Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Funky Artists: A Day In The Life Of....Jill Calder

We're delighted to introduce the first in our series of interviews with the fabulous featured artists at Funky Scottish.  We take a peek behind the artwork, into the everyday lives of these talented people.  We discover how they seek out inspiration, structure their day and tap into their natural creativity to produce the pieces that are showcased at galleries and boutiques like Funky Scottish.  Also, if you're dreaming of becoming an artist - as a hobby or professionally - this series will provide an invaluable insight into the many different ways to craft a successful and fulfilling creative, artistic lifestyle. Now, it gives me great pleasure to introduce Jill Calder...

Firstly, Jill, where do you live?

In Cellardyke, which is just along the coast from Pittenweem. I have lived here for 8 years, having moved here from Edinburgh to set up home with my now husband!

Tell us about your studio or work space – where is it, what’s it like?

I work from home, which I have a high love/hate relationship with! I love my studio space but I do occasionally dream of a big vibrant studio with lots of other people busying about the place! But then again, I do LOVE being my own boss too.

How would you describe your art?

I am an illustrator and I love responding visually to text, stories, ideas, captions etc that will eventually be used commercially, whether for advertising, design work, in newspapers and magazines or online. I also make time to do personal work too, as it's important for me to try out new ideas and experiment with new materials. Drawing, bright colour and ink is at the core of my work and I combine and blend that with digital  processes  to create the final product.

Tell us a little about your background and how you uncovered your love of art?

I just always loved drawing and making pictures and telling stories to myself about my pictures! I always wanted to study art of some kind and luckily I got into a foundation course in Carlisle and from there I applied to study Illustration and Animation at Edinburgh. I have been quite single minded about being an illustrator - purely because I have no idea what else I would have done! 

Tell us how you began your life is an artist?

When I left art college in 1992, I just started to show my portfolio around newspapers and design agencies , sent out a few postcards and hoped someone would ask me to illustrate something! I finally got my first commission from The Scotsman in 1993 to do an illustration about dyslexia. I got paid £65.00…20 years later, I am still working as an illustrator and now have 2 agents who bring work in for me from clients all over the world! I do love this job and I still get a buzz when a great commission comes in from an exciting client.

Which elements of your surroundings provide you with the most inspiration?

I do buy and collect a lot of books about art, design and illustration and have a very good library of them now. I like to dip into it at random every so often and I always come away inspired! I recently bought some signed Brian Wildsmith first editions  (he is an old school illustrator I discovered a couple of years ago) and I absolutely love looking at his work, in particular his painting technique.

Aside from your immediate surroundings, where do you gather inspiration?

I am not too bothered where or how I get my inspired, as long as I get it! - it can be a documentary, or a conversation, a bus journey, the cats next door or just by being outside in the countryside.

 How do you begin and structure your day? Describe your ideal day at work?

No day is the same but on an *ideal* day I get up very early and deal with all the niggly domestic things that can get in the way of me being creative. These things , you know ,washing up, laundry, hoovering etc can be very distracting when you work from home - especially if I am procrastinating about a deadline! I need a clear head to then deal with admin and emails that come in overnight (from my USA clients). I prefer to do this at my kitchen table, away from the studio. I go out with my dogs for a good walk. If I am in my studio by 9.00am I am delighted! Quite often, however, if deadlines are looming, I get up super early and just bolt downstairs in my pyjamas and put in a couple of hours before doing all the above. Strong cups of tea do help a lot! I find the more I have on, the more efficient I am with my time and I try to set myself mini deadlines throughout the day to get tasks done, so 30minutes of drawing for one job, 15 minutes of scanning, 1 hour of ideas bashing - stuff like that. Of course, it can all go to pot and I faff about endlessly too! Overall, I do make a conscious effort to not sit at my computer for long stretches of time and so have planned my studio around that - my drawing desk (which I stand rather than sit at) is at the back of the studio and I have to get up from my desk  to answer the phone too. I like to have lunch and tea breaks out of the studio too - if it's nice I go into the garden. The best days are deadline days, when the adrenalin is high and all the drawings and planning and sketching come together and the final piece emerges!

Do you have any creative rituals? (eg. in the style of Julia Cameron’s book ‘The Artist’s Way’ – journaling, time-out walks etc)

If there is one thing I know now, it is that you just have to get OUT of the studio sometimes - especially if you are in a rut. Doing something different - whether it be cooking or reading, or walking - can reboot the brain and you can start with a fresh perspective when you go back . Alternatively, I also believe that sometimes you just have to draw your way through a sticky patch. The drawings might be the worst in the world but eventually something starts to work!

How do you “switch off” and relax away from your work?

Dog training, travelling, cooking, watching movies and quality TV (and not so quality) and pilates. However, the creative mind never really switches off and I do believe that the subconscious always absorbs things for later use - at least, that's how my mind works!

In which ways do you find you most relate to other artists?

I am a bit of a loner and although it is great to see art exhibited and be inspired by that, I don't actively seek out other artist's company.  I think when you work on your own, you develop your own way of doing things and when I do occasionally get together with other creatives, I am then always amazed at how differently we go about our business!

What are the most typical daily challenges for you as an artist?

Procrastination…usually when there is a horribly tight deadline! Also, looking ahead and making sure you have enough work coming in, even when you have your hands full with current job loads. Juggling all of that can be a bit stressful at times but making achievable "To Do" lists can help - that and lots of tea.

What are the most typical everyday rewards?

Hitting the "send" button! When a job is complete it's great uploading my artwork to the designer who commissioned me. Seeing the job in print or online is pretty good too! Then, getting great feedback from people is lovely too.

How did you begin exhibiting at Funky Scottish?

Karen saw my work at East Neuk Open Studios and liked it - simple as that! She has great taste, is all I can say…:-)

What advice you would give you anyone dreaming of doing what you do – or something similar?

Work bloody hard, network all the time and be friendly and polite to people - you never know who will commission you. It's no good just being talented - you have to show people what you do and communicate well about what you do. You have to keep developing your craft and experimenting as well as marketing and promoting your work too…especially in a recession! Try to keep a balance between the business side and creative side of your business.

Tell us about any upcoming projects or special dates in your diary?

Hong Kong! I am off there for a few weeks to work as Artist in Residence with the English Schools Foundation and some of their 16-18 yr old art and design students. I have done this for the last 2 years and it is great fun, hard work and enormously rewarding. Just being in the wonder that is Hong Kong is amazing! I always come back with lots of lovely calligraphy brushes and pens too…

Finally, give us your top tip for a creative working day!

Get up early and get work-a-day tasks out of the way to let the creativity flow. That and try to only check email/phone messages/texts 2 or 3 times a day. That little *ping!* can be severely distracting! Do something random too - anything you like!

Jill, thanks so much for your time - and best wishes with all your exciting projects!

You can see Jill's work here at the Funky Scottish boutique.

View more of illustrator Jill Calder's work at her website -

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