How do you illustrate a book? Want to find out what it’s really like drawing scenes for a knitting pattern? Then give a big welcome to Jo Clark, illustrator on the charming and delightful Woolly Woofers from Debbie Bliss! Jo agreed to an interview AND a special animal-themed Christmas giveaway. So keep reading for a chance to win…
Karen: Welcome, Jo! First of all, I’d love to hear how you came to be involved in the Woolly Woofers book.
Jo: Hello! I was lucky enough to be approached by Quadrille Publishing. I think they had spotted my work on my website. They asked me to provide a sample illustration for the project which they explained a little bit about. I was, of course, very excited about the whole thing and got to work straight away!
K: How did you compose your absolutely fantastic scenes around the dogs featured in the photo shoot?
J: Ah well thank you, so glad that you like them, I really had such a fantastic time on this project. I was given a few words as a brief to describe each scene, together with photos of the cute pooches in their gorgeous jumpers and coats.
I just let my imagination run away with me, helped along with a few reference photos for things that I’d never seen before such as a streetcar. The only rule I had were that there were to be no humans in the scenes; this was an animal-only world. Which made it a perfect job for me! I tend not to put backgrounds in a lot of my pictures so it was a real treat to go back to creating a full colour double page spread, as I originally trained as a children’s book illustrator.
K: Can you tell us a little bit about your technique and process? What mediums do you use and how much computer work is involved?
J: Sure! I start off by sending a rough pencil sketch to the designer as my initial idea. Then when they are approved I create the final artwork. I start on a clean sheet and lay the colour down first using marker pens. Then I put in details over the top, using a nice soft pencil or a fine retractable pencil for the smaller details. I then scan the drawing, usually adjust the contrast and brightness on Photoshop, or clean up any marks that I may not want in the picture. I managed to sneak my cat Daisy into the book in a couple of places too. She’s the black and white moggy!
Note from Ed: I don’t think Jo’s being entirely truthful here. More than one cat sneaked into this book…
K: You specialise in illustrating animals. Can you describe a few of the challenges and pleasures of this type of subject?
J: Yes, I draw animals and creatures because I think they are so important to us, and we should look out for them whenever we can. And, of course, they’re cute! Animals have a certain mystery about them – they can’t speak to us, but they can communicate feelings in their own ways. I want my drawings to be able to capture that. So sometimes this can be tricky, especially as I work from photographs mostly.
To try and keep the freshness of character I will often spend a lot of time looking at photographs and then try and draw from memory. Sometimes it works really well, other times not. I think the most rewarding thing is when I get such a positive reaction and my work makes someone happy. That is my main aim with my pictures, to brighten up someone’s day with a smile.
K: Do you have any advice for people who’d like to turn their creative skills into a career?
J: Always work to your strengths and do what you love, as it will show through. Remember that making mistakes is all part of the learning process. Just keep going and step forward. Never stop believing in yourself and realise that your work is probably not for everyone, but it will always be for someone. Your job is to find them!
K: If there was a single dog in the whole world that you would really love to illustrate who would SHE be? Would she be a MINIATURE SCHNAUZER? Would her name begin with ‘E’ and end in ‘A’?
J: Oh, it’s funny you should ask me that. I’m just getting a great urge to draw a Miniature Schnauzer called … Ella! Watch this space…
And now Jo would like to make our readers happy. One lucky person has a chance to win Jo’s Twelve Dogs of Christmas multipack of cards. To enter the giveaway, all we ask is that you visit Jo’s website and leave a comment below letting us know what your favourite product is. I’m quite tempted by the Tea Owl Tea Towel!
This giveaway is open worldwide and closes at midnight GMT Monday 13 October. Good luck! And a huge thank you to Jo, who you can follow on Twitter @joclarkdesign.