Jennie Bradley has been a professional illustrator for six years. It was through her studies, in Graphic Communications, that she developed a passion for digital illustration.
After graduations, she jumped straight into a job where she created illustrations for greetings cards, gift wrap, gift bags, wall art and more. But when she discovered the children’s market, she knew she had found her niche, her fit—she was drawn to the bright, bold, fun designs.
So after giving birth to her son in 2011, she decided it was time to leave behind the steady income of her job, and venture out on her own. She started her product line by creating a World Map, and that’s when she knew she had done the right thing. . .
Alyice: How did you get started as an illustrator?
Jennie: I was always very creative growing up. I remember being very excited to receive art materials as a gift. I loved drawing, sketching, and designing all sorts of different things. I have always loved bright colors, too.
I remember going around the Tate modern in London, when I was younger, and seeing the work of Roy Lichtenstein for the first time. I absolutely fell in love! His work was so bold and colorful. . . it really caught my eye. It was through Lichtenstein’s work that I discovered pop art.
I think it was through discovering this genre of art that I became absorbed and my passion for art became more serious. I started a Graphic Communications course at University in 2005 and it was through this course I really found out who I wanted to be as an artist. I had not explored digital illustration before studying for my degree and I distinctly remember that milestone in my life. Suddenly I had found a style of illustration that just clicked, and from that point on I have not looked back. Over the years, and through lots of experimentation, my illustrative style has grown and evolved, leading me to how my work looks today.
Going self-employed, and creating a business all by myself, was not a decision I made lightly. I knew it had many risks attached to it, but I was determined. I had a great desire and above all, I was very passionate about the direction I was headed.
Alyice: We know that illustrating is all about visual stimulation, but is there ever a time when there’s too much visual stimulation?
Jennie: I love being surround by visual stimulation; it can be very inspiring. I find being surrounded by designs and illustrations that I love or admire can really get my creative juices going. The designs don’t even necessarily have to be of the same subject or style, sometimes just seeing designs I like puts me in the right frame of mind to be creative.
I suppose the only way there could be too much stimulation is if it detracts from your creative process. There needs to be a healthy balance between stimulating and inspiring—not distracting.
Alyice: What is your creative process like?
Jennie: I always start by having a good vision in my head of what I want to create. Sometimes I go straight to the computer and start drawing and I can continue drawing all day—if I have the time. It’s like I get lost in another world!
Other times I doodle a few sketches on paper. If I do this, it is always very rough and usually to help me with a layout or experiment how the space will work. I love to research, too. I like to find images that I know will inspire me as I create my designs.
My actual illustration process consists of two methods: using a mouse and using a drawing tablet. I love the freedom a drawing tablet gives me and I especially love using that for drawing curves or for hand-drawing lettering. I use my mouse for the more structured elements like drawing solid lines or set shapes.
Alyice: You create illustrations for various products. Do you use the same creative process for each product line, or do certain lines require something different?
Jennie: The main thing that changes with each product is the space.
With my wall art, for example, I have a lot of space to work with so the restrictions are minimal. This allows me to be very creative, but it can bring its own challenges. For a large scale piece, you have to be very aware and sometimes it is easy to lose sight of scale. I overcome this by printing areas of the canvas off and making sure the scale is correct.
For a greetings cards, you have a different challenge as the space you have is far smaller. You have to be more disciplined with how you use the space and use the area effectively.
Alyice: What’s your favorite medium for creating your illustrations?
Jennie: As a digital illustrator, I always illustrate straight on to my computer—whether it be using my drawing tablet or my mouse. I do like to add more organic elements in to my work, though. For example, I like to add scanned fabrics or patterns because this gives my work an added element of interest. However, it always depends on the look that I am trying to achieve.
I find digital illustration works so well for me because I enjoy the control it gives me. You have the advantage of tweaking what you have drawn after you have drawn it and you have more freedom to play around when you are on the computer. For example, a color change can be done in an instant so you have a fantastic ability to be very experimental.
Alyice: What’s in your sketchbook?
Jennie: I create all of my art on my computer and I have folders full of doodles that I have either not finished or not quite happy with.
Sometimes I find the direction I have taken a design is not quite where I had originally envisioned it. That is, of course, not always a bad thing. It actually happens quite a lot that my initial sketch of how I want a design to look is no-where near how it ends up. But that is how things evolve and better designs can come of that.
As I am designing, I am always experimenting. . . so a design nearly always progresses from an initial vision. Most of the time I find that if I keep working on the design I will eventually get there. But there are times when I put the illustration aside and find an afternoon, or a few days, away from it is the solution I need to complete the design. A fresh pair of eyes usually helps!
Alyice: What is your ultimate goal when you create your illustrations?
Jennie: My goal with all of my illustrations is to always make people smile.
One of my favorite quotes, by Phyllis Diller is “A smiles is a curve that sets the world straight.” That quote not only sums up how i feel as a person, but with drawn element references in it too, I think it’s perfect!