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STILL HERE x OCTAEVO

We are excited to present our latest collaboration with STILL HERE. We came across this fabulous project a couple of months ago on Instagram and got completely hooked. Founded in March 2020 by Zena Kay and Tess Smith-Roberts during lockdown, it quickly gained thousands of fans and followers. Every week Tess and Zena (illustrators themselves) publish a photo to be redrawn and reinterpreted by other artists. The submissions are incredibly inspiring! We are, therefore, very proud to contribute with a still life of our own.

Can you please tell us a bit about yourselves and artistic backgrounds?

We both studied Illustration Animation at Kingston University (we actually met during the interview!). After graduating Tess started freelancing and moved to the big city, London. Whilst Zena moved to Berlin to work in food design then moved back to Nottingham and started freelancing as an illustrator! Both drawing a lot of food!

How did you come up with the idea of this incredible project STILL HERE?

It started about a month into the UK lockdown back in March 2020. We were both struggling in making our own work and missed being able to visit each other and friends. The endless Zoom and wine nights weren’t doing it for us. Thats when we decided to start drawing items from each others homes. Both enjoying it we thought it would be fun for others to get involved. Next thing we know, it's 8 months later and we are still going and still loving it!!


We both just really enjoy a good still life painting! Its just another added bonus that they are normally based around food, flowers and fun objects!

What is your approach when selecting photos to recreate or illustrate?

To be honest we just pick them randomly and the ones we like or would like to draw ourselves. Over the months we are trying to mix things up with different still life and work with different artists but we do love a good simple image with lots of bright colour! 

Where do you get inspiration from for your personal work?

Probably just day to day life, especially at the minute, we both rent studio spaces which helps! Our work is different but also very similar in some ways however we are both always inspired by big bowls of fruit! 

What unique opportunities or experiences have you encountered as a result of STILL HERE?

We’ve had some great opportunities to collaborate with some wonderful creatives, brands and photographers. Like OCTAEVO! But to be honest we love just seeing how varied all the work is that is submitted, its all so good! We are hoping to start running workshops once things are back to normal and we have exciting things coming up, so keep you eyes out! 


The thing you can’t live without while working on a project: 
T: Coffee  
Z: Coffee 

Currently obsessed with:
T: 90 Day Fiance 
Z: Canal boat interiors  

Three greatest influences:
T: Bad jokes, Food, Friends  
Z: Food, Friends & Wine (all together if possible) 

Favorite space to work:
T: On my bed  
Z: At my studio space 

If you weren’t illustrators, you’d be: 
T: Food critic  
Z: Ooo, a gardener or pastry chef

Current music album on repeat:
T: Mala - Devendra Banhart  
Z: Anything by Devendra Banhart (Big fans over here) or 666 by Sugar Candy Mountain 

Biggest creative risk you’ve taken in your career:
T: Setting up an Instagram account to draw still life
Z: Hahaha, what Tess said! 

Zena Kay: zenaokay.com
Tess Smith-Roberts: tesssmithroberts.co.uk


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