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Thursday 13 October 2022

Meet The Illustrator: Jennifer Horn

Jennifer Horn

Describe your illustration style in ten words or less. 
Stolen crumbs from Quentin Blake’s scribbles, and cooked Jen-style
Whimsical, scribbly, light, evocative.

What items are an essential part of your creative space? 
A visual diary, an eye-height-ish laptop, and room still for a cup of tea. 

Also natural light and a cat at my side would be nice, but the cat doesn’t often stay.

Do you have a favourite artistic medium? 
I’m pretty artistically basic - pencil and paper is all I need. Though a regular on Wacom tablets these days, I admit to have never tried Procreate – I think I’d miss the ‘tooth’ of the paper too much.

Name three artists whose work inspires you.
So many! Other than previously-mentioned Quentin Blake:, Charlie Mackesy, Kathleen Jennings and Charles Vess.
Which artistic period would you most like to visit and why?
Art Nouveau – I love the languid and fantastically curving-over-itself designs, both in the art and architecture. It feels so otherworldly. I was recently so fortunate to visit some of Antoni Gaudi’s art and architecture in Barcelona – very cool walking into buildings inspired by nature but warped by a creative imagination!
Who or what inspired you to become an illustrator? 
As a child I was always drawing, always reading books to my toys, so I think that combination of storytelling visuals had some great incubating. In Grade Five we had to write and illustrate our own picture book – it was one of the most fulfilling school creative projects I remember. Perhaps though, it was discovering Shaun Tan’s The Arrival while I was neck-deep in studying the wrong visually-creative channel for me (Architecture) that really shone a light on illustration as a back-of-the-mind option. The book’s cinematic storytelling power told through classic sketchwork made me realise that illustration could transcend comicy styles built for solely young readers, and could pride itself in being absolutely beautiful and timeless.
Can you share a photo of your creative work space or part of the area where you work most often? Talk us through it. 
This is the little spare room I do my digital work in, complete with daytime natural light and spindly piece of greenery nearby. The cute little orange and white desk was a gift from my husband when years ago I was living in share-houses and the only at-home place I had to work was the busy communal dining table. It’s propped up by a few pie dishes so I can get the workspace height right! Also propped up is the laptop – Harry Potter books are great for this (I like to think I’m typing on the shoulders of giants). 

Here I am working at my Wacom tablet, which is how I add to the artwork once the hand-drawings are put into Photoshop. Recently I’ve invested in a proper cushioned mousepad as I feel it in my wrist if I do too many hours of digital illustrating at once. My A2 drawing board is tucked behind the chair; this is on what I did all the watercolour illustrations for The Precious Plum. Add a few aesthetic old books and room for the cup of tea, and we’re set to work! Riley the cat will probably come in at some point and push his nose into the bedspread skirts to get under the bed.

What is your favourite part of the illustration process?
One really rewarding thing is when drawing a person (from a photo or life) and you feel you’ve really captured them. Sometimes not on the first go, but with an extra centimetre to the chin or concentration on their characteristic features, you work out what really makes it them (and it’s definitely not by drawing everything!). Also when freelance clients remark that I’ve really understood the feel of the story’s scene.

What advice would you give to an aspiring illustrator? 
The first step is sharing your work. This can be such a big self-hurdle, but thankfully it gets easier and feels so much more natural the more consistently you do it.

Jennifer Horn is a Brisbane-based illustrator and children’s writer. Her debut picture book The Precious Plum was released in 2021 amongst some very musical live book launches. Her illustrations and short stories have appeared in children's anthologies from Share Your Story and Rhiza Edge. Jen enjoys reading books over radio.

For more information, please visit Jennifer's website.