We love getting to know our artists, and we thought you might too.
This week we chat with Jess Bretherton, the artist who created the puzzles for our brand new Merry Mischief Advent Calendar which is being released later this month.
Tell us about yourself
I'm an illustrator and graphic designer currently working in-house for an amazing conservation organisation by day while busily working on freelance illustration projects by night. I live in sunny Sydney, Australia with my partner and cat and have a little studio space set up where I do most of my work. When I’m not drawing, you’ll likely find me baking, or crafting (I love a good DIY project!).
How long have you been an artist for?
I guess you could say since I could hold a pencil! But I’ve only been working on commercial illustration projects as a freelancer for about 5 years.
Can you tell us a bit about your creative process? Where do you get your inspiration for?
My process usually starts with a mood board. I collect interesting photos and designs I like all the time so I can pull them out when the right project comes up. I like to do quick composition sketches and then a more detailed rough sketch over the top to get my layouts worked out. My favourite part of any project is picking the colours. I love experimenting with colour palettes and usually once I’ve added colour to the rough sketches, I’ll show this stage to my clients for approval before I go ahead and tidy everything up in the final version. I’m pretty much 100% digital in the way I work now and try to do as much as possible on my iPad so I can work on the go! I don’t like being tied to my desk for too long.
My main source of inspiration is usually animals. I’ve just always loved the variety of critters there are in the world and all the amazing colours and textures you can find in nature. I have a particular fascination with birds. I love that I get to learn about new and interesting species as I research illustrations as well. Animals tend to have a tonne of different quirks and personalities which makes them fun to interpret in each project.
You’ve just designed our advent calendar puzzles for the year. What was that like? Do you have a favourite animal in the calendar?
Amazing! When my agent reached out to me about the advent calendar I was super excited. It was the perfect mix of two of my favourite topics – Christmas and animals. I love that each of the puzzles has a bit of humour to it as well and really enjoyed incorporating some quirkiness into each of the scenes. It was a lot of fun.
I have 2 favourites – The raccoon and the cat. I can totally relate to the cheeky cat, as my own feline friend loves stealing decorations off our tree at Christmas time. The raccoon just makes me giggle. We don’t have raccoons here in Australia but I found a lot of funny reference images while illustrating that scene and I can definitely imagine one sneaking down a chimney and stealing all the presents!
Are you working on anything else at the moment?
Yes! I’ve been working on an animal related book project for a few months now but can’t say too much about it yet. I’m also getting ready to start some of my own Christmas card and gift tag designs.
Do you have any words of wisdom for any budding illustrators who are wanting to develop their careers?
Hmmm! I feel like I’m still pretty new to the world of illustration but so far I’d say, as you start to take on client work remember to make time to draw for yourself. It’s very easy to take on lots of exciting briefs but completely run out of time to draw the things you love. Put time aside in your calendar to work on personal projects or other creative hobbies. Those are the times you can really be free to experiment, learn and keep things fun!
If you could have a meal with any artist, living or dead, who would it be and what would you eat?
I think right now I’d say Hayoa Miyazaki. I’ve been rewatching the Ghibli films lately and I just can’t get over how beautiful they are, both in visuals and storytelling. I’d love to know his process when it comes to designing fantasy creatures and worlds. Ham ramen, like the one from ‘Ponyo’ seems like a fitting meal choice!
You can follow along with Jess on her Instagram.