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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

An interview with Jo Taylor: Amelia’s Colourful Colouring Companion featured artist.

Artist Jo Taylor introduces us to her idyllic life in a studio near the River Severn, from where she creates beautiful drawings for adult colouring books and many other clients.

Written by Amelia Gregory

Self taught artist Jo Taylor is based in Gloucestershire near the canal, where she creates a diverse range of whimsical illustrations for multiple clients including other colouring book publishers. Her double page of extravagant birds features in Amelia’s Colourful Colouring Companion alongside 43 other artists, available from my Big Cartel shop now. Here she talks countryside inspiration, the joys of a tidy studio and offers inspiring advice to all untrained want-to-be artists.

What were your original qualifications and how did you come to make art as an illustrator?
I’ve been working as an illustrator full time since around 2005. I have never had formal training in this field but I’ve always known I had some talent as an artist since I was little. Over the years, prior to being an illustrator, I never really knew what I wanted to do so hopped from college studying computing to working for a computer games company and two web design companies, where I learnt the basics of Photoshop and then on to an art gallery where I started to realise that I could make art that would sell, drawing little pictures in chalk pastel, that they displayed and sold for me. There I also met buyers who were coming to look at the art for use on greetings cards and, through that contact, I had art published on cards and calendars. In early 2000 I was perusing the Writers’ and Artists’ Year Book, on the lookout for more publishers for these. By chance I started reading the section on illustration and thought I’d like to do that as a job. From that point on, I found out as much as I could about it and, in my spare time, I worked on art that I felt would work for an illustration folio. The internet was becoming more and more useful by that time and I joined a brilliant forum. In 2003 I was taken on by an agent who had the foresight to see that my work could eventually be right for the industry and, with her advice, I further improved my folio until regular work started to come in.

What advice would you offer someone wanting to enter the illustration industry with no formal training?
There are so many podcasts and blogs giving advice on this subject and probably doing it a lot better than I can. But I would stress that you don‘t need specific qualifications so don’t let not having them stop you. You just need to really, really want to do it and be prepared to put in the time to research and to make art. Podcasts are particularly great because you can listen to advice and work at the same time. When I started illustrating my first job was some black and white drawings for the BBC and I was literally terrified. I have learned so much since then, my drawing skills have improved and I can interpret briefs and produce work much faster but I still have loads to learn. You don’t need to know it all before you start, just get on with it and have fun.

Where do you live and can you describe what your studio looks like?
I’m really lucky to I have a dedicated studio in my house in Gloucestershire. I live near to the canal and the River Severn and so, although it’s pretty built up with houses on the one side of me, in the other direction it’s beautiful countryside. My studio has been, until recently, a bit chaotic and messy but I’m in the middle of a total makeover. It’s all white walls, wood, natural colours and lots of plants. It’s turning into a lovely space to work in, plus I can actually find things now.

How does your surroundings influence your work?
I am actually really concentrating on that thought at the moment. As I said, I’ve worked in a muddley, unpretty studio for years but I’m now making into a great space to work and I’m kind of styling it in a way that I hope will inspire my art. As I love drawing organic things I also use the countryside around me to fuel my recent art and I have long walks with my dog every day taking it all in and bringing home bunches of all sorts of plants, grasses and berries. I now want to include local people and places as inspiration for my art as there is so much great stuff to draw.

What are your favourite ideas or themes to draw and why?
Plants and flowers, because the lines are gorgeous to draw, I find it almost meditative to make those organic shapes. People – I love people watching and I’m fascinated with the way they decorate themselves, hair, fashion, tattoos, jewellery. Anything organic really, although lately I’m enjoying drawing buildings, now I’ve given myself permission to draw these in my own way rather than with exact perspective and straight lines.

Jo Taylor Double-Page-Spread
What inspired your artwork for my colouring book and how was it made?
I’d been drawing a lot of birds for my daily instagram art and been really enjoying it so I thought I’d continue that theme. I sketched the whole piece up in pencil then, for the black and white side I drew in the lines with a Pitt fine liner then tidied them up in Photoshop. For the colour side I redrew the pencil outline and then coloured it in with a mixture of gouache, felt pens and fine liners.

In what way have you used social media to expand your reach as an artist and do you use it for any other things?
I haven’t used social media half as much as I feel that I should. I do have a website, a Pinterest account, Twitter and a blog but I would like to make more of them. I’ve recently started to regularly put work onto my Instagram account and that has been really useful for making me create work in a new style.

You’ve already contributed to other colouring books – how did you get involved with that and what kind of images have you made?
I found colouring book publishers I wanted to work with and sent them in a portfolio. I didn’t actually send black and white line work but my usual coloured illustrations and patterns. I’ve done animals and fashion colouring books for kids. For adults, animals, Scandinavian and Sixties Patterns, Mandalas – and plants and abstract patterns for a selection of calm, soothing type books.

What do you look forward to in 2016?
I’m currently building up a portfolio with an emphasis on beautiful line work and a great palette as I’d love to start working on jobs for magazines and packaging. For the immediate future I have a list of amazing people and businesses I’d like to work with both local and further afield, and my plan is to make that happen.

How inspiring! Get your copy of Amelia’s Colourful Colouring Companion featuring Jo Taylor from my Big Cartel shop.


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