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An Interview with Artist and Illustrator Emily Jones

The director of Get the Chance, Guy O’Donnell recently met with Artist Emily Jones. They discussed her training,  being named runner-up in the Observer/Cape/Comica graphic short story prize 2017 for graphic short story: Dennis and June and her most  recent work for Sherman Theatre, Cardiff.

Hi Emily great to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?

Hello, I grew up in Tyneside but I’ve lived in Cardiff for many years now. I studied illustration for children’s books at art college as that’s the branch of illustration I’m really passionate about. Although, I do enjoy drawing cartoons of Donald Trump and other political figures that I find ludicrous! Being an illustrator isn’t my full time job as I prefer the balance of being able to draw and paint when I want, without the worry or pressure of relying on it for an income.

So what got you interested in Illustration?

I had two lovely teachers in primary school and they encouraged me to draw. They made me realise that you could draw pictures for a living. I loved picture books in particular and I had my favourite illustrators who I aspired to be like. I think I’ve always been fascinated with images and how someone has created them.

How has your career as an illustrator developed?

A few years ago, I began renting out an art studio so I had the space to work in a more professional manner rather than just working at home in front of the TV. This really changed things and along with posting my work on social media, I have slowly but surely become busier and better.

Your personalised pet portraits are particularly popular with your work appearing in 1000 Dog Portraits by Rockport Publishers? Can you tell our readers how you got involved in pet portraits? Do you have a favourite animal to illustrate?

I painted my partner’s dog Scooby and it all started from there. I showed the painting to a few people and before long I was being asked to paint their cat or dog. I think painting pets is a great way for any artist to get commissioned as it’s artwork that is really accessible for people to buy. I love painting all sorts of animal but the more animated the creature is, the more fun I find it to be.

Over the last three years you have been commissioned by  Sherman Theatre to produce images for the seasonal productions The Princess and The Pea, The Emperor’s New Clothes and this year you have designed the posters for Hud y Crochan Uwd / The Magic Porridge Pot and for the first time the main stage Christmas production The Wind in the Willows . Can you tell us how you approach illustrating such popular classics for the stage?

Well I begin by doing a lot of research on how other artists have illustrated these classic stories. I then do my best to create an image which is original as well as instantly recognisable. The images have to grab attention of both children and adults and hopefully it will make people want to see the show.

The image for Hud Y Crochan Uwd/The Magic Porridge Pot, Sherman Theatre. 

Your Wind in the Willows illustration has been developed into an animated trailer this year. Is this a first for you?

Yes it was and it was brilliant to see the image move! The artwork I create for Sherman Theatre is always created in separate layers. This enables the designers to move around the different components to fit whatever format the advert will appear; be it posters, flyers, web-banners etc. Of course, this also enabled the designers to create an animated trailer which is just awesome!

Do you have any illustrators or artists that inspire you?

There are tons! Quentin Blake has always been there as a favourite, as has Edward Gorey. They are experts at depicting characters with seemingly simple pen lines. Shaun Tan’s work is incredible and I wish I had a fraction of his talent! I love Júlia Sardà, David Roberts, Isabelle Arsenault, Alex T. Smith, Michael Sowa, Mateo Dineen, Rebecca Dautremer. They are a just a few! I study their work and try to figure out how they do what they do. They make me feel totally inferior but at the same time, inspire me and enthuse me to create my next best piece; which is definitely a good thing.

Images by Júlia Sardà, Shaun Tan, Edward Gorey and Quinten Blake

Congratulations on being named runner-up in the Observer/Cape/Comica graphic short story prize 2017 for your Graphic short story: Dennis and June. This work is in a digital medium can you discuss how this differs from your painted work?

I recently bought a Huion Graphics tablet so I can draw and colour digitally. It makes illustrating in this comic style so much faster. When I heard about the graphic novel competition, I knew I’d have to create it digitally as painting the way I do, takes so long. Plus, the comic style suits the story much better. Creating digital work has a freedom to it. Mistakes can be easily erased and colouring is instant but physically painting an image will probably always be my favourite way to illustrate.

An image from Dennis and June you can read the full story at the link above

If any of our readers are aspiring illustrators what advice could you offer them?

Draw as often as possible. It seems obvious but you have to practice. Drawing from life is a brilliant way to improve your skills and develop your style. Having a recognisable style is important and it’s something I haven’t mastered yet. But the more work I do, the more I learn and develop. I just wish there was more time in the day to draw!

What do you have planned for the future?

Well, I’ve been having various successes in illustration competitions and I’m hoping this will lead to greater things in the publishing world. I have a couple of children’s books to work on, more images for children’s theatre and when I find the time, I’ll create another graphic story.

You have also designed the images for the 2018 Sherman Theatre Christmas productions  Hugan Fach Goch/Little Red Riding Hood and Alice In Wonderland. As a Wales based artist what does the support of Sherman Theatre mean to you personally?

I’ve created images for The Sherman for a while now and it’s always a proud moment seeing my artwork representing their shows. The Sherman has given me huge confidence in regards to my ability as an illustrator and I hope to work with them for years to come.

Image for Hugan Fach Goch/Little Red Riding Hood

Image for Alice in Wonderland

Thanks for your time Emily.

You can check out more or Emily’s work at the link

Review, Alice in Wonderland, Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre by Gareth Williams

(4 / 5)

What a glorious day for my first visit to Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre. Whilst many people were dashing around Chester city centre in search of Pokemon, I ambled along to the city’s park in search of Wonderland. My discovery came in a somewhat fairy tale fashion. Entering through the park gates to see the outline of the theatre, I followed the path around and slowly, emerging from behind the trees, was this towering structure that fitted perfectly with the surrounding landscape. Tucked away in the corner was the marquee entrance. My moment of wonder continued as I wandered in. It was like entering a dream: a popcorn machine, sweets trolley, crafts of miniscule shapes and sizes, decorative displays and signs full of colourful and wispy words. I had certainly found Wonderland. Now I just had to find Alice.

I had arrived a good half an hour before the start time. I took my seat on the picnic terraces and soaked up the atmosphere. It was already half full with excitable children, doting parents and hungry grannies and grandads. People were tucking into strawberries and cream and bags of popcorn. All manner of tasty treats were being drawn from huge hampers (made up for your arrival when you pre-order). They were sipping champagne and clasping coffee cups. Some were slapping on suncream; others adjusting hats and sunglasses. It all felt rather like centre court at Wimbledon.

It was a fabulous build up to the main event. I had already enjoyed myself, and was soaking up what would be the last of the afternoon sun as the play began. I had completely forgotten my search for Alice. Now, there she was. Except there was not just one, but two. First, Anna Leong Brophy appeared as Alicia. Then, Rebecca Birch followed as Alice. Two best friends with similar names and a slightly different take on Lewis Carroll’s famous tale. Glyn Maxwell’s adaptation of Alice in Wonderland sees Alice (Birch) descend down the rabbit hole first. There she meets not only the White Rabbit (Tom Connor) but all the other eccentric characters too. Caterpillar (Jonathan Dryden Taylor) is a science teacher. Humpty Dumpty (Daniel Goode) likes his food a bit too much. The Cheshire Cat (Caolan McCarthy) is suitably clued up on Cheshire history. And, of course, the Mad Hatter (Alex Mugnaioni) is as mad as ever.

In Maxwell’s adaptation, Alice’s journey through Wonderland ends in her becoming the Red Queen. The second half of the play sees a rescue mission of sorts take place. Alicia (Brophy) descends down the rabbit hole in search of Alice. Both their journeys are full of wonderful wordplay and hilarious humour. There is a smorgasbord of accents among the cast of characters which add an extra dimension to their individual personalities. Above all else, the audience interaction is brilliant. It provided an extra layer of enjoyment and laughter. It also drew you into this strange and exciting world. I found myself welling up once or twice as the actors engaged the younger members of the audience. In particular, one little girl (who had come dressed as Alice) was given a high five by Birch on her final exit. I can’t imagine how special that would have made her feel.

The whole cast gave an accomplished performance. The musical ensemble was brilliant and worked well in the absence of technological sound effects. There was one person who caught my eye in particular though. Tom Connor was fabulous in all his guises. His physicality and facial expressions as the White Rabbit and March Hare were a joy to behold. His animated performance added much to his comic value. Even when out of costume and simply part of the ensemble, he was engaging the audience and looked in his element. That natural enjoyment speaks volumes and only adds to the audience satisfaction.

It began to rain towards the final few minutes. It did not dampen the spirits though. This was a fantastic two hours full of fun and frolics. The team behind this production should feel very proud of their achievements. From the exciting entrance to the performance itself, the whole experience immersed you into the weird and wonderful world of Alice in Wonderland. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Alice in Wonderland