Artist and illustrator Katy Jewell sends us her fantastically intricate pattern drawings and children’s book illustrations today, reminding us of a world of details, patterns and textures.
Born in northwest England, Katy Jewell is an illustrator who likes to tell stories. She covers a diverse range of subject matters, from intricate pattern drawings to fantastical children’s book illustrations. Often imbued with darker tones, Jewell’s work is recognizable for its focus on detail and textures. She describes her style as akin to art nouveau, and her lines and patterns and the symbolism within her illustrations echo that influence.
Jewell’s black and white and pattern drawings remind me a little of Aubrey Beardsley’s illustrations, the play of light and dark and the beautiful flow of lines and patterns. I see in her story illustrations the woods and creatures from ancient fairy tales.
We welcome Katy Jewell to our site today and are happy that she has a few moments to chat with us.
Thank you, Katy, for taking the time to stop by.
NS: Katy, what inspires you to draw? What subjects interest you most and bring you the most joy?
KJ: I like to read books and I like to tell stories within the illustrations I create. Sometimes I illustrate stories that have already been written by others and sometimes I come up with my own. For me, books and narrative illustration have always been a huge source of inspiration.
I enjoy sitting down and drawing natural form. I am not too keen on machines and straight lines; I much prefer pattern, detail and texture. I love trees and plants, the human and animal form.
I also have a strange love for the macabre and dead. While I don’t find myself able to be a taxidermist, I find the art itself quite amazing. I love to study the living form and what is underneath the skin, how bones and muscles work and how everything looks once you have peeled back the skin. With this comes a deep fascination of life after death. I love a good ghost story or a folk tale or myth surrounding death. While I am not a religious person, the whole idea of life after death intrigues me.
NS: Your line art patterns, in particular, are really intricate and beautifully inked. Do you have a picture of what these designs look like before you begin or do the designs develop as you draw? Where do you find ideas for these?
KJ: I start all illustrations the same way: I do a sketch and then, once everything has been refined, I begin inking. I rarely post a work in progress of a pattern because it just slows me down, but I have included a preview of an illustration I am currently working on.
As for the patterns themselves, they are automatic drawings – meaning that I just fill in the space that I sketched. I don’t really plan a pattern. I don’t think I can really. It just happens most of the time.
As for what inspires them? Well, at the moment, I am researching Islamic art, which is fantastically beautiful in its complex design and patterning. The buildings that these patterns decorate are almost unreal. I have also drawn inspiration from Celtic art in the past. The problem for me with Celtic work is that it’s very precise and demands a lot of concentration so I started to move away from the mathematics of precise patterns and focus on something more natural, almost art nouveau.
NS: What media do you use? What is your process like for building your illustrations?
KJ: For inking I use Windsor & Newton black Indian ink (the spider version), a sable brush, Chinese brush, a few dip pens and, for patterns, fine liners. To colour, I mostly use Adobe Photoshop CS6 these days. Sometimes I do go back to Copic and watercolour but that depends mostly on the brief I have been given. I have included a gif image which shows the process of traditional inking with digital colouring.
I personally prefer to use traditional media as staring at a screen for long periods of time gets a little boring for me. But if a brief demands it I will work all digitally. If needed, I can digitally ink in a software program called Manga Studio which allows me to be far more precise then Photoshop.
NS: You’ve mentioned that you are working on a children’s book. Can you tell us a little about this?
KJ: It started out as a submission for a contest but due to deadlines on other projects I wasn’t able to spend as much time as I wanted on the children’s book. It wasn’t up to the quality that I wanted, and so I have not sent it on. Instead, in my spare time, I am redrawing the book and submitting it to a ebook publisher. This gives me full freedom to do what I want with my characters. Also if I wish to publish it in paperback format later, I can do that.
Of course I know I can’t place all my eggs in one basket and so I am looking out to other publishers as well. I would prefer to have the book published in paperback form but it’s hard to find someone who publishes unsolicited works.
As for the book itself, it is focused on a young girl, her next door neighbour who’s a grim reaper and a friend who is a young Chinese guardian lion. I wanted to create characters that I think would catch a reader’s attention and I wanted the girl herself to be different from the usual fairy or princess type. She’s more of a pirate than a princess.
NS: What other projects are you working on now?
KJ: I am coming to the end of my program at university and, as a result, am finishing off a final picture book project. The project is based around Hades and Persephone. Also I am working on an art book which is based around the theme of life and death. It will hopefully be a printed book which will be mostly black and white with splashes of colour here and there to make things more interesting. It will mix pattern and simplicity and maybe in some way tell a story. But this is a long term project that I will most likely dedicate a couple of years to. It’s something to do in my spare time. Along with this long term project I have a graphic novel which I have planned and written out storywise and am in the process of building up the character designs.
At the moment I don’t want to commit all my time to this project because I don’t think my art style is refined enough yet and commissions take priority over my personal work. It’s something I like to use to work on improving my character and environmental design. I also use it as an excuse to research new topics that I would have otherwise ignored.
As for now it’s a case of just cracking on with work that pulls in money and leaving personal work aside. I would love to illustrate more children’s books, but that would depend on how this first children’s book does in terms of ratings.
For more information about Katy Jewell and for commissions, you can contact:
(Illustrations in this post are Copyright 2014 by Katy Jewell. All Rights Reserved.)