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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

Goodbye Eyjafjallajokul…

Reflections on the impact of the Volcano... has it made any lasting impact on the way we live our lives? With illustrations by Andrea Kearney.

Written by Hannah Bullivant

JohannaBasfordProfilePic

Johanna Basford specialises in finely detailed monochrome pen and ink illustrations, viagra sale and last year came to the media’s attention after she conceived #TwitterPicture, troche a crowd-sourcing exercise in which she asked tweeters to suggest images that she then compiled over a 48 hour period into one giant montage, letting those involved follow her progress using the picture-sharing site Twitpic. Here she talks to recent collaborator Neil Ayres about working with the Edinburgh Fringe, the ongoing success and continuing permutations of #TwitterPicture, agency representation and making sure, when it comes to her work, that she’s always a little bit scared.

Johanna Basford_BotanicalRhapsody
Johanna Basford_BotanicalRhapsody

For those that don’t know, and at the risk of making you cringe, you’re the ‘#TwitterPicture girl’. The first #TwitterPicture was a big success, but it was evident to anyone who was following your progress that it was pretty exhausting. You decided to follow it up with an even more gruelling version. Was this really sensible?
I’m a firm believer that if something isn’t challenging, it’s not worth doing. I work in a huge industry saturated with talent. My thoughts are that you have to put yourself on the edge a little bit to make yourself stand out. There’s nothing captivating about mainstream. 
 
Johanna Basford_DialogueOfTheDogs
Johanna Basford_DialogueOfTheDogs

You recently used the #TwitterPicture premise to create artwork for the Edinburgh Fringe. You’re also illustrating all of the literature for the coming festival. What other work has this involved?
I’m working with Edinburgh-based design agency Whitespace to create a series of illustrations for the programme, as well as having produced the final artwork which was the result of the #FringeCover #TwitterPicture. As the Fringe is the world’s largest arts festival, it’s obviously been a privilege to work on the project. I’ve tried to capture the bubbly sense of excitement and eccentricity which is at the heart of the Edinburgh Fringe. I managed to smuggle a few little quirks and surprises into the final artwork which I hope will delight and intrigue the audience.

Johanna Basford_Fashion_Vogue
Johanna Basford_Fashion_Vogue

And any more #TwitterPictures on the horizon? I’m sure it’s nice to be the go-to person for something, but are you in danger of becoming typecast?
Every time I finish a #TwitterPicture, I get a little over emotional and swear, ‘never again’. Yet I find myself being drawn back to the format of live drawing and crowd sourcing just a few months later. I would never run the same project twice, but I do believe evolving an idea to fit different formats and meet new challenges is both positive and interesting. Whether it’s adding the webcam, the non-stop 24 hour drawing or teaming up with a commercial client, each evolution of the #TwitterPicture has explored something new in the idea and pushed the concept to more extreme levels. As for the danger of becoming typecast, one look at my desk would reveal the dozen or so projects I am working on at any one time. Be it textile designs, custom packaging, illustrations, limited edition prints, website graphics or tattoos – my practise is diverse and always developing, the only constant thread is my love of monochrome.

Johanna Basford_Heartbreak
Johanna Basford_Heartbreak

Tell us a bit about how you came to do what you do. Have you drawn pretty much since you were knee-high to a pencil?
More like a Crayola crayon. I’ve always drawn, much to the peril of my parents who had to put up with a toddler who drew on walls. It’s a cliché, but I’ve always known I was going to end up drawing, I just wasn’t quite sure of the exact format. I went through phases of wanting to be an architect and a fashion designer, but at the core of everything was this passion for drawing. 
After school I went to art school and studied printed textiles, specialising in silk screen printing. I graduated and spent a couple of years making hand-printed wallpapers and fabrics, feeling a bit confused and very unhappy about the direction I seemed to be heading in. Then, thank God, the credit crunch hit. The recession was the best thing that has happened to me. It forced me to seriously rethink what I was doing, to be completely brutal with myself. I re-evaluated my business and the work I was producing and made some big decisions. I stopped messing about making and selling products. I set myself up as an illustrator, focused on the one thing in life which never fails to inspire and delight me. I’ve not looked back since. Life is good.
 
Johanna Basford_MoonlitWalks_chapillo
Johanna Basford_MoonlitWalks_chapillo

And how have you managed to carve a career in what’s a notoriously difficult industry to break into. Did you start out with any form of game-plan?
I’m very conscious that my industry is jam-packed with talent and ambition and that each year a new wave of eager graduates swarm into the pool of illustrators competing with each other. I’ve always thought it was better to do something different, something a little unusual, which would help me stand outside the crowd and be different. So I concentrated on creating the most detailed, intricate, hand-crafted designs, done almost exclusively in monochrome. I can’t compete with everyone on every level, so I focus on creating the best work I can for a specific niche. That’s not to say I’m not flexible in my work, and I would never limit myself on a brief, but for the main part, I want to be known as the girl who does ‘the-super-detailed-hand-drawn-black-and-white-drawings’.

Johanna Basford_PunkPeacock
Johanna Basford_PunkPeacock

We’ve worked together on a project recently, to republish a novelette, The Dialogue of the Dogs, by Miguel Cervantes [author of Don Quixote] as part of an iPhone app. Illustrating an old, respected text must have proved a different challenge to the type you’re used to. How did you go about it? There are hundreds of different elements in the finished illustration—is there much preparation involved?
Reading is not my strong point, so I did have to plough my way through the story a few times to really get to grips with it. I then made lists of important events, main characters and iconic images from the text and started time lining them together into a sequence which mirrored the narrative of the story. Using my trusty lo-fi methods, I stuck together lots of sheets of paper to make one long canvas and started drawing in the top left hand corner. The drawing process was unplanned. I just followed the flow of the story, sketching in the characters and scenery as I came to them, working from left to right. As the paper filled up, I stuck another sheet on. The creative process was organic and rambling, which I felt fitted the narrative thread of the story. As the drawing grew, I moved off my desk and worked on the floor, finally, several metres of paper later, the artwork was complete.
 
Johanna Basford_SweetNothings_chapillo
Johanna Basford_SweetNothings_chapillo

You’ve worked with some interesting clients, particularly high-profile in the creative industry (aside from the Fringe there’s Heal’s, the V&A, BBC, among others). Do you have any particular ambitions in regards to your illustration?
I love the challenge of working with new clients in mediums and contexts which are unfamiliar to me. I’ve just finished working with Oxford University Press on my first book cover which was brilliant. My primary aim is to keep things scary. The anxiety of working on a project in which I may be a little out of my depth always inspires my best work. Looking forward, I’d like to work with some more big name clients; I’d like to see my drawings come to life through animation; I’d be keen to work on some more multimedia projects. And as specific examples, I’d love to get my hands on a Selfridges’ shop window and a Boutique Hotel. I’d also love to tackle more installation projects and supersize my artwork. I have a lot of plans. I just need more hours in the day.

You’re represented by NB Illustration, and this is a relatively recent arrangement, right? How’s that working out?
I signed with NB at the start of the year as a way of opening up my work to a new audience. NB has been crucial in introducing my work to a segment of the industry I just wasn’t able to tap into alone. They handle all the horrible or slightly boring stuff and leave me to the joyful task of drawing. They warned me when I signed with them that it might take a few months for the first piece of work to come in, but we had just a week to let the ink on the contract dry before they lined me up with my first job. For an illustrator, they’re a great agency. Not so large that my work is lost in the chatter, but big enough to have a firm standing in the industry. If the first four months is anything to go by, it’s going to be a fruitful partnership.

Do you still feel the urge to push your work as well as relying on the agency?
Most definitely. I think you have to work in tandem with your agent to ensure you are reaching as wide an audience as possible, not just sit back and wait for them to come to you with work. I’m always working on numerous other projects direct with clients alongside the work I’m producing for NB, and usually have a few self-initiated and collaborative projects on the go too. I like it busy. I believe keeping the mix of work, clients and collaborators constantly evolving forces me to learn new skills, develop my craft and push my work to new levels.

Johanna has a website and blog at HYPERLINK “http://johannabasford.com” http://johannabasford.com; or find her on Twitter: @johannabasford; The New Goodbye, the app that includes her illustrated narrative of The Dialogue of the Dogs is released on the App Store at the end of May and the Edinburgh Fringe takes place 6-30 August.

JohannaBasfordProfilePic

Johanna Basford specialises in finely detailed monochrome pen and ink illustrations, about it and last year came to the media’s attention after she conceived #TwitterPicture, sildenafil a crowd-sourcing exercise in which she asked tweeters to suggest images that she then compiled over a 48 hour period into one giant montage, malady letting those involved follow her progress using the picture-sharing site Twitpic. Here she talks to recent collaborator Neil Ayres about working with the Edinburgh Fringe, the ongoing success and continuing permutations of #TwitterPicture, agency representation and making sure, when it comes to her work, that she’s always a little bit scared.

Johanna Basford_BotanicalRhapsody
Johanna Basford_BotanicalRhapsody

For those that don’t know, and at the risk of making you cringe, you’re the ‘#TwitterPicture girl’. The first #TwitterPicture was a big success, but it was evident to anyone who was following your progress that it was pretty exhausting. You decided to follow it up with an even more gruelling version. Was this really sensible?
I’m a firm believer that if something isn’t challenging, it’s not worth doing. I work in a huge industry saturated with talent. My thoughts are that you have to put yourself on the edge a little bit to make yourself stand out. There’s nothing captivating about mainstream. 
 
Johanna Basford_DialogueOfTheDogs
Johanna Basford_DialogueOfTheDogs

You recently used the #TwitterPicture premise to create artwork for the Edinburgh Fringe. You’re also illustrating all of the literature for the coming festival. What other work has this involved?
I’m working with Edinburgh-based design agency Whitespace to create a series of illustrations for the programme, as well as having produced the final artwork which was the result of the #FringeCover #TwitterPicture. As the Fringe is the world’s largest arts festival, it’s obviously been a privilege to work on the project. I’ve tried to capture the bubbly sense of excitement and eccentricity which is at the heart of the Edinburgh Fringe. I managed to smuggle a few little quirks and surprises into the final artwork which I hope will delight and intrigue the audience.

Johanna Basford_Fashion_Vogue
Johanna Basford_Fashion_Vogue

And any more #TwitterPictures on the horizon? I’m sure it’s nice to be the go-to person for something, but are you in danger of becoming typecast?
Every time I finish a #TwitterPicture, I get a little over emotional and swear, ‘never again’. Yet I find myself being drawn back to the format of live drawing and crowd sourcing just a few months later. I would never run the same project twice, but I do believe evolving an idea to fit different formats and meet new challenges is both positive and interesting. Whether it’s adding the webcam, the non-stop 24 hour drawing or teaming up with a commercial client, each evolution of the #TwitterPicture has explored something new in the idea and pushed the concept to more extreme levels. As for the danger of becoming typecast, one look at my desk would reveal the dozen or so projects I am working on at any one time. Be it textile designs, custom packaging, illustrations, limited edition prints, website graphics or tattoos – my practise is diverse and always developing, the only constant thread is my love of monochrome.

Johanna Basford_Heartbreak
Johanna Basford_Heartbreak

Tell us a bit about how you came to do what you do. Have you drawn pretty much since you were knee-high to a pencil?
More like a Crayola crayon. I’ve always drawn, much to the peril of my parents who had to put up with a toddler who drew on walls. It’s a cliché, but I’ve always known I was going to end up drawing, I just wasn’t quite sure of the exact format. I went through phases of wanting to be an architect and a fashion designer, but at the core of everything was this passion for drawing. 
After school I went to art school and studied printed textiles, specialising in silk screen printing. I graduated and spent a couple of years making hand-printed wallpapers and fabrics, feeling a bit confused and very unhappy about the direction I seemed to be heading in. Then, thank God, the credit crunch hit. The recession was the best thing that has happened to me. It forced me to seriously rethink what I was doing, to be completely brutal with myself. I re-evaluated my business and the work I was producing and made some big decisions. I stopped messing about making and selling products. I set myself up as an illustrator, focused on the one thing in life which never fails to inspire and delight me. I’ve not looked back since. Life is good.
 
Johanna Basford_MoonlitWalks_chapillo
Johanna Basford_MoonlitWalks_chapillo

And how have you managed to carve a career in what’s a notoriously difficult industry to break into. Did you start out with any form of game-plan?
I’m very conscious that my industry is jam-packed with talent and ambition and that each year a new wave of eager graduates swarm into the pool of illustrators competing with each other. I’ve always thought it was better to do something different, something a little unusual, which would help me stand outside the crowd and be different. So I concentrated on creating the most detailed, intricate, hand-crafted designs, done almost exclusively in monochrome. I can’t compete with everyone on every level, so I focus on creating the best work I can for a specific niche. That’s not to say I’m not flexible in my work, and I would never limit myself on a brief, but for the main part, I want to be known as the girl who does ‘the-super-detailed-hand-drawn-black-and-white-drawings’.

Johanna Basford_PunkPeacock
Johanna Basford_PunkPeacock

We’ve worked together on a project recently, to republish a novelette, The Dialogue of the Dogs, by Miguel Cervantes [author of Don Quixote] as part of an iPhone app. Illustrating an old, respected text must have proved a different challenge to the type you’re used to. How did you go about it? There are hundreds of different elements in the finished illustration—is there much preparation involved?
Reading is not my strong point, so I did have to plough my way through the story a few times to really get to grips with it. I then made lists of important events, main characters and iconic images from the text and started time lining them together into a sequence which mirrored the narrative of the story. Using my trusty lo-fi methods, I stuck together lots of sheets of paper to make one long canvas and started drawing in the top left hand corner. The drawing process was unplanned. I just followed the flow of the story, sketching in the characters and scenery as I came to them, working from left to right. As the paper filled up, I stuck another sheet on. The creative process was organic and rambling, which I felt fitted the narrative thread of the story. As the drawing grew, I moved off my desk and worked on the floor, finally, several metres of paper later, the artwork was complete.
 
Johanna Basford_SweetNothings_chapillo
Johanna Basford_SweetNothings_chapillo

You’ve worked with some interesting clients, particularly high-profile in the creative industry (aside from the Fringe there’s Heal’s, the V&A, BBC, among others). Do you have any particular ambitions in regards to your illustration?
I love the challenge of working with new clients in mediums and contexts which are unfamiliar to me. I’ve just finished working with Oxford University Press on my first book cover which was brilliant. My primary aim is to keep things scary. The anxiety of working on a project in which I may be a little out of my depth always inspires my best work. Looking forward, I’d like to work with some more big name clients; I’d like to see my drawings come to life through animation; I’d be keen to work on some more multimedia projects. And as specific examples, I’d love to get my hands on a Selfridges’ shop window and a Boutique Hotel. I’d also love to tackle more installation projects and supersize my artwork. I have a lot of plans. I just need more hours in the day.

You’re represented by NB Illustration, and this is a relatively recent arrangement, right? How’s that working out?
I signed with NB at the start of the year as a way of opening up my work to a new audience. NB has been crucial in introducing my work to a segment of the industry I just wasn’t able to tap into alone. They handle all the horrible or slightly boring stuff and leave me to the joyful task of drawing. They warned me when I signed with them that it might take a few months for the first piece of work to come in, but we had just a week to let the ink on the contract dry before they lined me up with my first job. For an illustrator, they’re a great agency. Not so large that my work is lost in the chatter, but big enough to have a firm standing in the industry. If the first four months is anything to go by, it’s going to be a fruitful partnership.

Do you still feel the urge to push your work as well as relying on the agency?
Most definitely. I think you have to work in tandem with your agent to ensure you are reaching as wide an audience as possible, not just sit back and wait for them to come to you with work. I’m always working on numerous other projects direct with clients alongside the work I’m producing for NB, and usually have a few self-initiated and collaborative projects on the go too. I like it busy. I believe keeping the mix of work, clients and collaborators constantly evolving forces me to learn new skills, develop my craft and push my work to new levels.

Johanna has a website and blog at HYPERLINK “http://johannabasford.com” http://johannabasford.com; or find her on Twitter: @johannabasford; The New Goodbye, the app that includes her illustrated narrative of The Dialogue of the Dogs is released on the App Store at the end of May and the Edinburgh Fringe takes place 6-30 August.

JohannaBasfordProfilePic

Johanna Basford specialises in finely detailed monochrome pen and ink illustrations, buy and last year came to the media’s attention after she conceived #TwitterPicture, approved a crowd-sourcing exercise in which she asked tweeters to suggest images that she then compiled over a 48 hour period into one giant montage, letting those involved follow her progress using the picture-sharing site Twitpic. Here she talks to recent collaborator Neil Ayres about working with the Edinburgh Fringe, the ongoing success and continuing permutations of #TwitterPicture, agency representation and making sure, when it comes to her work, that she’s always a little bit scared.

Johanna Basford_BotanicalRhapsody
Botanical Rhapsody, commissioned by Queensberry Hunt Ceramicists to create hand drawn surface patter designs for tableware collection, 2008.

For those that don’t know, and at the risk of making you cringe, you’re the ‘#TwitterPicture girl’. The first #TwitterPicture was a big success, but it was evident to anyone who was following your progress that it was pretty exhausting. You decided to follow it up with an even more gruelling version. Was this really sensible?
I’m a firm believer that if something isn’t challenging, it’s not worth doing. I work in a huge industry saturated with talent. My thoughts are that you have to put yourself on the edge a little bit to make yourself stand out. There’s nothing captivating about mainstream. 
 
Johanna Basford_DialogueOfTheDogs
Detail from an illustrated interpretation of Cervantes’ The Dialogue Of The Dogs, for The New Goodbye iPhone app, 2010.

You recently used the #TwitterPicture premise to create artwork for the Edinburgh Fringe. You’re also illustrating all of the literature for the coming festival. What other work has this involved?
I’m working with Edinburgh-based design agency Whitespace to create a series of illustrations for the programme, as well as having produced the final artwork which was the result of the #FringeCover #TwitterPicture. As the Fringe is the world’s largest arts festival, it’s obviously been a privilege to work on the project. I’ve tried to capture the bubbly sense of excitement and eccentricity which is at the heart of the Edinburgh Fringe. I managed to smuggle a few little quirks and surprises into the final artwork which I hope will delight and intrigue the audience.

Johanna Basford_Fashion_Vogue
Hand drawn images layered over fashion photography for Vogue, 2009.

And any more #TwitterPictures on the horizon? I’m sure it’s nice to be the go-to person for something, but are you in danger of becoming typecast?
Every time I finish a #TwitterPicture, I get a little over emotional and swear, ‘never again’. Yet I find myself being drawn back to the format of live drawing and crowd sourcing just a few months later. I would never run the same project twice, but I do believe evolving an idea to fit different formats and meet new challenges is both positive and interesting. Whether it’s adding the webcam, the non-stop 24 hour drawing or teaming up with a commercial client, each evolution of the #TwitterPicture has explored something new in the idea and pushed the concept to more extreme levels. As for the danger of becoming typecast, one look at my desk would reveal the dozen or so projects I am working on at any one time. Be it textile designs, custom packaging, illustrations, limited edition prints, website graphics or tattoos – my practise is diverse and always developing, the only constant thread is my love of monochrome.

Johanna Basford_Heartbreak
Heartbreak Pen and ink illustration, later screen printed as part of a limited edition print series created with Heartbreak Publishing, 2009.

Tell us a bit about how you came to do what you do. Have you drawn pretty much since you were knee-high to a pencil?
More like a Crayola crayon. I’ve always drawn, much to the peril of my parents who had to put up with a toddler who drew on walls. It’s a cliché, but I’ve always known I was going to end up drawing, I just wasn’t quite sure of the exact format. I went through phases of wanting to be an architect and a fashion designer, but at the core of everything was this passion for drawing. 
After school I went to art school and studied printed textiles, specialising in silk screen printing. I graduated and spent a couple of years making hand-printed wallpapers and fabrics, feeling a bit confused and very unhappy about the direction I seemed to be heading in. Then, thank God, the credit crunch hit. The recession was the best thing that has happened to me. It forced me to seriously rethink what I was doing, to be completely brutal with myself. I re-evaluated my business and the work I was producing and made some big decisions. I stopped messing about making and selling products. I set myself up as an illustrator, focused on the one thing in life which never fails to inspire and delight me. I’ve not looked back since. Life is good.
 
Johanna Basford_MoonlitWalks_chapillo
MoonlitWalks, Chapillo illustration for iPhone app The New Goodbye, 2010

And how have you managed to carve a career in what’s a notoriously difficult industry to break into. Did you start out with any form of game-plan?
I’m very conscious that my industry is jam-packed with talent and ambition and that each year a new wave of eager graduates swarm into the pool of illustrators competing with each other. I’ve always thought it was better to do something different, something a little unusual, which would help me stand outside the crowd and be different. So I concentrated on creating the most detailed, intricate, hand-crafted designs, done almost exclusively in monochrome. I can’t compete with everyone on every level, so I focus on creating the best work I can for a specific niche. That’s not to say I’m not flexible in my work, and I would never limit myself on a brief, but for the main part, I want to be known as the girl who does ‘the-super-detailed-hand-drawn-black-and-white-drawings’.

Johanna Basford_PunkPeacock
PunkPeacock first shown at 100% Design, 2008.

We’ve worked together on a project recently, to republish a novelette, The Dialogue of the Dogs, by Miguel Cervantes [author of Don Quixote] as part of an iPhone app. Illustrating an old, respected text must have proved a different challenge to the type you’re used to. How did you go about it? There are hundreds of different elements in the finished illustration—is there much preparation involved?
Reading is not my strong point, so I did have to plough my way through the story a few times to really get to grips with it. I then made lists of important events, main characters and iconic images from the text and started time lining them together into a sequence which mirrored the narrative of the story. Using my trusty lo-fi methods, I stuck together lots of sheets of paper to make one long canvas and started drawing in the top left hand corner. The drawing process was unplanned. I just followed the flow of the story, sketching in the characters and scenery as I came to them, working from left to right. As the paper filled up, I stuck another sheet on. The creative process was organic and rambling, which I felt fitted the narrative thread of the story. As the drawing grew, I moved off my desk and worked on the floor, finally, several metres of paper later, the artwork was complete.
 
Johanna Basford_SweetNothings_chapillo
SweetNothings Chapillo Chapter illustration for iPhone app The New Goodbye, 2010,

You’ve worked with some interesting clients, particularly high-profile in the creative industry (aside from the Fringe there’s Heal’s, the V&A, BBC, among others). Do you have any particular ambitions in regards to your illustration?
I love the challenge of working with new clients in mediums and contexts which are unfamiliar to me. I’ve just finished working with Oxford University Press on my first book cover which was brilliant. My primary aim is to keep things scary. The anxiety of working on a project in which I may be a little out of my depth always inspires my best work. Looking forward, I’d like to work with some more big name clients; I’d like to see my drawings come to life through animation; I’d be keen to work on some more multimedia projects. And as specific examples, I’d love to get my hands on a Selfridges’ shop window and a Boutique Hotel. I’d also love to tackle more installation projects and supersize my artwork. I have a lot of plans. I just need more hours in the day.

You’re represented by NB Illustration, and this is a relatively recent arrangement, right? How’s that working out?
I signed with NB at the start of the year as a way of opening up my work to a new audience. NB has been crucial in introducing my work to a segment of the industry I just wasn’t able to tap into alone. They handle all the horrible or slightly boring stuff and leave me to the joyful task of drawing. They warned me when I signed with them that it might take a few months for the first piece of work to come in, but we had just a week to let the ink on the contract dry before they lined me up with my first job. For an illustrator, they’re a great agency. Not so large that my work is lost in the chatter, but big enough to have a firm standing in the industry. If the first four months is anything to go by, it’s going to be a fruitful partnership.

Do you still feel the urge to push your work as well as relying on the agency?
Most definitely. I think you have to work in tandem with your agent to ensure you are reaching as wide an audience as possible, not just sit back and wait for them to come to you with work. I’m always working on numerous other projects direct with clients alongside the work I’m producing for NB, and usually have a few self-initiated and collaborative projects on the go too. I like it busy. I believe keeping the mix of work, clients and collaborators constantly evolving forces me to learn new skills, develop my craft and push my work to new levels.

Johanna has a website and blog at HYPERLINK “http://johannabasford.com” http://johannabasford.com; or find her on Twitter: @johannabasford; The New Goodbye, the app that includes her illustrated narrative of The Dialogue of the Dogs is released on the App Store at the end of May and the Edinburgh Fringe takes place 6-30 August.

JohannaBasfordProfilePic

Johanna Basford specialises in finely detailed monochrome pen and ink illustrations, seek and last year came to the media’s attention after she conceived #TwitterPicture, more about a crowd-sourcing exercise in which she asked tweeters to suggest images that she then compiled over a 48 hour period into one giant montage, letting those involved follow her progress using the picture-sharing site Twitpic. Here she talks to recent collaborator Neil Ayres about working with the Edinburgh Fringe, the ongoing success and continuing permutations of #TwitterPicture, agency representation and making sure, when it comes to her work, that she’s always a little bit scared.

Johanna Basford_BotanicalRhapsody
Botanical Rhapsody, commissioned by Queensberry Hunt Ceramicists to create hand drawn surface patter designs for tableware collection, 2008.

For those that don’t know, and at the risk of making you cringe, you’re the ‘#TwitterPicture girl’. The first #TwitterPicture was a big success, but it was evident to anyone who was following your progress that it was pretty exhausting. You decided to follow it up with an even more gruelling version. Was this really sensible?
I’m a firm believer that if something isn’t challenging, it’s not worth doing. I work in a huge industry saturated with talent. My thoughts are that you have to put yourself on the edge a little bit to make yourself stand out. There’s nothing captivating about mainstream. 
 
Johanna Basford_DialogueOfTheDogs
Detail from an illustrated interpretation of Cervantes’ The Dialogue Of The Dogs, for The New Goodbye iPhone app, 2010.

You recently used the #TwitterPicture premise to create artwork for the Edinburgh Fringe. You’re also illustrating all of the literature for the coming festival. What other work has this involved?
I’m working with Edinburgh-based design agency Whitespace to create a series of illustrations for the programme, as well as having produced the final artwork which was the result of the #FringeCover #TwitterPicture. As the Fringe is the world’s largest arts festival, it’s obviously been a privilege to work on the project. I’ve tried to capture the bubbly sense of excitement and eccentricity which is at the heart of the Edinburgh Fringe. I managed to smuggle a few little quirks and surprises into the final artwork which I hope will delight and intrigue the audience.

Johanna Basford_Fashion_Vogue
Hand drawn images layered over fashion photography for Vogue, 2009.

And any more #TwitterPictures on the horizon? I’m sure it’s nice to be the go-to person for something, but are you in danger of becoming typecast?
Every time I finish a #TwitterPicture, I get a little over emotional and swear, ‘never again’. Yet I find myself being drawn back to the format of live drawing and crowd sourcing just a few months later. I would never run the same project twice, but I do believe evolving an idea to fit different formats and meet new challenges is both positive and interesting. Whether it’s adding the webcam, the non-stop 24 hour drawing or teaming up with a commercial client, each evolution of the #TwitterPicture has explored something new in the idea and pushed the concept to more extreme levels. As for the danger of becoming typecast, one look at my desk would reveal the dozen or so projects I am working on at any one time. Be it textile designs, custom packaging, illustrations, limited edition prints, website graphics or tattoos – my practise is diverse and always developing, the only constant thread is my love of monochrome.

Johanna Basford_Heartbreak
Heartbreak Pen and ink illustration, later screen printed as part of a limited edition print series created with Heartbreak Publishing, 2009.

Tell us a bit about how you came to do what you do. Have you drawn pretty much since you were knee-high to a pencil?
More like a Crayola crayon. I’ve always drawn, much to the peril of my parents who had to put up with a toddler who drew on walls. It’s a cliché, but I’ve always known I was going to end up drawing, I just wasn’t quite sure of the exact format. I went through phases of wanting to be an architect and a fashion designer, but at the core of everything was this passion for drawing. 
After school I went to art school and studied printed textiles, specialising in silk screen printing. I graduated and spent a couple of years making hand-printed wallpapers and fabrics, feeling a bit confused and very unhappy about the direction I seemed to be heading in. Then, thank God, the credit crunch hit. The recession was the best thing that has happened to me. It forced me to seriously rethink what I was doing, to be completely brutal with myself. I re-evaluated my business and the work I was producing and made some big decisions. I stopped messing about making and selling products. I set myself up as an illustrator, focused on the one thing in life which never fails to inspire and delight me. I’ve not looked back since. Life is good.
 
Johanna Basford_MoonlitWalks_chapillo
MoonlitWalks, Chapillo illustration for iPhone app The New Goodbye, 2010

And how have you managed to carve a career in what’s a notoriously difficult industry to break into. Did you start out with any form of game-plan?
I’m very conscious that my industry is jam-packed with talent and ambition and that each year a new wave of eager graduates swarm into the pool of illustrators competing with each other. I’ve always thought it was better to do something different, something a little unusual, which would help me stand outside the crowd and be different. So I concentrated on creating the most detailed, intricate, hand-crafted designs, done almost exclusively in monochrome. I can’t compete with everyone on every level, so I focus on creating the best work I can for a specific niche. That’s not to say I’m not flexible in my work, and I would never limit myself on a brief, but for the main part, I want to be known as the girl who does ‘the-super-detailed-hand-drawn-black-and-white-drawings’.

Johanna Basford_PunkPeacock
PunkPeacock first shown at 100% Design, 2008.

We’ve worked together on a project recently, to republish a novelette, The Dialogue of the Dogs, by Miguel Cervantes [author of Don Quixote] as part of an iPhone app. Illustrating an old, respected text must have proved a different challenge to the type you’re used to. How did you go about it? There are hundreds of different elements in the finished illustration—is there much preparation involved?
Reading is not my strong point, so I did have to plough my way through the story a few times to really get to grips with it. I then made lists of important events, main characters and iconic images from the text and started time lining them together into a sequence which mirrored the narrative of the story. Using my trusty lo-fi methods, I stuck together lots of sheets of paper to make one long canvas and started drawing in the top left hand corner. The drawing process was unplanned. I just followed the flow of the story, sketching in the characters and scenery as I came to them, working from left to right. As the paper filled up, I stuck another sheet on. The creative process was organic and rambling, which I felt fitted the narrative thread of the story. As the drawing grew, I moved off my desk and worked on the floor, finally, several metres of paper later, the artwork was complete.
 
Johanna Basford_SweetNothings_chapillo
SweetNothings Chapillo Chapter illustration for iPhone app The New Goodbye, 2010,

You’ve worked with some interesting clients, particularly high-profile in the creative industry (aside from the Fringe there’s Heal’s, the V&A, BBC, among others). Do you have any particular ambitions in regards to your illustration?
I love the challenge of working with new clients in mediums and contexts which are unfamiliar to me. I’ve just finished working with Oxford University Press on my first book cover which was brilliant. My primary aim is to keep things scary. The anxiety of working on a project in which I may be a little out of my depth always inspires my best work. Looking forward, I’d like to work with some more big name clients; I’d like to see my drawings come to life through animation; I’d be keen to work on some more multimedia projects. And as specific examples, I’d love to get my hands on a Selfridges’ shop window and a Boutique Hotel. I’d also love to tackle more installation projects and supersize my artwork. I have a lot of plans. I just need more hours in the day.

You’re represented by NB Illustration, and this is a relatively recent arrangement, right? How’s that working out?
I signed with NB at the start of the year as a way of opening up my work to a new audience. NB has been crucial in introducing my work to a segment of the industry I just wasn’t able to tap into alone. They handle all the horrible or slightly boring stuff and leave me to the joyful task of drawing. They warned me when I signed with them that it might take a few months for the first piece of work to come in, but we had just a week to let the ink on the contract dry before they lined me up with my first job. For an illustrator, they’re a great agency. Not so large that my work is lost in the chatter, but big enough to have a firm standing in the industry. If the first four months is anything to go by, it’s going to be a fruitful partnership.

Do you still feel the urge to push your work as well as relying on the agency?
Most definitely. I think you have to work in tandem with your agent to ensure you are reaching as wide an audience as possible, not just sit back and wait for them to come to you with work. I’m always working on numerous other projects direct with clients alongside the work I’m producing for NB, and usually have a few self-initiated and collaborative projects on the go too. I like it busy. I believe keeping the mix of work, clients and collaborators constantly evolving forces me to learn new skills, develop my craft and push my work to new levels.

Johanna has a website and blog at HYPERLINK “http://johannabasford.com” http://johannabasford.com; or find her on Twitter: @johannabasford; The New Goodbye, the app that includes her illustrated narrative of The Dialogue of the Dogs is released on the App Store at the end of May and the Edinburgh Fringe takes place 6-30 August.

robin hood tax - abi daker
Illustration by Abigail Daker.

I’ve always been a huge fan of Robin Hood. When I was younger I had a great cassette tape of all his stories and escapades. These generally seemed to involve taking from the rich and giving to the poor whilst seemingly having absolutely as much fun as possible of course.

I’d all but forgotten about him however, viagra approved until recently when I heard about the Robin Hood Tax campaign. It aims to put a tiny tax on banks to raise loads of money – billions in fact – to tackle poverty and green issues locally and abroad. What’s great about this idea is that it’s really simple – a small tax of around 0.05% per transaction between banks – but that the difference it could make is enormous. It can help stop cuts in crucial public services in the UK, AND aid the fight against global poverty and climate change. Keeping the Robin Hood spirit alive in this day and age.

Robin Hood Tax

There’s a momentum that’s been building for quite a while now… there are lots of people that agree with my view and think this tax is a great idea – including Sienna Miller, Jaime Winstone and Ben Kingsley – he appeared in a great ad being pounced on by “Robin Hood hoodies” – Check it out! But I know that in order for this campaign to be a success we need to spread the word as much as we can, get all our friends and family on board and campaigning together to make this a reality. Robin Hood never got anywhere without his band of merry men supporting him all the way.

One way I’m getting involved is by taking part in an activity Oxfam are organizing this Sunday 2nd May to raise awareness – the Robin Hood Tax treasure Hunt. Treasure hunts are always a huge amount of fun – I remember around Easter as a kid my older cousins used to set up egg hunts for my sister and me. I loved following the clues, the adventure and the excitement of the unknown. Who says I can’t enjoy a treasure hunt now I’m a little older though – especially when it’s made all the more enjoyable knowing that I’m spreading the word about such as great cause AND an excuse to dress up as the great Robin Hood himself.

robin hood tax - abi daker
Illustration by Abigail Daker.

I’m going to join a group of bandits and merry makers tweeting, blogging, videoing and taking pictures around east London spreading the word and with the opportunity to win tickets to top summer festivals including the fabulous Winterwell Festival, a secret boutique festival in the beautiful rolling hills of Gloucestershire with great music and fancy dress. Oxfam held a similar event in Brighton last week with teams of merry men and women scampering around the city braving challenges such as busking with tambourines and dressing up as a bankers in the Oxfam shop.

If you’re interested in the campaign, a big Robin Hood fan and up for a fun day out, join me and other wannabe Robin Hood’s to take part in the treasure hunt on Sunday. You need to snap up a £2 ticket from Robin Hood game website. All money raised goes directly as a donation to Oxfam and the campaign effort. Just check out the details below of when where and what and I look forward to seeing you there.

The East London treasure hunt is on Sunday 2nd May, from 1-6pm
Start & finish at Richmix, 35-47 Bethnal Green Road, London E1 6LA

Today (Tuesday), treat the day before Alistair Darling makes his 2010 Budget speech, salve around a dozen Robin Hoods will be delivering their own green-coloured Budget boxes to the Treasury, calling on the Chancellor to announce the introduction of a tax on banksÕ financial transactions.

To illustrate the call from the Robin Hood Tax campaign, the green-clad Robin Hoods will be marching in a line from College Green across Parliament Square en route to the Treasury offices in Parliament Street.

Inside the green Robin Hood Tax campaign Budget boxes will be a letter to the Chancellor calling on him to kick start international agreement for new financial transaction taxes by using WednesdayÕs Budget to announce a new unilateral UK sterling tax.

The boxes will also contain a scroll reminding Alistair Darling of the support that the Robin Hood Tax campaign has gathered since it launched last month. Some 100 organisations are now backing the coalition, which has 141,085 fans on Facebook and 71,492 people have voted yes to a financial transactions tax on the campaignÕs website www.robinhoodtax.org.uk
Keeping the Robin Hood spirit alive in the 21st century. Yes, website really!

I’ve always been a huge fan of Robin Hood. When I was younger I had a great cassette tape of all his stories and escapades. These generally seemed to involve taking from the rich and giving to the poor whilst seemingly having absolutely as much fun as possible of course.

I’d all but forgotten about him however, mind until recently when I heard about the HYPERLINK “http://www.robinhoodtax.org.uk/” Robin Hood Tax campaign. It aims to put a tiny tax on banks to raise loads of money – billions in fact– to tackle poverty and green issues locally and abroad. What’s great about this idea is that it’s really simple – a small tax of around 0.05% per transaction between banks – but that the difference it could make is enormous. It can help stop cuts in crucial public services in the UK, prescription AND aid the fight against global poverty and climate change. Keeping the Robin Hood spirit alive in this day and age.

There’s a momentum that’s been building for quite a while now… there are lots of people that agree with my view and think this tax is a great idea – including Sienna Miller, Jaime Winstone and Bill Nighy – he appeared in a great ad being pounced on by “Robin Hood hoodies” – HYPERLINK “http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M18_Yi9hVm4&feature=player_embedded” Check it out! But I know that in order for this campaign to be a success we need to spread the word as much as we can, get all our friends and family on board and campaigning together to make this a reality. Robin Hood never got anywhere without his band of merry men supporting him all the way.

One way I’m getting involved is by taking part in an activity HYPERLINK “http://www.oxfam.org.uk/” Oxfam are organizing this Sunday 2nd May to raise awareness – the HYPERLINK “http://robinhoodgame.wordpress.com/” Robin Hood Tax treasure Hunt. Treasure hunts are always a huge amount of fun – I remember around Easter as a kid my older cousins used to set up egg hunts for my sister and me. I loved following the clues, the adventure and the excitement of the unknown. Who says I can’t enjoy a treasure hunt now I’m a little older though – especially when it’s made all the more enjoyable knowing that I’m spreading the word about such as great cause AND an excuse to dress up as the great Robin Hood himself.

I’m going to join a group of bandits and merry makers tweeting, blogging, videoing and taking pictures around east London spreading the word and with the opportunity to win tickets to top summer festivals including the fabulous HYPERLINK “http://www.winterwell.co.uk/” Winterwell Festival, a secret boutique festival in the beautiful rolling hills of Gloucestershire with great music and fancy dress.
.
HYPERLINK “http://www.oxfam.org.uk/” Oxfam held a similar HYPERLINK “http://www.oxfam.org.uk/get_involved/campaign/where-you-are/southeast/” event in Brighton last week with teams of merry men and women scampering around the city braving challenges such as busking with tambourines and dressing up as a bankers in the Oxfam shop.

If you’re interested in the campaign, a big Robin Hood fan and up for a fun day out, join me and other wannabe Robin Hood’s to take part in the treasure hunt on Sunday. You need to snap up a £2 ticket from HYPERLINK “http://robinhoodgame.wordpress.com/” Robin Hood game website. All money raised goes directly as a donation to Oxfam and the campaign effort. Just check out the details below of when where and what and I look forward to seeing you there.

East London treasure hunt
Sunday 2nd May, 1-6pm
Start & finish at HYPERLINK “http://www.richmix.org.uk/” Richmix, 35-47 Bethnal Green Road, London E1 6LA
HYPERLINK “http://robinhoodgame.wordpress.com/” o “Buy tickets” Buy tickets

I’ve always been a huge fan of Robin Hood. When I was younger I had a great cassette tape of all his stories and escapades. These generally seemed to involve taking from the rich and giving to the poor whilst seemingly having absolutely as much fun as possible of course.

I’d all but forgotten about him however, ampoule until recently when I heard about the HYPERLINK “http://www.robinhoodtax.org.uk/” Robin Hood Tax campaign. It aims to put a tiny tax on banks to raise loads of money – billions in fact – to tackle poverty and green issues locally and abroad. What’s great about this idea is that it’s really simple – a small tax of around 0.05% per transaction between banks – but that the difference it could make is enormous. It can help stop cuts in crucial public services in the UK, sales AND aid the fight against global poverty and climate change. Keeping the Robin Hood spirit alive in this day and age.

There’s a momentum that’s been building for quite a while now… there are lots of people that agree with my view and think this tax is a great idea – including Sienna Miller, Jaime Winstone and Bill Nighy – he appeared in a great ad being pounced on by “Robin Hood hoodies” – HYPERLINK “http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M18_Yi9hVm4&feature=player_embedded” Check it out! But I know that in order for this campaign to be a success we need to spread the word as much as we can, get all our friends and family on board and campaigning together to make this a reality. Robin Hood never got anywhere without his band of merry men supporting him all the way.

One way I’m getting involved is by taking part in an activity HYPERLINK “http://www.oxfam.org.uk/” Oxfam are organizing this Sunday 2nd May to raise awareness – the HYPERLINK “http://robinhoodgame.wordpress.com/” Robin Hood Tax treasure Hunt. Treasure hunts are always a huge amount of fun – I remember around Easter as a kid my older cousins used to set up egg hunts for my sister and me. I loved following the clues, the adventure and the excitement of the unknown. Who says I can’t enjoy a treasure hunt now I’m a little older though – especially when it’s made all the more enjoyable knowing that I’m spreading the word about such as great cause AND an excuse to dress up as the great Robin Hood himself.

I’m going to join a group of bandits and merry makers tweeting, blogging, videoing and taking pictures around east London spreading the word and with the opportunity to win tickets to top summer festivals including the fabulous HYPERLINK “http://www.winterwell.co.uk/” Winterwell Festival, a secret boutique festival in the beautiful rolling hills of Gloucestershire with great music and fancy dress.
.
HYPERLINK “http://www.oxfam.org.uk/” Oxfam held a similar HYPERLINK “http://www.oxfam.org.uk/get_involved/campaign/where-you-are/southeast/” event in Brighton last week with teams of merry men and women scampering around the city braving challenges such as busking with tambourines and dressing up as a bankers in the Oxfam shop.

If you’re interested in the campaign, a big Robin Hood fan and up for a fun day out, join me and other wannabe Robin Hood’s to take part in the treasure hunt on Sunday. You need to snap up a £2 ticket from HYPERLINK “http://robinhoodgame.wordpress.com/” Robin Hood game website. All money raised goes directly as a donation to Oxfam and the campaign effort. Just check out the details below of when where and what and I look forward to seeing you there.

East London treasure hunt
Sunday 2nd May, 1-6pm
Start & finish at HYPERLINK “http://www.richmix.org.uk/” Richmix, 35-47 Bethnal Green Road, London E1 6LA
HYPERLINK “http://robinhoodgame.wordpress.com/” o “Buy tickets” Buy tickets

I’ve always been a huge fan of Robin Hood. When I was younger I had a great cassette tape of all his stories and escapades. These generally seemed to involve taking from the rich and giving to the poor whilst seemingly having absolutely as much fun as possible of course.

I’d all but forgotten about him however, pills until recently when I heard about the HYPERLINK “http://www.robinhoodtax.org.uk/” Robin Hood Tax campaign. It aims to put a tiny tax on banks to raise loads of money – billions in fact – to tackle poverty and green issues locally and abroad. What’s great about this idea is that it’s really simple – a small tax of around 0.05% per transaction between banks – but that the difference it could make is enormous. It can help stop cuts in crucial public services in the UK, nurse AND aid the fight against global poverty and climate change. Keeping the Robin Hood spirit alive in this day and age.

Robin Hood Tax

There’s a momentum that’s been building for quite a while now… there are lots of people that agree with my view and think this tax is a great idea – including Sienna Miller, cost Jaime Winstone and Bill Nighy – he appeared in a great ad being pounced on by “Robin Hood hoodies” – HYPERLINK “http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M18_Yi9hVm4&feature=player_embedded” Check it out! But I know that in order for this campaign to be a success we need to spread the word as much as we can, get all our friends and family on board and campaigning together to make this a reality. Robin Hood never got anywhere without his band of merry men supporting him all the way.

One way I’m getting involved is by taking part in an activity HYPERLINK “http://www.oxfam.org.uk/” Oxfam are organizing this Sunday 2nd May to raise awareness – the HYPERLINK “http://robinhoodgame.wordpress.com/” Robin Hood Tax treasure Hunt. Treasure hunts are always a huge amount of fun – I remember around Easter as a kid my older cousins used to set up egg hunts for my sister and me. I loved following the clues, the adventure and the excitement of the unknown. Who says I can’t enjoy a treasure hunt now I’m a little older though – especially when it’s made all the more enjoyable knowing that I’m spreading the word about such as great cause AND an excuse to dress up as the great Robin Hood himself.

I’m going to join a group of bandits and merry makers tweeting, blogging, videoing and taking pictures around east London spreading the word and with the opportunity to win tickets to top summer festivals including the fabulous HYPERLINK “http://www.winterwell.co.uk/” Winterwell Festival, a secret boutique festival in the beautiful rolling hills of Gloucestershire with great music and fancy dress.
.
HYPERLINK “http://www.oxfam.org.uk/” Oxfam held a similar HYPERLINK “http://www.oxfam.org.uk/get_involved/campaign/where-you-are/southeast/” event in Brighton last week with teams of merry men and women scampering around the city braving challenges such as busking with tambourines and dressing up as a bankers in the Oxfam shop.

If you’re interested in the campaign, a big Robin Hood fan and up for a fun day out, join me and other wannabe Robin Hood’s to take part in the treasure hunt on Sunday. You need to snap up a £2 ticket from HYPERLINK “http://robinhoodgame.wordpress.com/” Robin Hood game website. All money raised goes directly as a donation to Oxfam and the campaign effort. Just check out the details below of when where and what and I look forward to seeing you there.

East London treasure hunt
Sunday 2nd May, 1-6pm
Start & finish at HYPERLINK “http://www.richmix.org.uk/” Richmix, 35-47 Bethnal Green Road, London E1 6LA
HYPERLINK “http://robinhoodgame.wordpress.com/” o “Buy tickets” Buy tickets

I’ve always been a huge fan of Robin Hood. When I was younger I had a great cassette tape of all his stories and escapades. These generally seemed to involve taking from the rich and giving to the poor whilst seemingly having absolutely as much fun as possible of course!

I’d all but forgotten about him however, and until recently when I heard about the HYPERLINK “http://www.robinhoodtax.org.uk/” Robin Hood Tax campaign. It aims to put a tiny tax on banks to raise loads of money – billions in fact! – to tackle poverty and green issues locally and abroad. What’s great about this idea is that it’s really simple – a small tax of around 0.05% per transaction between banks – but that the difference it could make is enormous. It can help stop cuts in crucial public services in the UK, AND aid the fight against global poverty and climate change. Keeping the Robin Hood spirit alive in this day and age!

Robin Hood Tax

There’s a momentum that’s been building for quite a while now… there are lots of people that agree with my view and think this tax is a great idea – including Sienna Miller, Jaime Winstone and Bill Nighy – he appeared in a great ad being pounced on by “Robin Hood hoodies” – HYPERLINK “http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M18_Yi9hVm4&feature=player_embedded” Check it out! But I know that in order for this campaign to be a success we need to spread the word as much as we can, get all our friends and family on board and campaigning together to make this a reality. Robin Hood never got anywhere without his band of merry men supporting him all the way.

One way I’m getting involved is by taking part in an activity HYPERLINK “http://www.oxfam.org.uk/” Oxfam are organizing this Sunday 2nd May to raise awareness – the HYPERLINK “http://robinhoodgame.wordpress.com/” Robin Hood Tax treasure Hunt. Treasure hunts are always a huge amount of fun – I remember around Easter as a kid my older cousins used to set up egg hunts for my sister and me. I loved following the clues, the adventure and the excitement of the unknown. Who says I can’t enjoy a treasure hunt now I’m a little older though – especially when it’s made all the more enjoyable knowing that I’m spreading the word about such as great cause AND an excuse to dress up as the great Robin Hood himself.

I’m going to join a group of bandits and merry makers tweeting, blogging, videoing and taking pictures around east London spreading the word and with the opportunity to win tickets to top summer festivals including the fabulous HYPERLINK “http://www.winterwell.co.uk/” Winterwell Festival, a secret boutique festival in the beautiful rolling hills of Gloucestershire with great music and fancy dress.
.
HYPERLINK “http://www.oxfam.org.uk/” Oxfam held a similar HYPERLINK “http://www.oxfam.org.uk/get_involved/campaign/where-you-are/southeast/” event in Brighton last week with teams of merry men and women scampering around the city braving challenges such as busking with tambourines and dressing up as a bankers in the Oxfam shop.

If you’re interested in the campaign, a big Robin Hood fan and up for a fun day out, join me and other wannabe Robin Hood’s to take part in the treasure hunt on Sunday. You need to snap up a £2 ticket from HYPERLINK “http://robinhoodgame.wordpress.com/” Robin Hood game website. All money raised goes directly as a donation to Oxfam and the campaign effort. Just check out the details below of when where and what and I look forward to seeing you there.

East London treasure hunt
Sunday 2nd May, 1-6pm
Start & finish at HYPERLINK “http://www.richmix.org.uk/” Richmix, 35-47 Bethnal Green Road, London E1 6LA
HYPERLINK “http://robinhoodgame.wordpress.com/” o “Buy tickets” Buy tickets


Illustrations by Andrea Kearney

So. The volcano came; spewed copious amounts of ash and nasties into the atmosphere, visit web dominated our headlines, whipped twitter into a frenzy and rudely obstructed our travel plans. But as quickly as it barged into our consciousness, it disappeared again. Our attention has now turned to making it through the vomiting political sales pitching of the general election and booking our summer holidays.

It is odd that such an obscure word penetrated the nations consciousness in the first place. Eyjafjallajokul. Ey- jaf- alla- jokul. Initially I didn’t even believe in its existence. A huge practical joke, dreamed up by some adolescent work experience office monkey in an Icelandic weather station, compelled by a dare from his friends. Surely. And then I was furious with it, for grounding friends and family who really deserved their holiday. But then I thought again.


Ash and Lightning Above an Icelandic Volcano
Credit & Copyright: Marco Fulle

Those who wouldn’t normally give a second thought to nature, looked up and remarked at the beautiful skies, and marvelled at mother nature. Photographers everywhere must have melted in an orgasmic spasm of pleasure. There was no visible trace of the ash and grime reportedly being pumped into our air space, but the presence of Mount Eyjafjallajokul could be felt all over the UK and beyond. It was then reported that 1.3 million tonnes of carbon dioxide were saved as nearly 70,000 flights were grounded over 4 days. This volcano was more than a pretty face. More carbon was saved in those 4 days than most developing countries produce in a year. Yowzers.


Diagram from Information is Beautiful

Obnoxious to our travel plans as it was, it cannot be denied that it forced us to look at the world and our lifestyles differently, and realise with a slightly sickly taste in the back of our throats how completely and wholly dependent we are on overseas goods and services. It suddenly became important to ensure the availability of high speed and reliable trains, coaches and ferries. Demand for video conferencing skyrocketed and businesses realised it is possible to find alternatives to air travel.

The volcano eruption paraded a brief but vivid vision of a potential future. A quieter world where food and flowers cannot be flown here from distant shores at our whim, where people rely on their local economies for food, or grow their own instead. Where business is facilitated over video links, instead of aviation. Where train, coach and ferry travel are the norm and where people holiday closer to home. Where we no longer take the natural world for granted. Where we respect the environmental limitations of the planet we live on.

But I am not about to lose myself in a utopian, grow it yourself, plane free day dream. Obviously there are negative affects too. I’m certainly not inviting its brothers, sisters, mothers and uncle’s to start kicking up a fuss and erupting all over us too. No. A world of constant volcanic eruptions would not be a pretty one. The economic impacts are untold and the impact on 3rd world producers could be huge.

But, you have to admit it. Eyjafjallajokul has humbled us. Although all visions of a plane- free future have long gone, It highlighted the fragility of the systems on which we depend and showed us an alternative way of life. And it has reminded us that Mother nature is totally and mind fuckingly awesome.

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2 Responses to “Goodbye Eyjafjallajokul…”

  1. Lisa-Marie says:

    I think it showed people that technology isn’t infallible, and that there are bigger things than the stuff that’s going on in our lives.

    I also think what it showed is that our inability now to provide for ourselves will not do, and that the Uk as a whole has to try to be self sufficient, at least in basic foods and things.

  2. Becky says:

    Yes it definitely made us all pause for thought as we realised just how much we rely on air transport for so much in our daily lives. The obvious effects such as people being unable to travel but also the knock on effects, for example friends had gig tickets cancelled as the band came from Canada, and exotic supplies of fruit and veg began to look depleted in supermarkets. I think it made us realise that we can cope without planes though, or certainly with fewer planes!

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