I took an interest in art from a young age. I still have a painting of Elmer the elephant I created seventeen years ago hung on my wall at home. It gives me a sense of faith to know that I have always been passionate about art. Often I find myself working for long hours without noticing because I enjoy the creativity of painting. I take pride in my work but at times progress is slowed by being a perfectionist. However, my own expectations have helped to set high standards for myself and maintain a drive to improve and produce new work.
I grew up on the edge of Greater London, living in the city but regularly going out into the surrounding countryside and woods. This founded a respect for nature within my urban lifestyle and an enjoyment of both natural and man-made environments. I have also been fortunate enough to have travelled around Europe and America and find the character of new places fascinating.
Whether in nature or the city, each location has its own distinct personality. My work captures the emotional experience of an atmosphere to evoke a sense of place. My most recent work further explores and challenges this by merging opposing environments together. Despite a playful tone, the contrast between the organised straight lines of architecture against the chaotic freedom of nature creates a serious comparison to reflect upon. Points of reflection are personal for each viewer to experience and determine but include environmental considerations and how we interact and identify with an environment.
â€œThe most exciting attractions are between two opposites that never meet.â€? Andy Warhol
“The worst thing I can be is the same as everybody else. I hate that.” Arnold Schwarzenegger
My techniques are influenced by traditional watercolour artists like David Bellamy but have been developed into my own contemporary style using brush and ink. I am also inspired by the Impressionist’s study of light that can transform an environment and connect the viewer to their surroundings.
â€œFor me, a landscape does not exist in its own right, since its appearance changes at every moment; but the surrounding atmosphere brings it to life, the air and the light, which vary continually for me, it is only the surrounding atmosphere that gives subjects their true value.â€?
My illustrations have a certain idealisation to them as if recalling a memory and I prefer the impact of inkâ€™s vivid colour. Inks are a less established medium, Iâ€™ve had to develop my familiarity with both dye and pigment based inks through experimentation. But, this will ultimately help distinguish my style from others. Dye based inks are more flowing and brilliant but do not have the permanence of pigments. Therefore, it is not practical to sell original illustrations drawn with dye based inks as they fade much faster. However, they still have use when designing prints and digital work.
I think visually and develop ideas through creating. My work develops its own natural line of inquiry as I respond to a concept and build upon previous work. Having perfectionist tendencies I work best using permanent mediums which force me to be bold. There can be no reworking or indecision to constrain my creativity. I become more expressive and value the unique character of work made by hand.
“Accidents, try to change them -- it’s impossible. The accidental reveals man.” Pablo Picasso
â€œWe are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.â€?
I try to limit digital editing to a minimum, only using Photoshop to tidy the presentation of work. In an increasingly digitalised world, I value the human touch as an aesthetic relief. However, Photoshopâ€™s ability to quickly edit a layout or colour scheme makes it useful for designing and planning an illustration. Typically major work starts off as pencilled thumbnail designs. Multiple ideas are considered that focus on the illustrationâ€™s overall composition and contrast in tone without being distracted by detail. I often use photographs as reference material and take a camera whenever travelling. Once satisfied with the design, the colour scheme is evaluated to set the mood of the illustration rather than necessarily be true to life. Warm passionate reds or cold tranquil blues often set the tone
â€œThe reason a lot of people do not recognize opportunity is because it usually goes around wearing overalls looking like hard work.â€? Thomas A. Edison
The context and style of my illustrations are less suited to commercial fields like marketing and advertising; although, my work could appeal to more environmentally minded organisations such as the National Trust. However, there has always been a demand for bespoke original work and in an increasingly digitalised world it is more significant than ever. People are still physical beings who appreciate tangible ownership of artwork. Traditionally, Watercolour landscapes have always been popular with the public and I hope to attract a modern audience with my contemporary style. I can also take commissions from the public who want an illustration of a place of personal significance to them, such as their home or wedding venue.
Displaying work in galleries is an effective way of reaching the target market but they also take a significant commission. A modern alternative is to set up an online store which will allow direct sales to the public and reach a broader audience. I created my own site using the website builder ‘Squarespace.com’ which has a built in e-commerce store available that fully integrates with the style of the website. This keeps everything in a singular location and gives the store a professional presentation. Similarly, there are other websites like ‘BigCartel.com’ that can set up an online store and provide secure transactions. Alternatively, I could sell art through an online marketplace like ‘Etsy. com’. This would attract more browsing traffic from people searching for a certain style but would also have to compete against other work for attention.
Another method of income is to produce limited edition prints. Prints are made more valuable by signing and limiting their availability. Individually, they are worth less than originals but similar revenue can be generated through multiple sales to people with a smaller budget.
Additional entrepreneurial opportunities include designing postcards, clothing, wrapping paper, throw pillows, gift cards and bags. However, due to their low price, these products only become profitable when sold in volume. As an individual, it would be difficult to predict demand and invest in stock without financial risk. But, websites like ‘Society6.com’ or ‘Threadless. com’ overcome this issue as uploaded designs are only printed when a product is ordered.
A direction that I have previously explored but have currently put on hold is illustrating children’s books. The vivid colour of my illustrations would appeal to a younger audience. However, should I return to this field I would have to adapt my style to be more suitable. It is worth trying to attract a publishing company for their publicity and distribution capabilities but there are also alternative ways to self-publish. ‘Lulu.com’ is a self-publishing website that works on a similar principle to ‘Society6.com’ and ‘Threadless.com’, only printing copies of books when ordered.
Conversely, the rising popularity of eBook’s avoids the issue of publishing all together by being downloadable. Amazon’s ‘kindle direct publish’ and Apple’s ‘iBook author’ both allow instant access to a worldwide audience but there is a risk of going unnoticed in such expansive libraries.
â€œArt consists of limitation. The most beautiful part of every picture is the frame.â€? Gilbert K. Chesterton
A lecture from my tutor Joel Lardner highlighted the necessity of good presentation. The right frame can complement an illustration and give a professional finish. Framing also helps to protect and preserve original work and valuable prints from dust, moisture, heat and damaging light. It is worth going to a frame store for their expertise and customisation initially. However, in the long term it will save money by knowing what kind of frame to order cheaper online. Itâ€™s possible to self-construct a frame for less money but more hassle and the frame joints will not be of the same quality.
“It is always wise to look ahead, but difficult to look further than you can see.”
It is hard to predict the future but it’s worth knowing what options are available in case I later decide my career requires further development. I could benefit from applying to a master’s degree or an internship at a creative company / agency. Alternatively, I could supplement my financial income by getting a relevant part time job that would give me experience in a creative environment such as working in a framers, art shop or gallery.
The nature of my work does not require me to work in a specific location. This offers a lot of flexibility. Sharing a studio with other creative people would make a productive and inspirational environment. It would also help separate work from home. However, a studio is not essential and would cost rent so it might not be something to consider until my career is further established.
“Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art. Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art.”
Presentation is crucial in making a good first impression to potential clients and establishing a professional identity. Work has to be displayed to the highest standard in order to cast it in the best light.
My portfolio will be integral for pitching work to potential clients, focusing on a singular, relevant strength that reflects my practice. Too much variety causes confusion; therefore my portfolio will only contain the best of my latest work. I have chosen to use an A3 archival storage box for my portfolio instead of a book. The tactile quality of the paper is an important part of my hand drawn illustration and plastic sleeves will only act as a barrier between my client and the work. Furthermore, the client is forced to take time and look as they cannot quickly flick through my portfolio like a magazine. They will have to treat it as an object of value. There is a risk of damage but the portfolio is only for pitching to high priority clients in person so they should handle my work delicately.
In this modern age it is essential to have an online presence, my website acts as a digital portfolio promoting my work to a global audience making it easy for clients to find and view. I designed ‘jdaviesillustration.com’ through ‘Squarespace.com’ due to its stylish and dynamic design and it also avoids having to deal with computer coding.
By painting a unique tree on each business card I demonstrate my style and add to the value of the card. Hopefully, this will increase the cardâ€™s importance to the client and make them keep hold of it. Individually, a single card does not take long but collectively they take time to produce so I will develop a lino cut tree stamp for minor clients.
I cannot depend on clients finding me therefore I have to be proactive. Exhibiting art in galleries and at events is good exposure but there are many ways to get into the public eye. Being featured in magazines such as ‘Varoom’ and ‘YCN’ or on websites like ‘It’s Nice That’ and ‘Illustration Friday’ would give great but short lived publicity. Wining competitions such as the D&AD, YCN and AOI awards are a great way to gain recognition and impress clients. I entered the D&AD New Blood Awards’ National Trust Brief this year to promote nature and outdoor activities. My work was still significantly developing at the time but I found the experience valuable. The results will not be published until after my projects deadline.
“The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.” Confucius
Keeping a blog or using social media sites like ‘Twitter’ or ‘Facebook’ will provide everyday interaction with the public. Updates should be frequent but small so as to remain in contact without overloading the public with information. It will also demonstrate to potential clients that I am active and hard working. Customers will also be given the option to subscribe to a newsletter email that will inform them of when newly released work is available to purchase. A strategic mail out of a designed limited edition Post / Christmas card to potential clients is yet another method of advertisement.
Graduating marks the end of my education but I will always continue to learn. After graduating it will be essential to take what I have learnt at university and maintain my work process. I must sustain this momentum and continue to develop my practice in the future. My younger self was continually changing direction between projects. However, I have developed through this exploration and found a distinguished style and context that I am truly invested in. There is no set career path for an illustrator but this uncertainty offers many possibilities and opportunities to the resourceful.
â€œFortune favours the brave.â€? Latin proverb
jdaviesillustration.com jdaviesillustration@gmail. com apple.com/uk/ibooks-author BigCartel.comâ€™ dandad.org Etsy.com Facebook.com kdp.amazon.com Lulu.com nationaltrust.org.uk Society6.com Squarespace.com theaoi.com Threadless.com Twitter.com Varoom-mag.com YCN.org Quotes from brainyquote.com