Posted 15 May 2024
Interview by Isabelle Cassidy
Mention Agnes Xantippa Boman

Illustrator Agnes Xantippa Boman on why “it’s better to do it scared than not at all”

Agnes Xantippa Boman is a Swedish freelance illustrator, animator and muralist who studied Communication Design at Glasgow School of Art. Staying put after she graduated in 2022, she now works out of a co-working studio in the Scottish city. Agnes secured her first commission while still studying, as part of a project that became not only her first job but also her first-ever mural. Two years on, she has designed pamphlets, completed editorial illustrations, animated an entire series of music videos and painted many more murals across Scotland. Here she discusses securing initial clients, her tips on creative self-confidence and why it’s okay to not always feel like you’re moving in the ‘right’ direction.

Agnes Xantippa Boman photographed by Harrison Reid

Agnes Xantippa Boman

Job Title

Illustrator, Animator and Muralist



Place of Study

BA Communication Design, Glasgow School of Art, 2019-2022

Selected Clients

Weslee, CBRE, Hollie McNish, The Glasgow School of Art


Social Media


What I do

How would you describe what you do as an illustrator?
I would describe myself as a visual storyteller who loves to capture narratives and emotions through my work. I do this through a wide range of mediums and disciplines, ranging from traditional illustration to digital animation and murals. I’m enjoying the freedom of trying out different things before settling on a niche.

My style is characterised by its versatility, as I enjoy experimenting with various themes, moods and aesthetics to bring diverse concepts to life. I embrace the challenge of balancing client expectations with personal expression in the projects I take on.

Inside Agnes' co-working studio at SWG3 in Glasgow, where she works in a studio with other illustrators, graphic designers, filmmakers and more

What are the main influences and inspirations behind your work?
So many different things and people inspire me! I try to always be open to inspiration and note things down on my phone when something piques my interest.

An example of this is how I found the colour palette I’ve been using lately, I came across it while cleaning up after cooking. On my chopping board, I found a beautiful mix of pink, green and lilac in the spring onions, garlic and lychee shells.

I also get inspired by all the amazing artists I see online; Lisk Feng, Chloé FARR, João Gonzalez, Anna Degnbol and Raman Djafari are some of my favourites.


Illustrations for Young Friends of the Earth Scotland



“If you're motivated and can find ways to carve out time, there are ways to learn it all by yourself.”

Would you say you need any specific training for what you do?
You need training to be an illustrator, but it doesn’t have to be acquired traditionally through school. I decided to go that route and studied Communication Design at Glasgow School of Art.

For me, that has felt like the right choice. Not because of the diploma itself, but because it gave me the time and space to be 100% focused on developing my skills. It was helpful to be in an environment where I was surrounded by other talented people who I could learn and be inspired by. I also learned about art history, critical thinking and how to come up with concepts and ideas.

When it came to practical skills, I had to teach myself. I learned drawing by sketching; animation from watching endless hours of tutorials; Adobe programs through reading internet forums; and painting murals by observing other people do it. All this to say, that if you are motivated and can find ways to carve out time, there are ways to learn it all by yourself.

Cover art for ‘Weslee’ on Spotify

What’s been your favourite project to work on from the past year, and why?
I feel incredibly lucky to have got to work on a series of animated music videos for a band called Weslee. I was given three unreleased songs and asked to make a video for each one, creating a world for the EP to live within. This also included cover art and Spotify Canvases. They gave me complete creative freedom to do whatever I felt suited the songs best.

When asked during my degree what my dream project would be, videos were always my answer. Music videos are such an amazing format to get to work with sound, storytelling, drawing, character development, colour, film-making and more. I took inspiration from the lyrics in the songs and created a narrative following the deterioration of a relationship. I did this by creating a house infested by pests as a visual metaphor, with each video showing a different point of the relationship.

Another reason this was a favourite project is because of how great the band was to work with. They were nothing but supportive throughout the whole process.

Animated work for Weslee’s music video

How I got here

What was your journey like when you were first starting out?
I was lucky enough to win a mural competition before graduating, so having at least one thing lined up was comforting. It was as I was painting that mural that I found out about the music video job just mentioned, which kept me busy for almost a year. I feel lucky in that sense, to have had some bigger projects to keep me going.

A creative career seldom has a traditional or linear trajectory. It feels more like going on a quest and hoping for the best. No one journey is the same and there is no roadmap. That felt scary when I was first starting out, and it still does from time to time. But as someone that was going down a more traditional path and disliked the feeling of knowing what was next, the uncertainty is worth the excitement and freedom that it brings.

“A creative career seldom has a traditional or linear trajectory. It feels like going on a quest and hoping for the best.”

How did you go about landing your first few commissions?
The very first few commissions I had were while I was still in art school, so I think showing tutors and technicians that you’re motivated and reliable can be a helpful first step. In my case, it also led to my school offering me some commissions after I had graduated, so that was good for starting out.

If I was to give advice about landing your first jobs, I would say to start small and local and give those first opportunities all you’ve got. I’ve noticed that opportunities tend lead to more opportunities, so take the chance to show your client how good you are!


Young Friends of the Earth Scotland booklet


What has been your biggest challenge along the way?
I found it hard to be confident enough in the beginning. Confidence plays a big part in pursuing an art career. It sounds corny, but you can’t really do it if you don’t believe in yourself – or at least pretend to believe in yourself. You have to be confident enough to make the art, then you have to be confident enough to apply for jobs, accept the job if you get it, and then promote it. And you have to do all this even in the times you’re not happy with what you made. It can be brutal.

That dream music video job I mentioned? I almost turned it down. I didn’t feel confident I could do 9 minutes of animation in the timeframe they gave me. Luckily my boyfriend forced me to accept. It’s better to do it scared than to not do it at all.


Personal illustrations for an ongoing series where Agnes illustrates family photographs



How important are social media and self-promotion to your work?
Promotion is essential for just about any business to succeed, so I understand it as an important part of what I do as well. Being a professional illustrator is different from doing art as a hobby, so I think you have to accept that promotion is part of the job if you want to make any money.

As with most things, this gets easier with time. Of course, I still find it hard sometimes posting things on social media, even when I’m not happy with them, or keeping up with it even when I don’t feel like it. But it’s way easier than it used to be. I’ve realised that not everything can be pure gold and that people don’t really pay that close attention (in a good way!).

I’ve also realised that you can get benefits from being visible on social media without having a lot of followers or posting all the time, so don’t let that discourage you!


Stills from the title screens of the music videos created for ‘Weslee’



What are three things that you’ve found useful to your work or career, and why?
The first thing I would include is The Illustrated Freelancer’s Guide written by Heather Parry and illustrated by Maria Stoian. This is a very practical resource for artists freelancing in Scotland, but a lot of the information would be useful for people outside of Scotland too. It’s full of information regarding setting up as a sole trader, how to do your taxes, insurance, pricing, contracts, pensions. It’s all very accessible and easy to digest.

The second is a podcast called the Creative Pep Talk. It’s less of a practical resource, and more like a comforting guide for those times I’ve been feeling lost or unmotivated to keep going. As mentioned earlier, a creative career can feel like going on this uncertain quest, rather than doing a job. Therefore, it can’t be guided purely by logic or reason and this podcast is great at recognising that.

I love listening to talks, they provide so much inspiration and useful information. My favourite ones are hosted by It's Nice That, Louisiana Channel and Contemporary Art Issue on YouTube.

What have been your greatest learnings with making money and supporting yourself as a creative?
I was so intimidated by the business side of things in the beginning. I felt like all I heard was horror stories about how hard it is to do your taxes and run a business. My greatest learning was to find out that it’s tricky but manageable.


Collaborative mural with Tintin Lindkvist Nielsen for Yardworks Festival 2024


My advice

What’s the best career-related advice you’ve ever received?
To be patient, because a career is built over many, many years. I think having this perspective is so useful because it takes the pressure of the present moment.

Rejection, creative block and even failure are inevitable parts of your journey, so it’s helpful to know that each time those things happen, you’re one step closer to where you want to be.


‘Outside the Box’ mural on Byres Road in Glasgow, for Yardworks

Dundee Mural

Mural for Generator Projects in Dundee

What advice would you give to someone looking to get into a similar role?
To anyone who wants to become an illustrator and is just starting out, my main advice would be to focus on getting good at drawing. It might sound obvious but in the time of social media, it can be easy for people to try to master self-promotion before they actually have something of value to promote.

When I decided to learn to draw more seriously, it was after many years of not drawing at all. In the beginning, drawing was fun but also very painful because I hated everything I drew. For a long time, your skills won’t match up to your taste. This is the part you just have to push through, there’s no way around it. I liked to visualise a tap that hasn’t been on for a long time, where first you have to let it run for ages before the water goes from rusty to clear.

That isn’t to say that you have to be good before you start sharing your work, but don’t get distracted by strategy before you’ve focused on your skill. That will always be the backbone of any successful illustrator.

Interview by Isabelle Cassidy
Mention Agnes Xantippa Boman