Meeting Makers – The Book Illustrator

Le Chien A La Mode

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.

highland dog

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

Cats Collage

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.

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26 Responses to Meeting Makers – The Book Illustrator

  1. smallmole says:

    Oh wow – my seven year old daughter would love these – she’s doggie crazy! I think my favourite is the labrador in angel wings – the look on it’s face! I think my daughter would prefer the spaniel dressed as a present though – we used to have a King Charles Spaniel who looked just like that and she still gets emotional when she sees them. Such lovely work!

  2. amanda says:

    Such gorgeous illustrations! So much lovely stuff on Jo’s website but I think my favourite has to be the Grey fluffy cat with boater mug as it looks just like our cat Lottie even down to the grumpy face- although Lottie does like sunbathing on the decking so a bikini rather than a boater would probably be more appropriate for her! Would love to win the cards!!

  3. Trixie Lixie says:

    I have always loved Jo’s illustrations, my favourites are the cats, so it would have to be the Cats in Hats coasters for me or any one of the Cat Nap cushions!

  4. They are all so very adorable. But the Border Terrier mug reminds me of my friend’s late and much loved Nino. I’d love to win the mug for her.

  5. dottiedoodle says:

    These are charming! I love the dogs, but can’t be unfaithful to our Cairn, so my favourite is the cat with boater mug. That expression is hilarious!

  6. tamalyn1 says:

    i love the Cat Nap Cushion Tabby & White – its just like my jasper x

  7. lauriesannie says:

    I loved the Yorkshire terrier print. The eyes are so beautiful.

  8. Despina Vnt says:

    I adore the poodle mug, thank you!!!

  9. Kate says:

    Absolutely love Jo’s work, thanks for drawing attention to her website. The Twelve Dogs of Christmas cards are just gorgeous! I particularly live the budgie mug, bat print and cat cushions…..maybe I need to buy one of each!

  10. Jen (NY) says:

    “Ginger Cat in Fez Hat Big Mug” struck me–there’s a certain such cat in my history, of course. (Though I never knew him to wear a fez!)

  11. Natalie says:

    I lOVE the Westie Art Print! It looks just like my little Westie girl who is back in the UK! I could choose many more favourites and I think some will be going on my Christmas list 🙂

  12. C says:

    One does not often see guinea pig merchandise! I’m loving the guinea pig mug.

  13. Kim says:

    Ooh everything is so cute! But I really like the guinnea pig mug 😊

  14. liza jane says:

    My dream job! I wish I had done some illustration when I was in school, knowing what I know now. I draw all the time at work, always inspired by the little ones I teach. I would love to be an illustrator. I actually did some props for our school’s chorus performance of the twelve dogs of christmas song a couple of years ago. They were not nearly as cute as Jo’s, though. And I really want to drink my tea out of that Ginger Cat in a Fez Hat mug.

  15. Caro says:

    Everything is lovely but I love the doggie bag. I spy no leggie lurchers though… My two would make excellent life models!

  16. Great illustrations! I love the St. Bernard bauble card!

  17. Louise says:

    Wow, just visited the website now and her designs are fabulous! I’ll be ordering a pack of the Christmas cards regardless of the competion (the Jack Russell Brussel is adorable!! 🙂 As for my favourite product, that’s tough – i love the Jack Russell mug and the badger bag, and far too many of the cards to mention!
    Also, just wanted to say that i have a copy of Woolly Woofers and the illustrations are absolutely gorgeous – it’s worth looking through even if you can’t knit! 🙂

  18. Brianne says:

    I <3 the doggy dress up coloring book!!!

  19. Maxi says:

    Having had two Airedales, Santa Airedale would have to be my favourite 🙂 Adorable!

  20. Barbara Waterman says:

    I found it really hard to choose a favourite product – loved them all! If I have to narrow it down I would say the cards – choose 5 single cards for £10. I doubt they would be sent anywhere as I would probably keep and frame them. What a wonderful talent Jo and thank you for sharing Karen 😊

  21. Nettie says:

    Thank you for putting me on to Jo’s site. Her work is delightful. As a beekeeper and garden lover, I can’t go past her fabulous bee cards. I’ll be ordering some for sure!

  22. Fiona says:

    I love the catnap cushion in black and white, Sionyn, our much loved work cat (pest control officer) could have been the model!

  23. I love the cat nap cushions!

  24. Nicola says:

    The budgies on a line fabric is wonderful, it’s on my Christmas list!

  25. Laura says:

    Aww, these are all so cute! I’d go for the cat coasters, personally.

  26. Pingback: Meeting Makers – The Author | Did You Make That?

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