"How Deft We Are" by Jill Calder

"How Deft We Are" by Jill Calder

F&T: Name something you love, and why?

New sheets of Fabriano hot pressed paper and playing around with some inks with both favourite brushes and some handmade tools too.  I love seeing what happens.

F&T: One staple thing  in your workspace?

My dogs...and lots of Seawhite of Brighton softcover sketchbooks (I buy 20 at a time)...and Pentel colour brush pens and refills.  I know, that's 3 things (strictly 4, as there are 2 dogs).

F&T: What themes do you pursue?

Narrative.  Whatever job I am working on, whether for a very corporate client or for a more personal piece, I always try to find and develop the story. I like drawing people and/or animals reacting to one another in some sort of setting.  This can be light hearted and have some humour in it or it can be more serious.  I swing both ways :-) I like people to think about what's going on in my pictures and maybe create their own story.

"The Happiness Business" - Guardian Work cover by Jill Calder

"The Happiness Business" - Guardian Work cover by Jill Calder

F&T: Any memorable responses you have had to your work?

I once had an art director from a glossy magazine in the Netherlands say my faces on an illustration were ugly!  I actually quite liked her directness though.  Generally, the relationship I have with art directors and designers is good natured and business-like...I do the drawings and they are looked over to see how they fit with that particular project.  Sometimes they don't and so there is a to-ing and fro-ing of opinion and discussion that I enjoy, as it pushes me to think harder!  Working on a picture book and meeting the people who then bought it was a revelation, as I got to have lovely conversations with children about a particular illustration (usually the gory ones) and why they loved it so much!

F&T: A real-life situation that has inspired you?  

I can't really name one thing but events and places have a kind of 'drip-drip' effect on me - for instance, I try to travel up into the more remote parts of Scotland and out to the islands where the scenery is so beautiful.  I read books about this part of the world and together, over time, that all combines to inspire me to create various responses, such as my 'Otter Tracks' print, or my 'Forest Deer' print.  This kind of observation finds its way into my more commercial work too, as with 'Garden Detectives' for the National Museums of Scotland, where I just used my own garden as inspiration, including the visiting cats that hunted the sparrows in the hedgerow!  I spend quite a lot of my time just looking and listening rather than drawing, and so that is the 'drip-drip' effect, if that makes sense!

Garden Detectives by Jill Calder

Garden Detectives by Jill Calder

F&T: Favourite motivational phrase?

I don't really go in for that sort of thing, but I am a terrible procrastinator so I can usually be heard muttering "just f***ing get on with it" to myself quite a lot!

F&T: Last thing you doodled?

A map of my living room - seriously!  I also drew a page of faces to try out a new Japanese pen I had bought.

Preparation doodles for the Student Magazine at UCLA by Jill Calder

Preparation doodles for the Student Magazine at UCLA by Jill Calder

F&T: Where do you see illustration going, in the future?

Very traditional skills and techniques will continue to be rediscovered and developed (book-binding, lithography, letterpress etc.) and the digital side will become ever richer and immersive - we'll see illustrators creating holograms and working with lasers and light to create imagery out of thin air.  Maybe that's already happening!  I think drawing will always be important and an excellent skill to keep honed.

F&T: Any tips for newbies on how to develop their own style?

Seriously, be yourself.  Find things, objects people, animals in real life that you are fascinated by and draw them directly.  That way you'll find your own visual voice and develop your own visual language.  Don't copy anyone else, as that just confuses things.  Draw what you love, not what you feel you ought to draw.

Lettering by Jill Calder

Lettering by Jill Calder

F&T: Whose work do you admire, past or present?

An ever-changing list of people!  It also depends on the project I'm working on and what research I do for that, as that can lead me to discover all sorts of new work and artists.  When I was working on 'Robert the Bruce, King of Scots' I discovered a whole world of medieval art, sculpture, arcitecture that I had never really paid attention to beofre.  Suddenly I was looking at fantastic images of everyday life in 14th Century Europe, that was beautifully drawn and coloured and was also quite funny in places too.  That really inspired me.

Robert the Bruce, King of Scots - A Time of Tranquility under King Alexander III by Jill Calder

Robert the Bruce, King of Scots - A Time of Tranquility under King Alexander III by Jill Calder

Robert the Bruce, King of Scots - The Stone of Destiny is removed to London by Jill Calder

Robert the Bruce, King of Scots - The Stone of Destiny is removed to London by Jill Calder

Other than that I have started to look more at illustrators from the 60's and 70's such as Charles Keeping and Brian Wildsmith whose work I discovered a couple of years ago.  I really like Sara Ogilvie, Jon Klassen and Chris Haughton too.  When I was  a lecturer at Edinburgh College of Art I had the pleasure to teach Catherine Rayner, whose work is beautiful - she's a superstar now and well deserved!

However, I think it's unhealthy just to look at other illustrators all the time and so I like to look at all sorts of other art and design.  One of my favourite museums is in Paris - the Musee de la Chasse et la Nature (Museum of the Hunt and Nature) - it is devoted to everything to do with hunting over the centuries and is filled with weird and wonderful paintings, objects, sculpture in rooms themed by each animal - including a tiny room covered decoratively in owl feathers.  I'm not into hunting but that is an amazing space to wander through - beautifully curated.

"Sunday" - Sunday Times Magazine by Jill Calder

"Sunday" - Sunday Times Magazine by Jill Calder

All images belong to Jill Calder.