Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Introducing Jo Parry: artist and illustrator

Drum roll..............

It's here! The 3rd in my series of interviews with artists, creatives, illustrators and the like.

Today we meet Jo Parry, illustrator extraordinaire and a very clever, funny and lovely, entertaining lady. Not only that she's also beautiful, this lady has it all :-) Young illustrators, older-but-new-to-the-game illustrators (like me) - take note! Some incredible advice and insight included here from someone who's made it in the big bad world of illustration. Which is no mean feat :-) So get your listening gear around this!!

I shan't waffle on any more and let you get reading - suffice to say - this is good stuff !

Hi Jo :-) From your Twitter profile we can gather that you are a busy professional illustrator, you like a G&T, can’t live without mascara and have a lovely rabbit called Monty. I think you might also have an occasional bet on the gees gees? But what else lies “behind the eyes” to quote the name of your excellent blog? Can you tell us a bit about yourself in your own words.

I guess I'm an eclectic mix of many things. A passionate and willful person fueled by a love of art, sport, nature, antiques, animals, running, to name but a few! Fundamentally though I'm an artist at heart and actually this provides the foundation for all my other passions. With the exception of running, that's fueled by a need to offset the gin.

I gather you were keen on art from an early age, and decided quite early on the broad area (ie art) that what you wanted to follow as a career, but can you tell us about your journey from art college to becoming a full time illustrator?

I was fortunate enough to have an agent before leaving art college, following a spec visit. To my incredulity I was signed up the following day. That proved to be relatively successful but after two years we parted company. For the next few years I operated as a freelance trawling the agencies and design houses of London. I picked up work with women's magazines as an editorial illustrator and scratched around in that field for a while. It was hard graft and not as fruitful as I'd hoped. Since leaving college my work had stagnated and commissions were getting thinner on the ground. I was fortunate enough to have friendships with a couple of Bournemouth designers who kept me in work but following a long fallow period and another unsuccessful agency contract, I realised I had to step it up a gear or I was going to fail. I enrolled for a year's course in Graphic Communication which got me back up to speed on the mac software, photoshop in particular. I took a course in black and white photography too, I needed to cover all bases again. I went back to life drawing classes, trawled the galleries of London obsessively, and immersed myself back into the effort. If the work wasn't going to come to me, I was going to go to it. By this time I had honed a style suitable for greetings cards so I took out an ad in the back of Greetings Magazine, an industry publication. I was actually down to my last £100 and that was the cost of the ad.
Fate intervened at last, and following a phone call from Ed Burns (my agent) in response to the ad, I secured a contract the next week. Within weeks he had started to filter through commissions and my portfolio swelled in parallel with my pride. That was 1998.

We haven't looked back and I'm happy to say that the Advocate team are now firm friends as well as work colleagues.

Would you say in terms of illustration you are more self taught or did you learn lots about illustration at college/uni? Has this informed the way you work?

That's a great question actually because I'm not sure of the answer! My art school education was fabulous, informative and actually pretty tough. I was surrounded by people far more talented that me and whose direction was much clearer, but in terms of developing a style, that came later really. I struggled for years getting it 'right' but it wasn't until I decided to become predominantly a digital artist, which was self taught, did I feel I'd arrived home in terms of how I wanted to render the images from my imagination.

Could you describe your style of work as you see it?

Hard to say exactly as I work in many fields, but where I can I like to inject a little quirkiness, whimsy or humour. I think that can be found in most of my artworks! Actually it's one of the biggest plus points for an illustrator in my experience. Clients are always looking for the extra element of fun whether in publishing, licencing, cards or books.

Who and/or what influences you and your work?

In terms of individuals, I would have to say the MacKenzie Thorpe, Beryl Cook, Paul Greenwood, Adam Barsby, Govinder Nazran, Paul Corfield are right up there on my dream list of influences. A special mention go to my incredible parents though, whose stalwart support of my career through the bad times especially, have provided me with the greatest influence of all. In terms of creative influence, I study trends carefully throughout the entire industry, from ceramics to plush toys to posters to fashion. There is normally a common thread running through these branches of the industry and you need to be up to speed on what buyers are in the mood for

In your blog recently you mentioned that you what you DO is illustration, but what you ARE is an artist, an important distinction. Can you tell us who your all time favourite artist is and why?

Without a shadow of a doubt Marc Chagall. I was introduced to him aged 16 and was immediately captivated. As much by the individual as the art. His story. The way he was unselfconsciously romantic, was able to work in a variety of media, the way his Jewish
background was heavily influential on his work and where it took him, the way his family and his early enviroment were embroidered into his work. Personally speaking, there is no finer gift to the art lover than an artist who can create, embody, emote, render with such individualism, freedom and sincerity and then share it the way he did. My king of kings.

What's your favourite film?

Motorcycle Diaries. The story of a young Che Guevara.

If you weren’t an illustrator, what would other job would you like to try
your hand at?

I'd love to be an interior designer and expand on my love of fabrics, furnishing and antiques.

Can you name one thing about yourself that is unique or surprising, that people wouldn't guess about you unless you told them?

I was once asked to screen test for a Bodyform commercial after being approached in Covent Garden! (I declined!)

What do you like to do to relax/unwind?

Running relaxes me most, but other than that I would say photography. In summer I enjoy an evening swim at the beach, after the tourists have gone home!

Describe your perfect day?

One that involves the completion of a piece of art, and one that I can sign off with satisfaction. Then followed by walk along the beach, maybe with my camera, a chat with friends and family, a run, a bath and finally a G&T !

As an experienced illustrator who is successful, respected, and in regular demand, something many illustrators and artists wish for in such a competitive field, what would you say was your “big break”? (feel free to say you did not get a “big break”, if this was not the case, of course!)

The ad I placed in Greetings Magazine was the single most important moment. However, the years of stubborn effort previously was probably more significant.

And on this note, do you have any advice for up and coming aspiring illustrators?

Don't give up! In all seriousness, the most important decision you make is a commercial one. If you want to be a full time illustrator you need to think commercially. Understand what the market requires, and this means sometimes having to compromise on what work you want to do. Ideally being able to tailor your own work to the market place is the perfect scenario. That's what I did. Bottom line is bottom line, whether it's children's books, a greetings card or a brand of ketchup. It works the same way.

The million dollar question: What’s the secret to earning a decent crust at this illustration lark? Is it luck or sheer determination and hard work, or a bit of both, or something else entirely?

First of all, park the idea that you are a creative. You are of course, but approach it from a more hard headed angle at the start. Just work out what people want. Be pragmatic and dogged. Be ahead of the game by being up to speed on trends. We all want to set them, but realistically you will be more successful if you follow to start with. Once you are established you will have the freedom to expand.

Sam: Do you smile a little or a lot?
Jo: A lot!
What time were you up till last night and why?

11.00pm I think. Early for me but was recovering from a heavy

Sam:Dream holiday destination?
Jo: Nice in the Cote D'azur, France.

Sam: Currently most played/favourite record?
Jo:Butterfly Collector by the Jam

Sam: Book you would recommend everyone should read?

Jo: Marc Chagall's My Life for the artists,
A short History of Tractors in
Ukranian by Marina Lewycka for everyone!

Well, thankyou Jo for such thoughtful, informative and fascinating answers. I also love the wide range of beautiful polished work you have produced of which this is just a small taster. I wanted to post it all here!

If this has left you hungry for more you can follow Jo on Twitter and you can also follow her brilliant blog.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Progress of an Illustration from beginning to nearly end

Progress of an illustration: Amelia's Magazine illustration of Cornelia.
I started out with this sketch which is based on photographs of Cornelia in different wigs and some bunny ears. I thought it would be fun to have 4 Cornelias in one illustration as she looked so different in each one.

After scanning and cleaning up the image I added colour digitally:

I thought that the far left "Cornelia was too dominant with her dress taking up too much space visually and I also thought her arms were looking a bit odd.

So I toned down the dress by making it mostly black thereby having it blend into the background more and got rid of the weird arms:

At this point I also thought it would be fun to have real fur ears and a real flower hairbow so I added them.

I wasn't sure whether to have text so here is a version I did with "Cornelia" added.

I still wasn't happy with the dominance and pose of the far left "Cornelia and I had a fancy to try and emulate Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody video so I re-jigged things a bit thereby losing the offending arms and pose and the end result follows in the next post.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Illustration Bandits: Self-portrait as a Bandit...

Yesterday I did an illustration of myself as a Mexican Bandit for the University of Sunderland's students magazine Illustrating Bandits. Today they have blogged about this and there are some brilliant illustrations, I'm going to have to up my game I can see! (and yes I know, it doesn't really look like me, but we are in fantasy land aren't we, so I gave myself Nicole Kidman hair and a ginger bandito cat). Plus IRL (in real life a new text speak abbreviation I picked up recently thanks to Twitter) I would never wear fishnets and mini skirt, or cowboy boots for that matter! or a sword, gun, sombrero, bullet sling. . . etc etc. Aren't I boring IRL? :-) I would wear the mask though. ;-)

Have a read of the blog here and see the fabulous illustrations

Illustration Bandits: Self-portrait as a Bandit...: "That was this week's theme... This was a special one - everyone who's contributed gets a plug in the zine. Happy days! Bruce Parker Ro..."

Introducing Elsie Bell

As promised here is the interview with digital artist and photographer Elsie Bell, whose blog I was interviewed for a few weeks ago. So without further ado:

Who is Elsie? Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I’m 44, married with one son, two step sons and a step grandson (and another on the way) . We moved to the countryside from London just over a year ago. My life has not been without its stresses but I feel like I am living the dream. I love my home, village, photography and life. I do a volunteer shift behind the bar at our local members club and throw myself into village life 100%. I lost my mum recently and I’m trying not to forget what I have here and now. I’m surrounded by so much beauty, with a view from the bedroom I once would have killed for. But I never take anything for granted, treat others how I would like to be treated and try and enjoy every day to the fullest.

What is your line of creativity?
I’m a photographer and digital, mixed media artist. That means I take photos and play around with them in a variety of editing software programs.

Are you self taught or college/uni trained, and has this informed the way you work?
Completely self taught, which means I am very slow at what I do. I’m sure experts can do what I do in half the time, I’m pretty sure I always go the long way round. I’m a visual learner, so I do turn to you tube videos for help.

Can you describe your style of work?
In One word, yes! Eclectic. I do have a small body of work that is the same style, but I learn something new every day and then apply it to everything I do until something else comes along.

Who and/or what influences you and your work?
EVERYONE. At the moment though I’m leaning towards my all time fave, William Hogarth. I’d love to create the ‘people’ pics that can keep you entertained for hours.

What's your favourite film?
It’s a Wonderful Life. Can’t miss with James Stewart. Feel good factor movie. All time great.

What is your ideal job?
This! being interviewed about doing what I love. Photographs and more photographs... Forever!

Can you name one thing about yourself that is unique or surprising, that people wouldn't be able to tell about you unless you told them?
Er.... nope....

Describe your perfect day?
Getting everything on my ‘to do’ list done. It hasn’t happened yet but I know that would be a perfect day.

What is your favourite drink?

Do you have any pets and if so what/who?
Two rabbits, Pepper and Florence. We’ve just fenced off a hedge so they can run around the garden and they are having the time of their lives.

Do you smile a little or a lot?
Yes a lot! I am a big smiler, but not so sure my cheesy grin is as attractive as it once was.

What time were you up till last night and why?
I went up to bed at 10.30pm. I have an annoying habit of falling asleep on the sofa; so I am trying really hard to go to bed before it happens, or my poor husband has to spend hours trying to get me upstairs. I can actually fall asleep at the laptop, playing a computer game and even have nodded off during parlour games. Quite funny when it involved writing and I was doing it in my sleep!

holiday destination?
I’m such a boring home bird.... can’t stick the heat, but I do love Cities, as I adore history and architecture. I have a fancy to go to Russia.

Most played record?
Er.. at the moment it would be PIE JESU, Andrew Johnstone’s version. I played it recently at my mum’s funeral and I need to lose myself in it from time to time.

Book you would recommend everyone should read?
To Kill a Mockingbird! Harper Lee It’s just one of those books you have to read in your lifetime.

Thanks Elsie, I loved your answers, and I didn't realise before we are exactly the same age :-). Oh yes a perfect day when everything on the TO DO list is done!

Find more of Elsie's stunning work on her Facebook page, her Redbubble page and be sure to follow her on Twitter

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

It's been a while. . .

Well it seems like its been ages anyway! I have been quite busy getting a new job. I am now Head of Art Wing at Fledgling Arts Collective. Cool beans :-)

This is a voluntary job but like alot of voluntary jobs it actually allows me to do something wonderful and gather some invaluable experience. You can look at what Fledgling Arts Collective does here:

I'm so proud to be part of such an enterprise. The whole project is the brainchild of the inspirational Jewels Johnson, a wonderful lady so full of positive energy and creative goodness and she has started something that seems to be an absolute runaway success, the number of people joining the project each DAY runs into the 100s. Its fantastic! DO have a look and if you like what see do sign up to Fledgling Arts and if you are an artist you will be added to the Art Project, with the chance to submit work and get it published in a special CD insert for the project on the theme of Soaring/Fledgling/or Nesting.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Meet me at Elsie's!

Following on from the blog interview swap tradition that started with Jessica Draws, here is a slightly amended interview session I had with Elsie Bell a very talented photographer and digital artist. That day my favourite creative was someone else! If you didn't read the previous interview on the Waviograves blog then this will all be news anyway :-). Watch this space for Elsie's answers which will be coming soon!

Oh and check out Elsie's fabulous work, especially the big cats and vistas, my favourite is Tiger Tiger Burning Bright.

Discovered: cellardoor design blog

I just discovered this blog. It's the brainchild of Clair Holmes, a talented graphic designer based in Bristol.

Clair has had the brilliant idea to provide a place for, in her own words:

"people (including myself) who produce all kinds of creative bits and bobs at work and in their spare time and I think it’s such a shame that they don’t always get the chance to show off what they have been up to.

So the ‘big idea’ is to start collecting and showcasing work from all you creative people out there! It makes no difference to us whether you are the Creative Director at Saatchi and Saatchi or you make sculptures out of blue cheese and pickle. If we are wowed by your work, then its highly likely that we would love to feature it!

The aim is to make this blog a hub for people who love all things art and design related. Whether you want to participate or just check in every so often, it’s totally up to you."

Cellardoor and Clair have this message for creatives out there:

Don’t be shy!

If you’ve been beavering away on your latest masterpiece and would like to tell the world about it, send me an email with some snaps of your work and a bit of info about yourself and you might just get featured!

If you are interested in cellardoor, feel free to send me an email at

If you’d like to submit something for review please send an email to

And here's the link so you can a good old nosey at all the creative loveliness and inspiration it contains!

You can view Clair's portfolio here:

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Amelia's Magazine | Album review and interview – Mechanical Bride: Living With Ants

I'm pretty pleased with this illustration, although I was actually trying to achieve something slightly different and took ages trying to get that, gave up in the end, sometimes maybe fate, or my inexperience and lack of expertise in digital editing can throw up surprising results! You can read the full review of Mechanical Bride here in Amelia's Magazine and see some lovely illustrations. It never fails to amaze me how talented illustrators are.