Rider’s Lens: Sarah Pendergrass Illustrates all the Gear
Our latest installment of Rider’s Lens showcases the work of Scotland-born, Australia-living artist Sarah Pendergrass, who shares a sweeping mix of annotated bike and camping gear drawings from her “All the Gear Illustrated” project. Get to know Sarah and see a selection of her work here…
Words and illustrations by Sarah Pendergrass (@allthegear.illustrated)
Over a decade ago, I moved from Scotland to Australia, where I still live – and love it. I live with my wonderful trail doggo, Ness (aka littlemadness) near the beach on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. I’ve been “sporty” my whole life, loving team sports before transitioning to more individual ultra-endurance adventures – riding bikes off-road and trail running, once I moved to Australia.
It feels so much easier and less vulnerable to share adventures than it does to share my illustrations – and yet I love combining adventure, writing and illustrations in one space – which is the central theme of the All the Gear Illustrated project.
Work-wise, I’m a copywriter and also head up content and creative at a digital marketing agency. I work four days a week to give myself free time to pursue build opportunities in adventure, adventure writing and illustration, which is where I feel most joyful, fulfilled and aligned.
My background in illustration is a very recent and self-taught one. I was doing some rough drawing on my iPhone with my finger and was longing for an iPad and Apple Pencil to teach myself to use Procreate and give the digital illustration side of things a proper go. Just over a year ago, I bought the iPad, and to essentially pay it back, I set up an Etsy shop (@littlehurricane.studio on Instagram), illustrating custom portraits of dogs and people on adventures with their dogs. I have a big thank you to give to friends (in person and virtual) who spurred me on to set this up after I had drawn pictures of their dogs as little surprise gifts. Seeing people purchasing my illustrations gave me confidence that I might be onto something, and I love creating such personalised illustrations for people all over the world.
In terms of the All the Gear Illustrated project, I’ve had an Instagram account since 2017, which was created in conjunction with a blog I started, writing gear reviews and sharing adventure and race reports. I’m so curious about adventure gear, and I started playing six months ago, initially with drawing and annotating my bikepacking setup before setting up an offshoot Instagram account that predominantly combines my nerdy interest in maps, gear and gear reviews through annotated illustrations (find them both linked below).
Reviews that would previously have been long-form written blog posts with photos are now these fun little illustrations. I like the idea that you can look at the overall picture and then dig in deep for some personal quirks in the copy. My favourite projects combine my love for writing, illustrating and adventure (and dogs!). I was recently commissioned by a brand new gravel bike event to create an illustrated venue map for their festival, and I love the idea of collaborating more with people and brands who share my values.
Self-propelled missions in nature are my favourite way to spend my time outside of work. I love to pore over maps and route making; downloading the GPX file to my watch or bike computer – and inevitably stitching myself up and re-routing on the fly brings me a lot of joy. I’m a huge fan of a simple overnighter and am always delighted to sleep under the stars.
I’m also currently planning to trail run the length of Scotland in August – a mission that has been on my mind for the last five years – so I’m currently spending a bunch of time running around the trails with my trail dog, Ness and mapping and planning. Ness brings a whole lot of joy to every adventure (including the way she tilts her head when I ask if she wants to go on an “adventure”), and we’ve been doing some fun night mountain biking on singletrack recently too – she goes full send for sure. A dream is to map a doggo-friendly bikepacking route and do a multi-day bike ride with her.
I also spend a lot of free time writing about and illustrating elements of these adventures and especially find the illustrating a super meditative way to spend my time.
Community is a huge and wonderful outcome of my relationship with bicycles. I’ve met all sorts of wonderful people through mountain biking, gravel riding and bikepacking. A highlight of last year was a shared adventure with a great bunch of Instagram connections beach-riding on an overnighter on Minjerribah – a beautiful island off the coast here.
Riding bikes has pushed my limits and given me confidence when it comes to some enduro riding and solo adventures I’ve done. It’s also allowed me to coach and instruct and generally explore way more territory than I can when self-propelled on foot.
The sense of freedom and accomplishment I get from bikepacking – whether it be a simple, local overnighter or a more challenging solo Outback adventure nourishes my soul! That being said, riding bikes with friends down to the beach at sunrise for a coffee or at sunset for a beverage or two is also such a simple and joyful way to spend time.
All of these things feed into my love for writing and illustrating these parts of my life in an honest, fun and personal way.
Given how new I am to the space, I don’t feel too qualified to give advice to people with interest in illustration other than to say – that’s exactly it; you don’t need to be qualified to get started with illustration.
Find something you’re passionate about to illustrate, play around with different tools, find what feels good and let it flow. Look for expanders – people creating what you would like to create (in their lives as well as their work) – Lisa Congdon, the illustrator and queer gravel cyclist is an example of that for me. Also, a reminder that we can be our own harshest critics.
As nervous as I was initially to share my illustrations, I’m grateful for a wonderfully encouraging community of friends and Instagram friends who offered supportive feedback and new ideas and inspired me to drop the ego and fear of criticism and to share my work. Just go for it. Have fun with it.
I truly believe that our desires are meant for us, and I’d encourage anyone feeling drawn to something that may not even make sense to anyone else in the world to still go for it. When I was tentatively sharing illustrations initially, I would never have believed I’d be featured on the Rider’s Lens. And I’m so grateful and stoked for that – and would love to explore more how I can show up in the adventure space as a near 40-year-old woman who’s passionate about fun, adventure and creativity.
Sarah’s Illustration Gear
I draw on an iPad with an Apple Pencil. I don’t typically carry it with me on bike trips (I don’t really trust myself not to smash it and also like to travel light where possible and minimise screen time). I take my phone to take photos of little objects I might like to draw later on and stash the ideas in my mind. Also, I question how much brain and creative capacity I have when I’m out in the field – dreaming up the illustrations (and avoiding technology and screens) is probably all I want to do if I’m riding long days and sleeping in the dirt.
I typically draw annotated gear reviews of bits of kit I own and have adventured with or maps of routes I’ve ridden or run. This illustration is a little different in that it’s not a review or a map but an overview of one of my many bikepacking set ups. I based it on a drone photo of me lying beside my bike – a Curve GMX+ named Celeste (after Babar the Elephant’s wife) with a lot of my gear around it, and annotated it from there. It’s a handy reference when I’m packing for adventures and a good reminder of how privileged I feel to own and adventure with all of this wonderful gear.
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