say, “can you change this?” If I get feedback while I’m at the shop, I can’t settle because I feel like I have to attend to it straight away. I can’t give myself the time frame or let  myself off the hook, just for a little bit. I want them to know that I can do it, and also I want to know for myself that I can do it.

Has your perception of mental health changed over time?

I could have done with having counselling and talking about it more when I was much younger. I think I was very depressed as a young teenager. When I first went to university I could have done with somebody talking to me about it. It was never really spoken about in my family, and I think that my dad and my brother have anxiety issues, but it’s not the kind of thing that we would ever think to talk about.

After I had my break up, I was often down and I’d done a lot of crying. Crying three times a week average, like big horrible crys, and I just assumed that was part of me. I’ve kept a diary since I was 12 and I’ve always done it – I always thought that I’m just a cryer and there’s nothing wrong.

I was watching ‘Brooklyn’ the other day, and I properly cried at the end. I realised that that was the first time I’d cried one of those horrible cries in a long time, and it was actually quite nice. I used to do that on the regular. It was almost a hobby of mine. I mean, I’m definitely a big fan of a cry, but I don’t know whether you should be crying as soon as you wake up, and then as you're going to bed, and nearly every night. I think that probably isn’t just you being a cryer.

How do you unwind and relax?

I’m at my most relaxed when I’m listening to music. The album I listened to a lot to unwind last year was LCD Soundsystem’s ‘American Dream’.  It’s just walking around somewhere that you’re very familiar with, and you’re listening to an album that you’re very familiar with, and you know exactly where the album is going and you know exactly where you’re going, and for me, that is peak relaxation.

Ladybird ‘Tales of Adventurous Girls: With an Introduction From Jacqueline Wilson’ is out now.

View, purchase and learn more about Molley Scoble below: / @molley.may

words: patrick taylor, jessica hailstone / images: katie spencer

uoh 2020 — @uok.hun